Cajun country Christmas Bird Count highlights in pictures

2011 December 19
by David J. Ringer

It’s Christmas Bird Count time again! I did my first CBC back in 2000 and have been hooked ever since, taking part in counts in Missouri, Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana over the years.

This weekend, I did three consecutive counts in remote southwest Louisiana: the Lacassine NWR-Thornwell, Sabine NWR, and Sweet Lake-Cameron Prairie NWR counts. These were all new counts for me. I had a blast and saw somewhere north of 130 species on the three counts combined. Caracaras, a White-tailed Kite, owls, shorebirds, and a thousand Sandhill Cranes were some of the highlights. Here are some more, in pictures:

anhinga-anhinga.jpg

This immature or female Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga) vogued on a cable over a canal.

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Friday was foggy, wet, and windy as a cold front pushed slowly through Louisiana. Despite low water levels, Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge held thousands of ducks and geese. This shot shows a distant flock of Green-winged Teal and Northern Pintail in the air. Start counting!

common-yellowthroat-geothlypis-trichas.jpg

Some Common Yellowthroats (Geothlypis trichas) overwinter in the Southeast. Secretive skulkers in reeds and brush, they’re easiest to find this time of year by listening for their husky chip notes in suitable habitat.

roseate-spoonbill-platalea-ajaja.jpg

Big pink bird! Roseate Spoonbills (Platalea ajaja) are definitely one of the joys of birding in Louisiana.

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Saturday dawned clear and chilly. Spectacular flights of American White Pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) consistently wowed us. Thousands of geese and other waterbirds moved overhead throughout the day as well.

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At one point, more than 600 white pelicans streamed past us from east to west out over the Gulf of Mexico. They moved in long, undulating lines that were hypnotizing to watch.

brown-pelican-pelecanus-occidentalis.jpg

Brown Pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis) — including this immature — showed off too but in smaller numbers than their northern cousins.

merlin-falco-columbarius.jpg

A fast, powerful falcon with broad-based wings — must be a Merlin (Falco columbarius) silhouetted in the morning glare. I love me a good Merlin flyby!

gulls-and-terns-holly-beach.jpg

The beach held densely packed groups of loafing gulls and terns. This shot shows four gull species — first-cycle Herring at the top left corner, second-cycle Lesser Black-backed at the top right, Laughing with their heads tucked resting, and a Ring-billed alone in front — and two species of tern, the large Royal and the smaller Forster’s.

grasshopper-sparrow-ammondramus-savannarum.jpg

Fields and dry rice paddies north of the coast were jammed with sparrows, including this Grasshopper Sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum). We had nine Grasshopper Sparrows on one day — and a whopping 1,700 Savannah Sparrows!

immature-red-tailed-hawk-flight.jpg

Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) from all across North America winter in huge numbers in south Louisiana, resulting in a spectacle not only in the sheer number of birds but in the variety of plumages and morphs represented. This is a fairly heavily marked immature bird.

immature-krider_s-type-red-tailed-hawk.jpg

And this, by contrast, is a very pale immature Krider’s type red-tail showing an extensively white head and tail and mostly white underparts with buffy tones. Krider’s is a pale population from the northern prairies of North America but intergrades extensively with the darker eastern red-tails. They’re always very striking and a lot of fun to watch.

Next count coming up on Wednesday! With any luck, I’ll get in six different counts this year.

Related posts:

  1. Christmas Bird Count 2009-10
  2. Christmas Bird Count: Counting in a haunted land
  3. Springfield CBC highlights
  4. Pictures of a new world
  5. Wintering Black-chinned Hummingbird in Louisiana
2 Responses leave one →
  1. Melanie permalink
    December 22, 2011

    Nice summary of a good day (for me) and three! for you! Where are those Burrowing Owl photos?

  2. January 19, 2012

    Sounds like the gulf coast offers up some great winter birding! Will you do a post about the other counts?

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