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fall-out at grand isle

2003-04-10 - 8:26 p.m.

What a day. I experienced a "fall-out" of migrants on Grand Isle that had to be seen to be believed. We spent most of the tour in the woods behind the Sureway and over at Bobby Santini's place. Imagine Hooded Warblers scattered over the ground like House Sparrows, only come to think of it, I've never seen this many House Sparrows where serious popcorn wasn't involved. Scarlet Tanagers and Summer Tanagers were posing in the trees like Christmas ornaments. Blue Grosbeaks and Indigo Buntings buzzed around thick as fleas, as did Red-Eyed and White-Eyed Vireos. Imagine serious numbers of Ovenbirds and Wood Thrushes, to the point where you could get an Ovenbird and a Wood Thrush posed together in the same glass. There was a Worm-Eating Warbler that did all but stand up and take bows -- a life bird for me. There was even a Swallow-Tailed Hawk taking a low, lazy spin over Santini's yard. The mind boggles. Words don't describe. So, without further ado, here is the list, with a notation where I first saw an example of the species as follows -- R for roadside, G for Grand Isle proper, F for Fourchon.

  1. Brown Pelican -- R
  2. Double-Crested Cormorant -- R
  3. Great Blue Heron -- R
  4. Great Egret -R
  5. Snowy Egret -R
  6. Tricolored Heron - R
  7. Cattle Egret - R
  8. Blue-Winged Teal - R
  9. Black Vulture - R
  10. Turkey Vulture - R
  11. Swallow-Tailed Kite - G
  12. Sharp-Shinned Hawk - G
  13. Broad-Winged Hawk - G
  14. Killdeer - G
  15. Black-necked Stilt - F
  16. Willet - F
  17. Marbled Godwit - F
  18. Laughing Gull - R
  19. Royal Tern - G
  20. Sandwich Tern - G
  21. Forster's Tern - R
  22. Least Tern - F
  23. Rock Dove - R
  24. Eurasian Collared Dove - R
  25. Inca Dove - G
  26. Yellow-Billed Cuckoo - G
  27. Ruby-Throated Hummingbird - G, mostly males migrating through but a female landed about four feet away from me
  28. Belted Kingfisher - G
  29. Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker - G
  30. Empidonax species - G
  31. Great Crested Flycatcher - G, catching a lizard
  32. Eastern Kingbird - G
  33. Loggerhead Shrike - G
  34. White-Eyed Vireo - G
  35. Yellow-Throated Vireo - G
  36. Red-Eyed Vireo - G
  37. Blue Jay - G
  38. American Crow - R
  39. Fish Crow - R
  40. Purple Martin - G
  41. Barn Swallow -- G
  42. Carolina Chickadee -- G, heard
  43. Wood Thrush -- G
  44. Northern Mockingbird - G
  45. Brown Thrasher - G, heard
  46. European Starling - R
  48. Pine Warbler - G
  50. AMERICAN REDSTART - G, males, WOW!
  51. Prothonatory Warbler - G, many, one almost close enough to touch
  53. OVENBIRD - G
  55. Hooded Warbler - G, incredible numbers
  56. Summer Tanager - G, nice males AND females
  57. Scarlet Tanager -- G, lots of males
  58. Northern Cardinal - G
  59. Blue Grosbeak - G
  60. Indigo Bunting - G
  61. Red-Winged Blackbird - R
  62. Common Grackle - G
  63. Boat-Winged Grackle - G, brown-eyed type
  64. Brown-Headed Cowbird
  65. Orchard Oriole - G, as well as adult male and female plumages, great looks at first year male plumage
  66. House Sparrow
We are not talking the glimpse, struggle, and strain that one normally associates with woodland birding. We're talking multiple close-up prolonged looks at birds like Yellow-Throated Vireo, Black-and-White Warbler, hell, you name it. Every warbler, vireo, tanager, and grosbeak on this list wasn't just seen. It was splendidly seen. We are talking about so many darn warblers so close that we almost couldn't walk down the trail for spinning around in circles to check all of the warblers even just in the field immediately behind the store. Hooded warblers were very nearly a nuisance in the numbers that crowded the trail in addition to the ground and low trees or brush piles.

There was just one little problem. Since we had to return the bus and driver at a certain time, we didn't get much opportunity to do any shorebirding, and we completely skipped over the Exxon fields -- hence, the notable lack of shorebirds on the list.

They say that yesterday was even better. The key to a good fall-out is to have terrible weather during the migration that forces the birds down to rest and to feed, with wind coming from the north to keep them from leaving as soon as they finish stuffing their little beaks.

I simply can't imagine a bigger or more colorful fall-out than what I just saw. Every color of the rainbow from the vivid reds of the Scarlet Tanager to the deep blue of the Indigo Bunting. I can't yet settle my thoughts. It was truly amazing.

It was a long day. I had to get up at 5 A.M. to catch the bus. The night before, we watched Enterprise, in which the Klingons convicted the captain of being a busybody and sent him away to chip out dilithium crystals on the ice planet. Now there's a fantasy. Can't we all think of busybodies who would be better off chipping out dilithium crystals on an ice planet?

Then I watched a Twilight Zone episode where a gambling addict got a device that allowed him to turn back time five minutes. You'd have to be a real dumb-ass to screw up an edge like that but somehow he managed. Since I am not used to going to bed so early, I tried to put myself to sleep by imagining how a sensible person would use such a device. Seems to me that the best way would be to bet the maximum in the field at craps, rewind if you lost, take the money and cash out if you win. Don't just sit there at the same casino by the hour until they wonder why the hell you can't lose. Get your $1,000 per hit and leave. Sheesh. How hard is that?

Say you're in my area. In a few days, you could hit most casinos once at each of three shifts, get an average of $2,000 per casino (many have only a $500 max bet), get yourself around $30,000 for say four days work. And if that isn't enough for you, head to Vegas, where you could easily walk around and pick up $100,000 in a few days. How hard is that? Then if you're still hungry, drive around and hit the other 500 casinos around the country. Then if you're still hungry, do it all over again the next month. You'd have more money than you could spend in very little time. Of course, if you could rewind using a mental power instead of the shitty rubber-banded-together tape recorder device shown on TZ, you could hang around in each casino longer. But, when push comes to shove, it happens to be illegal to use devices in a casino. So you would have to be super careful not to get caught. Which means not hanging around.

Superpowers are wasted on stupid people, that's the lesson I've learned from movies and TV. They always, always, ALWAYS screw it up. All the fool had to do was hit rewind and get a five minute lead out the door when he saw security coming for his dead ass. How could anybody think it's good news to go in the backroom with the casino owner for an "invitational?"

Hmmm. I'm thinking it's about time to open a bottle and lift a toast to my new life bird, the Worm-Eating Warbler, before my excitement makes me babble any longer.

How to bird Grand Isle: Check roadside while driving down Hwy 1. In Grand Isle proper, park at the Sureway and bird the woods behind the store. There are trails that can get muddy. There is a restroom in the Sureway. Check the part of the woods belonging to the Nature Conservancy and into the neighborhoods. Check Santini's yard and feeders. Other yards may be worth checking as well. Drive to the State Park for public access to the beach and pier, including restrooms, camping, picnic area. Check Exxon fields. Drive to Fourchon and check the lagoon. Check the Fourchon watertower for the Peregrine Falcon.

Hummingbird Report: When I got home around 6:15 P.M., a male Ruby-Throated Hummingbird was using the back feeder. Thank heaven for Daylight Savings Time!

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