Wednesday, May 24, 2006


We are seeing young’uns everywhere! In the backyard, the Downy Woodpeckers, the Cardinals, Mockers, Brown Thrashers, Crows, and the Chickadees are all bringing their babies to the yard and showing them the ropes. But today I got a special treat! I work in a 12 story building in downtown Baton Rouge. I’m on the 11th floor and this floor is the only one with a significant ledge – it’s about a foot wide. I looked over and saw a bird on the ledge, so I crept over to look out. There was an American Kestrel eating a house sparrow! I tried to be careful, but after a minute I realized it wasn’t the least concerned about me…it was into its dinner! It stayed there for over an hour, eating and resting. People trooped in and out of my office to goggle, we took digital pictures, the cleaning service vacuumed, but still the bird stayed! I was convinced it couldn’t see us…but then Poppa showed up! He flew the ledge briefly, holding another bird part, saw us standing inside the window, and high-tailed it! He would come by every few minutes after that to check on Junior, but Junior was busy with the HOSP. He ate every single feather, beak to toenail.

After work I went by City Park/Univ lakes to try out my new scope. Not much to see at a distance, but I did get a very close look at a trio of Juvenile Green Herons. They were along the lake bank, almost in the duck and pigeon congregation. When they saw me looking, they beat it for the safety of a cypress tree. No parents in sight. I’ll go back tomorrow to try to get pictures. They were not quite adult size and still in juvie plumage – but obviously could fly a bit to get off the ground to get into the tree. I sought out one of the Green Heron nests to see how things were coming there. This one is in the “cove” near the gazebo with the scalloped bridge. The nest is under a cypress and not easy to see from shore, but I could make out 3 fuzzy, wobbly heads in the nest there too! Tomorrow I’ll check the other nest near Baton Rouge Beach and see if those eggs have hatched.

What fun!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Green Heron Nest!

Ah yes, Springtime! What a lovely Mother's Day present!

These great shots were taken by Sybil McDonald near the Univ Lakes in Baton Rouge. Isn't she a beauty! I'll be checking back to see how she's coming with that nest!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Hummingbird nest!!

I happened to be in the right place at the right time when someone spied a Ruby-Throat Hummingbird nest. It's at a local park and the nest is right above the boardwalk. Here's hoping she keeps the nest a secret. She was amazingly still while we watched her, so I'm sure she'll do fine.

And now for the videos - live and in living color

And once in silohuette

I went back this weekend and the nest is still there. Momma didn't come to it while we watched, and another observer said he had to wait over an hour to see her come to the nest -- but he did see her feed at least one nestling! woo-hoo! Maybe it'll be a little more visible once the baby 's a little couldn't possibly hide in that teeny-tiny nest very long!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

An Endangered Species here in Louisiana

One of the features of the Great Louisiana Birdfest sponsored by Northlake Nature Center is a trip to the Big Branch National Wildlife Refuge near Mandeville, Louisiana. The ranger at Big Branch told us a little bit about it. Basically it was started by a group of private citizens in the area that saw the influx of population from New Orleans and wanted to preserve the natural areas that surrounded them. They wanted their families to be able to enjoy hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities. So they put their land together and asked the Federal Fish and Wildlife Service to run it for them. As they were exploring the land and deciding about management, the biologists discovered something interesting...the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker, a bird designated as an endangered species. This link will take you to a page that tells about the birds. They really area a unique bird--particularly for a woodpecker. For example, they nest in live trees, live in colonies containing multiple generations and ward off predators with sap wells that protect the entrance to their nest holes.

The forest where the birds live in Louisiana is primarily loblolly pine, although they are replanting the longleaf pine for the birds -- they just grow extremely slowly. They've helped the colonies along in some places by placing nesting boxes in the trees, which the birds seem to acccept. The nesting trees are marked with white rings around the trees, which is great for us lowly visitors. The forests are managed with fire. That is, they do controlled burn of the forest to thin and remove underbrush periodically and they also keep the trees at a certain density to keep it all healthy.

This first video is of a tree that shows a man-made nesting box that was inserted into a tree. You can see it's been well used...the sap wells around the hole are well-developed.

These next videos show the birds in and around the nesting hole. It was fairly early in the morning and the light wasn't great, not to mention the hole was about 20 feet above the ground, but I did the best I could. I hope to go back and try again one day.

Red-cockaded WP - best shot

Red-cockaded WP at the hole

Red-cockaded WP working the tree

Yellow Breasted Chat -- what a bird!

Whiskey Bay is an area just east of the Atchafalaya Basin. You take the highway 975, going north. It's a gravel road, and it follows the Atchafalaya River for 17 miles to Krotz Springs if you take it the whole way. Almost immediately after the exit is a "watering hole" on the right hand side that has been very productive for birds, especially in the evening this spring when it was so dry. Something less than a mile north on 975 you'll enter Sherburne Wildlife Management Area. This is a state area run by LA Dept of Wildlife and Fisheries. You're supposed to have a Wildlife stamp or any kind of hunting or fishing license.

I ran into a new bird on my first visit to Whiskey Bay. There were plenty of these guys and they are anything but shy! I get such a kick out of watching them. They have terrible posture, and they look like they're retching when they sing. The field guides describes their flight as "awkward" -- that's putting it mildly! How on earth do these birds migrate across the gulf!

Here are some shots of the Yellow-Breasted Chat.

Chat on a wire -- talk about bad posture!

Chat in a tree

A little bit closer

and a close up of the Chat singing his song