Grand Isle, Louisiana
On this trip to New Orleans, I had decided that I might like to take a drive down to Grand Isle, Louisiana and look out across the Gulf of Mexico while standing on Louisiana’s only significant beach. I wasn’t sure what the road conditions would be like since I had read somewhere that I would encounter construction along the way. It was a long ways (120 miles) but I hoped to find a few interesting things to photograph along the way.
A bit like Pt. Pelee National Park in Ontario, Grand Isle is a mecca for bird watchers during the Spring migration. I was even so optimistic that I brought my bathing suit. Didn’t get my bathing suit wet – cool enough that I put on a jacket, and we were a bit early for the warbler migration. Our timing was close to right but due to the cool weather, the warblers were a bit behind in their migration schedule. Had a good time, nonetheless, and learned a great deal more about the Mississippi River delta and its many bayous.
As I was driving along one of the side roads (I rarely follow the main road), I looked over and saw a lone Cattle Egret, searching for insects along the side of the road. I was excited. I had never seen a Cattle Egret in its Spring mating plumage (a bit of tan colouration). Then a few miles further along, we came upon a farmer turning over some of his land and large flocks of white birds were following his tractor. When we first saw them from a distance, I thought that they were gulls, but as we got closer, I realized that they, too, were cattle egrets.
There were egrets in front of the tractor still searching for food from the previous pass and more egrets behind the tractor.
As the farmer plowed from one end of the field to the other, a white wave of birds would rise from the front and land in the back.
We eventually left the farm land behind and entered into the delta bayou area of the trip and found out where the construction was. The previous roadway crossed through the delta and over to Grand Isle only a few feet above the normal level of the high tide. Apparently, a hurricane or a large tropical storm hits the area on average every two or three years and, of course, each time that a storm passed, a bit of the road would be flooded and repairs would be required. According to one resident, road repair work was an important part of the economy! After Hurricane Katrina, someone decided that a nice new roadway and elevated causeway should be built to link Grand Isle to the mainland. Mixed feelings about that move, especially when the government announced that it would be a toll road.
As we reached the spot where the new elevated roadway veered off and made a large turn away from where the original road had gone, the GPS unit we had in the car began to squawk, “Make a U-turn?” etc. By the time that we reached the end of the bend, the screen on the unit just went blue. As far as it was concerned, we were doomed :-).
Although the Spring migration had been delayed and Grand Isle was not the mecca for migrating that we hoped that it might be, there was still enough bird life on the island to keep us occupied.
The beach runs almost the full length of Grand Isle and is fine white sand. I am sure that later in the season, the parking lot would be full and the beach would be well used but, on this particular day, we more or less had the parking lot and the beach all to ourselves.
As usual, my interest was more in the tidal backwaters and pools and the interesting creatures that live there so spent my time along the less sandy portions of the island.
As I approached one of the mud flats, it looked like the mud was alive with movement, but as I got closer, all went still. I eventually realized that what I was seeing from a distance was the movement of hundreds of little crabs all scurrying back into their mud holes as soon as I was approaching their area of the mud flat. After a bit of patience and waiting, I was able quietly stand near the mud flats just waiting for them to re-emerge. First one, then two and then a whole crowd of them came out of their holes.
As I stood there a little longer without moving some of the “empty” shells near my feet began to move and a hermit crab or two would pop out its head and start wandering away with its house.
With this much potential dinner around, it wasn’t a surprise to find that herons were also in the area.
As we were preparing to leave Grand Isle, a few warbler species flew into the bushes near us but only one was close enough to photograph. With dwindling light and a long drive ahead, I took a few more shots and then packed up the gear and headed back to New Orleans.