Thursday, November 28, 2013
Thanksgiving morning- flight at South Point
I made a quick walk out to South Point in Bayou Sauvage NWR today, to have a look at any corrective flight that might be occurring in the wake of the front. This is traditionally a pretty good date for such movements by Robins and Yellowrumped Warblers, the last significant flights before winter.
Driving up I-10 through New Orleans East, I passed two small (~15) flocks of Robins flying NE along the interstate- a good sign movement was underway.
I stopped briefly at the base of the highway 11 bridge across the Lake, where three Dark-eyed Juncos were foraging on the shoulder. This species winters regularly north of the Lake, but is scarce south- with the best time probably being immediately after these late fall cold fronts. In the little woodlot there, a White-eyed Vireo scolded me when I spished, but did not come into view.
I parked at the gate at the "crabbing bridge," and walked the road and levee north to the base of the railroad bridge at South Point.
A Horned Grebe was close in at the crabbing bridge; a distant flock of birds on the water appeared to be ten more of the same.
Along the levee, there was a flock of about 150 ducks in the impounded marsh; mostly Gadwall, with Blue and Green-winged Teal and Black-bellied Whistlers mixed in.
A flock of a dozen sparrows around the base of the high tension tower included Song, Swamp, Savannah, Chipping, and- the least expected- a Field. Field is uncommon south of the Lake.
There were shallows in the marsh, where a hundred or so shorebirds were resting and foraging. Five Dowitchers flew by close and one obligingly cried "peep"- showing itself to be a Long-billed. Overall, Dunlin seemed to dominate, but I also picked out Lesser Yellowlegs and Western Sandpiper, and more dowitchers. One Wilson's Snipe spooked from the edge, giving its usual "urp" alarm call. Several small groups of Black-necked Stilts flew back and forth, giving their strident calls.
A flock of 70 or so American Pipits was milling about the levee "lawn;" they swarmed past a Kestrel, which appeared to make a pass at one of them.
Two Red-tails were atop the high tension towers, and two Northern Harriers were cruising low over the impounded marsh.
The scrubby woods scattered through the impoundments were swarming with milling Robins, Yellowrumps, and Tree Swallows. Periodically, groups would cross the levee and head northeast over the water, bound for Slidell. In 30 minutes of counting, I saw about 700 do this (330 Robins, 70 Yellowrumps, 300 Tree Swallows). The swallows may just be dispersers from their roosts to the west; the Robins and Yellowrumps I generally interpret as migrants making corrective movements after having been wind-drifted farther south than intended by the northerly post-frontal winds .
Two solo Common Loons flew northeast overland across the point, cutting the across from open water to open water- always a treat to see their weird, dangling-leg silhouettes. Flying loons are expected at this spot this time of year.
Walking back along the levee, I flushed the usual scattering of Savannah Sparrows from the short grass. Two Eastern Meadowlarks were also in the open along the levee, somehow missed on the walk out. Oddly, the swale with the ducks had now acquired a flock of 150 American Coots.
Driving out to the interstate at 0900 AM, I stopped briefly for a streaky hawk on a pole- immature Red-shouldered.
On the I-10 headed back into town, I passed an Osprey hovering over a canal near Crowder- and when I looked farther up the canal, saw a second one doing the same.