No. 192BATON ROUGE, LAAugust 2000

Newsletter of the Louisiana Ornithological Society

LOS NEWS, Page 2

Table of Contents

Red River Wildlife Refuge
Backyard Musings
BRAS Meeting
Rockport Bird Festival
Storm Petrel ID
IBBA meeting
Shade Grown Coffee
Yard List 1999 - II
Peter Raven to speak
LOS Officers (+)
LOS Sales (+)
Fall Meeting (+)
LOS Pelagics (+)
New Members
Membership Form (+)
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LOS NEWS: Page [1] [2] [3]
LOS Homepage

ANNUAL MEETING -- Inland Bird Banding Association (IBBA)
The annual meeting of the Inland Bird Banding Association (IBBA) will be held at Louisiana State University in Shreveport (LSUS), Shreveport, Louisiana, from 13 - 15 Oct 2000. The Bird Study Group (Shreveport Society for Nature Study) and the Louisiana Ornithological Society will host the meeting. Fall migration will be well underway and a full schedule of field trips, workshops, and scientific paper sessions will provide great opportunities for all that attend.


Workshops -- Any individual or group wishing to conduct a workshop on any aspect of bird banding should contact the local committee as soon as possible. Suggested workshops: Beginning Band Manager, Advanced Band Manager, Repairing Mist Nets, Using Pyle's Banding Manual Effectively, Analyzing and Publishing your Banding Data. Workshops will be held on Saturday morning 14 October on the LSUS Campus or other venues to be announced. Bird Banding -- The Saturday morning session will include a hands on banding experience at C. Bickham-Dickson Park along the Red River and near the LSUS campus. Included in this session will be a demonstration of hummingbird banding led by Nancy Newfield of Metarie, Louisiana. Note: There is no guarantee that any hummingbirds will be captured.
Lecture and Poster Sessions -- Scientific paper sessions will be held in the Science Building and/or Science Lecture Auditorium on the LSUS campus on Saturday afternoon.
Invited Speakers -- Friday evening, as part of the social and registration activities, Mr. Paul Dickson, a local businessman naturalist, and avid birder, will give a presentation on the birds of the Red River and the proposed Red River National Wildlife Refuge. The banquet speaker Saturday evening will be hummingbird bander Nancy Newfield. Her talk is entitled, "Hummer Banding and Making Research Count". Nancy will have available for purchase copies of her book, "Hummingbird Gardens: Attracting Nature's Jewels to Your Backyard."


Members and other banders are invited to contribute to the scientific session. We are anxious to have contributed papers that deal with banding techniques or the results of studies involving bird banding. Scientific paper sessions will also be open to contributed papers based on original research on any aspect of field ornithology. Abstracts must reach the local committee by 30 September 2000. Abstracts should be around 250 words and may be sent to the local committee by email ( or regular U.S. mail (Dr. James L. Ingold, Department of Biological Sciences, LSU-Shreveport, One University Place, Shreveport, LA 71115-2399). If sending by email put the abstracts as the body of the email message and not as an attachment and use IBBA-ABSTRACT as the subject line. Receipt of your abstract will be acknowledged by either email or post. Your abstract must include the following and be in the format given below: Title of paper, 1st author with address and email address 2nd author with address and email address (etc.), and body of abstract. Also include whether your talk will be presented as an oral presentation (15-min) or a poster, as well as what audio-visual equipment you need. The following a-v equipment will be available: carousel projectors, PC/MAC computers with projectors for PowerPoint presentations, and overhead projectors.


Members are encouraged to register early for the meeting so that facilities and trips can be planned accordingly. The registration fee is $15. For other information (not included here) from the local committee about local accommodations and arrangements for the meeting, please contact: Dr. James L. Ingold, Department of Biological Sciences, LSU-Shreveport, One University Place, Shreveport, LA 71115-2399. Phone: 318-797-5236, Fax: 318-797-5222,


Field trips are scheduled for 14 and 15 Oct. to various local favorite birding areas. Members of the Bird Study Group will lead trips. For information on birding the Shreveport-Bossier City area visit the Bird Study Group web page at:, and for information on birding Louisiana visit the Louisiana Ornithological Society web page at: Check trip schedules and sign-up lists during registration.


