Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Louisiana: Woodpeckers, Waders, Warblers & Don't Forget the Alligators

We only spent 4 nights and 3 days in Louisiana. They had a very wet spring so there was water everywhere! At one of our stop overs we could not connect to services because they were flooded and our scheduled next stop was closed due to flooding. We ended up finding a very nice campground that was centrally located to the birding spot that we wanted to spend some time visiting. We were very lucky and had 3 beautiful days:-)

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.

We also had great looks at this female and male Purple Martin. Purple Martins are the largest of North American swallows. The campground had a Martin house that the Purple Martins were nesting in:-)

Female Purple Martin

Male 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.
One of the rookeries
A closer look at the activity going on in a rookery
Feeding together

Immature Roseate Spoonbill

It appears that this Roseate Spoonbill is sizing up his friend below.

Alligators are everywhere...somehow they all work things out.

Snaggle Tooth: the alligator below looks like he was in some kind of territorial battle with a challenger. The teeth in his lower jaw appear to have come right through his upper jaw.
This Yellow-crowned Night-Heron was hunting along the levy at Lake Martin.
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.
On the nest


The Tricolored Heron was formerly known as the "Louisiana Heron"

Breeding Little Blue Herons. It is hard to believe that the immature Little Blue Heron is mostly white when you see these adult blue birds in breeding plumage.

Some of the smaller local breeding birds:
This male Northern Parula was calling and defending his territory.
There always seems to be warblers feeding around the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.
Blue Indigo Bunting Male
Spring is in the air:
It appeared that this pair of Painted Buntings and Prothonotary Warblers were looking for a place to nest along the levy at Lake Martin.

Female Painted Bunting with a big insect
Male Painted Bunting- what a striking fella'

This male Prothonotary Warbler is singing his heart out.....

to his mate below....
looks like true love:-)
The world is full of beauty and wonder,

Turtle & Hawk


  1. So happy that you were at Lake Martin for the nesting egrets, herons, and spoonbills. Your photos of the Roseate spoonbills are especially wonderful, and better than any we've managed to get! I didn't realize that the Red-headed woodpecker is on the near threatened list. Thankfully there are organizations preserving at least some essential habitat for our feathered friends.

  2. We had the best views of the Roseate Spoonbills at the Rip Van Winkle Rookery! Happy Trails up north:)