2013 July
Sabine, Pearl, and Pascagoula Rivers 
Texas-Louisiana-Mississipi

One of the most graceful of the world’s soaring raptors and the largest of the kite family, the swallow-tailed kite looks like a star as it flies, with a deeply-forked tail spread out behind its long, narrow, angular wings in almost a 2-to-1 ratio (wingspan about 4 ft to body length about 2 ft). Black tips and trailing edges on their wings and their black tail contrast sharply with their white heads and underbodies, giving them a striking and distinctive appearance.

Or so the books said. It’s a different story flying 400 feet above the treetops in fog and mist looking for these elusive angels! Even with powerful zoom lenses and fast shutter speeds, it was a challenge to see and count them while maintaining enough altitude and flying quietly enough to ensure that we did not disturb them.  Until we actually saw some swallow-tailed kites from the air, and our eyes and brains adapted to the small features we sought among the canopy of trees, it was pretty discouraging. The less experienced among us (myself included) began by eagerly calling out lichen, or egrets, once even a field of watermelon. But that just added to the thrill when we finally started finding the real thing. Check out the following pairs of photos: The photos on the left are what we saw with our eyes, those on the right are what the camera zoom lens showed us later. (The first two pairs of photos are swallow-tailed kites on the Pascagoula and Pearl Rivers, the third pair is a colony of egrets along the Pearl River.)

Most of the swallow-tailed kites (STKIs) that still exist on this planet make their homes in the wetlands and wooded bottomlands along rivers of the Gulf Coast states.  They are officially listed as “threatened” and are considered by many to be overdue for greater protection under the Endangered Species Act. In fact, the global population of swallow-tailed kites is thought to be less than 150,000. The primary cause of their decline is neither predation nor disease; it is the fact that their natural habitat -- wetlands and bottomland forests -- are being destroyed, polluted, and generally overtaken by humans for recreation, agriculture, or industry.  While researching their populations and nesting areas is very important to protect these birds, it is most critical that we preserve the quality of the bottomland forests and swamps along the few remaining natural river systems of the southeast US.

In late July of this year, we joined with Orleans Audubon’s premier kite researcher, Ms. Jennifer Coulson, to help her document STKI populations along the Sabine, Pearl, and Pascagoula Rivers. Besides having sharp eyes and flying quietly above the trees at an altitude close enough to see them but far enough not to disturb them, it was critical on these flights that we be there at sunrise. This is when the kites seek out large dead trees or high tree tops in order to dry out their wings in unobstructed sunlight and good airflow.  Later in the morning, they disperse to fly in search of food, and then it is difficult to see them and impossible to get reliable population counts.

Although challenging, this would all be easy enough -- until you add the morning fog and lingering storm systems that mark the Gulf Coast during July and August!  More often than not we found ourselves being squeezed between clouds above and trees below, and we had to turn back from our planned survey routes.  But we were persistent, and when weather stopped us in one direction, we surveyed in another direction. By the end of the week, we had made two successful flights covering each of the southern 75 miles of the Pascagoula and Sabine Rivers and three flights along the southern 100 miles of the Pearl River.

Surprisingly little is known for certain about swallow-tailed kites, except that their numbers have been dwindling. They form breeding pairs and roost in large groups, breeding in spring here and migrating together to South America for the winters. Since these are gliding birds who look for thermals to carry them effortlessly, they fly along the coast in their “circum-Gulf” migration rather than straight across the Gulf of Mexico -- unlike the small but intrepid “trans-Gulf” travelers such as warblers, vireos, and tanagers! (Aren’t birds just amazing?) Thanks to swallow-tailed kites who carry transmitters as “backpacks”, researchers have documented their migrations southward along Florida’s Gulf coast, southwest to Cuba and then the Yucatan Peninsula, on to central America, then following land southeastward to South America. There are some treacherous over-water crossings and mountainous areas on these routes! (See maps of these and find much more information at sites such as arcinst.org.)

We observed first-hand some of the following characteristics that are generally known about swallow-tailed kites:  They tended to roost in groups, and in proximity to water, perhaps for the ready availability of insects, although we know that they also hunt small vertebrates. Viewed from above, we noticed a bluish tone to their black upper parts when the sun hit them at certain angles. Those we saw flying never seemed to be flapping their wings, but we could see their tails rotating as they maneuvered between trees and just above the water.  Being amateur glider pilots ourselves, we thought “What a dream glider set-up, to have those wings plus that tail!”

