Borrego Springs, CA

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge

Doug Hunt, the volunteer coordinator at Mississippi Sandhill Crane NWR, took all of the volunteers on a field trip today to Big Branch Marsh NWR in Lacombe, LA.

IMG_8898It took us an hour and a half to drive to this refuge.  This is the Visitor’s Center for the eight National Wildlife Refuges in Southeast Louisiana.  It used to be a church, so it was interesting to see how it has been transformed into a visitor’s center. 

57 MS Sandhill Crane NWR6The surrounding grounds were once formal gardens, and quite a few camellia trees/bushes were in bloom.  The gardens have suffered from the unusually cold winter this year.  The refuge is located on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain.  Across the lake is New Orleans.

IMG_8900I had to check out the sites for the RV volunteers at this refuge.  I always try to think ahead and look at possible future places to volunteer.  :)  There are five sites with an outdoor cooking/eating area, and a building housing the laundry facilities.  I believe each site had a concrete patio area in addition to the very level graveled parking area.

_MG_8917Since Doug used to work at this refuge, he was very familiar with it and took us on a driving tour of Lacombe and the refuge.  There were plenty of snowy and great egrets along the marsh drive.

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At one point, we were even treated to the antics of a hunting and feeding river otter.  We just happened to be in the right spot at the right time.

IMG_8911This flock of scaups paddled their way away from us as we slowed down.

_MG_8958 _MG_8964

The highlight of the day for several of us was the spotting of an endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.  This is the only woodpecker in North America that builds it’s nest in a cavity of a live, rather than dead, tree.  They are a very interesting species, and I was happy to again see one.  I could do a whole post on the uniqueness of this species, but will refrain from going there tonight.  :)


We stopped at a local restaurant that Doug knew about for lunch, and I continued my comparison study of shrimp po-boys.  :)  I have to say, that this was the best one yet!  Sweet potato fries seem to be a popular side here, and I think next time I’ll order that as regular French fries in the area are less than memorable.  After that, it was time to make the long trek back to MS.


The sun came out in the afternoon, but temps tonight will be back into the 20’s, so I’ll be letting the faucet run again when I hit the hay.  Not sure what tomorrow will bring.


Thanks for stopping by…. talk to you later,  Judy


  1. I've always been fascinated by woodpeckers. I enjoyed all your pictures. I'm happy to hear that what might have been a vacant and run-down church has been repurposed to be used as a visitor's center. Thank you for posting an occasional picture of a building for us architecture-lovers! ;)

  2. I can't help but wonder if a visitor will come along who will genuflect when entering the VC.

  3. Looks like the volunteers all have pretty big motor homes. Are they usually full timers?

  4. Loved the pictures of the flowers. I don't think I have ever seen a red and white camellia before. As always, great bird photos and information. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Another interesting blog with great photos! Thanks!

  6. Beautiful camillia's even if they are damaged from the cold weather. Thanks for the lesson on the woodpecker.

    Oh, and thanks for the ID on the great-tailed grackles I posted the other day.

  7. Beautiful flowers, the pictures are great!

  8. Love the woodpecker. However, we had one attach itself to our house in Montana and thought we'd never get rid of him. He about drove me nuts. And we love sweet tater fries.

  9. We are trying to lure a Downy Woodpecker to our suet feeder at home, but haven't seen one yet..Do you know if they are a migratory bird?? We haven't been home in the winter in 5 years so we have not a clue...we are in Indy right now....

  10. If I would see one of those beautiful birds, I wouldn't really know what I was seeing. So glad it was you and not I. Thanks for sharing this great refuge with us.