Monday, February 22, 2016

Tricks of the Trade # 6: picking out a singing Thrasher among the Mockingbirds

The Brown Thrasher resides all year in southern Louisiana, and is generally common, but is peculiarly scarce in the nesting season south of Lake Pontchartrain.  I typically find them in only 1-2 locations each spring-summer.

Thus have I been delighted over the past few weeks to have one singing in my neighborhood in Old Jefferson, apparently intent upon attracting a mate.  I first detected this bird three weeks ago in my back yard, scrounging for food on the ground along a shrubby edge.  A few days later it reappeared across the street, singing heartily from the top of a large live oak.  Thrashers have not nested on my block for a decade or more, so I am keeping my fingers crossed.

Because Brown Thrashers sound very much like Mockingbirds, they are easy to overlook amid the vociferous throngs of the latter species.  It is worth listening for a mocker that sounds slightly hoarse, and employs mainly singlets and doublets.  Mockingbirds are more repetitive- repeating more of their phrases three or more times than do thrashers- and have a cleaner, more liquid voice.  Mockers are also more likely to sing from a man-made structure such as an antenna or telephone pole, while thrashers prefer tall trees.

Keep your ears open!


Friday, February 5, 2016

Barred Owls dueting in the batture

I have long regarded Barred Owl as an irregular winter visitor in the Old Jefferson area, occasionally wandering in from the swamps outside the city, never nesting.
Thus, I was surprised on Wednesday when, during a walk along the levee, I was treated to two individuals calling back and forth. They were giving their classic "who cooks for you, who cooks for you all" calls at 11 AM (!), with one bird being decidedly higher pitched than the other. Male owls are generally smaller than females, and I presume the higher pitched bird wad a male, calling back and forth with a lower pitched female. I wonder if they are thinking about nesting there....