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No. 194 BATON ROUGE, LAApril 2001

Newsletter of the Louisiana Ornithological Society

Table of Contents

LOS Spring Meeting
ULL Farm Birding
NAMC (+)
ULL Farm Birdlist
Favorite Bird?
Birds and Fire
HAA's Greatest Hits
LOS Winter Meeting Report
LOS Board Meeting
HUMNET Serious?
LOS Officers (+)
LOS Sales (+)
Lee Ellis
Juanita Krebs
LNC Birder Program
SpringMeeting Registration (+)
Cameron Accommodations (+)
Membership Form (+)
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LOS NEWS: Page [1]  [2]
LOS Homepage

Cameron, Louisiana
April 27-29, 2001
Knights of Columbus Hall (behind Our Lady of the Sea Catholic Church)
The LOS will hold its 2001 Spring Meeting on April 27-29 with Friday and Saturday evening activities at the Knights of Columbus Hall behind the Our Lady of the Sea Catholic Church. Friday's registration will begin at 6:30 pm with the hospitality table and the meeting will follow at 7:30 pm. To help folks new to Cameron Parish learn its many outstanding birding areas and for others that may wish to attend, we will have a field trip leaving from the Cameron Motel parking lot (near the restaurant) at 6:30 am Saturday morning. During the field trip we'll bird several of Cameron Parish's superb habitats on both sides of the Calcasieu Ship Channel.
Friday Night Presentation:
Bird Songing - The Ecology of Birds' Songs and Identifying Them by Ear
Daniel Edelstein, a noted naturalist and science writer from Germantown, MD, will present a dynamic visual/audio presentation on bird songing. Beginning his discussion with a basic understanding of the "ecology" of bird songs and calls, Daniel will introduce the various types and patterns of bird vocalizations (songs, calls, sub-song, whisper song, repertoires, mimicry) and delve into the reasons researchers believe that they are used. In an entertaining style, Daniel uses audience participation to demonstrate how to learn "difficult-to-identify" songs and distinguish them from sound-alike birds.
On either Saturday or Sunday morning Daniel plans to record bird songs in Cameron Parish and invites LOS members to join him in this adventure. The exact time and place will be announced at the Friday night meeting.
Saturday Night Presentation:
Wood Warblers - Threatened Beauties

Building on his "Bird Songing" presentation, Daniel combines slides of eastern North America's wood-warblers with their songs to highlight these petite and colorful songsters whose brief, but exciting, migrational visit to Louisiana adds a dynamic flair to our spring and fall landscape. Several long-term bird monitoring programs as the Breeding Bird Survey and Christmas Bird Census provide critical information on population trends of these neotropical migrants that nest in North America. These programs may play a major role in aiding efforts to conserve and enhance their nesting and foraging habitat.
Please pre-register if possible. Registration is $7.00 and the buffet Saturday evening is $10.00. Pre-registration assists Marianna Tanner Primeaux and the Knights of Columbus in planning for our meeting. Pre-registration fees will be refunded if you let Marianna Tanner know by Friday that you cannot attend.
Table of Contents

Birding at the University of Louisiana Lafayette Experimental Farm
A Birder's Pastoral Wonderland
Cade Louisiana
by Jay V. Huner and Michael J. Musumeche
An Introduction
Western Sandpiper by David J. L'Hoste Imagine a compact 600 acre working farm in the Heart of Acadiana where an avid birder can expect to record over 175 bird species in a year? When crawfish ponds are drained in the spring, wading birds descend on the farm in spectacular numbers. Depending on the timing of pond draining and flooding schedules, large flocks of Wood Storks and shorebirds can be viewed. Through the year neotropical migrants make good use of forested areas and resident birds complete their life cycles in the grassland, wetland, and forested vistas that greet visiting birders.
What site are we describing? We are referring to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Experimental Farm. Located about 3.5 miles southwest of the Acadian Memorial Center in historic St. Martinville, the farm is situated at the junction of the natural loessal terrace (300 acres) and adjacent alluvial lowland (300 acres) about 2 miles west of the Bayou Teche. Farm units include managed (aquaculture, primarily crawfish) and forested, semi-natural wetlands as well as livestock (beef, dairy, horse, sheep, and goat) pasture, organic waste lagoons, hay fields, and crop lands (primarily sugar cane). Roughly one-third of the property is devoted to each of the following uses - wetland systems, livestock, and crops. There are at least 3 miles of brushy, forested riparian buffer strips along the northern and western boundaries of the property.
