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No. 192 BATON ROUGE, LAAugust 2000

Newsletter of the Louisiana Ornithological Society

Table of Contents

Red River Wildlife Refuge
Backyard Musings
BRAS Meeting
Rockport Bird Festival
Storm Petrel ID
IBBA meeting
Shade Grown Coffee
Yard List 1999 - II
Peter Raven to speak
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Red River Wildlife Refuge Receives Support
President Bill Clinton, at a May 9th Washington, DC event with Senator Mary Landrieu and attended by LOS's own Paul Dickson and other members of FOR -- Friends of the Red River Refuges, expressed his support for the establishment of a National Wildlife Refuge on the Red River. Mr. Clinton was briefed on the proposed Red River National Wildlife Refuge by his staff prior to the meeting. In conversation with Senator Landrieu and Dickson, he expressed his appreciation for the efforts of local citizens and his interest in the proposed National Wildlife Refuge. Mr. Clinton stated that he is familiar with the Red River Valley and its abundant wildlife resources and was glad to see that a National Wildlife Refuge is planned. The President congratulated FOR on its success thus far and encouraged the spirit of volunteerism that has brought about the Red River National Wildlife Refuge. In his closing remarks The President lauded Senator Landrieu for the work that she has done for Louisiana and its environment, mentioning in particular her efforts for the CARA initiative and for the Red River National Wildlife Refuge. Senator Landrieu is sponsor of S. 2123, Conservation and Reinvestment Act and S. 2433, the Red River National Wildlife Refuge Act.
In other action, FOR representatives attended the hearing of H.R. 4318 by the House Subcommittee on Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife and Oceans on May 10, 2000. In attendance were Paul Dickson, Beverly Dickson, Jim Haynes and Chris Kinsey. Testifying in support of the Red River National Wildlife Refuge Act was the bill's sponsor, Rep. Jim McCrery, R-La. and FOR Chairman Paul Dickson. While in Washington, D.C., FOR members met with members of Congress and with White House staff in support of the Red River National Wildlife Refuge. Haynes expressed excitement "to see the political process in action and the advances that have been made due to the hard work of FOR and Congressman McCrery." Kinsey adds, "The meaningful things happen because of personal commitment that people make. I am gratified to see the results that the Red River wildlife efforts have made in Washington."
On July 26, 2000, U.S. Congressman Jim McCrery's Red River National Wildlife Refuge Act, H.R. 4318, was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Resources. "There are 20 national wildlife refuges in the state of Louisiana which host over 1.4 million visitors annually. However, not a single national wildlife refuge has been created to fill a demonstrated environmental need in the Red River Valley of northwestern Louisiana. Today's committee passage is a positive step toward providing for this need," said McCrery. The legislation establishes the Red River National Wildlife Refuge for the purposes of restoring and preserving fish and wildlife habitat in the Red River Valley ecosystem. Up to 50,000 acres in Northwest Louisiana may be incorporated into the refuge. In addition to providing for the restoration and active management of environmentally sensitive lands within the refuge, the legislation calls for the development of public accommodations within the refuge lands such as trails, access points, and exhibits, and education outreach programs. The bill also authorizes the construction of a wildlife interpretation and education center within the refuge. The refuge will be administered by the Department of the Interior.
Here is the transcript of Paul Dickson's testimony before the House Committee:
Gentlemen: Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to speak to you in support of the Red River and its wildlife through H.R. 4318, the Red River National Wildlife Refuge Act. I am chairman of Friends of the Red River Refuges, a non-profit group whose mission is to foster the restoration of wildlife habitat in the Red River Valley. Our mission and H.R. 4318 have the strong support of our entire community, business, industry, political and civic leaders as well as the people as a whole. We know of no opposition to our cause or to this bill in our region, rather Mr. McCrery's bill proposing this refuge enjoys widespread support. It was built upon a united foundation of eager and expectant local support. I am proud to say that I speak for more than the group that I chair; I speak in favor of the Red River National Wildlife Refuge on behalf of my entire community.