Many of the same observations held for the smaller, brown Mississippi kites we saw along the Pearl and Pascagoula Rivers.  We were also treated to the sight of a fair number of ibises, herons, egrets and egret rookeries, and even a bald eagle. Enroute back to New Orleans from the Sabine River, we spotted first a couple of groups of lovely roseate spoonbills, followed by a large colony of woodstorks! The spoonbills are good-sized birds, with about 4-ft wingspans and a bit longer than the kites, but the woodstorks are downright enormous!  They were soaring gracefully in formation, their wingspans about 5 ft across and their bodies a good 3 ft long.

Here are a few of our favorite photos, plus a video of the mirror-smooth Lake Pontchartrain just before sunrise on July 29, the day of our third Pearl River survey. Many more photos from all of the flights are in the galleries below.  Last but not least, maps of our flights and our transcribed flight logs are at the bottom of this article.  Enjoy!


Here are favorites from the Pearl River:

Here are some from the Pascagoula River:

Here are some from the Sabine River:


Here are some stills and a video from the ethereal-looking mirror-smooth Lake Pontchartrain just before sunrise on July 29, when the sun lit up the thunderheads to our west like fire:

 

Here are some galleries of more photos from each of the rivers. 
The Pearl River (flown on July 22, July 25, and July 29):


The Pascagoula River (flown on July 24 and July 27):


The Sabine River (flown on July 23 and July 28):

________________________________

Here are maps showing our flight tracks for each of the flights, followed by our detailed flight logs.

Pearl River Flight #1, July 22:


Pearl River Flight #2, July 25:


Pearl River Flight #3, July 29:


Pascagoula River Flight #1, July 24:


Pascagoula River Flight #2, July 27:


Sabine River Flights #1 and #2, July 23 and July 28:


*******   FLIGHT LOGS of STKI Flights July 22-29, 2013     *******

1.  Pearl River:  Flights 1, 2, and 3 (20130722,0725, 0729)

20130722 - Pearl River 1 - On Wings Of Care Flight with Orleans Audubon for Swallow-tailed Kites

 

Flight route followed plan below, departing and returning to KNEW, flying from the south end.
Weather:  Stopped by heavy fog that came in from the north, not long after we started.  We spent as long as we could in the southern portion before having to land back at Stennis.
Crew:  BLS (pilot), Jennifer Coulson, Aron Gailes.
Flight time:  3.4 hours
OBSERVATIONS: 23 STKI total, plus 9 MS kites, a tree full of vultures, many egrets and several herons.
WPT LAT LON TIME (Z) DESCRIPTION
740 30.57 -89.82 2013-07-22T11:50:28Z Bald Eagle!
741 30.59 -89.84 2013-07-22T12:00:35Z 12 Swallow-tailed Kites (STKI)
742 30.66 -89.84 2013-07-22T12:28:30Z 3 Kites
743 30.73 -89.83 2013-07-22T12:39:20Z 1 Kite
744 30.83 -89.79 2013-07-22T12:48:47Z 3 roosting, 3 flying = 6
(did not mark) 1 kite, flying
TOTAL STKI: 23
20130722 - Pearl River1 - STKI - Reference Waypoints - BLS1
WPT LAT LON DESCRIPTION
PEA01-R 30.38 -89.74 Pearl River #1 - Ref Pt (Start) - West Pearl River & I-59
PEA02-R 30.57 -89.83 Pearl River #2 - Ref Pt. - Mouth of Bogue Chitto at West Pearl River & Wilson Slough
PEA03-R 30.63 -89.9 Pearl River #3 - Ref Pt: Bogue Chitto & Hwy 21- (end Bogue Chitto survey, return to Wilson Slough)
PEA04-R 30.57 -89.81 Pearl River #4 - Ref Pt. Pearl River, East Pearl River, and Wilson Slough (just above Walkiah Bluff)
PEA05 30.6 -89.82 Pearl River #5 - 2013 Roosts near Nick's Point, on Pearl River
PEA06 30.61 -89.82 Pearl River #6 - 2013 Roosts on Pearl River
PEA07 30.62 -89.82 Pearl River #7 - Roost N of big power lines
PEA08 30.64 -89.82 Pearl River #8 - Pearl River near mouth of Middle Creek
PEA09 30.65 -89.83 Pearl River #9 - Pearl River near mouth of Old River
PEA10 30.74 -89.82 Pearl River #10 - 2013 Roosts on Pearl near Bogalusa
PEA11 30.75 -89.82 Pearl River #11 - 2013 Roost on Pearl River near Bogalusa
PEA12-x 30.71 -89.8 Pearl River #12x - 2012 Roost on Old River WMA (interior)
PEA13-x 30.72 -89.8 Pearl River #13x - 2012 Roost on Old River WMA (interior)
PEA14-x 30.77 -89.81 Pearl River #14x - 2012 Roost on Old River WMA (interior)
PEA15-R 30.79 -89.82 Pearl River #15R - Ref Pt - Bridge over Pearl River at Bogalusa
PEA16-R 30.84 -89.79 Pearl River #16R - Ref Pt - White pipeline crossing Pearl River
PEA17-x 30.85 -89.78 Pearl River  #17x - Old Jail Lake roost area
PEA18 30.85 -89.8 Pearl River #18 - 2013 Roost of 13 (LA side, trees along sough in logged area
PEA19 30.92 -89.76 Pearl River #19 - “Garbage Dump Roost"
PEA20 30.96 -89.74 Pearl River #20 - 2013 John Henry Lake roost.  (Also check at river's edge)
PEA21 31 -89.74 Pearl River #21 - LA-MS State Line, 2013 Roost

