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LOS NEWS

Newsletter of the Louisiana Ornithological Society


No. 181 BATON ROUGE, LAJULY 1998

The Botanical Birder
by Bill Fontenot
Toothache Tales
Prickly ash (Zanthoxylum clava-herculis) is one of several small native Louisiana trees that play surprisingly crucial roles in the nutritional support of many species of fall-migrating songbirds. Colloquially referred to as the "toothache tree" because of the numbing qualities of its sap, prickly ash is one of only two native members of the citrus family (Rutaceae) in Louisiana. (The other is Ptelea trifoliata, commonly known as the hop wafer tree.)
Occurring rather sporadically within various well-drained habitats throughout the state, prickly ash perhaps reaches its peak density along higher ditch banks, spoil banks, and deep-sand backbeach areas in southern Louisiana. Possessing pinnate-compound leaves (like a pecan tree), and growing to a maximum of 25', toothache tree can be readily identified from the presence of many short, sharp thorns that cover the younger trunks and branches. As these parts age, the base of each thorn gradually swells into a quasi- pyramidal mound. Eventually, the thorns themselves fall off the older wood, leaving only the mound-like swellings behind. In essence, toothache trees resemble young pecan saplings with smooth, pale-gray bark that is heavily dotted with these woody protuberances. Additionally, one sniff of a crushed prickly ash leaf is sufficient to identify the plant, since its highly aromatic sap smells like a curious and pungent mix of mentholatum and orange peel!
In Louisiana, prickly ash fruit clusters begin developing in June. By mid- to late July, the thin, olive- brown capsules begin splitting, exposing their precious cargo of lustrous, oily black fruits – each fruit no more than 5 or so millimeters in diameter – just in time for early fall-migrating birds such as Eastern Kingbird, Great crested flycatcher, Eastern wood pewee, various Empidonax flycatchers, and others. That migrating flycatchers should utilize prickly ash fruits at such a heavy rate comes as no small surprise, particularly at a time when flying insect populations are at their peak throughout the Gulf Coastal Plain! Quite possibly, the lipid-rich component in these fruits is needed for fat assimilation and storage by these early migrants at a time of year when few other lipid-rich resources exist.
My most memorable prickly ash and bird interaction was observed during a hike in the present-day Sherburne WMA (northwestern Atchafalaya Basin) that several of us undertook in late July 1988. There we came across a 20'X 20" tree that was completely animated by birds. The tree was prickly ash – in full fruit. The birds were Red-eyed vireos – at least 30 of them – each one hovering madly alongside its very own fruit cluster, plucking off individual fruits one at a time.
For the wildlife gardener, prickly ash makes a nice, compact, unobtrusive addition. Just give it a well- drained site (any soil will do) and plenty of sun. Besides being a fine bird plant, the toothache tree is also a superior host plant for the Giant Swallow-tail butterfly, the largest butterfly species in the U.S.!

Gleanings From LABIRD-L
BBS Reports
This email posting from Bill Vermillion was everyone's favorite report of BBS activity in Louisiana this year! For readers not familiar with THE USGS Breeding Bird Survey, there is a great website http://www.mbr.nbs.gov/bbs/bbs.html --C. Foil
"In late May - early June I ran 6 breeding bird survey routes. The routes were:
1) Ft. Jessup BBS - Sabine Parish, from near Belmont to near Florien; mostly pine plantations.
Highlights - nobody knew who Bill Fontenot was up there; stayed at a cabin on Toledo Bend; forced to listen to a drunken Free Stater who was wallowing in the lake with his sister in law - quote, ‘It ain't nothing sexual between us. We're just friends. My brother don't treat her right. He's selfish. He can't give love.', ... and on and on until the cabin owner chased them off and they idled away in their 442.
Birds exclusive to this survey: Greater Roadrunner, Gray Catbird, Swainson's Warbler.
2) Hackberry BBS - northern Cameron and Calcasieu Parishes, from Hackberry to Sulphur; marsh, pasture, residences.
Highlights - extremely dry and hot on the northern end of the route; post-route lunch at Suzy-Q's on Ryan St. in Lake Charles - decent cheeseburger.
Birds exclusive to this survey : Tricolored Heron, Purple Gallinule, Rock Dove, Inca Dove, Seaside Sparrow.
3) Maurice BBS - southern Acadia, northern Vermilion Parishes, Lyons Point to Maurice; ricefields, pastures, crawfish ponds, sugar cane, residences, soybeans.
Highlights - more and more sugar cane with very few birds; increased numbers of Neotropic Cormorants; seemingly fewer Northern Bobwhites; harassed and over-sprayed throughout the day by crazed cropdusters.
Birds exclusive to this survey: Roseate Spoonbill, Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Cooper's Hawk.
4) Natchez BBS - Natchitoches Parish, from Lotus in the Kisatchie National Forest to Natchez; various aged pine forests, pine plantations, pastures, fallow fields, residences.
Highlights: Hit a deer near Hornbeck on my way to the starting point, but made it to the start with minutes to spare. At the appointed time, got out and begin counting. Realized I had left my binoculars in Lafayette. After cursing I ground- truthed a couple of other routes in the area and returned to the cabin where my wife and I were staying. When I related the story to her, she said "Well, my binoculars were in the truck the whole time." Ouch. Ran the route the next day.
Birds exclusive to this survey: Pied-billed Grebe (along I-49 in ponds at Cypress exit), Anhinga, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (in the middle of Kisatchie along Kisatchie Bayou), Northern Parula.
5) Turkey Creek BBS - northern Evangeline, southern Rapides, from Pine Prairie to near Glenmora; pine plantations, mixed pine-hardwood forests, pastures, residences.
Highlights - Post route lunch at Reggie's in Glenmora. A cultural ecotone, of which there are many in our state. In Glenmora the Anglo-Saxons of the piney woods merge with the Cajuns of the prairies to the south, with other additions, including African Americans, descendants of jayhawkers, oilfield folks from all over who are working the Austin chalk formation at present, logging truck drivers from Pitkin and Ball and Jonesboro and such. The decor at Reggie's is not my cup of tea, but the huge tankard of sweet tea I had along with the beef tips over rice was. For some reason that I didn't find out, there are Ziploc bags of water tacked to the wall of Reggie's at various intervals. Good food, good price.
Birds exclusive to this route: Wood Duck, Red-tailed Hawk, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Bachman's Sparrow (usually get the latter two species on the Natchez BBS, but not this year).
6) Zwolle BBS - Sabine Parish, from about Bayou Lanana on Toledo Bend to near Pleasant Hill; mostly pine plantations, residences.
Highlights - crime wave in Many, according to the Sabine Index. Domestic violence resulted when a man's pork chop was eaten by his wife, who had already had her own. Police were called in. The Siesta Motel, where I stayed, had been ripped off by 2 women and a man who had stayed the week prior. They hauled off 3 TVs, linen, towels, clock radios, etc. I popped the top on a very large can of beer and mused over it as I flipped channels between Dennis Rodman and the Chicago Bulls, Babylon Five and World Championship Wrestling. At times I forgot which show I was watching.
Birds exclusive to this survey: Double- crested Cormorant (Toledo Bend), Field Sparrow, Worm-eating Warbler.
-- Bill Vermillion
Breeding Bird Survey
For LOS members not familiar with the techniques of the BBS: these 6 surveys done by Bill represent a lot of work! Each survey is performed along a prescribed route in May to mid-June. The routes are 25 miles long and birds are counted at 50 specific stops, for 3 minutes. Every bird seen or heard is recorded. Participants are asked to commit to running a route for several years, so that data can be compared year- to -year. The Coordinator for the BBS in Louisiana is Gary Lester. Gary can be reached at Lester_GD@WLF.STATE.LA.US. If you have the skills needed to identify birds relatively quickly, by sight and sound, the BBS needs your help!

