Date: 1/2/18 10:48 am
From: David Muth <MuthD...>
Subject: [LABIRD-L] New Year's Bird Behavior in the Cold

Yesterday Joan Garvey, Mark Meunier and I did a run downriver on the East Bank to start the New Year and tick some of the cool birds that are around, culminating in the Fork-tailed Flycatcher that I had not yet seen. As usual we ticked some of the rarities and missed others. I can see from the eBird alerts that some of the birds we missed were seen by others earlier in the day. So it goes-we set out with every expectation of some failures given the temperature hovering just above freezing and the gusty north winds. We started in sunshine but went to overcast some of the time, which certainly made the wind chill seem worse.

It was most interesting to observe bird behavior in the temperature and wind, especially the great assortment of lingering or misplaced neotropical migrants we managed to find. At our first stop we were delighted to find both female-plumaged Painted and Indigo buntings feeding with sparrows on a rich growth of wild millet-some kind of Eichinicloa, perhaps Walter's millet, growing in a ditch next to parking lot on St. Bernard Highway in Chalmette.

We missed the Brown-crested at the Chalmette Battlefield but picked up a consolation Clay-colored Sparrow along the down-river brick wall by the pond. It eluded photos (and indeed eluded a thorough examination by any one of us alone).

At Stella Plantation the Fork-tailed, Western Kingbird and Scissor-tailed were also hugging grass tops in a ditch along a wooded edge, staying out of the wind and presumably near water or damp ground where it was a little warmer and insect activity a little higher.

The prize of the day came at Braithwaite late in the day. Though the anis, no doubt exhausted from a day of being checked off the lists of others who visited earlier yesterday, eluded us, we did find the staked-out Ash-throated, but also picked up 7 Northern Rough-winged Swallows feeding low over the duck-weed covered lake, and then were treated to a Vermilion and a Least Flycatcher feeding with a flock of Yellow-rumps and Palms on the duckweed, Azolla floating fern and pennywort that covered the canal at the pumping station in the rear. We were watching and photographing the Vermilion when we noticed the Least behaving very similarly in the same spot. Very odd to see a Least sitting on the water's plant-covered surface with its tail and belly practically submerged. There are a few photos of the activity and interactions here: including some of Joan's great photos.

Here is hoping these birds survived temps in the mid-20s last night.

David Muth
New Orleans
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