Saturday, December 5, 2009

Hooray! A winter hummingbird has come to stay!

On November 29th we were elated when we saw a hummingbird drinking from a feeder near our front porch. I knew it had been a couple of weeks since I changed the sugar water in the feeder, so I quickly made some fresh juice and filled up 3 feeders. The next day we saw the hummer again, but only for a second.
A few days later, I saw the hummingbird drinking from a patch of winter shrimp plant that was growing in a protected spot near the house. It looked like some kind of Selasphorus, probably a Rufous, but I couldn't be sure of more since I didn't have binoculars with me.

Today I finally was able to take some pictures of it. I sent some of the photos to our friend and local hummingbird bander, Linda Beall. She said that it looks like an immature female Rufous, but not to rule out an Allen's.

In Louisiana, any hummingbird observed after November 15th is considered a "winter hummingbird". Each sighting is reported to a local hummingbird bander and if the property owner wishes, the hummingbird is captured and a numbered band is placed on its leg. We are blessed with two expert licensed banders here in the New Orleans / North Shore area. Linda Beall handles most of the activity here on the northshore and Nancy Newfield (author of many publications) bands on the south shore and some places here on the north.

It has been at least 2 years since we hosted a winter hummingbird in our habitat here on the Tchefuncte River in South Louisiana. We look forward to this little western visitor brightening those dull winter days with its "ticks" and "whirs" as it makes its way around the garden.

For more information about winter hummingbirds, check out the following sites:
Banding a Hummingbird
Winged Jewels of Winter
Linda Beall's page
Winter Hummingbirds of Southwestern Louisiana
Cornell Project Feeder Watch - Hummingbirds in Winter

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Beautiful St. Tammany Parish

Our nine acre National Wildlife certified backyard wildlife habitat is located on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana. When we bought our property before Hurricane Katrina, in 1995, we were surrounded by woods and fields of wildflowers. Today, we are still in a rural area, and we have been busy planting trees to replace the ones that were destroyed.

St. Tammany Parish is located within driving distance from many interesting and enjoyable places. Just across the Causeway Bridge, on the South Shore is the historic city of New Orleans. Al has recorded many of his happy memories of growing up there in Top 10 Best of New Orleans in the Fifties.

Rex King of Mardi Gras 1983 postcardTop 10 Best of New Orleans in the Fifties
I grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana in the 1950's and it was like a different world from the New Orleans of today. There was an almost magical quality to the city. Just think about it. We had Audubon Park, Pontchartrain Beach, Mardi Gras, Canal Street, the French Quarter and the Tulane Sugar Bowl Stadium. And you could get to all of them for only 7 cents and a transfer on the Streetcar. There were dances every Thursday through Saturday night and the music from the local artists was the best. If you wanted to breathe fresh air or do some fishing, the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi Gulf Coast were only a short drive away.

I can't think of a better place to live during that time. Here are some recollections about my top 10 most favorite places and events of New Orleans in the 1950's.

The North Shore has many nature oriented attractions. Not too far from us, near Folsom, Louisiana is the Global Wildlife Center where grazing animals from all over the world roam free.

Global Wildlife Center
Nestled among the back roads of the Florida Parishes, near Folsom, Louisiana, is a very unique wildlife preserve. Global Wildlife Center is the largest, totally free roaming preserve in the country. Animals of the grasslands from all over the world, some endangered or protected, make their home in the natural settings of the preserve. Safari tours are available which feature feeding the animals.

Global Wildlife is a great day trip for the whole family and is within easy driving distance from Baton Rouge, New Orleans or eastern Mississippi. It is open throughout the year, so a trip across the Lake to see the animals could be combined with the fun of Mardi Gras or any other celebration.

Covington is the parish seat of St. Tammany and is located where 3 rivers, the Tchefuncte, the Abita and the Bogue Falaya, intersect. It was once a thriving steamboat port where cotton planters sold their crop each year. Not far away is beautiful and peaceful St. Joseph's Abbey. We've written all about the interesting things to see and do in Covington, LA on New Orleans North Shore.

Covington, LA on New Orleans North Shore
Covington, LA is located on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain, across the Causeway Bridge from New Orleans making it the perfect place to stay when visiting the Big Easy.

It is the parish seat of St. Tammany Parish and it's history is old, dating back to the early 1800's. It was a major cotton trading stop for the paddle wheel boats and many a wealthy planter stayed at the Southern Hotel.

Today the beauty and solitude of the surrounding native areas attract nature lovers and artists. Many artist colonies have become established in and near Covington. The old Columbia Street Landing area by the Bogue Falaya River is filled with art galleries and antique shops. Covington and St. Tammany Parish provide the quiet solitude of the country while still being only half an hours drive from the city of New Orleans.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Mushrooms Decorate the Forests in Fall

Mushroom Amanita caesarea print
Mushroom Amanita caesarea by tiger45

Mushrooms abound in the forests during Autumn and it seems that more colorful ones appear in October and through early winter. The damp, cool weather of south Louisiana provides just the right growing conditions for mushrooms so that we have a continuous "bloom" on through spring.