Seabirds and Whales of Louisiana
Schedule and Sign up Information For 1998
Remaining Trip dates for 1998 are:
-- August 8
-- September 19
-- December 12

On each trip the boat is scheduled to leave Venice at 6 AM and return at 6 PM.
To reserve a spot, make out a check for $65.00 to the Louisiana Ornithological Society and send it to Bill Hemeter, 1825 Audubon Street, New Orleans, LA 70118. Reservations are made by payment only, on a first-come, first-served basis.
There are 38 spots available per trip, and refunds are made only if a trip is canceled or if a replacement is available from a waiting list.
There is a WEB SITE! for some more information about the trips: http://www.xula.edu/~jsevenai/offshore.html. Or you can call Bill Hemeter, our intrepid and tireless Pelagic Trip Organizer, at home (504.861.3117) or at work (504.392.1618), or e-mail him at bhemeter@bellsouth.net.

LOS Pelagic Trip Report -- June 1998
"Shearwater!" We were following a weed line that was mostly a track of foam on the sea with a few pieces of wood for variety. This bird was flying just above the water, moving along about as fast as our boat could go. Then it charged upward to attack a Bridled Tern, forcing it to give up its latest catch. The same voice called, "It's a jaeger!" (The name behind the voice is omitted to protect the guilty.) The bird was chugging right along, flying strongly, keeping pace with our intrepid crewboat, the Rita K. It would fly along just above the surface for a while before accelerating and attacking sharply upward, forcing its target tern to drop its food. Some of the terns gave up and dumped their most recent meal right away, but one tried hard to escape by dodging and circling. He succeeded at this for several circles, but finally the jaeger caught up and forced it to disgorge. After half a dozen repetitions of this our bird landed on the surface and sat there, probably digesting. He flew off as we drifted closer.
We were far offshore when we saw splashes ahead. The wind was blowing, and there were a few whitecaps, but these splashes didn't seem to be that kind. Sure enough, we were soon in the midst of a school of feeding tuna; Mac Myers thought they were blackfins. The fish were beautiful blue-black and silver torpedoes, but we wanted to look at the birds above them. There were Bridled Terns there, but there was a much bigger bird that seemed to be more interesting. This one would land, and feed, and run along the water to take flight, and land again. We didn't seem to make him nervous at all. Yellow beak with a dark tip and a small tube on top, long slender brown wings, paler and worn-looking neck and back, white throat, breast, and belly; it was definitely a Cory's Shearwater. Yes, I know, the species isn't on the official Louisiana state list, yet., but my guess would be that our bird records committee will add the species to the state list soon, based on some great photographic evidence.
With this good beginning, our peerless leaders decided to try some other tricks. Various items of chum went overboard, and David Muth flew his kite, purchased at a kite shop in downtown New Orleans and colored to look like a tropicbird (either species). The kite was worth looking at for its own sake, but we had no luck with tropicbirds this day. The chum did pull in some storm-petrels. We looked at the birds through our binoculars, and thought hopeful thoughts: ‘Band-rumped, Band-rumped'. The birds pattered with their feet on the chum slick and extended them out beyond their tails, telling us, ‘Wilson's, Wilson's!' Thinking of these little birds as breeding in Antarctica, spending months at sea to fly to the Gulf of Mexico for their winter, and enlivening our trip, may help ease the frustrations of storm-petrel ID.
We encountered our most substantial weed line earlier in the day. This one had some sargassum weed in it, along with enough lumber to build a house. Standing on the wood and flying above it, shearing off when they came within a few dozen feet of the Rita K, were Bridled Terns by the dozen. There were some Black Terns among them, but the count of Bridleds mounted by the minute. Between this rip line, and the terns the jaeger found for us, and the ones above the tuna school, and all the others we found, we saw well over a hundred of them.. It's odd to think that the Bridled Tern was on the LBRC review list before we started these pelagic trips. These are truly voyages of discovery!
Fish would jump near the pieces of lumber from time to time, fish with broad heads tapering to slender tails: dolphins (not the mammal type). Somebody spotted a tattered triangular fin, and we slowly inched toward it, trying to move as subtly as an 80-foot crewboat can move. We almost ran over the owner of the fin, a hammerhead shark. That wasn't all, of course. Our first offshore bird was another Cory's Shearwater, flying alone, letting the bow of the Rita K come within ten feet, confirming that the species is one that will cooperate with us. David Muth's call of "Whale!" led us toward some bushy spouts, followed by the high foreheads, long backs, and lumpy dorsals of a pair of majestic Sperm Whales. Amazingly enough, after Bottlenose Dolphins, this is the cetacean we find most often on our trips. We chased another storm-petrel, hoping to get evidence that it was a Band-rumped, but coming to no conclusion. There were Bottlenose Dolphins around the mouth of South Pass, and Nancy Newfield and I spotted four Magnificent Frigatebirds floating elegantly above Empire on the drive back (OK, those don't count on our pelagic list).
Once I went into the cabin to drink some liquids and rehydrate. Mac Myers came down a few minutes later, and he loaned me the towel that he keeps soaking in the ice water in his ice chest. I wrapped it around my head, and it was a great relief. Yes, sitting on the deck of a metal crewboat for hours on end has its downside. The next trip is August 8, and I've been signed up for months. I wouldn't miss it for the world!
– John Sevenair

