- Associated Press - Sunday, January 8, 2017

CHACKABAY, La. (AP) - In a wooded area off of La. 20 in Chackbay, Delaina LeBlanc heard a bird chattering.

“Hear that bird? That’s a Carolina chickadee,” she said, pausing to listen. “No, no - it’s a wren.”

Though the wind and rain made it challenging to spot birds, participants noted at least 101 different species during the annual Thibodaux area Christmas Bird Count today. Additional numbers were expected Tuesday.

The National Audubon Society sponsors more than 2,400 events each year for the Christmas Bird Count. LeBlanc, migratory birds coordinator for the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program, organizes the local count with Thibodaux High School biology teacher Jed Pitre.

A tradition dating back to 1900, the Christmas Bird Count is held throughout the Western Hemisphere, with each event taking place one day between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5 in an established 15-mile circumference. Volunteers compile records of birds they see and hear in the area, and Audubon researchers and conservationists compile the data to assess bird population statuses.

Last year’s count was the first in the Thibodaux area in about 10 years.

This year, LeBlanc said, about 13 people were out in the field, split into seven groups. Three were counting birds from their home feeders.

“Somebody already texted us,” she said that morning. “He saw a black-throated blue warbler, which is a great species to be here in the wintertime. Those are birds that usually you’ll see during migration in the springtime. … Every year’s going to be unique depending on what the conditions are.”

Areas included on the count included the reservoir next to the Thibodaux Civic Center, the Nicholls State University farm, Laurel Valley Plantation and Peltier Park. Among the species noted were the American crow, bald eagle, barn owl, black vulture, great horned owl, red-shouldered hawk, ruby-crowned kinglet and savannah sparrow.

Larry Thibodaux feeds hummingbirds at home and also likes cardinals and blue jays. He participated in the count last year and returned this year.

“It was enjoyable,” he said. “It’s a good opportunity to get out, see some nature.”

Ralph “Rabbit” Landry joined LeBlanc and Thibodaux in the woods off of La. 20, where he hunts deer.

“It’s interesting - very, very interesting - to know what’s around when you hunt in this area,” he said. “I walk this road almost every day. I get off work at 3:30, and I hunt almost every afternoon.”

Landry's never really been a birder, but he enjoys watching woodpeckers.

“They make a lot of noise, and they are very pretty,” he said. “I like the wren because they’re probably the most (numerous) here and they’ll fly on the edge of your deer stand, look in and leave. They’re friendly.”

LeBlanc used an audio clip of different calls to see if she could attract birds. She said such recordings should not be used in the spring, when many birds spend their energy migrating, molting or raising young.

The boggy woods where Landry hunts could have warblers, grackles and blackbirds, LeBlanc said.

“I know shore birds really well ‘cause I work on the coast, but there’s a lot of birds that I’m still (learning),” she said. “There’s all different levels of watching birds. Some people just like to watch the birds. They don’t need the name of it. That’s perfectly fine. … You learn as you go. There’s endless learning with this type of thing.”

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Information from: The Courier, https://www.houmatoday.com

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