The Red River National Wildlife Refuge is not a new idea. The path to this authorization bill spans 10 years and is a million words long. Legislation to form a planning group was proposed to Congress last year, without success. The U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service has begun its own Red River National Wildlife Refuge plan internally, but that plan falls short of our comprehensive partnering strategy and lacks the breadth of local support that we have been able to bring to this bill. Hundreds of people, not just from Louisiana but also from other parts of the nation have aided our cause so that we now find ourselves at your door to ask for authorization. We have laid the groundwork for this refuge. U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service staff has been to the proposed refuge sites. We have met with Secretary Babbitt and received his expressed support for the creation of this refuge. It is my hope that after hearing my testimony, you too will support the Red River's wildlife by recommending H.R. 4318.
It is my responsibility to make the case for this refuge. It is my duty to the cause and as a citizen to assure that dollars spent on this refuge produce their worth or more to the people of the United States of America. The U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service in their testimony has raised concerns about operation and management funding. We recognize this concern and have collected a host of local government partners, as well as industry and other private sector sponsors. Carbon sequestration credits, required of industry by the Clean Air Act can produce funds for restoration. Local efforts consistent with the goals of the Red River National Wildlife Refuge will magnify the benefits produced. Yes, additional O&M appropriation will be required and is well justified. But before I get dragged down in the details of funding, allow me to explain the compelling reason that I am here today.
Just last week, I spent eight days offshore in the Outer Continental Shelf area of the Gulf of Mexico on a Texaco oil and gas production platform. I was there as a volunteer researcher for Louisiana State University with the task of recording migration over the Gulf. What I witnessed over those deep waters on the night of Tuesday, May 2, 2000 compels me to see this refuge effort through. I do not know how many of you can picture a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, a Magnolia Warbler, or a Yellow-billed Cuckoo just to name a few trans-gulf migrant birds. Certainly you are all familiar with the Baltimore Oriole and maybe the Scarlet Tanager, one of the world's most dazzling birds. We know these species as bright, colorful songbirds of spring and summer; as denizens of parks, gardens and lush forests. They are often enjoyed amongst apple blossoms in back yards, as treasured guests at bird feeders and as birdsong from high atop old shade trees in towns and countryside alike all over the Eastern and Central U.S. Imagine the drama, if you will, of the stunning and stark contrast of these same songbirds struggling over a storm-tossed sea in the black of night just ten days ago.
Indeed, ten days ago I stood on the plus-10 deck of Garden Banks-189 and by the soft glow of its floodlights witnessed the heretofore invisible trials that our migratory birds endure. With fifteen-foot seas and sustained easterly winds of thirty-five knots, I watched spellbound as thousands of neo-tropical migrants fought their way northward across the raging wind and into the face of a wall of thunderstorms. With spray leaping off the crests of the swells and lightening flashing, I watched as thousands of individual birds of forty-five different species fought their way home. It was near midnight, each had already flown at least four hundred miles and there were one hundred and sixty storm filled miles to go before any landfall could be made. Many did not make it. I have seen birds too exhausted to fight the wind any longer fall into the sea and perish. Those that did reach the Gulf's northern coast on Wednesday morning had critical needs to meet.
Birds fuel up before these long journeys, but they can only add about forty percent of their body weight in fat before being too heavy to fly. This fat is used up quickly during these long migratory flights and migrants must refuel several times on their continental journeys. The orioles and warblers that I saw that night in the Gulf are the very same ones that fill the trees at Rock Creek Park right here in the District of Columbia, and on Elm Street in Anytown, U.S.A. One of the very same birds that I saw that night in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico may be singing in a tree within a couple of miles of Capitol Hill right now as I speak. Most of the neo-tropical migrant birds of Eastern and Central U.S. must migrate across the gulf. From there they spread out across the continent, feeding to "refuel" along the way. In doing so, they connect us. They connect the landmasses, this continent, and this country. But, they are in trouble. Migrant songbird numbers have been in a steep decline for the past ten years. If we are to help them, to arrest this decline we must recognize the connection. Migratory bird conservation must be viewed on a continental scale. Critical stopover links in the pathways of migratory birds, such as the Red River, must be restored for the sake of birds all over this continent.
