Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Mardi Gras outing...

We had bee-yoo-tee-full weather in Louisiana this year for the Mardi Gras. I decided to forego the revelry and head for the woods instead. Decided to try a new location today and headed with a BR Audubon society friend to Lake Martin near Breaux Bridge. It was an easy hour drive and we were rewarded immediately on arrival to the rookery with a great view of Roseate Spoonbills and Great Egrets in the cypress trees. The Spoonbills are the greatest color this time of year...orange and strawberry sherbet! They haven't quite paired off yet and started nesting, but there sure is a lot of clacking going on! I can't tell if they're mating or fighting! We got some great views of Red-Shoulder Hawks as well. Gorgeous colors!

The Great Egrets were in full-on breeding mode. Some were doing the
Egret Mating Dance.
It was very cool...they would show off the long breeding plumage tail feathers and do their repetitive, ritualistic dance. Some had paired off and started nests. I couldn't tell if there were eggs yet.

We saw a few shy Moorhens working along the water's edge. Along with many Alligators that were just hanging
around looking for, shall we say, lunch opportunities.

We saw a few Swamp Sparrows and some other un-identified "little brown jobs" . One of the coolest things for me was the flock of Ruby-Crowned Kinglets. Usually I would just see one, but there must have been a dozen or more all in one place chittering away. And they brought a Northern Parula with them! Another first :-)

A Black-Crowned Night heron was there see us off as we headed back to town it had the neatest tail presumably its version of breeding plumage

It was a great outing and I plan to go back a few times this spring to see the Spoonbills and Egrets nesting and fledging... I tell you, I felt completely inadequate with my little camera and vid-cam though--you should have seen some of the rigs these folks had! Next time I'll take a picture of them :-)

Monday, February 27, 2006

My little yellow spot

This little beauty is one of the birds that was banded by Nancy Newfield a while back. She was still hanging around as recently as a week ago. Note the ruffled feathers under the paint on her head...you can tell she has been working hard to get rid of the paint mark!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Beautiful day for a field trip!

Well Saturday was the complete pits, but Sunday turned out to be an outstanding day, weather-wise. The Piersons offered to go with me to the spot where Winston saw some interesting sparrows, so we set off for a field on S. Choctaw. It's a wide-open area near an Entergy facility, and obviously bush-hogged regularly or the growth would be much more significant. It was almost marshy -- lots of grasses and brambles (going to be lots of berries there a few weeks!) and uneven ground. Rubber boots and careful eye required...in fact, I was glad it was not warmer weather because I kept thinking "snake" as we were making our way.

I saw a Red-Headed Woodpecker first thing out of the box! First one I've seen all winter. A couple of Mockers and Shrikes were hunting and tussling from the fence. We were here to find sparrows though, so we set out to find them. We walked, listened, and did not see a thing except hawks and vultures in the distance. I heard something calling, but could not find it. Finally I flushed a "LBJ" and we tried to close in on it, but it eluded us. Bob and I both got the impression of "wren" but we couldn't be sure, and it made no sound.

A bit later we did see a couple of sparrows that hid in the shrubbery and we id'd them as swamp sparrows. Since there wasn't much to see in this location, we decided to head to St. Gabriel to go Snipe hunting.

On hwy 30 (Nicholson) just as you cross the parish line from the north, there is a hardware store on left near a sheriff's substation. Behind these buildings are two areas...one grassy, marshy open area and a fenced area of shrubby growth. We immediately saw a pair of Mockers and Shrikes--this was the day for them. We started out in the grassy field and immediately spotted several Killdeer and then suddenly SNIPE! They popped up as they were startled out of the grass and surprised us, too. Their camouflage was amazing...at one point I came within 15 feet of one that I did not even see until it flew. I know I didn't get any good pictures but got great looks! We also saw a group of about 8 or 9 Eastern Meadowlarks in the same area. They were almost as leery and hard to photograph.

We made our way back to the edge of the shrubby area and found a small flock of White-Crowned Sparrows working the edge of the fence. I managed to get within 10-12 ft or so so the pictures should be fairly decent.

We detoured out Ben Hur road to see what we could see. Found significant flocks of Chipping Sparrows, Savannah Sparrows, and blackbirds (Cowbirds, Starlings, RWBB) and the occasional wader (Cattle, Great, Snowy Egrets). Lots and lots of hawks (90% chance of Red-Tailed :-) ), several vultures and a few Kestrels. No Pipits this time, which was unusual considering their abundance just last weekend.

