Monday, February 12, 2007


Jan 27, 2007

My notes say it rained off-and-on all day, but I don't recall it. I left out of Millwood before first light, grabbed some breakfast in Ashdown, and drove into Louisiana, south to Shreveport and then east to Monroe and D'Arbonne NWR. I stopped wherever the habitat looked like it might be attractive, and found some new LA birds in wet fields and along creeks as I proceeded east. Twenty-eight new tics for the state by days end. I was hoping to get into Tensas NWR, but the approach road was many miles of mud and potholes filled with water, and I turned back. I found on a later trip that the best approach is from the south, where the highways are mostly narrow two-lane blacktops, and the refuge roads seem better maintained.

I had studied the maps for a camping place, and there was a State Park, Bruin, on and oxbow lake south of Tallulah. Looked like it might be good habitat and put me near the Mississippi River corridor. It was deserted mostly, soggy, and $16/night for a paved parking site. Later in the year it's very popular for RV folks. The habitat in the park was excellent, large trees widely spaced, low lying brushy wet areas, the lake itself with a cypress swamp edge, and brushy sparrow roads in the immediate vicinity. Lots of Red-headed Woodpeckers, always gratifying.

Jan 28, 2007

Birded around the park, and along the back roads. Good selection of woodpeckers and some sparrows. One followed a series of oxbows, but the good birds were in the shallow wet pools in the mowed fields. Did well, then followed some more little two-lanes south and west to Catahoula NWR. I got on their tour route which was a muddy mess. At one point I was up to the hubs following across a flooded levee at the furthest point from the gate and got into low trees full of blackbirds, Stopped to peer since it looked good Rusty spot and finally got one using the tapes, all the time with subliminal visions of the tires settling into the muck. It ended well though, no problems.

From there it was pretty much a focused run for the coast, into the Hurricane Rita destruction zone. Lots of wrecked buildings and inhabited RVs, and then new construction on twenty foot pilings. Blown down trees and housing debris everywhere. First big stop there was Cameron Prairie NWR. I've had a soft spot for it since many years ago when it was first getting open, before there was a tour route, I had gone there and had the vision of eight or ten Roseate Spoonbills flying low over the truck with the sun behind them, translucent wings glowing backlit. A treasured part of my internal neurological slide-show. This time there was an very good tour route, open, and quite productive for ducks and herons, and a few lingering shorebirds. Figured on coming back the next day, but first had to get to a State Park, Sam Houston Jones by name, nw of Lake Charles. Took the ferry at Cameron, drove through the devastation at Holly Beach, which literally was wiped away, not one building standing, just a grid of concrete pads. The birding in the borrow ditches was good as was the sunset, with night herons coming out. Almost dark as I passed the Sabine NWR entrance, but figured on being back the next day.

I added 40 tics for the day in Louisiana driving corner to corner from ne to sw.

Jan 29, 2007

I birded around the state park in the morning for an hour but found nothing new. The habitat quality and variety was low and disappointing. There might have been better if I'd looked harder or luckier, but I was anxious to get back to the big refuges. I got back to Sabine NWR and discovered that the boardwalk was destroyed by the storm. They plan to hurry getting it back in use, so next year should make a good stop. Went on to Cameron Prairie for another loop, and then to the Lacassine pool after a stop at the Headquarters area. The pool was excellent, even inspired to take some pictures. Best series was a King Rail that just walked along the edge of the road posing, at least half a dozen tolerable images. Then a drive with miscelleneous stops to Mandeville, Fountainbleau State Park. Switched one storms damage for another's, Rita to Katrina. The park had piles of torn up trees and the ubiquitous trash, but the Live Oaks were Okay. It became real obvious that some species had become storm resistant and others not. I added another 9 tics for the day; yesterday was too good.

Jan 30, 2007

Spent over an hour in the morning working over the park, some very good habitat, but a lot of it blocked off for safety reasons. From there I went to Big Branch Marsh NWR and explored a lot of side roads and shoreline habitat along Lake Pontchartrain, heartbreaking mess, the back roads had piles of trash that folks had hauled there from cleaning up their own spaces. This was overa year since the storm, and an indication of the dismal public response to the disaster.

I decided to punish myself further by driving around the east end of the lake and back into New Orleans, where I've lived a couple of years off and on in the past, long enough that the romance had worn off. NO East was miles of smashed apartments, vacant malls, half-assed repairs (probably all the folks could manage), drear and trash and rubble. In the city proper, quarter and downtown and along St Charles, it didn't look so overtly screwed, a lot of trees had survived and that helped the look, but stores were mostly closed, not from damage so much as lack of custom, closed restaurants, closed drugstores, closed groceries. You could see the life had gone out of it. It must have been lean and boring to try living there. I could barely stop but discovered an open Popeye's on Claiborne, and that called for chicken and beans and rice. A little local flavor. But then I fled on eastward into Mississippi, taking the old route 90 instead of the Interstate which allowed some roadside stops and a Marsh Wren. 6 more LA tics.

I started with 41 species seen in Louisiana, and ended with 124, an increase of 83 species.


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