The rest of my break in Louisiana was quite hectic. Caroline worked, and I tried to keep up on school work that felt so distant. We continued to go walking around town quite a bit, and just enjoyed our time together. My friend Kevin, one of the few people I've kept up with since High School, drove over from Houston to spend time with us as he had never experienced Louisiana before. So, we took him to one of my favorite places: Boy Scout Road in Big Branch National Wildlife Refuge.
The Longleaf Pine-Freshwater Marsh ecotone in Big Branch is one of the most unique forests one can bird in. It is strange watching "Myrtle" Yellow-rumped Warblers and Pine Warblers forage in the trees while you are flushing Sedge Wrens from beneath the boardwalk and listening to the agitated calls of a King Rail. We continued on, pushing towards Lake Pontchartrain, but were unfortunately unable to view the distant city of New Orleans due to fog. On our walk back however, we were rewarded by amazing views at a close family group of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers. These endangered birds are locally common in native (and properly burned) pine savanna, and the one bird most people come to Big Branch to see. Interestingly, the scientific name of this southeastern USA endemic is Picoides borealis - a name drawn from the forests far to the north. In the early days of ornithology, many localities were confused, and it was likely that this southern bird was accidentally labeled as being from the far north, and named after its 'habitat'.
Red-cockaded Woodpeckers are most easily identified by their broad white cheek patches and raucous, squeaky calls.
After exploring the swamp, we headed south to New Orleans and enjoyed the French Quarter for a few hours before Kevin had to return to Texas.
In all, it was a good trip, but time always seems to pass too quickly, and before I knew it, I was back in Kansas, trying to get back to work.
A fishing spider eyes potential prey in Caroline's front yard.