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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from Mexico. Birding picks up in fall with the arrival of rails and migrating shorebirds. These felds collectively represent the most reliable place in the state to see Yellow Rail in late autumn. The rice farms in south Louisiana often are cut for a second crop in late October and early November. Knowledgeable birders will look for a combine (a harvesting machine) working a feld near a road and then focus their gaze on the rice stalks just in front of the reaper. Virginia Rail and Sora will often fush as the machine bears down upon them. With a little luck and a modicum of patience, one will be rewarded with the sight of a Yellow Rail as it begrudgingly fies away from the combine to a less hazardous locale. Winter birding here is outstanding. Least and Western sandpipers and Longbilled Dowitchers are common, interspersed with a few Stilt Sandpipers. Geese (including Ross's) and dabbling ducks abound. Every so often, a Golden Eagle or a Ferruginous Hawk will be spotted. These felds are the winter haunt of Shorteared Owls, best observed in early evening as they begin their dusk patrols in search of rodents. In late winter both yellowlegs species are around in fair numbers, as are Black-necked Stilts. Look for Horned Lark in the drier felds, along with Lapland Longspur. The dry, grassy areas between the felds may contain a Grasshopper or Le Conte's sparrow. Lincoln's Sparrow is present in the hedgerows, and Harris's Sparrow has been found here. Look for Sprague's Pipits, always present in small numbers, in shortgrass areas such as roadside shoulders and grazed pastures. Springtime, however, is the pride of the rice country. Great focks of Greater and Lesser yellowlegs, Semipalmated, Western, Least, and Stilt sandpipers, Dunlin, and Long-billed Dowitcher are commonplace. In lesser numbers, but present, are Semipalmated Plover, Whimbrel, Hudsonian Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone, White-rumped, Baird's, and Buff-breasted Climax hardwood forest with palmetto understory at Bayou Cocodrie. Photo © Richard Gibbons. sandpipers, Wilson's Snipe, and Wilson's Phalarope. Before birding the rice country, be sure you have ample gas, a Louisiana roadmap, and your spotting scope. As in many other parts of the state, road shoulders are at a premium. Park as far off the highway as possible and set up your scope, where practical, in front of your vehicle. Lake Martin– Cypress Island Preserve f To get to Lake Martin from the intersection of I-49 and I-10 in Lafayette, drive 6.2 mi. east on I-10 to Breaux Bridge (LA-328, Exit 109). Turn right (south) onto LA-328 and drive 1.7 mi. Turn right onto East Bridge St. for 0.2 mi. and then left onto LA-31 (Main St.). Drive south 2.7 mi. to Lake Martin Rd. and take a right. It is 1.8 mi. to the northeast side of the lake. The Nature Conservancy has undertaken the management of a portion of these varied habitats. While the lake has its points of interest at any season, the rookeries in spring are nothing short of incredible! It is one of those rare phenomena that really must be seen to be fully appreciated. Even the non-birding local folk, as well as casual tourists, line the roadsides in April. The cypress limbs bend with the weight of birds. The sight of thousands of herons and egrets of every description attending upon their nests is staggering. Hundreds of Anhingas, ibises, and Roseate Spoonbills add to the drama. The occasional Neotropic Cormorant will be spotted. Lake Martin is of interest beyond the rookeries. Wood Thrush, Northern Parula, and Prothonotary, Yellow-throated, and Hooded warblers can be heard singing during the breeding season, while a plethora of songbirds use the area as a stopover in migration. House and Winter wrens, Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned kinglets, Orange-crowned Warbler, and a host of other species overwinter. Henslow's Sparrow winters alongside Bachman's Sparrow in the grassy understory of Louisiana's pine savannahs. Photo © Erik I. Johnson. August 2013 | Birder's Guide to Travel 17

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