Saturday, May 17, 2014

Is spring migration over?

April is the peak of spring migration in south Louisiana, dwindling rapidly in May.  This past cold front produced a few reports of continued migration, with respectable numbers of Yellow-billed Cuckoos and Red-eyed Vireos at Grand Isle.  These are two species that often are still passing in mid-May, at the tail end of songbird migration.

When it comes to songbirds, migratory passage is indeed winding down steeply.  However, some other groups of birds are still passing in good numbers and will be for another week or two- notably the terns and shorebirds.  We don't usually see these species in numbers unless we make a special effort.  A good muddy-edged rain puddle in New Orleans, especially near the lakefront, might be patronized a half dozen or so species of shorebirds (and dozens of individuals) at one time.  Unfortunately, I don't know of such a puddle this year.  Sometimes muddy edges will be present in the Bayou Sauvage NWR (e.g., at Madere Marsh Overlook) or west of town in the Bonnet Carre Spillway.  A visit to Bayou Sauvage may also yield a handful of Black Terns, passing through en route to the prairie states and provinces.

The one area that will always have some form of good shorebird habitat is the immediate coast, around Fourchon and Grand Isle.  The outer beaches are also good places to look for terns.  Still worth the trip in May!


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