Monday, September 25, 2006

Katrina, One Year Later

Michelle and I just got back from a long weekend in southeastern Louisiana. Saturday was spent with family, but Sunday morning I was able to sneak off and do some birding in the Pearl River Wildlife Management Area - that is until I got rained out.

I'd been there before. I first visited the Pearl River WMA back in the 1980s, and it was there that I had some of my first experiences with southern swamp forest. That was before David Kulivan reported an encounter with a pair of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers there, back when I was just trying to find the usual eastern birds - warblers and such. I wasn't disappointed. The Pearl River WMA is a great place in which to see typical swampland birds and other wildlife.

This time I was looking for IBWOs, inasmuch as I was aware of the possibility and interested in whatever birds were around, which could conceivably include IBWOs. Noticed plenty of woodpecker activity, but only saw the usual suspects - Downy, Red-bellied, Pileated. Looked for signs of IBWO bark stripping, but only found obvious Pileated workings. It was a good opportunity to survey the damage wrought by Katrina, which created openings in the forest canopy. Broken and downed trees were everywhere. The terrain was drier than I had expected - on my earlier visits most of the forest had been flooded.This is not a remote wilderness area. I was birding along well-travelled roads, always within earshot of highway traffic and the constant gunfire from a nearby shooting range.

Before the heavy rain started I found a large mixed species association moving through the woods along the entry road. Among the neotropical migrants that I observed in this "flock" were several species of warblers (best of all an adult male Canada Warbler). White-eyed Vireos were singing throughout the woods, which was a little surprising considering the lateness of the season. A Barred Owl caused a small disturbance and gave me a brief photo opportunity.Sunday afternoon we drove into New Orleans and toured some of the Katrina devastation. Over a year later much of the city is still a ghost town with empty streets, abandoned buildings, and unpopulated neighborhoods. We spent the evening walking through the French Quarter, where the retailers are selling Katrina the same way they sell debauchery and voodoo. The Quarter is still a lively place, and the Superdome is reopening, but the rest of the city is on life support. Casi muerto. Zombified.


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