Saturday, February 23, 2013

Paul's Grand Isle Bird Fest (part 2)

Previously, Paul ventured away from the ASLO conference to see some birds. He drove for awhile and saw some birds, but will he ever get to his destination of Grand Isle? What birds will he see? We join the story with our hero and wife still journeying and still full of birding excitement...

After crossing the really long bridge that takes you over extensive coastal marshland, Grand Isle was in striking distance! We made a quick stop at a gas station to buy some snacks and there, in the parking lot, was some gull or tern-like bird. It seemed too small to be a gull (as the ring-billed gull next to it was much larger), but it had an all black was a laughing gull (bird no. 6 for the trip!).

Off we headed toward Grand Isle proper across a causeway of sorts and there were many birds on both sides of the road, though not much space to pull over to see them. More egrets, many more brown pelicans, and then we saw a large eagle with a whitish head. No, that's wasn't an eagle, it was an osprey (bird no. 7). Despite driving, we could see more birds on the causeway, like the great blue heron (bird no. 8) and double-breasted cormorant (bird no. 9). There were also smaller egrets fishing the marsh edges. These were spaced at about 50-100 m intervals and smaller than the great egrets with a dark bill: snowy egrets! That would be bird no. 10 for this trip.

We pushed on to Grand Isle and reached the bridge that takes you to the island itself.

Final bridge to Grand Isle.

We drove through the town and headed to Grand Isle State Park. There is a beach access there and we thought there would also be shore birds. After paying, I saw another heron... except, nope, it was another tricolored heron. Just another tricolored. So we drove on to the beach.

There were a fair number of birds standing next to the gulf surf. Were there pelicans there? Yep! There were a lot of brown pelicans and some white ones too. 
Pelicans at Grand Isle State Park
There were a bunch of other birds standing with the pelicans. Before I got to them, this bird caught my attention. A reddish egret (bird no. 11)!

Reddish egret at Grand Isle State Park.
It was just chilling in a beach tidal pool. We walked out a bit further to get closer to the pelicans and the other birds, just close enough to see a lot of these birds were black skimmers (bird no. 12).

Black skimmers with pelican and gull friends at Grand Isle State Park.
About that time, a helicopter flew past somewhere off in the distances, not close but close enough that it spooked the main group of birds which flew 100 yards away. A smaller group of birds quickly returned. Where they sandpipers? No, they were plovers...but which of the dozen types? Snowy plovers (bird no. 13).

Snowy plovers in the surf.

Well, that was a lot of birds in only about 10 minutes. We further scanned the horizon and saw more brown pelicans fly over, along with lots of ringed billed gulls and more black skimmers. As there were no other birds flying, we headed back to the car where we saw a northern mockingbird (bird no. 14) and an American kestrel (bird no. 15).

It was now about 11:30 a.m. and we were going to have to start our longish trip back to New Orleans, but there were several stops to be made on the way.

Would we keep up this frenetic bird finding?

What else would we see...?

Would there be more brown pelicans?

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