Andrew Clem blog home


A diary of birds I've observed, spiced up with photos and occasional commentary. Clockwise from top left: Burrowing Owl, Red-breasted Merganser, Yellow-breasted Chat, Purple Gallinule, Summer Tanager, Gray Hawk, Virginia Rail, and (in center) Magnolia Warbler.

Wild bird montage shadow
Special archives:

Bird photos

Captions identifying the birds in these photo montages are found on the Wild Birds intro page.

Birding Web sites:

Reciprocal links:


Conservation links


March 10, 2021 [LINK / comment]

Birding in Louisiana (& nearby areas)

Two weeks ago, Jacqueline and I took a road trip to New Orleans, and of course, birding was one of the major objectives. Of the three major stops on our way down there (Chattanooga, Birmingham, and Tuscaloosa), I only had one notable bird encounter -- two or three Eastern Towhees calling in the empty lots adjacent to Rickwood Field in Birmingham. At the rest stops along I-59 in Alabama and Mississippi, we saw plenty of American Robins, along with some probable Cedar Waxwings and Yellow-rumped Warblers. Just after 3:00 PM on Monday February 22, we crossed into Louisiana. I tried to find one of the birding hot spots listed in my Reader's Digest book Where the Birds Are (2007), Bogue Chitto National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), but soon decided it was too difficult to reach. About 20 minutes later we arrived at the second such hot spot that I had prioritized in that book...

Big Branch Marsh

Big Branch Marsh NWR is located on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, about 25 miles north-northeast of downtown New Orleans. After locating the Boy Scout trail head located in a stand of tall pine trees, Jacqueline and I went for a walk along the boardwalk. Red-cockaded Woodpeckers are known to nest in that area, and I found a nest hole surrounded by oozing pine sap, matching the description of that species' nest hole. I didn't have much time to search, but things soon got interesting, as I saw multiple Brown-headed Nuthatches and Pine Warblers in the tree tops. Up ahead on the boardwalk, Jacqueline then called out that a pink bird was in the water: indeed, it was a Roseate Spoonbill! After that we saw Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Little Blue Herons, and Snowy Egrets. It was almost too dazzling to behold, a lot like some of the places I had visited in Florida four years earlier. On our way out of Big Branch Marsh, we saw several Orange-crowned Warblers in the bushes -- my first definite sighting of that species -- as well as Yellow-rumped Warblers. One photo I took which I thought was an Orange-crowned Warbler (on the right in the montage below) is probably a Common Yellowthroat, based on the pink legs and a hint of a "face mask." In any event, it was quite a spectacular start to our adventure in Louisiana!

Montage 2021 Feb 22

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Brown-headed Nuthatch, Snowy Egrets, Pine Warbler, Common Yellowthroat (?), Roseate Spoonbill, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, and Little Blue Heron. (Big Branch Marsh NWR, February 22, 2021)

New Orleans

The next day was devoted to exploring New Orleans, but we came across a surprising number of interesting birds in various neighborhoods. While having breakfast at Cafe Du Monde I heard and then saw a Yellow-rumped Warbler very close by. They are quite abundant in Louisiana during the winter, I found. While walking along the Mississippi River late in the morning, Jacqueline and I saw several Brown Pelicans fly past, just a few feet above the water. High above, a flock of American White Pelicans (40+) passed by in tight formation. The former are year-round residents, and the latter winter along the Gulf coast before returning to their breeding grounds on lakes across the northern plains. There's a good reason that Louisiana is called "The Pelican State"! To my surprise, there were several dozen Lesser Scaup on the river, as well as a few Double-crested Cormorants. In the afternoon, we took the St. Charles Avenue streetcar about four miles west to Audubon Park, across from Tulane and Loyola Universities. There we saw a Great Egret, a White Ibis, a pair of Northern Shovelers, and many Yellow-rumped Warblers, American Robins, etc., etc.

