Tuesday, May 20, 2014
A day in the tidal marshes
Yesterday I spent several hours in the tidal marshes of Highway 1 in Lafourche Parish, between Caminada and the loch at Golden Meadow, including a bit down by Port Fourchon. Many birders pass through these marshes without stopping en route to the usual coastal birding targets (e.g., Grand Isle, Elmer's Island beach, and Fourchon impoundment). Having grown up fascinated with wetlands, it is a treat for me to just bird long the roads (including the bypassed and little-used stretch of Old Hwy 1) and soak it up.
One of the most interesting sightings was a flock of 70 or so American White Pelicans, a species that is most common in winter, sitting on a distant shore in the marsh to the north of the highway. At Fourchon, a Marsh Wren was singing out in the mangroves- hard to come by as tidal marsh nesters in coastal Louisiana these days. At the same spot, a rangy-looking raccoon stumbled onto the road and then retreated to the mangroves upon seeing me; a nighthawk was peenting and flying about in mid-day; and nesting Willets were issuing their strident cries- they seem to always be hyped about something. A Wilson's Plover favored a small rain puddle in an empty parking lot, and allowed me to approach closely in my car. Whimbrels were flying about over the marsh in several places, as they usually are this time of year- pausing as they migrate through northbound.
As usual, there were hundreds of terns sitting behind the beach at Elmer's Island. While I was scoping them, a Least Bittern repeated called (they make an inconspicuous oo-oo-oo-oo-oo... that can be easily overlooked). Just south of the Leeville bridge, a "pied" Little Blue Heron was hunting; Little Blues are scarce in the tidal marshes (preferring fresher water).
Sandwich Terns seemed more plentiful over the marshes than in years past, when they have been pretty confined to the sections flanking the coastal beach; yesterday I had five so far inland they were almost to the Golden Meadow loch.