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Thursday, April 05, 2018

Main News Photo

As spring turns the St. Landry Parish landscape from dull winter browns to brilliant greens, visitors come to the area to see gorgeous azaleas and flowering trees in bloom, the awakening of the earth in one of the prettiest places around, and, more and more of them, to take advantage of birdwatching opportunities that can be matched only by a handful of other places.


All year long, but especially during migratory periods in the spring and fall, St. Landry is one of the best places in the nation to look for birds. even at our parish landfill. Some 240 species have been identified in the parish, where a mixture of terrain and vegetation attracts everything from tiny hummingbirds and colorful songbirds to waders that love to keep their feet wet.

It is one of the parishes that, according to the Audubon Society, “provides a critical link between North American nesting grounds and wintering areas in Latin America for many songbirds and other neotropical migrants,” and is an important resting place for large numbers of birds that fly across the Gulf of Mexico or around its curving shoreline.   

Areas of the Atchafalaya Basin, on the eastern edge of the parish, provide “valuable stopover habitat for millions of . . .  migrants, including many species of thrushes, vireos, flycatchers, warblers, buntings, and tanagers,” and the basin is an important breeding ground for several species on the Audubon Watch List of species that appear to be in decline.

The Thistlethwaite Wild Life Management Area north of the town of Washington is a part of the America’s Wetland Birding Trail that links prime birding sites in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and other Gulf states. The designers of that trail note that “the rich ecosystems created by …  varied and unusual terrain [here] form a nurturing habitat for vast numbers of birds, including both those that are native to the region and many that migrate to or through the area each year.” Areas such as this preserve “are havens for birdwatching and bird photography,” trail guides say.

The Thistlethwaite management area encompasses 17 square miles of hardwood forest, which includes the largest diversity of oak species anywhere in Louisiana. Birding and nature walks are facilitated by 11 miles of wooded trails.

Site managers note that “in addition to woodland songbirds, raptors such as Red-shouldered Hawk, Mississippi Kite and Broad-winged Hawk appear regularly along these woodland edges.”

Still other species can be found on the Cajun prairies that begin to spread from western St. Landry Parish, where hedgerows offer habitat to birds that feast on seeds and insects abundant there. Crawfish ponds in prairie rice fields provide ample food and water for many birds. In fact, a survey by federal fish and wild life authorities found that the prairie “routinely hosts more red-tailed hawks, northern harriers, white ibis, and white-faced ibis than any other region in the United States.”

Throughout the parish, wooded residential lots and varied agricultural fields provide bed and board for birds of every description. No place is out of earshot of birdsong. Even St. Landry’s nationally recognized landfill has become a must-see for nature lovers.

When it was first created, twenty acres were set aside to be maintained as a wooded wetland. Today, visitors find wood duck boxes, alligators, a wildlife habitat, bird sanctuary, and peaceful ponds there. A state biologist routinely monitors the nature sanctuary to ensure that the birds and other wildlife can live happily nestled alongside the working landfill.

Three things to know about this story:

  1. Some 240 species of birds have been identified in St. Landry Parish,
  2. It is one of the parishes that, according to the Audubon Society, “provides a critical link between North American nesting grounds and wintering areas in Latin America.”
  3. Even at our parish landfill provides a haven for birds and other animals. 

 

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