Saturday, April 25, 2015

Migrants in Harahan this morning- to my surprise

This morning I walked twenty minutes upstream on the levee of the Great River in Harahan, following my customary route from Elaine to the abandoned Colonial Club property, and back on the same path.  I was not expecting any real showing of passage migrants, since conditions had been good for northward movement last night and in general we get spring migrants stopping over under the opposite conditions- when opposing winds or widespread rain force birds to pause in our area and wait.

The first migrant was a Solitary Sandpiper on the flooded levee lawn, by the Kirby driveway (the only batture industry on this stretch).

Next were two female Indigo Buntings along the batture edge at Doyle, while a Red-eyed Vireo sang in the woods behind them.

Across from Donelon, a Yellow-breasted Chat sang its weird conglomeration of phrases from the dense understory.

Across from O K Street, a singing White-eyed Vireo (judged a migrant because it has not been there previously).

I reached the far edge of the country club, and turned around.  None of the birds detected outbound showed again on the walk back, but others did:

Fifty Double-crested Cormorants crossed overhead northbound at medium height in an almost perfect V - in the act of migrating, I expect.

Moments later, six Lesser Yellowlegs came over low southbound- seemingly new arrivals prospecting habitat.

A female Blue Grosbeak chinked from a weedy edge on the club property.

Then the oddest sighting of the morning:  an Orchard Oriole came past above the tree tops eastbound.  As I watched in my binoculars, it ascending higher and higher for 1-2 minutes, at its peak probably beyond unaided vision.  It wheeled slowly clockwise all the while, making a 3/4 turn, and finally fell back toward earth.  I do not recall seeing this before- was it trying to get an overview of the area, to look for better oriole habitat?

A Prothonotary Warbler had begun singing sweet sweet sweet sweet across from Doyle.

Finally, as I stepped up to my car at Elaine, a male and two (four?) female Rose-breasted Grosbeaks moved between trees in the adjacent yards.  As they did, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird zipped past at canopy level, headed for the batture.

Not a bad migrant tally.

Other notables included the continued singing of the White-eyed Vireo across from Elaine (where it has been doing so since late winter), two Red-bellied Woodpeckers going in and out of a cavity in a snag near Kirby, a drake Wood Duck in a tree (likely nest site) near the same spot, and the presence of white downy hawk-lets in the Red-shouldered nest at Ravan.  Ten Yellow-crowned Night-Herons flying around on the country club  suggested there may be a nesting aggregation somewhere nearby.

Busy walk, in the best way.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Least Terns return to rooftop colonies at UNO and Elmwood

I have been watching the Least Tern colony sites at UNO and Elmwood in nervous anticipation this month, hoping that the birds would return to these rooftops, both of which have been occupied for the past two summers.

Yesterday, the amount of tern activity in the vicinity of Milneburg Hall at UNO was pretty encouraging- I highly suspect they will use that roof again this nesting season.

This morning, there were finally birds visible again above the Levitz roof in Elmwood, visible from the Earhardt/Clearview cloverleaf ramp as I drove by.  Seemed to be about 8-10 birds low over the roof.

Tern colonies are notorious for moving from place to place year to year, and neither of these sites produced many young last year- so I feared they would be abandoned.  But it appears not to be the case.


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Grand Isle today: migrants galore!

I drove down today to take part in the annual Grand Isle Migratory Bird Festival.  Although the morning was rainy, the afternoon did not disappoint: there were loads of migrant songbirds everywhere.  In most of the Landry-Leblanc tract of The Nature Conservancy's Lafitte Woods Preserve, a shady maritime live oak forest, there were so many birds it seemed every six paces we would kick another bunch out of the foliage, and that at any moment we had to pick between a half dozen we might want to look at.

The migrants were dominated by throngs of Gray Catbirds, Wood Thrushes, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Indigo Buntings.  In one spot 100+ migrants zipped across the track in front of us in response to the approach of another birder through the woods.   In that same area, two dozen or so Green Herons, new arrivals resting after crossing the Gulf, jumped from the scrub as we moved through.  Lots of other species were around, including a variety of warblers:  I saw a dozen warbler species myself, and the total list of by festival participants topped 20.

These sorts of "fallouts" are weather dependent, occurring most often when inclement conditions (such as today's rain) makes the birds' trans-Gulf crossing strenuous, causing them to make first available landfall.  There did not appear to be any exodus on the radar tonight, so there will probably still be lots of migrants in the Grand Isle woods tomorrow.


Friday, April 17, 2015

Nine Mile Point grain elevator birds

This morning I took a stroll along the Mississippi River levee on the West Bank at Nine Mile Point, walking from the grain elevator for a distance of a half mile upstream.

The backwater by the elevator  was crowded with Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, perhaps 1000.  Four Fulvous Whistling-Ducks among them were unusual for southeast Louisiana.  Seven Blue-winged Teal were also mixed in (six drakes and a hen), as was a comically large brood of Wood Ducks- the hen was followed by 14-15 small ducklings.  Five Lesser Scaup remained on the river, lingering past the normal March departure of their kind.