A banquet will be held in the University Center on the LSUS campus at 6:30. The business meeting of the Inland Bird Banding Association will be held on Sat., 13 October, after the banquet. The after banquet talk will be by hummingbird bander Nancy Newfield and is titled, "Hummer Banding and Making Research Count." This talk will be given in the Science Lecture Auditorium.
Table of Contents

Shade Grown Coffees -- A taste review
by Paul Dickson
The hot, steaming cup of joe in your hand has taken a long ride from flower to bean to brew. The birds that you enjoy watching in the morning along with this cup have likely traveled a bit as well. In fact, their paths may have crossed in those misty tropical mountains. For the "been there, done that, know it" generation, our coffee drinking can never as simple as Mrs. Olson said. Nor can it be as cheap. Most shade grown coffees are typically priced as premium coffees, about three times the price of major brands. Despite the higher price, demand for bird friendly coffee has soared. It does taste better and hey, we care!
Shade grown coffee can be so called by simply being grown under the shade of something. The shade component can be artificial shade cloth, a monotype plantation of exotic trees grown just to shade the coffee, a plantation of chocolate producing Cacao Trees, a tropical fruit orchard, or some version of semi-natural, gallery forest. All shade strategies are not of equal value to birds. Where possible, reviews will describe the shade type so that consumers can set there own standard for what is really helping the birds. Some conservation groups such as ABA and Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, do this for you by awarding certifications such as "bird friendly" or "eco O.K.", to assure that a coffee is grown in shade that is truly useful to birds. "Organic" is yet another claim and class of certification that often goes along with natural shade coffee growing methods.
Some specialty coffee companies such as California-based Thanksgiving Coffee Company, the producer of ABA's "Song Bird" brand, gets very complicated with their social responsibility. They grade coffee farms on various attributes of good behavior. Human rights is as important in some grading systems as ecological matters are. To fully understand how politically and ecologically correct the coffee is, consult each company's web page. Beyond the ABA licensed "Songbird" brand, Thanksgiving offers the widest array of coffees, most are under the Thanksgiving brand. Many of their offerings are very good. Not all are guaranteed to be completely bird friendly but all fit their requirements of "good world citizen" coffee farm practice so at least some part of these other coffees apparently is bird friendly or organic. Many companies offer blends of which some part may be shade grown, another part may be from Africa or Indonesia where the growing method is unrelated to North American birds. Do we care about Sumatran birds? I suppose so, but honestly not so much as for the Scarlet Tanager in the backyard. This gets into ethics which is always a cloudy place.
‘Juan Valdez' lives in a cloudy place and is easier to grasp but he is an evil sun coffee guy and probably owes his sole to the company store. If you can remember the commercial, there was no shade over Juan. Mrs. Olson really didn't give a flip about shade but since we do, we must go beyond TV ads for our information on coffee. The ecological facts on each coffee can be found on the label, on the web pages or by calling the roaster. Shade coffees are sold by small, entrepreneurial companies. I found them easy to talk to by simply calling the telephone number on the package or sending an e-mail. Prices are posted on web pages and are generally around $10 per pound.
Shade grown coffee is now a well established, "eco-correct" product. Many national bird conservation organizations have attached themselves to the shade coffee craze with a brand stamp for shade grown coffee. Awareness is high as several informative articles have been written in national birding magazines. The specialty coffee industry has responded eagerly to this trend by forming a certifying process. Most shade coffee companies have web pages which provide detail about their company and products. This article focuses on a sample of the coffees themselves. A list of web links is included that contains a wealth of information on shade growing coffee methods and their effects on neo-tropical birds.
I do not claim to be a coffee expert but an aficionado. I do enjoy coffee and am a firm believer in grinding fresh beans every morning. I credit only my mother from whom I did inherit a discriminating sense of taste and the interest in separating and identifying flavors. The reviews in this series are my own opinions of the coffees, nothing more. In each case, I enjoyed nearly a pound of the subject beans over the course of a week prior to writing the review and had a cup in my hand as I reviewed each. You may not find all of the flavors that I report but you should get a good idea of each coffee's character through the descriptions. I hope that this helps guide some of you to a good morning cup. We can have faith that our shade grown beans and our birds once coexisted in some highland tropical garden.
Shade Grown Coffee information can be found at these web links:,,,,,,,


