Peacock

Peacock
Peacock

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A Visit to Big Branch March NWR


I like to get to spend some winter in south Louisiana.  I have a lot of friends between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. There is a lot to see and do and of course, lots of lovely paddles and birding available. 

I've talked to the Volunteer Coordinator  for a group of refuges in south Louisiana, and was even called and offered a job, but they don't have living quarters, only RV sites. But they do have gardening,  and canoe tours and lots of other stuff I'd enjoy doing. I decided to visit the Big Branch Marsh, located just off I-12 and only about 40 miles from Hulin's House. 

This refuge consists of mostly Marsh but has a few high spots where pine trees grow.  I easily found the Headquarters but almost nothing else. The Headquarters grounds are locked and there is no information in the kiosk outside the gate, to tell you where to go.  I knew there was a Lake Road, and a boardwalk that led to a two mile - each way - trail.  I planned to do all of this. 

I figured Lake Road would be along Lake Pontchartrain, so headed on down the road I was on.  I soon came to a roundabout that put me on Hwy 190.  I went east and quickly found  a gas station attendant who sent me west to Lake Road, the next turnoff, going west. Just before the turn,  I crossed Bayou Lacombe and had to stop to enjoy the early morning sunlight on the bayou. 


The bayou from the bridge on Hwy 190

Then I went through a little settlement that ran along another turn of the bayou. Immediately after that, my view was mostly of marsh. The morning was still a little hazy - I'd come through fog to get here - and the grass was so tall, I couldn't get a picture that showed the vastness of the marsh view.


Another view of Bayou Lacombe

Then I was driving between water and grass on both sides, with Bayou Lacomb to the east, looking like a little narrow lake with grassy islands where white pelicans loafed or flew in and out.


A little after sunrise across Bayou Lacombe

Incoming white pelicans


I saw nineteen pie-billed grebes


A boat launch

The road isn't very long and soon I was at the turn-around at Lake Pontchartrain.
Hulin reminded me of a great camping trip we had when we camped on Big Branch Property on the shores of the lake. Another friend paddled across the lake from New Orleans, visited for about an hour, then paddled back.


Royal Terns loafing in Lake Pontchartrain

A picture of my envy - I waited a half hour for these guys to get ready to leave

The only kingfisher I saw

I saw three shirkes

I thought this mailbox was most appropriate - there was water behind the house 

By this time it was almost ten o'clock so I stopped by the Visitor Center.  There I got directions to the walking trail and boardwalk, but then realized I didn't have time to go because I was due back at Hulin's house.  I'll have to check it out the next time I get to Louisiana.


The Visitor Center - once part of a monastery

The exhibits were excellent - this was part of a night exhibit - you had to find the animals with a flashlight off a "back porch"

Swamp maples were already in bloom - spring is beginning!

I had a wonderful time in Louisiana with Hulin, his daughter and granddaughters. I gave Renee a lesson on driving a stick shift after she got her learner's license.  Hulin and I threw a party for four friends and then we ate lunch with two of those friends and then went to a party thrown for one of Hulin's grand nephews who just got a football scholarship at Rice University, over in Houston, Texas.  The boy's name is also Houston.  We also did a short bike ride, my first since my surgery.  Hands didn't hurt at all!

I came home last night after picking up my sinker cypress board.  I was in panic mode Monday, after I called the place I thought was all ready to hand me the board, only to find they didn't even have a 16' long one.  I finally found one that I didn't have to haul as far, since it was about 100 miles closer to Galveston. But it was 18' long so was a little more floppy.  AND I forgot my racks so had to use foam racks.  I lost one in the first 20 minutes of driving and had to use my rope bag to hold the board up in the back.

Ready to drive off with my board

On the way home, I also managed to get in a little more birding at Sabine NWR in the southwest corner of Louisiana, and at North Jetty, which is about 2 miles from the Galveston Ferry landing on Bolivar. The only other excitement was that my battery died and I had to be pushed off the ferry.

'Twas a good day from 5:00 A. M. until after 7P.