Saturday, July 23, 2016

Report on Pontchartrain Park ibis/heron rookery

Yesterday I swung by the mixed heronoid rookery in Pontchartrain Park (aka Bartholomew golf course), which is on an island in a lake on the golf course.

The joint was jumping, as is typical this time of year.  Numbers seemed similar to past years, dominated by White Ibis, which had lots of small young in their nests.  They were followed in decreasing abundance by Black-crowned Night-Herons and Cattle Egrets (roughly tied), and smaller numbers of Tricolored and Little Blue Herons and Snowy Egrets.  Although one Great Egret was hanging around, none were evident nesti

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Status of Least Tern colony on Levitz roof in Elmwood

This morning I spent a half hour watching the Least Tern colony on the rooftop of the Levitz warehouse in Elmwood.  I scoped it from the top of a nearby building.

The peak number of sitting terns (bellies on the surface- not standing) was 15.  I figure such posture to be a reasonable indication that the birds were on active nests.  Based on my experience with the UNO colony, the actual number of active nests would be a bit higher, since some are usually not being incubated/brooded at any given moment.  So, maybe 20-25?  There were ten or so other adults hanging around on the gravel roof surface and the structures that adorn it.  One such pair appeared to be in a courtship display.

I have seen little evidence of successful fledging of young at this colony in the past, but did see one medium sized downy chick this morning.  I picked a time of day when shadows of the various rooftop structures would be angling toward me, so that chicks clinging to the shade (as they tend to do) would have been relatively visible (i.e., would be on the sides of the roof structures that were facing toward me).  Nevertheless, olthers may have been out of view.

There were also four Killdeer on the roof, two of which appeared to be incubating.  

Least Tern is the most widespread rooftop-nesting seabird in New Orleans, but Gull-billed Terns and Black Skimmers also do so regularly.  Killdeer and Common Nighthawks also nest in this habitat.  I suspect the largest colony of Gull-billed Terns is one that sits on a warehouse Uptown off the end of State Street - in a poor location for viewing.  I have not actually visited it this year (yet), but have seen commuting terns following trajectories that appear to head them to and from it. 


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Surprised by a Broadwing

Today I was taking an evening stroll down my street in Old Jefferson after the rain, and heard two Blue Jays jeering at something.  To my surprise, they were fussing at an adult Broad-winged Hawk!  It flew over my head and across the street, jays in hot pursuit. 

On May 2, I had seen a pair of Broad-wings circling over my block, and had wondered if they might be contemplating a nesting attempt.   After weeks had passed with no additional sightings, I had written them off.    With today's sighting, hope is revived- a local nesting seems very likely.

Broad-winged Hawk is a very scarce nester south of Lake Pontchartrain, though not uncommon on the North Shore. 

Together with the three "expected" nesting diurnal raptors of residential New Orleans (Mississippi Kite, and Red-shouldered and Cooper's Hawks), this makes four summering raptors in my 'hood. 



Sunday, June 12, 2016

Goofy Barred Owls at Jean Lafitte

After my last post about awkward young Night-Herons, this morning I ran into another couple of young birds acting their age.  Near the start of the Coquille Trail in Jean Lafitte National Park, I came across a pair of young Barred Owls acting absurdly tame.  The pic below was snapped with my cell phone at about 3-4 feet distance.  Had I thought of it, I would have taken a selfie of the bird with myself in the foreground- ah well, missed opportunity!  There was a Barred Owl acting much like this one about this time last year, at the same spot on the trail- looks like two successful years of nesting for the owls on that territory!

Barred Owls are common in Jean Lafitte and in other swamp forests outside the city, and can often be heard hollering in the middle of the day. Their most common cadence is usually rendered who cooks for you, who cooks for you all, but it is also common to merely hear one shout who-aw!  


Saturday, June 11, 2016

Seasonal milestone: Yellow-crowned Night-Herons out of the nest

Yesterday, while making my rounds monitoring bird populations in Jean Lafitte National Park in Barataria, I came across newly fledged Yellow-crowned Night-Herons.  Four in three places, looking awkward, as newly fledged birds are want to do.

Juveniles of this species are similar to adults in size and structure, but are grayish all over, and lack the distinctive clown-face of their parents.  Because the species also nests right here in the residential 'hoods of the city, it is about time for homeowners with large oak trees to start stumbling across young herons in their yards.  And we can expect to see them alongside the adults in the drainage ditches and batture swales that the latter have been frequenting since their return to our area in March.

Good birding!


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Morning is the best time for birding...or is it? Thoughts from Couturie.

Yesterday I was treated to a nice show of migrants in a one-hour visit to the Couturie Forest in City Park:
1 Ruby-throated Hummingbird
1 Yellow-billed Cuckoo
4 Eastern Kingbird
1 Eastern Wood-Pewee
10 Red-eyed Vireo
7 Yellow-throated Vireo
2 Wood Thrush
1 Veery
1 Gray-cheeked Thrush (doubtfully a Swainson's)
1 Gray Catbird
1 Black-and White Warbler
1 Yellow Warbler
2 Chestnut-sided Warbler
1 Magnolia Warbler
7 Scarlet Tanager
8 Summer Tanager
1 Orchard Oriole
2 Blue Grosbeak
12 Indigo Bunting
3 Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Would it surprise you to know that such a nice list was tallied from 5-6 pm?  Isn't that a less than ideal time for birding?

The answer is that, yes, morning is best for birding- usually.  But one of the exceptions is that of spring migration on and near the Gulf Coast.  The reason is that migrating birds coming across the Gulf of Mexico usually cannot reach our area until the afternoon, so that there is often an influx late in the day- sometimes making afternoon better than morning.

After a good afternoon arrival event, if there is inclement weather (head winds, rain) that persists after sunset, the arrivals generally stick around in good numbers- in which case the following morning can also be really good.  It might be even better, given that the weather may clear in the interim and provide better viewing conditions, and the birds may also become more visible due to their usual morning up-tick in activity.  But if the nocturnal weather is fair and a southerly tail-wind prevails, afternoon arrivals are likely to be gone the next morning.

Were most of the birds on my list afternoon arrivals?  Without having been there earlier the same day to provide a comparison, it is hard to know.  But the spring phenomenon of afternoon arrivals is well worth factoring into decisions about when to go birding!


Friday, April 22, 2016

Shorebird numbers building under the Earhardt

The storm water retention ponds at the intersection of Causeway x Earhardt (accessible via Shrewsbury from Airline, by going beneath Earhardt) are now attracting a good number of shorebirds, providing better opportunity to view such species than is usually available within the urban core of our city.    A ten minute visit on Wednesday turned up:
118 Least Sandpiper
1 Western/Semipalmated Sandpiper
14 Lesser Yellowlegs
12 Black-necked Stilt
11 Solitary Sandpiper
2-3 Stilt Sandpiper
2 Killdeer
1 Semipalmated Plover
Ten Blue-winged Teal had joined the shorebirds.
This site floods after major rain events, and most of the shorebirds seem to disappear- but mudflats and birds are often back within a few days.