Kelp Gull and Herring X Kelp Gull hybrids:
a new saga in gull ID problems
by Donna L. Dittman & Steven W. Cardiff
BRIEF HISTORY
Territorial "black-backed" gulls were first noted on Curlew Island in the Chandeleur Island chain on July 8, 1989 by Lawrence P. O'Meallie (photographs) and R. D. Purrington. The pair of displaying adults was initially identified as one of the blacker-backed subspecies of Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus f. fuscus or L. f. intermedius). In 1990, as this record began its first circulation through the Louisiana Bird Records Committee, Paul McKenzie was the first to comment that the Curlew Island gulls were almost certainly not Lesser Black-backed Gulls and that the birds' appearance was more suggestive of Kelp Gull (L. dominicanus), a widespread southern hemisphere species. Much discussion ensued over the identification and origin of the Curlew Island "Kelp" gulls. The "black-backed" Chandeleur gulls were again reported the summer of 1990, with the same pair present on Curlew (L. O'Meallie) and a single individual present on Grand Gosier (Richard Martin).
Although the identification of the Chandeleur birds appears to be relatively certain based on extensive photos and process of elimination, acceptance of the first North American records has been stalled by the lack of voucher specimens and the issue of natural vagrancy versus human-assisted origin. To date, Kelp Gull has not been accepted by the LBRC, ABA (review of accepted Texas record(s) Galveston 1995, 1996 is in progress) or AOU. I n 1987 "Black-backed" Gulls were observed on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula (Jorge Correa S.). Publication of Louisiana "Kelps" in American Birds Central Southern Regional Summaries (Purrington 1990; Am. Birds 44: 1143-1147) provided the incentive to follow-up on the Yucatan gull identification, and a photographic documentation was obtained in May 1991. Subsequently, Howell et al (1993) published "First records of the Kelp Gull in Mexico" (The Euphonia 2(4(: 71-80). Colonization of the Chandeleurs by Kelp Gulls may be related to the appearance of Kelp Gull on the Yucatan. Possible Kelp Gulls have been reported in other coastal Louisiana sites (Fourchon and Rutherford beaches, Baptiste Colette), Texas, and Indiana. There are no other reports of Kelp Gull in the New World north of Ecuador or Brazil.
Coinciding with the appearance of the apparent Kelp Gulls on the Chandeleurs was the colonization of those islands by breeding Herring Gulls, previously unknown as breeding birds in Louisiana and a very rare breeder elsewhere on the Gulf Coast. In fact, the first observation of a breeding Herring Gull in Louisiana was of a bird paired with an apparent Kelp on Grand Gosier in 1990; perhaps more importantly, the Grand Gosier pair produced at least one viable offspring (R. Martin - photographs).
By 1994, in addition to a pair of pure Kelp Gulls, there were several pairs of Herring Gulls breeding on Curlew Island, as well as various pairs of birds presumed to be intermediate- looking hybrids, hybrids paired with pure Herrings, and hybrids paired with pure Kelps. In 1997 and 1998, a similar situation existed on Curlew Island, except that the numbers of Herring Gulls have gradually increased, and no pure pairs of Kelp Gulls were detected.
Whatever the origin of the Kelp Gulls in the Gulf of Mexico, their occurrence and subsequent hybridization with Herring Gulls, and the continuing breeding of both parent species and hybrids has a tremendous and under-appreciated implication on identification of large, dark-mantled gulls on the Gulf Coast
QUICK REVIEW OF GULL PLUMAGE TERMINOLOGY
Good basic information regarding gull topography is contained in Gulls, a Guide to Identification, by P. J. Grant. For this article it is important for the reader to understand the following information. Definitive alternate plumage is the bird's adult breeding plumage; large gulls usually acquire this plumage as four year olds. This plumage is obtained through a partial (body feathers only, no flight feathers are replaced) pre-alternate molt that begins in the late winter and progresses through the spring. This plumage is characterized (in the species covered here) by an immaculate white head, and adult soft part colors (orbital ring, iris, bill, and leg color). The "mantle" technically refers to the bird's upper back, but for convenience, it is commonly expanded to include all of the back and upperwing coverts. The f light feathers include primaries and secondaries. The ten primaries (attached to the bird's "hand") are numbered backwards from the outermost feather (=#10; contra Grant) and the secondaries are attached to the bird's arm bone (ulna) between the primaries and the body. The outer primary is all black with a white tip or subterminal spot or "mirror" and, depending on the species, the other nine primaries are black distally, some with "mirrors" and with various amounts or shades of gray (or all gray). All primaries are tipped white when fresh, but these tips may "wear" off by late spring or summer. "Mirrors" are white subterminal spots surrounded by black (or gray), and are not to be confused with the white primary tips. The bases of the primaries and secondaries are covered above and below by sets of feathers arranged in rows (coverts). In definitive alternate plumage, the upperwing coverts are the same color as the back; the underwing coverts (referred to as the underwing "linings") are white. A "secondary bar" is formed when there is contrast between the upperwing coverts or underwing lining, and the secondaries, or their tips. In definitive alternate plumage, a secondary bar is prominent only on the underwing, when the bird is viewed in flight from below.
PART 1: ADULTS IN DEFINITIVE ALTERNATE PLUMAGE
