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the spoonbills of lake martin, louisiana

2004-03-21 - 4:25 p.m.

Roseate Spoonbill at Lake Martin, Louisiana, March 2004

Please Note: All photos � 2004 by Elaine Radford
All Rights Reserved

Click the above photo to visit my Spoonbill photo album!

For the first time, we were able to use the van to go camping/birding, instead of just hauling lumber, soil, plants, and everything else in the world required to rebuild our fence and our back garden. Saturday morning, BF and I headed over to Lake Martin to catch the Roseate Spoonbill spectacle before the trees fully leafed out. The van proved worth its weight in gold in its added height, because all the other birders in the area had the same idea, and it made it delightfully easy to look over their puny little cars and mini-vans for an eye-level view of this incredible rookery.

I'd been told that there were about 100 Spoonbills, but I'm convinced that we saw a lot more. And they were in spectacular breeding condition, with bright pinks, reds, oranges, and even yellows popping out in places I barely knew they had places. Some Black-Crowned Night Herons and Little Blue Herons are also nesting in the same rookery, but the show belongs to the many thousands of Great Egrets who were courting, carrying sticks, and nest building over a huge area. My bird list isn't as long as it could be, because I invested my time in enjoyng the Spoonbills, but here it is for what it's worth:

close-up of Great Egret in breeding plumage, Lake Martin, Louisiana, March 2004
� 2004 by Elaine Radford
Click the above photo to see my Great Egret photo album!

  1. Double-crested Cormorant
  2. Neotropic Cormorant
  3. Anhinga
  4. Great Blue Heron
  5. Great Egret --thousands, full breeding plumage, courting, carrying sticks, building nests, even a copulation witnessed
  6. Little Blue Heron --several pairs
  7. Snowy Egret --3 low overflight, not yet nesting
  8. Cattle Egret
  9. Green Heron -- one pair
  10. Black-crowned Night-Heron -- several pairs
  11. White Ibis -- large flocks circling overhead near sunset
  12. Roseate Spoonbill --dozens if not hundreds of pairs courting and nest-building
  13. Turkey Vulture
  14. Common Moorhen
  15. Rock Dove
  16. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  17. Carolina Wren
  18. Northern Mockingbird
  19. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  20. Carolina Chickadee
  21. Tufted Titmouse
  22. Blue Jay
  23. American Crow --both crow species vocalized frequently
  24. Fish Crow
  25. European Starling
  26. White-eyed Vireo -- one, close-up, singing, Acadiana Nature Center
  27. Prothonotary Warbler --singing very softly, very close at Lake Martin
  28. Swamp Sparrow
  29. Northern Cardinal
  30. Common Grackle
  31. House Sparrow

Notable: An intimate look at a Prothonatory Warbler from a short distance who sang under his breath but did not fly away, allowing us to study every glowing feather in the scope.

Of course, many tourists visit Lake Martin in search of alligators, and we were not disappointed; several huge gators were up and out of hibernation, like this gator with a retired nutria in his mouth:

alligator with a nutria it has captured at Lake Martin, Louisiana, March 20, 2004
� 2004 by Elaine Radford

The cycle of life goes on, and we saw this overwhelmed mother nutria just about covered with babies -- two are nursing on the near side, one is sleeping nearest the camera, and another is nursing on the far side:

mother nutria with nursing babies, Lake Martin, Louisiana, March 20, 2004
� 2004 by Elaine Radford

In case you missed my hints up above, if you want to see more pictures from this trip, click here for the great egret photo album and click here for the roseate spoonbill photo album.

Other reptiles included a good-sized ribbon snake and many red-eared sliders. Other mammals included (unfortunately) a feral cat at the Acadiana Nature Center.

Hummingbird Report: At least two adult male Ruby-Throats.

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