A Brief History of Birding at the UL Lafayette Farm
Roughly 12 years ago Jay V. Huner became associated with the UL Lafayette (then the University of Southwestern Louisiana-USL) Experimental Farm when he assumed the position of Director of the unit's Crawfish Research Center. Huner had been studying the significance of crawfish ponds as waterbird habitat and the impact of waterbirds on crawfish production since 1975. Naturally, he began recording observations on the waterbirds using the crawfish and other wetland systems on the farm. After a few years, Huner instituted an Agro-Biodiversity Program to highlight the significance of farm systems as wildlife habitat and enlisted the aid of area professional and amateur birders to help document the avian fauna of the entire farm. Aiding in this endeavor have been Will J. Bernard, II, Mark Broussard, Bill Fontenot, Albert P. Gaude', III, Paul Leberg, Billy Leonard, Tibor Mikuska, Michael Musumeche, Judith O'neale, David Patton, and Bill Vermillion.
Through the first 10 years of his tenure at the Crawfish Research Center, Huner saw the farm bird list reach about 150 birds. Mike Musumeche began to bird the farm on a more regular basis. As a result of this intensification of effort, 200 birds were recorded by fall 1998. Since that time, the list has risen to 239 species with the addition of a number of shorebirds and neotropical migrants and wintering sparrows. This compares favorably to the 240 birds recorded by Musumeche at the nearby Spanish Lake wetland roughly five (5) miles south of the farm and the 314 species reported in south-central Louisiana by Naturalist Bill Fontenot. Unexpected "rarities" have included the following birds seen only once over the study period - Magnificent Frigate Bird, Brown Pelican, Reddish Egret, Swallow-tailed Kite, Long-eared Owl, and Bewick's Wren. A Bald Eagle is the most recent addition to our rarities list.
The UL Lafayette Experimental Farm is pleased to be associated with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the US Geological Service, the Louisiana Rice Growers Council, the Louisiana Farm Bureau, the LSU Agricultural Center, and the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service through their mutual efforts to demonstrate the habitat value of agricultural wetlands. As a consequence of this interaction, the crawfish pond area has been designated as the "University of Louisiana Lafayette Experimental Farm Agro-Wetland Habitat Demonstration Area and a member of the "Operation Quackback Program".
Preparing for the Visit and Getting There
There are two excellent checklists for the Farm area that include information on seasonal abundance of the birds one would expect to encounter: 1) Checklist of South-Central Louisiana Birds, Compiled by and available from Bill Fontenot, Lafayette, Nature Station, 1205 East Alexander, Lafayette, Louisiana 70501 USA - Covers Lafayette, St. Martin, Acadia, and eastern Vermillion Parishes. August 1999. Web Contact: www.naturestation.org . 2) Birds of Iberia Parish, Compiled by Michael J. Musumeche, New Iberia Senior High School, 1301 E. Admiral Doyle, New Iberia, Louisiana 70560 - Available from Iberia Parish Convention and Visitor's Bureau, 2704 Hwy. 14, New Iberia, Louisiana 70560 USA. March 1999. E-mail: iberiatourism@aisp.net .
A species checklist of birds encountered on the farm has been compiled. However, the checklist does not yet include seasonal abundance of the birds encountered there. Information about the check list follows. Checklist of Birds Observed at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Experimental Farm from 1987-1999. Location: Western St. Martin Parish, Louisiana. Compiled by Jay V. Huner, Michael J. Musumeche, and Bill Vermillion - Available from Crawfish Research Center, University of Louisiana Lafayette, P.O. Box 44650, Lafayette, Louisiana 70504 USA. January 2000. E-mail: jhuner@louisiana.edu .
Visitors do not have unlimited access to the Farm at this time. Arrangements to visit the Farm should be made through the following individuals: Jay V. Huner, Director, Crawfish Research Center - 337 394-7508 - jhuner@louisiana.edu, Charles Reith, Head, Dept. of Renewable Resources - 337 482- 5239 - creith@louisiana.edu .