Because of potential hybrids, identification of pure Kelp Gull must be approached with extreme caution. Careful examination of mantle color, primary pattern (especially that of the underwing), orbital ring and leg color, and overall structure, are required to differentiate Kelps from superficially similar species or potential hybrids. No other adult white-tailed gull species, except Great Black-backed, possesses a nearly black mantle with little or no contrast between black primaries and blackish-gray mantle. Definitive adult Great Black-backeds have a distinctive primary pattern (a large, all white tip to primary #10 with a prominent white mirror on primary #9) and ivory-pink legs. Great Black-backeds are also substantially larger in all aspects, sex for sex (although small female Great Black-backeds probably overlap with large male Kelps). Kelp Gulls are approximately the size of a Herring Gull, and are therefore larger on average than most Lesser Black-backed Gulls (considering only L. f. graellsii, the largest subspecies and the only subspecies recorded in Louisiana). Kelp Gulls have heavy angled-looking bills and long, heavy greenish-yellow legs with proportionally "big" feet. No "pure" Kelp has been observed thus far in Louisiana with non-yellow legs. (The apparent Kelps on the Yucatan Peninsula are similar.) Kelp Gull shares its primary pattern (one window on primary #10) with three other relatively dark-mantled gull species: Lesser Black-backed, Yellow-footed (L. livens), and Western (L. occidentalis wymani). These species also share the same underwing pattern of uniformly black outer four primaries blending to dark gray and then forming a dark stripe along the broadly white-tipped secondaries (see illustration); the dark undersurface of the primaries and secondary bar is not well- illustrated in current field or gull guides. This feature is more pronounced on Kelp by virtue of the much blacker upper surface of the wing, further exaggerating the dark secondaries seen from below. Kelp Gull shares the same orbital ring color as Lesser Black-backed, most Western (L. o. wymani; may also show darker iridies) and Yellow-footed gulls. Documentation of "pure" Kelp Gulls should include photographs that focus on the above characters.
Hybrids pose a much more difficult problem.. Presumed first generation ("F1") Kelp X Herring Gull hybrids are superficially like Lesser Black-backed or Yellow-footed Gulls. Structurally more like a Herring or Kelp gull, the "F1" hybrid does not appear as proportionately long-winged as a Lesser Black-backed (in flight or when perched). The mantle color is most like graellsii Lesser Black-backed or Yellow-footed gulls, the pattern of the upper surface of the primaries (one window on primary #10) is the same, and the "F1" hybrids have yellow or greenish-yellow legs. The best way to differentiate the hybrids is to concentrate on the pattern of the undersurface of the wing while the bird is in flight. With good views, gray "tongues" bleed up into the black primaries, most noticeable on primaries number 4-7 and give the impression of a black wedge (somewhat reminiscent of a kittiwake, but not as extreme). A shadow of dark gray runs back along the secondaries (see illustration) but does not blend from black to gray as in the Kelp or Lesser Black- backed gulls. An "F1" can be picked out at a distance by the dark undersurface of the secondaries (unlike the essentially pale silvery gray secondaries of a Herring). A dark-mantled hybrid can be confused with a pure Kelp, especially under backlit or otherwise poor viewing conditions and without close inspection of the underwing pattern and mantle color. The orbital ring color of thee hybrids has been noted as orange (intermediate between the two parental types). "F1" hybrids can be separated from Lesser Black-backeds by the combination of size and structure (retaining more Herring or Kelp-like features), underwing patten, and orbital ring color.
Presumed "backcross" hybrids are even more problematical. "F1" hybrids have been observed paired with Kelp, "F1" and Herring gulls. Assuming that the mantle color will be intermediate between the parents, "F2" offspring can therefore have a range of potential mantle colors. A Kelp X "F1" will likely have a mantle darker than a Lesser Black-backed, but lighter than the typical Kelp. An "F1" X Herring offspring should be lighter backed than a Lesser Black-backed, yet still noticeably darker than a Herring.. During our recent visit, all birds we assumed to be "F2" hybrids (mantles paler than a Lesser Black- backed) had legs appearing grayish-green or gray. This could lead to possible confusion with California Gull (L. californicus), primarily in sub-adult plumages. Adult California Gulls is easily separated from adult greenish-gray or gray-legged hybrids by the combination of dark brown iris, black spot next to red gonys spot, and distinctive primary pattern (all white tip on primary #10, window on primary #9). A "F1" X "F1" hybrid could conceivably retain "F1" features, or even express characters of the grandparents. Of course, this possibility exists for any hybrid pairing
We have only scratched the surface by discussing adult gulls in alternate plumage. The puzzle is much more complicated! To date we have not observed first-summer Kelps or first summer hybrids on the islands. A few presumed second and third year hybrids (dark mantles, gray or yellow legs) are present; most sub-adults we assume remain on the "wintering" grounds. The whereabouts of the "missing" sub-adults and where the post-breeding adults go (if anywhere) is currently a mystery.
So get your camera ready. A whole new era for gull identification begins. Please submit all photos of possible Kelp Gulls to the LBRC. The LBRC does not review records of hybrids, but to help us track the progress of these gulls, please submit photographs of potential hybrids to the authors. Thanks in advance. – Museum of Natural Science, 119 Foster Hall, Louisiana Stare University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803

