Previous Tours - CAMERON PARISH, SOUTHWEST LOUISIANA
Top 10 lists are voted upon by the participants at the completion of each tour.
"Thanks Bob, for a grand tour. Thanks for stopping for every snake that we saw so that Rich could see it well. And thanks for all of those WOW moments throughout the tour."
- - Sincerely, Jeanne and Rich
SOUTHWEST LOUISIANA TOUR
17-24 April 2016
1) GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER - - Fantastic looks at a male in Peveto Woods, which is a sanctuary maintained by Baton Rouge Audubon, and the finest migrant trap in Cameron Parish.
2) Blackburnian Warbler - - Three in one tree, same woods, same day as above. And a fine day it was!
3) Roseate Spoonbill - - We saw them well almost every day of the tour, as many as 25 in a single day.
4) Chuck-will’s-widow - - Jeanne found this bird perched in a tree in Sabine Woods. This species is nocturnal, so it likely spent the entire day there.
5) Crested Caracara - - A rather unique member of the falcon family. We were lucky enough to find them on three separate occasions.
6) Magnificent Frigatebird - - Great look at an adult male soaring near the Gulf Coast.
7) Red-cockaded Woodpecker - - We saw and heard three of these federally endangered woodpeckers at Kisatchie National Forest, on our final full day of the tour.
8) American Redstart - - Males and females were seen well on the day that we visited Peveto Woods, Louisiana and Sabine Woods in nearby coastal Texas. It is truly beautiful to watch them feed.
9) Fulvous Whistling-Duck - - Seen perched and flying at Cameron-Prairie and Lacassine NWRs, both near the town of Cameron. It was a life bird for Chris!
10) Bachman’s Sparrow - - There were several heard and seen well at Kisatchie National Forest, in the same piney woods habitat as the Red-cockaded Woodpeckers. We had very good scope views.
We saw Atlantic Bottle-nosed Dolphins close to shore on several different days. A group of three Coyotes was a nice surprise on our final morning. Additional mammals included Nutria, Swamp Rabbits, and Eastern Fox Squirrels. American Alligators were a daily occurrence. We observed several Banded Watersnakes and a Yellow-bellied Racer. We watched a Thresher Shark being caught, plus lots of Blue Crabs.
SOUTHWEST LOUISIANA and COASTAL TEXAS TOUR
April 16-24 2016
Written by Jeanne Kern, tour participant
April 16, Saturday Afternoon Drive from Dauphin Island, Alabama to Lafayette, Louisiana.
The Dauphin Island Alabama Tour ended this morning. We took Kim and mark into Mobile for their afternoon flight back to Maine. Then Bob, Rich, and I began our journey to Lafayette, Louisiana to begin our second tour. On our way west through Alabama we saw an adult Bald Eagle, American White Pelicans, Loggerhead Shrike, Eastern Meadowlark, Pine Warbler, White Ibis, Black Vulture, Whimbrels (13!), and Red-headed Woodpecker. In Mississippi and Louisiana we added Turkey Vultures, a flock of approximately 75 Sandhill Cranes, and a Swallowtail Kite.
We had an incredible dinner at Blue Dog Café in Lafayette. Hundreds of Rodrigues originals and prints papered the walls and, coincidentally, we sat under the one that Rich and I have at home. OH that dinner! Wow, Wow, Wow. In addition we had free crab bisque and bread pudding with our meal. What an evening!
April 17, Sunday Lafayette Area.
