Louisiana – Cameron Parish and Southwest Louisiana
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Vacation Style Holiday Type
Activity Level Leisurely
Group Size Medium Group
This is the Louisiana counterpart of High Island Texas, minus the crowds of people. We’ll spend a good part of our time in Cameron Parish, the state’s premier birding locale. It is positioned in the extreme southwest corner of Louisiana on the Texas border, and has vast marshlands and beautiful, bird-filled beaches. It is famous for its migrants and rarities. Ancient wooded ridges known as cheniers can abound with migrant songbirds.
Because of its location in the very center of the Mississippi flyway, nearly half of eastern North America’s migratory songbirds pass through Louisiana each spring. To help round out the week, we’ll also visit Sabine National Wildlife Refuge, Holly Beach, Old River Wildlife Management Area, Kisatchie National Forest, and Louisiana’s famous rice fields for shorebirds, waterfowl, long-legged waders, and rails.
We will drive into Texas one day for a visit to Sabine Woods and Sea Rim State Park. Expect to see 175 or more species on this incredible tour. Our focus will be migrant songbirds and the abundant aquatic species, with a host of specialty birds. There will be LOTS of birds, everywhere we go.
We will take a maximum of eight participants. On rare occasion we may extend the maximum to ten participants.
Duration: 8 days
Limit: 4 – 8
Date: We only run this trip by special request currently
Start: Lafayette, LA
End: Lafayette, LA
US$2890 per person sharing assuming 4 – 8 participants
Deposit: 25% of full tour price
Single supplement: US$615
We can run the same trip at a price similar to the larger group price for 2 tour participants, if they rent their own vehicle and pay for fuel – please e-mail [email protected] for details.
- Guiding fees
- Entrance fees
- All transport while on tour
- Domestic and International flights
- Items of a personal nature, e.g. gifts
- Alcoholic drinks
- Personal insurance
- Laundry Service
Meet at the Lafayette, Louisiana Airport at about noon, where the tour begins. It was great to return to this beautiful area after Hurricane Rita in 2007 and 2008, and the birding was excellent. Now, years later, we are going back after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and helping to pump money into the local economy with our presence.
Our first stop will be nearby Lake Martin for the impressive long-legged wader rookery, Roseate Spoonbills, and nesting Prothonotary Warblers. We may also see Barred Owl, Red-shouldered Hawk, Anhinga, Northern Parula, and our first of many American Alligators, which can be quite large.
Gulf Coast Birding
This morning we’ll bird our way southwest to the Gulf Coast, looking for Wilson’s Phalarope, Purple Gallinule, and Black-bellied Whistling-Duck along the way. We will spend the full day birding in Louisiana’s famed marshlands and beaches, concentrating on the expansive Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge. Target species include Neotropic Cormorant, Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Purple Gallinule, and Least Bittern. We will see King Rails, often with black, downy young. On past tours we found a Western Grebe swimming in the Gulf, and a small flock of Black Scoters migrating along the coast.
Oak Grove and Grand Chenier
Today we’ll drive east to Oak Grove and Grand Chenier to look for Neotropical migrants, Barn Owl, and Least Bittern. Whenever the proper weather conditions prevail, we will abandon our afternoon plans and bird the nearest chenier.
Northerly winds can bring down thousands of Gulf migrants, and the trees may be alive with warblers, vireos, thrushes, tanagers, grosbeaks, and other songbirds. Fallouts such as these have produced first state records including Townsend’s Warbler, Hepatic Tanager, and Hooded Oriole. Let the north winds blow!
Rockefeller and Cameron-Prairie National Wildlife Refuges
We will spend a full day in coastal refuges including the famed Rockefeller and Cameron-Prairie National Wildlife Refuges. Here we may find Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Dickcissel, Painted Bunting, and a nice variety of waterfowl. Some time spent scoping rice fields could produce a few Marbled and Hudsonian Godwits, Franklin’s Gull, and many other aquatic species.
We’ll search for Crested Caracara, the northernmost population on the continent. Whenever we have a free hour early or late in the day, East Jetty Beach, just a mile south of Cameron, is excellent for shorebirds, gulls, and terns. Oak groves in and near Cameron can yield interesting songbirds, including White-crowned Sparrow and Summer Tanager.
Heading to Texas
This may be a good day to drive into East Texas to visit Sea Rim State Park and Sabine Woods (pronounced suh BEAN’). On a previous tour we planned our visit with the midday arrival of a cold front and a brief, heavy rain. This resulted in the fallout of hundreds of Neotropical migrants: 50 Orchard Orioles, 75 Indigo Buntings, half a dozen Painted Buntings, FOUR Cerulean Warblers, Western Kingbirds, Philadelphia and Yellow-throated Vireos, almost 20 different warblers, and many more wonderful birds. It was quite an afternoon!
Last year we found a roosting Chuck-will’s-widow at Sabine Woods. What a great bird!
A return to Holly Beach may yield a few seabirds such as a Parasitic Jaeger or Northern Gannet. Rarities in the Holly Beach area during recent spring migrations include Masked Duck, Tropical Kingbird, and Shiny Cowbird, among many others. Sabine Lake and Blue Buck Pond are good for Whimbrel, Long-billed Curlew, and a variety of waterfowl.
By now we should have seen Inca Dove, White-winged Dove, and Eurasian Collared-Dove. Other possibilities include Anhinga, Summer Tanager, and Brown-headed Nuthatch.
