Did you know that Palmetto Island State Park is on the edge of Mississippi Flyway? You can spend hours watching birds that both migrate through and call the park home. Don't forget your binoculars and camera!
We'd like to especially thank Erik Johnson, and the other members of the Louisiana Bird Observatory (LABO) for sharing most of these pictures and information. LABO is part of the Baton Rouge Audubon Society (BRAS), who is a chapter of the National Audubon Society.
The 6th running of the Palmetto Island CBC was held January 4, 2022. The count circle is centered at Palmetto Island State Park in Vermilion Parish. We were actually short 1 area this year, as LDWF could not sponsor the boat area south of Erath/Delcambre. So: 8 groups/areas, 24 individuals, 3 feeders
The species count total this year was 150 species, right on the 5 year average of 151 and the 6 year total count is now a very impressive 193 species, after adding 5 new species to the count this year. The species count is a little misleading because the overall number were way down almost across the board. In particular, waterfowl and woodland winter birds were down over 75% in some cases.
Interestingly, shorebirds were at or above the 6 year average in most cases.
I think the strong cold front 2 days before the count really moved some birds around. It was the strongest front to date at that time.
The count circle is in an unique area of Louisiana that is an intersection of major terrain trends. The circle includes bottomland hardwoods from old Vermilion/Mississippi River 'meanderings' , coastal prairies, agricultural fields, freshwater marshes, 'urban' Abbeville down to the Cameron like industrial port of Intracoastal City. Each area has distinct terrain types and produces a different ‘dataset’ of birds for the list. Its easy to see why the species count is so high year after year. There were 21 ‘exclusives’ spread out amongst the 8 groups.
New to the list: Short-Eared Owl, Cave Swallow, Least Bittern, American Bittern, Yellow-Headed Blackbird
Best of the rest: 16 species of waterfowl (albeit low totals), 17 birds of prey (including 5 owls), Painted Bunting, Wilsons Warbler, B-W Warbler, all expected woodland birds, 4 swallows, 5 wrens
Worst misses: only 2 hummers, just very low numbers (40 robins!), Cedar Waxwing, Pine Siskin, Purple Finch
Record high counts of note: B-T Grackle(3115), Swamp Sparrow(356), Downy WP(44), B.Kingfisher(53), LB Dowitcher(469), Least Sandpiper(620), BN Stilt(750), WF & W Ibis(25K).
Special thanks to the great birders who spent their day with us: Mac Myers, Marc Broussard, Angela Trahan, Patti Hollard, Dave Patton, Marybeth Lima, Rob Dobbs, Brac Salyers, Andy Form, Judge Edwards, Elizabeth Edwards, Erik Johnson, Leah Carleton, Mike Musumeche, John Parker, Mary Tutweiler, Cheryl Huner, Amanda Anderson, Marty Guidry, Jayne Williamson, Nick Ramsey and Garrett Rhyne and feeders Sandra Dehart and Phillip Wallace.
If anyone would like to see the entire list, send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’m happy to send it over.
Bet you've seen Vultures roosting in dead trees at the Park. Often before air becomes warm enough to soar, you'll see them spread their wings to dry off the morning dew, looking as if they are honoring the sunrise.
Prothonotary Warblers is a species of high conservation concern, and Palmetto Island State Park provides some exceptional habitat for this beautiful swamp-loving bird. These warblers are also known as Swamp Candles.
They spend the summers in Louisiana to breed and raise their young. Keep an eye out near the boardwalk and you may see one of these boxes being used by a pair of these bright yellow birds.
Sometime in the fall they begin to travel South from LA (across the Gulf of Mexico) to escape our cold wet winters. They go to Colombia when they leave LA. This discovery was made in part by tracking birds from this very State Park
Swainson’s Warblers are rarer than the Prothonotary Warbler also found at Palmetto Island. “Rarer” meaning in relation to numbers and distribution. The thought is that these warblers are probably ‘specialist’ in terms of habitat. These birds are not easy to catch. A special song is played, tricking the males into thinking that another male has invaded his territory. The females are rarely caught. They also don’t take to nesting boxes like the Prothonotary Warblers do. They prefer the dense under-stories, more like oaks or other hardwoods and thick with vines like muscadines. While they prefer a dryer habitat than the Prothonotary Warblers (cypress-tupelo swamp), they still like it to be wet. Palmetto Island’s bottom-land hardwood forest habitat is probably ideal, because to date, it is the only place known in Vermilion Parish that supports this little warbler. Swainson’s Warblers cross the Gulf of Mexico in the spring, spending the summers in Louisiana breeding and raising their young. Sometime in the fall they begin to travel south from LA to escape our cold wet winters. They usually begin a major migration at night. It is suspected that they go to Central America or the Western Caribbean for the winter.
Even if you haven’t seen this little fella, I bet you’ve heard him drumming on the trees at the park. At home in swamps and riverside woods. Despite the name, you probably won’t see red on their belly unless you are handling them up close. They usually nest in cavities excavated in dead wood about 50 feet above ground. They climb up tree trunks (called hitching) by hopping upward and using their tails to support themselves. Learn more about this noisy bird and listen to their different calls by visiting Audubon.org .
The male Rose-breasted Grosbeak, boldly patterned in black, white, and rose, is easily identified. You probably won't miss the large, conical, pale bill. The drab, striped female, however, is more of a challenge, resembling a large sparrow or finch. A common bird of forests and second growth, the grosbeak's song is like that of the robin, only as sung by an opera singer, being mellower and more sweetly melodic. These grosbeaks choose open woodlands near water, thick brush, large trees near open areas, marsh borders, overgrown pastures, dense growth of small trees, woodland edges, gardens, parks. Red breasted grosbeaks love to eat potato bugs, gypsy moths, sunflower seeds, corn, thistle, safflower, cherries, white ash tree buds, elm tree seeds, hickory tree blossoms, and suet. Creating an environment rich in their favorite foods will help attract red breasted grosbeaks to your yard. You might catch a peek at this migrater at Palmetto Island mid April to mid May.