VICKSBURG, MISS. — The moon is full, huge, and brilliant on this clear November evening … November? Is it really you? You came so quickly … I am unprepared.
I’ve birded only in small spurts lately, left exhausted and harried as I try to reinvent my life. But change is coming; I can see it in the trees and feel it in the wind.
I spent last week in Louisiana and by Friday had landed in Cameron, a tiny, hurricane-ravaged town in the southwesternmost corner of the state, where members of the Louisiana Ornithological Society had gathered for their fall meeting.
Saturday dawned clear and beautiful, and there were plenty of birds to be had. I love sorting through flocks of gulls, terns, and shorebirds on the beach, pulling out goodies like Whimbrel, Franklin’s Gull, and Wilson’s Plover. The marsh behind the beach held Nelson’s Sparrow — surely one of our most beautiful sparrows.
About 500 Black Skimmers swirled back and forth, yipping.
We had three Peregrine Falcons — this one had caught some sort of prey — and several Merlins along the coast.
Marshes hosted the usual spectacular Gulf Coast wading birds, waterfowl, and other species like Anhingas and this Neotropic Cormorant, which are apparently quite common in southwest Louisiana. Some adults were in full breeding plumage, an interesting phenomenon that I photographed two Novembers ago in Texas.
Great-tailed Grackle is one of several species that have expanded into western Louisiana from Texas in recent decades. We also had White-winged Doves and Inca Doves this weekend, and a Great Kiskadee was seen by some birders (though not by us).
Morning sun shines through the live oaks at Peveto Woods Sanctuary, which preserves a fragment of fragile coastal chenier habitat. Cheniers are ancient beach ridges and natural levees that support oaks and hackberry trees, forming crucial stopover habitat for trans-Gulf migrants.
Saturday morning at Peveto Woods, we had several warblers, including Magnolia, Wilson’s, Black-and-white, Tennessee, Orange-crowned, and Yellow-rumped. There were several Eastern Wood Pewees and Indigo Buntings about, and we had Red-eyed Vireo too.
My companions — Jane Patterson and Melanie Driscoll, Audubon’s director of bird conservation in Louisiana — and I racked up 112 species after a full day of birding on Saturday, but our adventure didn’t end there. I think I’ll leave the next chapter till tomorrow though.
- Northern (Great Grey) Shrike in southwest Missouri
- Pelagic birding in the Gulf of Mexico: Mississippi Canyon in September
- Birds of Tropical Storm Lee, Part 1
- More Gulf Coast photos
- Gulf Coast Day 1: Spectacle and color