NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The National Park Service is calling birders and experienced canoeists to the Barataria unit of the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve in Marrero. It's holding its second winter bird count ever on Saturday.
Bird count leader David Fox, the park's biological sciences technician, says it was scheduled after the Audubon Society's annual Christmas Bird Count to attract as many bird watchers as possible and to avoid conflicts with other park events.
"Birds are a high-priority 'vital sign' for detecting ecosystem change in National Park Service areas in the Gulf Coast region," said Fox. "The ecosystems of coastal Louisiana are experiencing rapid change, so we expect that there will be changes in numbers and species of birds in the preserve."
Beginning birders are encouraged and will be teamed up with more experienced birders.
Fox said the park plans further years of monitoring birds.
"This is serious science, but it will also be great fun," he said.
Some of the routes are on the park's 10 miles of trails. Canoes will be needed for waterways in the marsh and swamp that make up most of the park's 23,000 acres.
People who want to check the waterways should bring their own canoes. Everyone should bring binoculars, field guide, pencils or pens, lunch, a water bottle, and a cellphone. Knee-high rubber boots, sunscreen, sunglasses, insect repellent, and hats may also be useful. Owl survey participants should bring a flashlight.
Fox says the only bird count at the preserve was more than a decade ago.
Bird count participants must register by Friday at 504-689-3690, ext. 10. Those under 16 must be accompanied by an adult.
Check-in for daytime participants is from 6 to 8 a.m. Saturday at the Barataria Preserve Environmental Education Complex, with the daytime count from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Some of the trails may take only a couple of hours, Fox said. There's a two-hour period for data exchange and socializing from 4 to 6 p.m., and an owl survey from 6 to 8 p.m.
Participants may sign up for the daytime bird count, the evening owl survey, or both.
The bird count web page includes links to a Barataria Preserve map, a New Orleans area map with directions to the preserve, and a preserve bird checklist.