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.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Lots of migrants around- and a good night to watch for them leaving on radar

Judging from reports from City Park, and my own incidental observations around town, there are a lot of passage migrants hanging around the city now- presumably forced to stop over for a few days due to the rain impeding their progress.  In my back yard late this AM, I was treated simultaneously to the chatter of an Orchard Oriole, the lazy phrases of a Red-eyed Vireo, and the spunky chip weebee weedoo chip of a White-eyed Vireo.  Two Blue-winged Teal have been hanging in the flooded roadside ditch by my kids' school, where there were also a couple Solitary Sandpipers yesterday.  Lots of Barn Swallows zipping around lawns here and there, too many to be just the local breeders.

Since the rain has now abated, and winds are easterly and thus no longer oppose northward movement, it is likely that lots of  migrants will depart shortly after sundown.  If so, they are likely to be visible on radar (rap.ucar.edu is a good site for viewing such departures), or audible as flight notes in the sky overhead immediately after dark.  Sometimes a pulse of flight calls overhead seems to happen in spring around 9 pm as well, which I presume is the overhead passage of the concentration of migrants originating on the immediate Gulf Coast.

Migration is so cool!


Update next day:

The exodus was not as large as I anticipated- perhaps the migrants could detect the rain bands north of the lake at sunset, and chose not to take flight.  However, some departure still appears evident on the images below- see how the dark blue blob (apparent departing birds) starts south of the Lake at 9 pm and is gone (actually gradually shifting northward across the lake to merge with/replace the echoes there) three hours later.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Seasonal milestone: first Mockingbird fledgling

This morning I stepped out the front door and immediately noticed a sound that had been absent since last August:  the shrill seeeee note of a recently fledged Northern Mockingbird.  Each spring, when I first hear this note, it takes be aback- always seeming to be to early in the season for young to be out of the nest.  But, just like before, when I count backward, the 3-4 weeks of nest occupancy (egg and nestling phases) of the species would put the egg laying in early March- certainly within the normal range for Mockingbirds in our region.