WATKINS CONSERVATION AREA
Mark Haas & Edge Wade--Updated
1,107 acres, Scott Co., DeLorme 68, A-3
GPS: 37.0753806, -89.6071972
MDC owned. For information, call
About half-way between Cape Girardeau and Sikeston. 3 miles south of Benton on
Highway 61 or 1.5 miles south of Oran on Highway 77. Additional access is
provided by traveling 0.5 miles on County Park Road.
Information: Other than 0.3 miles of gravel road
through the woods (between parking lots A and B), the best birding by vehicle
is at the nine parking lots, which provide rare pieces of open ground on this
heavily forested area. These woodland edges can be very attractive to migrants
in spring and fall. Parking Lot A, at the primitive camping area, has a nice
stand of pines to view. From Lot E, you can see all of fishing pond #3. Parking
Lot I has a good view of hay fields and pasture across the highway. There are
no ADA accessible trails.
to visit/species to expect: Expect a full array of Neotropic migrants
during spring and fall migration. Twenty-five warbler species have been sighted
here and another 8-10, such as Cape May and Mourning Warblers, are possible for
birders visiting during migration.
Summer residents include Prothonotary
Warbler and Louisiana Waterthrush near the largest lakes, Yellow-throated
Warbler in pine stands, and Kentucky Warbler, Wood Thrush, and Acadian
Flycatcher in the deep, wooded hollows.
In addition to permanent-resident woodland
birds in winter, you can expect Hermit Thrush, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker,
Yellow-rumped Warbler, Winter Wren, Brown Creeper, kinglets, and a chance for
Red-breasted Nuthatch in the pines.
All of the ponds and lakes on the area
have steep wooded shorelines; therefore, they attract no shorebirds and only a
few wading birds. The larger lakes will attract a few dabbling ducks during
of interest to birders: The area is at the south end
of a north/south ridge surrounded by Mississippi River delta farmland. It is a
natural migrant trap. Neotropic species, notably warblers, thrushes, and
vireos, will rest here.
Trees typical of the Appalachians like
sweetgum, American beech, cucumber tree, and tulip poplar are mixed with more typical
Missouri species in the 1,000 acres of forest.
On the east side of the area, eight
parking lots (7 on the perimeter) allow easy access to woods, small lakes, and
trailheads. These lots provide open areas for good birding in this densely
wooded area. The camping area parking lot, with its stand of pines, is an
excellent birding spot.
Two designated trails: Cemetery Ridge
is a moderate 1.5-mile one-way through mature hardwoods. Schlosser Loop is an
easy 1.5 trail through pines, hardwoods, open areas, and along pond dams. It
may be the best birding spot on the conservation area.
The only access to the west side of the
area is from a small parking lot on Highway 77. From there, a steep
quarter-mile trail will connect you
with a ridge top complex of service roads and trails for birding the best open
land on the area. This part of the area is good for winter resident and migrant
sparrows. Also, there is a signed,
mowed path that takes you through the woods to the south side of Lookout
Mountain Lake (the largest lake on the area). This quarter-mile path has been
especially good birding for migrant warblers.
Areas: Two areas with grills and tables
A portable privy will be maintained at the camping area
April 1-December 31 if there are no serious vandalism issues. Convenience
stores in Benton are three miles away.
Five primitive campsites with fire rings, picnic tables, BBQ
grills, and gravel pads.
Caution is urged when walking near steep-sided canyons (some
50-foot deep) eroded in the loess soil. Typical precautions should be heeded,
as this area is quite popular with squirrel, deer, and turkey hunters. The area map shows a second access
trail from Highway 77 into the west side of the area. Avoid using this trail
because there is no trailhead/parking on the highway and the trail can lead you
to unintentional trespass onto
Birding Sites: Sand Prairie CA*, Tywappity Community
Lake, Delaney (Robert G.) Lake CA*.
*Birders’ Guides online at http://www.mobirds.org/Locations/SiteGuides.aspx