No. 188 BATON ROUGE, LANovember 1999

LOS NEWS, Page 3

Table of Contents

Western Hummers, Winter Fun
List of Western Hummers
the Duke?
The Botanical Birder
Yard List Competition '99
November Pelagic Report
Alternative Pelagic Report
Hummer ID Article
Hummer Figure 1
Hummer Figure 2
Hummer Figure 3
Hummer Figure 4
Hummer Figure 5
LOS NEWS, page 1
LOS NEWS, page 2
Louisiana Birding Organizations
Gray Jay Study by LOS birder
LOS Sales
Saw-whets in LA?
Trying Too Hard!
2000 LOS Winter Meeting
Registration Form
LOS Officers
LOS Fall Meeting Report
Irruptive Species Project
Membership Form
LOS Homepage

Vermont Audubon's Take P.A.R.T. Camp

Gray Jay Project
by Christie Riehl

The Green Mountains of Vermont, a rich expanse of boreal forest, seem worlds away from the cypress swamps that characterize Louisiana. Thanks to the Louisiana Ornithological Society and its scholarship fund, I was able to study the Gray Jays of this lush area as part of a summer camp for teenagers. With Dr. William Barnard, a biologist at Norwich University, I and nine other teens spent two weeks trapping and banding jays. The program was designed to allow kids to participate in an actual scientific project while contributing data to Dr. Barnard's study.

We worked in the Victory Bog Wildlife Management Area, a beautiful bog surrounded by coniferous forest and filled with birds. To catch the jays, we set up mist-nets and played a recording of Gray Jays giving alarm calls. Attracted by the tape, jays quickly flew to investigate only to be caught in the nets. By fitting every bird with a radio transmitter and a combination of leg bands, we were able to track each individual's movements through the Victory area.

Our days soon fell into a pattern: start at dawn when the jays were most active, trap and band during the morning and afternoon, and spend the evening hiking and birding. The forest and bog were home to an endless variety of birds – Black-backed Woodpeckers, Ruffed Grouse, Olive-sided Flycatchers, and Red-breasted Nuthatches were common visitors to our campsite. Special forays into the bog yielded American Bitterns, Lincoln's Sparrows, and even the occasional Boreal Chickadee!

Though we only caught glimpses of bear and moose, we did manage to see our Holy Grail -- the Spruce Grouse. Spruce Grouse are an endangered and much-sought-after bird in Vermont, so to see them we made a trip to a birding hot-spot called Moose Bog. We spent well over two hours in the bog looking for grouse, but found only a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher and a Nashville Warbler. Pleased but exhausted, we started back on the trail to the parking lot. As we neared the van, a female Spruce Grouse ran out of the woods and onto the trail in front of us -- with two young grouse in tow! They seemed completely unaware of our presence and foraged around my feet before scuttling back into the undergrowth. It was only one of my many unforgettable experiences of a unique and beautiful ecosystem. Because of the LOS, I will remember those two weeks for a long time to come.

