The Alligator Gar fish in the beautiful Gourd Bayou at Russel Sage Wildlife Management Area, Monroe Louisiana. C.Paxton photo and copyright.

Could ‘Fish watching’ catch on? The Alligator Gar fish ( Atractosteus spatula ) are lovely movers. These large predatory Ganoid fish can be observed in the beautiful Gourd Bayou at Russel Sage Wildlife Management Area, Monroe, Louisiana. C.Paxton photo and copyright.

Heron in flight at Russell Sage Wildlife Management AreaNot far from Monroe’s Pecanland Mall shopping and dining district there’s a wilderness gem, Russel Sage Wildlife Management Area, about 17000 acres of woodland and waterways home to resident and migrant waterbirds, American Alligators, turtles, snakes, White-tailed Deer, a host of butterflies and more besides no doubt.

My wife and I encountered our first ‘gator within ten minutes and we both agreed that this was good wildlife habitat! You could see where they’d hauled themselves out for sunbathing! Much of the woodland we saw was maturing prime Bottomland forest, also oak and hickory forest. This place is going to get better and better over time!

Gourd Bayou, Louisiana.

Gourd Bayou, Louisiana.

The Crimson-eyed rose-mallows were flowering beside the water and we saw a multitude of butterflies and some Katydids in the long grass beside the 4-wheeler trail.

From the concrete bridge over Gourd Bayou we enjoyed bird watching for herons and kingfishers and fish watching. We were thrilled to see Alligator Gar ( Atractosteus spatula ) and Spotted Gar ( Lepistosteus oculatus ) gliding majestically near the bank and hanging, serene with fins lazily flapping perdectly happy in their element. The ancestors of these armoured fish swam with dinosaurs in the Cretaceous period. Some anglers call them a ‘trash’ fish, but they play an important role in the local ecology as predators and as prey themselves, to Alligators, Snapping turtles, aquatic birds and other fish, and they shouldn’t be killed.

Kimmie’s keen eyes also picked out a Spiny Softshelled Turtle.We’ll be back, with our kayak. We saw no floating trash, the conditions were fantastic.

A shoal of fish fry in Gourd Bayou. It was lovely to see this waterway teeming with life! C.Paxton image and copyright.

A shoal of fish fry in Gourd Bayou. It was lovely to see this waterway teeming with life! C.Paxton image and copyright.

American Alligator Russell Sage wma. C.Paxton image and copyright.

American Alligator at Russell Sage WMA. C.Paxton image and copyright.