Shade Grown Coffee, a taste review

Brand, offering: UNDER COVER COFFEE: Under Cover Blend
Roaster: Counter Culture Coffee
Source: Wild Bird Center retail store
Environmental attributes: grown under "tropical shade trees", "bird friendly"
Country: not stated, "blend" of Central and South American beans
Roast: not labeled
Comments: Low complexity. Acid snap, chocolate sweetness. Introduction is a solid mouth tingle, finish is sweeter.
This one is for: The person who likes an acid coffee.
Would I buy it again? No.
Brand, offering: CAFÉ CANOPY: original blend
Roaster or importer: FMZ International
Source: , Smithsonian
Environmental attributes: "shade grown naturally at high altitude", certified organic, "bird friendly".
Country: not stated, "blend" usually means multiple sources.
Roast: not labeled (medium)
Comments: A moderately complex blend of bittersweet chocolate, wood smoke. Acidity is moderate, sweetness is somewhat noticeable but not too high, finish is clean.
This one is for: The person who doesn't like the fruity or nutty ones.
Would I buy it again?: Occasionally, for a change of pace.
Brand, offering: SONG BIRD COFFEE: Sweet and Lively Guatemalan
Roaster: Thanksgiving Coffee Company
Source: , American Birding Association, Wild Birds Unlimited retail stores.
Price: $9 for 12 oz.
Environmental attributes: shade grown, ABA endorsed
Country: Guatemala
Roast: Light
Complexity: high
Flavors noted: this is a sweet, somewhat acidic, complex and interesting coffee. Depending on temperature and time from brewing you can find many flavors here: hazelnut, pecan, chocolate, almond, vanilla but not all of these at once. It is always a sweet, crisp one.
This one is for: The adventuresome.
Would I buy it again? Yep, often do, especially in summer.
Brand, offering: CAFÉ SELECTO: Premium Santo Domingo
Roaster: Magante, Republica Dominica
Source: (nice people!)
Price: $7 per pound
Environmental attributes: Shade grown under mature Cacao trees.
Roast: Moderately Dark, (French Roast)
Comments: This is a simple but good one. Bittersweet chocolate greets you right away and stays with the taste to the end. Far in the background lies a shadow of licorice and vanilla. An overcast of hardwood smoke cloaks these subtle essences. There is also a simple nuttiness somewhat reminiscent of the acorn brews that I have occasionally made, though few readers will be able to relate to that one. Acidity is moderate, sweetness is low, again, just a basic but premium coffee.
This one is for: A camping trip
Would I buy it again? Yes
Brand, offering: UNDER COVER COFFEE: Estate Panama "boquette",
Coffee roaster: Counter Culture Coffee
Source: Wild Bird Center retail store.
Environmental attributes: grown under "tropical shade trees", "bird friendly"
Country: Panama
Roast: Not labeled (dark)
Comments: This one is a smooth but basic coffee. Complexity is low; it tastes like coffee. I can find few other flavors. It does have a nice hard candy sweetness, but the sweetness is subtle. Bitterness is consistent with a good dark roast; acidity is low. There is a slight undertone of roasted hazelnut. The finish is medium. The most notable attributes are smoothness and just plain coffee flavor, nothing fancy. Prior to grinding, the aroma is great, much better than the brewed coffee, the best example yet of " I wish it tasted like it smells".
This one is for: The person who just wants a plain cup of coffee.
Would I buy it again? No.
Brand, offering: BISBEE COFFEE CO: Panama Songbird (Hartman Estate)
Roaster: Bisbee Coffee Co.
Source: (more nice people)
Price: $9 per pound
Environmental attributes: "Bird Friendly"- SMBC