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I want to make sure everyone down here is aware of what an incredible winter this is shaping up to be up north. One of the largest and most impressive movements thus far have been the Saw-whet Owls. As usual they are being detected almost entirely by banders. In 1995 there was a major Saw-whet movement, the likes of which had never been documented before in the East (because no banders had been there to detect them). By all signs this year is EVEN BETTER! The info I've seen so far suggest that this bumper crop is composed of at least 2 HY:1 AHY, so is perhaps due to good reproduction on the breeding grounds (rather than a poor year forcing birds south). Every station in the Appalachians, along the Great Lakes, and elsewhere in the non-coastal Northeast were reporting record one-night captures, even before what is generally considered the peak (i.e. first big cold front in November/late October).
A few things to be aware of...
* Check all roadkills. Saw-whets are very often hit by cars and a large number of roadkills turn up in these invasion years. Note that Saw-whets have spotted primaries while those of Screech Owls are barred.
* Check in regularly w/ Rehab centers. As with roadkills, a large number of injured Saw-whets turn up in these invasion years.
* DON'T ignore reports of small owls in urban areas. A number of Saw-whets in 1995 turned up sitting on perches right in urban centers (e.g. New York City in a Christmas Tree for sale on a street corner!). I would guess that Saw-whet is more likely than screech in any downtown sector of New Orleans...
* Try some night work. Get or make a loop tape of the song and try playing it on your owling efforts on CBCs or any other time you have the incentive to get out and try. Approaching Saw-whets may or may not call, so be quick with that flashlight if you see something fly in. When they do vocalize, they can give a startling array of calls. In my experience, they most often give a quick, jumbled, high, sputtering as they land nearby. Often, this is my first clue that one has come in, but it is hard to describe and is not recorded anywhere that I know of. Next most often they will respond with the Saw-whetting call, an up-slurred, high wail with an abrupt end. Finally, sometimes they will respond with a song, or more often, a muted song (e.g. toot-toot-toot-toot etc.) or partial song (toot-toot).
* Try to pick good habitat. In my East Coast experience, Saw-whets like dense cover, preferably near open, short grassy areas (rodent rich) to hunt. I don't really look for them in woods surrounded by plowed-over fields but prefer those that have been left fallow. For cover I think they will use almost anything thick.
* If you want to find one in the daytime - good luck! Saw-whets can roost at almost any height. Most I have seen have been about 5-8 feet off the ground, and undoubtedly this is where they are most often found. They can roost as low as 2 feet and as high as any treetop, and regularly do so to 40-50 feet. Evergreens are clearly the preferred species, but they will use almost any area of thick cover. At home I look for them first in Loblolly Pines, the Red Cedars, then White Pines, then anything else thick (ornamental boxwoods, hollies, honeysuckle thickets etc.). The more extensive the stand the better your chances. If you can find an isolated cedar stand in the middle of a fallow field, or a cut-over pine woods that is regenerating and still quite thick and scrubby, I would rate those as the best bets.
The usual drill is to search the ground and limbs thoroughly for whitewash, which may form large piles by late winter, or may just be a spattering here or there. Sometimes (but less often) you'll find pellets too (which are very small in Saw-whets). If you do find them, save them! Undoubtedly you'll check lots of false alarms, but be sure to check the area above any whitewash very carefully, as any owl can be very well hidden. Saw-whets roost out in the middle or near the tips of branches (unlike Screech Owls). I tend to think they like to be blocked from any side or top view, but like a quick escape route by dropping and darting. Those that I've found have often been on branches with large overhanging boughs providing cover. Some others have simply been sitting alert in a cluster of pine needles at the end of a branch. One thing is sure, get down on your hands and knees if you have to and look inside each prospective tree. Saw-whets are often found in cavities too, and Wood Duck boxes are a famous roost choice for them.
Once found, Saw-whets are often quite confiding and rarely flush unless you really bother them. Undoubtedly, if the owl is disturbed it will not return to that roost. Please use discretion in sharing the location of a roosting owl as they are quite vulnerable to disturbance. Best case scenario would be to document it for LOS BRC and the North American Birds editors and CBC compilers, but otherwise to keep it to yourself (possibly checking up on it through the winter, collecting the pellets for diet analysis etc.).
For all those of you who make an effort to find Saw-whets this winter, good luck! Given the amount of birds moving south this year and the difficulty of detecting them even when they are here, it is certain that a number of Saw-whets have reached LA already. I'll be interested to hear if any are found...of course, I plan to get one before the winter is out!
– Marshall Iliff,
PS - A good reference source may be Pat and Clay Suttons' "How to Spot an Owl"... PPS - for anyone interested in signing on to "Saw Whet Net" and eavesdropping on Saw-whet bander talk, drop me an email and I'll tell you how.
Excerpted with permission from a post on LABIRD-L@LISTSERV.LSU.EDU.
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I think I'm trying too hard.

I went home for lunch and immediately went into the back yard watching and listening for a wintering hummer. Sure enough, I heard the distinctive metallic tck, tck, call from the front yard. "Could be a Buff-belly!" I thought. A quick scan of the hummer plants turned up nothing, then I heard it right behind me. It was something in my car engine cooling off and making the sound. It sounded metallic because it was metallic.
Sooooooooo....I am officially reporting the first-ever sighting of a wintering Green-hooded Mazda.
My nerves...
Dennis Demcheck
Baton Rouge
Tue, 26 Oct 1999
Printed from a posting on HUMNET-L@LISTSERV.LSU.EDU, with permission.
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2000 LOS Winter Meeting

Follow this link for a printable pre-registration form.

This year's winter meeting of the LOS is in Covington at the St. Joseph Abbey K. C. Youth Camp on the weekend of February 4-6. Birding field trips will take place all day Saturday and Sunday morning. We will cover a variety of habitats.
All field trips will depart from Camp Abbey. The trips will include the following: Big Branch Marsh NWR, Pearl River WMA, Bogue Chitto NWR, Northlake Nature Center, Henslow's Sparrow Trip, St. Joseph Abbey, Winter Hummingbird Trip, White Kitchen Area, and Red-cockaded Woodpecker Trip. Information regarding these trips will be giving to you at registration. You can sign up for the trip at registration. Some of the above trips may be in a State Wildlife Refuge, for your information, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries requires a Year 2000 Wild life Stamp for entrance into State Wildlife Refuges. You may obtain this stamp for $5.50 from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's station, 3300 Metairie Road, or from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Sports Wildlife Section, P.O.Box 98000, Baton Rouge, LA 70898-9000.
Housing is on your own. Suggested motels near Camp Abbey are the Holiday Inn 504-893-3580; Courtyard by Marriott 504-871-0244; Best Western Inn 504-892-2681; Mount Vernon Motel 504-892-1041; Green Springs Motel 504-892-4686.
Friday evening's registration and social begins at 6:00 p.m. and ends at 9:00 p.m. Refreshments will be provided. Registration fee is $7.00 per person (to defray the speakers' expenses and administrative costs).
The Saturday dinner will start at 6:30 p.m. The cost is $5.00 and is in the cafeteria at Camp Abbey. Our guest speaker is Jennifer O. Coulson who will give a slide presentation and an update on her American Swallow-tailed Kite research.
Directions to Abbey Youth Camp
From Baton Rouge: Exit I-12 at 63-B and continue on US 190 WEST to the juncture with LA 25. Continue straight on LA 25 NORTH for 4.6 miles. At the K. C. CAMP sign take a right and continue to follow signs (always taking a right) to the camp.
From New Orleans: After exiting the Causeway continue on US 190 WEST for 10 miles to the juncture with LA 25. Continue straight on LA 25 NORTH for 4.6 miles. At the K. C. CAMP sign take a right and continue to follow signs (always taking a right) to the camp.