Best access is the north entrance from LA Hwy 92. Coming from the East, take I-10 to Breaux Bridge, LA, exit south through Breaux Bridge to LA Hwy 31. Go South approximately 17 miles through Parks, LA and St. Martinville, LA. Immediately upon leaving St. Martinville, take LA Hwy 92 westward about 3 miles to W. J. Bernard Road and turn south (left). Proceed approximately one mile onto the farm. Coming from the West, take I-10 to Lafayette, LA and exit south on Evangeline Throughway. Proceed south (highway becomes US 90) through Broussard, LA and exit southeastward (left) onto LA Hwy 182. Proceed about 5 miles to the community of Cade, LA and turn East (left) onto LA Hwy 92. Continue about 3 miles to W. J. Bernard road and turn South (right) and proceed approximately one mile onto the farm. Coming from the South on US Hwy 90, go past New Iberia approximately 5 miles and go East (right) onto LA Hwy 92. Go about 5 miles to the community of Cade, LA and continue from there as if arriving from the West. Coming from the North, enter Lafayette, LA via I-49 then follow the directions to the farm as if arriving from the West.
Sites of Interest
The most productive birding done on the UL Lafayette Experimental Farm centers around the Crawfish Pond Area, a 15 acre wooded wetland adjacent to the ponds, a 20 acre wooded, wet borrow pit, and brushy, wooded riparian areas on the northern and western sides of the farm. Visitors can expect to find the birds listed in the several checklists at the seasons shown in the Fontenot and Musumeche checklists. However, pastures, hay fields, cane fields, and the farm shop area can be especially productive sites during cool months when the ground is wet. Comments about specific sites and species abundance follow.
Crawfish Pond Area and The Wooded Wetland "Woodlot"
Immediately after driving onto the farm via W. J. Bernard Road, the road makes a "Y". The left fork is a gravel road - Procambarus Road - that passes through a red gate. Proceed through the gate to a small wooden frame building painted white with red trim. The Crawfish Pond Area occupies about 50 acres on the northeast side of the property near the building. One can walk and bird around the south side of the ponds eastward to the drainage ditches and follow the paths around the north side of the ponds back to the building. Immediately to the west of the ponds on the north-central side of the property is the 15 acre wooded wetland woodlot. Birding in this general area can be very rewarding during spring and fall migrations and especially spectacular when crawfish ponds are drained in the spring. Neotropical migrants like Blue Grosbeak, Baltimore Oriole, Blackburian Warbler, Red-eyed Vireo, White-eyed Vireo, etc. are drawn to the many flowering pecan trees all around the farm in the spring. A birder who birds by eye and ear can expect to get 45-65 birds in the area from October into April. Wintering birds include several duck species, assorted waders, sparrows, kinglets, wrens, American Pipit, Common Snipe, Orange-crowned Warbler, White-eyed Vireo, Yellow-rumped Warbler, American Robin, Hermit Thrush, etc. During the doldrums of the summer, a reasonable amount of effort will generate 30 birds including Barn Swallow, Northern Cardinal, Indigo Bunting, Painted Bunting, Carolina Wren, Carolina Chickadee, an occasional Eastern Towhee, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Mississippi Kite, Blue Jay, American Crow, Cattle Egret, etc.. When the crawfish ponds are drained over a week long period, several hundred to over a thousand wading birds will feed in the ponds at any particular time. Especially conspicuous are Roseate Spoonbills. When ponds are drained in July and August, a large number and a variety of migrating shorebirds are recorded.
Wooded, Wet Borrow Pit
This unit is accessed by taking the right leg of the "Y" and continuing along W. J. Bernard Road rather than turning left to go to the Crawfish Pond Area. Approximately one-third of a mile from the "Y", one encounters the 20 acre Wooded, Wet Borrow Pit on the West (right) side of the road. Covered assembly areas are visible on either side of the entrance to the pit. This densely wooded area typically holds water, at least on its floor, from November into the following June. A path called "Leopold Lane" extends down the center of the pit and allows good access during drier periods. When water levels are too high for easy access to the interior of the pit, one can circumnavigate the pit area and bird easily from the high banks. The pit terminates and drains into Bayou Tortue Canal - the western boundary of the farm. The Wooded, Wet Borrow Pit is an excellent site for viewing neotropical migrants and resident and wintering perching birds. With "fly overs", 30-50 birds can be tallied by spending time at this site. This site is always a good place to locate woodpeckers, Tufted Titmouse, Brown Thrasher, Carolina Chickadee, buntings, etc. in the summer.
