Friday, May 20, 2011

Birds Galore!

After leaving Pensacola, we drove west along Route 10 through Mississippi and Alabama towards Louisiana - taking a short detour to Biloxi and Gulfport. Both towns are right on the Gulf and the severe damage from Hurricane Katrina is still evident. The beautiful, majestic mansions that once lined the coast looking out towards the ocean have been replaced with vacant lots.

On the beach side of the highway, I noticed large flocks of shore birds and when I went to investigate further, I found nesting Least Terns.

The beach was covered with them!

Least Terns are the smallest of the American Terns at about 8 inches. According to their conservation status is of "least concern" but according to posted signs, the site is protected by both Federal and State laws.

On the beach next to one of the Least Tern nesting sites was a large group of Black Skimmers.

We spent our second night in Baton Rouge, Louisiana - even though our GPS really wanted us to go north on Route 55 to Memphis. It was a good thing we didn't heed her constant nagging to turn around as Route 40 between Memphis and Little Rock was closed due to the severe flooding.

While listening to the news about the flooding, we heard that the ferry across the Mississippi River from St. Francisville to New Roads was taking its last ride at 10 AM that morning - with a brand new bridge opening to take its place. We turned the car towards St. Francisville and crossed the Mississippi River on the next to the last crossing. It cost us $1. New Roads is just south of the Morganza spillway and the ferry launch terminals are now underwater.

Bill and I loved Louisiana. The people were gracious and friendly - but the FOOD was beyond fabulous! Bill enjoyed his 5 pounds of crawfish at Boutin's - one of the best Cajun restaurants in Baton Rouge and I LOVED the etouffee at Fresh Catch Seafood Bistreaux in Marksville.

We spent our third night in Little Rock and visited with people displaced by the flooding. The next morning as we headed north towards Shell Knob, MO we saw some of the flooding first hand. Acres of farm land were under water.

The next three days were spent with our very good friends, Mike and Mel at their beautiful home on Table Rock Lake. My favorite place is their porch, which overlooks their large, wooded backyard, the lake and (best-of-all) their bird feeders! The American Goldfinches were fabulous in their full mating plumage.

Mike and Mel promised us that they had seen Baltimore Orioles in the yard. We just caught a glimpse. The picture is lousy - but I know the sighting doesn't count unless you have a picture!

There were lots of Cardinals. I think the females are beautiful!

We heard the loud voice of the Carolina Wrens before we saw them.

Early one morning, Bill decided to try his new owl call that Captain Erica had taught him - Whoo, whoo, who-cooks-for-you. We didn't see any owls - but he drove the hawks mad! Two of them immediately arrived to survey the area - screaming to scare away the intruder. The rest of the birds - and even the squirrels - disappeared. It was quite a sight! Mike reports that the hawks are STILL looking for the owls. Naturally, Mike keeps provoking them with his own call. He says he's saving lots of money on bird seed.

There were three Pileated Woodpeckers across the street - two adults and a juvenile. The baby didn't yet have the red top notch.

But the best bird sighting was this magnificent Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

He sat on the tree right in front of us. I couldn't get enough pictures!

The female Rose-breasted is just as pretty - but in a different way.

I love the Tufted Titmice - and there were lots of them entertaining us.

We saw both Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers. I think this is the smaller Downy - but unless they are side-by-side, I'm never sure.

We had a wonderful visit with Mike and Mel. Mel is amazing - always upbeat, smiling and doing what ever it takes to make her guests feel welcome and comfortable. I really admire her.

Back at our summer home in Colorado Springs, we have been constantly entertained with migrating birds. This is the first time we've seen the Bullock's Oriole in the yard - and we have had several pairs eating the berries in the bushes that border the backyard. This one is bright orange, like its first cousin, the Baltimore Oriole. One of the others is more bright yellow.

The Western Tanagers arrived right on schedule and we have had several pairs everyday.

This little Yellow Warbler is another first for the yard. We've seen them on our hikes - but are very pleased he stopped on his way to his breeding grounds.

I just took this picture of the Bullock's Oriole a few minutes ago. They are amazingly beautiful birds. We certainly delight in the creatures that visit our backyard - which, by the way, is looking better and better each day. Bill has worked hard mowing & trimming, thatching & raking, weeding & seeding, setting up the pond and planting flowers. He's hard at work right now.

Our usual visitors have returned - House Finches, Sparrows, Robins and Mourning Doves by the dozens, a Northern Flicker & Scrub Jay, We again have Mountain Chickadees nesting in one of the bird houses and Mr. Squirrel is still trying to get to the feeders.

Life is especially good.

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