Spring is here and its wet in Waterloo, Illinois. Robins and grackles are bathing in the puddles in the grass. The ganders are jousting, their necks extended like lances, vying for who gets which nesting place on which pond. They will continue this behavior until the fledglings are out of the nest and swimming in the ponds. Then they will proudly sail ahead of their families and join other families. No migrants here: Our Canada geese tend to be year-round residents.
The ponds are full and the great blue is patrolling the edge of the one across the way. Only its head is visible, lurching back and forth with each step. This morning a great egret stood like a statue on the bank.
The serious birders are headed for Louisiana and Grand Isle.
The live oak forests on Grand Isle, the only inhabited barrier island in Louisiana, have rescued the island hurricane after hurricane. Houses, built among the trees, survived the hurricane of 1893. The grand hotels that fronted on the beach did not. Katrina stripped the leaves from the trees, but the trees saved the island and recovered. Gustav, last summer, lost much of its punch when it bumped across the island and through the forest. It’s worth a trip to Grand Isle just to see the forest, because maritime live oak forests like this one are very rare.
But it’s spring and the ravishes of last summer’s hurricanes have been forgotten and Grand Isle is ready for the onslot of birds and birders. The annual Migratory Bird Festival starts on Friday, April 17 and runs through the 19th.
For migratory song birds–warblers, vireos, hummingbirds–it’s a long way, 550 miles, across the Gulf of Mexico from Mexico and Central America, where they winter. The live oak forests of Grand Isle are their resting place before they head north to their nesting places. It’s called a “fallout,” when the birds settle in the trees. The birders follow.