Chris Brothers met us in our motel for breakfast. She had a strange experience last night at the Lafayette Airport, no cabs or vans, just two groups getting into two vans. She asked the driver and he said he’d be back in 10 minutes. There she was with another couple waiting for AAA with a flat tire, people getting into their own cars, and nothing else. Eventually she saw there was a sign pasted on the door listing three cab numbers, but only readable on the entrance side of the door. Happy ending: The driver came back, but the fare to the motel was a bit steep. Wonder if there’s Uber here…
We birded at Lake Martin and along roads in Cypress Gardens Preserve, where various egrets and Roseate Spoonbills were nesting. A lady came by and told us that a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron had a nest nearby. She drove off, Chris turned around, and there was the adult on the nest! A young man drove up and said if we wanted to see a 15-foot American Alligator, one was about 200 yards down the road. Well, it was big, but not quite that big. The fields west of Lafayette were mostly rice fields and crawfish farms. We had one watersnake and lots of lovely birds: Brown Pelicans, Anhinga, Neotropic Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Green Heron, all the egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, Red-shouldered Hawk, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Least Sandpiper, and a write-in for our checklist, two Buff-breasted Sandpipers! Dinner was at Le BonTemps, because I had read that they served gator. Bob, Rich, and I ordered it, stuffed with cheese and boudain (Cajun sausage). YUMMMM. Noisy place, but Yummm. And Ashley was a terrific server. We will be packing up tonight, off to Cameron tomorrow.
April 18, Monday Drive to Cameron, Rockefeller Refuge, and Price Lake Road.
There were lots of Purple Gallinules, stunning Great Blue and Tricolored Herons, Soras, and Least Bitterns. We saw many people fishing and crabbing; one gentleman caught a thresher shark and didn’t seem to know what to do with it. Gators appeared often. Then we saw the saddest thing of the trip: a dead Bobcat. Whoever hit it had taken it to the roadside and laid it out lovingly in the grass. He was freshly dead, and we mourned.
In Rockefeller Refuge there were birds galore. But the water in spots was noticeably close to the road and getting closer. We finally reached the location where the road was under water. When we left the refuge and stopped at the office to register, they said we were lucky; they had just closed the road that we had been on because of flooding. We tried to scout out two of the three restaurants in Cameron but the main street was flooded. We knew one was before the gas station and the other was just beyond it. We could see the gas station, but we couldn’t get to it for all the water. And there was a High Water sign. Only trucks were braving the main street. So, dinner was across our motel parking lot at Nella and Tee’s, a fried shrimp, po boy (hoagie) type place. Breakfast will be at the same location.
At checklist time, Rich and I arrived early and tried to call Chris from Bob’s room. The phone had no dial tone. We punched buttons. We checked the cord. Then we picked up the phone to discover it wasn’t connected to anything. Turned out most of the room phones were not connected. The manager said that most people use their own cell phones, and besides, “We just can’t get anyone to come out to fix them.” This became a watchword.
We ate dinner in our respective motel rooms, because the tables and chairs at Nella’s were very wet. Very early to bed. Rich discovered our toilet wasn’t anchored to the floor. They will move us to another room tomorrow. Because, of course, “They can’t get anyone to come out to fix it.”
April 19, Tuesday Cameron Ferry, Peveto Woods, Holly Beach, Sabine Woods.
We reached the Cameron Ferry just as it was off-loading, so a red light came on. One of the truck drivers exiting the dock stopped and pointed the way on to Bob. When Bob didn’t move, he said again, “Just go right and then left and on.” “But he has a red light, so he can’t go yet,” Chris said. “This is Cameron Parish,” the trucker said. “He can do anything he wants.” That became our watchword for everything that “nobody will come fix it” wouldn’t cover.
We saw lots of ducks and most of the usual suspects, including White-faced Ibis and Roseate Spoonbills. Crested Caracara delighted us, as did our first Black Terns. Red-bellied Woodpeckers and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker were found, as was an Eastern Wood-Pewee. A Scissor-tailed Flycatcher flew elegantly across the road in front of us. Heading into Peveto Woods, we were greeted by a Merlin perched majestically on a tall dead tree. There, and later in Sabine Woods, we caught glimpses of Tennessee Warblers and Northern Parula, Chestnut-sided Warblers and Black-throated Green Warblers, Black-and-white Warblers and our only American Redstart. A write-in for the checklist was a Veery. Many saw a Worm-eating Warbler and a Kentucky Warbler. Jeanne spotted a perched Chuck-will’s-widow(!), but later disgraced herself by slamming the van door while trying to photograph a grand flock of Roseate Spoonbills, spooking them into the next county.
