Thursday, April 3, 2014

Apr 2 (Day 92) - Mississippi arrival, 4000 mile plateau reached!

It is very difficult to believe that I am in Mississippi at the moment. It is even harder to believe that I reached this state by bike! I seem to be making distance west much faster than I thought I would. Today was no exception as I covered 92 miles west from Dauphin Island. I mentioned yesterday that birding on Dauphin was rather slow, so I decided to pull up stakes and head west towards my next significant destination, Eastern Texas. The southwest wind gave me a nice push, and I moved very steadily over the very flat ground. I covered the first 63 miles in just over 4 hours. I took my time with the last 30 miles as I made frequent birding and sightseeing stops.

92 miles to go over 4,000 for the year!

I did make one detour in the morning to see the very impressive fishing fleet at Bayou La Batre. There was not much light for photos, but I did take a few quick iPhone snaps to record the visit. Bayou La Batre felt like what I imagined the deep south would. I initially got a few funny looks from people but as soon as I said hello everyone was friendly enough. From what I could ascertain, it looks as though if you weren't working on a fishing boat in Bayou La Batre, you weren't working. There were so many boats that I can only imagine the manpower necessary to put them all into service. I am looking forward to seeing more towns like this in the next few days.

Big Shrimpin' in Bayou La Batre

Mississippi arrival

Most of the afternoon was spent riding along the Mississippi beachfront. I was able to add Least tern for bird #271 of 2014. This was the only bird I added today. It was really interesting to ride through this area that was completely destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in August of 2005. What I immediately noticed was how the beachfront area still looked like a demilitarized zone nearly 10 years later. Most of the oak trees had leaves, but it was clear that they had taken a huge beating at some point. It was really interesting to see how little construction there has been right along the beachfront. It looks as though people have finally grasped that building right on the Gulf is likely to be a losing proposition. There were several very large apartment type buildings along the beach, but there were no restaurants, small houses, shops, mini golf, amusements, or other things you might expect to find in a beachside resort community. When I was in Pensacola, I heard many stories about Hurricane Ivan which hit that area in 2004. It just seems as though there are very few areas of the Gulf Coast that have not been touched by hurricane disasters in recent memory. 

Long Beach, MS after Katrina. 
I am staying in this town tonight.

Katrina track showing landfall just west of Long Beach.
Areas just to east of where the eye lands are normally hit hardest.

Most of the late afternoon was spent with local birder and high school student, Michael Sandoz. Michael contacted me a few weeks ago when he heard about the project, and his family was gracious enough to host me on his behalf. He and I spent a few hours bouncing around his favorite local birding haunts on our bikes. We were able to tease out a few nice species including Solitary sandpiper and Orange-crowed warbler. It was fun to  do some casual neighborhood-style birding. I forgot to take a picture of us on our bikes, so here we are on the sofa watching the USA v. Mexico friendly.

The next few days are going to be a bit interesting. Tomorrow, Thursday, is going to be decent weather, but things are going to seriously deteriorate come Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Right now my plan is to head into New Orleans for the next 3-4 days. I think this bad weather is going to put some migrants down, but I am not near any particularly good migrant traps at the moment. Several people have suggested that I instead bird City Park in New Orleans and ride out the bad weather in the city. City Park can be very good for migrants even though it is not along the coast like many more traditional migrant traps. If it is anything like Central Park in NYC, it could be really good. I am so far ahead of schedule right now that there just isn't much point in moving much farther west at the moment. New Orleans is only ~75 miles from where I am now, so it should be a fairly easy ride tomorrow.

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