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ABA Events: Bayou Birding & Cajun Cuisine IFO Program

The ABA’s Institute for Field Ornithology traces its origins back to 1983 and was created with the goal of offering novel opportunities for the study of birds. Our IFO programs combine field birding with an educational element to enrich your birding experience.

Dan Lane of Field Guides demonstrates proper crawfish-eating strategy.

Dan Lane of FIELD GUIDES demonstrates proper crawfish-eating strategy.

From February 24th through March 1st, 2015 a group of ten ABA members gathered to together in Lafayette and Lake Charles, Louisiana to enjoy the great birding and unique cuisine of southwest Louisiana. This event, called Bayou Birding and Cajun Cuisine was led by myself and local Dan Lane of Field Guides. We enjoyed a great array of birds, with 155 species tallied, and we also learned a lot about the history and culture of the region, while sampling the food.

Lori and Marta enjoy a bottle of Abita as they dig into some boiled crawfish.

Lori and Marta enjoy a bottle of Abita as they dig into some boiled crawfish.

Within our first 24 hours we had sampled food items like fried alligator, shrimp poboys, maque choux, dirty rice, corn & crab bisque, boudin balls, and crawfish enchiladas. One night we enjoyed a crawfish boil at Steamboat Bill’s in Lake Charles, and we also had a fantastic meal at the Blue Dog Cafe in Lafayette. At the Blue Dog, we took in not only the many tasty vittels but also admired the work of the famous George Rodrigue. A renowned artist of the Acadiana region of Louisiana, the cafe featured many pieces from Rodrigue’s blue dog series.

One of the great things about this nook of the United States is the sheer volume of birds. As expected, we saw big numbers of geese which surprisingly included no Canadas, but instead a mix of mostly White-fronted and Snow (many blue morphs), and also Ross’s and Cackling Geese. Ibis were abundant too and southwestern Louisiana is home to nearly all flavors of Red-tailed Hawk. From the pale, whitish “Krider’s” to the often blackish “Harlan’s” we enjoyed both large number of Red-tailed Hawks, but also an interesting array of subspecies, including typical Eastern birds and  “Fuertes’s” too.

A Krider's Red-tailed Hawk takes to the air at Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge. Nearby we saw Cinnamon Teal and Ferruginous Hawk.

A “Krider’s” Red-tailed Hawk takes to the air at Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge. Nearby we saw Cinnamon Teal and Ferruginous Hawk.

Perhaps more surprising for some of us were the extraordinary numbers of Wilson’s Snipe all throughout the rice country, the large number of Killdeer and Long-billed Dowitchers and the large blackbird flocks too. Other nice surprises included a dark morph Ferruginous Hawk and a Cinnamon Teal at Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge, some early-ish Pectoral Sandpipers and American Golden Plovers, a Common Loon at East Jetty, a Eurasian Wigeon at Lacassine NWR, a Say’s Phoebe in Thornwell, and an Ash-throated Flycatcher near Welsh. We had four tyrant-flycatchers including the latter two, Eastern Phoebe and Vermilion Flycatcher, which is pretty good for February. A quick trip up into the pine woods to Kisatchie National Forest netted us Bachman’s Sparrow and Red-cockaded Woodpecker, and we even snagged some Sprague’s Pipits near Welsh.

Bachman's Sparrow at Kisatchie National Forest.

Bachman’s Sparrow at Kisatchie National Forest.


A nice surprise was this Ash-throated Flycatcher we found near Welsh.


One of the late George Rodrigue’s pieces from his blue dog series, featured at the Blue Dog Cafe.


Sprague's Pipit near Welsh. One of >7 we saw this day.

Sprague’s Pipit near Welsh. One of >7 we saw this day.

All in all, it was a really nice haul, with a great group of ABA members and some wonderful birds and food. Think about joining us at upcoming ABA Events, some of which include:

ABA Cruise to the Dry Tortugas with Nate Swick, Mark Hedden, and Jeff Bouton, from May 5-9, 2015.

The ABA Summit at the American Birding Expo, from September 30th – October 2nd, in Columbus, OH.

Winter Sparrows of the Southwest, based in Sierra Vista, AZ, with Homer Hansen, January 21-26, 2015.

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George Armistead

George Armistead

George Armistead is a lifelong birder and since April 2012 is the events coordinator for the ABA. George spent the prior decade organizing and leading birding tours for Field Guides Inc. He has guided trips on all seven continents, and enjoys vast open country habitats and seabirds most of all. Based in Philadelphia, he is an associate at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, and spends much of his free time birding the coast between Cape May, NJ and Cape Hatteras, NC.