Sunday, 28 October 2012

Hi Ho Hi Ho, It's Off to Bird We Go

Day two of the Yellow Rice and Rails Festival started before dawn as a group of us met in the lobby of the Hampton Inn to plan a trip to the Kisatchie National Forest.  It was 75 miles and nearly an hour and a half drive up to the place from Jennings.  Our seven car convoy, unlike the seven dwarfs heading off to the Lucky Charms mines, did not have the merriest of drives.  Crazy Louisiana drivers on numerous occasions passed on the left, even into oncoming traffic, and on one occasion cut directly in front of me.  On another occasion, just before I made a right turn, a large transport truck blew through the intersection and honked a the cars in front of him.  Crazy.

However, we did get to the forest after a 30 minute rest and bathroom stop, something I am sure the dwarfs never had to bother with.  Our leader, Daniel Lane, had three target birds for us, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Bachman's Sparrow and Red-cockaded Woodpecker.  With the help of his, well, helpers, we quickly found the nuthatch high in a tree and go okay looks and photos of it.  After the group had a good look at it we went in search of the sparrow.  Dan played it's call on his iPod and it didn't take long for the helpers to find it in a bush.  We then teamed up to surround the bush and in short order the Bachman's Sparrow hopped up to the top and we all got great looks and photos of it.

The rest of the morning was spent trying and failing to find the woodpecker, in various locations, though they did find a fine variety of bird species, including the first fall record of a Red-breasted Nuthatch for the forest.  As it was getting on toward lunch time Dan suggested we go to another location and see if we could find a Henslow's Sparrow, and then they were all going to go get a Mexican Lunch, sans me as I don't eat mexican food.  However, something went wrong along the way and after about 45 minutes the convoy pulled into the Mexican place.  I was a little bit cranky over having to drive 38 miles, just to turn around and head back to the forest.

Luckily I had saved one of the woodpecker locations in my gps and headed right back to that spot, and spent the the rest of the afternoon searching the forest for the Red-cockaded Woodpecker.  I drove from location to location inspecting every woodpecker tree.  They are marked with white rings on the trees and every habitat that has the woodpeckers has a nice yellow sign indicating their presence.  However they were pretty much absent all afternoon.  Around 4pm, after nearly two hours of searching, I headed back to my GPS'd locating, as it was the largest of the many woodpecker areas.

I walked around, scanned the treees and was treated to a lovely Brown-headed Nuthatch Show, including a few good photos.  I figured that if I stayed around long enough at least one of the woodpeckers would return to nest for the night.  Well, as it was getting close to 5pm and with the sun dipping toward the horizon, I heard a call, then saw what I thought was a woodpecker fly through and across to the other side of the road.  I abandoned the nuthatches and hurried over.  Just as I raised my binoculars, though, the bird flew back to my side of the road.  I followed, listened for its call and heard and saw it pecking above my head.  I got a good look at it, to confirm it was, indeed, the Red-cockaded Woodpecker.  I followed it to another tree, and lost it, found it again after seeing some bark fall to the ground.  I finally got a got my camera on it and took some nice photos.

On my way out of the park I ran into a small group of the birders who had missed out on the woodpecker earlier and had come back to search after lunch.  I pulled over and asked them if they had seen the bird.  Nope.  I smiled and said I had.  They were thrilled.  Asked me where and when.  I showed them the photos I took and the map on my iPhone that gave them directions to where I had seen it.  I don't know if they found it, but I expect they did, as more of them should have been returning to roost in the trees for the night.

It turned out to be a long but fun and successful day.  I got three year birds, and when added to the Yellow Rail from the previous day, I am leaving Louisiana and the Yellow Rails and Rice Festival with 548 species for the year.  Ya'all should go to Louisiana and see the rails sometime.  Try the crawfish.  I did.  One was enough.

1 comment:

  1. wowwwwww red cockaded woodpecker thats great robert i want to ask you haw will you know if you win the big year in the end?