Species Profile: Aix sponsa – Wood Duck

Scientific Name: Aix sponsa
Common Name(s): Wood Duck, Carolina Duck

Wood ducks


The wood duck (Aix sponsa) is a medium sized, unmistakable North American duck most known for its beautiful colors. Males have the most color in fall through early summer, with iridescent feathers of multiple colors. Their heads are green at the top, then transition to purple, pink, and blue. They have multiple white outlines on their head, neck, and body, distinctive red eyes, and a red, white, and black bill. Females are more grayish brown in color, with their sides a lighter shade than their backs. They have some bluish feathers on their wings and white that surrounds their eyes. Females’ bills are gray. Both males and females have long feathers that hang off the back of their heads. Out of breeding season, males resemble females but often keep their red bills and have light blue feathers on their wings. Adults average 19-21inches with a wingspan of 26-29inches.

Wood duck species range map

The wood duck is a North American migratory species, moving south for the winter in northern parts of its range. They remain as year-round residents in southern parts of their range.

Wood ducks prefer water bodies that have forest habitat nearby. They can be found near lakes, marshes, rivers, and streams. Wood ducks like to perch in trees to avoid predators, especially during breeding season when they are nesting. The male call sounds like a squeaky whistle, while the female call is louder and longer.

Juvenile wood ducks consume aquatic bugs and small fish. Adults feed mainly on plants, seeds, berries, and nuts, although they will eat insects as well.

During breeding season, males attract females with their call and iridescent colors. Once paired, they build nests in tree cavities. Sycamore trees overhanging water are common nesting choices. Where nesting sites are scarce, they will nest up to one mile away from water. Hatchlings routinely jump from heights of up to 50 feet landing on leaf pack unhurt. Parents then lead them to the nearest water body. Nest boxes are readily used. Females line their nest with soft feathers or other materials and then lay eggs. If a female cannot find a nest of her own, she will lay her eggs in another female’s nest. This can decrease survivability because one female is unable to adequately incubate a large number of eggs. Females normally lay 7-15 eggs and incubate them for around one month. Egg dumping in nest boxes with no intention of incubation is also a fairly common practice.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 has helped wood duck populations recover from threateningly low numbers. This Act regulates the hunting of migratory birds and prevents them from being sold. Before this Act, many wood ducks were killed for their feathers to make women’s hats. Widespread harvest of mature timber more than 100 years ago also limited nesting sites. Eastern forest lands have sense recovered, and so has the wood duck.

Special Notes:
Here in Bella Vista, wood ducks can potentially be seen on any lake, stream, or pond. They tend to be secretive and enjoy the water line at the back of coves. With plenty of water and surrounding forested habitat, Bella Vista is a great place for wood ducks.

Birds and wildflowers on Berksdale Golf Course

Recognition for Resilience

Berksdale has undergone numerous transformations over the last decade, but our dedication to stewardship has been unwavering. Our commitment to pursuing the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf provides an independent assessment of our efforts.

We are pleased to announce that Berksdale has been certified in all categories required to qualify for full status in this global partnership. After a year of data collection and assessing site parameters, we were awarded recognition for Environmental Planning in September of 2016.

Devastating floods led Berksdale to transition from an 18 to a 9-hole course, yet we persevered to receive certifications for an Environmental Case Study and our Wildlife and Habitat Management in May of 2018. With sampling and testing assistance from the POA’s Lakes Department, we were recognized for Water Quality Management and for Water Conservation April 2019. March 27th of this year, we were informed that our Chemical Use Reduction and Safety and Outreach and Education efforts meet all of Audubon International’s criteria.

A site visit will be conducted when travel constraints ease, hopefully this fall. Berksdale will then become only the second course in Arkansas and one of the few in the region to be receive this prestigious Cooperative Sanctuary designation.

A microscopic view of the virus COVID-19

Golf Course Maintenance During COVID-19

What You Can Expect to Experience

With the onset of COVID-19 and the restrictions associated with it, golf maintenance has been changing how we will operate for the foreseeable future. Two of the leading golf associations, The Golf Course Superintendent Association of America (GCSAA) and The United States Golf Association (USGA) have put together some minimum Maintenance Guidelines for courses during the Covid-19 outbreak. These guidelines are included in this article.