Migration Spectacle In The Gulf
The LSUMNS Gulf Oil Platform Migrations Study gets off to a "spectacular" start and, with many thanks to Van Remsen, subscribers to LABIRD were thrilled to have the privilege to read some of these first reports. This was from John Arvin, on one of 5 platforms being monitored, after the night of April 29.....
"Up nearly all night marveling. The river of birds continued unabated (ranging from 30-50 birds passing my position per second in the illuminated air space I could see that extends maybe 100 m. out from the platform from within a few feet of the water up to about 200 m. Birds higher than that I could not see but there seemed to be far fewer very far overhead. I was on a deck about 80 feet off the water. ....... On my 05:00 round I found the well bay full of birds (at least 50 individuals) but due to lots of milling around it was difficult to get accurate numbers of identified birds. ..... The sheer numbers of Catharus thrushes was staggering. I could clearly identify Veeries flying by and the calls of Gray-cheekeds were constant all night..... It is now just daylight and the flow seems to have stopped or to have gained enough altitude that I can no longer see them with the unaided eye though there are birds flying around the platform in random directions that had evidently put down during the night and now are being stirred up by human activity. I could see many tails of sleeping birds sticking out from the beams of the ceilings on the 05:00 round that I could not see enough of to identify.
"This has been the ornithological spectacle of my entire life. Intellectually I knew that this sort of thing had to happen, at least occasionally, but to actually stand in one place for hour after hour and watch a steady flow pass just a few feet from you is like watching a major river. And attempting to quantify the flow is about like trying to count water in a river. I'm a little rocky from no sleep but I have never been remotely struck by any other ornithological event like I have been by this. I suspect that very few people on this planet have seen what I have seen in the last 12 hours. It is a spell- binding feeling I will carry to my grave."
Van Remsen adds, "I think Lowery and Newman would be quite pleased to know that the Museum is back in the business of studying Trans-Gulf Migration! We began the first of 3 years of continuous sampling of 5 oil platforms at various locations off the Louisiana coast; our field season was 15 March to 15 May this year, and will go again from 15 Aug. to 31 Oct. (We hope to get funding for year-round surveys on at least 1 platform.) Post-doc Robert Russell is the lead scientist for the "on-platform" part of the project, while ... Sid Gauthreaux simultaneously monitors migration using radar. In addition to the observational data, several hundred bird casualties were salvaged for specimens from the platforms."