20130725 - Pearl River 2 - On Wings Of Care Flight with Orleans Audubon for Swallow-tailed Kites

Flight route followed plan below, departing and returning to KNEW, flying from the south end.
Weather: Stopped by heavy fog that came in from the north, not long after we started.  We spent as long as we could in the southern portion before having to land back at Stennis.
Crew: BLS (pilot), Jennifer Coulson, Wesley Smith, Don Abrams.
Flight time: 2.8 hours
OBSERVATIONS:  Total number of STKIs observed:  2
WPT LAT LON TIME (Z) DESCRIPTION
793 30.44 -89.73 2013-07-25T11:50:01Z 1 STKI flying, + 1 perchd.  Nearby: roost of 9-10 egrets.
794 30.32 -89.68 2013-07-25T12:39:15Z Large egret rookery
20130725 - Pearl River2 - STKI - Reference Waypoints - BLS1
(Rest of Ref pts are as for Pearl River 1)
PEA201 30.24 -89.61 START: East Pearl River & Hwy. 90
PEA202-R 30.3 -89.64 REF: East Pearl River & I-10
PEA203-R 30.34 -89.63 REF: East Pearl River and Mike’s River (take left/west river)
PEA204-R 30.46 -89.7 REF: East Pearl River & I-59
PEA205 30.49 -89.73 Huey Stockstill’s Gravel Pit (head SW to mouth of Holmes Bayou)
PEA206 30.45 -89.76 Holmes Bayou & West Pearl  (survey Holmes Bayou)
PEA207-R 30.57 -89.81 REF: Pearl River, East Pearl River and Wilson Slough (just above Walkiah Bluff): SURVEY Wilson Slough
PEA208-R 30.57 -89.83 REF: Mouth of Bogue Chitto at West Pearl River & Wilson Slough:  RETURN to Pearl and survey it
PEA209-X 30.6 -89.82 2013 roosts on Pearl River near Nick’s Point:

 