The Red River Valley is a crucial stopover area as it lies just north of the Gulf of Mexico. For millions of years it has provided critical stopover habitat for much of North America's birds. It lies along a continent-long chain of river valleys and is midway between the tropical rainforests of Central and South America and the northern breeding grounds of many birds. But in the last one hundred and fifty years, the riverside forests and tallgrass prairies have been converted to agriculture and urban use. Concrete, fallow agricultural land and cracked hydric soil pastures support these beloved songbirds no better than the dark waters of the Gulf did that night last week. For a migratory bird with critical caloric needs to meet, landing in such degraded habitat is like falling into the sea. It should be no surprise that neo-tropical birds are in such steep decline. Habitat is what migratory birds need and that is the most compelling reason that this bill is before you today.
Though of great concern, migratory songbird conservation is far from the sole purpose of the Red River National Wildlife Refuge. Waterfowl end their southbound journey in Louisiana. As the coastal wetlands are lost at an alarming rate, the Red River's historical role as a major wetland complex becomes ever more in need of restoration. Some have suggested that if the Great Raft of the Red River were present today as it was prior to 1837, it would rank with the Everglades as one of the world's great natural wetland wonders. Today, very few of these raft-induced wetlands remain. Waterfowl hunters crowd area waters each season, underscoring the need for more public waterfowl hunting opportunity. With the public waters unmanaged, there are few wetlands for waterfowl to rest on in the fall, causing them to move on to other regions. This degraded state of our once rich Red River backwaters has diminished the Valley's overall value to the continent's waterfowl as well as the quality of its waterfowl hunting. Agriculture leaves great stores of winter food for waterfowl, but in the Red River Valley it goes unutilized for lack of sufficient waterfowl rest areas. The Red River Valley is in dire need of a waterfowl refuge, and of the managed public hunting that the Red River National Wildlife Refuge would provide. With the provision of a significant refuge and with the landowner assistance and cooperation that typically follows, the waterfowl wintering capability of this area can multiply many times over. Development of waterfowl habitat along the Red would restore a wintering area that once richly served the continent's waterfowl as well as mitigate the continuing loss of coastal wetlands.
Endangered species are often key in the establishment of National Wildlife Refuges. Endangered species are often key in heated debates between economic and environmental forces. Endangered species are always a result of poor planning. Several endangered species use the Red River region. One, the Least Tern currently breeds there. Rather than whip up a fight that would serve no good end, Friends of the Red River Refuges built a unique coalition of business, agriculture, education, tourism, and conservation stakeholders around the idea that good planning eliminates the need to fight over endangered species. That coalition brought about this bill and with it a new model for dealing with wildlife and people.
The Red River National Wildlife Refuge when established will be tangible testimony to the value of cooperation. Endangered species will find their needs met. Barges will continue to haul cargo on the Red River; farmers will produce their crops unhindered; and local economies will feel the effects of eco-tourism and improved quality of life as a fresh wind under their sails.
Congressmen, this is admittedly long-winded testimony. But not a word has been frivolously spent. This is not just another proposed refuge. This is a multifaceted answer to many needs. It is the proper role of government to establish for the greater good. That is exactly what the Red River National Wildlife Refuge Act does. This refuge is not just a local issue. Its presence will be felt across a hemisphere in terms of the migrant birds that it saves. Its presence will be felt across this country in terms of wintering waterfowl and the great joy and recreation that they bring. Its presence will be felt by society in terms of the cooperative model that was its genesis. Its presence will be felt regionally through enhanced quality of life for each resident that visits on a Sunday afternoon and locally by every child that learns while there on a school field trip. These needs must be met.
The Red River National Wildlife Refuge has broad based support and will yield multiple benefits. It is justified by sound biological facts. This bill in parallel with the Senate version is a bipartisan effort. It is unopposed and strongly supported in the region that it will affect. I urge you to recommend this bill as it is written to the full House for approval and to thus authorize the Red River National Wildlife Refuge.
Thank you.

Congratulations Paul, for a job extremely well done, and for making a difference!
