Saturday, June 27, 2015

Causeway Crossover Birding 2.0

Made another foray up the Causeway today, again with special permission to stop at crossovers between mile 13 and 16.5 and scope.  Prime goal was to see the Brown Boobies that have since March been seen in this area.

Bingo!  Two adults cruising northward just off the west railing at mile 16.3, seen from the adjacent crossover.   They were in view for about 30 seconds and then dipped below the railing, never to appear again- giving fuel to the suppositions of some that they are in the habit of roosting on the bridge itself. 

A bit later, an immature (extensive dark speckling on belly, which is white in adults) flew northbound past us while we were at the 15.5 crossover.  It veered gradually eastward away from the bridge until we lost it behind the railing, which angles upwards there toward an overpass.

Not much else out there:  two northbound Purple Martins, three Rock Pigeons, a southbound Cattle Egret, a couple Laughing Gulls, a Brown Pelican, and five distant terns that looked like Royals.


Friday, June 26, 2015

Birding from the Causeway Crossovers

Spurred on by the recent Brown Booby sightings, which continued yesterday when 7 (!) were seen at mile 16.3 by Judy Shugart, I made arrangements with the Causeway authorities to stop on the crossovers at miles 13, 15.4, and 16.4 today for short scanning bouts of 10-15 minutes.

I got skunked by the boobies.  I did see one bird in the scope at a ridiculously great distance to the southwest from the 15.4 mile crossover that was a booby candidate, but it was so far I couldn't do anything with it. 

There were very few birds of any sort, mostly perched on structures in the water:
1 adult Brown Pelican
1 white bird, probably an egret, headed southwest
1 Laughing Gull
3 terns (2 probably Royal, 1 medium or large unidentified)

Still, it felt  cool to be able to scan from those crossovers, which I have been eye-ing up for decades!

(This is not normally permitted by the way, so please don't bird these crossovers on your own).


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Entering the... Week of No Migration?

Migration is stereotyped as occurring in spring and fall, with summer instead being a time of nesting activity, and winter of sedentary residence on the nonbreeding grounds. 

This is an oversimplification.  Even in the heart of winter, some species are shifting progressively south in an opportunistic fashion.  Yellow-rumped Warbler does so, and inland waterfowl are commonly recognized to progress southward from the northern states as freeze up drives them our way.  Irruptions- mass movements apparently driven by poor food conditions in the normal wintering grounds, famously of Canadian boreal finches and owls- can also be ongoing through the winter.  And before all this winter movement is concluded, the first northbound migrant Purple Martins reappear from the tropics at the tail end of January!

What about summer?  Is there a window when the last spring migrants have gone, but the first southbound fall migrants have yet to appear? 

The last of the spring migrants- notably certain shorebirds and terns- are now pulling out of Louisiana for points north.  The vanguard of southbound birds- notably certain shorebirds- might start appearing around month's end.

If any week is a candidate for Louisiana briefly becoming a migration-free zone, the next seven days are it.  But realistically, there are bound to still be migrants of some species passing through, somewhere in our borders, even this week.


If there is a week of the year

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Red-cockaded Woodpecker picture

I am posting today primarily to offer this wonderful photo of two Red-cockaded Woodpeckers from the Boy Scout Road site in Big Branch Marsh NWR, taken about a week ago by visiting birder Kevin Smith from Oregon.  I was showing him the roost/nest trees in the early morning, and we waited for about two hours before a group of four of the woodpeckers came in from the south and put on a show!

Note the orange leg bands- this is an endangered species, so the Fish and Wildlife Service bands them to keep track of the individuals.


Friday, June 12, 2015

Another twist in the post-Katrina Lower Ninth Ward Cardinal story

Today I spent a little over two hours in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, arguably the part of the metro area hardest hit by Katrina ten years ago.  It has grown up into a patchwork of new homes, old blighted structures, mowed lots, and tangled thickets. 

The most striking feature of today's visit was the numbers of territorial Northern Cardinals.  I counted 37 adult males, almost all singing to advertise territory (so attempting nesting).  In two locations, I found fledged broods.

This is especially interesting because the Cardinal, widespread and common in residential New Orleans before the storm, has been the hardest hit species.  Today, the species is so rare in Katrina-flooded residential areas of New Orleans and St. Bernard that I keep track of each one I hear about. 

So how ironic that the one residential area they have resurged in, is the 'hood hardest hit by the storm!  The amount of brush growing up there is presumably a reason for their success in the area.  I am not sure if there is any less pressure from the brood-parasitic Bronzed Cowbird (which targets Cardinals) here than elsewhere.  I saw one of this species, but only one.

Another appealing aspect of the area is the frequent passage of Gull-billed Terns (12 today) and Black Skimmers (2) over the area, apparently in transit between the Bayou Bienvenue marshes and the nesting colony on the Poland Street Wharf.  However, when I went to the wetland overlook at the end of Caffin, there were none working the open water there- not sure where exactly they are foraging.

Good birding,


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Least Tern count in Elmwood

I just made a scope scan of the tern colony on Levitz's rooftop in Elmwood, which is just off the cloverleaf intersection of Clearview x Earhardt.  I viewed it from a nearby building.

Today there were 18 sitting adult Least Terns, plus a pair tending two small downy young, and another downy young by itself.  So, evidence for 20 pairs.  There are probably more than that nesting at the site, since usually some nests will be unattended during a given scan.

Always fun to see! 

Good birding,


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Roseate Spoonbill again at Causeway water retention site

As I drove over the Causeway water retention area (where Causeway crosses the Earhardt Expressway and Airline Highway in Metairie) early this afternoon, and looked west, I could see a Roseate Spoonbill was again present.  It's pink coloration was visible from the overpass, naked eye.

How cool!


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Red-shouldered Hawk nest near the Rivershack; Harahan nest fledges

Saturday I parked by the Rivershack in Old Jefferson to take a stroll on the levee, and heard a frail version of a Red-shouldered Hawk call overhead.  Since this can either be a young bird or a Blue Jay doing an immitation, I inspected the live oak that sprawled over the car.  There was a stick nest 45 feet up in the tree, with one young hawk visible in it!  Looks pretty close to fledging.

The next day I walked the river levee in Harahan, and had a look at the Ravan Rd Red-shouldered nest that I reported in an earlier post.  It is empty, and the two young hawks were in the adjacent batture.  One was on the cement slabs that reinforce the levee slope, bouncing around, apparently chasing bugs.  Young juvenile hawks do sometimes act goofy like this, although I have seen it more from young Cooper's Hawks than from this species in the past.