Bear photography on Safari at Tensas National Wildlife Refuge, north-east Louisiana. C.Paxton photo and copyright.

Bear photography on Safari at Tensas National Wildlife Refuge, north-east Louisiana. Wife taken on Sigma SD1 with Sigma 70-300mm zoom and bear on Panasonic GX8 and Opteka 650-1300mm zoom. C.Paxton photos and copyright.

Yes! We saw an adult Louisiana Black Bear yesterday. What a wonderful creature! Every time we’ve visited the Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge we’ve enjoyed seeing and photographing a rich array of local wildlife. Sometimes it’s White-tailed deer and wild Turkeys that star, sometimes it’s great Spiny Soft-shelled Turtles and Alligator Garfish, and yesterday was a fine day for our sighting of the Louisiana Black Bear (Ursus americanus luteolus). If you see something jet black standing out against the tree-line in Northeast Louisiana, stop when it is safe to do so and have a better look. It might just be the State Animal, one of Louisiana’s Black Bears – a very exciting photographic quarry and another of the US Wildlife and Fisheries conservation success subjects! Tensas is probably one of the best places to see Louisiana Black Bears in the wild.

We have a bear!

my wife informed me excitedly as I was happily photographing ducks with my Panasonic Lumix GX8 and whopping great Opteka 650-1300mm telephoto zoom. This refuge offers great bird watching year-round and is visited by seasonal migrant waterfowl being an important site on the Mississippi Flyway. I stopped and looked to see where she was pointing. There was indeed a very fine bear!

Sure enough, this large adult was ‘grazing’ in plain sight along the tree-line perhaps 700 yds or more from the safari drive, across the narrow lake and adjacent field. First he showed us his left flank, and then turned his broad behind to us as he fed, then we caught a glimpse of his right flank. These characterful omnivores can live for 30 years and grow up to 300 lbs on their 95% vegetarian diet of leaves, fruits, nuts, berries, grubs and meat. They are powerful climbers and can sprint short distances at up to 30 miles an hour according to Black Bear Info website. Check that site out for lots of good information and videos about Black Bears.  Remember to keep your distance and avoid direct contact with bears because they are powerful wild animals, especially avoid approaching females with cubs, as they can be very defensive of perceived threats to their young.

Ducks taking off at Tensas NWR, Feb 2016

Ducks taking off at Tensas NWR, Feb 2016

We covered the ground to the lake and continued our observation and photography from the shore. We could imagine how his fur was absorbing the warmth of the February sunshine.

Coot at Tensas River NWR

This obliging coot was happy to stick around. As Kimmie said, “he didn’t give a quack”.

Eventually we reluctantly parted from the bear to continue our safari drive and seek out other wildlife. There were a great many bird sightings on the rest of the drive, many Robins hunting insects in the carpet of purple flowers, and doves and also a woodpecker who evaded photography by staying just out of sight.

Robin hunting insects in the flowery meadows. Sigma SD1 and 300 mm zoom, cropped shot.

Robin hunting insects in the flowery meadows. Sigma SD1 and 300 mm zoom, cropped shot. C. Paxton photo and copyright.

Heron fishing in Tensas River NWR

Heron fishing viewed from safari drive in Tensas River NWR

A Walk Through The Woods To A Bird Observation Hide

After this very fruitful drive we parked and walked through the woods to a  well situated hide (blind) to observe and photograph Great Egrets. These stunning birds are in breeding plumage now and some are sitting on nests already!

Tensas River NWR has a great bird hide. Judicious use of manual focus is necessary when photographing birds through branches and twigs of their home.

Tensas River NWR has a great bird hide. Judicious use of manual focus is necessary when photographing birds through branches and twigs of their home.

Sunshine will naturally difract through the trees at sundown giving a star pattern when you use a small aperture (high F number). Remember not to look directly at the sun through a DSLR, because it can damage your eyes.

Sunshine will naturally diffract through the trees giving a star pattern when you use a small aperture (high F number). Remember not to look directly at the sun through a DSLR even at sundown because it would damage your eyes. I took this shot on my Lumix GX8 mirrorless digital camera (MDC) with digital view finder.

Good luck with your wildlife photography!