Sunday, April 02, 2006

Audubon Country Birdfest

This weekend was the Audubon Country Birdfest in St. Francisville. It was a three-day event, but I only participated on Saturday and Sunday. I actually signed up for the Cat Island trip, but come to find out that the entire two hour trip was going to involve paddling a canoe! Couldn't figure out how I'd paddle, use binoculars, and take pictures all at the same time, so decided to forego.

Saturday they had two busses running to the three locations. The early bus took the first group of about 15 to Murrell Butler's country home. What an outstanding property! It had a sprawling ranch feel, but had a little bit of everything -- forest, pond, swampy lake, fields, orchards, live oaks, and ornamentals around the wonderful natural wood sided home.

We immediately saw a pair of nesting Canada Geese. The hen was lying prostrate across the nest when was a man-made island in the pond. It was a little amusing. I guess she was trying to be innocuous, or maybe she was trying to rest up before the babies are born -- smart goose. There was also a pair of Eastern Kingbirds at the pond, a Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Green Heron, and a pair of green birds?? Yes, indeed, there's a pair of Monk Parakeets over there! It would have been a little freaky if Mr. Butler hadn't been there to tell us that he raises them...he has a large cage near the house but lets them out to fly. He said at one time he had a colony of 14, but the predators got them.

We saw the first of many Orchard Orioles, including a second-year male in his yellow plumage (so pretty!). Eastern Bluebirds were everywhere. Our coolest flyover of the day was a male Bald Eagle off in the distance. Down by the lake we saw several different shore/wading birds including Common/Wilson's Snips. We also saw our first Prothonotary warbler -- exciting moment! There were Ruby-Throat Hummers by the house, and no wonder with the coral honeysuckle, red buckeye, and various and sundry other hummer-friendly plants in bloom.

At Ouida, we finally saw the elusive Northern Parulas, which are vocal and hide very well. Also saw my first Broad-wing Hawk. We heard a Hooded Warbler and looked for him for a good long while but just couldn't find him. The Am Goldfinches were still there at the thistle feeders -- especially fun because they've molted back to summer plumage and are so pretty and bright!

It was late by the time we got to Rosale and we didn't pick up anything new. The day count was over 50 by the point, so not too shabby! I stopped by the Port Hudson Cemetery on the way back to BR...I'd never been and could see on the map that there was water nearby. Turns out there's a good lake system right there, but it's all on private property across the fence from the cemetery. I did manage to pick up 8 more birds just from the road though, so that wasn't bad.

On Sunday,we carpooled to Wyoming plantation. It's over a thousand acres! A caretaker drove us down the road a piece. We got out and walked back toward the front, detouring by a lake at one point. Finally saw that elusive Hooded Warbler! Prothonotary Warblers were very visible and everyone had a good shot at a pair that were showing off for us. Had a couple of Mississippi Kite flyovers - first of season for them. A Scarlet Tanager was another Pick of the Day -- could easily have been missed since the tendency is to dismiss all "red-birds" as cardinals, but someone was paying attention to this one and we got it.

Fun, birdy weekend! Didn't get a lot of videos because most of the birds were very distant -- if I filmed them you'd see little moving specks and you'd just have to take my word for it :-) Not all of the great wildlife was feathered -- the butterflies were out in force, and some of them rivaled the birds...

This Green Heron deserves his own post...

Found this beautiful GREEN HERON hunkered down in a tallow tree growing over the water on the University Lake in Baton Rouge. He was NOT the least bit excited that I wanted to photograph him and make him a star!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Redneck Vireo

You've heard of the Red-Eyed Vireo, the Blue-Headed Vireo, and the Yellow-Throated Vireo... and of course, the White-Eyed Vireo. There are several mnemonics for its song... including "Step to the rear, Quick!" But my new favorite is "Quick, get me a beer, Chick!" hence it's other nickname...the "The Redneck Vireo."

Great little video of the Redneck Vireo