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Friday, April 30, 2010

An American Tragedy

I don't know what to say about the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. I'm so horrified by the whole thing that I have trouble sleeping these days.
The wool seems to have been pulled over our eyes early after the rig explosion. It seems that the magnitude of the devastation is so massive that it could only be reported in small, gradually increasing doses. At first the local papers reported that although the well hadn't been capped, there'd be no problem. My how THAT'S changed in just a few days, as the truth has come out in its dribs & drabs. Today I read that this could prove to be the biggest, American, ecological disaster in decades, making the Exxon Valdez look like a Spring picnic. There were reports coming from New Orleans yesterday that people there could already smell the oil. Whether that's psychosomatic or not, I don't know.

This is a map of the Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuges. Breton & Delta NWRs are in the most danger of contamination right now. There are reports that the spill has made landfall, but I've been unable to find out where (go figure.) I guess that'll dribble out of the media eventually too, like everything else.
TNC's White Kitchen Nature Preserve is part of the Pearl River basin, where we recently went on our swamp tour. Pearl River empties into the Gulf. Closer to home, Lake Pontchartrain, home of Big Branch Marsh NWR & my beloved Fontainebleau State Park, is not truly a lake--there are outlets to the Gulf on the west side. Northlake Nature Center is also connected to the lake by a bayou or two. I can only hope that the oil doesn't get in this far. Regardless, the devastation has begun.
Over 950 birds have already been taken in for cleaning (over 200 of them are brown pelican chicks.) Information on reporting oiled animals and on volunteering to help can be found here.
That's all I can stand to post on this subject right now. Like the media, I can only handle it in dribs & drabs.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Northlake Nature Center & Art

Considering the great weather, Charles & I went for a hike at Northlake yesterday;

Again, there were LOTS of turtles. I was intrigued by the colors in the water here.

Someone else on the boardwalk pointed out this tiny turtle hatchlet.

In exchange, we pointed out a large, male, American bullfrog (the yellow spot near the middle of this photo. Click for a larger view.)

There were also minnows and Louisiana crawfish.

I saw 3 bluegills in total. These were pretty small. Certainly nothing larger than 5-6" long. (Thanks to my blog-friend, the Freak for the ID.)

There were irises in bloom all over.

Also this false indigo bush (thanks to TulsaRose and ecrane3 at Dave's Garden for the ID!)

This dragonfly had caught something for lunch.

Far from the well-traveled boardwalk area, we came upon this broad-winged hawk (my best informed guess right now. If you can refute this ID with evidence, please feel free. Currently running a close second guess is red-tailed hawk.)

A mother duck flew across the pond, followed by 7 or so ducklings (who could not yet fly, but seemed to paddle close to the speed of sound.)

I'm getting to a point where I really need to get my cameras cleaned, so I apologize in advance for the somewhat grainy shots.

In other news, I've got my solo show at the 9th St. Gallery in Abita Springs set up.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Wrong Again, Fortunately

I recently reported that I thought that our migrating indigo buntings had peaked for this year at 4 males & a female. This was the view out my back window this afternoon (click for larger views);

Yes, many of these photos are showing the same birds, but seemingly overnight we've gone from 5 to 15, so perhaps there's hope of breaking last year's record (17,) after all!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

More (& New) Yard Critters

This broad-winged hawk got one of "our" doves the other day & took it across the street for lunch.

3 mourning doves, a male indigo bunting (right) & a male blue grosbeak (left.) We're somewhat inundated with mourning doves right now. I think the buntings have peaked for this year (at 4 males & 1 female.) Like the buntings, the grosbeak is also a Spring migrant.

Yet another migrant; a male brown-headed cowbird. There's been 2 males and a female around lately.

Our daily 2pm visitor (with pilfered bird seed stuck to her nose,) yet again. She's looking much better these days.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Fontainebleau vs. Swamp Tour

Charles & I are feeling much better now, thankfully, so we went for a hike at Fontainebleau State Park today. Although the water was way down at the marsh (it hasn't rained in a long time,) it still gave yesterday's swamp tour a run for the money (especially since the tour ran us about $50, but admission to Fontainebleau was only $2.)

There were numerous flowers in bloom, including blackberry (which is also flowering all over our yard,) purple oxalis, yaupon holly, Louisiana iris & these deeper-purple irises. There were lots of Carolina cranesbill, too, but they'd already gone to seed.

Birds included great egrets, a red-headed woodpecker, Northern cardinals and a pair of common grackles.

There were also common moorhens, American coots, red-bellied woodpeckers (heard but not seen,) a Northern mockingbird and red-winged blackbirds.

There were hundreds of minnows, mostly bluehead shiners. There was also a bluegill.

Gulf salt marsh snake.

There were quite a few alligators out. Their Winter hibernation recently ended & they're out in force, looking for food.

The first one was pretty large, but mostly hidden by marsh grasses.

This one was fairly small--perhaps 2' long (about 2 years old.)

This medium-sized specimen stayed perched on that tuft of grass for quite a while, watching intently for lunch to amble by. I got to see it dive after whatever unlucky creature showed up, which it held under the water for a few minutes before half-swimming/half-walking away. Featured on the front page of the St. Tammany News.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Swamp Tour

Charles & I went on Dr. Wagner's Honey Island Swamp Tour today. We've taken their tour before & I highly recommend it if you're in the area. When you call to reserve, mention their website & you get free pralines!

Unfortunately the area near the dock was inundated with Eastern tent caterpillars.

3 snapping turtles.

Spider lily.

Spotted sandpiper (my first sighting.)

One of many great blue herons.

Three of dozens of white ibises.

Obligatory pictures of our state reptile, Alligator mississippiensis, the American alligator...

Friday, April 16, 2010

Goldfinches, Still?

I recently reported that our migratory, Winter goldfinches were pretty much gone from our yard. I hadn't seen them in quite some time. Well, I was utterly surprised to see this out our back window the other day;

Not only are some still around, but that one male is almost in full breeding plumage now. We've never seen goldies in breeding plumage here. It was a pleasant surprise!

In other news, the indigo bunting count has largely stalled at 3 males & a female. This may change in the next week or so. I'll definitely be keeping an eye out.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Abita Creek Flatwoods Preserve

Some images from a recent walk at the Flatwoods (close to our house.)

A whirligig beetle (thanks Christine of "Let's Paint Nature"!)

Trumpet vine & bumblebee.

Apologies for the poor quality of this image of a prothonotary warbler, but it was the best I could do. This was our first sighting of this bird at the Flatwoods.

Male common whitetail dragonfly.

The yellow pitcher plants are in bloom.

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