It’s still early as we board the small boat that will take us out into the marshes. As we move away from the dock we are surrounded by the peacefulness of nature. Before long we start spotting a variety of birds and the shutter noise of cameras breaks the quiet calm. I’m surprised at the number and variety of birds we spot and realize that this is birding in Southwest Louisiana at it’s finest.
Moving further into the marshland we are on the lookout for birds and alligators alike. Peeking out from marsh grass, floating in the water or flying overhead birds are spotted all around us. As we point out the birds our guide, Bobbie, identifies them. Double Crested Cormorant, Roseate Spoonbill, Osprey, Herons, Egrets, and Ducks. I’m amazed by his vast knowledge of birds and decide then and there that having a guide is the way to go when birding in Southwest Louisiana.
I spot a bird at the edge of the marsh and Bobbie excitedly tells us that it’s a Yellow Rail. People come from all over the world to see these birds and there is even a Yellow Rails and Rice festival (http://www.snowyegretenterprises.com/Snowy_Egret_Enterprises/Yellow_Rails_%26_Rice_Festival.html) to celebrate the Yellow Rails. Of course, I’m so thrilled with having the opportunity to see the Yellow Rails that I’m not quick enough to capture a photo before they disappear.
Now I know why Southwest Louisiana is one of the top 10 birding areas in the U.S. There are 100’s of birds that stay or pass through this area and the bird rookeries are teaming with hundreds of birds during the peak season. It is late in the birding season during our birding adventure, but a number of baby and juvenile Egrets remain in the area.
As we move into a bird rookery Bobbie turns off the boat motor and fires up the much quieter trolling motor. Moving slowly pass a stand of dead trees we watch as a juvenile Egret struggles to gain some wind beneath its wings before plummeting to the water below. As soon as the egret splashes into the marsh water two alligators converge on him. We gasp as we realize we are about to see the circle of life in real time. We quietly encourage the little guy to get out of the water. Right before the Egret is about to get snapped up by an alligator he pulls himself out of the water onto a small pile of branches. A collective sigh of relief is heard from the boat right before the alligator launches out of the water and grabs the Egret pulling him under water. Now, instead of relief it’s the horrifying gasp of “we can’t believe this is happening”, but this isn’t Hollywood, this is Planet Earth in real time.
After the nature lesson we continue gliding through the marshland spotting wildlife along the way. After spending a couple hours exploring it’s time to head back to the dock. Southwest Louisiana has been the perfect destination for birding.