Metairie Shorebird Spot

Another week stuck in the office during spring. That’s always how it works out.  I’m sure I’ll be out in the field for months at a time again as soon as the weather becomes unbearably hot.  The weather IS finally warming up as we’ve had our first consecutive week above 80F recently. I venture outside every few hours to give my eyes and brain a rest from the computer screen.  It’s migration season and I have an itch that needs to be scratched.  The trees outside my office building are dead silent. I forgot my lunch, so I decided to drive out to Metairie for a bánh mì. On the way, I decide to follow a lead from Peter Yaukey’s blog about some unusual suburban shorebirds.

least sandpiper - 2016.04.26 - Metairie, LA

Least Sandpiper in the surface water impoundments in the middle of Metairie

Shorebirds can difficult to locate in the Greater New Orleans area outside of during migration after a rainstorm.  Typically, one has to go to one of two locations either west (Bonnet Carre Spillway) or east (Bayou Sauvage NWR) of the sprawling urban limits to find anything resembling the large flooded fields and mudflats that most shorebirds prefer.  What Dr. Yaukey found is a great mini-habitat between some of Metairie’s largest highways.

Metairie shorebird spot map

Although he provides excellent directions on his blog, I’ve included a map for the navigationally challenged.

I turned off of Airline Highway onto Shrewsbury and turn again to follow a shady (in both ways) dirt road that leads under a highway and was pretty pleased to see a few parish sheriffs chatting under the bridge. Well, now I won’t get stabbed. I figure at worst I’ll be arrested for trespassing or suspicious activity.  I wave and pass without incident to some surface water impoundments that are starting to dry out in the pre-summer sun.

solitary sandpiper - 2016.04.26 - Metairie, LA

Solitary Sandpiper pass through Louisiana on the way to their breeding grounds in Canada but disperse widely and may be found in almost any small, shallow water body.

The scene immediately reminded me of a drying Serengeti watering hole.  There were a rainbow of pigeons hanging out in colors from the typical slate gray, iridescent green, blue and purple to the more uncommon brownish red and even white!  Least Sandpipers were plentiful at easily over 100.  You probably could’ve picked out some Western/Semipalmated Sandpiper out of the bunch, but I was pressed for time.  Black-necked Stilt, Great Egret, Greater/Lesser Yellowlegs, Solitary Sandpiper, White-faced Ibis, Pectoral Sandpiper and some Killdeer were also found.

white-faced ibis - 2016.04.26 - Metairie, LA

White-faced Ibis was one of two wading birds in the impoundments (Greater Egret being the other).

Probably the most surprising thing about this spot was the amount of ducks for late April.  There were about a dozen Blue-winged Teal (drakes and hens) parked in the middle.  This species is not a typical “park duck” which is usually found in marshes, hunted for its tasty meat and as a result, spooks easily.  There was also an odd Wood Duck drake with a Mottled Duck and a Mallard (hen) and a lone Lesser Scaup.

blue-winged teal - 2016.04.26 - Metairie, LA

Very interesting spot for urban birding as well as birders in the Greater New Orleans area with limited travel ability.