20130729 - Pearl River 3 - On Wings Of Care Flight with Orleans Audubon Society for Swallow-tailed Kites
Flight Route: Started at south end, departed from and returned to KNEW.
(See Planned Points)
Weather: Winds calm, visibility good. Thunderstorms west and northwest of us throughout.
Crew:  BLS (pilot), Jennifer Coulson, Wesley Smith, Brandy Smith
Flight time:  3.7 hrs
Observations:  Total number of STKIs observed:  60 (+?)
WPT LAT LON TIME (Z) DESCRIPTION
833 30.39 -89.74 2013-07-29T11:26:42Z
834 30.59 -89.83 2013-07-29T11:47:55Z 13 + 2 + 1, perched = 16
835 30.6 -89.82 2013-07-29T11:52:36Z 7, perched
836 30.6 -89.83 2013-07-29T11:52:59Z 6, perched
837 30.6 -89.84 2013-07-29T12:07:49Z 5+1+7+4=17, perched
838 30.6 -89.84 2013-07-29T12:08:12Z
839 30.61 -89.84 2013-07-29T12:16:21Z 3, perched
840 30.5 -89.75 2013-07-29T12:54:00Z 1, perched
841 30.55 -89.79 2013-07-29T13:02:36Z
842 30.6 -89.82 2013-07-29T13:07:09Z 2 Flying + 1 perched = 3
843 30.62 -89.82 2013-07-29T13:08:05Z 1 Flying + 2 Flying + 1 perched = 4
844 30.69 -89.84 2013-07-29T13:19:52Z Egret colony!
845 30.73 -89.83 2013-07-29T13:23:03Z 2, perched
846 30.83 -89.79 2013-07-29T13:34:01Z 1 Flying
847 30.88 -89.77 2013-07-29T14:09:14Z Egret colony (second one); also some ibis
TOTAL: 60
20130729 - Pearl River3 - STKI -  Reference Waypoints - BLS1:
Ref WPT LAT LON DESCRIPTION
PEA01-R 30.38 -89.74 Pearl River #1 - Ref Pt (Start) - West Pearl River & I-59
PEA2B 30.4 -89.75 2013 roost on West Pearl at mouth of Current River
PEA02-R 30.57 -89.83 Pearl River #2 - Ref Pt. - Mouth of Bogue Chitto at West Pearl River & Wilson Slough
PEA3A 30.6 -89.84 2013 roost on Bogue Chitto
PEA3B 30.6 -89.83 2013 roost on Bogue Chitto
PEA03-R 30.63 -89.9 Pearl River #3 - Ref Pt: Bogue Chitto & Hwy 21- (end Bogue Chitto survey, return to Wilson Slough)
PEA04-R 30.57 -89.81 Pearl River #4 - Ref Pt. Pearl River, East Pearl River, and Wilson Slough (just above Walkiah Bluff)
PEA5A-R 30.46 -89.7 Ref: East Pearl River & I-59
PEA5B 30.45 -89.72 Detour:  Honey Island Swamp Road roost
PEA5C 30.44 -89.72 Detour:  Honey Island Swamp Road roost
PEA5D-R 30.45 -89.75 Ref:  Holmes Bayou & West Pearl. (Survey HOlmes Bayou)
PEA5E 30.52 -89.77 Recent Seal Kite roost near Holmes Bayou
PEA5F 30.52 -89.76 Recent Seal Kite roost near Holmes Bayou
PEA5G-R 30.49 -89.73 Ref:  Huey Stockstill’s Gravel Pit
PEA05 30.6 -89.82 Pearl River #5 - 2013 Roosts near Nick's Point, on Pearl River
PEA06 30.61 -89.82 Pearl River #6 - 2013 Roosts on Pearl River
PEA07 30.62 -89.82 Pearl River #7 - Roost N of big power lines
PEA08 30.64 -89.82 Pearl River #8 - Pearl River near mouth of Middle Creek
PEA09 30.65 -89.83 Pearl River #9 - Pearl River near mouth of Old River
PEA10 30.74 -89.82 Pearl River #10 - 2013 Roosts onPearl near Bogalusa
PEA11 30.75 -89.82 Pearl River #11 - 2013 Roost on Pearl River near Bogalusa
PEA12-x 30.71 -89.8 Pearl River #12x - 2012 Roost on Old RIver WMA (interior)
PEA13-x 30.72 -89.8 Pearl River #13x - 2012 Roost on Old River WMA (interior)
PEA14-x 30.77 -89.81 Pearl River #14x - 2012 Roost on Old River WMA (interior)
PEA15-R 30.79 -89.82 Pearl River #15R - Ref Pt - Bridge over Pearl River at Bogalusa
PEA16-R 30.84 -89.79 Pearl River #16R - Ref Pt - White pipeline crossing Pearl River
PEA17-x 30.85 -89.78 Pearl River  #17x - Old Jail Lake roost area
PEA18 30.85 -89.8 Pearl River #18 - 2013 Roost of 13 (LA side, trees along sough in logged area(
PEA19 30.92 -89.76 Pearl River #19 - “Garbage Dump Roost"
PEA20 30.96 -89.74 Pearl River #20 - 2013 John Henry Lake roost.  (Also check at river's edge)
PEA21 31 -89.74 Pearl River #21 - LA-MS State Line, 2013 Roost

 

2.  Pascagoula River:  Flights 1 & 2 (20130724,0727)
20130724 - Pascagoula River 1 - On Wings Of Care Flight with Orleans Audubon for Swallow-tailed Kites

 