Roast: Medium Dark
Flavors noted: This is a well balanced, soft brew. Slight flavors of toast, sweet pecan. Not one to stand out, but good. Could well be from the same source as Under Cover's Panama offering, the two are very similar but perhaps the roasting was a bit better at Bisbee.
This one is for: a cold, rainy day
Would I buy it again? perhaps
Brand, offering: THANKSGIVING COFFEE CO.: Grand Slam, in three roasts
Grown in: Nicaragua
Environmental attributes: organic, semi-shade grown under tropical fruit trees and lingum trees (exotic managed shade)
Roast: Dark
Flavors noted: This is a wonderfully fruity coffee. In this dark roast there is the smoke and blackened sweetness expected but bundled tightly with it is a full body of warm and refreshing spicy-apple and grape. Acidity is balanced yet the finish is very crisp. This coffee has a character that demands your attention.
Roast: Medium
Flavors noted: One of the intrigues of this bean is the manner in which it maintains its trademark fruit quality yet changes the fruit in chameleon fashion with the roast. At medium roast it becomes more tropical and mellow showing banana, mango, papaya blended in a soft essence of tropical fruit
Roast: Light
Flavors noted: citrus, strawberry, a sweeter, sharper fruit essence than in medium roast.
These are for: Summer
Would I buy them again? yes
Brand, offering: SONGBIRD COFFEE, Rich and Smooth Nicaraguan
Roaster: Thanksgiving Coffee Co.
Source: , wild birds unlimited
Price: $9 for 12 oz.
Grown in: Aranjuez Valley Coffee Grower's Cooperative, Nicaragua, CA
Environmental attributes: Shade grown under managed shade trees and fruit trees (exotic species), organic.
Roast: medium
Flavors noted: Rich, smooth and mellow are the most notable attributes of this coffee. Rich chocolate, herbs and perhaps a little fruit way in the background. Not too sweet, this coffee begins with its characteristic velvety smoothness, yields an abundance of rich chocolate then a sharper and very long herbal finish. No loud fruits or nuts here. No need for cream either. Aroma in the package is superb.
This one is for: breakfast, cold weather.
Would I buy it again? yes
Brand, offering: BROADWING BLEND
Roaster: Thanksgiving Coffee
Source: , Hawk Mountain Sanctuary
Roast: Dark
Flavors noted: This is a dessert coffee that suggests sweet, spiced apple. The hard candy sweetness of a dark roast is the principle attribute of this blend. Acidity is cloaked in that some part of the blend is an acidic bean and other parts are not. The acidity waits until well after the swallow to reveal itself. Complexity is high in this blend. Complements sweet foods well. This one is for: Summer, complements sweet rolls, dessert.
Would I buy it again? yes
Roaster: Seattle's Best Coffee at Vashon Island, WA
Source: Eatsi's Deli, Dallas Tx.,
Price: $9.00 for 12 oz of whole beans
Roast: Medium
Flavor: A moderately acidic coffee with rich full flavor. The aroma in the package is hard to believe. The aroma of the beans alone is worth the purchase. They could be set out as a potpourri. The brewed version is excellent as well and maintains much of the warm stone-fruit essence so evident in the aroma. This is a great coffee. Smooth, rich, full to the finish. Cherry is blended with pineapple and lemon in the snappy acidity but is well balanced with rich oak. Complexity is only moderate but it does what it does very well. Perhaps simple is best. This is really, really good coffee.
Environmental Attributes: Organic and Shade grown
Countries of origin: Costa Rica, Sumatra, Guatemala, and Peru
This one is for: Any time!
Would I buy it again: In abundance!