What Else's Happening in Louisiana Ornithology?
Thinking LOS NEWS readers would be interested in what other projects some of our university-based ornithologists were up to this summer, I asked those who were LOS members to share a summary of this summer's projects.
From Van Remsen at the LSU Museum of Natural Science:
John O'Neill received a National Geographic Society grant to explore high Andes on Peru's Ecuadorian border. Manuel and Marta Sanchez, Irma Franke, and students Dan Lane, Josie Babin, Rob Faucett, and Chris Witt, along with Leticia Alamia, Peruvian students, and botanists from Missouri Botanical Garden, will be part of John's team, which will be in the field until late August.
Student Alex Aleixo is in Amazonian Brazil, where he will be studying genetic and phenotypic differentiation of birds specialized on bamboo thickets. Student Mario Cohn-Haft is in Brazil, where he has been studying genotypic/phenotypic differentiation in Hemitriccus flycatchers for the past year.
Student Alison Styring has been in Malaysia since mid-May; she will be studying ecology/biogeography of woodpecker/bark-foraging birds at several points between there and Australia.
Students Rob Moyle and Jason Weckstein will be going to the International Ornithological Congress and will be collecting birds in South Africa for several weeks prior to the meetings.
Student Kazuya Naoki will be going to Ecuador soon (thanks to the generosity of alum Bill Eley) to begin fieldwork on his dissertation (on Tangara tanagers). M.S. student Liz Loos and Ph.D. student Manuel Marin are "grounded" this summer at LSU, where they will be working on writing papers (from their research on waterfowl incubation ecology and breeding biology of tropical swifts, respectively).
Steve Cardiff and Donna Dittmann just returned from 3 weeks of surveying birds along the Mexico border in Texas, where we have an agreement with the state to do inventories of state lands. Steve and Donna also spent several days surveying birds on the Chandeleur Islands.
Doug Pratt has just finished up 9 color plates for a Mayr & Diamond book to be entitled, Speciation in Northern Melanesian Birds. Along with Mario Cohn- Haft he has also completed a color plate of potoos for Handbook of Birds of the World and is starting on a hummingbird plate for the same series. In addition he is working on a book on Hawaiin honeycreepers for Oxford University Press and illustrating a Hawaii volume for Academic Press's ecotravelrs guides!
From James Ingold at LSU - Shreveport:
This summer I have been working on a life history study of Swainson's Warbler at the Little River National Wildlife Refuge, near Broken Bow, McCurtain Co., Oklahoma. My work involves a census of numbers on the refuge, territory size and vegetation analysis, and breeding biology. The study will be continued in the summer of 1999.
Starting this fall, I will be conducting a year-long survey of the birds of the prairie remnants in the Kistatchie National Forest in Winn Parish.
From Phil Stouffer at SLU:
Students David Brown and Cheryl Strong are in the field near Manaus, Brazil continuing my ongoing project with terrestrial insectivorous birds. Cheryl will also be working on a new project examining roads as barriers to movements of rainforest birds. Cheryl's next stop is Rondonia,where she will briefly help LSU student Alexandre Aleixo with his fieldwork. This fall, both students will be back in Louisiana working on winter Ecology of Hermit Thrush.
Student Gena Dwyer is finishing her thesis on local and regional abundance of wintering Hermit Thrush, including sex-specific differential migration.
Student Audra Bassett is surveying breeding birds in Weyerhaeuser forests in Tangipahoa parish.
Phil Stouffer is wishing he were in the field rather than doing paperwork
From Tom Sherry, Tulane University:
Student Amanda Medori completed senior honors thesis comparing American Redstart diets (prey sizes & types) in Jamaica vs. New Hampshiire, and examined aspects of diet relevant to its overwintering success in shade coffee plantations. Her thesis was selected as best senior thesis in the sciences.
Students Amanda Medori and Matt Johnson spent first week and a half of June in Jamaica surveying arthropod abundances in habitats island-wide as part of a project assessing relative preferences of migrant and resident birds for different habitats.
Matt Johnson completed field work in Jamaica in the Spring for his dissertation, on ecological bases for habitat suitability of migrant canopy warblers (American Redstart, Parula Warbler, Prairie Warbler) in Jamaica. Status: ABD (All But Dissertation).
Student Leo Douglas (Jamaican graduate student co-supervised by Tom Sherry and Dr. Peter Vogel at University of the West Indies) is comparing migrant and resident Jamaican bird communities across human disturbance gradients in Caribbean dry forests, including both urban and rural residential habitats. Leo is featured in a chapter of Scott Weidensaul's newest book (in progress) on migratory birds.
Student Al Strong (also ABD) has migrated to Vermont for the summer, analyzing data on ecology of ground-foraging warblers (Ovenbird, Swainson's Warbler) wintering in Jamaica.
Tom Sherry is laid up for the summer, hence making progress on reviews and manuscripts on American Redstart ecology in New Hampshire and Jamaica (to mention just a few projects). He and colleague Dick Holmes (Dartmouth College) are authors of two papers targeted for South Africa IOC: population regulation in birds, and delayed plumage maturation in American Redstarts (question of why yearling males look like females).
Recent Ph.D. Bruce Fleury is working with Tom Sherry and Dr. Jay Huner (Crawfish Research Center, USL, Lafayatte) on manuscripts about colonial wading birds' population increases in response to growth of commercial crawfish industry in Louisiana. Bruce taught Ornithology this Spring with assistance from Al Strong.
Recent Ph.D. student Sally Spahn is revising manuscripts on effects of lead and cadmium residues in reducing growth rates and survival of Little Blue Heron chicks in south Louisiana wetlands.
New graduate student Jennifer Coulson (entering Fall, 1998) is continuing her studies on behavioral ecology and coloniality of Swallow-tailed Kites in Louisiana and Mississippi.
Dan Purrington continues to contribute to editing of American Birds.
Several scientists from South Louisiana have begun meeting this Spring, at the instigation of Dr. Robert Thomas (Loyola University), to develop collaborative studies of migrant bird behavior, ecology, and conservation locally (including site of Audubon Center for Research on Endangered Species, ACRES) in summer, winter, and in migration. Other participants include Tom Sherry, Dan Purrington, David Muth (U.S. Park Service, Jean LaFitte National Historical Park), Peter Yaukey (University of New Orleans), Phil Stouffer (SLU, Hammond). Stay tuned for developments!
Gwen Smalley birded Tikal, Mexico, this Spring with her 8-year-old granddaughter, who is "turning out to be a great birder". Little wonder why!

