Since my first trip to visit my wife’s family a month before we were married, I’ve probably been to Conway 35 times. Which means I’ve probably made at least 25 visits to Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge. Bordered on one side by the Arkansas River and on the other three sides by the old river channel (now a string of marshes and ponds), the refuge is made up of scrubby woods and fields managed for wildlife.
I’ve seen some really cool stuff there — Pileated Woodpeckers, Tundra Swans, a Merlin, Great Horned Owls, Bald and Golden Eagles, Roadrunners, enough hawks of various species to fill several trucks and immense flocks of Snow Geese. And it’s not only good for birds. I’ve seen Coyotes, Armadillos and, on three occasions, Bobcats.
My wife has never been there with me. I usually go on the day she and her mom and sisters-in-law go shopping in Little Rock. But on this day, it was right on our way to Mount Magazine State Park, our destination. I was very much hoping to show her eagles, Snow Geese and a Bobcat.
One out of three isn’t too bad. We’d hardly started around the loop road when we spotted this Bald Eagle in a tree along the river.
Moments later, we saw this immature Red-tailed Hawk.
We were driving through some huge fields when we spotted this Armadillo nosing through the grass.
I got out of the car and walked over closer. I didn’t have my camera ready when it reared up and sniffed the air. But as soon as it did, it took off running. And that’s what led to my favorite photo of the vacation. The light isn’t great, but I don’t care. Just try and see how long it takes you to get a photo of an Armadillo completely airborne.
And that was pretty much it. We saw another Bald Eagle that took off as the car approached. We saw two White Pelicans soaring high overhead, a ton of ducks and enough hawks of several species to fill at least one truck. No Bobcats and no Snow Geese (although we saw several huge flocks in eastern Arkansas as we were driving home two days later — not the same as driving right up to them in the refuge but still pretty cool).