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.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Wild Turkeys and Other Birds

Our friend, John, saw a wild turkey beside our pond near the house. This is the first time we have seen one so close to the house. Maybe they are reproducing and need to spread out. We had seen a group of holes in the yard that looked like they could have been made by a turkey looking for grubs. It looks like we were right about that.

An Eastern Phoebe has also taken up residence around the pond. Each winter one or two of them perches on dead sticks and the bluebird nest box, flicking their tails and hunting for insects. The Birds of Winter are here in our habitat. Birds like the Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, Brown-headed Nuthatches and Downy Woodpeckers travel in small groups throughout our habitat. The Ruby-crowned Kinglets love to eat the Poison Oak berries. Yesterday, we saw a Brown Creeper with the mixed flock. This is the first time that we have seen one in our habitat. A small flock of American Goldfinches (like the ones in the photo above with the female Purple Finches and Cardinal) in their fall plumage has arrived. They can really fool the new bird watchers because the fall plumage is so dull compared to the bright yellow of the male’s feathers during breeding.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fall Foliage and Birds

Carolina Chickadee in Silverbell print

We’ve had a couple of cold snaps and the fall leaves are beautiful this year, especially those of the Sourwood trees which range in color from deep red to bright gold. Other winners this year include Silverbell (the Chickadees love to sit in them), Muscadine grape, Sweet Gum, Black Gum, Huckleberry (wild Blueberry), Redbud, Ironwood, Red Maple and many more. The woods are ablaze with color. This is so unusual for south Louisiana, where we are usually lucky if we see two or three different trees in full color at the same time. We're offering many of the photographs on our Zazzle Gallery.

Many migrating birds have arrived and we are especially enjoying the Ruby-crowned Kinglets. Some other of the birds of fall include Northern Cardinals, Pine Warblers, Woodpeckers, Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, Brown-headed Nuthatches and Eastern Bluebirds. We so enjoy watching the birds year round, but they especially brighten up the dreary days.

Monday, October 20, 2008

October in South Louisiana means that the weather sometimes cools off and this year we were lucky to see some really pleasant weather. Some of the winter migrants are beginning to arrive and most of the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have left for their wintering grounds in Mexico and Central America. There are still a few stragglers, mostly immature birds that probably hatched late somewhere up north. Most of the leaves have yet to begin to turn their fall colors. Here in south Louisiana, unless we have an early cold spell, most of the deciduous trees retain their green leaves through the end of October. It looks like we’ll have a large crop of acorns this year, so the wildlife should have enough natural food to eat this winter. The Yaupon, Deciduous and American Hollies are full of berries and the birds and animals are finishing off the last of the American Beauty Berry fruit. For more information about other trees, shrubs, vines and perennials that provide wildlife food check out Planting for Birds and Wildlife. We provide lists and descriptions of easy to grow native plants that are eaten by a variety of wildlife.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Squidoo - Became a Giant Squid

We joined at the end of April and on October 6th, after months of hard work, became a Giant Squid. What in the world is a Giant Squid, some kind of strange underwater group? Well, not exactly, although there were about 20 others who also received the honor at the same time. On Squidoo, we lensmasters write and illustrate web pages called lenses. In order to become a Giant Squid, a lensmaster must have published at least 50 good, quality lenses. Anyone who enjoys writing can become a member by creating a lens. You don’t have to know much about html and there’s a whole community of lensmasters, greeters, angels and others who are ready and willing to help new lensmasters learn what it takes to excel at Squidoo. If you’d like to get started creating a lens right now click here: Join Squidoo and Create a Lens. It’s free and if you don’t like it, you can quit any time and just delete your account.

Of course, most of our lenses are about nature, plants, animals, our pets and the outdoors, but we also have some about Louisiana food, customs and celebrations. Maybe you’d like to check out our naturegirl7 lensmaster’s page to see all the lenses that we’ve written. Writing for Squidoo is fun and you earn money, too. But the thing I like most about Squidoo is that I can spread the word about all the things that I feel are important, like the environment, habitats, native plants and animals and just about anything else that I feel like writing about. Come join us and give it a try. I bet you’ll love it.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Hummingbird Migration & Banding

This morning, Linda and I caught and banded 9 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. According to past years' study data for early August, numbers of migrating Ruby-throats are down this year. In past years (before Hurricane Katrina) we would capture from 25-30 hummingbirds during the 4 hour period. Most of the hummers we caught this morning were immature (first year) birds. We saw only one adult male and he would not go into the trap.

On Sept. 6, Linda will be banding hummingbirds at Mizell's Butterfly and Hummingbird Extravaganza in Folsom, LA. This festival is filled with lots of fun for the whole family. There will also be plenty of plants that attract hummingbirds and butterflies available for sale. For more information about the festival, visit our Mizell's Butterfly and Hummingbird Extravaganza Squidoo page.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Bird Nesting Success Stories

The Northern Cardinals and many of the other song birds have been prolific this year. We are beginning to see the female Cardinals feeding fledglings, so that means that this is the last brood. Some of the pairs have raised 3 broods this year. Other success stories include: Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, Carolina Wrens, Eastern Towhees, Eastern Bluebirds and Prothonotary Warblers. To see photos and read more about Northern Cardinals visit our Squidoo lens, The Cardinal's Nest.

