GRAND ISLE — A bird rarely seen in Louisiana was among 130 species heard or spotted on Grand Isle during the National Audubon Society’s annual winter bird count.
A Lucy’s warbler, which normally lives in the U.S. Southwest or in Mexico, was the exciting find of the day on Grand Isle, said Chris Brantley, who organized the count on Louisiana’s only inhabited barrier island and one of nearly 30 planned around Louisiana between mid-December and Jan. 5.
There are only a few records of the bird ever being seen in Louisiana, Brantley said.
Around 15 observers scoured the island on Dec. 18 for the annual event designed to get a sense of bird population trends.
The current count is the 115th nationally; Brantley said Grand Isle has had a bird count every year since 1997 and, with a few breaks, since 1949.
Other birds Brantley noted as special finds were an American redstart, ovenbird, western tanager and a few ruby-throated and black-chinned hummingbirds.
Counters from Lafayette to Baton Rouge gathered at Grand Isle, binoculars in hand. They broke into groups that searched a 15-mile diameter circle from Grand Isle State Park to Fourchon.
“At the end of the day everyone takes up their list and sends it to me (to) compile,” Brantley said. “I submit to the National Audubon Society to be tabulated.”
The information from counts all over the country are compiled and listed on the Audubon Society website. It serves as a data center for ornithologists and birders to examine population trends. So far, the counts are just shy of 70 nationwide, and more than 2 million birds have been counted.
The large counting event started out as small gathering, born from desire to stop holiday-season bird massacres, Brantley said.
In a 19th-century tradition called the Christmas “side hunt,” people would compete to see who could kill the most birds. Frank Chapman, officer in the fledgling Audubon Society, proposed the new holiday tradition in 1900 to tally birds rather than hunt them.
Chapman’s idea has grown to become the annual event birders around the country look forward to.
Five of the Louisiana Audubon Society’s planned bird counts were planned after Christmas week: Lafayette on Monday; the Slidell area on Tuesday; New Iberia and Venice on Friday; and St. Tammany Parish on Jan. 4.