National Park Nature Walks, Episode 9: Inside a Migratory Bird Sanctuary

At the moment, we head to the Louisiana coast.

In at present’s episode it is early April and we have made our technique to Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge alongside the Gulf Coast of central Louisiana. Every spring, the Gulf Coast is a welcome sight to billions of migratory birds after making the continuous, perilous journey north throughout the water from Mexico. 

Exhausted and ravenous, these birds head for the primary land they encounter. Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge is a type of locations. We’ll begin our day subsequent to the coast sitting in an enormous salt marsh the place we’ll take heed to resident and migratory birds sing to the rhythm of the crashing waves. 

We’ll then make a mucky trek inland to a brackish marsh the place we’ll bury ourselves amongst the cattails and take heed to scores of waterbirds as they refuel earlier than persevering with their journey north. Let’s go for a stroll!

We’re subsequent to the coast on a damp, salty morning. The solar has barely crested the horizon, however seems to be huge nonetheless. Take heed to the facility of the waves crashing behind us. In entrance of us and to our sides is miles of salt marsh. The one factor breaking apart the horizon are the warmth waves already forming within the heat air.

The salt marsh we’re standing in is made up principally of easy cordgrass. Cordgrass is a hip excessive, darkish inexperienced grass that thrives in saline environments like this. Although there is not a lot plant variety, there’s plenty of different life out right here. These Seaside Sparrows we’re at present listening to are the obvious instance. You possibly can hear one significantly shut male off to our left and quite a few others within the distance.

Seaside Sparrows solely dwell in marshes like this in Louisiana. Meaning with out these wetlands, they do not exist. Sadly the refuge has misplaced practically 15,000 acres of salt marsh on account of heavy and fast coastal erosion. Refuge managers are exhausting at work making an attempt to cease extra erosion and to revive misplaced marshes. 

Let’s take a second to understand the fragility and great thing about this panorama and the work being doing to guard it.

Huh, I hear Willets. 


Willets are a medium dimension, grey shorebird. Some dwell on the Gulf Coast year-round whereas others cease right here quickly to relaxation after crossing the Gulf, after which will proceed north and west to the Rocky Mountains and Higher Nice Plains. Judging by how briskly these songs had been, these Willets are right here to remain.

Did you hear that? It was a Clapper Rail. It is a very secretive marsh fowl, just like the Sora we heard in Yellowstone. Clapper Rails dwell most of their lives on the bottom, working by the cordgrass, staying nicely out of sight. We would hear them once more although.

Huh, a Marsh Wren. 

Take heed to that bubbly track.

Hear the Willets once more?

A Seaside Sparrow simply landed in entrance of us. What an important look!

There’s one other Clapper Rail.

I actually recognize the rhythm of the sparrows singing and waves crashing collectively. It is so soothing.

Effectively, are you prepared for a little bit of an journey? We have to make our approach inland to the brackish marshes, however there’s plenty of muck between us. Be further cautious to carry on to your boots.

So we have made our approach inland a bit to a brackish marsh. It is known as brackish as a result of it does not have strictly recent or salt water, however a mix of the 2. Much less saltwater means extra crops can develop right here, which you’ll clearly see the distinction. Let’s calm down into these cattails and take a look at what lives right here.

A lot extra life. The very first thing I hear is a Least Bittern. Hear that low, rhythmic “coo-coo-coo-coo”? That is very small heron that lives hidden in cattails and reeds. This one we’re listening to is just right here resting earlier than persevering with north to settle someplace throughout the jap half of the nation.


Widespread Gallinules! (***laughing***)

What a loopy sound!

I can see one simply out in entrance of us swimming. Take a look at its huge shiny pink and yellow beak. They love marshes and ponds like this with numerous floating vegetation. I am certain we’ll hear and see extra at present.

And proper on cue there’s one other calling.

Take heed to all the birds within the distance. They’re exhausting to single out, however I can hear Crimson-winged Blackbirds, Boat-tailed Grackles, a number of species of geese, and some shorebirds. Hopefully I am going to have the ability to level a couple of out to you.

Hear these metallic whistles?


These are from a Inexperienced-winged Teal. It is a tiny duck with a inexperienced and brown head. They winter down right here in these marshes earlier than heading as much as the very northern a part of the nation into Canada and Alaska.

This is our gallinule once more.

Woah! That harsh name, proper there, was from one other heron, a Inexperienced Heron. Just like the Least Bittern, they dwell in marshes and different sorts of wetlands, however Inexperienced Herons aren’t practically as secretive. Search for them alongside the shores on overhanging branches and fallen timber.

There is a traditional wetland sound.


You most likely already know this one. It is a Crimson-winged Blackbird. Such a typical fowl, however a phenomenal track you could’t miss.

You possibly can nonetheless hear the waves out on the coast. It is fairly wonderful how far that sound can journey. Sadly it’s also possible to hear some site visitors on the freeway a couple of miles away. Noise air pollution is basically exhausting to keep away from irrespective of the place you’re.

There is a flock of Black-necked Stilts. 

Hear them?


This could be probably the most elegant trying fowl on the market. They seem to be a considerably tall and slender shorebird with a black again, neck, and head, an all white underbelly, and shiny pink legs. It is completely beautiful!

The gallinules are swimming actually shut by. (***whisper***)

What a wild sound. (***laughing***)

This is a brand new one.

That ringing name was from one other shorebird, a Lesser Yellowlegs. Constructed equally to the Black-necked Stilt, however with a brown mottled physique and shiny yellow legs. This fowl will journey all the best way to the northern boreal forests or Arctic tundra to breed.

That low, strained groan is one other name from the Least Bittern.  

Bear in mind our Seaside Sparrow on the coast? That was its distant cousin the Swamp Sparrow we simply heard. Once more, like many of those birds, this Swamp Sparrow will quickly be on the transfer north to its breeding grounds.

Effectively, we began the day with a sparrow, so let’s finish it with a sparrow. I hope you had fun. I am going to see you on our subsequent Nationwide Park Nature Stroll.

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