The small parts we saw of Louisiana as we traveled through on I-12 and I-10 were in need of love and attention. It seems that the extraction of natural resources is a priority over nature. We want to send out our gratitude to organizations like The Nature Conservancy and U.S Fish & Wildlife for their efforts in saving and protecting critical habitat for the birds and other mammals of the region that depend on it, especially critical breeding habitats such as the wading bird rookeries we visited.
You just never know what you are going to see....we had been searching everywhere for a Redheaded Woodpecker...and when we least expected it... here it was. As we shared, Louisiana had been inundated with rain this spring. We were overnighting in a less than desirable site that was pretty well flooded. We decided to take a walk when we settled in and this is who we were fortunate to get great looks at: the Redheaded Woodpecker
Range maps indicate the Redhead Woodpecker has a large range, inhabiting much of the eastern half of the U.S. Apparently it prefers temperate, subtropical or tropical forest and grassland ecosystems as well as savannas and even rural and urban areas...but we had looked and looked and could not find one. One of our resources states that significant and rapid signs of decline in populations necessitated inclusion on the IUCN red list as Near Threatened. We have not seen another Redhead Woodpecker since.
Female Purple Martin
Our goal was to spend some time at The Nature Conservancy's (TNC) Cypress Island Preserve on Lake Martin. The preserve includes approximately 9,500 acres of important cypress-tupelo swamp and bottomland hardwood forest habitat. Beginning in late January, thousands of Great Egrets, followed by Little Blue Herons, Cattle Egrets, Snowy Egrets and Roseate Spoonbills make their nests and rear their young in the rookery. Great Blue Herons and Neotropic Cormorants may be seen in the distant tree tops. There is a beautiful boardwalk and 2.5 mile levy hike. The volunteer at the TNC's Visitor's Center recommended that we also visit Jefferson Island's Rip's Rookery at Rip Van Winkle Garden.
The following are some of the photos taken on our visits:
It was the first time we had ever seen Roseate Spoonbills breeding! At first glance many people think they are flamingos. The Roseate Spoonbill uses its odd bill to strain small food items out of the water as it sweeps its bill from side to side as it walks through shallow water.
These Roseate Spoonbills flying over our heads were the first thing we saw when we arrived at Cypress Island Preserve.
Immature Roseate Spoonbill
It appears that this Roseate Spoonbill is sizing up his friend below.
Alligators are everywhere...somehow they all work things out.
A Black-bellied Whistling Duck: this species was formerly known as tree-ducks. They nest in cavities in trees or nest boxes and inhabits small freshwater ponds.
We saw this Mississippi Kite in the tree in the Nature Conservancy parking lot. If you come too close to its nest it may dive at your head in order to protects its nest.
The Anhinga is a bird of the southern swamps. It is known as the "water turkey" for its swimming habits and broad tail.
Cattle Egrets in breeding plumage
Snowy Egret in high breeding plumage. They usually have bright yellow feet and yellow around the eyes but in high breeding plumage the yellow areas turn deep orange-red.Great Egret in high breeding plumage: the bill becomes orange-yellow and the area around the eyes becomes lime green. The longevity record for a wild Great Egret is nearly 23 years.
The Tricolored Heron was formerly known as the "Louisiana Heron"
Some of the smaller local breeding birds:
This male Northern Parula was calling and defending his territory.
It appeared that this pair of Painted Buntings and Prothonotary Warblers were looking for a place to nest along the levy at Lake Martin.
This male Prothonotary Warbler is singing his heart out.....
to his mate below....
Turtle & Hawk