Archived Outdoors

Half a hunert

out naturalistThere’s nothing I like better than mixing pleasure with pleasure. 

Last weekend, I got to spend three wonderful nights in a 12-by-24-foot cabin on the banks of the Ouachita River in northeast Louisiana near where I grew up. The cabin is a joint venture between one dear old friend I reconnected with a few years back and one dear new friend that I met a few years back.

Gil White and I grew up in Mer Rouge, Louisiana, and attended school together from grades one through 12. I reconnected with Gil when I began trekking over to Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge for the Great Backyard Bird Count. And that’s about the same time I met Burg Ransom. Burg is an outstanding nature photographer and spends much of his time at BBLNWR, which is conveniently right in his backyard. And the cabin is located about 15 to 20 minutes from the refuge.

Burg and Gil have a group of friends, local and from across the Southeast, and they converge at the cabin each spring and fall for a camp cookout. They have been gracious enough to offer me a standing invitation for these soirees and I attend when I can, plus they are kind enough to offer the cabin on those years I can make it to BBLNWR for the GBBC. This past weekend was the fall cookout. It’s hard to imagine a more enjoyable evening than good friends, good food, a campfire, a couple of great horned owls, a smattering of coyotes and a couple of flights of snow geese thrown in for good measure.

Then to top it off I got to slip away to the refuge for a few hours Sunday. Not really prime time for birding — I was there from around 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. But I wound up with 52 species, which I was quite happy with. I am always happy to be somewhere I can find warblers (other than yellow-rumped) and vireos this time of year. Last Sunday, along with yellow-rumps, I had pine warbler, orange-crowned warbler and common yellowthroat. The common yellowthroat and a couple of the pine warblers were in pretty bright plumage. I also found a couple of blue-headed vireos in nice plumage.

I got really great looks at a couple of raptors. At different times, I had a mature red-shouldered hawk and a mature Cooper’s hawk perched within 50 feet of me. I actually walked under the red-shouldered on the trail and it never flew. There were lots of hermit thrushes to look at and at one time I was nearly bowled over by a mixed flock of ruby-crowned and golden-crowned kinglets plus Carolina chickadees and tufted titmice.

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It was a good day for woodpeckers despite not seeing or hearing a single pileated. I ticked all the other common ones off including hairy, downy, red-bellied, yellow-bellied sapsucker and yellow-shafted flicker. Sparrows were so-so. I recorded white-throated, song, chipping and swamp. I didn’t see any field sparrows or fox sparrows at the refuge despite the fact they were both common at the cabin.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for another cross-country jaunt in February for the GBBC, but for now, the wood stove is crackling, it’s dark outside and I’m anticipating owls and coyotes again.

(Don Hendershot is a writer and naturalist. He can be reached a This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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