Friday, June 27, 2014

Lower Ninth Ward this afternoon

I was in the Lower Ninth late today with a film crew shooting a TV show about nature in the Lower Ninth.  There appeared to be two Mississippi Kite territories on N Robertson; one of the adults twice brought food from afar, as if tending a nestling.  A Great Crested Flycatcher in a cluster of trees offered better-than-average views.  Most pleasing were four singing Northern Cardinals- encouraging, as this species is still struggling to recover in the residential parts of Katrina flood zone of Orleans.

The wetland at the observation deck at the end of Caffin was fairly birdy.  An Osprey perched on a snag, and Anhinga dried its wings on a stump, and there were Snowy and Great Egrets and Green Herons scattered about.   The most Gull-billed Terns in one scan was a half dozen; there were also some Least Terns scattered about.  I imagine this site is frequented a lot by the terns nesting on the Poland Street Wharf, which is nearby.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Least Tern pics from UNO rooftop colony today

Missy Bowen took some pics of the Least Tern action atop Milneburg Hall at the University of New Orleans today.  Notice the small downy chick in the upper right corner of the top photo.  They tend to hang out next to metal fixtures on the rooftop to benefit from the small amount of shade they throw (although it was cloudy today).

The sitting bird in the bottom photo is not a young of this year, despite the slight fading of the crown and traces of dark mottling on the wing- though juveniles will attain adult size by mid or late summer, they will be much different from an adult, with extensive brown wash above, barring on upperparts, etc.

Thanks Missy!


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Hairy Woodpeckers successfully nested in Audubon Park

Today I noticed two Hairy Woodpeckers in the large live oaks along the bayou in Audubon Park, behaving like an adult and a newly fledged juvenile- lots of soft, short vocalizations.

This is unusual in that Hairy Woodpeckers are scarce as nesters in urban New Orleans.

The birds were also much easier to approach than Hairies are generally.

Good deal!


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Least Tern rooftop colonies update

During the past two days I have visited both the UNO and Elmwood rooftop colonies:

UNO- 33 birds sitting, apparently incubating- this is more than the peak number last year, which was in the 20's.

Elmwood (Levitz)- 24 birds sitting, accompanied by a sitting Gull-billed Tern.

One downy chick was visible at UNO, none at Elmwood.

I am not sure whether the drop in numbers from ~100 earlier in the season at Levitz is meaningful; it was immediately following several hours of rain, so perhaps birds were taking the opportunity to get away after having been pinned on their eggs all morning (?).

What a kick to have two colonies that can actually be watched- usually the only views afforded by rooftop colonies is of birds coming and going, or bursting into the air for a few minutes when disturbed.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Birding while shrimping

Yesterday I had the opportunity to spend the day on a shrimping boat in Lake Borgne.  Thank you Captain George!

When well away from shore, the shrimper primarily attracted Laughing Gulls, and Royal and Forster's Terns. And dolphins-  a pod of a dozen or so shadowed us for nearly two hours.  We were in Lake Borgne, about 15 miles north of Shell Beach and just a couple miles west of the marshes of the Biloxi Wildlife Management Area.

The greatest avian diversity was in Shell Beach and the adjacent marshes.  Willets flew about issuing their strident cries and displaying their shocking black-and-white wing patterns.  Common Nighthawks peented and chased each other about.  Seaside Sparrows flew in short forays just over the tips of the marsh grasses, and Red-winged Blackbirds tee'd up to show off for their rivals.  In the scrub along the spoil banks, Orchard Orioles sang their animated songs, Great Crested Flycatchers called reep, and a Yellow-billed Cuckoo gave a long series of oo notes.  It is always interesting to me to see the later two out in the marsh scrub, since they inhabit much talller trees in most of their other haunts.


Thursday, June 5, 2014

whiny juvenile Barred Owl at Jean Lafitte

Yesterday I was walking the Coquille Trail in Jean Lafitte National Park south of town, and came upon a Barred Owl perched thirty feet above the trail, unobscured.  It stared down at me and gave a long, high pitched cry- fussing at me.  It repeated this at regular intervals, just seconds apart, while I stood and inspected it through the binculars.  Remnant down on the head confirmed what was already apparent from its behavior:  a recently fledged juvenile.

It kept fussing for minutes, weaving its head side to side in classic owl fashion.  Sometimes when I would move it would give a start, but then settle back down.  Two young  Northern Parulas came in and began chipping at it: pale blue above, white wingbars and underparts, with just a hint of the yellow throat and breast.

The owl eventually flew off into the swamp, but quickly began its cry all over again, now out of sight.


Monday, June 2, 2014

Visit to the Pontchartrain Park heronry

I spend a half hour today walking the fringes of the Pontchartrain Park (Bartholomew Golf Course) heronry, watching the nesting show.  So much energy  in such a small spot!

White Ibis now dominate the colony- hundreds of adults I suppose, although it is hard to assess since they can be pretty hard to see sitting on nests.

Great Egrets, the first to nest, are almost done: in most nests, the young are almost indistinguishable from their parents except for the lack of the nuptial aigrettes (long plumes on the back used in courtship display). I did see one nest with smaller young, approximately Snowy Egret sized, which were vying for the food that their newly returned parent was prepared to regurgitate.  Their aggression was amazing, literally fighting over access to mom's beak.

A handful of young Black-crowned Night-Herons, Tricolored Herons, and White Ibis were out of the nest- seems like the main waves of fledgings for those species are yet to come.  Cattle Egrets were seen feeding young in nests.  Snowy Egrets here and there, and two pairs of Little Blues.

The colony is quite noisy- quite a din when you are on the east shore, where you are only about 20 yards from the closest nests.  But you can hear it a long ways off.

One Yellow-crowned Night-Heron was loafing- a one-year-old, mainly gray with just a trace of the adult head pattern.

Barn Swallows were continually zipping above the water surface snatching bugs, and a Mississippi Kite came over from the south just as I was leaving.