Our only Painted Bunting for the tour appeared and posed perfectly for us. Muskrat houses and swamp rabbits joined the alligators and anoles for our day list.
On our way back to the ferry, we saw several cats looking longingly at gulls hovering overhead. And we made one foray to the jetty so Rich could view his favorite Black Skimmers. Dinner was at Anchors Up. We howled when Rich reported it had a four-star rating. Then we saw they had milkshakes on the menu. “We’re out of milkshakes,” we were told. “The ice cream machine broke down today.” … “and we can’t get anyone to come out to fix it,” we all silently added. Bob asked about breakfast. “We open at 8am,” said the owner. “And we get here about five after.” She wasn’t kidding.
Rich went over to the Cameron library and took out a library card and a book.
April 20, Wednesday Cameron Jetty, Boat Launch and RV Park, Cameron Prairie NWR, Lacassine NWR.
Today brought us numerous turtles, a Common Nighthawk, and a singing Eastern Meadowlark. We saw a Common Gallinule in a tree being pestered by a Red-winged Blackbird. We watched an American Coot nibbling on plants and spitting out and flinging the rejects yards away. A Savannah Sparrow dive-bombed an alligator, and a gator snapped at a low-flying Red-winged Blackbird. Best of all, Chris saw Fulvous Whistling-Ducks flying overhead, a life bird for her.
On our way down the trail, Bob shooed an alligator off the sidewalk. On the way back, it was there again. Rich went slowly toward it and clapped and waved. The gator sneered and stayed put. “Not askeert of Rich,” was the clear Cajun message. Eventually we all had to walk around the critter, who continued to ignore us. It was Cameron Parrish, after all, and he could do what he wanted. Then the wind picked up and the rains began. We cut the afternoon short. It poured on us all the way home. We scheduled dinner for the Dockside Grill, but we were stopped at the door by a girl who explained that the owner had gone to town for food and the grill was closed. Back to Anchors Up for a good dinner.
April 21, Thursday Sabine NWR, Wetlands Walk, Blue Goose Walk.
Jeanne announced, “Hey. The phone in our new room has a dial tone! But we can’t call anybody.” “You could call one of us,” made us all laugh. A real treat was a great sighting of baby King Rails. Numerous Soras were spotted. Swamp rabbits were at every turn. A short-eared rabbit baffled us - - it was missing the top ¾ of both ears? We had great views of a Nutria feeding on vegetation. And a Barn Swallow guarded her nest above the fan of the visitors’ gazebo. We all observed that the life of a fiddler crab wasn’t worth a plugged nickel; the path was strewn with their remains. Good meals for something.
And then we saw it: A Roll Cloud. A wide swath of dark cloud rolling toward us from the west. It stretched across the entire western horizon. We took many photos, but continued to drive (at a reasonable speed) toward the ferry so that we would be back in Cameron when hit with whatever horror that monster cloud was bringing. As it turned out, we made it…and had only about an hour of heavy rain. Still, we were happy to be in our rooms during that time. Afterward, we drove to the Cameron Jetty and went on the observation tower: an amazing number of birds, panoramic view of the Gulf, and a breeze to keep the bugs at bay made it a wonderful stop. Then we went to the Dockside Bar and Grill for dinner. Apparently they had re-stocked the larder. The place was owned by a Cajun named Shon who told us about “Mexican Squealers” (which turned out to be whistling-ducks) and the Bambi story of why he doesn’t hunt. He did hunt us up some ice cream “from his private stock” and came with “Hershey’s” to put on it! Cajun hospitality!!
April 22, Friday: Earth Day! Cameron Jetty, Rutherford Beach during flooding, Cameron government buildings and back streets, Cameron Ferry, Peveto Beach, then on to Lake Charles.
