Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The wet and wearing December 09 Gulf Coast CBC trip


One of the best ways to fill out a state list in the off seasons is to participate in Christmas Bird Counts. This is mostly cause you can team up with very strong local birders and visit obscure or inaccessible places. A killer combination for finding uncommon or very localized species. I was close to the ABA threshold in both Mississippi and Louisiana, and not too far out in Florida. Along the Gulf coast these are tightly packed and one can visit all four in a single day if necessary. I figured if I got down there before the focal CBC season, it would be possible to cover some other areas, and would give the lists a real boost.

It pretty much worked out that way. I was able to list MS on this trip, and LA in a couple of days on a trip later in the new year. Pushed Florida into a very enticing 44% also, so that one more good trip there in prime time would do the trick. Alabama just goes along for the ride on each Gulf trip, but it's starting to add up. The problem there is I tend to bird the same small area along the coast over and over which doesn't build a list as fast as poking into places all over the state. There was a problem with rain. Dec 09 was the wettest month in Louisiana history including months that had hurricanes. In New Orleans it was something over 25 inches, and it was wet all along there, on over to the Florida Panhandle.

Most of this is written almost a year later, so it's weak on details, and doesn't have the "shine" of a fresh report.

First week, Dec 1-6, 2009

Tuesday - Went by friend Barbara's and loaded doors and plants with help from Ouizel, wrapping it all in tarps, to transport to house in Mississippi. Packed full but stable. Then drove non-stop to Memphis and hang at Outlands Internet Cafe until friend Shiloh got home. Good visiting starts.
Wednesday - Rained all day, but the load seemed to stay dry. Had a grease-ball breakfast with Nancy Feraldi, Shiloh's mom, former neighbor in the old hippie days in Tick Holler. S had a problem with low water pressure in the tub, and I wanted a hot bath for the pleasure of it. Took the faucets apart, but finally discovered a whole house filter that hadn't been serviced. That was a quick fix with instant gratification in a hot soak. Shiloh even gave me a haircut, and later we all went for BBQ around the corner. Bad news was a trojan infection on the Gateway laptop, my main unit, the antivirus picked it up after a bunch of (it turns out) less used and non-essential programs got some malicious code added. Still had another laptop so not screwed completely.
Thursday - Rain stopped, drove on down to Pass Christian, where Sean was also staying upstairs in the house that survived Katrina. I stayed downstairs, got the computer repaired somewhat, pulled out all the infected programs to quarantine, and transferred the most important data to the Netbook. Birding records were OK. We unloaded the plants and whatnot, I grabbed some Popeye's and bought pillows from Wally. Pretty chilly.
Friday - Very successful day birding in MS, 16 new species for the state. Birded the Gulfport piers, Seaman Road landfill, where they let me in, then chased me down and told me to leave, and MS Sandhill Crane NWR. Actually found some of the special cranes way up on the north edge. I made contact with my friend Angela as well, but she's encumbered by a visitor for now. 46% MS.
Saturday - Up early, the days are short, and there was a bitter cold wind, the gulf coast can be bone chilling with the humidity driven through any number of layers. Found Loons and Horned Grebes. Then I went over to Waveland and circled around southern Hancock County. The road along the pass was still bad from Katrina, but I found some good places by poking around, and added 8 more MS tics. Kept on west into Louisiana, stopped at Bayou Sauvage NWR, which was really hammered by Katrina, the whole woods that surrounded the boardwalk was gone, no more owl tree. really sad. On into the city where I contacted friends, and ended up staying on a couch at Angela's where I would make my base camp for the month. She's a fine exemplar of southern hospitality at it's best. Really enjoyed seeing all the beautiful work she's done on her house, including raising it above the next flood. The waters had reached the top entry step.
Sunday - A little warmer, and some better weather predicted. Around noon I got away to Grand Isle for scouting. Found some shorebirds in one spot where runoff from construction had created a shallow flowing wetland, and a Palm Warbler, but it really didn't seem worth staying since the state park was expensive. I had another state park lined up, but the reality of the roads finally stopped me on the side by a farm with fishermen rattling by in the night. I was about 15 miles north of Franklin.


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