Red Russula Mushroom print
Red Russula Mushroom by tiger45

We're not experts and do not attempt to eat any of the ones that we find, but rather enjoy photographing the unusual forms and colors of this fruit of the fungi. Here are a few shots of some of our favorites. We have tentatively identified them. If you'd like to see more photographs, you may enjoy visiting Fall Fungi - A Witches Brew.

Toad Stools in a partial fairy ring

Possible Bolettes

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Prothonotary Warblers are Back

This is the first time that we have been able to monitor each of the boxes on our nest box trail since late April. Many Carolina Chickadees and some Carolina Wrens have fledged. Now the Prothonotary Warblers are back and have set up housekeeping in our Backyard Habitat along the Tchefuncte River. For more information about the lovely golden yellow Prothonotary Warblers, visit our Prothonotary Warblers are Golden lens. Here are the results of the monitoring that we did today:

Box # ----- Bird, Eggs, Young

2 ----- Carolina Wren - Nest fills the box
5 ----- Flying Squirrel nest with squirrel holding on to the door when I opened it. Should have hung a Do Not Disturb Sign.
6 ----- Prothonotary Warbler - 4 eggs with hen sitting
8 ----- Carolina Chickadee - 4 young fledged
9 ----- Carolina Wren? - moss with leaves on top, unfinished
11 ---- Carolina Wren - 4 young fledged
16 ---- 2 inches of green moss
21 ---- 1 inch of green moss with indentation
22 ---- Carolina Chickadee - 4 young fledged
24 ---- Carolina Chickadee - 4 young fledged
25 ---- Prothonotary Warbler - hen sitting on 4-5 eggs
26 ---- Prothonotary Warbler in old wren house that can't be monitored

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Nest Box Trail Monitoring 4/21-22

We try to check the nest boxes on our Cavity Nesting Trail about once a week, but because of "life", we are lucky to check them every 2 weeks. For more information about Bluebirds and nest box trails, visit our Nest Box Trails for Bluebirds and Others page. This monitoring session, we observed:

Box Number ----- Bird, Eggs, Young

1 ----- Carolina Chickadee: 4 young fledged
6 ----- Nest of leaves and Cypress bark
8 ----- Carolina Chickadee: 4 young, fully feathered
11 ---- Carolina Wren: 4 young, few days old
18 ---- Carolina Chickadee: 2 young fledged
20 ---- Eastern Bluebird: 4 young fledged
22 ---- Carolina Chickadee: 4 young with feathers
24 ---- Carolina Chickadee: 4 young, some feathers

Friday, April 10, 2009

Nest Box Trail Monitoring Results

We checked all of the nest boxes on our trail this morning. Despite the abnormal weather fluctuations, most of the nests were successful and there are a few new nests. Here is a quick run down of what we found.

Box #
1... (4) Carolina Chickadee babies are fully feathered
4... (4) Carolina Chickadee babies fledged
6... A nest of leaves & Cypress bark that could belong to Great Crested Flycatchers
7... (1) dead Carolina Chickadee, probably weather related
8... (2) just hatched Carolina Chickadees & 5 unhatched egg w/ Mom sitting
11.. Carolina Wren nest with 5 eggs
12.. Flying Squirrel nest with Squirrel
16.. Some green moss, maybe Prothonotary Warbler
18.. (2) Carolina Chickadee, fully feathered babies
20.. (4) Eastern Bluebird, w/ feathers & pins on head & back
22.. Carolina Chickadee, 5 eggs, Mom sitting
24.. Carolina Chickadee, 5 eggs

As you can see, the Carolina Chickadees are the first to nest on our trail and the Eastern Bluebird is not far behind. Since most of our boxes are in wooded areas, there are fewer Bluebirds. Bluebirds like more open, field like areas. The Prothonotary Warblers just returned from their wintering grounds in the south and the males are showing the females all the available real estate. Spring is indeed here in our habitat on the Little Tchefuncte River.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Spring in Little Tchefuncte Habitat

Black and White Warbler

We've been so busy with many conservation efforts, that I haven't had time to write anything for months. So.... this will probably be a long post.

Our nest box trail is doing well this spring. There are 5 boxes occupied with Carolina Chickadees and 1 with Eastern Bluebirds. We plan to check the boxes again tomorrow, if it doesn't rain. All the eggs that were laid when we last checked, have hatched and we've observed the bluebirds feeding their young.

We've had an abundance of rain (all at one time) this year. Recently we received almost 7 inches in 2 days. We are no longer below the average rainfall, but the deluge was followed by several days of strong winds which dried everything out, so we really could use another rain.