All in all, a good birding day and I added 5 birds to my List :-)

Sunday, February 19, 2006


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Rusty Rufous - full frontal

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Rusty Rufous shows off his new gorget

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Great Backyard Bird Count 2006

The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual four-day event that engages bird watchers of all levels in counting birds and reporting their results to create a mid-winter snapshot of the numbers, kinds, and distribution of birds across the continent. Participants count birds for as little or as long as they wish during the four-day period and tally the highest number of birds of each species that they see at any one time. At the Great Backyard Bird Count web site, they fill out an online checklist to submit their counts. The website is: http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc

I contributed the list from yesterday as well as what I've seen in the yard yesterday and today. I'll also let them know about this wonderful Selasphorus Rufus that I was lucky enough to photograph in neighbor Carol Thomas's yard today. Isn't he a beauty? But then I'm partial to redheads :-)

Click here to see the Rusty Rufous

Saturday, February 18, 2006

LeConte's Sparrow (lifer - 2/18/2006)

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BR Audubon society field trip...

Cold and rainy Saturday morning. When I got up, I looked outside at the gloomy weather and *almost* crawled back in bed. Then, I thought, "nothing ventured, nothing gained" so I bundled up and hurried to the meet point. The group was small but willing :-) We stopped a few times along Ben Hur road on the way to Richfield Riversilt as we caught sight of birds. Lots of hawks along the way, and great flocks of mixed blackbirds. We also stopped a couple of times along river road at the woody areas. Our leader had a recording of a screech owl that he used as a lure. It brought in half a dozen birds easily!

Had forgotten to account for wind down on the river -- it was cold and much breezier down there, not to mention muddy. I was wishing I had my gloves and another layer of jacket! We made a wide circle at Richfield Riversilt...veering off the left off the main road at first to pick up water birds in the pits. It's positively amazing how well camoflaged those shorebirds are! Sparrows were abundant -- we picked up eight different species over the course of the morning. Here are links to videos of two of the sparrows we saw today -- both of which were lifers for me:

Le Conte's Sparrow:(19Mb file)
Le Conte's Sparrow (9Mb file, excerpt from above)
Le Conte's Sparrow (18Mb file - different angles)

Vesper Sparrow: (8Mb file)

We picked up 50 species altogether. Here's a complete list:

Double-crested Cormorant - 3
Great Blue Heron - 1
Great Egret - 3
White Ibis - 30 (Observed on Lee Drive on drive back to Coffee Call)
Northern Harrier - 1 (possibly 2)
Sharp-shinned Hawk - 1 (or Cooper's)
Red-tailed Hawk - 10
American Kestrel - 1
Killdeer - 25
Spotted Sandpiper - 1
Western Sandpiper - 2 (debate about Western or Semipalmated, but I think the consensus was Western)
Least Sandpiper - 4
Common Snipe - 1 (St. Gabriel)
Ring-billed Gull - 5 (flyover, so hard to tell, but probably)
Rock Pigeon - 12
Mourning Dove - 6
Red-bellied Woodpecker - 4
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - 1
Downy Woodpecker - 1
Eastern Phoebe - 2
Loggerhead Shrike - 1
Blue Jay - 1 A
merican Crow - 8
Carolina Chickadee - 2
Carolina Wren - 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 3
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher - 1
Eastern Bluebird - 3
American Robin - 1
Northern Mockingbird - 4
Brown Thrasher - 1
European Starling - mixed flock with RWBB
American Pipit - 50
Orange-crowned Warbler - 2
Eastern Towhee - 1 (heard not seen)
Chipping Sparrow - 50+
Field Sparrow - ~10
Vesper Sparrow - 3
Savannah Sparrow - ~90
Le Conte's Sparrow - 3
Song Sparrow - 4
Swamp Sparrow - 1
White-throated Sparrow - 10
White-crowned Sparrow - 1 (St. Gabriel)
Northern Cardinal - 12
Red-winged Blackbird - 100's maybe 1000's
Eastern Meadowlark - ? (heard not seen)
Common Grackle - 4 (but may have been more in mixed flocks)
Brown-headed Cowbird - 100's (separate and mixed flocks)

Saturday, February 04, 2006

First Saturday in February

How did it get to be February already? Amazing!

BR Audubon Society sponsors a birdwalk the first Sat of every month at Bluebonnet Swamp, a park here in Baton Rouge. We didn't have a BRAS guide this month, so we made do. Fortunately we had some experienced birders to help us spot and identify the interesting birds. The highlight for me was the Barred Owl that we got very good looks at, and the Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, which isn't that rare but is always a treat. It was a cool, breezy but clear day and fun to meet new "birdy" people...

The complete list is as follows:
Wood Duck
Great Egret
Black Vulture
Mourning Dove
Barred Owl
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Carolina Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Warbler sp. - we got a brief glimpse of a very yellow bird with greenish wings. *Might* have been the Wilson's Warbler that was counted here on CBC day.
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird