Friday, December 16, 2016

The DDT Survivor's Club

During the past week I was treated to almost daily observations of some terrific species while running errands in the city, all species that we almost lost in the 1960s due to the widespread use of the pesticide DDT.

Tuesday-  While sitting at the stoplight waiting to exit Ochsner Hospital onto River Rd, I was afforded a great look at an adult Bald Eagle flying rather low downstream along the Mississippi River levee.  After a few moments it turned to cross the river, and flew beneath a Brown Pelican that was circling high above.

Wednesday morning- Driving the River Road on the West Bank side, I was surprised to see two Bald Eagles perched cozily together on the top of a light pole atop the levee.  They were smack on the Westwego-Harvey town line.  One was adult, the other still had lots of dusky on its white head- a three year old bird, I would guess.

Wednesday afternoon- an Osprey was hovering vigorously over the drainage canal at Earhardt and David in Metairie.

Wednesday- Preparing to turn onto David Drive from Veterans in Kenner near dusk, the traffic light gave me just enough time to grab my binocs and focus in on a Peregrine Falcon that was sitting on the guy wires beneath the Jefferson Parish water tower.

Thursday-  another adult Bald Eagle on the West Bank, this time atop a tall utility pole on Lapalco, near its terminus at Hwy 90 in Avondale.

When I was growing up and learning to bird in western Massachusetts, Peregrines were in the depth of their pesticide woes.  They had almost legendary status; every sighting afforded bragging rights, and most years I had none.  Bald Eagles were so scarce there was only one place in the state (Quabbin Reservoir) where they occurred regularly, and trips out to see them (scoped at a great distance) were an event.   At their low point in southeast Louisiana, the one remaining eagle pair at White Kitchen was (I am told) regarded quite special as well.   In the 1970s I wrote a letter to the author of Birds of Nova Scotia after a family trip to the Maritimes, to report some Osprey sightings- his species account had so emphasized their demise that their whereabouts seemed worth reporting.

When I arrived in New Orleans in 1991. Brown Pelicans had not yet resumed wintering on Lake Pontchartrain.  Hard to imagine today, when one can see scores- or more- in a casual visit!

How great to have all four species around.



  1. Peter, I have seen a pair of Bald Eagles on the batture in Harahan about 7 times since Thanksgiving. I wonder if it is the same one(s) you saw near Ochsner and on the Westbank? They perch on some dead snags where Imperial Woods hits River Road. I have seen them in flight a few times and they seemed to stay just above the tree tops.

  2. Brian-

    Although a given pair of eagles could presumably range far enough to visit all these areas, I am getting the impression that there are a number around East and West Jefferson within the metro area- not just one pair. Seven sightings in one smallish area in less than a month, and pair seen together, suggests to me a nest might be in the immediate vicinity of your observations. Let me know if you find one!

  3. Found the nest!There is a nest I've been watching since I started seeing the eagles, but haven't seen any evidence of use until today. My wife just called to inform me she watched one of the eagles land in it with a stick. This nest in the main fork of a tree not far from where I have seen them previously. The tree is on the batture between Imperial Woods and West Imperial (now Dale Drive)...closer to West Imperial. Just thought I'd send an update.

    I just read your latest post about the Coopers at Walmart and thought I'd mention seeing a Red Shouldered perched atop the Home Depot in Elmwood last weekend...

  4. Sorry I didn't notice your latest comment till now-- excellent about the eagle nest! The female should be on eggs now...