Other Locations
The Farm Shop/Dairy area is located on the south side of the farm just before W. J. Bernard Road dead ends into Lady of the Lake Road, the southern boundary of the farm. Several bird species commonly associated with human activities are readily apparent to visitors. One can almost always add Blue Jay, American Crow, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Brown-headed Cowbird, and House Sparrow to a day's list if these species have not been encountered elsewhere on the farm. And, don't forget to look for breeding Eastern Bluebirds along W. J. Bernard Road during the spring and summer.
Breeding Birds
The following species of birds are known to nest on the farm or in contiguous habitat. Pied-billed Grebe, Least Bittern, Green Heron, Fulvous Whistling Duck, Wood Duck, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Northern Bobwhite, Killdeer, Black-necked Stilt, Rock Dove, Mourning Dove, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Eastern Screech-Owl, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Great Crested Flycatcher, Loggerhead Shrike, Purple Martin, Barn Swallow, Blue Jay, American Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, White-eyed Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Prothonotary Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Northern Cardinal, Indigo Bunting, Painted Bunting, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Brown-headed Cowbird, Orchard Oriole, and House Sparrow.
One should be aware of the occurrence of spiders, biting and stinging insects, and several species of harmless reptiles. There are a few records of venomous Cottonmouth Moccasin and Eastern Copperhead snakes. Poison ivy is widespread on much of the farm property, especially in wooded areas.
Nearby Bird Attractions
Lake Martin with its wonderful wading bird roost and rookery is located about 25 minutes, by road, north of the farm. Spanish Lake with excellent forested wetland birding is located about 10 minutes south of the farm. Avery Island with Jungle Gardens and Bird City is located about 25 minutes south of the farm. Finally, Jefferson Island with its formal Rip Van Winkle Garden is located about 20 minutes southwest of the farm.
New Developments
The UL Lafayette Experimental Farm should be renamed by the end of the year 2000. Four "Learning Centers" are being constructed to support a Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality - US Environmental Protection Agency project to evaluate and develop Best Management Practices for reducing and eliminating Non-Point Source Nutrient Pollution. One Learning Center will include an elevated viewing platform at the Crawfish Pond Area. Two Learning Centers will be located directly across from each other at the Wet, Wooded Borrow Pit area near its intersection with W. J. Bernard Road. These will be connected by a raised walkway across the pit to provide for viewing birds in the "canopy" created by the trees growing adjacent to and in the pit. The fourth Learning Center will be located in the middle of the farm on the west side of W. J. Bernard Road. Once the Learning Centers are completed, visitors will have self-guided access to the farm.
Crawfish Research Center
University of Louisiana Lafayette
P.O. Box 44650
Lafayette, Louisiana 70508
Table of Contents

ULL Farm Birdlist
Pied-billed Grebe
American White Pelican
Brown Pelican
Neotropic Cormorant
Double-crested Cormorant
Magnificent Frigate Bird
American Bittern
Least Bittern
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Tricolored Heron
Reddish Egret
Cattle Egret
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Yellow-crowned Night-heron
White Ibis
Glossy Ibis
White-faced Ibis
Roseate Spoonbill
Wood Stork
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Fulvous Whistling-Duck
Greater White-fronted Goose
Snow Goose
Ross's Goose
Canada Goose
Wood Duck
American Wigeon
Mottled Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Greater Scaup
Lesser Scaup
Common Goldeneye
Hooded Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Swallow-tailed Kite
Mississippi Kite
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
Northern Bobwhite
King Rail
Virginia Rail
Purple Gallinule
Common Moorhen
American Coot
Black-bellied Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Black-necked Stilt
American Avocet
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Solitary sandpiper
Spotted Sandpiper
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Western Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
White-rumped Sandpiper
Baird's Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper
Stilt Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Long-billed Dowitcher
Wilson's Phalarope
Common Snipe
American Woodcock
Laughing Gull
Bonaparte's Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Gull-billed Tern
Caspian Tern
Royal Tern
Common Tern
Forster's Tern
Rock Dove
Eurasian Collared-Dove
White-winged Dove
Mourning Dove
Common Ground-Dove
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Barn Owl
Eastern Screech-Owl
Great Horned Owl
Barred Owl
Long-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl
Common Nighthawk
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Acadian Flycatcher
Alder Flycatcher
Least Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Vermillion Flycatcher
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Horned Lark
Loggerhead Shrike
White-eyed Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo
Yellow-throated Vireo
Philadelphia Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Fish Crow
Purple Martin
Tree Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Bank Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Barn Swallow
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Carolina Wren
Bewick's Wren
House Wren
Winter Wren
Sedge Wren
Marsh Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Eastern Bluebird
Swainson's Thrush
Hermit Thrush
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher
European Starling
American Pipit
Cedar Waxwing
Golden-winged Warbler
Blue-winged Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler
Pine Warbler
Palm Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
American Redstart
Prothonotary Warbler
Worm-eating Warbler
Swainson's Warbler
Northern Waterthrush
Louisiana Waterthrush
Kentucky Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Wilson's Warbler
Canada Warbler
Yellow-breasted Chat
Summer Tanager
Scarlet Tanager
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow
Lark Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
LeConte's Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Lapland Longspur
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Blue Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Painted Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Rusty Blackbird
Brewer's Blackbird
Common Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle
Great-tailed Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow
239 Species
Research Supported, in Part, by the Louisiana Crawfish Promotion & Research Board.