These guidelines address all phases of golf maintenance from mowing frequencies to bunker maintenance. The mowing guidelines reduce the time and number of employees needed to maintain a healthy stand of turf by cutting back on times selected areas are mowed, increasing mowing heights to allow for longer intervals between mowing and using plant growth regulators to manage growth rate and clipping yields. We will also decrease fertility applications along with limiting irrigation and plant protectants to minimize excessive growth while still maintaining a healthy turf. What this translates to for the golfing public is longer roughs, shaggy fairways and potentially slower green speeds. Once the pandemic has passed, we will be able to quickly bring all areas back to the standard of maintenance you are accustomed to.

Since we have removed bunker rakes (remember a bunker is a hazard) the necessity to rake bunkers on a regular basis have diminished. We will only do what is necessary to prevent weed encroachment and protect the integrity of our Better Billy Bunker liner systems in place on four of our courses.

We have been asked to delay hiring of our seasonal workers through at least April, so these practices are necessary from a labor shortage perspective as well. We usually have from 8 to 10 employees per course starting in April and we currently are operating with 5 to 6 per course.

The golf maintenance teams along with the golf operations group are working hard to follow all the required guidelines so your courses can remain open now and going forward. We thank you for your understanding during these difficult times and hope you will safely continue to enjoy the golfing experience at the Bella Vista POA.

Species Profile: Didelphis virginiana – Virginia Opossum

Scientific Name:              Didelphis virginiana

Common Name(s):          Virginia Opossum, Possum


Virginia opossums Didelphis virginiana are the only marsupial (mammals with a pouch) in North America. They are small to medium in size and have mixed black, gray, and white fur. Their faces are white with a long pink nose, black eyes, and black ears. They have opposable thumbs on their hind legs which help them climb trees. The hind legs also do not have claws. Their tail is prehensile, meaning it can grab and hold things, and is used mainly for gripping limbs when in trees. A common misconception about opossums is that they hang from their tails to sleep. Although they can hang from their tails for a short time, it is not strong enough to hold them for that long. Males often weigh more and have larger teeth than females, while females have a marsupium (pouch) to hold babies. Opossums range from 10-40 inches in length, without tail, and weigh up to 8 lbs. for females and up to 14 lbs. for males.


Fun Facts:

These animals display characteristics that are very unusual for North American mammals.  Among them are…

  1. Opossums are the only North American marsupial (development of young in a pouch)
  2. They have 13 nipples in a circular arrangement with one in the middle.
  3. Their brain is 1/5 the size of a raccoon of similar size.
  4. They have 50 teeth. More than any other North American Mammal
  5. They have a prehensile (grasping) tail.
  6. They have opposable thumbs on the hind legs
  7. No claws on hind legs
  8. Yes, they do play possum
  9. From an evolutionary standpoint they are not “living fossils” as they evolved recently (20 million years ago)
  10. Extreme example of Bergman’s Rule which states that individuals within a species are larger in colder climates to conserve heat.  Northern opossums are up to 20 times larger than their southern cousins.
Black Bullhead fish in the water

Species Profile: Ameiurus (Genus) – Bullhead Catfishes

Scientific Name:              Ameiurus (Genus); Ameiurus melas, Ameiurus natalis

Common Name(s):          Bullhead Catfish; Black Bullhead, Yellow Bullhead
Creek Cats, Mud Cats, Yellow Cats, Black Cats, Polliwogs


There are seven species of bullhead catfishes, all native to North America and all within the genus Ameiurus. There are two common species of bullheads in Northwest Arkansas, the black and yellow.  The black bullhead Ameiurus melas has dark whiskers, called barbles, under its chin that are either gray or black and which differ from the white ones of the yellow bullhead Ameiurus natalis. Both black and yellow bullheads are solid brownish-yellow fading to white on their bellies. All bullhead catfishes have a quadrate, unforked tail fin which distinguishes them from other catfish species. They also have spines in the dorsal fin on their backs and both pectoral fins on their sides. Like all catfish, the bullheads have an adipose fin, a small fleshy projection on their back just in front of their tail fin. Bullheads are commonly 12-16 inches and weigh 1-2 lbs.


