VICKSBURG, MISS. — I got my first real taste of Mississippi birding this weekend at the Mississippi River Nature Weekend, hosted by the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, Tara Wildlife, and Audubon Mississippi. Wood Storks and other wandering waders were the stars of the avian show.
Sloughs, oxbow lakes, and borrow pits along the Mississippi River provide feeding and roosting areas for ibises, herons, egrets, storks, Anhingas, Least Terns, Black Terns, and many other species.
A Wood Stork, Mycteria americana. Wood Storks don’t breed in Mississippi, but they disperse here in late summer after the breeding season is done. This species ranges widely through the Neotropics, but the population that breeds in Florida and up the east coast to North Carolina is listed as endangered due to habitat loss and ecological disruptions.
Wood Storks feed in groups, dragging open bills through shallow water. When they contact fish or other aquatic prey, a reflex action snaps their bills shut in an incredible 25 milliseconds! (More info)
This group of about 70 Wood Storks was soaring high on the late-afternoon thermals.
This bird’s yellowish bill indicates that it is still young. The bill will darken as it ages.
Note the little Loggerhead Shrike hanging out with the big kids.
Throughout the weekend, guided tours and walks helped people get up close and personal with the habitats and creatures of the region. Here, as Acadian Flycatchers call overhead, a group stops to examine large spiders in the bottomland hardwood forest.
And here she is, a spectacular Golden Silk Orbweaver, Nephila clavipes. Note the golden color of the individual web strands. This is a large and impressive spider that we found in fairly dense concentrations in parts of the forest. It’s related to this orbweaver that I saw in Australia last year.
Mayflies caught our attention by perching all over the buildings and our bodies. I think this exquisite animal belongs to the genus Hexagenia — any thoughts?
Fiesty Ruby-throated Hummingbirds patrolled the feeders and gardens. They are starting to assemble and store up fat in preparation for their incredible journey across the Gulf of Mexico. Speaking of hummingbirds, I’ll be attending the Hummingbird Migration Celebration at Strawberry Plains Audubon Center in northern Mississippi Sept. 11-13. If you’re in the area, stop by!
- Sandpipers, plovers, and storks — oh my!
- Touring the Mississippi River delta
- Painted Redstart in Ocean Springs, Mississippi!
- Big river birds make for great CBC
- The nature of seeing