Vicksburg CBC: Exciting waterbirds abound

2009 December 20

VICKSBURG, MISS. — Yesterday, Bruce Reid, Blaine Elliott, and I birded a small but very productive section of the Vicksburg Christmas Bird Count circle. We were joined at various times by John and Len Carpenter and by The Vicksburg Post’s Pam Hitchins and Katie Carter (see their story and photo gallery).

Highlights

The count totaled 103 species — if not a new high then close to it. Our group had just over 80 species, including several not reported by other groups and significant numbers of waterbirds. Some of our highlights:

  • Blue-winged Teal – 5 (four hens and a drake; rare on the count)
  • Red-breasted Merganser – 1 (reported only twice since 1980)
  • Anhinga – 7 (several other groups also reported; rare in winter)
  • White Ibis – 110 (an order of magnitude above any previous report)
  • Bald Eagle – 1 (ours plus another made a new count high)
  • Black-necked Stilt – 1 (new species for the count!)

In pictures

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American White Pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)

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American White Pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) and a cormorant

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Hundreds of pelicans, cormorants, egrets, and other species congregated in borrow pits along the levee.

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One of five Cattle Egrets (Bubulcus ibis) that, true to their name, were hanging out with some cows.

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Snow Geese (Chen caerulescens)

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The distinctive silhouette of an Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga)

white-ibis-flock

A large flock of American White Ibises flew overhead as the sun was setting. I count 110 in this photo (there are also cormorants); the previous high count on the Vicksburg CBC was 17.

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A cropped section of the White Ibis flock (poor quality due to low light) showing that most of the birds were brownish immatures.

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At dusk, the sky suddenly filled with wave after wave of cormorants; they stretched from horizon to horizon.

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White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis)

Count week bird

Friday, Bruce Reid, Reid Bishop, Kevin Mahoney, and I had gone out on the Mississippi River in a boat. While scanning a flock of Ring-billed Gulls, I picked up something interesting:

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Huh?

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It was a Laughing Gull!

Rare away from the coast even during the summer, this was a great bird. It was very actively feeding, and we gave wild pursuit in the boat, zigzagging back and forth in an attempt to get a decent photo. And then….

laughing-gull

Gorgeous winter-plumaged Laughing Gull (Leucophaeus atricilla)

Though we couldn’t find it again on the day of the count, the bird was inside the count circle and even in our own territory, so it makes an excellent count week record.

Territory

Our territory was a narrow swath of land along the west bank of the Mississippi River, roughly between Mound, Louisiana, and Delta, Louisiana. It’s shown on the map below, where you can see a sharp demarcation between agricultural fields and wetlands and woods nearer the river. The mainline levees — two huge walls of earth constructed after the 1927 flood — straitjacket the river, leaving only a narrow floodplain between them. These “batture lands” contain bottomland hardwood forest remnants and “borrow pits,” pits dug during the construction of the levees that are now filled with water and hold a lot of birds.

Related posts:

  1. Two Roseate Spoonbills on Vicksburg CBC!
  2. Big river birds make for great CBC
  3. Springfield CBC highlights
  4. A little bit of everything on the CBC
  5. Welcome to Vicksburg!
5 Responses
  1. December 20, 2009

    Good stuff! Congrats on the great sightings. My first CBC of the year was canceled due to the snow.

    • David J. Ringer permalink*
      December 20, 2009

      Oh no! Sorry about that — hope it can be rescheduled?

      Thanks for enjoying this one by proxy. :)

  2. Janet Crowell permalink
    December 20, 2009

    You are really where you belong.
    What fun your ‘work’ is!

  3. December 22, 2009

    Looks like an excellent count, David, and you had some nice surprises for the week. I’m glad it was a good first count in your new location!

  4. Blaine Elliott permalink
    April 14, 2010

    I certainly enjoyed the day myself, David. Thanks for the company and for all the ‘good spots’. :) Certainly some of the better weather we’ve had in quite some time on that count. Maybe you’ll be willing an available on birding with us again next year — you might be our good-weather luck charm!

    Oh, stopped by the Audubon office hoping to see you and / or Bruce the other day but no luck. Had my newborn baby boy out with us on his first exploration of downtown Vburg. He was upset he missed you guys. Better luck next time.

    Later.

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