The range for Bullheads differs slightly but are consistently found east of Wyoming and Colorado. Black bullheads can be found in parts of southern Canada, south to Texas, and in the central United States.  Yellow bullheads are found from the central to the eastern United States. In Arkansas, black and yellow bullheads are found state-wide in appropriate habitats.


Bullheads are warm water fish, preferring water temperatures around 75-85°F. They are considered “rough fish” as opposed to “game fish” in part because they are seldom sought after and few regulations govern their harvest. The meat is of good quality especially when caught from clean waters and has even been described as having a sweet flavor. Small size is typically the reason more bullheads are not harvested.

Bullheads are generally not stocked intentionally. They tend to overpopulate in small impoundments.  Their feeding activity can create muddy conditions impact water quality. Bullheads are very tolerant of these conditions, but many gamefish are not. There have been accidental stockings by misidentifying them with other catfish species. This has resulted in established populations well outside of their native ranges.

Spawning in Arkansas occurs from May-June when temperatures range from 66-75°F. Females primarily make oval shaped nests in shallower water, although occasionally males will help construct nests. Both parents guard the nest until young hatch. Young then school with the parents until they are around 1 inch long when the parents abandon them. Bullheads are thought to be monogamous.

Bullheads are bottom feeders and consume almost anything, including fish, insects, crayfish, and dead organisms. Like other catfish, they rely on their olfactory senses to find food instead of their eyesight, which is performed using their mouth barbles. Yellow bullheads are the pickiest out of the two species.  All bullheads primarily feed at night.

Special Notes:

Here in Bella Vista, bullheads are not stocked deliberately in any of the lakes. They are commonly found in golf course ponds due to periodic inundation by Little Sugar Creek which maintains good populations of both species. Populations in our lakes remain low due to predation by game fish, primarily largemouth bass. It is probable that they are found in all our lakes, as they were a native stream fish before the valleys were flooded.

Species Profile: Lontra canadensis – River Otter

Scientific Name: Carya (Genus)
Common Name(s): River Otter, North American River Otter

River otters live in and around water. They have long streamlined bodies with a long, tapered tail. Otters have oily brown fur all over their body, including their tail; this can help distinguish them from the beaver with its hairless tail. The fur on their underside is typically a lighter brown or gray. Otters also have long prominent whiskers. Their feet are webbed, and their hands are very dexterous. Otters weigh 10-30 lbs., with males larger than females, and are 24-42 inches in length.

Otters were natively found throughout North America, from Alaska and Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, and from coast-to-coast. However, habitat destruction, urbanization, and pollution have extirpated the river otter from some states in the U.S.

River otters inhabit more than just rivers. They can be found in inland freshwaters, such as rivers and lakes, and in marine and brackish waters. They prefer waters with adjacent woodlands but can survive in any location with a steady supply of food and access to a waterbody. Otters live in dens built in a natural hollow, an undercut riverbank, hollow log, or in the burrows of other animals. The entrance may be under water or above ground. The den is typically lined with leaves, grass, bark, and moss.

Otters are typically ambush predators, lunging and grabbing prey, rather than pursuing prey. They are well adapted for hunting in water: they can stay submerged for up to 4 minutes, swim at a speed of nearly 7 mph, and dive to a depth of 65 ft. While their primary diet is fish and crayfish, they will opportunistically eat anything, including fruit, reptiles, amphibians, birds, insects, and small mammals. They will avoid carrion.

Reproduction is viable at two years of age, and males usually mate with multiple females. Breeding occurs from December to April. While gestation lasts two months, otters delay implantation for up to eight months, meaning that birth usually occurs 10-12 months after copulation. Litters usually consist of one to three pups, rarely up to five. Pups are born fully furred but are blind and toothless. They open their eyes at four weeks, consume solid food at nine weeks, wean at 12 weeks, and are provided food up until 38 weeks. While they can sustain themselves at an earlier age, pups usually stay with their family until the following spring and leave before a new litter is born.

