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Archive for April, 2009

Hello again, Blue Bird enthusiasts, and welcome to Week #8 of the 2009 Mississippi Gulf Coast Blue Bird Trail Survey at the South Mississippi Regional Center in Long Beach!

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One of the resident male Blue Birds residing on the premises of the Blue Bird Trail at the SMRC in Long Beach, suns himself during this past week, and provides your author the opportunity to snap an image or two for this post.

It has been an exciting time here for us on the Blue Bird Trail, where 23 Blue Bird babies flew from the nesting boxes during the past week! In last year’s 2008 Week #8 Trail Survey, only 8 Blue Bird babies had yet to fly from the nests.

What an amazing increase in nesting activity over last year at this same time in the season!

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The male Blue Bird grabs a bug from the grass to help feed his nearby growing babies, here on the Blue Bird Trail.

In addition, we still have 3 Blue Bird eggs from this first hatch still in incubation in one of the nesting boxes, as well as 5 young Blue Bird babies growing in the boxes.

Potentially, if 3 remaining eggs hatch, and the (then) 8 babies all are able to survive and fly from the nests, we could end up having a total of 31 new Blue Bird babies fly during the first hatch!

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The 4 Blue Bird babies in nesting box #7 flew this week, leaving one sterile egg that didn’t hatch, behind.

In the 2008 season, we only had a total of 45 babies fly the nests. Thus, we are guardedly optimistic about the final results that this season could end up achieving.

Needless-to-say, Master Naturalist Buddy John is very pleased about how the 2009 Blue Bird breeding season is progressing.

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These very large Blue Bird babies still residing in nesting box #12, will probably fly from the nest within a few days.

Here are the results of today’s Blue Bird Trail Survey – April 24, 2009:

Nest #1 – 1 Blue Bird baby, 3 Blue Bird eggs. – Last Week: 4 Blue Bird eggs.

Nest #2 – 4 Blue Bird babies flew the nest, 1 sterile Blue Bird egg. Removed old nest, cleaned nesting box. – Last Week: 4 large Blue Bird babies, 1 Blue Bird egg.

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This image shows how packed down the growing babies make the nest (box #8), just prior to flying from it.

Nest #3 – Empty box, no activity. – Last Week: Empty box, no activity.

Nest #4 – 5 Blue Bird babies flew the nest. Removed old nest, cleaned nesting box. – Last Week: 5 Blue Bird eggs.

Nest #5 – Empty box, no activity. – Last Week: Removed old nest – cleaned box.

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In addition to getting mashed down by the growing babies, the nests in the nesting boxes tend to get pretty “dirty” while the babies are in the nest, as nesting box #4 shows in this image.

Nest #6 – 5 Blue Bird babies flew the nest. Removed nest, cleaned nesting box. – Last Week: 5 Blue Bird babies.

Nest #7 – 4 Blue Bird babies flew the nest, 1 sterile Blue Bird egg. Removed old nest and sterile egg, cleaned nesting box. – Last Week: 4 Blue Bird babies, 1 Blue Bird egg.

Nest #8 – 5 Blue Bird babies flew the nest, removed the old nest, cleaned nesting box. – Last Week: 5 Blue Bird babies.

Nest #9 – Empty box, no activity. – Last Week: Removed old nest – cleaned box.

Nest #10 – Empty box, no activity. – Last Week: Empty box, no activity.

Nest #11 – Empty box, no activity. – Last Week: Removed old straw – cleaned box.

Nest #12 – 4 large Blue Bird babies, will probably fly from the nest during the coming week. – Last Week: 4 small Blue Bird babies.

Nest #13 – Empty nest, no activity. Last Week: – Removed old nest, cleaned box.

Oh yes, only 37 more days until the gulf coast hurricane season begins. Oh, goody!

And, I saw the first “love bugs” of the spring season flying around today!

Have a great weekend!

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Enjoying a day at the Pascagoula River Audubon Center.

