Thursday, November 19, 2009

It's Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas Bird Count Time

There's no better way to become a better birder than by spending time in the field with experienced birders!

Beginning on Christmas Day 1900, ornithologist Frank Chapman, an early officer in the then budding Audubon Society, proposed a new holiday tradition - a "Christmas Bird Census" - that would count birds in the holidays rather than hunt them.

So began the Christmas Bird Count.

From December 14 through January 5 tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas take part in an adventure that has become a family tradition among generations. Families and students, birders and scientists, armed with binoculars, bird guides and checklists go out on an annual mission - often before dawn. For over one hundred years, the desire to both make a difference and to experience the beauty of nature has driven dedicated people to leave the comfort of a warm house during the Holiday season.

The data collected by observers over the past century allow researchers, conservation biologists, and other interested individuals to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America. When combined with other surveys such as the Breeding Bird Survey, it provides a picture of how the continent's bird populations have changed in time and space over the past hundred years.

If you are interested in participating in a Christmas Bird Count for the first time, visit the Shreveport Bird Study Group website or join us on Facebook. We will put you in touch with the compiler who can pair you with an experienced local birder. Or, if you happen to live within the count area, you can phone in the species and numbers you observed on the count day.

Upcoming CBCs include the Claiborne CBC, Shreveport CBC, Natchitoches CBC, and the Bossier-Caddo-Bienville CBC (the BCBCBC).
For more information on what a CBC is, visit

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Weed of Cortez

Caddo Parish parks are crawling with people – and I mean ALL of Caddo Parish’s parks are crawling with people! Noah Tyson Park in Rodessa is so far from the urban center that most people haven’t even heard of Rodessa, let alone Noah Tyson Park. Robert Nance Park in Hosston is usually the same way – usually.

But twice a year the parks get a boost from the treasure hunters. The Holiday in Dixie treasure in the spring, and the Holiday Booty in, well, you know how that goes “Christmas starts earlier every year…” The clues always seem to suggest one of our parks is the treasure site: The treasure is always hidden on public property; it’s always NOT on a busy highway; it’s often away from the hustle and bustle; there are children playing and a proximity to a body of water.

This year there are old coots and the Weed of Cortez.

“Not far off
The weed of Cortez
Knowing where to find it
Would be for the best.”

At first, we scoured the native plant databases and field guides and vascular flora books looking for a native plant named after, for, or by someone named Cortez. Then we realized something: The people who wrote those clues aren’t botanists or horticulturists. They probably have no science background whatsoever, and they are hinting at something more mundane…

So who was Cortez and what is his weed? This naturalist thinks the clue writers were referencing the Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez, and “Cortez = Spanish” and “Weed = Moss.” My apologies in advance to everyone who knows better and wants to tell me that Cortez had nothing to do with Spanish moss and Spanish moss isn’t even moss, it’s a bromeliad, hardly a weed.

And where does Spanish moss grow? On cypress trees in the bayous and lakes of South Eastern/Gulf States, of course!

Well, it doesn't grow anywhere in Walter B. Jacobs Memorial Nature Park that I know of, but I know you can find it at Noah Tyson Park, Robert L. Nance Park, and Earl G. Williamson Park. You might also check out Horace M. Downs Park, Milton "Hookie" Cameron Memorial Park, the Historic Caddo Lake Drawbridge, and Norris Ferry Boat Launch. Check out for more information, or call the parks office 318-929-2806 for driving directions.

Happy Hunting!