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Friday, December 31, 2010

Last Birding Day of 2010

My Son-in-Law (Thomas Maddox) and I made a brief run to Lacassine Refuge on the last day of 2010. It was our first trip there this winter.

On our way down Illinois Plant Road, Thomas spotted a female Northern Harrier sitting in a field alongside the road. He was preening his feathers, looking about and seemed oblivious to us stopping on the road, watching him and taking his picture. He remained there as we drove away.

Left-Click to enlarge all images.

We came upon some geese a little further down Illinois Plant Road. The white Snow Geese immediately caught our attention but what were the darker geese mixed in with the Snows? As we got closer the Specklebellied Geese (Greater White-Fronted Geese) came into view and much to our delight there were about twenty Cackling Geese mixed in. We haven't seen many Cackling Geese and it was indeed a treat to see these guys.

As we entered Lacassine Refuge a peculiar looking Red-Tailed Hawk with a dark bib perched in a tree next to the road flew off and landed in a distant tree. Fortunately we were able to get close enough for a picture. The black looking blotch of feathers under his chin and on his neck looked different from the typical Red-Tailed Hawks we have seen. Red-Tailed Hawks seem to have so many variations one never knows what they will encounter with these guys.

We saw the usual waterfowl at Lacassine (no Swans) and nothing really out of the ordinary. It was great just being out in good company, taking a few pictures and enjoying good ole Mother Nature for the last birding run of the year.

Year 2010 was an excellent birding year with some outstanding finds by some persistent and talented birders. What will 2011 bring?

Stranger Danger

Some movement caught my eye while observing shorebirds on the beach. Three Black Skimmer Chicks were scurrying about. "How cute!", I thought.

The chicks spotted me as I eased a bit closer, immediately hit the dirt (sand) and froze. Their cryptic resemblance with the sandy beach enabled them to blend perfectly with their surroundings.

One of the chicks lay flat in the sand facing me. A second chick lay sideways to me. A third chick was tail to tail with the second chick facing away with his head in the grass. They watched my every move as they lay motionless in their 'survival mode'.

Using my long lens I was able to capture their exquisite behavior from a distance. After retreating but a short way, they rose to their feet, scurried into the grassy area and disappeared from sight.

It was a treat capturing this experience to share with others. It is not as good as experiencing it yourself but it is the next best thing. I hope you enjoy this image as much as I enjoyed taking it. I put a bit of an 'artsy' twist on this image and hope you like it.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Great Blue Heron Portrait

This large Louisiana wading bird is certainly a favorite of mine. It looks enormous in flight with its slow wingbeats and large wingspan. You just never get tired of watching this bird with its assortment of contrasting colors.

It usually feeds in shallow water or at the water's edge spearing small fish with its sharp beak. Where would we be in Louisiana without our Great Blue Heron?

Left-Click to Enlarge

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sherburne Bald Eagles

Two of my sons-in-law, my brother-in-law and two of our grandchildren ventured east to Sherburne yesterday to see first-hand our majestic National Bird. The Bald Eagle's distinctive brown body and white head and tail made it easy to identify even from a distance. One of them appeared to be feeding a youngster in the nest as the other perched on a limb nearby keeping a watchful eye.

(Left-click to enlarge)

How long do you suppose it took the parents to construct / engineer such a nest? This fortress will serve the needs of the chicks as they grow and eventually one day take off on their own.

We look forward coming back in the near future to see how the youngsters are growing and faring. Perhaps they will be visible in the nest.

(Left-click to enlarge)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Buff-Bellied Hummer

Sandra Lewis in Sulphur waited thirty years for a Buff-Bellied Hummer and the wait was worth it. This gorgeous hummer with its metallic olive green above and buffy below was stunning as it flew about stopping occasionally at the feeder. Hopefully if will be around the entire winter for her to enjoy.

It was a pleasure to see such a hummer. Hopefully other species of hummers will winter in SW La so they can have their picture taken as well. Thanks for sharing your hummer for all to see Sandra.