Shorebirds were also using the edges of the backwater:  20 Lesser and 1 Greater Yellowlegs, 10 Black-necked Stilts, and 15 Least, 5 Solitary, and 3 Spotted Sandpipers  A Red-shouldered Hawk called loudly from a low tree, a Painted Bunting sang from another, and two or three pairs of Eastern Bluebirds frequented open perches along the levee.  A circling flock of 17 Black Vultures appeared to be rising from a nocturnal roost in the batture willows, while ten or so Tree Swallows foraged beneath them.

All birds were seen from the paved trail on the levee top- the batture itself is posted.

Good birding,


Thursday, April 16, 2015

First Mississippi Kite; other Harahan notes this morning

This morning at 7 am I noticed a Mississippi Kite perched on a wire crossing the Mississippi River levee in Harahan.  My first of the spring- they will be common in residential areas within a few weeks.

Also surprising were 28 White-faced/Glossy Ibis commuting past, headed southeast- very unusual this far into the city.

The batture was busy with migrants this morning; I noted these without leaving the walkway:

1 singing Yellow-throated Vireo
1 singing Red-eyed Vireo
15 Indigo Bunting
2 Rose-breasted Grosbeak (sitting quietly in tall snags)
4 Orchard Oriole

Good birding,


Monday, April 13, 2015

Apparent exodus of migrating birds this evening

Judging from the unfiltered (ie, birds not removed) radar available from Slidell on, the migrants that have been hold up with us the last few days have departed northward this evening.  Check out northward movement of the two major green regions between the first (836 pm) and second (1013 pm) images below from this evening.  The mass of (apparent) birds south of the Lake Pontchartrain crosses the lake between the two images, and the mass over southern Mississippi progresses northward.

This is pretty typical- when decent conditions (lack of opposing wind or active precip) are available in early evening, birds will use them to continue north during migration.   These would be mostly small landbirds- warblers, buntings, thrushes, orioles, etc. 

Hopefully more will replace them as the crummy weather induces more to stop over!


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Early signs: some migrants this morning

My early morning stroll along the Mississippi River levee in Harahan this morning under glowery skies and drizzle produced a few passage migrants:
3 Orchard Oriole high in a snag (adult male, one year old male, and a female)
1 Wood Thrush (singing its flute-like, resonant ee-o-lay)
1 White-eyed Vireo (singing its typical chip-weedoo-chip)

In addition, the small flock of Blue-winged Teal has grown to 5 males and 2 females. 

It will be interesting to see what reports emerge from our region today- it is often birdy when north winds (which often induce migrants arriving from a Gulf crossing to pause in our area) and rain (ditto) coincide with a weekend when birders can get afield!


Friday, April 10, 2015

Bald Eagle over West Metairie Ave

This afternoon, while on West Metairie eastbound between Rooseveldt and David, and looked up to see the massive silhouette of a Bald Eagle circling rather low over the road.   It was a full adult, with white head and tail (which take four years to acquire).  It dwarfed the crow that was harassing it.

The only known urban nests in our area are in Orleans, nowhere near this sighting.  It could have a nest somewhere outside town, or maybe not even be nesting, but its presence is intriguing- could there be an unreported nest in urban East Jeff?


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Honey Island this morning

I spent about two hours in Honey Island Swamp this morning with some visiting birders.  The usual dawn chorus did not disappoint; the sheer volume of spring bird song here is always a treat. 

We stopped at each of the first seven bridges.  Woodpeckers were everywhere, as usual, led by Red-bellied, and Red-headed, and including Pileated (vocalizing and drumming in the distance) and Downy.  By imitating them, I was able to get 4-5 Barred Owls to start a prolonged bout of hooting to each other back and forth across the road.  White-eyed Vireos were singing everywhere, along with a scattering of Red-eyeds.  Most of the nesting neotropical warblers are back; we heard or saw lots of Prothonotary Warblers, and several each of Hooded, Swainson's, and Northern Parula.  A single Kentucky sang in the distance.  No American Redstarts yet.

Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were building a nest 30' up in a small tree at bridge 3 in plain sight; a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron nest was also conspicuous at bridge 7.  A female Ruby-throated Hummer appeared to be gathering nest material as well.

Good stuff!


Monday, April 6, 2015

Red-shouldered Hawk nest, and Bald Eagle perched, in Harahan

This morning on a walk along the Mississippi River levee in Harahan, I was treated to an adult (or near adult- it seems to still have some dark on the tail tip) Bald Eagle perched high in a naked tree in the batture off the end of the Colonial Club golf course.  An all-female flock of 37 Red-winged Blackbirds was scattered through the same tree crown, seemingly unconcerned about their mammoth companion.  Three Blue-winged Teal were in the nearby flood waters along the levee base, where a few Northern Rough-winged Swallows were also zipping around.  One Roughwing stopped to gather nest material, and carried it off toward the river. 

A mile or so downstream, a Red-shouldered Hawk was adding a stick to a nest at the corner of Ravan x Riverside.  This nest is 35 feet up in a stately 70 foot pine that sits only  a few feet from the actual street corner.  Also in that immediate vicinity:  my first Green Heron of the spring, three White-winged Doves (which have been regular there over the last few weeks), and a Northern Flicker repeatedly giving its long-call from high in a batture snag.