This weekend was the fourth annual Eagle Expo, hosted by the Cajun Coast Visitors and Convention Bureau. Folks from all over drive down, attend a couple workshops where eagle experts talk about them, and then everyone takes a boat ride out into some area of either St. Mary or Terrebonne Parishes in pursuit of eagles and their nests.
This year, rather than making the precarious trip to haul my boat to one of their landings, I decided to accept the offer of my friend, Cajun Man, to ride with him on his tour boat. I’m really glad I did. I always like going on his tour, because he cracks corny jokes, and the people always laugh. He even pulls out his guitar and sings “Jolie Blonde” and that old Cajun song everybody knows that goes like this: “Jambalye, crawfish pie, filet gumbo!”
The morning tour was a private tour scheduled by famous Louisiana wildlife photographer, C.C. Lockwood, as the field trip portion of a photography workshop. At first, there was some confusion about whether or not I should be allowed on the boat, since I had not registered for the workshop. But after C.C. realized I was there at Cajun Man’s request (who asked me last fall AND I drove 35 miles to be there), he relented, providing that I didn’t get in the way of the photographers on board. Well, I had no intention of getting in their way, right? I even left my camera in the truck.
After lunch, Cajun Man asked me to stay for the second tour, which was part of the Eagle Expo, and he insisted that I get my camera out of the truck and that I make sure and get me some photos of them there eagles. For some reason, though, the eagles were very, very camera shy.
but they flew away as we drew near. We could not hear babies chirping, nor did we see their hungry heads poking up above the edge of the nest. They must not have hatched yet. These nests are massive — about six feet across. Just think, I could lie down in one and take a nap. Can you imagine?
Some of those folks on the first tour had HUGE zoom lenses that looked like they weighed about fifty pounds. I’m sure they must have gotten some beautiful shots. My little lens could not reach to the sky, so this was the best I could do from so far away. I’ll post it up even though it’s a very, very poor representation, because that way, when I get my new lens, we can look at the before and afters!!!
I have no clue where the eagles migrate from that spend the winter here. I do know that they come back to the same nest every fall, do a little housekeeping, lay their eggs, hatch the eggs, and teach the young to fly all in a span of about six months. They will be gone by May, their young flying with them.
When the Midland, MI folks were here, I took some of them on a wetland tour. The only thing Jerry aka Stretch, wanted to see was a nutria. The first tour group I took out had seen four of them swimming in the distance, but after lunch, we could not find one anywhere. Jerry and his wife Marcia were very, very disappointed, and I felt really bad that I could not deliver a nutria to complete their quest to see the invasive nuisance rodent of giant proportions.
You see, nutria don’t belong here. They originated in South America, and some enterprising folks thought their fur would be great for the trapping industry. Tall tale has it that they were caged, and a hurricane came along and they got loose, and they’ve been busy reproducing rapidly ever since. They do have great fur, and to this day, there are many warm Russians walking around wearing nutria fur coats.
However, with the advent of PETA and the decline of the fur industry, the nutria have been running rampant in the marsh. Why is that so bad, you ask? It’s bad because their favorite food is the roots of the marsh grass, which holds our valuable sediment in place. When the marsh plants die, the soil erodes and subsides more rapidly. So, nutria are now responsible for hundreds of thousands of acres of wetland loss.
Since they are no longer a source of income for the bayou people, the department of wildlife and fisheries (LDWF) has placed a bounty on the nutria. If you own land or lease land, and get the proper license from the LDWF, you can kill the rodent, chop off the tail, and they will pay you $5.
So, Jerry and Marcia? THAT is why you don’t see too many nutria down here. The locals have just about eradicated the species!
However, up there in Cajun Man’s neck of the swamp, obviously NOBODY has a permit to participate in the bounty program, so . . . .
Here’s a better look for all your curious folks . . .
And lastly, this handsome guy was begging to be photographed. He was at the far reaches of my inadequate lens, but I shot him anyway. I love the markings on his head and the crest feather sticking out back, which we can’t see from far away . . .
And I’ll leave you with this image, taken on the way to the most beautiful spot on my tour route . . .
This is called a marsh fire. You can see the cypress swamp off in the distance. Burning off the dead marsh grass is a way to manage the marsh and encourage new growth. It’s also a very tricky way to rabbit hunt. After the dead grass burns off, there is nowhere for the rabbits to hide. Then when the new green shoots come out, the rabbits can’t resist the tender grass, and there waits Elmer Fudd with his twusty wabbit gun and KABLEWY, wabbit stew.
There will be a lull in the Miracle Bayou Tree House posts for a bit while waiting on the next step–electrical.
Meanwhile, I’m still floating along on a cloud of the miraculous!