Late last week, a small group of Long Beach, Mississippi Hurricane Katrina survivors, known among themselves as “The Windy Brethren,” took a day off from work to enjoy a special reunion on a late morning, nature cruise of the Pascagoula River in eastern Harrison County, Mississippi.

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Left-to-right: Emily, the Tree-Climbing Wonder Dog, your author Coast Rat, Master Naturalist John L., Mike L., Dr. Pam B., Pam D., Master Naturalist Andrea K, Ralph (Andrea’s spouse), David S.

The six, all senior administrators at the South Mississippi Regional Center (SMRC) in Long Beach, were the senior administrators who were on hand at the SMRC when the worst part of Hurricane Katrina, the northeast section, with its 135-mph winds, came shore on Aug. 29, 2005 and devastated the Mississippi Gulf Coast, including the grounds and facilities of the SMRC in Long Beach.

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Andrea K. and Pam D. check out some of the bird feeders at the Pascagoula River Audubon Center.

After Katrina struck, and caused catastrophic damage, injuries and death in the Mississippi Gulf Coast area, with nearby roads blocked with hurricane debris, fallen trees and power lines, the group literally were stranded on the 45-acre campus, and had to handle crisis after crisis at the mental health facility in the hours and days during and immediately after the horrific storm.

Military helicopters brought in bottled water, ice and MREs to the SMRC, immediately after the storm had passed, with area roads blocked and grocery stores damaged or closed by the storm.

The homes of two of the “Windy Brethren,” Mike L. and John L., located north of Pass Christian on the Arcadia Bayou, although elevated high above the ground on pilings, still had almost five feet of flood water running through them, making them uninhabitable for many months afterwards. Those two administrators lived in a building on the SMRC campus while their homes were repaired by hurricane recovery volunteers.

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The trying experience of responding to the difficult aftereffects of Katrina, served to strengthen previously close bonds and working relationships between the six administrators, who came to call themselves as “The Windy Brethren,” for having shared the hurricane experience and the mess it left, including the huge changes in their and their fellow employees lives, and that of the clients in their care.

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Captain Lynn McCoy of McCoy’s Swamp and River Tours, at the helm and microphone during the nature cruise.

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One of the nature scenes along the river’s edge during the cruise.

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Dr. Pam on the cruise boat.

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Another Pascagoula River scene.

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David and Mike enjoy the cruise.

With the upcoming retirement of a couple of the “Brethren,” including that of the SMRC Director, Dr. Pam B., the group decided to get together for a special experience of going on a several hour nature boat cruise on the nearby Pascagoula River, the largest free-flowing, un-damed, river drainage in the continental United States.

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Another river scene.

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Master Naturalist Andrea K. scans the edge of the marsh along the river for wildlife.

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Another river scene.

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Master Naturalist John seems to be enjoying the cruise experience.

Your author was honored to be asked to accompany the group and photograph the cruise experience.

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Emily, the Tree-Climbing Wonder Dog, looks for critters along the river during the cruise.

The “Windy Brethren,” consisting of Dr. Pam B., Master Naturalist John L., and his faithful sidekick, Emily, the Tree-Climbing Wonder Dog, Master Naturalist Andrea K., and her spouse, Ralph, Mike L., David S. and Pam D., and your author/photographer drove over to the Pascagoula River to the Pascagoula River Audubon Center, and boarded a large tour boat operated by the McCoy’s River and Swamp Tours, captained that trip by Lynn McCoy, for a 2 1/2 hour scenic tour.

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The group spotted many species of birds during the cruise.

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One of the many tree roots encountered during the trip.

Although the morning was rather windy and overcast much of the time, the tour through the river marsh and swamp areas was most interesting, wish various birds, flora and fauna observed, including several large Osprey.

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Several Osprey were spotted during the cruise, including this one, carrying a fish in its talons as it flew away.

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Pam D. on the tour boat.

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This Osprey nest, high above the marsh, had an Osprey sitting in it.

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Another Osprey with a fish.

