Coturie Forest in New Orleans City Park – Good Birding Day

This morning, I had a great birding day at Coturie Forest in New Orleans City Park.

It started yesterday evening when my family and I took the dogs for a walk.  It was beautiful out, but all I was seeing were the familiar water birds.  Just about sun-down, my dog ran into some thistles and scared out two hummingbirds!  I haven’t ID’d any hummingbirds yet, so I had no idea what they were and before I could snap a picture, they were gone.

DSC_0392 - great egret

So, this morning, I headed out with a mission to find those hummingbirds.
I had expected a dreary day with some rain, but was only misted on.  The woods were unusually quiet.  A few black-crowned night herons and others stalked the shallow edges of the bayou and a pair of wood ducks dabbled in the middle of the pond but that was about it until I got to the abandoned golf course.

DSC_0418 - black-crowned night heron


A group of sparrows fed on the ground (song, swamp and savannah) and red-winged black birds sang noisily from the nearby reeds.DSC_0427 - song sparrow

DSC_0433 - swamp sparrow


Finally, I found my hummingbird!  I believe it’s a ruby-throat.  It was about 1000′ north of the arboretum exit sitting on a branch near some thistles.  DSC_0438 - ruby throated hummingbird


On my way out, I spouted the familiar broad-winged hawk that has been hanging out in the park for the last month or so.  It sat on the power-line and was not phased by runners, dogs with cowbells tied around their neck or me and my camera.DSC_0447 - broad winged hawk


I was just about to leave and I happened upon a group of cardinals feeding on the trail.  I hadn’t seen any cardinals that morning, so I decided to hang out in the bushes and try my luck at photographing whatever came by to join.  I was in for a treat.DSC_0475 - cardinals

Almost immediately, a hooded warbler swooped down into the group of cardinals I was photographing.  I was so surprised, I lined up to take a 2nd photo (the shot below) but was photo-bombed by an out of focus female cardinal in the foreground.  Luckily, I still got a pretty great shot of the warbler.DSC_0464 - hooded warbler


From my little hiding hole right off the path, lots of birds were landing all around me.  This downy woodpecker was about 8′ from my camera when I took this picture.DSC_0522 - downy woodpecker



Carolina and house wrens sang in the undergrowth, but I hadn’t yet photographed a house wren for my year list this year, so I was happy to snap this one.DSC_0519 - house wren


A white-eyed vireo practically begged me to take its picture as it showed off its handsome yellow mask on a branch across the trail from me.DSC_0491 - white-eyed vireo


Two black and white warblers (life bird for me!) were hugging the trunk of some nearby trees and I figured out why I hadn’t seen these birds before.  They seem act a lot like tree clinging birds but do it down lower in the undergrowth.
DSC_0499 - bw warbler


And finally, I got my first decent picture of a blue-grey gnat-catcher for the year!  I had spotted this bird back in January, but hadn’t been able to get a decent picture until today.  DSC_0510 - blue-grey gnatcatcher

It was great birding this morning and I learned that sitting still and having some patience can really pay off.




Rookie Big Year – Birding Lafreniere Park in Metairie


2014-01-04 10.02.08

Jasper is birding with me

Today was a good day.

I woke up around 7 am and my son, Jasper (7 months old) wanted to play.  I thought this was an excellent opportunity to take him to the park for his first birding outing so we got in the car and drove down the road to Lafreniere Park in Metairie.  Despite pushing a big orange stroller, turns out he was my good luck charm.  Not only did I get to check quite a few birds off my list, but we spotted a rare bird that was just beautiful.

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A Rookie Big Year 2014 – Birding Day 1

As I posted back in September, I’ve been planning to do a Big Year in 2014 and this morning on the first day of 2014, I got started.

In case you didn’t read the wikipedia link, a Big Year is an informal competition among birders to identify the most unique species of birds within a single calendar year in a certain geographic area.  I’ll be participating in the official American Birding Association Area consisting of the continental United States and surrounding waters.

Mandeville, Louisiana Pontchartrain Yacht Club – Lake Pontchartrain

This is actually a picture from November, 2013. Although I saw the iceland gull January 1, 2014, the weather was rainy so I didn't get a decent picture.

The Iceland Gull is a nearly completely white bird. To make sure it wasn’t just a mis-colored gull, the tell-tale sign is that it has no black on its wing tips.

So, here it is, 2014.  Where to start?  I knew the perfect spot.  Earlier this year, Peter Yaukey’s blog Birding Made Easy New Orleans informed me of a rare spotting of an Iceland Gull at the marina on the Mandeville lakefront.  Considering its range is given by the ABA as northern Canada and this is only the 2nd documented sighting in Louisiana EVER, it seemed to be a good idea to get this bird on my list as I would not likely find it anywhere else.


