Wednesday, March 4, 2015

More migrants reported back

A trickle of migrants have been reported returning to southern Louisiana, joining the Purple Martins that have been back for some weeks.

Two flocks of Swallow-tailed Kites were reported moving east through St. Tammany.  These are freshly back from crossing the Gulf, and may be headed east to Florida where their nesting population densities are higher than in our neck of the woods.  Another was reported from Avery Island.  They are often reported back in March, and will continue passing through April, with some staying to nest on the North Shore.

Hummingbird guru Nancy Newfield reports that two male Rubythroats have visited her study areas- another typical March returnee, although her normal first returns are not until March 10.

Finally, a male Indigo Bunting was reported back in New Iberia.  This species will not peak until next month, when it will be arguably our most common migrant.

There are probably birds coming in across the Gulf this afternoon, since these nice tailwinds extend to the Yucatan (from whence they often depart) and up thousands of feet (where they usually fly when migrating).  It is common for the males of a species to migrate first in spring, so they are likely mostly of that sex.  From here, migration will gradually build until it peaks in late April. 

Good birding,


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Wood Ducks at likely nest tree in Harahan

This morning in the fog in Harahan I heard a strange sound, similar to the muffled fussing noises made by young woodpeckers in a tree cavity.  I approached the large roadside Sweet Gum they were emanating from, to find a pair of Wood Ducks perched 35 feet up in front of a tree cavity.  The tree is alive and of substantial girth, but its top half is missing- apparently snapped by some past windstorm.  The noise was coming from the hen Woodie, whose slightly-open bill quivered as she produced it.  I retrieved my camera and returned, to find the male had taken over making the noise.  It seemed they were prospecting this as a nesting site.   

Wood Ducks nest regularly in residential areas near the River; I once stopped traffic on River Road near Jefferson Playground to let a hen and her entourage of ducklings cross onto the levee and then into the batture.  Someone told me that years ago the eaves of their grandfather's house in the first block off River Road in Jefferson was a regular nesting site.  The spot I saw them in this morning was much farther from the River- if used, it will require quite a trek for the young.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Red-shouldered Hawk on nest- City Park

Yesterday morning I stopped by the northwest corner of City Park (Marconi x Robert E Lee), where I spent 20 minutes working the bald cypress glade and the northern end of the bayou along Marconi Drive.
The most exciting find was an active Red-shouldered Hawk nest- a big clump of sticks about 35 feet up in a cypress.  It is ~30 yards south of the dirt driveway that leaves Marconi, and also ~30 yards into the woods from the levee edge.  One adult was moving from tree to tree nearby, keeping tabs on me; the other was sitting low on the nest- usually a sign of incubating- with her tail sticking out visibly over its south rim. 
Finding few land birds among the cypresses, I walked across Marconi to scan the lagoon.  A couple dozen swimming birds there included 11 Gadwall, 10 Lesser Scaup, 1 Ring-necked Duck (male), and a Pied-billed Grebe.  An Anhinga was sitting on the far shore, wings stretched to dry.
Songbird activity was mainly concentrated in the scattered trees along the bayou edge, where a mixed flock included 3 Carolina Chickadees, 2 Ruby-crowned Kinglets, 2 Downy Woodpeckers, and a bright male Pine Warbler.  A Yellow-rumped Warbler and a very vocal Eastern Phoebe were loosely affilitated with this group.  A duo of Loggerhead Shrikes sat quietly in a tree, apparently paired in anticipation of nesting.
My main reason for coming to this spot was that an Ash-throated Flycatcher has been reported spending the winter here.  No luck finding it today, but that just gives me an excuse to make another visit.
Good birding,

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Birding visit to the batture in Harahan

Early this morning I spent 50 minutes walking the edge of the batture in Harahan, from Elaine St to the closed Colonial Club property and back.  Gray skies, tough light, but lots of songbird activity.  I stayed on the edge, although lots of small trails looked like tempting avenues to probe into these riparian woods.

Not surprisingly, Yellow-rumped Warblers were chipping everywhere, accompanied (as they usually are) by Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Orange-crowned Warblers.  I saw five or so Downy Woodpeckers, and there was a healthy scattering of Cardinals, some singing.

Perhaps the most interesting sight was an unusual feeding assemblage of blackbirds (15 Red-winged, 2 Brown-headed Cowbird) and four Northern Flickers on the levee grass.  This is a large number of flickers for one spot, and I don't recall them associating with blackbird flocks.  A few sparrows (which spooked before they were identified) and a couple Yellow-rumped Warblers joined in.  Twenty five yards beyond was a Red-shouldered Hawk- also on the grass!  All this action was by the entrance to the Kirby facility.

Other mentionables:
1 (other) Red-shouldered Hawk- allowed ridiculously close approach
1 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
4 Eastern Phoebe
1 White-eyed Vireo (singing c. across from Elaine)
1 American Robin
1 Brown Thrasher (singing by Kirby)
1 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
2 Palm Warbler
1 White-throated Sparrow
1 Swamp Sparrow

notably absent:  Carolina Wren (though one was singing across the levee in a residential yard)

Good birding,


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Big cowbird flock regular at busy intersection

Since December, I have regularly been seeing cowbirds at the small roadside feeding station at Hickory Ave x Jefferson Hwy in Harahan.  I posted on December 17 that I had seen 25 or so there, almost all Bronzed.  As the winter has worn on, the Bronzed have disappeared but Brown-headeds have grown in number- today reaching 165, approximately half males and half females.  Some Bronzed may reappear soon, as they are one of our earliest migrants to return each spring.

It is weird to see so many birds foraging so close to traffic.  Today there were even a few chasing seed out into the northbound lane during a red light.  Despite the numbers, I have only seen four species at this feeding station:  the two cowbirds, Monk Parakeet, and House Sparrow.

Good birding,


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Purple Martins return to the metro area

Today there were four male Purple Martins circling and calling above the martin houses at Little Woods (Hayne Blvd x Hwy 47 in New Orleans East).  They are back from South America, our first spring migrants to return! 

It could be as long as 2-3 weeks before any other species that depart for the winter return.

Also at Little Woods were an Osprey (sitting on one of the remnant pylons in Lake Pontchartrain), a dozen or so Buffleheads, and eight Common Loons.  A substantial number of Forster's Terns were moving westward out over the lake, and there were the usual loafing Brown Pelicans and gulls (Herring, Ring-billed, and Laughing).

Good birding,


Friday, February 13, 2015

Great Horned Owl eases the pain of traffic jam

This evening I was passenger in a car on I-310 northbound, just short of the Hwy 61 interchange.  Traffic was gridlocked by some unseen drama on the road ahead.  As light was failing, I tried to lighten the mood by announcing to the driver that it would be a good time to spot a Great Horned or Barred Owl in the surrounding baldcypress swamp forest.  On cue, a large silhouette appeared on the tip of a 40 foot cypress snag not far off to our right.  I put my binoculars on it:  Great Horned Owl!  Its white "chin" patch fairly glowed in the gathering dusk.

Great Horneds become active at dusk this time of year, and it is always worth keeping your eyes open if you are out in the marshes or swamps at evening twilight.  Another place I have seen them in such circumstances is on the north side of I-10 in the LaBranche marshes (between Kenner and Laplace).

Good birding,