We had hoped to see several large alligator critters lurking in the river, like the following fellows.

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Unfortunately, though, with the air being a bit on the chilly side, none of these large, hungry reptiles were encountered during our tour.

However, your author did encounter numerous scalely critters, including the fellows shown above, only 24 hours later, a few miles to the east, on a farm in southern Alabama, in Summerdale, at Alligator Alley, where I snapped these alligator images.

If you ever have an opportunity to go on one of the Pascagoula River nature boat cruises, by all means, take advantage of it. It’s a most informative and interesting experience.

The Pascagoula River Audubon Center and McCoy’s Swamp and River Tours are located just east of the Pascagoula River bridge. It is suggested that you call ahead for the boat tour reservations.

After the cruise docked, the group retired to nearby Ocean Springs, to enjoy a brief, tasty repast at “The Shed,” an area eatery of some very favorable reputation.

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The Shed.

Following a delicious lunch and lively conversation, the group bid each other ‘adieu,’ and split up to head out on their separate ways into the afternoon sunshine.

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Lunch for “The Windy Brethren,” at The Shed, in Ocean Springs, after the Pascagoula River nature cruise. Left-to-right: Mike L., Pam D., Dr. Pam B., David S., Andrea K. and spouse Ralph, John L.

While the rest of the tour group headed west, towards Long Beach and Pass Christian, your author turned east, to travel over across the Florida state line, to Perdido Key, to join Wisconsin friends at a condo there, to spend a most enjoyable Easter family weekend in the sun and the sand.

But that is for another post.

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Hello again, fellow Blue Bird enthusiasts, and welcome to the April 17, 2009, Week #7, of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Blue Bird trail Survey, on the campus of the South Mississippi Regional Center, in Long beach.

It was good this week to be able to conduct the Blue Bird Trail Survey with Master Naturalist Buddy John and Emily, the Tree-Climbing Wonder Dog. John’s leg is feeling much better these days, as it responds to medications and exercise.

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A female Blue Bird sits on a fence near nesting box #9 Friday, on the Mississippi Gulf Coast Blue Bird Trail, in Long Beach.

This week’s Survey found our Blue Bird baby and egg numbers the same as that of the April 10 Survey of last Friday, with 26 babies and 7 eggs.

Master Naturalist Buddy John noted after this morning’s Survey, that most of the Blue Bird babies currently in the Trail’s nesting boxes, will most likely have flown the nests by next week’s Survey. Thus, we will have a more accurate count of how many babies have actually hatched and flown, and how many of the original eggs are sterile and still in the nests.

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The Blue Bird babies in nesting box #2, as seen this morning in this image, are very large and will be flying from the box any day now.

And, the 4 eggs currently under incubation in nesting box #1, should have all hatched by next Friday, hopefully increasing the baby numbers this season from 26 babies, to 30.

Once all the babies in a nest have flown, we will remove the old nest and clean the box, readying it for the female Blue Bird to begin building a new nest and lay a another batch of eggs.

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The Blue Bird babies in nesting box #4 are also large now, and soon will fly the nest.

In the 2008 Week #7 Trail Survey, we had 16 Blue Bird babies in the nest or already flown, and 12 Blue Bird eggs in the nests. So, this year, we are 10 babies ahead of last year at this time in the season, a healthy increase.

Here are the results of today’s Trail Survey – April 17, 2009:

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Here are the 5 large babies in nesting box #6, as photographed this morning.

Nest #1 – 4 Blue Bird eggs. – Last Week: 4 Blue Bird eggs.

Nest #2 – 3 large Blue Bird babies – will probably fly the next before next Friday’s Survey; 2 Blue Bird eggs (suspect these are sterile eggs). – Last Week: 3 Blue Bird babies, 2 Blue Bird eggs.

Nest #3 – Empty box, no activity. – Last Week: Empty box, no activity.

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The babies in nesting box #7 are also near to flying the nest.