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Birding for Beginners: The Big Year

So, earlier this year I was out in the wilds and furiously snapping pictures of every bird that came my way when someone with me said “Hey, are you a birder?”.
“I don’t know.” I replied.  ”I just like taking pictures of animals”.

They said “Well, have you seen that movie ‘The Big Year‘?  It reminds of you.  You see a pink-footed goose yet?”

Well, immediately I had to check that out.  So I did.

the big year

Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, Jack Black!  Sold.  It’s a movie that tells the story of the competition of the same name put on by the American Birding Association every year to see the most different species of bird in one calendar year in North America.  It’s based on a true event with fictionalized characters that is based on a book of the same name.

Well, being impressionable as I am, I decided a few months ago that I wanted to do a big year in 2014.  Having already mastered (I thought) the common large birds of Louisiana, I knew that although I had no aspirations of winning, I could do pretty well as I travel a lot with my job.  I was so very, very wrong.

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Sanibel Island, Florida (1 of 2 – Sea shells galore)

I have a love affair with islands.  Something about being on a piece of land disconnected from the hustle of everyday American life just appeals to me somewhere deep down inside.  The sea breeze from the beaches, abundant wild life and beautiful landscapes makes them truly feel like an escape.
When the chance came to take an extended weekend vacation this Spring, I immediately knew where I wanted to go; Sanibel Island, FL. Continue reading

Taking a new direction

So, I think I’ll go a new direction for this blog.  I originally started out hoping this to be a scientific, kind of objective look at the land I love so much… BUUUUUT…it gets tedious always writing facts.  I need to spice it up a bit.  I’ll probably still have pictures of birds and squirrels and things in between big posts, but I got to do what I got to do.

I’ve decided to branch out and just write about whatever I feel like.  It’ll still be as scientifically accurate as I can make it and thematically about the Gulf Coast but the content will be a little more interesting.

Picayune, MS Area Hydrology

For all my friends and family living in Mississippi during Hurricane Isaac I hope you’re all doing well and get any help you need despite the fact that the nation at large tends to forget Mississippi and focus on New Orleans during these kind of events.

Just right click on the map if you’d like to save the full size photo and take a closer look.

I made a map showing ground elevations, streams and local roads (closures in red).

This map should be useful to determine which areas are more prone to flooding.  Isaac dumped a LOT of rain on this area and with the Gulf being higher from the storm surge all that rainwater had nowhere else to go except to pile up in the lowest areas it could.  A quick side-note, a great community movement to clean up the Hobolochitto Creek has been in progress lately and although I can’t find the link right now, they have a Facebook group where you can volunteer for days to canoe down the creek and clean up trash and cut away fallen trees that can form dams that hinder drainage.

Lower elevations are marked on the map as darker colors while higher elevations are marked as lighter.  Picayune appears to be built on a higher ridge along the Hobolochitto Creek basin.  It’s likely historically dryer than the surrounding land.  People in olden times had a lot more space than we do today, so when they had a choice, they preferred to found their towns up on the high land.

If you have any pictures of the flooding you’d like to share, let me know and I’ll even throw some dots on a map for you so people can put a pic to a place.

PS:  I was interested to find out that Carriere has all the high ground and Picayune is mostly low!  I guess that’s why our mascot is the Maroon Tide!



Paddling Lake Martin

Earlier this winter, I was shoppin’ for a kayak.
I tried out some of the chain stores that sell them, but was pretty unimpressed with the selection and quality and the fact that I knew practically nothing about kayaks.  A coworker told me about Pack and Paddle in Lafayette.  They were great.  They brought several of the kayaks I was interested in for me to paddle around in for a while one foggy morning at Lake Martin in St Martin Parish.

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Shelling Cameron Parish, LA Beaches

Beaches are not the first thing most people think of when they think of the Louisiana  coastline.  In fact, besides fishermen and off-shore workers I’d wager most people have never even seen the Louisiana coast.  The Louisiana coast is divided into two distinct regions, the delta plain and the cheniere plain.  The delta plain extends from the Louisiana Mississippi border to Vermillion Bay, south of Lafayette.  The delta plain is mostly made up of saline marsh at the coast, but west of Vermillion Bay is the Cheniere Plain.  Cameron Parish is the most southern and western parish in Louisiana and home to most of the beaches that are accessible by road.
The towns of Creole, Cameron, Holly Beach and Johnson Bayou all allow access to beaches I’ve visited.  Although the water is usually muddy and there are signs that discourage swimming, the beaches are very nice and offer good opportunities for shelling and fishing.  I’ve included a few pictures of my visits as well as some of the shells I was able to collect.