Saturday, October 4, 2014
Large Indigo Bunting corrective movement at South Point
This morning I took the mile walk out to South Point in extreme eastern Orleans Parish, where the railroad bridge begins to cross Lake Pontchartrain headed for Slidell. This spot is accessed by getting off the I-10 at Irish Bayou/Hwy 11, and heading back west along the gravel (north) frontage road to the gate, then walking to the point.
Weather was delightful. On the walk out I saw the usual marsh birds, including small flocks of Blue-winged Teal and Mottled Ducks, and a fine bright pink adult Roseate Spoonbill. Over a hundred Great and Snowy Egrets were concentrated in one small waterway. Clapper Rails called outside the levee. An Eastern Meadowlark flitted along the tree line.
No significant "morning flight" corrective movement was evident until I reached the point itself, but there it was in peak form. Small songbirds were passing northbound in a constant parade of small flocks. Most were Indigo Buntings, which are just approaching their peak of fall passage. Both sexes are brown this time of year, though often with some bluish sheen on the flight feathers. Too many were passing to keep a true count- so I took rates. The first 100 took 2:00 minutes to pass; a bit later, another 100 took 2:40; sometime after that, another took 2:10. Overall, this produces an estimate of a bit over 2600 birds in the hour I watched. About 90% were Indigos. This more than doubles my maximum previous hourly estimate of Indigos at this site.
In the mix, I noticed a dozen or so American Redstarts, eight Summer Tanagers, eight Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, and smaller numbers of others, including Black-throated Green, Yellow-throated, Magnolia, Black-and-White, and Yellow Warblers. A Flicker crossed with them, as did three Scissor-tailed Flycatchers- an expected October migrant, but always a thrill to see.
Flights of this sort normally occur exclusively on mornings of north or northeast winds- today they were from the north. Although a wind as stiff as today's will usually cause a lot of birds that start out over the water to subsequently give up and let themselves be blown back, there was surprisingly little of that today- they kept going.