Winter is a great time of year for bird-watching in Louisiana, particularly near bodies of water, said Lindsay Seely, who led a recent bird walk around the Capitol building for Southside’s Wild Birds Unlimited.
“I wish this fog would lift,” she said to Kimberly Lanka, a fellow birder who routinely brings an extra pair of binoculars to Seely’s scheduled bird walks, just in case anyone needs them.
Though the fog complicated matters far from shore for the group of seven, Seely and Lanka patiently scooped out interesting varieties of water fowl, using their powers of description to explain the minutiae of a bird’s distinguishing features, in addition to its exact location.
“OK, if you look where the branches spread out like lace, then follow the trunk up to the first branch on the left after that, you’ll see a juvenile black-crowned night heron,” Lanka said. “He’s sort of a beautiful mottled gray and white, and he’s preening right now. And just to the left of that one is a darker adult.”
Newer birders would stare through binoculars, frustrated, while Lanka and Seely kept the descriptors coming, until, after a few moments, a gasp, followed by a smile, erupted.
“Oh, I see it! I see it!”
This is the kind of thing the women love about birding, especially with new birders.
In addition to black-crowned night herons, the group also spotted flocks of the colorful and compact mergansers, water birds with distinctive white facial markings. Some mergansers also have oblong hoods on their heads.
Also on area lakes are thick-beaked white and brown pelicans, and graceful egrets — both the great egret, which is white and larger with a yellow bill and black feet, and the snowy egret, smaller with a black bill and yellow feet.
Seely and Lanka pointed out a canvass back duck, striking with a creamy white body, dark head and neck, and red eyes, and several white-beaked coots.
The star of the show, however, was a lone juvenile snow goose, who foraged on the edge of the lake near two feral white geese.
“It’s unusual to see them alone,” Lanka said, pointing out the light and dark mottled coat that will turn more white after its first year of life.
“We’d heard reports that there were two snow geese spotted here,” she said. “I was hoping we’d see one today.”
If you want to learn more about birds and birding, Wild Birds Unlimited conducts periodic bird walks at different locations around the city, Seely said, and Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center also conducts walks on its trails the first Saturday of every month.