(Left-click to enlarge images)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Wood Storks

This large, white, prehistoric pteradactyl-looking bird with his scaly naked head, his outstretched neck and his legs extended flew by taunting me to take his picture early one morning. This is the by far one of the ugliest birds I've witnessed. Additionally, he wasn't delivering a baby. :)

An interesting fact about these birds is they hunt by touch. When prey touches their bill it closes on them in 25 milliseconds which is an incredibly fast reaction time. Also, these guys might fly as far as 40 miles per day in search of food.

Wood Storks are listed on the Federal List of Endangered Species and are also protected under the US Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

(Left-Click to Enlarge)

We are fortunate in Louisiana to have such a diverse population of birds for all to see.

(Left-Click to Enlarge)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Black-Legged Kittiwake

It was a pleasure seeing the Black-Legged Kittiwake that was sighted by the Cameron Ferry during the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge CBC on Sunday, December 19.

Fortunately, he was here today sporting about the ferry. He was following the ferry, gliding about with the rest of the terns and gulls collecting little fishies.

At times it would plop in the water and fool around until the ferry returned.

This is my favorite pic. Left-click to enlarge.

Do you reckon the chaps in the truck on the ferry realize just how close they are to the rare Review List Black-Legged Kittiwake? If they only knew. :)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Common Moorhen

(Left-click to enlarge image)

These two Common Moorhen seemed inseparable. It was hilarious as both were standing on one leg, side-by-side on the only available piece of real estate in the shallow marsh. "Are these two having visions of becoming Flamingos?", I thought.

I was curious as to why they were sticking close together and what they were looking at. The answer was apparent when a couple of juveniles emerged from the reeds making their way down the bank. I suppose dealing with issues of adolescence can be trying even for adult Common Moorhens.

Their short yellow-tipped red bill coupled with their red facial shield provides a remarkable contrast against their slate gray body. Their bill color makes it easy to distnguish them from the ivory-billed American Coot.

Here comes the adventuresome teenager. The juvenile Common Moorhen was heading their way exploring his new world as his parents kept a watchful eye.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

White-Eyed Vireo

My first exposure with this bird was at Peveto Sanctuary (pictured). This small, secretive migratory songbird's eerie look with his luminescent white iris appears almost paranormal. Be sure to carry your gris-gris bag to ward off any evil spirits.

For a small bird don't you just love this guy's enthusiasm as he belts out his energetic, raucous song? (Is it Ella or is it Memorex?) As a result this guy is usually heard before he is seen.

What do you think of the White-Eyed Vireo's bill? Its slightly hooked bill reminds me of a Shrike. The White-Eyed Vireo is next to Shrikes in my field guide so perhaps they are somehow related.

Did you know that fledgling White-Eyed Vireos lack the white iris? I read the white iris usually develops by February of the next spring.

The White-Eyed Vireo is a visually interesting bird with its assortment of colors. This coupled with its vociferous song provides for an intriguing bird.

(Left-Click to enlarge picture)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Ferruginous Hawk

The rare Ferruginous Hawk was an outstanding find by James Beck in Johnson Bayou. This rather large raptor caused quite a bit of excitement among Louisiana birders.

Robby Bacon and I were fortunate to locate it and to acquire some pictures. It was cool the way he balanced on one foot with his feathers ruffled up. This Ferruginous Hawk is by far one of the most remarkable Raptors I've witnessed.

I read, "Due to the decrease in grasslands and prairies, its numbers are on the decline. It is possible that it may end up on the endangered species list in a few years." I surely hope such a magnificent bird proliferates in the days to come.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Groove-Billed Ani

This Groove-Billed Ani seen last year at Peveto in October is still one of my all time favorite birds. How do you like that hairdo? (Left-Click to Enlarge Photo)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

White Tailed kites / Juncos

While driving to Peveto this afternoon I noticed a couple of birds that appeared to be small gulls but they didn't fly like small gulls. They were dynamiic in flight and were some real flying machines. Then I understood. They were White-Tailed Kites. (LEFT CLICK TO ENLARGE ALL PICTURES)

These birds are fascinating to watch with their aerial acrobatics.

