Birder's Guide

AUG 2013

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Page 13 of 67

Bons oiseaux, bons temps en Louisiane! f What may be the most exciting aspect of Louisiana birding is the opportunity for discovery. Louisiana is still largely composed of wildlife habitat with cities sprinkled throughout, rather than the other way around, as in many other states. It was this fact that provided the state's Important Bird Area Program the enviable challenge of having to draw lines around huge areas of land because there were no clear breaks. Although you may run into more people with a rod and reel or Catahoula hound than a binocular and feld guide, the outdoor camaraderie is evident. Louisiana's great outdoor tradition is refected in its willingness to devote swaths of land to a staggering number of state parks and wildlife management areas, not to mention the vast Kisatchie National Forest. Louisiana is touted as America's Wetland. With more than 40% of the U.S.'s coastal marshes, it's easy to understand why. These highly productive marshes provide habitat for millions of birds and act as a natural nursery for coastal fsheries. To the distress of many, these marshes have been eroding at a rate of 25–30 square miles per year due to land subsidence and the impediment of marsh-nourishing sediments. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita accelerated the problem when they roared ashore at opposite ends of the state in 2005. Adding insult to injury, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill washed rafts of crude oil into the marshes and onto the beaches, miring Louisiana's birds as the world looked on in horror. Now, the restoration of America's Wetland is the focus, and nature tourism is being seen as an important part of a sustainable coastal economy. Despite habitat loss, birding continues to grow in popularity in Louisiana, and state and local governments are responding with new opportunities. Several birding trails offer insights to birding areas through- The handsome Bachman's Sparrow is one Louisiana's pine upland specialities. Photo © Jim Johnson. out the state, while new citizen-science projects such as the Louisiana Bird Atlas provide that little extra motivation to get observers out there and explore. Geography f Although Louisiana is often thought to consist only of swamps, marshes, and bayous, the truth is that those terms apply to only a small percentage of the state. Fields and forests abound. Thousands of acres of national forest lands cover much of the sandy hills of the north central region. There is even a knob in the north that is almost defantly referred to as Driscoll Mountain, towering at 535 feet above sea level. Oak/hickory is considered to be the climax forest type for much of the state. Nevertheless, settlers found considerable prairie in the southwest and a band of pines near the coast, especially in the southeast. The prairie was expropriated for rice felds, and "Attwater's" PrairieChicken and Whooping Crane were all but extirpated by 1919. The old-growth bottomland hardwoods were virtually all harvested and sent to local mills. As a result, Ivory-billed Woodpecker was last documented here in 1941. Nor were the oaks and hickories safe. They, too, were cut, and pines planted in their place by the Wood Storks engage in post-breeding dispersal and head north and east out of Mexico each summer. Photo © Richard Gibbons. 12 Birder's Guide to Travel | August 2013

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