Special Notes:
Here in Bella Vista, otters are uncommon. Little Sugar Creek provides a corridor for otters to get to Bella Vista and potentially all our lakes. In January 2020, an otter was seen eating fish in the Avalon heated dock multiple times. The Lakes and Parks staff may take measures to relocate the otter to prevent interference with the fish hatchery program. Although they are fascinating to watch, otters can be voracious and wreak havoc on a contained system like in a fish hatchery.

A curious otter at the Avalon Heated Fishing Dock.
Photo courtesy of Tom Vickery

Featured Image: https://tinyurl.com/qr2vock © Charles Kennard

Species Profile: Carya (Genus) – Hickory

Scientific Name: Carya (Genus)
Common Name(s): Hickory, Typical Hickories (many different species)


Hickory trees native to North America are all from the genus Carya, although there are 12 different species in the United States. All of them have different characteristics, as well as similarities. Hickory trees produce flowers in the spring that are small and yellow-green in color. The fruits are categorized as nuts that are surrounded by a hard husk with four parts. Husks split open when they mature. The nuts contained in the husks have a hard, bony shell that split in two halves when the seed germinates. Nuts measure 0.75 – 2” long by 0.5 – 1.20” in diameter.


Carya species are native to North America including southeastern Canada, eastern United States and parts of Mexico. Some species are native to China and India as well.

Hickory trees serve as food for many insects including the Luna moth, the hickory leaf stem gall and the banded hickory borer. Galls can potentially damage hickory trees, although they are normally harmless. Squirrels do more damage searching the trees for the galls to eat, and breaking off infected bark.

The nuts of hickory species can help identify the species of tree, although they are very difficult to identify themselves. All are surrounded by a husk that can be thick or thin but is generally hard through maturity. Some husks appear rougher than others and have slightly different shades of color.

The wood produced by hickory trees has a combination of strength, hardness, and stiffness that is hard to find in other woods grown commercially. It is used for many things that must handle a lot of weight and stress including bows, tool handles, lacrosse stick handles, golf club shafts, walking sticks, paddles and even floors. The heartwood is dark and highly contrasted to the sapwood making it very desirable for kitchen cabinets. It is great to use for cooking barbeque or smoking meats because of the flavor that it adds. The shagbark hickory Carya ovata has a bark extract that is like a smoky maple syrup.

Special Notes:
Here in Bella Vista, hickory trees are quite common on hillsides throughout the city. Shagbark hickory trees are one of the most easily recognized trees to identify by the bark. As the name implies, the bark looks as if it is peeling off the tree. There are others here including the shellbark, mockernut, and black hickories. All nuts are edible, but the reward for the effort required insures that most are left for the squirrels.

Species Profile: Odocoileus virginianus – White-tailed Deer

Scientific Name:              Odocoileus virginianus

Common Name(s):          White-tailed Deer, Whitetail

White-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus, are most recognizable by the bold, white underside of their tails, which stands up straight when alarmed. In the summer adult deer have a thin reddish coat but is replaced with a thick brown coat around September. They have white on their undersides, insides of their ears, and beginning of their necks. Their ears are lined with darker fur, and there is white around their noses and mouths. Their hooves are separated into two parts with a split down the middle. Males, or bucks, have antlers that are shed and re-grown each year. Females are known as does, and young as fawns. Fawns are characterized by the white spots all over their body which they lose by 6 months of age. Bucks average 100 lbs., with does around 88 lbs., but weights are highly variable. In the northern parts of their range, deer are bigger in size.

Odocoileus virginianus is native to the United States, with a range including southern Canada down to northern South America. They have been introduced to other parts of the world such as Puerto Rico, New Zealand, and Cuba.

White-tailed deer prefer habitats with forest edges and open woodlands. They also like areas with dense vegetation for protection from predators. White-tailed deer are herbivores, consuming plants, grasses, fruits, acorns, clover, and corn. Deer can be considered a nuisance to farmers who grow corn or fruits that the deer will feed on and cause damage. In places with large populations of deer, they can have major impacts on native plants, although their browsing can help plant diversity in some areas. A deer’s home range usually consists of around one square mile, but this area is not in any defined shape, rather it is based on habitat, terrain, and home ranges of dominant deer. Deer can jump high fences and have a propensity to be a hazard on roadways.