Journal of Louisiana Ornithology
There is now an e-mail address (and a new editor, announced last issue for the Journal of Louisiana Ornithology. All correspondence regarding the journal should be directed to: Jim Ingold, Editor, Department of Biological Sciences, LSU-Shreveport, 1 University Place,Shreveport, LA 71115; (318)797-5236; los-jlo@pilot.lsus.edu

Art in Science
The Museum of Natural Science at Louisiana State University will honor John O'Neill, Doug Pratt and other talented museum artists in an upcoming show entitled Art in Science: Zoological Illustration at LSU. During the run of the show Drs. Pratt and O'Neill will be presenting talks in Foster Art Gallery. The show will run October 9 – 23, 1998. There will be am opening gala Friday, October 9 at 7:30 pm. For information call the LSUMNS at 504-388-2855.

Spring 1998 LSUMNS Graduate Student Big Days
On 18 April 1998, 3 teams of graduate students from the LSUMNS ventured out to different parts of the state to raise money for the museum s "Bird-a- Thon" fund-raiser. The cool, rainy weather, and north winds following a front, produced a nice fallout on the coast but difficult birding conditions. Team #1, consisting of Dan Lane, Jason Weckstein, Rob Moyle, and Chris Witt, started at the LSU Museum at 2am, recording some "staked-out" birds around Baton Rouge (e.g. American Robin, Red-headed Woodpecker, Lesser Scaup, White Pelican), and then took off for Whiskey Bay for the pre-dawn hour and the first hour of the day. Rain was steady and the level of singing was depressingly low, but we were encouraged when a group of Wild Turkeys crossed the road in front of us, and a wet Anhinga flapped laboriously across I-10 into the driving torrents. From the Atchafalaya, we motored down I-10 to Crowley, where we entered the rice fields and then worked our way to Cameron Parish via back roads. Despite the rain, birds came to us steadily: a flock of White- crowned Sparrows in a hedgerow, singing House and Sedge wrens, Lincoln's and Swamp sparrows, a flock of Buff-breasted Sandpipers, Upland Sandpiper, and Sora right along the roadside.
Our first stop in Cameron revealed MANY migrants in the cheniers, but the rain made observations difficult. Rain dripped continuously from trees, spattering binoculars and glasses. Rutherford Beach yielded Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Northern Gannet, and a Peregrine, which playfully picked up and subsequently dropped a startled, but apparently unharmed Sora from the beach. The low point of our day was a stop at East Jetty, where the rain was coming down so hard that it was not even worth getting out of the car -- at that point we decided that we'd be best off in line for the ferry while we waited for the rain to subside. That was a good decision: Peveto Woods was jumping with birds, and we racked up additional species at a fairly constant rate. At Holly Beach we picked up Merlin and White-tailed Kite. In the evening, with rain STILL falling, we returned to the east side of the ferry for a stop in town and a return to East Jetty. There we picked up Marbled Godwit, Piping Plover, Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow, and Gull-billed Tern. Finally, the last bird of the day, #192 was a Virginia Rail that called along East Jetty Road just after dark, rain STILL falling. Unfortunately the rain cost us several bad misses including Turkey and Black vultures, Mississippi Kite, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Blackpoll Warbler, Wilson's Plover, Bank Swallow, White- rumped Sandpiper, and Hairy Woodpecker.
Team #2 (Josie Babin, Alex Aleixo, and Richard Greig) birded from Kisatchie to Cameron, and Team #3 (Alison Styring and Kazuya Naoki) birded the eastern part of the state. Combined they added 13 species, including all the expected pine-woods species and Bald Eagle.
As it turned out, the following day, 19 April, would have been the ideal day to make the run: the skies cleared, north winds persisted, and Cameron still held a lot of migrants. Within a few hours of leaving the Gulf Motel, we recorded about a dozen species nowhere to be found the day before. However, our Bird-a-Thon on April 18 was still a success because all three teams came up with a combined total of 205 species, the official total for our fund-raiser. We also knew that the next week had potential for another shot at the Louisiana big day record!
The weather conditions on 30 April seemed ideal for a big day: a front had just passed through, the weather was clearing, and north winds continued. After the first run on 18 April, we (Jason Weckstein and Chris Witt) set out to improve on the 192 mark and to make a push for the Louisiana Big Day record of 202. We used a route similar to our 18 April run, but streamlined it by leaving at 3am and spending less time in the rice fields. Whiskey Bay was fantastic, producing Wild Turkey, Swallow-tailed and Mississippi Kites, Anhinga, Broad-winged Hawk, Chuck-will s-widow, Eastern Screech-Owl, Wood Duck, Black Vulture, Pileated Woodpecker, and a Bobcat (which unfortunately doesn't count toward the list), AND we were able to get back on I-10 by 7:15am. After a failed attempt at Pine Warbler near the Iota exit, we headed south through the rice country, where we easily ticked Hudsonian Godwit, Wilson's Phalarope, Baird's, and White-rumped sandpipers. Our list was looking good, as all three of these species were absent on our previous rainy 18 April run. The flocks of shorebirds in the rice fields were very impressive to say the least: we saw several fields with flocks of over 2000 peeps, but unfortunately had little time to scan them over. We picked up singing Dickcissel, Marsh Wren, and King Rail without even slowing the car. An Upland Sandpiper called once, but Buff-breasted was absent, and we eventually missed it. Gibbstown bridge produced Pied-billed Grebe and Purple Gallinule, but we spent too much time there trying for a Least Bittern that would not reveal itself (we eventually got Least Bittern in the marsh along E. Jetty Road, just before dusk... Phew!). The cheniers contained good numbers of migrants, but were so dominated by Catharus thrushes (especially Gray-cheeked), tanagers, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Ovenbirds, Bay-breasted Warblers, and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks that it was difficult to find everything we needed. Male Black-throated Blue and Golden-winged Warblers were encouraging. On our first stop at East Jetty, we picked up a nice bonus, 3 Black Scoters. A Ruddy Duck was in the marsh along Rutherford Beach Road. Behind the courthouse in town, an American Bittern and a Cedar Waxwing were nice finds. On the west side of the ferry, Peregrine and White-tailed Kite were no-shows. We spent a long time driving out to get Cave Swallow at the Sabine River Bridge (easy to find) but got little else along the way. The gate to the Secret Place was unfortunately locked, which was disheartening. Luckily, on a nearby lawn there was an easy Glossy Ibis. With darkness closing in, we decided to make a return trip to East Jetty. In the small patch of woods by the ferry, we picked up an obvious (albeit silent) Traill's Flycatcher. Back at East Jetty, we walked out in the marsh and spotted Wilson's Plover, Piping Plover, Marbled Godwit, and Red Knot (actually our second of the day). A round-about return route through the marsh as the sun was setting yielded Seaside Sparrow among many singing Nelson's Sharp- tailed Sparrows. Once Chris thought he heard a Sedge Wren chip, but it didn't call again, and we ended up missing it -- by that time in the day, Chris was so tired that he might have been dreaming it. It was getting dark: our total was 199, but we were running out of things to get. We sorted through numerous nighthawks hoping for Lesser, but to no avail. After dark we desperately walked out to Broussard Beach with flashlights hoping for Snowy Plovers, but all we could turn up were Sanderlings and a couple of Avocets,which seemed a little confused but generally unperturbed by our lights. At that point, the only things that we could reasonably still get were Sedge Wren and Virginia Rail. The marsh along East Jetty Road yielded neither. We decided to cross the ferry again and try along 27 north. Along the way, we figured we would spotlight the telephone poles as we drove, hoping for a roosting Osprey. What we found was even better (but still only 1 species): an adult Peregrine was roosting on a telephone pole just north of Holly Beach -- #200!! After several unsuccessful stops, we finally heard a Virginia Rail #201, calling at a small roadside marsh near Hackberry, at 10 minutes to midnight. Our worst misses in addition to those mentioned above were Short-billed Dowitcher, Black- billed Cuckoo, American Kestrel, Red-tailed Hawk, and Bobolink. The state record of 202 (set by Parker, Remsen, Dittmann, and Cardiff in 1989) will remain intact for another year -- but next year, the grad student team will return another year wiser and ready to realize the real big day potential of Louisiana. The graduate students would like to thank everyone who contributed to the Bird-a-thon this year. It is a very important source of research funds for the ornithology students at the Museum, and we appreciate EVERY donation. – Christopher C. Witt and Jason D. Weckstein, Museum of Natural Science, 119 Foster Hall, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803

