Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Apr 9 (Day 99) - A beautiful Louisiana day with more year birds!

First, a quick note about fundraising. Please use the BIG GREEN DONATION BOX just to the right to donate (yes, just over there >>>>>>). Please do not donate directly to The Conservation Fund or the American Birding Association. Your donations need to go through the BIG GREEN DONATION BOX to count towards the fundraising goals of this project! Thanks to everyone who has donated already! If you're on the fence now is the time! The BIG GREEN DONATION BOX is calling your name!

Today was one of the most enjoyable days of the year so far. Every variable fell into perfect place: temperatures topped out at 72 degrees, a gentle breeze imparted a beautiful touch of animation to the roadside grasses, the roads were in fantastic shape and lightly trafficked, and birds populated the roadside from the day's start to its finish. At one point I found myself slowly and deliberately weaving back and forth across the yellow center line as though I was doing a slalom down the road. The road was mine and mine alone, and I wanted to take all the time I could to traverse the long, flat stretch of land that was laid out ahead of me. My breathing had slowed, and I relaxed in the knowledge and satisfaction that I had quit my job and cycled over 4,000 miles just to enjoy this stretch of road on this day. It was a the type of day that will keep me going through the less perfect ones that are sure to surface beyond today.

A perfect Louisiana day!

52 miles today

Last night I stayed right next to the Jennings, LA airport. I thought that it would be a good place to look for Golden plovers, Upland sandpipers, and Buff-breasted sandpipers. The sun was in the wrong position to scan the field yesterday evening, but when I scoped it this morning I was able to find no fewer than 20(!) Upland sandpipers. This is by far the most Uppies I have seen in one place at one time. It was a real treat! The Buff-breasted eluded me today, but I plan to keep looking for this species in the next few days.

The first year bird I added today was Hudsonian godwit (#284). We find these in the Northeast, but only in the fall. Hudsonian godwits migrate through the center of the country as they move north in the spring, and along the North Atlantic seaboard as they move south in fall. What this means for those of us that live in the Northeast is that we never get to see this beautiful bird in its breeding plumage. In breeding plumage these birds are clothed in stunning chestnut feathers; This plumage is molted out post-breeding and is replaced by a largely gray, non-breeding cloak. Only hints of the breeding colors remain when they get to Massachusetts in the fall. Today was the first time I have ever seen this bird in breeding plumage. It certainly lived up to my expectations - even backlit. I am hoping to find a few of these that will present for photos. I would love to get a breeding shot to compliment my collection of winter plumage shots from the Northeast.

Hudsonian godwit migration

Breeding Hudsonian godwit 
***not my photo***

A Fall/Winter plumage Hudsonian godwit I photographed in 
Massachusetts - Note the residual breeding color on his flanks.

I have noticed that the birding has acquired a noticeably western flavor to it in the last two days. After the godwit, I added several other central and western species to the year list. Great-tailed grackle checked in at #285, Scissor-tailed flycatcher at #286, Cave swallow at #287, and White-crowned sparrow at #288. I had a particularly fun time with the Cave swallows. I had been alerted to a small colony that was right long my route. This colony also contained large numbers of Cliff swallow and Barn swallows. I spent half an hour practicing picking the Caves out from the other two. I did this both with and without binoculars. Cave swallows routinely show up in the Northeast in the fall, so hopefully this practice will help me find wandering Caves when I return to Boston after 2014. 

Quick record shot of Scissor-tail flycatcher.
Ugh, I hate wires in my shots!

Swallow nests on underside of Interstate 10

I am going to spend tomorrow with some friends doing so non-birding activities. I will start moving towards Texas on Friday. Here's a fun sign I found along the road today!

Louisiana cookin'!

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