Leaving for work on Feb. 27, I took notice of our martin house and how it remained unoccupied. When you’re a birdwatcher, backyard novice such as myself, or other, dates are important. This was late, according to George H. Lowery Jr.’s book, “Louisiana Birds.”
Lowery suggests the first groups of purple martins have been known to arrive in late January and are pretty much with us by the first week in February. I was surprised we hadn’t had any spring visitors, to be quite honest. After all, I had made good on my promise to Mrs. Flores that I would build her a martin house better than the one Hurricane Isaac had blown to smithereens last summer.
The miniature guesthouse was pretty much the only home damage we had from Isaac. The storm could have been much worse.
I was anxious for the four-room condominium to be filled, and not by sparrows, who were checking out the local real estate.
On that same, it just so happened our guests arrived fashionably late sometime during the afternoon before I got home. And though martins occupy three of the four apartments, there seems to be an avian dispute between a reluctant sparrow family and some martins that claim to have a reservation.
Nature has its way of sorting such things out. But with martins arriving, it’s just the beginning of things to come.
It’s funny how about the time the bass start staging just prior to the spawn, the prothonotary warblers start singing in the Atchafalaya Basin. This coincidence is probably the biggest reason I’ve never caught a bass big enough worth bragging about.
While the tournament bass anglers are chasing five-fish limits to see who can put the most weight on the scale, I’m preoccupied with singing in the cypress trees overhead.
Over the course of the next few weeks, birds like yellow-rumped warblers, dark-eyed juncos, and eastern phoebes will be leaving our surroundings, where they spend much of their winter, and give way to an influx of neo-tropic songbirds such as painted buntings, indigo buntings, northern parulas, hooded warblers, summer tanagers, eastern towhees, yellow-breasted chats, and numerous other species.
If you’re lucky enough to catch a drizzly day as a front passes through and willing to brave the misty elements between now and May, you just might catch what birders refer to as fallout. Fallout is essentially weather that puts birds migrating across the Gulf of Mexico on the ground immediately when they reach the coastline.
The migrants are exhausted from the flight against the inclement weather and have used up much of their fatty internal food stores. Sadly, it’s a make or break situation, where a walk along the beach will reveal dead birds in the surf rack.
I caught one of these fallouts after a night of inclement weather last spring on a Sunday morning in early April. I knew I stood a good chance of seeing a few species that normally migrate north and typically make it much further inland before stopping.
At Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge, I saw scarlet tanagers and Baltimore orioles gracing the same tree along the levee off Alice C Road near the Garden City Unit board walk, just past the check station.
When the azaleas are blooming, the great egrets are dancing at Bird City on Avery Island. This rookery has an observation platform where visitors can watch this colonizing species puff up, strut, and dance, showing off its plumage to potential mates.
Jefferson Island at Rip Van Winkle Gardens is another location to observe colony wading species during the spring, such as tri-colored herons, greater egrets, and roseate spoonbills. At the entrance to the gardens is a grove of cypress trees surrounded by a large moat-like pond. Early morning or late afternoon is the ideal time to see these nesting wading birds up close and personal.
A fishing trip into the Atchafalaya Basin to locations as close as Flat Lake might have you jigging for sac-a-lait around cypress trees laden with Spanish moss only to have the northern parulas, great crested flycatchers, Carolina chickadees, and tufted titmouse flitting about for insects. It’s strange how things work hand in hand, where fish wait in ambush beneath the surface of the water for any bug that falls in the water, chased or injured by a bird above.
It’s hard to catch a lunker bass or thick-sided slab of crappie when you’re too busy looking and listening to the birds sing up in the trees. Springtime is bird time around these parts and our guests have arrived.
If you wish to comment or have an anecdote, recipe or story to share, contact John K. Flores at 985-395-5586 or gowiththeflo@ cox.net