The strong winds continue to break tree limbs that were damaged during the December snowstorm and the hurricanes. We are constantly clearing trails in the woods and in our yard.

We've seen some interesting and beautiful animals and birds recently. Yesterday, while we were down by the river, we observed a Black and White Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, Pileated and other Woodpeckers, and several Wood Ducks. Indigo Buntings and some other migratory birds have been visiting the feeders near the house.

A few days ago, Al saw a mother Wood Duck and 15 ducklings in our pond by the house. Apparently they had hatched from the box that we put up there. By the time he had put the dogs inside and grabbed his camera, they were gone. Those mother Wood Ducks are like drill Sergeants. She lined them all up and led them far away to the other side of the pond from Al, then as soon as he left, she must have taken them into the bushes and told them to lie low.

Late yesterday afternoon, I was looking out of the French doors in the front of the house and was surprised and pleased to see a Wild Turkey cautiously stroll into the gravel part of the circular drive. She (I think) was looking straight at me so I couldn't move. I asked Al to get the camera, but by the time he found it, the turkey had stepped back behind some bushes. I went out and did see it walking toward the wetlands area by HWY 190, but couldn't get a photo. Even though we haven't been able to photograph the Wild Turkeys, it's great to know that there are still some around. With all the habitat destruction and urban sprawl, the large tracts of land that are needed for these large birds have been cut into small islands, which reduces the population that can be supported.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Tree Planting for FNPS

Yesterday we hosted a tree planting meeting for the Folsom Native Plants Society. We potted 75 Crabapple, 50 Bald Cypress and 50 wild Plum trees. These trees will be given out to new members who sign up at the annual Spring Plant Show (March 21-22, 2009) which is sponsored by the St. Tammany Master Gardeners.

Late winter and early spring is the best time to plant trees and shrubs because the weather is cool and usually moist and the plants have time to become established before the weather becomes warm.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Christmas Bird Count 2008

Pine Warbler in Cherry print

On December 30, 2008 The western part of St. Tammany Parish held its annual Christmas Bird Count. We always try to participate and with 8 hours of observation on our 9 acres and a little of the neighbors' property we did pretty well. We observed and counted 36 different species of birds. We did not see some of the ones that we know live here, but you must only report what you see on the day of the count.

For more information about the birds of winter in South Louisiana, take a look at our lens, The Wings of Winter.

Here is our CBC list:
2 Red-shouldered Hawk
6 Mourning Dove
8 Red-bellied Woodpecker
3 Downy Woodpecker
6 Blue Jay
3 American Crow
9 Carolina Chickadee
7 Tufted Titmouse
4 Brown-headed Nuthatch
7 Carolina Wren
9 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
2 Eastern Bluebird
19 American Robin
1 Northern Mockingbird
2 Brown Thrasher
6 Cedar Waxwing
9 Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler
7 Pine Warbler
4 Eastern Towhee
5 Chipping Sparrow
9 White-throated Sparrow
11 Northern Cardinal
24 Red-winged Blackbird
8 Common Grackle
29 American Goldfinch
2 Wood Ducks
1 Cattle Egret
1 Great White Egret
7 Pine Siskin
2 Catbird
2 Eastern Phoebee
1 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
3 White eyed Vireos
4 Black Vulture
3 Pileated Woodpecker
1 Brown Creeper

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Snow in Covington - 12-11-08

December 11, 2008 will go down in weather history as the day that South Louisiana received several inches of snow. The snow began to fall before dawn at about 5:00 a.m. and it continued falling heavily throughout the morning. We received over 4 inches at our house in St. Tammany Parish and the yard looked like it belonged on a Christmas card. The log feeders had to be cleared of snow each hour so that the birds could eat. Soon the heavy snow began to take a toll on the Pine and Water Oak tree branches. They began to break and fall. One fell on the patio, just grazing the edge of the roof while others fell in our road to the river and all over the parish. The electricity went out at about 9:00 a.m. and the phone followed at around 10:00. Our pet cockatiels (that live on the back carport in our winter “greenhouse”) had to be moved into the house so that they wouldn’t get too cold. The fireplace really saved the day and we used the wood from some of the trees that went down during the hurricanes. The snow stayed on the ground for 3 days. We now understand how devastating snow storms can be, but we also are glad that we were able to experience the beautiful sight. The phones were back on in a few hours and our electricity was restored some time during the first night.

What is amazing is the fact that the lettuce, broccoli, turnips, radishes and carrots in our sustainable fall garden and the Satsuma (Citrus) trees, which were heavy with fruit, are relatively unharmed. The snow insulated both the vegetables and the fruit and since it only froze one night, all are still doing fine.

Today we saw Tree Swallows flying over the pond. In most parts of the country, Tree Swallows nest in bluebird boxes, but here in the south, we only see them in flocks during winter. In some places huge flocks will congregate and it’s quite a site to see them spiraling down to their roosting spots at dusk.