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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Back from the Bayou

For the past week I’ve been at the American Birding Association’s National Convention in Lafayette, Louisiana. I’m drafting this post on my flight into Denver from Houston, with a laptop full of pics to work on and a mind full of good memories. This was my first time in Louisiana, and I finally managed to catch up with Fulvous Whistling-Duck. I also got my first look at King Rail (I’d heard them a couple of times before)- now if I could just get a glimpse of a Black Rail I’ll have all of the regularly occurring ABA coots and rails on my photo list (no, I don't have Corn Crake, either.) Beyond those new birds I managed to clean up and expand my photo catalog on many other species that I don’t get to see and photograph very often. In particular, I hammered lots of waders and also got my best shots to date of Barred Owl.
As with other ABA conventions and conferences I’ve been to, the Lafayette affair had a good mix of birding and time to mix & mingle with like-minded folks. I enjoy the chance to see birders I haven’t seen in a while and to meet others. Leica brought me out and I worked the booth when I wasn’t on field trips or in a workshop- I got to see Andrew Farnsworth’s Radar Ornithology / Flight Note workshop which was heavy duty but very cool!! I’d been exposed to both topics from other speakers but Andrew really brought me up to speed on both fronts and juiced my interest in both a little more. I really want to thank Leica Sport Optics for getting me out to Louisiana!
This convention also gave me the chance to sample some mighty fine food. I think I managed to have crayfish (aka crawfish or crawdads) every day in some form or another. At the dinner prior to Richard Crossley's talk I had crayfish-stuffed pork chops. Oh, and I had an interesting fellow sit next to me at that dinner- none other than David Sibley!! Then, last night I had stuffed shrimp and guess what was in the stuffing- yeah, crawdads! That one reminded me of another southern specialty, the Turducken (a turkey stuffed with a duck, stuffed with a chicken.) It gave me an idea to try if I ever open a seafood restaurant- Lobshrimpdads or maybe Shrimpdadcrabs. I think you can figure out what would be in these crustacean versions of the Turducken.
If I had to pick a favorite entrée from the trip (or maybe ever) I’d say it was the crayfish enchiladas at the Blue Dog, preceded by an amazing bowl of soup, the Sherwood Forrest Brie Bisque. I’d say that selection only narrowly outranked the redfish Randall (a specialty at Randall's), which was a stacked-up tower of food consisting of a bed of shrimp étouffée topped by a blackened redfish fillet, topped by a crawfish stuffing cake, topped by another blackened redfish fillet, drizzled with Randall’s special sauce and skewered together by a big stem of rosemary. OMG, I ate every mote...
But of course, this is a birding / bird photography blog, so enough about all of that low-calorie food. Yesterday I went on the digiscoping trip to Jefferson Island and shot almost 900 frames of birds at the rookery there with my trusty Leica rig. Here's a twist: a digiscoped shot of digiscopers!
It was an amazing place, especially for a Coloradoan. When I see a rookery in Colorado it is usually full of Great Blue Herons and Double-crested Cormorants, neither of which were present at Jefferson Island. Instead, we were treated to the comings and goings of Cattle Egrets, Little Blue Herons, Roseate Spoonbills, Green Herons, and Tricolored Herons. A few Anhingas visited, and opportunistic American Alligators prowled the waters or basked on the shore below the rookery islands.
It was also cool to tour the Rip Van Winkle Gardens and see Lake Peigneur, which in November 1980 drained completely into a salt mine when a gas drill rig penetrated the salt dome beneath the lake- oops! Nobody died or was even seriously hurt, but you’ve got to check out the story here- especially the part about the fisherman who had a narrow escape and the temporary 150-foot waterfall that was created as the outlet canal reversed, carrying Gulf of Mexico water, huge trees, a mansion, barges, a tugboat, and 65 manicured garden acres into the whirlpool's swirling maw.

Anyway, all of the pics on this post were digiscoped on that trip- I’ll put some DSLR shots up from my other trips later.

So if I ran into you down in Louisiana, good to see you and thanks for the memories! If you weren’t there, consider taking in an ABA event sometime- say, at the national convention in Snowbird, Utah, June 2008. Adios for now.

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