Monday, September 7, 2015

Cameron Parish, Labor Day 2015 (9/7/2015)

With gratitude in my soul to all of the Joe Hills that died to make America a better place for workers, I took a Labor Day trip to the coast this morning to see what had changed since Saturday. In short, a lot had.  There was no eye level swallow surge along the beach this morning, Caspian Terns were in big flocks, gnatcatchers were in single digits in all of the stops I made combined, I saw my first Marsh Hawk of the fall, Baltimore Orioles were passing through in groups, blackbirds seemed to be bunching up, and warbler diversity was down. Compared to Dan O'Malley's report from Maurepas Swamp where he noted major songbird movement, such movement was sparse in Cameron Parish. Perhaps his area was in last night's windstream and mine in a doldrum?

Best birds were this White-tailed Hawk...which I was thinking was a juvenile based on buff feather edgings on the mantle and the white markings around the eye, but need to bone up on to see if juves should have that bay patch on the shoulder...

Spot the hawk.

...and a Bell's Vireo.

But as with any good day, there were plenty of nice things to look at.

Blue Grosbeak
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Long-tailed Skipper? 
Swainson's Hawk

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Cameron Parish, 9/5/15

Yesterday, Dave Patton and I braved the swarms of holiday beach-goers, thirsty mosquitoes, and possessed deerflies to see what was happening in Cameron Parish.  We arrived early enough to beat some of the beach traffic, but there wasn't much variety on Holly Beach.  A couple of Marbled Godwits were fairly cooperative.  We later saw one feeding on a mowed lawn in Little Florida at Peveto Woods. 

We ended up with seven Reddish Egrets on Holly Beach as well. 

Plover diversity was good as well, including some Semipalmated Plovers. 

In Peveto Woods, birds were spotty, while the lizards were striped.  Sorry, couldn't resist. 

We saw a few Monarchs throughout the day, both in flight along the beach and nectaring in woodlots. 

This moth was very cool. 

A few species of bird dominated the day. At every stop we had the expected migrant Yellow Warblers, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, and Empidonax flycatchers.  Flying by and flying over all day there were Barn, Bank, and Cliff swallows. 

In terms of unexpected or early birds, we came upon a Vermilion Flycatcher on Chalkley Road. Being so early to the wintering grounds, it's tempting to assume it's one of last year's winterers returning for another winter.  We also startled up an American Kestrel from its frog dinner.  Both of these birds are a bit early, which apparently rendered them a bit blurry. 

All in all, a good day. Bugs were horrible at times, and by the end of the day there were a lot of people everywhere near the beach, but once we got inland a bit, the temperature and the pace cooled down.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Cameron Parish, August 29, 2015

I went outside on Thursday morning just before I left for school. It was still dark out, but even so the air felt unexpectedly cool. I could only hope the unseasonal weather would last through the weekend.

I was on the road by 4:30 this morning, driving toward the moon and hoping to see the sun rise over the coast. My weather app said the moon was 99% full, or something crazy like that. I've been hearing about a "super moon," and I may have been a day early for that, but when the moon turned orange on its way down, it looked pretty super to me.

It was morning twilight when I hit Holly Beach, but there were already gull flocks behind the shrimp boats just offshore. Riding with the windows down felt great, almost chilly. There weren't many people on the beach, just a few zipped tents, but the birds were a bit jumpy in the half-light.

Beach birds were typical, lots of Laughing Gulls and assorted terns with a few young birds mixed in. The only exception I noticed was a confused Marbled Godwit that walked up to see what I was.

Peveto was still wet with dew, but a recent mowing made it easy to walk around without getting soaked. The temperature was perfect, and bugs were few.

Fall flowers are really putting on a show now, as are the creatures that use them for various purposes.

(Hey now, what's that's hiding on this Kosteletzkya?)  

Painted Lady*
The birdlife was pretty good for the somewhat early migration date. Yellow-throated, Canada, Wilson's, and Black-and-White warblers, Traill's, Yellow-bellied, and Least flycatchers, and a few other migrants.

I made sure to take photos of the butterflies and moths so someone else can ID them for me*.  I did see a Monarch today, always a welcome fall sight.
Fiery Skipper*
Question Mark*
Alanthus Webworm Moth*
From Peveto I went to Lighthouse Road.  There's a lot of heavy work going on there. The leveed ponds have been leveled off and some are being drained. The drainage ditch has a steady flow of water pouring into a canal, and whatever's in the water, the birds love it.

And apparently the alligators do, too.

There were hundreds of Black Terns, dozens of spoonbills, and hundreds of Snowy and Great Egrets. A stealth white Reddish Egret was present as well.

Inside of the levees there were hundreds of shorebirds. Peeps were in roadside puddles as well. It was interesting to see fresh juvenile peeps like the Semipalmated Sandpiper below rubbing shoulders with molting Boat-tailed Grackles. 

The Lighthouse Woods are in good shape. Unfortunately, so are the mosquitoes and ticks. I had a swarm of the former and one of the latter.

I had a couple of interesting arthropods there as well. As I was walking through the field around the woods, a small butterfly moved ahead of me. It landed on a morning glory and then suddenly appeared to flop on its side. I knew what that meant. Remember the spider on the Kosteletzkya flower above? It has cousins at Lighthouse.

I guess that's a Pygmy Blue** it has in its grip. Whatever it is, it looks larger on my monitor than it did in real life. I'd call it a pygmy.

Birdwise, Lighthouse Woods was slow but interesting. A White-tailed Kite was there when I arrived. I managed a long-distance snap through the spotting scope that's OK but fails to do this beautiful bird justice.

Also present in the woods were Hooded Warbler, Scissortails, and a Baltimore Oriole.

As mentioned, the bugs were bad, but at least the giant ragweed wasn't. The magnificent stand of ragweed will be manna for the birds if it doesn't get mowed before it blooms and sets seed. It will be an allergic nightmare for allergy sufferers like me, though, and it's this closing to blooming:

After Lighthouse I headed to Hackberry Ridge/Secret Place. It held a couple of Prairie Warblers, more empid flycatchers, and surprisingly only a few Blue-gray Gnatcatchers.

The wires on the way in held a nice group of swallows, including some formerly rare Cave Swallows mixed in with Bank and Barn swallows. 

The Cave Swallows were preening, and I managed to get snaps of their stretches that show their open wings.  Both show molt in progress in their primaries. The molt must be almost at a stopping point because the outer primaries are usually older and paler than the rest of the outer wing when we see them passing through in October. 

The best bird at Secret Place was the Bell's Vireo seen in several views below. It can be considered "formerly rare" as well, I guess, as it was recently removed from the state Review List.  This record seems early, but Matt Conn had a Bell's Vireo this week in Iberia Parish, so there must be a late August surge in progress.

I wrapped the day up after Secret Place, heading back early. What had started out as a temperate day had become bright, hot, and dry. Fall migration is just getting underway. There'll be other days.

*Thanks to Charlie Lyon for doing so; see all asterisked leps.
**Thanks to Charlie again for letting me know it's a Western Pygmy Blue. I know that Dave Patton has told me that many times, but...