27 April 2010

April

Well, once again I let myself go for too long without doing a post. And, once again, the stuff to report has really piled up! In early April I went to New England for spring break and met up with Andrew Spencer and Ian Davies, and briefly with Brendan Fogarty and Luke Seitz. It was a great week packed with birds that had yet to go north for the winter, and some early migrants just trickling into the northeast. In all, I got twelve life birds over the break: Monk Parakeet, Common Eider, American Black Duck, Black Scoter, King Eider (my 600th world bird!), Harlequin Duck, Snowy Owl, American Woodcock, Spruce Grouse, Boreal Chickadee, Manx Shearwater, and Saltmarsh Sparrow. I will try to post some more about some specific encounters in the future, after my schedule opens up a little after finals.

Yesterday, however, I took a quick break from studying with my friend Michael Hilferty to check out the Mississippi River Levee at LSU. Amazingly, there were virtually no migrants in the woods, but we did get to see two Prothonotary Warblers in a territorial dispute. As we were leaving, though, Michael spotted two Western Kingbirds on a fence - a state bird for me and a lifer for him! As we continued down the levee, we found a group of Solitary Sandpipers and soon had another group of shorebirds fly in giving calls I had never heard before. At first I assumed that they were also Solitaries, but upon further inspection was amazed to see five Buff-breasted Sandpipers! This was a lifer for both of us, and a darn good bird to boot!

I will post more in the near future. As soon as finals let up I will have some more time. Until then, good birding!

15 April 2010

I though it was spring?

DATE: 28 March 2010

The morning and early afternoon had proved productive. The amoeba-like mass of birders to which I belonged had amorphously wandered through most of the woods and field of Grand Isle in Jefferson Parish, and had turned up many good birds. Northern Parulas were singing in people's yards, a surprise Swallow-tailed Kite arced above a wooded lot, and a flock of warblers sat above a termite nest, feasting on the emerging queens. The bright colors of the freshly molted warblers was nice; the buff breast of the Worm-eating Warbler, the flash of the Swamp Canary (Prothonotary Warbler) in the brush, the dapper Black-and-white and several Palm Warblers flitted in the oaks. However, our greatest surprise on the day was on the coast a little while later. We were all but finished for the day, having scoured almost every patch of barrier island dirt, when the lingering winter migrants began to show. The increasing numbers of shorebirds were overlooked as we gazed to see at the line of 60+ Northern Gannets cruising through the near-shore waters. As we all stood there exhausted, we prepared to leave when Kevin Morgan suggested that we check one more spot. I sighed tiredly, and we began to venture out towards the other end of Elmer's Island.

I believe we all had thoughts of just going home at this point. We had birded Grand Isle, and we had a great day. But then, we spied a last group of gulls, and certain words inappropriate for younger audiences dribbled from my lips: in the back of the group was a gigantic white gull. There was no mistaking it. It was a second-cycle Glaucous Gull! We excitedly began to get out of the car to document this amazing bird. The best bird of our spring migration day turned out to be a lingering winterer from the far north. This large gull reminded to always expect the unexpected.

2nd Cycle Glaucous Gull, Grand Isle, Louisiana