We’ll drive north and spend the night in the town of Lake Charles, 40 miles from the coast.
Overnight: Lake Charles
Calcasieu and Beauregard Parishes and Kisatchie National Forest
Today’s birding will be an inland loop through Calcasieu and Beauregard Parishes. We’ll look for Mississippi and Swallow-tailed Kites at Niblett’s Bluff, Greater Roadrunner at Old River, and pine forest specialties such as Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Bachman’s Sparrow, Pine Warbler, and Brown-headed Nuthatch in Kisatchie National Forest. The river bottoms may yield Barred Owl, Red-headed Woodpecker, and Swainson’s and Prothonotary Warblers.
Overnight: Lake Charles
Heading Home or to Mobile, AL
Our final morning will be open for anything we want to do. If we missed Red-cockaded Woodpecker yesterday, there will be more time to look for it this morning. If our target species cooperated, then another search of the rice fields may yield an unusual shorebird such as a Curlew Sandpiper or Ruff.
We will spend several hours at a turf farm, landfill, and adjacent back roads to look for Crested Caracara, Swainson’s Hawk, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, and Buff-breasted and Upland Sandpipers. We found a Lark Sparrow here last year, quite unusual for this region.
After lunch we’ll drive to Lafayette Airport, where this fantastic tour ends. Or, hopefully you will join me on the drive to Mobile and on to the Dauphin Island, Alabama Tour. That drive last year produced a large flock of Sandhill Cranes, a Red-headed Woodpecker, and an adult Bald Eagle!
SOUTHWEST LOUISIANA TOUR
17-24 April 2016
Top 10 lists are voted upon by the participants at the completion of each tour.
1 – Golden-winged Warbler – Fantastic looks at a male in Peveto Woods, which is a sanctuary maintained by Baton Rouge Audubon, and the finest migrant trap in Cameron Parish.
2 – Blackburnian Warbler – Three in one tree, same woods, same day as above. And a fine day it was!
3 – Roseate Spoonbill – We saw them well almost every day of the tour, as many as 25 in a single day.
4 – Chuck-will’s-widow – Jeanne found this bird perched in a tree in Sabine Woods. This species is nocturnal, so it likely spent the entire day there.
5 – Crested Caracara – A rather unique member of the falcon family. We were lucky enough to find them on three separate occasions.
6 – Magnificent Frigatebird – Great look at an adult male soaring near the Gulf Coast.
7 – Red-cockaded Woodpecker – We saw and heard three of these federally endangered woodpeckers at Kisatchie National Forest, on our final full day of the tour.
8 – American Redstart – Males and females were seen well on the day that we visited Peveto Woods, Louisiana and Sabine Woods in nearby coastal Texas. It is truly beautiful to watch them feed.
9 – Fulvous Whistling-Duck – Seen perched and flying at Cameron-Prairie and Lacassine NWRs, both near the town of Cameron. It was a life bird for Chris!
10 – Bachman’s Sparrow – There were several heard and seen well at Kisatchie National Forest, in the same piney woods habitat as the Red-cockaded Woodpeckers. We had very good scope views.
We saw Atlantic Bottle-nosed Dolphins close to shore on several different days. A group of three Coyotes was a nice surprise on our final morning. Additional mammals included Nutria, Swamp Rabbits, and Eastern Fox Squirrels. American Alligators were a daily occurrence. We observed several Banded Watersnakes and a Yellow-bellied Racer. We watched a Thresher Shark being caught, plus lots of Blue Crabs.
Will we do any birding the first day?
YES! – Assuming that everyone’s flight arrives before dark. One of our first targets is only a few minutes from from the airport.
How should I dress for the tour?
Check the weather for the destination as close to your departure date as possible, and dress accordingly for your comfort level. You can also review our What to Bring page for more information.
Besides clothes, what do I need to bring?
There are many items the will be useful to you while on a Bird Treks tour. We have put together our list of recommendations on the What to Bring page.
What language are tours conducted in?
Our tours are all conducted in English, but we do have some experience working with client that don’t speak English well – Some English would be needed for safety reasons. In locations where another language is predominately spoken, a native guide may accompany the tour.
Can you help me book flights?
Yes, we will always try our best to help with anything at all! We’re here to serve you. However, it is usually easier if you book your flight through your own travel agent as we can’t always get the best deals from your particular country. But we will help whenever needed!
Can you book accommodation for us the night before the tour starts or the night the tour ends?
While Day 1 is usually a travel (arrival) day, and the last day of the tour is usually also a travel day (departure), many people do like to arrive early and/or leave late. We can indeed book extra nights before and after the trip, and we in fact recommend you let us book them, as it avoids confusion and allows us to book the accommodation that is most convenient for the tour.
NOTE: Most often it is the same hotel or lodge that you use on the first night of the tour, but in some instances, it could be an airport hotel or an accommodation establishment where the guide is staying.
Do you provide trip insurance?
No, we do not. We find that it is better for trip participants to purchase their own medical, trip cancellation, and baggage insurance through their own insurance provider in the country they reside in. We expect all tour participants to have comprehensive insurance, and we encourage everyone to send us a copy of their insurance documents.
Are meals included?
For most tours, meals are included in the tour price. This may include a hotel-provided breakfast, or guide-provided box lunches. For dinners, we strive to find interesting and delicious local restaurants – this allows us to give back to the local economy, and find exciting new place to eat.