Flight route followed plan below, departing and returning to KNEW via KGPT (where all crew was picked up), flying from the south end.
Weather:  Visibility okay but quite windy (NW)
Crew:  BLS (pilot), Jennifer Coulson, Wesley Smith,Terese Collins
Flight time:  4.7 hours
OBSERVATIONS:   Total:  42 STKI, all flying (none perched)
WPT LAT LON TIME (Z) DESCRIPTION
760 30.49 -88.61 2013-07-24T11:54:11Z 2 STKI
761 30.59 -88.61 2013-07-24T12:18:55Z 1 red-shouldered hawk, juvenile
762 30.65 -88.64 2013-07-24T12:28:31Z 2 STKI, flying
763 30.65 -88.64 2013-07-24T12:30:23Z 3 STKI, flying (+ 1 wood stork to our west)
764 30.75 -88.67 2013-07-24T12:40:59Z 1 STKI
765 30.77 -88.68 2013-07-24T12:48:56Z 3+1 = 4 STKI, flying
766 30.77 -88.68 2013-07-24T12:51:32Z 1 flying (and drinking at water!), & 1 MS kite flying.
767 30.78 -88.68 2013-07-24T12:52:08Z NA
768 30.81 -88.74 2013-07-24T13:01:45Z NA
769 30.89 -88.77 2013-07-24T13:10:20Z 1, perched
770 30.9 -88.76 2013-07-24T13:12:44Z 1, flying
771 30.91 -88.75 2013-07-24T13:13:38Z (1 MS kite, flying)
772 30.9 -88.74 2013-07-24T13:14:41Z 3, flying
773 30.91 -88.74 2013-07-24T13:17:51Z 1, flying
774 30.92 -88.74 2013-07-24T13:18:10Z 2, flying
775 30.93 -88.73 2013-07-24T13:23:50Z 1, flying
776 30.99 -88.74 2013-07-24T13:28:54Z 3 flying
777 30.99 -88.72 2013-07-24T13:31:12Z 1 flying
778 31.02 -88.69 2013-07-24T13:36:44Z 1 flying
779 31.02 -88.69 2013-07-24T13:37:49Z 1 flying
780 31.06 -88.64 2013-07-24T13:41:44Z 1 flying
781 31.07 -88.64 2013-07-24T13:43:32Z (Turkey vulture, flying)
782 31.06 -88.61 2013-07-24T13:44:57Z 1 flying
783 31.06 -88.62 2013-07-24T13:45:37Z 1 flying
784 31.08 -88.57 2013-07-24T13:50:11Z 1 flying
785 31.07 -88.57 2013-07-24T13:51:11Z 2 + 1, flying = 3 (& 1 MS kite)
786 31.09 -88.56 2013-07-24T13:53:22Z (4-5 herons + 1 MS kite)
787 31.09 -88.56 2013-07-24T13:54:30Z 1  (+2 MS kites)
788 31.11 -88.54 2013-07-24T13:55:31Z 1 flying
789 31.12 -88.55 2013-07-24T13:56:00Z 1 flying
790 31.12 -88.54 2013-07-24T13:56:33Z 2 flying
791 31.14 -88.55 2013-07-24T14:01:05Z 1 flying
792 30.85 -88.76 2013-07-24T14:13:38Z 1 flying
20130724 - Pasacgoula River1 - STKI -  Reference Waypoints - BLS1:
KNEW to PAS01-R: 81 nm. Flight ~ 65 nm. PAS32-R-KNEW ~ 100nm. 
2.3 hrs for track. ETA KNEW ~1000. Tot Flt Hrs: ~ 4.0 hrs.
To arrive PAS32-R ~ 0915, depart PAS01-R ~0700, so KNEW ~ 0615.
Ref WPT LAT LON DESCRIPTION
PAS01-R 30.46 -88.56 Pascagoula River #1 - Ref Pt. Start survey at S end of tree line on Pascagoula River (E side of basin near Trent Lott airport)
PAS02-R 30.52 -88.6 Pascagoula River #2 - Ref Pt. Here Pascagoula splits into the West Pascagoula and the Pascagoula River.  The west fork is the Pascagoula River.