Montage 2021 Feb 23

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: American White Pelicans, Brown Pelican, Great Egret, Lesser Scaup, Double-crested Cormorant, White Ibis, and in center, Yellow-rumped Warbler. (New Orleans, February 23, 2021)

Bayou country birding

The plan on Wednesday was to explore the swampy bayou country that surrounds New Orleans, but unfortunately the skies had turned cloudy, and the birds seemed correspondingly less abundant. In the morning we headed southwest from New Orleans to the Barataria Preserve at the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park. It was true "bayou" country, with almost all the houses raised 5' - 10' feet above the ground to guard against flooding from hurricanes. Eventually we found the trail head, behind some local school buildings. There is a one-mile boardwalk (similar to Augusta Springs) that provides an excellent view of swamp ecology, and we saw lots of huge yellow snails, turtles, lizards ("Green Anoles"), and three alligators! Yellow-rumped Warblers were all around, once again, but not until the end did we see other species. Those included Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Eastern Phoebes, Swamp Sparrows, Red-winged Blackbirds, Pileated Woodpeckers, as well as a Great Egret and a Little Blue Heron.

Later we drove back through the city toward the northeast, and after a few odd turns found the Bayou Sauvage NWR, about 15 miles to the northeast. I had high hopes, but almost all of the birds were what we had seen before: Yellow-rumped Warblers, a Great Egret, a Little Blue Heron, and many Red-winged Blackbirds and American Robins. The one notable novelty there was a Caspian Tern hunting over a bayou. I originally thought it was a Common Tern, and then a Forster's Tern, but the thick reddish bill is indicative.

In the late afternoon we headed east into Mississippi, where we saw the Gulf of Mexico for the first time. There were many Brown Pelicans, Laughing Gulls, and other gulls I could not identify on the beaches and fishing piers as the sun sank in the west. For the rest of our drive back to Virginia (via Montgomery, Atlanta, and Spartanburg, SC) we really didn't stop for long enough to look for birds. At the Virginia welcome center along I-77 on Friday morning we saw a number of Common Grackles and American Robins, but not much else.

Montage 2021 Feb 24

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: [Caspian] Tern, E. Phoebe, Laughing Gull, Little Blue Heron, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Red-winged Blackbird, and in center, Yellow-rumped Warbler. (Jean Lafitte and Bayou Sauvage, February 24, 2021)

Many of the birds in the above montages, and even more, can be seen in separate photographs on the Wild Birds chronological (2021) page. It is intended to better accommodate the larger standard-sized bird photos -- 600 x 450 pixels, rather than 480 x 360 pixels, which used to be my standard size for bird photos. The increase in size reflects the improved power and quality of the new Canon PowerShot SX70 camera that I recently bought to replace the SX50 model of the same line that I had used for eight years. For the first three weeks of February, I hardly did any birding at all, since the old camera ceased to function on January 31. I hope the new camera is as durable as the old one was. So far I am very satisfied with the quality of the new camera, but there are still some things I need to learn about it.

February 21, 2021 [LINK / comment]

B-b-birding in January

The weather in January was fairly mild until the latter part of the month, when the "real" winter finally arrived, with snow and frigid temperatures. The month started off on a rather auspicious note, as I undertook an expedition to hopefully see a Snowy Owl that had been sighted near Mt. Crawford for the preceding few days. It's about a 20 mile drive, but to my surprise the effort paid off right away. The owl was perched on top of a row of plastic-encased hay bales, perhaps 80 yards from the parking area behind the local rescue squad where a number of birders had gathered. Someone said that there was a better view from the neighboring farm, so most of us drove over there, and indeed we had very good views from less than 40 yards away. The owl turned its head occasionally, but didn't fly at all during the half hour or so that I was there. Afterwards, I drove over to the nearby Cook's Creek Arboretum on the northeast side of Bridgewater, hoping to see an Eastern Screech Owl that often roosts in a nest box there. Bingo again: two owls in one day! On my way home to Staunton I stopped at Bell's Lane in hopes of seeing a third owl (Short-eared), but settled for a nice photo of a White-crowned Sparrow.

