For those into birding and nature, the Little Rock Audubon Center is an interesting venue to visit in Little Rock.
“The Little Rock Audubon Center is a destination for birders and naturalists in central Arkansas who want to explore birds, wildlife, plants and more in the unique habitats at our site,” said Uta Meyer, center manager at the Audubon/Delta/Little Rock Audubon Center. “Four miles of public trails wind through 400 acres of diverse habitat, including globally rare nepheline syenite glades, all within minutes of downtown Little Rock.” The center, located at 4500 Springer Blvd. in the Granite Mountain community, is completely solar powered and the grounds of native plant landscaping and habitat restoration fuel a bird-friendly landscape.
“The Little Rock Audubon Center is part of the National Audubon Society’s network of conservation action centers and is the Arkansas headquarters for Audubon Delta,” said Meyer. “The center serves as an environmental education hub and demonstration site for Audubon’s on-the-ground habitat management. Audubon’s work in Arkansas and the greater Delta region, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, includes policy and advocacy, education, habitat conservation and bird science and is implemented by environmental conservation professionals working at the center. Our staff is a resource for visitors and the public to call on. It’s unique for an education center to have such diverse expertise on-site.” A paved Wildlife Observation Trail is among the routes available for people to walk on while visiting the center and it showcases an oak savanna habitat and views of the Little Rock skyline in the distance. Along the trail you can learn about rain gardens, which help combat erosion by slowing the flow of stormwater and vernal pools, which hold water during wet seasons and provide important habitat for creatures like frogs and turtles. The route is also part of the Fourche Creek Watershed, which drains around three-fourths of Little Rock’s surface area.
Arkansas is in the Mississippi Flyway and the Little Rock Audubon Center is an example of central Arkansas stopover habitat. Along with being a place to see birds, the grounds also have habitat to protect them including swift towers for birds like chimney swifts to use.
The grounds also play an important role in protecting a globally rare glade of nepheline syenite. “Nepheline syenite is a rare type of igneous rock similar to granite, it is the true namesake of Granite Mountain,” said Meyer. “Where this rock type comes to the surface it supports a glade. A glade is a naturally treeless, rocky grassland opening in an otherwise forested area. Glades are home to rare species of plants and animals, some of which are not known to occur in other habitats in the region. Nepheline syenite glades are one of the rarest glade habitats in the world. There are very few places where this form of igneous rock is exposed at the surface. They occur in only a few places in central Arkansas, most of which are under threat from mining and development. Audubon protects about 30 acres of nepheline syenite glade at the Little Rock Audubon Center. Nearby mining of the same rock and resource can be seen in the distance from the glade and its trails.”
For more details on the Little Rock Audubon Center, visit delta.audubon.org/about-us/little-rock-audubon-center. The center is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and the trails are open from dawn to dusk every day.
(Arkansas Outside note: Thanks to Zoie Clift of Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism for this article and photos.)