PAS03-R 30.47 -88.6 Pascagoula River #3 - Ref Pt.  From Poticaw landing, quickly fly south to this point;  Then survey the West Pascgoula River north to the split (PAS02-R).
PAS04 30.49 -88.61 Pascagoula River #4 - Roost locations on West Pascagoula River
PAS05 30.51 -88.59 Pascagoula River #5 - Roost locations on West Pascagoula River.  Upon returning to the split, follow the Pascagoula River to the North.
PAS06 30.53 -88.59 Pascagoula River #6 - Roost of 25 STKI - Pascagoula River below power line ROW
PAS07 30.58 -88.6 Pascagoula River #7 - Field W of river and N or power line - Roost of 38 STKI
PAS08 30.6 -88.63 Pascagoula River #8 - Roost of 12 STKI  (?Field W of river and N of power line?)
PAS09-R 30.61 -88.64 Pascagoula River #9 - Ref Pt. Hwy 614 crosses the Pascagoula River here (Roy Combust Bridge)
PAS10-R 30.65 -88.64 Pascagoula River #10 - Ref Pt. Black Creek empties into the Pascagoula River here.
PAS11-x 30.68 -88.64 Pascagoula River #11-x -15 STKI roosting here in 2011.  Oxbow Berlson Lake, W side.
PAS12 30.75 -88.67 Pascagoula River #12:  2013 roosts.  Lingum Lake - Boneyard Lake area
PAS13 30.76 -88.66 Pascagoula River #13 - 2013 roosts.
PAS14 30.76 -88.66 Pascagoula River #14 - 2013 roosts.
PAS15-x 30.79 -88.71 Pascagoula River #15-x:  16 STKI roosting in 2011  Middle oxbow lake.
PAS16-x 30.8 -88.73 Pascagoula River #16-x:  2012 roost of 6 STKI.
PAS17-R 30.88 -88.77 Pascagoula River #17-R:  Ref Pt. Hwy 26 crosses the Pascagoula River here.
PAS18-x 30.9 -88.77 Pascagoula River #18-x: Roosts in 2012, Oxbow Lake
PAS19 30.91 -88.76 Pascagoula River #19:  Oxbow Lake
PAS20 30.91 -88.74 Pascagoula River #20:
PAS21-x 30.92 -88.75 Pascagoula River #21-x:  Roost in 2011.  W bank of Pascagoula River.
PAS22-x 30.94 -88.72 Pascagoula River #22-x:  Roost in 2011, E bank of Pascagoula River, inland.
PAS23-R 30.98 -88.73 Pascagoula River #23-R:  Ref Pt.  Confluence of the Pascagoula River:  the Leaf River comes in from the West and the Chickasawhay River comes in from the East.  (West of the town of Merrill, MS.  (A bridge and a railroad bridge cross the Pascagoula River south of the confluence.)
PAS24-R 31.02 -88.71 Pascagoula River #24-R.  Ref Pt:  Hwy 98 crosses the Chickasawhay River
PAS25 31.05 -88.62 Pascagoula River #25 - Roost on Chickasawhay River
PAS26 31.06 -88.64 Pascagoula River #26:  Roost on Chickasawhay River
PAS27-R 31.06 -88.64 Pascagoula River #27-R:  Ref Pt:  Where Big Creek empties into the Chickasawhay River
PAS28 31.07 -88.59 Pascagoula River #28:  Roost on Chickasawhay River
PAS29 31.07 -88.59 Pascagoula River #29: Roost on Chickasawhay River
PAS30 31.15 -88.52 Pascagoula River #30:  Roost on Chickasawhay River
PAS31 31.15 -88.55 Pascagoula River #31:  Roost on Chickasawhay River
PAS32-R 31.15 -88.55