Table of Contents

by Olga Clifton
Having lived in the same place for 42 years, we have been blessed with many gifts, mainly the many other creatures that share our yard and have brought such joy to our lives. It wasn't until last year that we even thought about keeping a yard list. We knew we were surrounded with many wonderful things and we always just simply enjoyed what we saw and went on with our lives. Imagine waking up in the early morning and seeing a flock of Wood Ducks swimming in the pond! Over morning coffee in Day Room, we can watch the hummingbirds feeding on the many flowers planted to attract them to our "pocket" garden. For four years running, this nook has been the winter haven for a particular female Rufous Hummingbird who bathes just about every morning in the spray of the fountain birdbath.
Eating lunch on the deck next to the pond can bring any number of surprises, like the Great Blue, Snowy Egret, Great Egret or Green Heron coming to the pond for a meal. Once, a Great Egret landed on the dock next to the deck, much to the annoyance of the Swallow-tailed Kites that were nesting nearby. The kites flew down and began to harass the egret, creating an awesome racket! Eventually the Egret decided an easy meal wasn't worth all the commotion and flew away, so the Kites went back to their nest. Another time, we were so excited when a River Otter entered the pond and caught a fish!!!!! From the deck, we can watch lots of migrants that are attracted to various trees in the yard. When the Catalpa tree is filled with caterpillars, both Yellow-billed and Black-billed Cuckoos gorge until they almost drop. The Pecan trees are often filled with warblers foraging for insects in the tassels. A female Black-throated Blue Warbler showed up one August and provided a big thrill.
When Walter brought Spanish Moss into the yard and the Northern Parula nested in a clump, we were so proud. We watched the young fledge and forage in the Pecan tree right over our heads as we sat on the deck. In the Fall, when the Magnolia trees are in full fruit, we have Wood, Swainson's, Hermit and Gray-cheeked Thrushes feeding all across the yard and bathing in the bird pool. One morning, I quietly watched as a Mourning Warbler foraged in the garden just a few feet from me. Another skulker in the garden was the Gray Catbird dining on Palmetto berries. It was so close, I could have reached out and touched it!!
The Bird Pool has provided a year-round respite for species of birds too numerous to list here. A noteworthy few have been Blue-winged Warblers, Hooded Warblers, and Kentucky Warblers After a visit from our son, Walter walked with Paul to his truck to see him off. As Walter was standing there, he noticed a flock of White Pelicans reflected in the windshield!!!! Paul jumped out, Walter ran to the back deck to alert me and our visitors to the wonderful vision passing over our yard. We were all duly thrilled to say the least.
We spent considerable time and money building a Chimney Swift tower within our garage and were disappointed that the birds didn't use it. Finally, after two seasons, we had a pair nesting in the structure. You would have thought we won the Lotto, we were so happy.
Once, many years ago, I counted 34 species of birds that have nested here. A favorite haunt for Brown Thrashers and Mockingbirds has been the Japanese Yew hedge, for its thick cover and its abundant fruit. The dead limbs of a Pecan tree have been home to many birds. I remember when a pair of Brown-headed Nuthatches excavated so thoroughly that the limb broke off at the hole. Better now than after laying! We were amused one year by a nosy male Red-bellied Woodpecker who, for long periods, leaned out of his nest hole in the Pecan tree limb and surveyed all the activity below. Box Turtles also live in our yard and we were lucky enough to have seen the female laying eggs. Walter got wonderful photos of the eggs hatching.
On International Hummingbird Day we get to share the joy within our yard with over 350 people in one day. After all, it is through sharing that our own joy is increased a hundred times over.
LOS – Olga Clifton responded to my request for descriptions of favorite Louisiana birding spots and who will be surprised that her favorite is her own garden. Anyone who has been invited to visit has to count it amongst their favorite spots in Louisiana, too. I know I do! –Carol Foil, Editor
Coot montage by David J. L'Hoste.
Table of ContentsLOS NEWS, Page 2
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LOS News Editor: Carol Foil, 1180 Stanford Ave, Baton Rouge, LA 70808
(h & fax) 225.387.0368; (w) 225.346.3119;

posted 19August2000