Photographing an Armadillo feeding beside Bayou D'Arbonne. K. Paxton photo and copyright.

Filming a Nine -banded Armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus) feeding beside Bayou D’Arbonne. A kayak river safari in mid-September is full of interest. K. Paxton photo and copyright.

By Charles Paxton

Queen butterfly (Danaeus gilippus) drinking nectar outside Lester's On The Lake, Lake D'Arbonne, Louisiana.

Queen butterfly (Danaeus gilippus) drinking nectar outside Lester’s On The Lake, Lake D’Arbonne, Louisiana. Panasonic Lumix DMC Fz48 with +1 and +2 diopter close-up lenses.

We enjoyed one of our best kayak adventures so far the Saturday before last; our 5th voyage in our two-seater kayak, The Pelican. Kimmie and I bought some drinks and snacks at Lester’s On The Lake where we saw a fine Queen butterfly enjoying their Lantana flowers. Queens are Milkweed feeders like Monarchs, and can be seen fluttering across D’Arbonne in late September.

About 20 minutes later via Highway 2 and Hog Pen Road (where we braked for an armadillo crossing the red dirt road) and we were sliding The Pelican into Simmon’s Hole on Bayou D’Arbonne.

Our first impression was entirely favourable ; the initial view reminds me of Caddo Lake in East Texas. We knew we were in for some good sightings!

The weather was perfect, first we went upriver and were delighted with several close views of Alligator Gar feeding. Their great scaled backs humped out of the water. We felt the first was about 3 ft long and the second was at least a foot longer. Shortly afterwards we were privileged to observe a water snake swimming across a small slough on the right bank. It was riding high in the water – a clue to its venomous variety.

A face-off with a nice specimen of Eastern Cottonmouth. C.Paxton photo and copyright.

A face-off with a nice specimen of Eastern Cottonmouth. C.Paxton photo and copyright.

An Eastern Cottonmouth!  I filmed and it froze as our kayak glided towards it. I think we were all relieved when we back-paddled and gave it some space again. These snakes are very poisonous, but they don’t bite people out of preference. They prefer to eat fish and other small creatures and should not be killed.

We paddled on, this time up the left bank and were pleased to immediately see a juvenile Southern Water Snake at rest on the shore of the bayou.

Juvenile Southern Water Snake, Bayou D'Arbonne. C.Paxton photo and copyright.

Juvenile Southern Water Snake, Bayou D’Arbonne. C.Paxton photo and copyright.

Juvenile Southern Water Snake at rest on the west bank of Bayou D'Arbonne. This snake is not dangerous to people and should not be killed. C.Paxton photo and copyright.

Juvenile Southern Water Snake at rest on the west bank of Bayou D’Arbonne. This snake is not dangerous to people and should not be killed. C.Paxton photo and copyright.

The weather was just glorious and we reflected that such serene river views had probably changed little since Mark Twain was writing about them.

We took a detour down a promising looking Slough and were greeted with very natural and undisturbed circumstances. The water was very shallow, we could see bottom all the way. At one point I saw a submerged slider clearly for a fleeting moment, our eyes locked and then it was gone in a swirl of silt and drowned leaves. Magical!

We later came stealthily upon another Cottonmouth in a very shallow cul de sac. It was resting high on the water and upon our approach it tasted the air and then sinuously swam away with fluid grace. It tried to climb a low log, failed and then decided to swim alongside and then under it.

Cottonmouth attempting to mount a log. K. Paxton photo and copyright.

Cottonmouth attempting to mount a log. K. Paxton photo and copyright.

All snakes deserve respect and shouldn’t be harmed or interfered with unnecessarily; venemous ones should be given a lot of space. This behaviour confirmed our suspicions that: a) they seem to prefer to flee than confront people, and b) they would be unlikely to climb into a boat or kayak.

When Kimmie spotted an Armadillo feeding on the east bank, we paddled quietly up to watch its activity.

It was rootling about in soft soil beside a fallen log and we stayed still, filming it for about 10 minutes and then paddled off, all without disturbing it.

Adult Armadillo on the east bank of Bayou D'Arbonne. K . Paxton photo and copyright.

Adult Armadillo on the east bank of Bayou D’Arbonne. K . Paxton photo and copyright.

We returned to Simmon’s Hole down the left bank and the views were lovely with the sun now mostly behind us. At one point we heard a tree fall in the forest and only later did we think it might have been beaver activity. We continued on downriver passed Simmon’s Hole and were treated to delightful golden evening views with fine reflections on the water. Again we enjoyed views of mammals  that we wouldn’t have got from the land. A squirrel feeding on Tupelo berries, a pair of Racoons foraging in the riparian woodland.

Lovely reflections south of Simmon's Hole. C.Paxton photo and copyright.

Lovely reflections south of Simmon’s Hole. C.Paxton photo and copyright.

Kimmie was shooting on Panasonic Lumix DMC Fz48 and Charles mostly on Lumix DMC Fz70. The videos posted here were shot on the Fz70

A large dragonfly settled on my cap!

A large dragonfly settled on my cap! K.Paxton photo and copyright