We drove Rutherford Beach until…the road disappeared under water. Back-tracking, we met a man crabbing. He was kind enough to stop and show us his catch of about 30 Blue Crabs. “The biggest are for dinner, and I’ll freeze the rest for gumbo.” What a fine way to spend the morning!
We had a write-in for our checklist today: great looks at a Golden-winged Warbler. Also great sightings included Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, Hooded and Kentucky Warblers, Seaside Sparrow, Northern Gannet, and an Alder Flycatcher. Chimney Swifts were spotted overhead when we went for Mexican food at El Dorado. After dinner Jeanne joined three much-loved old friends from Texas at a Lake Charles birthday party. Chris commented we seemed to have an affinity for parties. Our first night in Lafayette we were across the hall from a kid’s birthday party, and the second night there was a baby shower. Two parties of over 20 people joined us at La BonTemps. Penny’s birthday party wasn’t the last; a party was forming the next day in the lobby when we came in from the restaurant.
April 23, Saturday Kisatchie National Forest, country roads near the town of Welsh. We discover to our dismay that Subways don’t open until 8am on weekends. But we picked up lunch as we headed north. No problem. Kisatchie National Forest may be the southern-most location that Red-cockaded Woodpecker can be found in Louisiana. The Forest Service marks nesting areas by painting two white bands around trees where they nest, or might nest. Another bird sometimes found in this habitat is the Bachman’s Sparrow. We found the first area of banded trees and got out of the car. Chris said, “Isn’t that a Bachman’s singing?” She turned to the right, lifted her binoculars, and said, “There he is.” He was happy to stay on the nearby perch singing while Bob set up the scope and focused on him. We all had great looks before he moved on. Two minutes, and we had our first target bird. Turning to the left, Chris scanned the trees. “I see it,” she said. Our first Red-cockaded Woodpecker was in her sights. Bob moved the scope. Less than 6 minutes, and we’d accomplished what we’d come for. We found another Red-cockaded Woodpecker farther along. He was working the same section of his tree long enough for us to get great scope views and take photos.
Then we walked some trails and found a couple fishing for “perch.” Long-eared Sunfish, Bob told us, was the actual name. The woman’s catch got snagged in a little branch, and for a moment she had a “perch on a perch”. The fishing spot was lovely: smooth water reflecting tall trees, and wonderful silence.
Then we headed for Welsh to drive the roads, where Bob had been told flocks of Yellow-headed Blackbirds were seen recently. A landfill and cattle feeding areas were good draws. We didn’t find the blackbirds, but we did see two Crested Caracaras atop a tree. A nice Red-tailed Hawk posed for us atop a pole. And rice fields and crawfish farms were great for shorebirds and long-legged waders. Our last dinner together was Italian, with a singing piano player. Chris commended the eggplant Parmesan, and Bob raved over his Mahi Mahi.
April 24, Sunday The next morning the desk clerk took our group’s photo before we headed back to Lafayette, stopping one last time to search the roads of Welsh. The highlight of this trek was a Swainson’s Hawk standing in a field, mantling its wings over its prey. We had a great look at it, and it was still there when we left. We also saw a rare Lark Sparrow and three coyotes. Rich chased after a yellow-bellied racer (snake), but it was fast. And we had a close look at another Crested Caracara.
Lots of hugs all around before Chris rolled her bag into the Lafayette Airport.
And then there were three. On to Mobile, where we went to a wonderful and mercifully quiet dinner at Carrabas. Except for one fully loaded tray dropping, which seemed to be a continuing motif for our dining experiences. Luckily, it was not our tray! Next day at breakfast we said goodbye…but we did see each other once again in the Mobile Airport. Another chance to say “Thank You for a Great Trip!”
13-20 April 2008
1) RED-COCKADED WOODPECKER--great looks at two adults feeding a flegling at Kisatchie National Forest.