Montage 2 Jan 2021

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Eastern Screech Owl (Cook's Creek Arboretum), Snowy Owl (Mt. Crawford), American Kestrel, N. Mockingbird, Great Blue Heron, and White-crowned Sparrow (Bell's Lane, Jan. 2)

On Friday, January 8th, I joined Penny Warren's walk along Bells Lane, with several other Augusta Bird Club members. We may have set some kind of record with at least six and possibly seven Red-tailed Hawks at various places. Highlights of unusual birds included Golden-crowned Kinglets, Yellow-rumped Warblers (which seem to be quite scarce this winter), Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, a Winter Wren, an Eastern Towhee, and a Fox Sparrow. Later in the day, I returned in hopes of photographing the Fox Sparrow. No luck in that regard, but I did see a lone Rusty Blackbird in that same location.

Montage 8 Jan 2021

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Red-tailed Hawk, Carolina Wren, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Rusty Blackbird, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and Golden-crowned Kinglet. (Bell's Lane, Jan. 8)

On January 10 I paid a visit to the home of Al Wolf, who lives in a restored mill house next to the South River near Crimora, north of Waynesboro. Al has frequently reported all sorts of unusual birds at his house or on the river, and this time it was a small group of Evening Grosbeaks. I had no luck with that species (once again), but I did see plenty of other birds, most notably some Brown Creepers. Al was a very gracious host, and invited me to walk along the wooded trails on his property.

Montage 10 Jan 2021

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Hairy Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Brown Creeper, Carolina (?) Chickadee, American Kestrel, and House Finch. (Red Mill, Crimora on Jan. 10)

On January 17 I spotted a Cooper's Hawk in back of where we live, and managed to get a decent photo just before it flew away. A Sharp-shinned Hawk has also been terrorizing the songbirds that come to feed out back. I also got other nice photos of yard birds before Jacqueline and I went for a drive up to Bridgewater in the afternoon. It was a cloudy day, and we really didn't see any birds of note until I spotted a Kestrel on the Blue Ridge Community College campus on the way back to Staunton.

Montage 17 Jan 2021

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Cooper's Hawk, White-breasted Nuthatch, American Kestrel*, and Downy Soodpecker. (North Staunton except * Mt. Crawford on the Blue Ridge Community College campus, Jan. 17)

On January 23, I led a field trip for a hike at Braley Pond, joined by three other members of the Augusta Bird Club who braved the freezing temperatures. Not surprisingly, very few birds were observed. Aside from a probable Winter Wren, the highlight of the day was a pair of Golden-crowned Kinglets about a quarter mile upstream from the pond, which was mostly frozen.

Montage 17 Jan 2021

Golden-crowned Kinglet (upstream from Braley Pond, Jan. 23)

The rest of the month was fairly uneventful, but I did get nice views of a Red-shouldered Hawk, a Short-eared Owl, and some Snow Geese. Those photos and others can be seen on the Wild Birds yearly page.

On the very last day of the month my eight-year old Canon PowerShot SX50 camera malfunctioned, and given its age, it is probably not worth repairing. Between the cold weather and the lack of a camera, I hardly did any birding at all until yesterday. I bought a replacement camera that is an upgraded version of the same line: a PowerShot SX70. It has a stronger zoom lens (65x vs. 50x), with better quality electronics, and will be very handy on future adventures...

tiny tanager

Favorite warblers
(already seen):

  1. Chestnut-sided Warbler
  2. Magnolia Warbler
  3. Prothonotary Warbler
  4. Blackburnian Warbler
  5. Yellow Warbler
  6. Northern Parula
  7. Black-throated Green Warbler
  8. Canada Warbler
  9. Common Yellowthroat
  10. American Redstart

Yet-unseen warblers:
(eastern species)

Yet-unseen warblers:
(western & semitropical)

"Abundant" birds
(ones I normally don't bother counting):