Pascagoula River #32-R.  Ref Pt:  END on the Chickasawhay River at Leakesville.  This is where two bridges cross the Chickasawhay RIver (Hwys. 57 & 63).

 

 

20130728 - Pascagoula River 2 - On Wings Of Care Flight with Orleans Audubon for Swallow-tailed Kites

Flight route: followed plan below, departing and returning to KNEW, flying from the north end.
Weather:  Severe thunderstorms were just north and northwest of the north end at the start and followed us as we flew
southward. We had to delay return to KNEW for about 30 minutes, so spent extra time at the south end.
Crew:  BLS (pilot), Jennifer Coulson, Wesley Smith, Brandy Smith
Flight time:  4.8 hours
OBSERVATIONS:  Total number of STKIs observed:  93

WPT             LAT         LON       TIME (Z)         DESCRIPTION

795 31.12 -88.54 2013-07-27T11:59:00Z Tri-colored herson;  2 STKI, perched
796 30.9 -88.77 2013-07-27T12:47:41Z 26!!! perched
797 30.8 -88.72 2013-07-27T13:03:47Z 1
798 30.78 -88.7 2013-07-27T13:07:02Z 22 in three trees
799 30.76 -88.69 2013-07-27T13:16:44Z 3
800 30.74 -88.65 2013-07-27T13:19:06Z Large egret rookery!
801 30.73 -88.67 2013-07-27T13:23:06Z 2 perched
802 30.67 -88.64 2013-07-27T13:29:25Z 1.  Also a red-shouldered hawk
803 30.67 -88.62 2013-07-27T13:30:23Z 2, perched.
804 30.66 -88.63 2013-07-27T13:32:42Z 14, perched.
805 30.66 -88.63 2013-07-27T13:36:39Z 2
806 30.66 -88.64 2013-07-27T13:38:57Z 3
807 30.65 -88.63 2013-07-27T13:39:32Z 1, flying
808 30.66 -88.64 2013-07-27T13:40:27Z (2?)
809 30.66 -88.63 2013-07-27T13:40:48Z --
810 30.59 -88.58 2013-07-27T13:51:51Z 5 ibis -- and ibis rookery!
811 30.49 -88.61 2013-07-27T14:04:05Z 7 + 2 = 9
812 30.58 -88.59 2013-07-27T14:32:46Z 1, flying
813 30.58 -88.6 2013-07-27T14:33:45Z 1, flying
814 30.6 -88.61 2013-07-27T14:39:39Z 1, flying
815 30.52 -88.57 2013-07-27T14:45:11Z Coal plant

 

20130727 - Pasacgoula River2 - STKI -  Reference Waypoints - BLS1:

(Same as Pascagoula River 1 except started at north end)

 

 

3.  Sabine River:  Flights 1 & 2  (20130723,0728)

20130723 - Sabine River 1 - On Wings Of Care Flight with Orleans Audubon for Swallow-tailed Kites

Flight route followed plan below, departing and returning to KNEW, flying from the south end.
Weather: Stopped by heavy fog that came in from the north, not long after we started.  We spent as long as we could in the southern portion before having to stop.
Crew: BLS (pilot), Jennifer Coulson, Wesley Smith.
Flight time: 5.7 hours
OBSERVATIONS: At least 24 STKI, plus roseate spoonbils, wood storks, ibis, heron, hawks. We could not fly farther north than SAB08x because of fog, so we only surveyed the southern portion of this route.

WPT             LAT          LON        TIME (Z)         DESCRIPTION

745 30.25 -92.60 2013-07-23T11:40:08Z 4 + 2 = 6 roseate spoonbills, flying over a field; ten 10 more west of here!
746 30.39 -93.74 2013-07-23T12:29:25Z 4 STKI in tree
747 30.40 -93.74 2013-07-23T12:34:11Z 4 wood storks in tree
748 30.43 -93.71 2013-07-23T12:41:08Z 4 STKI in dead tree
749 30.47 -93.71 2013-07-23T12:42:51Z 5 - ibis (ibie?), tri-colored heron, and a hawk flying
750 30.52 -93.72 2013-07-23T12:52:30Z 2 great blue herons, great egrets, flying
751 30.53 -93.72 2013-07-23T12:53:18Z 1 ibis, 2 egrets
752 30.54 -93.74 2013-07-23T12:54:31Z 2 ibis
753 30.58 -93.72 2013-07-23T12:59:36Z 5 STKI
754 30.58 -93.73 2013-07-23T13:07:16Z 3 STKI
755 30.58 -93.73 2013-07-23T13:08:06Z 4 + 1 =5 STKI, flying. Possibly 1 more in tree?
756 30.46 -93.69 2013-07-23T13:28:49Z 1 STKI, flying
757 30.30 -93.73 2013-07-23T13:50:37Z 18 roseate spoonbills, flying!
758 30.18 -92.91 2013-07-23T14:21:25Z ~100 egrets, all in trees in field to our north!
759 30.17 -92.72 2013-07-23T14:26:08Z 2 STKI, flying:  Atchafala Basis (seen on our way back to Nola)

REFERENCE POINTS for Sabine River #1 STKI Flight - BLS1

Flt Planning Info:  KNEW to SAB01: 195 nm; flight ~50 nm (but slow w/ circling). SAB20R-KNEW~196 nm.  Maybe refuel @ KDRI - Beauregard Rgnl  prior to return to KNEW.

To arrive SAB20R ~0915, depart SAB01 ~ 0700, so KNEW~0500. 2.3-hr for track.  ETA KNEW 1200.  Tot Flt Hrs: ~6.0 hr.

