Sunday, December 27, 2009

Two more CBCs

Week 4, Dec 21-27, 2009

Monday - I must have been tired since I slept well, or at least soundly, in spite of lots of floodlights and a bunch of trains going by. Once again up early and drive to Houma in the fog. Found Mandalay NWR, a really nice small refuge, with some very good birds including Wilson's Warbler and a Sora heard. Then I drove a side trip exploration down the peninsula to Cocodrie. No particular birds, but I wasn't taking full advantage of opportunities since I still needed to get to Grande Isle and in place for the count the next day. Found three more shorebird tics, including Ruddy Turnstone, a late in the season good find. The manager Leo at the grocery where the group was to meet in the morning said it would be OK to sleep in his lot. That was a real convenience since I'd found the State Park too expensive to use just to sleep. Didn't even mind the guy with the whining blower cleaning the lot before dawn.

Tuesday - Grande Isle CBC - Great good luck got me assigned to a group birding Elmer's Island, a place that had been out of circulation for awhile until the state bought it and opened it up for a Management Area. We were the first CBC team in several years to get to go in there. More luck was that the golden opportunity meant that several of the best birders in the state were on the team including David Muth, Martin Guidry, and Dan Purrington. There was another whose name I didn't get down, but of the same caliber. I was way outclassed. We worked hard in the salt marshes on the way out to get Nelson's Sparrows, which were abundant, also many Clapper Rails [***LINK***]. Further out on the beaches, which were quite drivable to the very end of the bar, we found great waders, including Reddish Egret, lots of mixed sandpipers and plovers including Wilson's, but my incessant scanning of the shrubbery never got an Ani. We were there all morning. Wonderful birding. Later back on the main drag I birded the TNC plot of woods, partly with Chris Brantly, who found a very unusual Western Tanager, but I never got to see the Painted Bunting that eluded me, but not him, in a tree. I ended up adding eight LA tics without staying to the very end, and was back at Angela's in NOLA at sundown. We visited for a little and went to a small soiree at a neighbor's house where one couple told a story of parental responsibility that I found inspiring for it's sense and tactics. But I fell out really tired, no wonder.

Wednesday - Up about five and out to Bayou Sauvage where the birding must have been good, I've noted 2 new tics in the journal, but don't recall what they were. Met a guy named Mike who was just getting started at birding, and we went around together some. I drove around the City Park Lakeshore, and then into the park around the museum to take up some time before heading down to Frenchman St to meet my friend Kerry Leigh where she tended bar in a very hip little joint called the Spotted Cat. I hung out there and watched the Charleston dance lessons, and for some music after that, then back to Angela's.

Thursday - After some small morning talk and holiday hugs I headed off for the North Shore to bird around Big Branch Marsh NWR, but I was being frustrated by Christmas Eve traffic, closed roads and offices, and more rain. So I went over to Pass Christian after shopping for a nice bird feeder set-up for Angela, and getting some stuff for the truck and the kit. I wanted it to be a sincere thank-you present for having a civilized place to recuperate in from time to time. In the Pass, I stayed at the Scott's and slept a long time in more rain.

Friday - Christmas - Rainy and windy all night, but clearing at dawn. Lots of troubling dreams, maybe just the unsettled weather. Got a load of laundry done in the little hurricane battered laundromat, and then birded my way back into New Orleans. Stopped at the New Orleans East IHOP where the folks were to meet the next day, treated myself to a greaseball breakfast for dinner, and slept in back of the restaurant in an abandoned hurricane battered parking lot. Convenient location, gas and food nearby, not much lighting and quiet.

Saturday - New Orleans CBC, mostly NOLA East - My team was Dan Purrington as leader and driver, and a couple named Dan and Lisa. We had pretty good luck, lots of birds and a fair variety. Really good count of Common Loons Dan told me later. Mostly we drove around on muddy levees inside Bayou Sauvage, closed areas that I'd never see but for the count, with some other stops for good places that he knew. One was an abandoned Interstate interchange which had a lot of grown up scrubby habitat, and some good birds including my best find, an immature Indigo Bunting. I didn't realize it was significant until David Muth asked for a sighting card at the compilation dinner. A year later almost and he had even made a note of it in the national CBC summary publication. We were at Mona's just down the street from The Spotted Cat, and I hung out with Kerry Leigh until her shift started at nine. Some folks from Arkansas came by and we visited, then I headed back to the IHOP since Angela's was filled with friends and family.

Sunday - Dan had told me where I might find a Screech-Owl in City Park, so I was over there before first light playing a tape. It was pretty light and I'd walked around for more than an hour before I finally got a really nice response. I was back at a place on a path I'd tried earlier in the dark, and the bird came out of the trees flying by me and landed about twenty feet away on a low branch about twelve feet off the ground. It was making the quiet whinny call and staring at me, the source of the suspect stranger in its territory. So I tried my imitation of a whinny, but it wasn't very good, and it stood up straight, shook it's head as if to say, "hey, you're a fake", and flew off. This is a much better story when I imitate the bird. Still, a really good look. Drove out to Bayou Sauvage again, Recovery Road, to find an Ash-throated Flycatcher with a Least Bittern thrown in for lagniappe. Then I drove over to the North Shore to explore some sites around Mandeville, ended up taking a long nap sitting in the truck in view of a neat little Light House. Also checked out the Ramsey Preserve, walked a ways in the tall grass hoping to scare up a Henslow's Sparrow, but no luck. Ended up in the evening at my friend Lindy's house in Mandeville. She's a professional cook and made a great simple meat and potatoes dinner that was perfect for a wandering Taurus birder. Her house has this incredible secret pond behind it, nestled down in a small hollow, and simply alive with critters. I slept really well in the sun-room that overlooks it.


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