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Arkansas calls itself the Natural State, but from what I saw Tuesday, Little Rock could call itself the Natural City.

I played golf Tuesday at Rebsamen Park with Rusty Pruitt of Bryant. When we don't have enough time for Lightning Strike fishing trips, we sometimes slip away for some Lightning Strike golf. We usually play at Hindman Park, but since it was underwater Tuesday, we played Rebsamen.

Rebsamen Park is one of my favorite places in Arkansas, but only partly for golf. I long ago realized that I'm as good at golf as I will ever be. I drive straight and long, and I'm a long-iron specialist. I'm good to the green from about 50 yards and beyond, but I don't chip or putt very well. Still, I love to play, partly because Little Rock's public courses are so pretty.

Two of my most enduring memories of Rebsamen Park came from the 1970s, when I saw my first Baltimore oriole and my first scissor-tailed flycatcher. The orioles nested in a tree next beside a tee box that vanished during the course's redesign.

On Tuesday, playing at Rebsamen was like strolling through a living wildlife magazine.

The air was crisp and clear, and the sky was the most vivid, cloud-streaked shade of blue. The cottonwood, pecan and sycamore trees are in full fall color right now, and the bluff across the river glowed bronze in the late afternoon sunlight.

On the first hole, we watched in awe as a mature bald eagle soared overhead. Its white cap and tail glinted in the sunlight. When it banked, its black plumage sparkled like a solar panel. It lit in a tree and protested our presence with a squeaky chatter that sounds unbecoming for such a majestic bird. A lesser raptor, like a kestrel or Coopers hawk, is more deserving of such a keening little voice.

On the other hand, Gen. George Patton, one of history's greatest combat generals, also had a high, squeaky voice that sounded absolutely nothing like George C. Scott's growl in his Oscar-winning portrayal in the 1971 film. It was Scott's only Oscar, and he refused it.

You know that screech in advertisements and cartoons that is always assigned to eagles? That's actually a red-tailed hawk, a cool bird of prey in its own right. We see them at Hindman all the time, but never bald eagles.

At Rebsamen, we saw a second bald eagle nearer the Arkansas River. Its mottled plumage denoted an immature eagle, but it was as big as an adult.

Along the water traps were great blue herons hunting in the weed edges against the water. They don't tolerate human company, but they can't yield the floor without making a big scene. They have a raucous, obnoxious squawk, and it always gives me the distinct impression that I am being gravely insulted.

Small knots of Canada geese flew here and there, but they couldn't seem to settle down. They landed in one place and then flew somewhere else amid a cacophony of discontented honking.

Of course, red fox squirrels were ubiquitous. Winter is coming fast, and squirrels are working feverishly to gather their caches for the lean times. Food is plentiful right now, though, with an abundance of small pecans on the ground. I gathered a pocketful and cracked them with my hands between shots. Though small, they were moist, sweet and utterly delicious.

On the holes near the river was a flock of about 50-60 doves foraging on the ground. We couldn't tell what they were eating, but Pruitt speculated they were eating sand, which grinds up seeds in the gizzard. They tolerated our presence well, but when one dove flies, they all have to fly. They are not original thinkers, and none is contrarian. They fluttered all around us in a rush of whistling wing beats.

The grand finale occurred when a white-tailed doe trotted out of a wood lot. She was about 75 yards in the open when an adult buck ambled out of the woods behind her. His coat glowed golden in the light. His neck was swollen, his muscles were taut, and the hair on his shoulders stood erect.

His rack didn't look like much from the side, but then he stopped and stared at us. The main beams stretched at least 3 inches outside the ears, and each beam sported four tall, symmetrical tines. I've never seen a prettier buck in any magazine.

It was the best show of autumn so far, all for the price of a greens fee in my hometown.

Sports on 11/08/2018

Print Headline: Rebsamen Park rife with wildlife

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  • atoby
    November 9, 2018 at 2:08 p.m.

    Actually that grove of trees on the southeast end of the course was taken down a good while before the course redesign. Shame really because it was the best place in Arkansas to see Orioles and their fancy nests. But that's what golf courses do. The best woodlots for big deer and turkey are at the opposite end of the course, around the 3-5th holes of the nine-hole course. Rebsamen is also great for watching Pelican migrations.

  • Jfish
    November 9, 2018 at 3:13 p.m.

    So true ATOBY, golf courses love their manicured fairways, greens and ponds, which actually make pretty good hazards if they are left somewhat natural.

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