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 17 of 67

Bons oiseaux, bons temps en Louisiane! f In Kaplan, turn right (west) onto LA-14 and proceed for 1.5 mi. to its intersection with LA-13. Turn right (north) and drive about 15 mi. to Crowley, checking side roads for suitable habitat. At Crowley, turn left onto westbound US-90. Two mi. west of Estherwood (a junction marked as Midland on some maps), turn left (south) onto LA-91 and drive (remembering, of course, to check the side roads) about 12 mi. to Gueydan, a town which selfbills as the "Duck Capital of the World". At Gueydan, turn right onto LA-14 and go west for 7.7 mi. to LA-717; turn left (south). This road is a loop that eventually winds back around to LA-14 and passes through some of the best goose and duck habitat to be found anywhere in the state in winter. When LA-717 again intersects LA-14, turn right to explore the section of LA-14 between Gueydan and Kaplan not yet traveled; then turn left at Kaplan onto LA-35. LA-92 intersects LA-35 about 8 mi. north of Kaplan. Turn left here and check the felds for shorebirds along this road for about 13 mi. to the village of Morse. At Morse, take a right onto LA-91 to return to US-90 at Estherwood. Because of the ephemeral nature of rice (and crawfsh) farms, it is impossible to know from day to day, much less from week to week, which intersections are hot Ornithologists in training scope out the Louisiana State University Dairy Farm. Photo © Glenn Seeholzer. 16 Birder's Guide to Travel | August 2013 or which road will be the most productive. One simply drives the area watching for focks of shorebirds. Dry, bare ground generally requires only the briefest of glances, but may harbor an American Golden-Plover or two in spring. Dry felds that are just beginning to be fooded are the best places to look for Buff-breasted Sandpiper. Very wet rice felds with the green shoots reaching high above the water, though they may contain herons, ibis, Black-necked Stilts, and yellowlegs, are not usually shorebird hotspots. Shorebirds seem to particularly prefer mudfats. The trick is to fnd a feld in which the farmer is changing the water level. As the water moves from one feld to another, it exposes vast, soaked fats, often teeming with life near the surface upon which the shorebirds thrive. After a few days of frantic feeding, the birds drift away to fnd rich new felds. It is not unusual to fnd 10–15 species sharing the same half-acre in mixed focks numbering in the hundreds. Occasionally, they will be found by the thousands. Not exactly electrifying, summer birding in the rice felds nevertheless may be interesting. Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Neotropic Cormorant, Green Heron, both night-herons, Roseate Spoonbill, Eastern Kingbird, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Indigo and Painted buntings, and Dickcissel nest here, in addition to Mottled Duck and King Rail. Wood Storks put in an annual appearance as post-breeding dispersers

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