2) Barred Owl--heard and seen well at Lake Martin, after dark.
3) Blackburnian Warbler--at least three males at Peveto Woods during the fallout.
4) King Rail--seen and heard numerous times, but the one that attacked the van will forever live on in our memories!
5) Bachman's Sparrow--silent bird perched on a stump at Kisatchie, 25 feet from us. Great scope views.
6) Painted Bunting--it took a while, but we all saw several males.
7) Least Bittern--many great looks, especially at Rockefeller.
8) Scissor-tailed Flycatcher--scattered handsome individuals seen throughout the tour.
9) Yellow-crowned Night-Heron--nice displays by courting birds.
10) Purple Gallinule--25+ in one afternoon at Lacassine NWR.
All six people voted for a different bird as their number one favorite. These species were: Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Barred Owl, Blackburnian Warbler, Painted Bunting, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, and Yellow-billed Cuckoo.
We also saw large numbers of American Alligators with many babies, Red-eared Sliders, and other aquatic turtles. There were Atlantic Bottle-nosed Dolphins in the Gulf, and several Coyotes in agricultural areas, including a group of three.
31 March - 7 April 2007
1) RED-COCKADADED WOODPECKER--prolonged scope views of a family group (clan) in Wisatchie National Forest.
2) Fulvous Whistling-Duck--numerous nice views of this handsome duck, perched, swimming, and in flight.
3) Burrowing Owl--this was a stake-out north of Cameron Prairie. Great looks.
4) Black-throated Green Warbler--an adult male in Sabine Woods, coastal Texas.
5) Wilson's Plover--at least two at East Jetty Beach in comparison with Semipalmated Sandpiper.
6) Clapper Rail--several different individuals, one on the shoulder of the road near Cameron.
7) Barn Owl--two seen perched and flying on our way into Cameron, the first night of the tour.
8) Yellow-crowned Night-Heron--this striking long-legged wader was seen on numerous occasions. The rookery near the bridge gave us especially good views.
9) Prothonotary Warbler--we had wonderful looks at many individuals.
10) Mississippi Kite--high-flying migrants were seen along with Broad-winged Hawks on the final day of the tour.
8-15 April 2005
1) PURPLE GALLINULE--after looking for them all week, the stranglehold fight between the two birds was incredible!
2) Yellow-throated Vireo--spectacular looks in the late day light at Peveto Woods.
3) Red-cockaded Woodpecker--we worked for them and finally found them at Kisatchie National Forest.
4) Least Bittern--Marion summed it up: 25 in half an hour at Rockefeller Refuge--WOW!
5) Painted Bunting--great looks at half a dozen males.
6) King Rail--the views from the observation platform at Sabine NWR were incredible.
7) Cerulean Warbler--4 males at Sabine Woods in the big fallout.
8) Western Grebe--one offshore near Holly Beach, a rare Louisiana sighting.
9) Blue-winged Warbler--many seen after the fallout at Sabine and Peveto.
10) Prothonotary Warbler--numerous good views at Martin Lake and Sam Houston Jones State Park.
Additional interesting sightings included many American Alligators, a nearby River Otter, and several Atlantic Bottle-nosed Dolphins. We witnessed an incredible fallout of Neotropic migrants as a result a heavy mid-day downpour, and saw a fight between two Purple Gallinules that rivaled the World Wrestling Federation--Smackdown!
CAMERON PARISH, LOUISIANA
8-15 April 2005
Trip Report by Bob Schutsky, Tour Leader
Cameron Parish is Louisiana's version of High Island, Texas--great Neotropical migrants without the crowds of people. In Louisiana you bird the cheniers, in Texas they are called oak mottes. Both are names for the same thing: small wooded ridges used by migrants coming in from the Gulf. We birded many coastal areas and marshy refuges, then moved inland 50 miles for some of the upland birds. It was a very productive week: 191 species, including 24 different warblers. Here are the highlights, based upon the Top 10 birds that everyone voted for at the end of the tour.