Contributors: W. J. Bernard, III, Mark J. Broussard, Paul Chadwick, Bruce Fleury, Bill Fontenot, Albert P. Gaude' III, Clinton Jeske, Paul Leberg, David Patton, and Tibor Mikuska
Table of Contents

What if you were asked... What is your favorite bird?
If someone asked you, "What is your favorite bird?" I know many would say "the Purple Martin." But, what if they asked, "What is your second most favorite bird?" I was asked that. It is a hard question! I would be tempted to say, "Bluebirds." Who can resist those charming little flashes of blue that zip around the gardens and fields? Who cannot be entertained by their curiosity, or by watching a Bluebird family's antics and play in a birdbath? Yes, Bluebirds would surely be high on my list!
I greatly admire the common Northern Mockingbird. All my life, I have been entertained by its song. I think that no other bird can match its versatility, tone and volume. Although it uses its song to announce its territory, it would seem that much of its song is just for joy. They really work at it. Why else would they spend so much energy, if they didn't enjoy it? Everywhere you go in the South, you can hear the Mockingbirds sing. When I go for a walk along the shores of Lake Pontchartrain, it's like Mockingbird City. Mockingbirds are certainly one of my favorites.
And what about the Cardinal? What bird can match the brilliant crimson of the male? The warm, reddish-brown female is a beauty, too. Have you ever been awaken at first light on a January morn by the song of a Cardinal? It is then that you realize that you haven't heard their voice for a long time, since they went into their post-breeding molt, last August. I used to put sunflower seeds out for the Cardinals only in the early mornings and late at dusk. The Cardinals got used to the ritual. They would come from far and near and wait for me to put out their feed. There was a Japanese Magnolia tree in the back yard, and in the winter when the tree was bare, the branches would be weighted down by Cardinals. It looked like a Christmas tree decorated with red ornaments. Yes, I greatly admire the beautiful Cardinal.
The Hummingbirds! Now these little jewels can steal anyone's heart away! It was exciting this past summer to have a female Ruby-throat visit my feeder in the Tunica Hills while she was brooding her eggs and babies. Then later, to have her come to the feeder with her two fledglings. And what about the Rufous and the Broad-tailed that spent the past winter with me in Metairie? Hummingbirds have got to be high on anyone's list.
Surely, I can't forget the other local birds that I cherish, that entertain me all through the year. The Chickadee and the Tufted Titmouse...who can resist them. Then, there is the beautiful Red-headed Woodpecker, and the humongous Pileated Woodpecker.
It wouldn't be fair not to mention the winter birds that come to visit. In the fall, I anxiously await the first sighting of the White-throated Sparrow, usually the first to come. Then, comes the Dark-eyed Junco, the charming Goldfinch, the porcelain Cedar Waxwing, the Pine Siskin, and the Red-breasted Nuthatch. Some years we are inundated by a mass invasion of Nuthatches. At times, there are a dozen around the feeders. What does this mean? Some say it means that there will be a hard winter - what do you think?