For another great take on the shade coffee topic, see the article in the latest Auk by Louisiana's own Tom Sherry from Tulane University. In an editorial on the subject (Sherry TW. Shade coffee: A good brew even in small doses. The Auk. 117(3): 563-568, 2000), Tom points out that shade coffee plantations in the northern Neotropics provide some of the little remaining mid-elevation level habitat for forest adapted-birds and the plantations may sustain wildlife as abundant and diverse as native forest habitats in these regions. Tom is discussing a research paper presented in the same issue of the Auk that examines winter site fidelity of Nearctic migrants utilizing plantations in the Dominican Republic. (Wunderle JM, Jr, Latta SC. Winter site fidelity of Nearctic migrants in shade coffee plantations of different sizes in the Dominican Republic. The Auk. 117(3): 596-614.)

Table of Contents

A Look Back at the 1999 Louisiana Yard Yearlist Record
Part 2: late August through December
By Steve Cardiff and Donna Dittmann
During the endless hours heading back towards Louisiana from our 3 week blur of a trip through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California, we had plenty of time to make the mental transition from visions of the recent past (e.g., western warblers and empids in cool, dry, montane pine-oak forest) to anticipations of the immediate future (stuck in the yard trying to get looks at eastern warblers and empids through clouds of mosquitos and steamed-up glasses as they flutter through ragweed, berry vines, and poison ivy…). Hmmm, maybe we should just….. No! Too late to turn back west- we're already half- way across Texas, beyond the point of no return!
OK, we've already spent almost 8 months on this yard yearlist stuff. It's no time to become casual. Better do something to get psyched-up for the home stretch. What better way to begin than by reflecting on how well we'd done so far- 154 species. Never mind that we had only 1 new species in the last 3 months. We were only 4 species short of our personal 1991 total and only 18 species short of the '91 record. Yes, the old record was definitely history. Now it was just a matter of how far back in the dust would we leave the old record, and, was there anyone else out there that was as demented as we were?
We let all those volatile thoughts ferment for a bit and, by the time that we hit the Louisiana border, we were OBSESSED. By the time that we pulled into the driveway on the evening of August 22nd, we were officially POSSESSED. We could hardly wait for dawn so that we could devour the new year birds that must be waiting for us. In the morning, a calling Alder Flycatcher greeted us from across the ditch. We contentedly prepared for more new species to present themselves, but that was it- just Alder Flycatcher. It's a good bird and all that, but come on! And nothing new the next day! Boy, talk about a reality check. OK, so it wasn't going to be THAT easy. On 8/25 we jumped for joy when our first Yellow Warbler flew over. The morning of 8/27 was a morale booster, with a bonus formation of Pectoral Sandpipers, a bonus Yellow-throated Warbler (warbler #24), plus Dickcissel. One or more Alder Flycatchers continued to keep us amused on dull days through the end of the month. A Least Flycatcher on 8/30-31 rounded-out an abbreviated August and padded the list to 160 species with four months to go. We had tied and surpassed our '91 total of 158 on August 27th.
We knew that September, October, and November would likely be the most critical months of the year. Fall migration here is consistently much better than spring, so we were counting on many new species that are more expected in fall, as well as getting another shot at species that had bypassed our yard during the late winter and spring. Late August was a good warm-up, but now it was time to get really serious. That meant spending every possible spare moment searching the yard or staring upwards. Up before daybreak to fill the feeders and then catch the dawn flights of migrants. Out until dusk and beyond watching for evening movements and listening for owls. Checking to see when hunting seasons opened so that we could plan on watching for fleeing fowl overhead. Resisting the urge to go to Cameron (well, most of the time).
During the first couple of weeks in September, we were excited as never before in our lives to see such common fall migrants as Blue-winged Teal (several small flocks through mid-Sep.), Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Blue-winged Warbler (warbler #25), Black-throated Green Warbler (warbler #26), and Canada Warbler (warbler #27). Most of these species were seen in small numbers into late September. Philadelphia Vireos on 9/9 and 9/21 were early. An Am. Kestrel 9/16 was a surprisingly huge relief (we ended up seeing 34 individuals on 19 days…). The all-important bonus birds included 3 Wood Storks on 9/23 and a single on 9/24, our long-awaited first Eurasian Collared-Dove on 9/11 (surely, this could qualify as a "double-bonus" bird?), an Olive-sided Flycatcher on "the snag" on 9/8 (another yard first), a Warbling Vireo on 9/19 (second-ever, first in fall), Nashville Warblers 9/19 & 9/23 (warbler #28), and an early Pine Warbler 9/30 (warbler #29). Other morale-boosting repeats, etc.: several Ospreys 9/6- 22, Bald Eagle 9/12, 2 Merlins 9/30, Solitary Sandpipers 9/6 & 9/15, 12 Common Nighthawks moving south on 9/30, a singing Whip-poor-will on 9/11-12 & 9/20, more Alder Flycatchers to 9/26 and Least flycatchers to 9/15, an early House Wren 9/23-24 (next earliest 10/16), early Am. Robins 9/12 & 9/15, early Ruby-crowned Kinglet 9/26, a "Brewster's Warbler" 9/8, a "Lawrence's Warbler" 9/21-26, a very early Yellow-rumped Warbler 9/30 (next earliest 10/15), Prairie Warbler 9/3, Ovenbirds 9/27 & 9/30, a singing Swainson's Warbler 9/10-28, Wilson's Warblers 9/9-12 & 9/30, Scarlet Tanager 9/13, and a very early Am. Goldfinch 9/4. Some nice early fall high-counts included 90 E. Kingbirds 9/12, 124 Blue-gray Gnatcatchers 8/27, and 30 Blue Grosbeaks on 9/11.
With nine months gone, we reviewed our progress and suddenly realized that the Wood Storks on 9/23 had tied the 1991 record of 172, and that the Pine Warbler on 9/30 represented a new record of 173. Wow! So now we could just kick back and relax, right? Are you kidding? With 92 more days left? We were, however, quickly running out of "expected" species, so we were going to have to turn it up another notch or two (as if that was possible) to maintain our pace.
The first couple of days in October were torturous, with no yearbirds and an ominous trickle of early "winter" birds, including 2 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, a flicker, and a Swamp Sparrow on 10/1, and another Ruby-crowned Kinglet 10/2. Our best consolation birds were 4 Wood Storks 10/2, a Bald Eagle 10/1, up to 10 White-eyed Vireos, 10 Philadelphia Vireos, and 100 Gray Catbirds on 10/1, and an Ovenbird 10/1-2. Ninety days left. "Has migration (of new yearbirds) petered-out already?" we whined. Our needless fears were erased on 10/3 when we finally scored a bonus Black-billed Cuckoo and Golden-winged Warbler (warbler #30, present to 10/5). The Golden-winged was also warbler species #20 for the 4-day period 9/30-10/3, so we probably shouldn't have been doing so much complaining about the lack of birds.
As the days counted down and became shorter, we settled into a more confident and patient, but nonetheless still grueling routine, fortified by the occasional yearbird. They were: 3 bonus Plegadis ibis 10/6, a bonus Peregrine Falcon (an adult in "the snag") 10/9, 5 sightings of bonus E. Meadowlarks 10/14-29, Golden-crowned Kinglet 10/15, N. Shoveler 10/18, a super-bonus-rare-in-fall Bobolink overhead 10/19, bonus Brown Creeper 10/23-24, bonus Red-breasted Nuthatch 10/24 & 10/26, bonus Dunlin 10/31, and a late Blackburnian Warbler (our final species of warbler, #31, on- you guessed it- 10/31). Helping us through the in-between-yearbirds "doldrums" were 3 more Wood Storks and a Worm- eating Warbler 10/3, Ovenbird 10/3-6, Canada Warbler 10/1-3, 50-100 Indigo Buntings 10/1-11, 15 Painted Buntings 10/3, 4 more Bald Eagle sightings 10/6-25, Common Snipe 10/5, a 4-mation of Eur. Collared-Doves 10/5, Whip-poor-will 10/5-6 and 10/23, 3 more sapsuckers and a flicker 10/5, Scarlet Tanager 10/6, another 1-2 Black-billed Cuckoos 10/10-11, Am. Robin 10/11, 4 flocks of Gr. White- fronted Geese 10/15-31, 25 N. Pintail 10/15, Merlin 10/16, a returning ad. female Rufous Hummingbird on 10/22 and another female 10/29-11/1, 1-2 White-crowned Sparrows 10/23-30, and Lesser Scaup 10/29. Some additional arrival dates: Am. Woodcock 10/27, E. Phoebe 10/9, Blue-headed Vireo 10/24, Winter Wren 10/6-7 (early), Hermit Thrush 10/18, Orange-crowned Warbler 10/19, Chipping Sparrow 10/24, White-throated Sparrow 10/15, Rusty Blackbird 10/20 (very early), and Am. Goldfinch 10/25-27 (still early). Late dates for some other migrants and breeders: E. Wood-Pewee 10/26, Acadian Flycatcher 10/18, Yellow-throated Vireo 10/16, Red-eyed Vireo 10/23, N. Parula 10/31 (late). Twelve new species during October boosted our total to 185. Now, with 2 months left, we were starting to have dangerous thoughts about reaching a certain milestone. Nah! Impossible! Don't go there!
As we entered November, the passage of neotropical migrants was down to a trickle at best, so our search images switched over to sparrows, waterfowl, and winter hummingbirds. Right on cue, we picked up 3 Savannah Sparrows 11/2 (this was the last species left on our list of "expected" landbirds), bonus Field Sparrow and Dark-eyed Junco 11/3, and bonus Lincoln's Sparrow 11/4. Also helpful was a bonus Barn Owl heard overhead on the evening of 11/2. Then nothing- until the most amazing day of the year, November 13th, when we spotted a female Scott's Oriole through the telescope from the back edge of the property and watched it fly out to "the snag." A short time later, an adult male Broad-tailed Hummingbird appeared in the flower gardens next to the house! As if those weren't enough, other unusual visitors that day included a late Ruby-throated Hummingbird, a Black-chinned Hummingbird, lingering Indigo and Painted buntings, and a Baltimore Oriole, not to mention a female Calliope Hummingbird that had arrived the day before. The Scott's and the Broad-tailed, both totally new for our yard, represented species #191-192. Six weeks left- dare we get our hopes up?
Heading into mid-late November, our list of potentials had pretty much shrunk down to waterfowl moving south or stirred-up by hunters, or other bonus waterbirds or winter-type landbirds. So, day after day we scanned the skies with scope at hand. Sure enough: 5 Ross's Geese on 11/15 (among 300 Snows) and another 5 (among 30 Snows) on 11/26 (this was our last "expected" waterbird), Green-winged Teal on 11/15-16, 11/20, & 11/26, Hooded Mergansers on 11/16 & 11/21, Ring-necked Duck on 11/20. That made 196. So close now, with 5+ weeks left, but we were now out of "easy" species. Some other memorable November birds that helped pass the time included Common Loons 11/15 & 11/30, a pair of Bald Eagles 11/21, another Merlin 11/2 (snag), a very late and rare-in-fall Am. Golden-Plover 11/24 (with a small flock of Killdeer overhead- we would rather that it had been a Black-bellied….), a trio of Eur. Collared-Doves 11/29, E. Screech-Owl 11/3, Whip-poor-will 11/3-21 (by now it was obvious that this was one of our returning wintering birds), late Barn Swallows 11/4 & 11/7, another Brown Creeper 11/8, Pine Warbler 11/24, a late Yellow-breasted Chat 11/3, a flyby count of 41 Chipping Sparrows 11/3, Song Sparrow 11/3-5, Fox Sparrow 11/20-29, Indigo Bunting to 11/21, Painted Bunting to 11/22, a late Dickcissel 11/11, 9 Pine Siskins on 6 days from 11/10-23.
Perhaps it was because we had never spent this much time intensively searching the skies, but it seemed like a remarkable fall-early winter for several species, especially N. Harrier (29 individuals on 21 days, 9/21-12/11), Red-headed Woodpecker (37 on 20 days, 8/26-10/17), Dickcissel (34 on 20 days, 8/27-11/11), and House Finch (105 on 47 days, 8/23-11/30). Some other interesting late fall-early winter phenomena included up to 91 Blue Jays and 58 Mourning Doves commuting in and out of their respective area roosts, a movement of 220 Killdeer moving south on 11/25, another 250 on 12/21, and 70 on 12/25 (that's right, nothing better to do on Christmas Day), and a count of 110 N. Cardinals in the yard 12/15.
Now it came down to luck, endurance, and whether we had the will to keep watching the empty skies without any reward for weeks at a time. And, time was running out. The days were getting very short, and we would lose several days in late December because of CBC commitments. Noteworthy December birds, from our yard perspective, included Gr. White-fronted Geese 12/6 & 12/31, another 7 Ross's Geese (among 133 Snows) 12/6, 5 more Hooded Mergansers 12/1, yet another Merlin 12/6, Herring Gulls 12/5-7, Field Sparrow to 12/27, Song Sparrow and Fox Sparrow to 12/23, and several Brewer's Blackbirds 12/1-23. We were also kept amused by our best-ever showing of late fall-early winter hummers. The adult male Broad-tailed remained to 12/22, when it was replaced by a female Broad-tailed. The mid-November Calliope left our yard for a few weeks but returned in late December. It was later proven to be a returnee that had been banded in the neighborhood the previous winter, and was very likely the bird that had been in our yard the previous January-February. A second Calliope was present 12/3-15, and a third was present beginning 12/21(!). The mid November Black-chinned remained to 11/23, and 1-2 Ruby-throateds were seen irregularly through December. Several imm. male Rufous Hummingbirds joined the wintering ad. female.
As Steve became increasingly burned-out and pessimistic, Donna persevered with the daybreak vigils. Her efforts paid off with a Sprague's Pipit overhead on 12/4. Number 197. Ten days later, at dawn on 12/14, a lone Sandhill Crane briefly appeared like a ghost out of the fog and then vanished. Donna had to slap herself to make sure that she wasn't hallucinating. Number 198. The crane must have been both a parting gift and a signal from the yardlist God that the fun was over, as our chances of any more species seemed to vanish with it. We continued to go through the motions, increasingly haunted by the "what ifs?" What if we had been a little more persistant in June and July? What if we hadn't gone to California? What if we hadn't left the yard for a month's worth of LA field trips during the year? Surely we would have found 2 more species? Finally, December 31st came and went. That was it. 198. On the one hand, we were jubilant, and we could barely comprehend that we had beaten the old record by a whopping 26 species. But there was also a sense of failure that we had fallen just short of the lofty 200 mark. Ah, just as well- if we had gotten an even 200, then no one would have believed us anyway!
In Review. Individually, Donna recorded 195 of 198 species, missing only Barn Owl, Chuck- will's-widow, and Warbling Vireo. Steve missed Plegadis, Sandhill Crane, Least Sandpiper, Bonaparte's Gull, Sprague's Pipit, Blackburnian Warbler, and Bay-breasted Warbler, for a total of 191. The "touching the yard" list was 130 species; the other 68 species were only seen from the yard but not touching it, and the majority of those were flybys. Our worst misses: Black-crowned Night-Heron, Am. Wigeon, Spotted Sandpiper, Caspian Tern, Marsh Wren, Palm Warbler, and Mourning Warbler. But, we only have 1 or 2 previous records of those species from our yard anyway, so they were certainly not on the "expected" list. We did add Plegadis, Ring-necked Duck, Pectoral Sandpiper, Dunlin, Eur. Collared-Dove, Barn Owl, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Olive-sided Flycatcher, and Scott's Oriole to our all-time yard list, bringing the total to 216 species. Thus, we saw about 92% of our all-time list in one intensive year of searching. Only 8 species were seen from 1/1-8/22 that were not also seen during the remainder of the year (Swallow-tailed Kite, Least Sandpiper, Bonaparte's Gull, Chuck-will's-widow, Bay-breasted Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, and Purple Finch), which, of course, means that we saw 190 species in about 116 days spent in the yard 8/23-12/31. The morals of the story? 1) If you want to be competitive, then be prepared to spend a lot of time looking up, 2) but don't sweat it too much until the end of the summer, and 3) who needs Steve!
Part One of Donna and Steve's look back at their 1999 yard list appeared in the June issue of LOS NEWS
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September 20, 2000 at 8:00 PM
at the Pennington Biomedical Conference Center, Baton Rouge, LA
Peter Raven, described by Time Magazine as a "Hero for the Planet" for his work in protecting biodiversity, is the esteemed guest lecturer in the eighth annual Josef Sternberg Memorial Lectures program. Peter Raven is director of the Missouri Botanical Garden where he has developed numerous conservation outreach programs as well as collaborations with businesses and universities to develop programs for fostering a sustainable environment, within his community as well as globally. His work is very much in harmony with results of a comprehensive new survey on American biological diversity released in March by the national office of The Nature Conservancy revealing the existence of more than double the numbers of native species of plants and animals in the United States than was previously thought.
Conserving Our Biologic Diversity Through Creative Sustainability is the title of the lecture. Dr. Raven's topic is the broad theme of "conserving biodiversity," based on his longtime professional commitment to helping foster protection for the ecosystems of the world. The presentation is free and open to the public and is underwritten by the Josef Sternberg Memorial Lectures Fund of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation. This year's non-profit affiliate is The Nature Conservancy of Louisiana.
For more information, please contact:
Mary Ann Sternberg
Josef Sternberg Memorial Lectures
(225) 388-0416
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posted 19August2000