Friday, November 28, 2014

Two thousand migrants making corrective flight this morning

I walked ut to South Point in the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge this morning.  This takes around a half hour, starting from the I-10 frontage road, which hugs the north side of I-10 as it works back west from the base of the Highway 11 bridge.

Rather than walking along the crest of the lake levee, I hugged the edge of the willow scrub on the walk out.  Forty American Pipits were foraging on the mown levee, repeatedly taking up and resettling as a group.

As I approached a spot where the willows broke and gave a view into the impoundment, I heard duck noises coming from behind the scrub.  Suddenly, 500 Gadwall erupted into the air, splitting into two groups which rejoined and settled back into the marsh beyond view.  A hundred more sat tight long enough for me to spy a handful of American Wigeon and Green-winged Teal among them.

Winds seemed approximately ENE, which is a little more easterly than the ideal N-NE for corrective movements following cold fronts at South Point.  Nevertheless, birds heading out across the water toward Slidell were in evidence already during the latter half of my approach.  I ended up conducting a count from one spot near the point for 50 minutes, during which time flocks of American Robins, Cedar Waxwings, and Yellow-rumped Warblers staged a consistent procession into the headwind, past me and out over the lake toward Slidell, five miles or so distant.  Totals in the timed count were  remarkably evenly split:  655 robins, 615 waxwings, and 635 yellowrumps.  The waxwings were nice to see; while robins and yellowrumps are a predictable feature of late November flights here, waxwings are essentially absent some years.

While I counted, I was treated to a Cooper's Hawk and two Northern Harriers- one a gray adult male-  working the point.  A Clapper Rail clacked out in the tidal marsh.  A Common Loon swam in the lake, and another flew past westbound.

Walking back, I stopped to make coaxing noises at one spot, and drew an immediate response from hoards of agitated, chipping Swamp Sparrows.  A few minutes later they were joined by a flock of small insectivores, including a Carolina Chickadee, Eastern Phoebe, several Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and a half dozen or so Yellow-rumped Warblers.  Moving on, I came upon a Marsh Wren, which volunteered itself without coaxing, jumping into view atop a reed to fuss at me.

As I approached my car, a pair of Chipping Sparrows spooked off the shoulder of the shell road.  Where had they been on the walk out?  Finally, while leaving, I was treated to both a hefty Red-tailed Hawk and a dainty Sharp-shinned Hawk, the latter flapping energetically as it was buffeted by the wind.


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