Follow this link for a printable pre-registration form.

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President David L'Hoste called the meeting to order at 7:30pm. After a few announcements, David introduced Hubert Hervey who gave an excellent presentation on his research on the nesting Least Terns on the Red River, called "Gamboling on the Red." This research was funded by a grant from LOS. Hubert acknowledged Mac Hardy and Jim Ingold for their help in putting together his excellent PowerPoint presentation.
President David L'Hoste called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m. He expressed "Thank you's" to Marianna Tanner Primeaux and Judy Frugé, the entire crew of the Knights of Columbus, and Joseph Vallee, Eloise Mullen and Wynelle Jones for helping with the sales table and setting up the hospitality table.
Introduction of LOS Board Members: Vice President Marty Guidry, Secretary/Treasurer Judith O'Neale, Board Members Melvin Weber and Robby Bacon. He announced that Jeff Trahan had been appointed to fill the vacancy left by Kermit Cummings' resignation. He also introduced Jim Ingold, JLO Editor, Carol Foil, LOS News Editor and Past President Dave Patton. Roger Breedlove, Chairman of the Nominating Committee, listed the slate of officers for 2000. President: David L'Hoste, New Orleans; Vice President: Marty Guidry, Baton Rouge; Secretary/Treasurer: Judith O'Neale, Lafayette; Board Member Karen Fay, Baton Rouge Term: 2000 - 2002. The nominations were open to the floor. Joseph Vallee moved to approve the slate of officers as presented. Nettie Broussard seconded. Motion approved.
David mentioned the Cameron Preservation Alliance, Sabine Pass Lighthouse Restoration Fund and requested that people support this worthwhile cause.
Marty Guidry showed the 2000 patch for the Baton Rouge Audubon Society Peveto Woods Sanctuaries. The patch is $15 and entitles entry to the areas for the year 2000. Marty also has old patches available for $5.00 each.
Marty Guidry read the Checklist for Cameron Parish, which includes birds seen from midnight Saturday morning. The total count was 168 (169 including Red-breasted Nuthatch added later).
David introduced Bob Russell who leads up the offshore platform research "LSU Migration Over the Gulf" program. Bob gave an interesting presentation of slides and graphics: "Platforms, Birds and Birdmen of the Gulf." The program began in the spring of 1998 and has had four field seasons. Some of the areas Bob covered were geographic distribution, radar observations, impact of platforms and platform life and daily routine.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:45 p.m.
Respectfully submitted, Judith O'Neale, LOS Secretary/Treasurer
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Seeing irrupting species?

We at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon hope that you will help us track which species are irrupting where and when, through our Irruptive Bird Survey. IBS is an expansion of our North American Winter Finch and Red-breasted Nuthatch Survey, which many of you may remember from two years back. Thanks to your reports and those of birders across North America, we were able to track the massive invasion of 1997-98. Now, we're looking forward to finding out the extent of this year's irruption. Since LA birders are among the most active in the country, and because LA is a southerly state, we are particularly interested in mapping what is happening in your area.
We invite you to visit the BirdSource web site at to see which species we're tracking - the list differs according to region. Please enter any sightings you have into the database - it only takes a minute. These will be combined with observations all over North America. You'll be able to view findings right at the web site. Results will be regularly updated, so you should check back often. You can also "back enter" previous sightings, which will make the maps of the irruptions that much more complete. Thanks in advance for your help. We truly appreciate it. – Allison Wells, Cornell Lab of Ornithology and BirdSource, Ithaca, NY 14850,,
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If you would like to join LOS, or perhaps send a gift membership to a friend on the verge, here is a printable membership form.
Dues are payable in January of each year; please check your mailing label for your dues status and renew promptly if you are in arrears.
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LOS News Editor: Carol Foil, 1180 Stanford Ave, Baton Rouge, LA 70808
(h & fax) 225.387.0368; (w) 225.346.3119;

posted 08December1999