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Sunday, November 05, 2017

How Louisiana Kicked My $%#@

Who got deh prettiest eyes in deh swamp?
That's what it felt like out there in the southern piney woods. Felt like I was slogging along in the Long-needled piney woods of DEATH. That's how hot, how humid the air was. I could barely take in my breath, and my feet felt weighted down with see-ment overshoes.

Red-Cockaded Woodpecker shot taken at whopping 1296 mm 

But enough with the bitchin' already. This was the Piney Woods segment of two days of touring I'd signed up & paid for months ago. We started in the Kisatchie National Forest. We watched a Red-cockaded Woodpecker at the tippy top of a pine.

Long-Needled Pines of DEATH
There were also nuthatches, a few warblers and the larger, less rare, Red-fronted Woodpeckers. Did I care? Not one wit. When I'm hot and frustrated by the humidity someone could trot out a live Madagascar Dodo and I wouldn't bother to lift my head and see it.
Tromping for Henslow's
The group was searching for sparrows here. By marching along in the tall grasses, the sparrows fly up and away, landing a few hundred feet along. A couple of Bachman's Sparrows were flushed and the group got a great look at one. I even managed to see it, but not photograph it amid the brambles.

Bachman's Sparrow - south Florida

My lifer Bachman's Sparrow was in south Florida piney woods in 2014. It wasn't humid when I saw the Bachman's Sparrow. There, the tall grasses gave me zero problems.

Henslow's Sparrow 

Today it could be argued there were Bachman's a plenty, but not a one Henslow's Sparrows to be seen. I was sooo... disappointed, though honestly, I was so exhausted from just attempting to walk in the piney woods, that had one showed itself, I'd likely not had the energy to walk over to see it. Stupid heat. Stupid humidity.

The tour's second stop of the day was a park with a large lake and a children's play area. The group tromped off to circumvent the lake. I had no energy for such. With great disappointment and a sour face to match, I opted to stay put, sitting on a shaded bench. Occasionally I could view the group through spaces in the trees. There was another tour participant, a tall man, who had the same heat/humidity issues as myself. Bearing equally sour faces, we chatted amiably and watched the others, our hearts bearing great goo-gobbers of disappointment. Stupid Louisiana. Stupid heat. Stupid, stupid humidity.
A view of the group, across the lake, trees reflected on the pond.
By the time the group returned from their hike around the little lake, I had given up. I had zero energy to expend in such - for me - inhospitable conditions. I drove back to Jennings and spent the rest of the day feeling sorry for myself. I was happy that I'd wisely opted to not share a ride with anyone because if I had done so, my day would have been spent coughing up feeble excuses at every birding stop. 'Oh, no, I'll just stay here by the cars and accumulate a fine layer of silt and try not to cry - much."

It got worse. Next morning, Sunday I woke, and the weather hadn't really changed much. I decided eff the Coastal Tour I'd also signed up & paid for. I would drive to Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge. Had an exciting 'WHERE THE EFF IS THERE A BATHROOM IN THIS MOFFER FRAKKIN' STATE!' episode mid morning with a very-nearly-acceptable outcome we will not go into here. *harumph...*

I was pleased to see the wildlife drive allowed no getting out of one's vehicle, which meant I could be legally as lazy as a cooter on a log without feeling guilty about it.

Cooter lazin' without the benefit of a log
Saw oodles of swamp birds. Watched a Little Blue Heron hunting & wolfing down crayfish after crayfish.

'Juvie Little Blue Herons look like a whole 'nuther species, with snowy white feathers.

And this 'snowy' bird is not a Juvie Little Blue Heron, it's a Snowy Egret
That is sort of confusing - more-so for us though. The birds 'get it'
The best birdie of the day for me was a Gull-billed Tern. Haven't seen one in decades.
Gull-billed Tern taking a froggie on a joy ride
There were loads and loads and loads of gators everywhere. I remember back to my childhood when gaitors were an endangered species. Back then, too many were turned into shoes, belts and purses.
Sunbathing Alligator
Fell asleep half in, half out of swampy bed

After lolling about in my car, taking pics, I left the refuge, headed for New Orleans. Along the way I saw the birds which are would be boring if I weren't a birder. They're Neotropical Cormorants and I was excited to get to see them close at hand rather than the way I've normally seen them, always far off.
Neotropic Cormorants
Doesn't this bird have the most amazing head & turquoise eye?
When I was south, bordering the gulf coast, I skidded to a near haut on the highway to avoid hitting a 3 foot alligator tot, that decided to cross both lanes of the road. Wish there had been time for a photo, but there were speeding cars fast approaching my rear bumper so had to move along sharpish like.

I found, but passed by the Rockefeller National Wildlife Refuge, because it seemed all work buildings and no wildlife access.

It was quite dark by the time I made it to my hotel in New Orleans. Next thing I knew, I was on the phone chatting with my Arizona cousin Dovin about family history. You can't feel lonely in a state all by yourself when you have a friendly voice on the line. Tomorrow I fly north to Baltimore to visit my Maryland Peeps. 

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