# 10) Prothonotary Warbler seems to be a perennial favorite, whether we're birding in Costa Rica or Presque Isle on Lake Erie. We found good numbers of them at the Lake Martin Rookery, our first stop after landing at the Lafayette Airport. A scope view of a male in good light is hard to beat.
# 9) Large numbers of Blue-winged Warblers were present during a classic coastal fallout that began after lunch on 11 April and continued into the next day. The weather forecast called for a line of showers moving east around mid-day on the 11th. We were at Sea Rim State Park (eastern Texas) when it hit, so we moved on to Sabine Woods to await the end of the storm. As the rain subsided, the trees were filled with birds. There was always a new bird to see, no matter where you looked. Among them were 25 or more Blue-winged Warblers.
# 8) One morning we were driving the beach, watching for shorebirds and occasionally scanning the ocean. We had already found Wilson's and Snowy Plovers, when a lean, trim black and white bird caught my eye beyond the surf. It was a Western Grebe, a very rare visitor to Louisiana. Some years go by without a single sighting. This was probably the biggest surprise of the tour.
# 7) During the fallout at Sabine Woods, we were treated to excellent views of several different male Cerulean Warblers. At first they were feeding heavily, then they began singing. Our group was able to see them well, plus we showed them to several other birders that had arrived to enjoy the fallout.
# 6) Rails are another big tour favorite and we certainly had our share of them: 1Virginia, a dozen Clappers, two dozen or more Soras, and nice assemblage of Kings. The two King Rails that really stood out were below an observation deck at Sabine NWR, while we were on the deck. They flew, swam, and continually returned to the base of the platform, calling almost constantly. Watching through the scope as they called, at point blank range, is quite a treat.
# 5) Another product of the fallout were the Painted Buntings that we saw at Sabine Woods and Peveto Woods. The females are bright yellowy-green, but the males are simply gaudy, with almost every color of the rainbow. Very few people tire of watching a Painted Bunting.
# 4) We were not seeing Least Bitterns during the first 4-5 days of the tour, when finally we found one in a roadside ditch, not far from our Cameron motel. But the next day everything would change at Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge. During an hour of slowly driving along a mile of marshland habitat, we counted 25 Least Bitterns, many no more that 10-20 feet away. Everyone came to know them well, including their call that sounds like a Black-billed Cuckoo.
# 3) A big target bird away from the coast was the Red-cockaded Woodpecker. We collected our data, researched our maps, and headed for Kisatchie National Forest, north of Lake Charles. The habitat looked wonderful and the area is managed for this endangered species. After staking out a nesting area and being entertained by the Bachman's Sparrows, we finally had good looks at the woodpeckers, another successful hunt.
# 2) Late on April 11th we stopped at Peveto Woods to check on the migrants. There were many, including Hooded Warbler, Swainson's Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, and Philadelphia Vireo. But the bird that caught everyone's eye was the singing Yellow-throated Vireo, in perfect late day light. Everything came together to make this the number 2 bird of the tour.
# 1) First place honors went to the Purple Gallinule. One of our participants desperately wanted to see this bird, and we had certainly put in a lot of time looking for it. We did well at Lacassine NWR, finding half a dozen of these colorful marsh dwellers. But the scene that is indelibly etched in our minds were the three birds in close proximity, apparently a female and two males. The female stood by nonchalantly as the males were engaged in a death grip with their ultra long toes wrapped around each other's neck. Toss in a lot of gallinule screaming, slashing water, and a few random feathers, and perhaps you can picture the scene. The female stepped in, the males separated, and everyone went their own way. WOW--what a show!
In 2006 we have back-to-back tours to the Gulf Coast: Dauphin Island, Alabama with Dan Watkins, 2-7 April 2006 and a repeat of the Louisiana Gallinule Mud Wrestling Adventure, 8-15 April 2006. We scheduled the tours so that you can participate in both. See you there.