Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The mildly rude sounding Pearl River... home of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker

I booked myself a trip on a boat up Honey Island Swamp 0n the West Pearl River. It was a blast... Loggerhead Shrike on telephone wires at the roadside on the way there, then an Eastern Bluebird being spectacular in the driveway at the Cajun Encounters HQ.

Onto the boat, which looked suspiciously like a troop carrier, piloted by a veteran of Iraq War 1. The tour wasn't really aimed at birding - mostly looking for Alligators, like these ones. I got piles of this.

But there were some birds too. A Swallow-tailed Kite soared over the trees on the river. Captain Gerry offered the following wisdom: 'That's a Split-tailed Kite. They're also sometimes called the Mississippi Kite... they fly down the Mississippi here to breed, and then fly right back again.' When a real Mississippi Kite flew over, he offered 'I don't know what that is. Some sort of hawk.' An Anhinga went over and he spoke with authority 'That's a cormorant'.

Plenty of birds to be seen, although I missed some of the smaller ones on account of being on a moving boat. But some alligator-munching Great Egrets, and nice views of Great Blue Herons, and several Little Blue Herons.

We were genuinely in the Cypress Swamp. It was like all those photos of where people look for Ivorybills.

A couple of Red-headed Woodpeckers flashing their white secondaries, although I didn't see any Ivorybills, somehow, but blimey, I'm willing to bet some big bastard woodpecker made these suggestive holes.

OK, stop messing abbbaarrrrttttt. Real birds. Constant chsip chsip notes came from constantly yellow Prothonotary Warblers, fresh in from Mexico. Bootiful. And a very irritating buzzing song coming from ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod Northern Parulas. Bootiful-squared, and a tick! Also on the menu, more Yellow-throated Warblers, parties of Carolina Chickadees, Indigo Buntings in the grasses, noisy groups of Red-winged Blackbirds, and a few Boat-tailed and Common Grackles.

Alongside the river in a real Cajun village of houses on stilts that walk around spookily, there were 10s of Purple Martins checking out their Martin-boxes, and lots of Barn Swallows hanging around the vertical lift bridge.

In the air... a few Turkey Vultures and a whirling circle of 5 American Black Vultures. Three Ospreys in a tree together on the roadside as we drove home, and a Killdeer on the interesting side of the NASA rocket-assembly plant. Another Ka-chow morning.


Alan Tilmouth said...

Captain Gerry sounds ripe for his own TV series he could be the next big thing on Youtube.

Rick said...

Reminds me of James Fisher and Roger Tory Peterson's account of their glass-bottomed boat in Florida.

Cotinis said...

The big, deep holes are made by Pileateds, and they seem to be pretty distinctive for them. (Perhaps you knew this and were just joshin' us?)

Harry said...

I have it on good authority that those holes were not made by Pileated Woodpeckers...

Harry said...
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