There are a number of rare, or non-existent, to this area birds that are special to me. One of these is the Black Phoebe. It is a western bird, never ever seen in Louisiana. But twice, I thought that I saw the bird here. Both times, I got only a brief glimpse of the bird, so I was never really sure, to my own satisfaction, that I had actually seen the bird. A Black Phoebe is probably not high on anyone else's list, but it was a bird that was always in my mind that I wanted to see.
A few years ago, I went to southern Arizona to see the birds in that area. Subconsciously, I may have been going mainly to see a Black Phoebe (I also saw Purple Martins nesting in the Saguaro cactus). I saw some thirty birds that I had never seen before. Some, like the Yellow-eyed Junco, that I never expected to see. But, always I was looking for the Black Phoebe, without success. On my last day, in Cave Creek Canyon, I told a local birder that, although I had seen some good birds, I was disappointed that I had not seen a Black Phoebe. He told me two good places to look.
I went to the nearest spot, and sat by a stream that ran under a bridge for an hour. It was a great location, but no Phoebe! Then, following the birder's advice, I went out along a desert road, and took a ranch road in the middle of nowhere. Following the birder's instructions, I came to a lone electric line that crossed the road, and parked the car. I followed the line to a pump and a water line that ran out through the mesquite. I followed the water line to a pond, but no Phoebe! I sat down on the bank, in the shade of a mesquite bush, to consider my options. I hadn't been there but a few minutes when, on the other side of the pond, out of the bushes flew a little black and white bird. It landed not ten feet from me and began to catch insects. It was the elusive (for me) Black Phoebe! And so, this little bird, common for that area and probably not special to anyone else, is still special to me.
Another special bird, for me, is the Northern Wheater. It is a small thrush, a little smaller than a Bluebird. It is a hardy little bird that nests far to the north, mostly above the Arctic Circle. The eastern variety nests mostly in Greenland and extreme northern Canada. They winter an ocean and two continents away in Africa, below the Sahara Desert. They spend three-fourths of their lives in migration. They make a long, arduous trip up through Europe and the British Isles, across the treacherous North Atlantic and into Greenland. After nesting, they return along the same route.
I had seen this rare Northern Wheater only twice, before making my first trip to South Africa. In southern Africa, the Wheater is a rare bird, seldom seen below the equator. But, birds are not rare. They have birds galore! Every bird was new for me. All colorful and different from our American birds...except, you guessed it, the House Sparrow! I saw birds I had only read about and never expected to see. I saw: Hamerkops, Hornbills and Hoopoes; Oxpeckers, Bee-eaters and Lilac-breasted Rollers; Sugarbirds, Sunbirds and Secretary Birds; Wagtails, Weavers and Whydads. Near the Cape of Good Hope, I even saw Penguins. The variety of African birds is staggering... although no Purple Martins, they have twenty-three different martins and swallows, and there are twenty separate eagles, sixteen different shrikes, and a multiplicity of other types and species.
While sitting beside a guide, driving through the brush in Botswana, he would point out the birds and give me time to look at them and compare them to their pictures and description in Newman's Guide. Suddenly, a small flash of gray and white, with a distinctive "T" in the tail, flew up from the trail in front of us. Although I had only seen the bird twice before, the image of this fascinating bird was so vivid in my mind, that I knew instantly that it was a Northern Wheater! I surprised myself...and I think I surprised the guide even more...that I could call out a bird that he had never seen. The Wheater landed only a hundred feet in front of us. The guide drove slowly up near the bird. For a long time, we both studied my fellow North American from the other side of the world, my little friend from the Arctic Tundra.
I have so many favorite birds. Take the Long-billed Curlew, Dr. George Lowery said, "They are not just ordinary birds. There is something indefinably exciting and special about them. Perhaps the feature that gives them character is their long, down-curved, sickle-shaped bell. Few sounds are more thrilling than this bird's clear, mellow whistle. Indeed, I pity the man who has never in his life stood far from the discordant sounds of civilization, and watched curlews probing with their long bills and giving out their wild cries."
With so many favorites, I can't even pick the top ten! Maybe I could pick the top one hundred.
How about you? What is your favorite bird? The second most favorite? Or your ten favorite birds? Would they be local birds, or migratory birds? Or do you have some special birds that may be special only to you?
Carlyle Rogillio
Reprinted with permission from Nature Society News
9 Jan 2001
Table of ContentsLOS NEWS, Page 2
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posted 09April2001