Friday, August 26, 2016

Say goodbye to the Mississippi Kites

The time has come for the annual exodus of the Mississippi Kites- one of the most abrupt and conspicuous changes in our avifauna each year.  They change from being numerous to essentially absent in the course of the last week of August each year.

Yesterday I saw five during my normal running of errands around the metro area, and today four so far- including two from my yard.  Pretty much in line with how numerous they have been all summer. But that will change in a matter of days, and skies will be kite-less until April.    

A side note- this afternoon I saw four Black Vultures circling over the batture by Ochsner Hospital in Old Jefferson.  This is the only place I have seen them regularly on the East Bank of Jefferson Parish, and it is good to know they are still using the spot (it had been several months since I last saw them there). For reasons unclear to me, Turkey Vultures penetrate New Orleans' urban developed zone much more frequently and deeply than do Blacks- making any East Jeff sightings noteworthy.  Turkey Vultures were themselves much less regular in NOLA's urban landscape prior to Katrina, and have increased since for unknown reasons.


Friday, August 12, 2016

Fallout shorebirds from the tropical disturbance

The winds from the tropical disturbance that has been affecting us the last few days may not have been strong enough to push many birds around, but the rains of such a system often produce a different sort of birding opportunity: water birds that would normally migrate past without pausing are often induced to stop over until the weather passes.
This afternoon, while waiting in the carpool line at Patrick Taylor Academy in Avondale, I noticed some movement in the flooded grassy fields behind the building. Yanking the binoculars out of my glove box-where I keep a pair for such emergencies- I was able to pick out a half dozen Pectoral Sandpipers, a Black-bellied Plover, and a couple Lesser Yellowlegs! These were passage migrants; they were accompanied by four Black-necked Stilts, as many Killdeer, and a small flock of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, all most likely local residents attracted by the rain pools. Never before have I been eager for the carpool line to move as slowly as possible!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Yellow Warblers- a key August migrant

Well, it may not seem like fall migration should be underway, since we are essentially in the hottest partof summer.True, most.of migration is still ahead of us- but for a few species, things get rolling earlier.  This is true for many shorebirds especially, but also for some other species, including some small land birds.

In our area, the Yellow Warbler is probably the most conspicuous song bird migrating this time of year.   Because the species often actively migrates in the early morning, and frequently calls while doing so, it is often possible to pick one out by its vocalizations, and with a quick look up, see it passing overhead.  Their flight note is a somewhat husky seet- not a sound that is likely to grab your attention, but one that you can notice if you stay aware.

Once in a while, you might get treated to a bunch of Yellows passing over the same spot in a short period.  Once such flight was reported by an observer in Marrero this morning- who reported 26 in an hour over his yard.  They were headed west for the most part, which is generally the most common direction for August Yellows in our area.  I have on two occasions over the years counted numbers around 100 in an hour, once on the Bucktown lakefront, and once in Old Jefferson.  Both times, most were headed west.  At the migratory concentration site on the lakeshore at South Point, when (infrequent in August) northeast winds occur, over a 1000 are possible.  Flights have been noted on the north shore of the lake as well, such as at Fontainbleau State Park, but their frequency and magnitude in St. Tammany have yet to be worked out.