Nest #4 – 5 large Blue Bird babies, will probably fly the nest before next Friday’s Survey. – Last Week: 5 Blue Bird eggs.

Nest #5 – Nest built, no eggs yet. Removed nest – cleaned box. – Last Week: Nest built, no eggs yet.

Nest #6 – 5 large Blue Bird babies, will probably fly the nest before next Friday’s Survey. – Last Week: 5 Blue Bird babies.

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The large Blue Bird babies in nesting box #8, this morning. One can easily see the blue feathers growing on the babies.

Nest #7 – 4 large Blue Bird babies – will probably fly the nest before next Friday’s Survey, 1 Blue Bird egg (suspect this is a sterile egg). – Last Week: 4 Blue Bird babies, 1 Blue Bird egg.

Nest #8 – 5 large Blue Bird babies, will probably fly the nest before next Friday’s Survey. – Last Week: 5 Blue Bird babies.

Nest #9 – Nest built, no eggs yet. Removed nest – cleaned box. – Last Week: Nest built, no eggs yet.

Nest #10 – Empty box, no activity. – Last Week: Empty box, no activity.

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The babies in nesting box #12, are a little smaller and younger than the other babies on the Trail. This nesting box was 6″ from having water in it just two weeks ago, during the heavy rains and flooding on the Trail.

Nest #11 – Some straw in box, no activity. Removed old straw – cleaned box. – Last Week: Some straw in box.

Nest #12 – 4 small Blue Bird babies. – Last Week: 4 small Blue Bird babies.

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This little fellow was hanging around this afternoon near nesting box #9, and appears to be an Eastern Kingbird.

Nest #13 – Nest built, no eggs yet. Removed nest – cleaned box. – Last Week: Nest built, no eggs yet.

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And here is something nice to send you away with this week: a large growth of beautiful blue Spiderwort, which is growing on soil on the lower part of campus, which was under 5′ of water two weeks ago. Nice comeback, huh?

Have a great week!

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The Friday, April 10, 2009 Blue Bird Trail Survey results shows additional new Blue Bird activity, as after reporting a total of 22 Blue Bird babies in the Trail nesting boxes last week, we now have 26 hungry little Blue Bird babies and 7 Blue Bird eggs, including 2 new eggs, in the Trail nesting boxes!

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Master Naturalist Buddy John shown checking one of the Blue Bird Trail nesting boxes during a Spring 2008 Tail Survey.

Master Naturalist Buddy John and Emily, the Tree-Climbing Wonder Dog, completed the April 10th Trail Survey by themselves, as your blog author missed his first Trail Survey in two years, being in Perdido Key, FL with friends Maggie (of Maggie Dammit) and spouse Dave, and their girls, on a much-needed, four day vacation getaway.

Here are this week’s results from the Survey taken Friday, April 10, 2009:

Nest #1 – 4 Blue Bird eggs. – Last Week: 2 Blue Bird eggs.

Nest #2 – 3 Blue Bird babies, 2 Blue Bird eggs (suspect these are sterile eggs). – Last Week: 3 Blue Bird babies, 2 Blue Bird eggs.

Nest #3 – Empty box, no activity. – Last Week: Empty box, no activity.

Nest #4 – 5 Blue Bird babies. – Last Week: 5 Blue Bird eggs.

Nest #5 – Nest built, no eggs yet. – Last Week: Nest built, no eggs yet.

Nest #6 – 5 Blue Bird babies. – Last Week: 5 Blue Bird eggs.

Nest #7 – 4 Blue Bird babies, 1 Blue Bird egg (suspect this is a sterile egg). – Last Week: 4 Blue Bird babies, 1 Blue Bird egg.

Nest #8 – 5 Blue Bird babies. – Last Week: 5 Blue Bird eggs.

Nest #9 – Nest built, no eggs yet. – Last Week: Nest built, no eggs yet.

Nest #10 – Empty box, no activity. – Last Week: Empty box, no activity.

Nest #11 – Some straw in box, no activity. – Last Week: Some straw in box.

