My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Visit to Grand Isle

March 14, 2017

I came to Louisiana as a teenager and stayed to raise my three children there. I always heard about Grand Isle, the only inhabited  barrier island at the end of Louisiana. I knew it had a neat little town and the birding was supposed to be fabulous in migration, as the birds came in to the remanent of the maritime forest.

I finally moved it to the top of my bucket list and made plans to visit last Tuesday. It's two and a half hours away so I decided to leave around 4:30AM to maximize my time there. So I was almost there before I could enjoy the very flat landscape.

I got to Grand Isle State Park just before sunrise.  I immediately went down the nature trail that starts at the entrance. There was little to see on it, although it goes past a little waterway.  There was only one snowy egret feeding and only a few yellow-rumped warblers foraging. The pink and yellow lantana, that is invasive throughout much of the south, was abundant. But birds were few and I only saw a few flocks of brown pelicans overhead.

I traveled through the rest of the roaded area very quickly as this is a tiny  park. Again, I could not see or hear many birds.  I got out and tried to reach the beach but the trail was flooded and didn't look interesting enough to warrant a trip back to the car for boots.  I went on down from the swimming area to the fishing pier which was more interesting, although a park worker and I were the only humans around. I walked out to the beach overlook and on out to where people could fish.  There I enjoyed watching several hundred brown pelicans and lesser numbers of gulls including laughing and ring billed gulls and a few small terns too far away for me to identify.

The park itself looked worn and kind of sad.  It was hit by Hurricane Katrina and may have lost trees.  But I think it may just be overused and doesn't have enough facilities.  The camping area was just tightly packed parking spaces for trailers.  There were no separate tent sites. The plants were mostly still dormant or had very small leaves. I couldn't get to the beach easily, and the water was very muddy as it swept up on land. There were very few large trees there and exceptionally few birds visible. If you visit,  find out the tide times here. At high tide, everything floods.

An interesting beach house seen from the park entrance

The only bird I saw in the water along the nature trail

The beautiful but very invasive lantana

A view from the entrance looking opposite the first picture

View of camping area from the beach boardwalk

The long boardwalk to the fishing pier at the end

Loafing brown pelicans and laughing gulls

Feeding herring gull

The only tri colored heron I found - in a lagoon

A few of the 2-300 brown pelicans

Loved the grass against the clearing skies

The earth is flat everywhere you look

I decided to go check out the town of Grand Isle and look for birding sites there. I stopped at the the library and opened Louisiana Birding Trail web page and then the Grand Isle Loop to find the birding places. One of the most interesting things I found were lots of yards, filled with old oak trees and other trees and shrubs with signs that said "Open Yard" or "Birder's Welcome.  One yard had a huge area filled with giant turk's cap guarded by a single ruby throated hummer.
I did not find any migrants, other than the hummer and cattle egrets. A native told me the hummers were there all year. But they are starting to migrate in.

Both the library and the school directly behind it are recent and raised

This group of great and snowy egrets were sharing the pool with a kingfisher

While being supervised by a brown pelican sitting on an electric pole beside the pool

These were the only two white ibis I saw

I was excited to find a small flock of cattle egrets - they may have spent the winter
here but the rest should return now through April

I was surprised to see bluebonnets filling a large patch in someone's yard

This was one of the neighborhood areas that was mostly open to birders

I found several mulberry trees with fruit almost ripe

Loved these flowers on a shrub

The orchid tree was almost through blooming

Many species of hibiscus were blooming

The giant turk's cap was in full flower and was guarded by a ruby throat hummingbird

While walking through Lafitte Nature Preserve, I found ripening dewberries

A pair of yellow crowned night herons flew ahead of me down a little drainage beside the path

I found a pond stuffed full of these plants - then realized they are the native yellow canna lilies - I once helped restore a  a pothole and these were one of the plants we put in it. 

On the way back home, I was able to enjoy the shrimp boats and other vessels as I drove beside a waterway.  There was shipbuilding, ship repairing and just ship parking going on.

Think this is a large tug boat

I saw more boats than species of birds

A beautiful and huge pair of shrimp boats

Remember, if you have a national senior pass, it will get you into Louisiana State Parks for free. Get yours soonest, if you will reach 62 before October. Price is going up from $10 to $80.