Deer have many different calls they use to communicate with each other. Fawns will squeal, called bleat, if they have been separated from their mothers which will deepen as it matures. Adult deer grunt to each other to get attention, or a mother will grunt to find her fawn. When they feel threatened, deer will snort or blow to signal danger to other deer in the area and will raise their white tail while running away.

White-tailed deer in Arkansas breed from October through December with the peak usually occurring in mid-November. Breeding season is known as the rut. Males will breed with as many females as they can. Bucks will scrape an area with their hooves, clearing some ground and rub their antlers on the bark of a small tree to let females know that a male is in the area. They will urinate in these areas to leave their scent. Males may also fight with their antlers and hooves during territory or breeding disputes. Females release hormones and pheromones when they are in heat, letting bucks know they can breed. Females are pregnant for 6.5-7 months before giving birth. Females will nurse the fawns and hide them in dense vegetation for around 4 weeks to keep them hidden from predators. After that, fawns can get up and follow their mothers to search for food. Male fawns normally leave their mothers after a year, while females tend to stay longer.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD), a fatal neurological disease with no cure, has been found in some deer in Arkansas. It is caused by a protein in the brain that is abnormally shaped, called a prion. This disease can spread from direct contact between animals, or through contaminated plants. This disease causes deer to slowly waste away and become very sick. Humans are not at risk of getting CWD, although it is suggested that you should not eat a deer that has the symptoms of CWD. Also, there are some tick-borne diseases that deer are an intermediate host for, such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which can be transmitted to humans.

Deer are popular among hunters for their meat, called venison, and for the antlers of bucks. Bucks will grow their first set of antlers when they are a year-old during spring and summer. Antlers are pure bone, although when first starting to grow, they are covered with blood vessels, nerves, and a soft layer called velvet. Growth can continue until September when the deer will start to rub off the velvet layer on trees or anything hard. Once the velvet falls off, the hard bone is left. Their antlers are shed around January-February.

Special Notes:
Here in Bella Vista, white-tailed deer can be seen virtually anywhere at any time. They are most active at dawn and dusk. Be careful of deer by roadways as they often run out in front of traffic. The second or third deer is often determined to follow the leader and often collisions with cars come from “the followers”.

Berksdale is Growing!

With 70 inches of rain (so far), it’s been a great year for growing grass! Now that we’re experiencing regular frosts, it is planting season. All our additions are selected in accordance with our Audubon International Cooperative Sanctuary standards for wildlife benefit and promoting native species, as well as consideration for flood plain management and aesthetics. Our experiments with growing our own trees and perennials were very fruitful this year and we were delighted to be able to invite volunteers to help get them in the ground. Switch grass, milkweed, and purple coneflowers were inserted in old fairway bunkers on our south end with help from members of the Northwest Arkansas Master Naturalists. Scout Troop 525 aided in planting sycamore trees, also on the south end, along the highway and corkscrew willows in a persistent wet zone. The Berksdale crew added red twig dogwood shrubs along old 18 creek bank and black willows along old 13 for stabilization. Corkscrew willows have been spaced throughout the grounds to help alleviate standing water issues. For more information, see auduboninternational.org, monarchwatch.org, and missouribotanicalgarden.org>plantfinder.


Wendy Barnes, Assistant Superintendent, Berksdale


Golf Course Weather Closure Standards

The golf course superintendents shall have the authority to delay opening or closing their golf courses at any time. However, it will be a requirement that if delays or closings are necessary, the superintendent must notify the Pro Shop and golf maintenance coordinator.

Superintendents must report course conditions/closures to golf course maintenance coordinator and Pro Shop no later than one hour before first regular tee time. He or she must also stay in contact with Pro Shop on a regular basis throughout this same timeframe to keep them updated on course conditions.
During the winter months, we will continue to use the temperature as a guide, however, there are situations other than temperature that may dictate course delays or closures. The target temperature for automatic course closure is 35 degrees.

If the Weather Channel forecast for zip code 72714 is forecasted to be a high of 35 degrees or less for the entire day, then courses will close for that day. If it is forecasted to be above 35 degrees, then it becomes the golf course superintendent’s decision as to whether course opening will be delayed, or course closure is necessary.
It is extremely important that each superintendent take into consideration the importance of serving our members.