Magnificent Frigatebirds (Fregata magnificens) are highly aerial seabirds, able to stay aloft for several days at a time on spectacular 7- to 8-foot wingspans. Tropical storms and hurricanes often push them far inland, and indeed, slow-moving Tropical Storm Lee pushed frigatebirds all across southern Louisiana and Mississippi in early September.
Saturday morning, September 3, more than 40 frigatebirds appeared on a lake on Louisiana State University’s campus. James Maley reported them first, and birders converged. The birds were very accessible, offering an excellent opportunity to observe and photograph plumage features (in between rain bands, that is).
The Birds of North America species account pretty well sums up what is and isn’t known about Magnificent Frigatebird plumages, which are complex and develop over several years. Of course, also present in the back of our minds is the wildly remote possibility of detecting one of the other frigatebird species, but I didn’t see or photograph any birds that looked suspicious.
An exhilarating day on the central Gulf Coast as Tropical Storm Lee’s winds and rain pushed pelagic birds to the coast and far inland. A few highlights from today. More to come.
Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Basin is one of North America’s last great river swamps, critical habitat for staggering numbers of wading birds, neotropical migrants, and many other species. This time of year, though, it’s the waders that steal the show, massing in drying pools and sloughs that trap fish and other prey.
In particular, thousands of Wood Storks have wandered north from Mexico to take advantage of abundant food resources in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley; last weekend, birders at just two locations in the Atchafalaya Basin counted 4,750 storks. Lured by visions of such spectacles, I joined Jane Patterson and Melanie Driscoll at the South Farm unit of Sherburne Wildlife Management Area early this morning.
VICKSBURG, MISS. — Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) often visit the little lake behind my place in Vicksburg, and they’re lots of fun to watch. It’s often said that cormorants “run” to take off from the water, but that’s not quite accurate.
A couple more backyard cormorant shots just for fun:
VICKSBURG, MISS. — A distant hawk caught my eye. By the time I got to the door with binoculars, it was in a steep dive, coming nearly straight at me — its dark cap registered “Cooper’s Hawk” in an instant — swooping at a Common Grackle in a tree near my deck. But the grackle escaped, and the unsuccessful predator rested for a moment in the clump of trees.