Louisiana’s Russell Sage WMA makes a great day out for wildlife photography despite being just minutes away from the restaurants and shopping outlets of eastern Monroe! In our hearts we were hoping to capture some good bird sightings to report on our Birding Trail project for Louisiana Tourism. Yesterday my wife Kimmie and I explored part of the 38,213 acre preserve in our Subaru Forester and the birds gave us good cause to use our moon roof!
It was a hot afternoon that gave way to a welcome rain shower just as we approached the Russell Sage Road T junction. In truth before it rained we hadn’t seen much bird life, as we progressed down the newly graveled road on tick-over at 5 mph we heard some song and caught fleeting glimpses of small birds flitting secretively between high leaves. Kimmie reported seeing a Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja), but I’d been looking elsewhere and missed it. Then it rained, thank the Lord! Birds love a cooling shower and tend to respond with some nice photogenic activity, so don’t pack up and leave if you see some rain clouds open, the party is just beginning!
As we turned down Russell Sage Road we dislodged a pair of egrets from the flooded ditch on our right and then a Green Heron flapped up onto a branch right beside the road. My shot through our Forester’s wet windshield allows a clear ID.
Then Kimmie spied some white birds deep in the forest on our right and we stopped to photograph White Ibises (Eudocimus albus) foraging on the flooded forest floor through the trees.
The shower was over and we opened the moon roof. Being higher didn’t actually help me with the Ibises because they were easier to see between the tree trunks than the bushier foliage.
However being still and quiet here seemed to bring birds to us from further down the road! I couldn’t believe my eyes when A Wood Stork (Mycteria americana) arrived, alighting in a tree on our right with some majestic flapping to assist its balance! Shortly afterwards another alighted on a lower branch! Then very quickly a feisty Spoonbill arrived and it displaced the second Wood stork by landing on its general location! Kimmie captured the whole sequence while I was photographing one of the birds that flew towards us. Well, if anyone ever asks you about where they stand in the pecking order, it looks like Spoonbills out-rank Wood Storks! Imagine a great big spoon bearing down on you, I think I’d yield too. The next time I looked, there were two Spoonbills on the tree and the Wood Storks had moved on!
This road seems a wonderful place to practice bird-in-flight photography! Many birds like to fly up and down this road! Far down the road we could see a great many birds at roost!
A Barred Owl (Strix varia) called out very nearby to our left, triggering a counter call from another close by on the right! The owl called again while I was videoing a Spoonbill. We continued slowly and then paused again. Overhead we had a flight of mixed herons, including Great Egrets and a Tricolour Heron!
At the end of the road on the right there is an open space serving as a car park. The trail that continues is for ATV’s only.