REF WPT LAT LON DESCRIPTION
BACORN1 30.00 -91.14 Bayou Corne sinkhole, LA
SAB01 30.30 -93.74 Sabine River-#1 - starting point. (TX Hwy 12 - LA Hwy 12 on the Sabine River, NE of Deweyville, TX and W of Starks, LA)
SAB02 30.40 -93.75 Sabine River #2 - Bayou Deception Island roost (LA side)
SAB03 30.43 -93.72 Sabine River #3 - Horseshoe Lake Roost of 11 STK in 2012 (oxbow)
SAB04 30.45 -93.71 Sabine River #4 - Boggy Lakes roost 2012 (TX side, inland)
SAB05x 30.50 -93.71 Sabine River #5x - Roost in 2012
SAB06x 30.53 -93.73 Sabine River #6x - Roosts in 2012
SAB07x 30.55 -93.73 Sabine River #7x - Roost in 2012
SAB08x 30.59 -93.71 Sabine River #8x- Roost of 40 kites in 2012
SAB09x 30.61 -93.69 Sabine River #9x - Roost in 2012
SAB10xa 30.62 -93.67 Sabine River #10xa - 2010 Roosts near Bivens, LA - off river, LA side, creek/bayou in bald cypress trees - 10 STKI
SAB10xb 30.62 -93.66 Sabine River #10xb - 2020 Roosts near Bivens, LA - off river, LA side, creek/bayou in bald cypress trees - 17 STKI
SAB11x 30.62 -93.68 Sabine River #11x - Roost in 2011 - 17 STKI - West of Bivens, E side of river, fairly close to river
SAB12x 30.71 -93.61 Sabine River #12x - Roost in 2012
SAB13x 30.75 -93.61 Sabine River #13x - Roost of 6 STKI in 2012.  Near Hwy 190 bridge
SAB14R 30.75 -93.61 Sabine River #14R - Ref Pt - TX Hwy 190, E of Bon Wier, TX. Crosses the Sabine River. Roost near River & bridge.
SAB15x 30.77 -93.59 Sabine River #15x - Roost in 2012 - 3 STKI
SAB16x 30.81 -93.56 Sabine River #16x - Roost in 2012 - 7 STKI
SAB17R 30.87 -93.56 Sabine River #17R - Ref Pt. Try to make it to at least this Beauregard Parish NW corner, west and a little north of DeRidder, LA
SAB18x 30.87 -93.55 Sabine River #18x - Roost
SAB19x 30.92 -93.53 Sabine River #19x - Roost
SAB20R 30.92 -93.55 Sabine River #20R - Ref Pt. Where Little Cow Creek empties into the Sabine RIver (creek is on the TX side).  Great to make it this far.

20130728 - Sabine River 2 - On Wings Of Care Flight with Orleans Audubon for Swallow-tailed Kites

Flight Route: Followed plan below, departing and returning to KNEW, with stop at Crowley (Le Gros airport, 3R2, to pick up and drop off spotter Dave Patton)
Weather:  Low fog when leaving KNEW at 0415, but it cleared off as we arrived at the Sabine River and gave perfect viewing for the entire route plus several miles farther north -- where we doubled our count!
Crew:  BLS (pilot), Wesley Smith, Dave Patton
Flight time:  6.3 hours
OBSERVATIONS:  74+ observed:  37 on original survey limit, plus additional 37 northward!


WPT             LAT          LON       TIME (Z)      DESRIPTION




816 30.49 -93.71 2013-07-28T11:57:52Z 7, perched
817 30.54 -93.73 2013-07-28T12:05:47Z 3, perched
818 30.58 -93.71 2013-07-28T12:12:43Z 1, perched
819 30.59 -93.7 2013-07-28T12:15:24Z 1, perched
820 30.6 -93.7 2013-07-28T12:17:02Z 1, perched
821 30.76 -93.6 2013-07-28T12:39:41Z 6 + 1 + 2 = 9, perched
822 30.8 -93.58 2013-07-28T12:48:50Z 5, perched
823 30.8 -93.57 2013-07-28T12:51:20Z 2, perched
824 30.81 -93.56 2013-07-28T12:53:25Z 4, perched
825 30.8 -93.58 2013-07-28T12:58:34Z 1, perched
826 30.93 -93.54 2013-07-28T13:14:21Z 3, perched
Now went north of original  plan (0820 CDT.)  SubTotal:  37.
827 30.97 -93.54 2013-07-28T13:20:18Z 2, perched
828 30.98 -93.57 2013-07-28T13:22:37Z 14 + 1 = 15, perched
829 31 -93.57 2013-07-28T13:26:06Z 3 + 13 = 16, perched
830 31.01 -93.56 2013-07-28T13:29:19Z 1 perched + 1 flying = 2
831 31.04 -93.51 2013-07-28T13:33:32Z 1 flying
832 31.04 -93.52 2013-07-28T13:33:38Z 1 flying

Found another 37 north of original plan!  TOTAL:  74!

REFERENCE POINTS for Sabine River 2 STKI Flight - BLS1 
(Same as used for Sabine River 1)