LOS Website
http://www4.linknet.net/LOS
Editor David L'Hoste is setting up a page for a directory of LA birders willing to assist visitors. It will list as much or as little as participants like with codes much like those from the ABA directory. If you wish to participate and assist in answering questions and/or guiding for visiting birders, send email to David. Mail to: lhoste@lhostelaw.com

Louisiana Birdline
A joint project of the Orleans Audubon Society
and the Louisiana Ornithological Society
Toll Free 1-877-834-2473 (BIRD)

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Make check payable to LOS
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LOS Officers And Board Members
President:Matt Courtman, P.O. Box 3197, Baton Rouge, LA 70821
504.387.4000; bswbr.mmc@em2.com
Vice-President:David J. L'Hoste, 5708 Annunciation St., New Orleans, LA 70115
(h)504.899.5018; (w)504.566.0056; lhoste@lhostelaw.com
Sec.-Treasurer:Judith O'Neale, 504 Whitebark, Lafayette, LA 70508
318.981.1011; jloneale@aol.com
Past President:Dave Patton, 122 Memory Lane, Lafayette, LA 70506
318.232.8410; wdpatton@bellsouth.net
Board Member:Robby Bacon, 357 Washington St., Lake Charles, LA 70605
318.478.4437
Board Member:Kermit Cummings, 517 Hiawatha Trail, Pineville, LA 71360
318.640.0312; kccbirder@aol.com
Board Member:Melvin Webber, P.O. Box 245, Reserve, LA 70084
mweber@communique.com
LOS News Editor:Carol Foil, 1180 Stanford Ave, Baton Rouge, LA 70808
(h & fax) 504.387.0368; (w) 504.346.3119; foil@vt8200.vetmet.lsu.edu
Journal of Louisiana Ornithology: Dr. James Ingold, Department of BioScience, LSUS, One University Place, Shreveport, LA 71115
jingold@pilot.lsus.edu

Studies In Neotropical Ornithology
Ornithological Monographs #48 has been published. This commemorative volume aclcnowledges the central contributions of the late Theodore A. Parker III to neotropical ornithology. Each copy is $49.95 and add $4.00 per copy for S&H. Make payment by Mastercard, Visa or check and send to:
Max C. Thomseon
Assistant to the Treasurer
AOU, Department of Biology
Southwestern College
100 College Street
Winfield, KS 67156
-00-

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LOS News Editor: Carol Foil, 1180 Stanford Ave, Baton Rouge, LA 70808
(h & fax) 504.387.0368; (w) 504.346.3119; foil@vt8200.vetmet.lsu.edu

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posted 18July98