Overwintering neotrops and other goodies on Grand Isle

2011 January 18
by David J. Ringer

This weekend, I birded Grand Isle, Louisiana, with David Muth, Dan Purrington, and Philip Wallace. The only inhabited barrier island in Louisiana, Grand Isle was hit hard by the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, and cleanup crews are still working the beaches, which have been torn up and driven over for months.

This, of course, didn’t bother the neotropical migrants wintering in beautiful live-oak woodlands in the island’s interior. We had seven warbler species and four hummingbird species — not bad for mid-January. Dan had a Chuck-will’s-widow, and David and I had a Wood Thrush and a female-plumaged Painted Bunting. Throw in Golden-crowned Kinglets, Northern Gannets, and a Mountain Bluebird, and you end up with a pretty eclectic list for the day.

Northern Waterthrush, Parkesia noveboracensis

This Northern Waterthrush (Parkesia noveboracensis) skipped the trip to Panama (or Cuba or Colombia) to hang out on Grand Isle instead. Neither the Nashville Warbler nor any of the Wilson’s Warblers posed so nicely for photos.

Winter Wood Thrush records are scarce, but David Muth tells me a Wood Thrush has wintered on Grand Isle for the last three years. Whether it’s the same bird is anyone’s guess. The bird was busy tossing leaves deep in a thicket, which made attempts at photography a bit challenging.

Mountain Bluebird, Sialia currucoides

This lovely, out-of-place Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides) was first identified on the Grand Isle Christmas Bird Count last month, though apparently it had been present for some time but overlooked. It’s actually just north of Grand Isle on the “mainland,” or what’s left of it.

Mountain Bluebird

Watching the bird as it moved from wires to road signs to fences, I was struck by how unlike an Eastern Bluebird it looks. It’s very long-winged with a tiny head, a long, straight bill, and different posture. In flight, the long, pointed wings are striking too. The constant challenge in birding is to pick up on structural clues like these — even at highway speeds. Um, safely.

Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, in flight

The magnificent — and if we’re being honest, rather dorky — Brown Pelican became a symbol of the oil disaster last year. Thankfully, we saw hundreds of apparently healthy individuals on Sunday. We don’t yet know to what extent the oil has affected their population, or may in the future, but here’s hoping they continue to do well.

White Ibis, Eudocimus albus

Couldn’t resist pointing the camera at this adult White Ibis (Eudocimus albus). I love this species’ sky blue eyes.

Related posts:

  1. Wintering Black-chinned Hummingbird in Louisiana
  2. Rufous Hummingbird overwintering in Ozark, Mo.
  3. Monk Parakeets and other GBBC goodies
  4. GBH rookery, meadowlark puzzle, and other goodies
  5. A living ember
5 Responses
  1. January 18, 2011

    How fun to see northern gannets! Aren’t they pelagic birds? I’ll have to plan to go there at some time.

    • David J. Ringer permalink*
      January 18, 2011

      They are. They winter in the Gulf, and you can often pick them out on the horizon with a good scope on a clear day.

  2. January 23, 2011

    Great photos – love the Ibis!

  3. January 26, 2011

    It sounds like you had a grand birding day David, despite the oil spill. I know that mother nature will clean up the mess eventually but I hope it doesn’t take much longer and doesn’t cause too much future peril.

    The in-flight shots of the Pelican and Ibis are gorgeous!

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