My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Paddling Amidst Prothonotaries

Hulin held out a paddle to see the blooming Louisiana iris as an incentive to come visit him.  Saturday, he made good on his promise and invited Marie and her friend, Mark to go with us. We decided to go later in the day, since the morning was to be at a record low - it ended up at 39 degrees. So instead of paddling and then eating a late lunch at Middendorf's, that famous seafood restaurant in Manshac,which was  on our way, we ate an early lunch there and then paddled for the entire afternoon.

A huge Hercules club near the put-in
We expected to have to do an up and back trip.  There are several destinations from the put-in on Shell Bank Bayou. Marie wanted to go back into the swamp - they had paddled this area the last two weekends. I want to paddle as much as possible and didn't care where.  Mark didn't know anything about the area so was cool with anywhere as well.

View down the canal off of Shell Bank Bayou

 I don't think this is going to be a shortcut
We had a little glitch when we got to the put-in.  The game warden was there and neither Mark or Maria had remembered to bring life jackets.  They finally decided to go back and get life jackets from Hulin's house.  Hulin and  I went on ahead and had time to get ourselves almost stuck in a little side canal that went through a wetland prairie, until it canceled out completely.  Before we got all the way back out, Mark called to tell us they were on the water.  So we started back to met them. Soon we were all together and back on our planned route.

There was lots of American Water Plantain but but only a few early blooms
Maria and Mark - paddling Cajun style - he got the best views
We had started on Shell Bank Bayou, then taken a canal over to Lily Bayou. This Bayou goes into a canal that then opens into Lake Maurepas.  Hulin wanted to turn around when we reached the canal, but we all begged for at least a look at the lake. He gave in and let us proceed toward the lake entrance.

Solitary sandpiper just on the canal to the lake
Camp on the canal off of Lake Maurepas
Just before we arrived at the entrance, we saw the two canoes that had put in with us, coming out of Lake Maurepas. We stopped and talked to them and found out that Hurricane Issac had washed out the fallen trees that had blocked access to the lake from the bayou.

At the entrance to Lake Maurepas
Immediately we all voted to come back though the Lake to Shell Bank Bayou.  The prettiest part of the paddle was on Shell Bank Bayou after our turn off the lake. . And while we were on the lake, we had a very tame prothonotary warbler that were were able to watch forage from a close distance for a long time. But we heard their "sweet, sweet, sweet" calls and saw their flashing yellow heads all along our route.

Our very cooperative prothonotary warbler
 The only down side to this paddle was seeing so many invasive species in such numbers.  Tallow trees are slowly taking over swamp maples and cypress, and even taking over marsh lands. Elephant ear was in some locations. Water hyacinths were just getting started,  and we also found a huge batch of giant salvinia out in the marsh were we almost got stuck.

The golden plant is giant salvinia - nothing can live under a mat like this.
 We  enjoyed lots of birds, from screeching wood ducks to anhingas and egrets. There were lots of migrants around, many of which I didn't recognize since I didn't bring my binoculars. But we did have white-eyed vireos, unknown warblers, red-winged blackbirds, cormorants, cardinals, chickadees, and titmice. We also saw an osprey and what we thought was an eagle's nest, although it was unoccupied. But the birdx of the day was the beautiful and active prothonotary warblers.

Palmetto and other plants in Shell  Bank  Bayou

Evening light in the swamp
 We all came back on a total high from such a lovely paddle - we paddled almost ten miles, in good company and the in the presence of wonderful birds and after sharing a wonderful lunch of perfectly cooked catfish and other seafood.

To see all the pictures I kept from this trip, click here.