A pair of Carolina Wrens has been keeping us entertained with their nesting antics. Their first nest was in a Christmas Wreath that was not taken down in a timely manner. The second nest was in a hanging basket a few feet away from the wreath and the third nest is on the window ledge in the small space by our emergency a/c window unit. As I type, I can hear the babies cheeping as the parents feed them. Our Squidoo lens, Carolina Wren's Nest has information and recent photos of all of the nests.

Today we transferred the more recent blog posts from our Little Tchefuncte Hummingbird Hill web site to here at Blogger. If you'd like to read some of the pre-Katrina posts, here's the link to our old Blog.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds

Linda and I resumed our weekly Ruby-throated hummingbird banding sessions on July 8th. We had stopped banding during the month of June because numbers were so low this year, much below normal, and they always plummet while the Mimosa trees are in bloom. We caught 9 hummingbirds and only a couple were returnees (that had been banded in previous years). Most of the ones that we banded were immature birds that hatched this year. Numbers have been down ever since Katrina and the post Katrina debris removal fiasco which damaged the breeding habitat here.

The hummingbird garden is full of flowers and looks beautiful. We're waiting for the annual "gathering of the males" that usually occurs around July 4th, but we have yet to see many adult males or much of an increase in numbers. Something is definitely wrong. We wonder if, in addition to the habitat destruction, that all of the pesticides that are being sprayed to kill mosquitoes because of the West Nile disease are killing the the small flying insects that provide the hummingbirds with needed protein during the breeding season.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Northlake Nature Center Bird Fest

Today we hosted a lovely group of birders for the Northlake Nature Center Bird Fest. Every year the nature center organizes tours to some of the best birding spots in St. Tammany parish and we were asked to allow them to bring a group to our habitat this year. We were a little hesitant because we are still trying to clean up and clear logs and debris from Hurricane Katrina, but we decided to do it because it is for such a worthy cause. The proceeds go to rebuild and maintain the structures and programs at the Nature Center, located near Fountainbleau State Park in Mandeville.

We were rather proud that the birders on the tour saw the most species in our habitat than they had on any of the other tours (so far). Some of the birds on the list include: Hooded Warbler, Blue-throated Vireo, Great Crested Flycatcher, Baby Wood Ducks, Common Yellow-throat, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Downy Woodpeckers, Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, Red-shouldered Hawks and many more.

The Folsom Native Plant Society recently planted a wildflower garden at the Center. Many members volunteered for the project and spent several hours preparing the soil, planting, mulching and weeding. Visit our Squidoo lens to read more about Gardening with Native Plants.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Rain Barrels and Tree Frogs

We use rain barrels to conserve water on-site. This "magic" water is used to water native cuttings and other plants. A trick that we learned the hard way is to always place a long stick in the water, so that frogs, lizards and etc. will not drown. We use a biological control for Mosquitoes called Mosquito dunks. They are safe and will not harm fish or wildlife.

Rain and storm water can also be conserved on-site by creating a rain garden. This is simply a swale that is dug so that the water is retained for a day or two. Native and other drought resistant plants that can tolerate drastic growing conditions are planted. Our rain garden is watered by the rain water that pours off of the house and onto the patio. It is fills up the swale, then filters through the crushed limestone parking area and flows down to another flower bed, then on to a low spot and finally goes into a creek. Hundreds of plants are watered during this process. Rain gardens also serve as mosquito death traps, because the water stays for only a day or so and the mosquito larvae dies when the puddle dries up. To read more about sustainable garden practices and techniques, visit our Sustainable Gardening a la Rabbit Hill lens at Squidoo.

Saturday, January 26, 2008


The old-fashioned Camellia japonica shrubs are in full bloom. Most of them have been blooming since late December. The cold snap browned up a few of the buds that were about to open, but the ones that were still tightly closed were not injured at all. The ones that are planted around the circular drive are about 15-20 feet high. We don't know all of their names, but we have been able to identify Purple Dawn, Louisiana Peppermint and one that some people call tri-color because there are three different blossom colors (solid pink, white and variegated) on the same plant. We also have several red ones, some of which have double and single flowers on the same plant. The double rosy pink ones are just gorgeous this year.

When they stop blooming, we are going to have to move one of the dark pink ones that was crushed by a pine tree during Katrina. It is now in the middle of a what will become a driveway. We already have a spot picked out. There are several small plants in the clump so we feel sure that most of them will survive the move. We pruned the roots around the plant last fall so that small, feeder roots would grow before we move it. That way there will be less transplant shock.