Taking pictures was much easier when they decided to take a break. These birds were a first for me and it was a privelege to watch them for a short time.

At Peveto, I ran into hard-working Dave Patton. He showed me where the Juncos were hanging out that Paul Conover spotted the day before.

These birds were a first for me as well and cool to observe. It was a great way to end a fun afternoon being out, watching birds and taking pictures.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Red Tailed Hawk's Lucky Day

This Red-Tailed Hawk was sitting by the fence alongside the road today and couldn't fly. I phoned my Son-in-Law, returned home, picked up our dog's kennel cage and returned approximately 20 minutes later. My Son-in-Law was in his car right behind me as we pulled up to the spot where the RTHA was discovered. The hawk was nowhere to be found and it was growing dark. We only had about 5 minutes of light remaining to locate the hawk and catch it. My Son-In-Law, Thomas, spotted it running across the road about 50 yards away. The race was on. It made it across the road, across the ditch and across the fence. We got to the spot where it crossed the fence. I jumped the fence and found it sitting in some tall grass with it looking up, daring me to get closer. I tossed a towel over its head, grabbed it by the legs, lifted it up and handed it across the fence to Thomas. We walked back to our vehicles and placed the young RTHA in the kennel cage.

I phoned Suzy at Heckhaven Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Lake Charles, LA ( http://www.heckhaven.com/ ) and brought the injured hawk immediately to her. She showed us where the hawk's wing was broken at the joint. The bone was protruding slightly through the skin. She felt the hawk had been shot and estimated that it had been down for approximately a week due to the calcification of the bone and due to its weight loss.

It is fortunate we have such caring people as Suzy at Heckhaven WRC in Lake Charles whose passion is to care for and to rehabilitate orphaned and injured animals/birds. This hawk was unlucky but is now lucky to have a chance to survive thanks to Suzy. (Left Click to Enlarge Picture)

Up periscope, down periscope

The small, recluse, secretive Least Bittern is entertaining to watch. It is well camouflaged and can be hard to spot as it slowly skulks through the reeds. It appears to have a short little neck but looks can be deceiving.

Can you believe how far his neck extends? It reminds me of a periscope on a submarine ... up periscope, down periscope.

It is remarkable the way it straddles reeds with its long toes and sharp claws allowing it to feed in water too deep for it to stand. This is a fascinating little heron and will surely put a smile on your face.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Barn Swallow

This image was captured earlier this year. It is not the best perch but we are blessed in Louisiana to have such a colorful bird. (Left Click to Enlarge)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Hooded Merganser + Osprey

Finally the ducks are returning to their wintering grounds. This striking adult male Hooded Merganser with its long, narrow serrated bill was cruising about looking for small fish. Its black head with its contrasting yellow eyes, large white crest patch and reddish-brown sides provided for a stunning sight among the rest. (Left Click to Enlarge)

This yellow-eyed Osprey, or Fish-Eagle, with its deep glossy brown upperparts and white breast streaked with brown watches keenly for fish. Its white head with a dark mask across its eyes makes it easy to identify. (Left-Click to Enlarge)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Kamikazee Sharp Shinned Hawk

Our grandson Andrew head two loud "thumps" at their back window. He ran to his Mom telling her, "Come see the Peregrine Falcon! Come see!". It wasn't a PEFA but it was in the Raptor Family. Our daughter investigated and took a picture. Unfortunately it was not a happy ending for the hawk. It's eyes eventually closed and it didn't make it. (Left - Click to enlarge the picture)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wilson's Snipe

I found this small, stocky well-camouflaged Wilson's Snipe with its short neck, short legs and long straight beak probing the mud for food this morning. It is not that often that I see them in the open as they are usually close to the ground vegetation blending in with their surroundings. That is one cool bird. Left-click to enlarge.

