Sunday, October 11, 2009

The End of Gnatcatcher Days

By Paul Conover

On the eve of the last day in September, there's a hint of seasonal change in the air. The air's relatively cool, a steady breeze is sneaking around, and a few migrants are feeding up in the backyard. I'm not ready to claim that the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness has arrived; a quick look at the 10 day forecast puts that dream back to sleep. Still, with October barely 24 hours away, there's no denying that we're coming to the end of the Gnatcatcher Days.

I happen to like August and September birding. I've been down to the coast probably every weekend in the past two months and I can only think of two or three birdwatchers I've even crossed paths with. During the same span I have crossed paths with some pretty good birding days. In the woods I've seen a handful of Olive-sided Flycatchers, Mourning Warblers, and Bell's Vireos, and a couple dozen Yellow-bellied Flycatchers and Traill's Flycatchers. The beach has produced a few Lesser Black-backed Gulls, a couple of California Gulls, and some nice shorebirds. Inland, there's been good kingbird and scissor-tail action and good looks at every swallow on the state list. But the bird that's really emblematic of the dog days this year and every year is the tiny Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. These winged mice have been constant companions no matter what habitat I've birded in, and they haven't been shy about letting their presence be known. In August and September in Southwestern Louisiana, you're never far from a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. These are the Gnatcatcher Days.

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Paul Conover has pursued the hobby of bird watching for many years and is well versed on the various types of birds seen here in Southwest Louisiana.

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