1.25.2009

Louisiana's Cheniers + Bird Fall-Outs

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I recently read something about Louisiana's cheniers and couldn't believe I knew nothing about them. Imagine a coastal woodland/beach of Live Oaks...which just seems too fairytale-like to be real.

So, I found this printout booklet HERE and have been reading through a couple pages every few days before bed over the past week or so. Then I found out about bird fall-outs in cheniers during migration, which made the entire scenario even more fairytale-like.

Cheniers
The word derives from the French chene, meaning oak, and in that language cheniere is literally oak grove By the same construction cypriere is a grove of cypress trees, and pecaniere [sic]* is a grove of pecan trees. Scientifically, the word chenier is applied to certain land formations, whose origin and character are quite distinctive, and unlike most land formations in general.

Most people, even in Louisiana, know little about the chenieres, with their mosscloaked oaks, windblown hackberries, and tangled grapevines. The early French settlers used the word cheniere (pronounced “shin-ear” or “shane-year”) to mean “oak grove.” Chenieres are ancient, stranded woodlands that rise above the flat wetlands to dominate the landscape. The chenieres are supported by landforms that include relict beaches, barrier islands, remnant natural levees, salt islands, and shell middens. The chenieres begin in east Texas and occur as far east as Grand Isle, Louisiana.

Chenieres play a key role for migrating land birds because of where they lie in important migration pathways. Twice each year, millions of songbirds, in fact most all eastern species, swarm Louisiana’s coast as they migrate across and around the Gulf of Mexico. These scarce wooded habitats situated in coastal Louisiana serve as safe havens that migrating birds use in spring to stock up on energy and to build strength for the nesting season. In autumn, the birds return to the chenieres, pausing there to store energy for continued migration and molt."
from Vanishing before our Eyes: Louisiana Cheniere Woods and the Birds that Depend on Them

What they describe above is the fall-out I mentioned. I found this from the Nature Conservancy's page about Grand Isle, Louisiana, which further explains it:
"During groundings or “fall outs” hundreds, sometimes thousands of birds, representing about 100 species, including 35 species of warbler, literally fall out of the sky, overcome with exhaustion, to seek refuge. The forest provides life-sustaining food and cover allowing the birds to rest and refuel before continuing the flight."

I am still looking for pictures of trees full of birds during a fall-out, but haven't found much yet (usually just a few birds at close range). But, I did find a gallery of photographs from Machais Seal Island, Canada at a lighthouse during a fall-out. The site states,
"SITTING ON THE ATLANTIC FLYWAY, ABOUT 10 MILES OFF THE COAST, M.S.I. HOSTS A FULL RANGE OF MIGRATING BIRDS, BOTH NIGHT-FLYING AND DAY-FLYING. SOME BIRDS DROP OUT OF THE FLIGHTS TO REST AND FEED FOR A FEW HOURS DURING THE DAY. MANY OF THESE BIRDS CONGERGATE AROUND THE LIGHTHOUSE AND LIGHTKEEPER'S DWELLING AT NIGHT AND ALLOW CLOSE APPROACH. DURING THE NIGHT FLIGHTS, THE HOUSE WOULD FILL WITH BIRDS IF WINDOWS ARE LEFT OPEN."

A few pictures from the gallery:

I can't even imagine being able to see this many Warblers at one time...I love them.


Could you imagine opening up your door to all these little guys hanging out on the porch..and the stairs?


So tired they don't seem so concerned about who is nearby at all..


To see the rest of the gallery click HERE
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2 comments:

Mariana said...

This reminds me too much of Hitchcock's The Birds, which still freaks me out.

day-lab Blog said...

Mariana-
BUT remember, it isn't frightening creepy big black crow like birds falling out the sky landing on you...it's cute tiny colorful chubby little warblers with a tiny little sing-song chirping voice in the trees and on the ground just resting and eating and hanging out! :D

Amy