Probing around

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Common Ground Dove

We checked out the report for a possible Ruddy Ground Dove as reported on labird. What did we find? We found an uncommon Common Ground Dove. It surely is a small dove and nice looking one at that. Maybe next time.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Great Horned Owls, Northern Harrier, Harlan's Hawk

These two Great Horned Owls were sitting one above the other in the same tree. I've seen one owl in one tree but never two owls in the same tree.

It was pretty cool so I thought I would share it with you.

This long-tailed Northern Harrier was cruising low over a field with his wings held high when he either heard something or spotted something on the ground. He banked sharply, looked down for his quarry and struck quickly.

I like this picture with his wings out and his head looking down with his talons in the ready position.

This somewhat rare Harlan's Hawk was photographed Sunday morning at 7:30 AM in the top of a tree watching for prey.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Ferruginous Finally

Ninety percent chance of rain today. Who in their right mind would venture out birding in such weather conditions? How much longer will the Ferruginous Hawk that James Beck found be around? Why not? I placed my camera into my truck and headed south. I suppose this qualifies for a full-fledged 'bird nerd'. (Click on pictures to enlarge)

The Red-Tailed Hawks were out and about but that is not what was on the agenda.

I went to the Rec Center in Johnson Bayou and looked high and low for any sign of the Ferruginous Hawk. Lo and behold it flew from the ground up onto a distant pole. It landed too far away for a picture.

I decided to go to Peveto and return in hopes that it would be closer upon my return.

Another car at Peveto? What other crazy person would be at Peveto on such a day? Who else but Robby Bacon! He was easing through the woods glassing for birds. The bird movement was lackluster and we decided to try for the Hawk,

Much to our delight the Ferruginous Hawk was still there. What an AWESOME RAPTOR!! It was closer the second time and we were able to get some decent pictures.

Great find JAMES BECK and thanks for sharing this information for all to see!!!

On our way back home sharp-eyed Robby spotted a Franklin's Gull.

We stopped at the Blue Goose Trail on our way back home. We were shocked to see a Great Horned Owl in the trees overlooking the marsh. That was strange.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dave's Pond Today

My Son-in-Law (Tom Maddox) and I headed south today hoping to find the Ferruginous Hawk, the Western-Wood Pewee and the Black-Headed Grosbeak. The bird of the day on the menu at Peveto was the Pine Warblers in their bright yellow decor. (Left Click on Pictures to Enlarge)

We met up with Devin Bosler at Dave's Pond. He pointed out a Song Sparrow eating seeds in the dense foilage adjacent to the pond.

After Devin left we hung out with Jeff Harris and Dave Patton at Dave's Pond watching for birds. A Palm Warbler and Indigo Bunting fared their feathers, bathed and shook their feathers briskly to dry.
A Tennesse Warbler and Sparrow couldn't stand it and joined in the fun.

The highlight of the day was when the elusive Review List Black Headed Grosbeak came to join the party at Dave's Pond. He flew into the top of the Live Oak Tree behind Dave's Pond and began his descent hopping down. He bounced onto an open limb, stopped briefly for his picture then flew back into the woods.
What a great way to end the day! We met some super nice, knowledgeable birders at Peveto and had fun watching the birds.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sage Thrasher

ROBBY BACON had an AMAZING FIND today at Sabine National Wildlife Refuge on the Blue Goose Trail ... a SAGE THRASHER !!!.

After work I grabbed my camera and my wife and took off. Robby was spot on as usual. It didn't take long to locate the Sage Thrasher hopping along the trail catching grasshoppers, bugs, etc. We were enchanted with this rare bird and watched it until sunset. It should still be there this weekend for all to view.

WAY TO GO, ROBBY. WHAT AN OUTSTANDING FIND !!!! (click to enlarge)

At times the Sage Thrasher enjoyed playing in the sand piles close to the parking lot. (Click to Enlarge)

What was the Sage Thrasher doing? He was strolling along the path keeping a sharp lookout for insect, bugs, etc. When he spotted one, he would dart in the grass, catch it and down the hatch it would go. It was a pleasure seeing and watching such a rare bird in Louisiana thanks to Robby. (Left Click to Enlarge)