28 April 2013

One Last Run to Grand Isle

Late Friday night, Michael Hilferty called me frantically. Through the sounds of packing and of him running around, he was able to get across that he was making a run down to Grand Isle on Saturday and, if I drove to the outskirts of New Orleans, he'd drive the rest of the way. Unable to ignore a deal like that, especially with the birds being reportedly lately, I left Baton Rouge at 2:50 AM Saturday morning to head for the coast.

After meeting Michael in a library parking lot, the two of us continued southward until we met Van Remsen and his wife, Amy, at the east end of the island. Amy, who was with some of her friends doing photography at different locations throughout the day, stayed on the east end while Van, Michael and I ran off to scout the rest of the island for birds. Over the course of the day, we covered most of the good migrant locations multiple times, but failed to locate the Fork-tailed Flycatcher that was last seen the night before. Wandering around afforded excellent views of many birds, though, and Michael and I had a blast.

Migrants were fairly common throughout the island, hints at recent movement and left over birds from a few past pushes through the area. Summer and Scarlet Tanagers were fairly common across the island, while our birding turned up a total of 15 species of warbler across the island. A few bands of Indigo Buntings were foraging along the edges of the trees, and I found my first of year Bobolink flying across the Exxon Fields. Overall, it was a great day of last-minute birding.

Second-year male Summer Tanager foraging in some field side scrub in Grand Isle, Louisiana.

This Grey Kingbird is a vagrant from the southeast United States and the Caribbean. It was with a group of Eastern Kingbirds near the east end of the island.

One of the many Eastern Kingbirds present on the island.

And last, but not least, one of the many Black-necked Stilts on the island:

16 April 2013

Fast Times at High Island

On Wednesday, March 27th, I practically ran to my car. The air was nice, the birds were singing, and most importantly, it was spring break. It was not long before I was alone with my music on the interstate west, headed for High Island. This legendary salt dome is the highest point on the gulf coast between Mexico and Florida, and is a refuge for trans-gulf migrants that fly in. I wrote the first part of this post having been there already for a week, and the last half from the comfort of the LSU Museum of Natural Sciences. The migrants, which were initially scarce, hit a high point in the first week of April before I had to return to my scholarly duties.

The first few days in April, we had some time off and ran down to Rockport. We were able to obtain distant views of Whooping Cranes in Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, and Port Aransas was hopping with warblers, with Black-throated Green, Blackburnian, and more.

Black-throated Green Warbler (Setophaga virens) in Port Aransas, Texas. 3 April 2013.

We also managed to hit up some local marshes, where ducks galore were foraging. Black Terns arced over the reeds, Reddish Egrets flew through, Soras bickered and even a Least Bitterns called a few times.

Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis), Port Aransas, Texas. 3 April 2013.

Upon returning to High Island, we were greeting by some incoming storm fronts. The woods were teeming and alive with birds coming in right off the gulf. We saw an amazingly vast number of warblers compared to the preceding days, with Kentucky's foraging almost at our feet, and even obtaining good looks at a Swainson's Warbler at the Hook Woods Sanctuary. Blackburnian Warbler, Hooded Warbler, and Prothonotary Warbler were all making themselves known, and we started getting some good "first of season" birds such as Swainson's Thrush, Wood Thrush, and, one of my favorites, Yellow-billed Cuckoo.

As the birds continued on and the woods thinned out, I had to pack my bags and return to LSU. Since then, I have been swamped, as is probably evidenced by my delay in finishing this post! I'm hoping to get out around campus more this week (I found a Wood Thrush today before class - a pleasant surprise) and will be sure to update then!