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.