Nest #12 – 4 Blue Bird eggs. – Last Week: 4 Blue Bird eggs.

Nest #13 – Nest built, no eggs yet. – Last Week: Nest built, no eggs yet.

Master Naturalist Buddy John commented after the survey that if there are no changes in the empty nests in nesting boxes 5, 9, 11 and 13, by this Friday’s survey, the old nests in these boxes will be removed, in the hopes that new nesting pairs will begin building new nests.

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Hello again, Blue Bird fans, and welcome to Week #5 Survey results of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Blue Bird Trail, on the campus of the South Mississippi Regional Center in Long Beach.

The Blue Bird Trail was not nearly as WET this week Friday, as it was last Saturday morning, as the following image from then shows.

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Last Saturday, March 28, was the most wet day in the past two years of the Survey. Fortunately, none of the Trail nesting boxes was flooded by the high waters on the Trail.

First, I’m happy to report that Master Naturalist Buddy John, and Emily – the Tree-Climbing Wonder Dog, were back to participate in this week’s Trail Survey, at least in part.

The three of us did the upper part of the Trail Survey, while your author and fellow employee Russell – The Grounds Guru, covered the lower, north part of the campus, which was still soggy Friday morning, from Thursday afternoon’s tornado producing thunderstorm/rains, and last weeks’ heavy rains that drenched this area of the Gulf Coast.

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Here are 5 of our 22 new Blue Bird babies observed during this week’s Survey.

This week’s results are EXCITING, as after reporting a total of 29 Blue Bird eggs in the Trail nesting boxes last week, we now have 22 hungry little Blue Bird babies and 9 Blue Bird eggs in the Trail nesting boxes!

In last years’ Week #5 Blue Bird Trail Survey, we reported having only 5 Blue Bird babies and 11 Blue Bird eggs in the nesting boxes. Quite a difference this year!

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Here are the four Blue Bird eggs in nesting box #12 this week. We hope to have 4 new babies by nest week’s Survey.

Here are this week’s results from the Survey taken Friday, April 3, 2009:

Nest #1 – 2 Blue Bird eggs. – Last Week: New Blue Bird straw nest built on top of the moss nest; Momma Blue Bird took over the nesting box!

Nest #2 – 3 Blue Bird babies, 2 Blue Bird eggs. – Last Week: 5 Blue Bird eggs.

Nest #3 – Empty box, no activity. – Last Week: Empty box, no activity.

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Russell shows how high the flood waters reached on nesting box #12 last Saturday.

Nest #4 – 5 Blue Bird babies. – Last Week: 5 Blue Bird eggs.

Nest #5 – Nest built, no eggs yet. – Last Week: Nest built, no eggs yet.

Nest #6 – 5 Blue Bird babies. – Last Week: 5 Blue Bird eggs.

Nest #7 – 4 Blue Bird babies, 1 Blue Bird egg. – Last Week: 5 Blue Bird Eggs.

Nest #8 – 5 Blue Bird babies. – Last Week: 5 Blue Bird eggs.

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Here are the new Blue Bird babies and an unhatched egg from nesting box #7, photographed on Friday, April 3, 2009.

Nest #9 – Nest built, no eggs yet. – Last Week: Nest built, no eggs yet.

Nest #10 – Empty box, no activity. – Last Week: Empty box, no activity.

Nest #11 – Some straw in box, no activity. – Last Week: Some straw in box.

Nest #12 – 4 Blue Bird eggs. – Last Week: 4 Blue Bird eggs.

Nest #13 – Nest built, no eggs yet. – Last Week: Nest built, no eggs yet.

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During this week’s Trail Survey, and throughout Friday, several large military planes flew over the Blue Bird Trail, on the Gulf Coast for this weekend’s huge Keeseler Air Force Base Air Show, on Saturday and Sunday, in Biloxi..

OH, yes, only 57 more days until the 2009 Gulf Coast Hurricane Season starts!

Have a good week!

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