At the end of October, Maine Audubon partnered with Field Guides to offer a tour for our members to Louisiana. Following the success of our South Texas and Oaxaca, MX tours, it is no surprise that this was another really fun trip with great company (and we can’t wait for our Arizona trip in March, which just needs a couple more people to sign up!) Below is a summary of our Louisiana trip, written by our leader, Dan Lane:
The northern Gulf Coast is a bit of a avian paradox: it is strangely depauperate with regards to the breeding avifauna, yet is one of the most important migration routes in North America, and is home to some of the highest winter bird biomass on the continent! October is a great time to witness these latter phenomena, and we managed to do so despite some testy weather.
We had to flip our itinerary around somewhat to accommodate the rains that hit on Friday, and luckily managed to find the rare, Southeastern endemic Red-cockaded Woodpecker in the pine forests near DeRidder, in the west-central part of the state. Most of the rest of the day was quite literally a washout, but the blow was lessened by the fine cuisine and curious ambiance at the Blue Dog CafÃ©.
Saturday was our day to visit the coast. We headed down to the Pintail Loop at Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge, then on to the tree island (“chenier”) of Willow Island near the town of Cameron, where we participated in a couple of rope drags with some rail researchers. A picnic lunch and several hours to enjoy the late passerine migrants in the chenier really made the day a smashing success. This was followed by a visit to the salt marsh and beach at Rutherford Beach, where Nelson’s Sparrow, a bold King Rail, and a few shorebirds also ended the day well for us.
Our third day of the tour was “rail day,” when we were to join my friends Donna and Steve and a local rice farmer to do the rice harvest and see what rails would be flushed up. The morning dawned with a fruitful walk along West Niblett Road not far from the harvest spot, where overflying geese, raptors, grackles, shorebirds, ibis and ducks spoke of the sheer biomass in the area. On the ground, a few late warblers, Indigo and Painted buntings, four (!) Vermilion Flycatchers, and other wintering and migrant landbirds kept us occupied. After lunch, we showed up at the rice field, but the farmer was delayed for a few hours. When he finally showed up, however, the rail spectacle was nearly instantaneous, and everyone got views of Sora, Virginia, and Yellow rails (the main target!), and some folks managed to get on King Rail and American Bittern! It was a smorgasbord of marsh birds! Elated, we returned to our hotel and ended the day with a fine meal and goodbyes.
Thanks to you all for joining Doug and me on this tour, and I hope you all gained a better understanding of why Louisiana is such an important place for North American birds! Ayuh, we have a lot of ‘em down here! Y’all come on back now, cher!
A full trip report was put together by Dan, including all the species we saw, available here: https://fieldguides.com/triplists/lou19p.html
Start planning for 2020…
We are off to Costa Rica in January and still have space on our Arizona trip in March! You can access the itinerary, read past trip lists, and get information on registering here: https://fieldguides.com/arw20p.html
And besides escaping the cold of March in Maine, here are a few highlights to look forward to from my last trip to Arizona: