June is a major turning point in the year. As we approach the halfway mark of 2016, I find myself surrounded by a variety of beginnings and endings. My first school year as a full-time teacher is coming to a close, with my last day of classes with students already behind me. Spring migration is also over, so the diversity and activity in the natural world around here is noticeably reduced. Grad school has assigned some work over the break, but the promise of summer vacation and a new series of adventures is an exciting prospect. For now, I am busy wrapping up my responsibilities and enjoying the outdoors when I can.
A recent trip to New Orleans presented a great opportunity for some fun and relaxation. A good friend from my elementary school days was getting married, so I flew down to enjoy festivities and food in the Big Easy. I appreciated the chance to catch up with old buddies while taking in the sights and sounds of the city, and the drinks and meals were divine as always.
While preparing for the wedding trip, I pondered the possibility of encountering a new bird down south. There are very few left in Louisiana for me to track down, and even fewer that can be casually observed on a non-nature-based visit. There is one, however, that is conspicuous and common enough that I could conceivably connect with it: the Mississippi Kite.
Kites are raptors with flight skills that put other birds of prey to shame. Mississippis are particularly elegant, floating and swooping high above the earth while deftly plucking dragonflies out of the air. I hoped I would be lucky enough to glimpse one soaring over New Orleans during my brief weekend stay. It turns out that luck had little to do with it: I saw 6 kites during the taxi ride from the airport and encountered several others around the city. I was even fortunate enough to watch a distant individual hunting through my hotel window, tracking its rollercoaster dives with my binoculars from a mile away.
I spotted a few more species of interest in NOLA, including Black-bellied Whistling-Duck and Monk Parakeet, but this was not a birding trip. Especially after obtaining my long-awaited lifer, my focus was placed squarely on the wedding. It was a lovely ceremony, and the celebrations that followed were a welcome break from the chaos at the end of the school year. Congratulations again to Sara and Joe on the start of their lives together!
What kind of posts are coming next? The wonderful warblers of spring have fled to the north, but there is still action to be found in southern New York. The coast is the highlight at present, and I expect to do plenty of scanning at the sea, beach, and marshy mudflats around the island. I’m keeping a close eye on reports from Nickerson’s tern colony, which provided a great deal of excitement last year. So far I’ve encountered nothing more notable than my obligatory annual Black Skimmer sightings, but the summer season is just getting started…
Year List Update, June 12 – 327 Species (+ Mississippi Kite, Black Skimmer)