Anhinga drying his wings at BBLNWR – Burg Ransom photo

Translation — Great Backyard Bird Count at Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge; the tradition continues.

Since a spur-of-the-moment GBBC at Black Bayou with my brother back in 2006, I have only missed two years of counting in Louisiana. It’s a great excuse to visit friends and family with a great bird count in a beautiful setting thrown in as lagniappe. And this year’s trip followed suit beautifully.

After a day of visiting family and showing my little girls around the tiny village of Mer Rouge, where I grew up, we headed to a small camp along the Ouachita River for a cookout hosted by old friend and fellow Mer Rougeian Gil White. There was a fire ring, a circle of friends, open area for little girls to stretch their legs, adult beverages, vegetable carbonnade and copious lies that everyone swore were the absolute truth — in short, a perfect evening.

Friends and family, happy and full, waddled off by ones and twos into the dark, leaving Gil, the girls and me to spend the night before heading to Black Bayou the next morning to count birds. Gil had his tent up to sleep in, graciously turning over the tiny camp, complete with wood stove, to the girls and me. In a fitting end to a wonderful evening, a large pack of coyotes serenaded us around bedtime.

The next morning we drove over to Black Bayou. My wife met us there to pick up the girls, who were not up for a few hours of kicking around the refuge counting birds. Gil and I began the morning standing on a bridge over Bayou Desiard as a seemingly unending stream of common grackles passed overhead. We recorded a very conservative 800 individuals.

We were soon joined by Burg Ransom. Ransom is a super photographer and Black Bayou provides a great setting for much of his work. If you have access, check out his FaceBook page to see some wonderful photography.

Well, we counted birds, but I have to admit we didn’t beat the bushes the way we have in the past. In fact, we didn’t even get to one area of the refuge we usually cover.

On the flip side, it was a great morning to hike the trails of Black Bayou with friends and we still managed a respectable count. We ended with a total of 59 species and got great looks at lots of great birds like loggerhead shrike, bald eagle, several red- tail hawks, anhinga, wood duck and a beautiful male purple martin.

The only drawback to this annual trek is always the same. It ends way too early. But next February is only 12 months away and the bayou, the camp and friends and family will be beckoning once again.