RV Livin' #17: Discovering Louisiana Part Two

July 09, 2016  •  Leave a Comment
Reddish_egret_Grand_Isle_2016_1Reddish_egret_Grand_Isle_2016_1A reddish egret (Egretta rufescens) takes off from a marsh on a cloudy day in Grand Isle, Louisiana.

My trip to Louisiana happened to coincide with the bird festival in Grand Isle.

This festival is held each year in mid-April during the peak of the spring bird migration. Grand Isle, which sits about two hours southeast of New Orleans, is one of the first stops on land after migratory birds fly across the Gulf of Mexico - if they don't try to keep flying north. 

I was not familiar with the location or the photography opportunities of the area but I heard it was well worth the visit so off we went with the RV. 

There happens to be a state park with a pretty nice campground at the south end of the island that had plenty of space for our large rig. Although the wind didn't cooperate at all during the course of the weekend, we managed to spot at least 70 different species of birds including scarlet tanagers and reddish egrets, new ones for my life list.

Sanderling_Grand_Isle_2016_2Sanderling_Grand_Isle_2016_2A sanderling runs across the sand at the edge of the water along the beach at Grand Isle, Louisiana
The great thing about Grand Isle is that the area has several different types of habitats so a plethora of birds feed, nest and travel through the area. 

I started with shore birds at sunrise. What more could a photographer ask for than walking from her campsite, meeting an Audubon representative on the beach, and photographing a large flock of skimmers all at sunrise??? 

After photographing Wilson's plovers, common terns, and lots of sandpipers, I headed back to the campground to look for birds in a marshy environment.

Even in the campground and on the nearby trails there were dozens of birds to be found: baby mourning doves, clapper rails, great egrets, a sora, and lots of willets. 

Brown_Pelican_SeriesA brown pelican dives headfirst for his food while fishing in a bay on Grand Isle, Louisiana Later in the afternoon I joined my boyfriend and his mother for a nature walk to look for birds in the wooded neighborhoods. The Nature Conservancy sponsored the walk and had three very informative guides lead the way. The ultimate goal for most folks on the walk was to find a cerulean warbler. Although that certainly would have been pretty special to add that bird to my life list, our little trio was in search of a painted bunting.  Black-necked_stilt_Grand_Isle_2016_1Black-necked_stilt_Grand_Isle_2016_1A black-necked stilt (Himantopus mexicanus) poses for a portrait on a sunny morning in Grand Isle, Louisiana.

This colorful little bird - I even heard one birder refer to it as the gaudy bird of the bird world - would be a new bird on all of our life lists and one we would certainly enjoy photographing. The little bird covered in an artist's palette of colors didn't make it easy for us. We went back to the tree - a mulberry tree with fresh, yummy berries - three times before we finally caught a glimpse of him as he dashed in and out of the shadows. The best shot I could capture was him sitting on a branch in the shadows, but the sighting counts towards my life list. 

In addition to the painted bunting we also came across a red-eyed vireo, indigo buntings, palm warblers, worm-eating warblers, rose-chested grosbeak, and an oven bird. 

Semi-palmated_plover_Grand_Isle_2016_1Semi-palmated_plover_Grand_Isle_2016_1A semi-palmated plover (Charadrius semipalmatus) runs through the shallow water along the Gulf Coast at Grand Isle, Louuisiana

The next morning my goal was to photograph roseate spoonbills. Although I had seen these birds before in Florida, I didn't have any photos I liked. By the time I left Grand Isle I still didn't have any photos of roseate spoonbills that I liked but I was happy with the sightings of more than a dozen of them in the marshes and flying overhead. 

While looking for the spoonbills I discovered a wonderful marsh area not far from the campground. There were four or five spoonbills hanging out in a pond on the south end of the marsh but beyond that the grasses and shallow ponds were filled with other wading birds. There were dozens of snowy and cattle egrets, lots of willets, dowitches, tricolored herons, and black-necked stilts. Flock_takeoff_Grand_Isle_2016Flock_takeoff_Grand_Isle_2016A flock of birds - terns, skimmers, gulls - take off en masse on Grand Isle, Louisiana.

One last tip we heard about was the beach near the bridge into Grand Isle. One of the local fisherman told us the fish were circling around the bay at the bridge because the easterly wind was preventing the tide from flowing back out to the Gulf. The brown pelicans had picked up on this little tidbit as well and were fishing non-stop. I would have spent hours upon hours watching the large birds dive for the fish but my pleasure and interest in observing and photographing wildlife can often be boring to others. Nonetheless I was able to capture several decent shots of pelicans just as they were breaking the water. 

So another successful photo outing to a new location thanks to life on the road in our RV. 


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