Friday, February 6, 2015
Report from "Katrina Lots" of Lower Ninth Ward
Last Saturday I took an hour and a half and walked/birded 1.6 miles of former densely populated residential streets of the Lower Ninth Ward, the part of New Orleans most badly hit by Hurricane Katrina over nine years ago. My route was on N. Dorgenois from the old school property (Andry St) east to St. Maurice (another abandoned school), then south two blocks and back west on N. Tonti to Andry, and back north two blocks to the starting point. I formally surveyed birds here for several years after the storm, but had not done much here in the last four years or so.
My main interest was to see how the bird community had changed, both since before the storm (when it was densely populated residential streets), and since immediately after the storm (when it had very few birds of any sort).
I am pleased to report that there were good numbers of wintering landbirds. The species composition now is a much like a rural weedy/scrubby habitat, thanks to the old field succession happening on many lots. Densities of characteristically rural species were also pretty similar to those typically found at rural sites.
Species seen that are normally scarce or absent in urban residential New Orleans:
Gray Catbird- two in as many places.
House Wren- three in as many places.
Savannah Sparrow- a flock of 22, just east of the described route.
White-throated Sparrow- six in one flock.
Swamp Sparrow- Nineteen in 13 places!
Red-winged Blackbird. One singing, apparently advertising a nesting territory.
Notes on regular urban species-
White-winged Dove. This species has now colonized the area in numbers; I saw them in six places, 29 total. This was higher than my count of Mourning Doves.
Northern Cardinal. This species was decimated by Katrina and is still very scarce in other Katrina-flooded neighborhoods, but they have been surprisingly successful at recolonizing the Lower Ninth. Eight places, 13 total.
House Sparrow. Still none! This species was presumably very common in these residential hoods before the storm, but they had conspicuously tanked immediately after and have not returned.
In addition, the overall diversity of typically urban species appeared to be up- I found both crow species, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, Carolina Chickadee, etc.
Good birding, Peter