Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Apr 8 (Day 98) - Lots of year birds on a windy Louisiana day!

The forecast today called for very heavy winds from the northwest this afternoon, so I decided to get rolling early this morning. I left New Iberia, heading northwest, at around 7:15am. I made some nice ground over the course of the next two hours, but the wind started to increase in the third hour and continued to do so through noon. By the time I arrived in Jennings at 2:30pm, the wind had built to a steady 22 MPH with gusts up to 30 MPH. The last hour and a half of the ride were really tough, and I am very glad that I did not attempt to ride any further than I did. So much of this year depends on staying healthy that it is really important that I get off the road when I am too tired to ride or the conditions are too dangerous. The wind almost blew me off the bike several times, so I think I made the right decision to bail out when I did.

65 windy miles today

After I arrived in Jennings, I immediately noticed how dehydrated I had become. I normally drink a decent amount of water as I ride, but today was a completely different story. I had cycled 65 miles over the course of 7+ hours, and I had consumed only 32 ounces of water. I soon realized why I drank so little today: the high winds required me to have both hands on the handlebars in order to control the bike. I realized that the only time I drank water was when I stopped to look at birds. I was literally so focused on fighting the wind that I forgot to drink!

Despite these difficulties, I did some really productive roadside birding today. At 9:15am I noticed a small bird singing from a snag in a roadside field. I do not often stop for distant single birds in fields (I'd never get anywhere if I did!), but something seemed different to me in this instance. I did not recognize the song, but a quick look with the binoculars revealed a Dickcissel (#278)! This is not a song that I hear in the Northeast, so it is not surprising that I did not recognize it.

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Decent road with little traffic!

More of the same!

Wet field filled with shorebirds

The birding really picked up around 10:30. I saw several shorebirds scurrying about in the wet field pictured above. These turned out to be 9 Baird's sandpipers (#279). I checked the rest of the field and found a myriad of other shorebird including Killdeer, both yellowlegs, Dunlin, and assorted peeps. As I continued along the road, I found several other wet fields and ponds that held numbers of shorebirds. I tacked on both dowitchers, Black-necked stilt, and several Gull-billed terns. At one point I noticed a very suspicious plover. I quickly broke out the scope to confirm my suspicions of an American golden plover (#280). This bird was standing in belly deep water in the middle of a pond. This was a bit of a surprise since I normally see these in agricultural fields. Additional scanning of the area revealed a single Pectoral sandpiper (#281). 

Digiscoped Golden plover from today. 
Note thin bill, dark cap, and bright white supercilium.

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Golden plover from my collection. Bill is thinner than below.

Here is a Black-bellied plover for comparison.
There is less contrast between the cap and supercilium.

 Baird's sandpiper from my collection. Note the very long wings, 
buffy breast, and scaly back.

Pectoral Sandpiper from my collection. This is a juvenile
bird form last fall. Note two toned bill and yellow legs. He
looks a bit like a giant least sandpiper. This is one of
my favorite photographs I have taken.

After a few birding stops, it was time to put my head down and start hammering on the pedals. The wind had really picked up by 11:30 when I left these birds, and I still had 25 miles of riding to do. These miles were really rough as the wind continued to build. Despite this wind, the year birds kept coming. A flock of ~25 Fulvous whistling-ducks (#282) flew right over my head, circled a few times,  and landed in a flooded roadside field. A bit further down the road I spotted two small doves that turned out to be Inca doves (#283) for the 6th year bird of the day. I'l tell you, 20 MPH winds are much easier to handle when there are avian distractions!

I am sorry for not trying to digiscope more of these birds today, but repeatedly breaking out the scope really shatters my riding rhythm. I also have my old (but still semi-functional) tired strapped the the bike, so accessing the scope is more of a headache now than it was previously. I keep the scope in a waterproof bag that is wrapped in a lightweight jacket. The jacket serves to cushion the scope and hide it from curious eyes; There's no need to advertise what I am carrying!

Out of focus, but you get the idea of how the scope is packed.

I was beat by the time I arrived in Jennings. Tomorrow I will ride to Lake Charles with a detour through some sod fields to search for Buff-breasted sandpiper. I will also stop by a Cave swallow colony on this detour. Outside of these stops, I am not sure what other birding opportunities with pop up along the road. If it is anything like today, it will be another great day!


  1. Dorian, Glad you had such good birds to help with your morale as you battled the winds! Caution ... every time you talk about where your camera and optics are stowed, I cringe. Maybe you shouldn't assume that only us friendlies are reading this blog. Sad to say. Take care!

  2. I understand your concern, but hey, its only stuff!