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Small Stuff #69: Good Easter Hunting April 4, 2010

Posted by dianehuhn in Friends, Louisiana Wildlife.
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Small stuff that I am grateful for today: After a wonderful meal with good friends and thoroughly enjoying watching five little ones scour the backyard for Easter eggs, I stumbled upon these four little ones that looked like they were on a hunt of their own.

Small Stuff #68: Good Gator Friday April 2, 2010

Posted by dianehuhn in Louisiana Wildlife.
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Small stuff that I am grateful for today: seeing a very playful (or a very hungry) young gator.

So Spring has sprung on the bayou and, as my good friend BW can tell you, the gators have been out in full force. BW and tour de force saw 18 gators (and numerous snakes) yesterday! Check out the most awesome pics here. Yikes on those snake pics! Termite–you got the gift, buddy! Just super!

Well, I don’t think I saw 18 gators today, but I definitely saw a few. Including this either very playful, or very hungry, tike.

Small Stuff #67: More Raptors and Reptiles March 28, 2010

Posted by dianehuhn in Bayou Life, Louisiana Wildlife.
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Small stuff that I am grateful for today: more encounters with juvenile bald eagles. Seriously, these birds are soooo cool. I could watch them all day.

And a little up close and personal time with a juvenile gator. So cute! Wish I could get this close to the eagles.

Small Stuff #66: Back to Reality March 26, 2010

Posted by dianehuhn in Bayou Life, Louisiana Wildlife.
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Geez…looks like I’ve been gone a while. All good stuff–Spring break volunteer season has kept me on the run and filled my heart with much joy, but it’s time to get back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Small stuff that I am grateful for today…one adult bald eagle…

…one juvenile bald eagle…

…two juvenile bald eagles…

…and two angry alligators.

I love the bayou!

Small Stuff #64: Painless Purchases March 14, 2010

Posted by dianehuhn in Louisiana Wildlife, Relief Work.
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Small stuff that I am grateful for today: A fairly painless trip to Home Depot in preparation for a great team of volunteers from Iowa State/Memorial Lutheran Church (although this should probably be classified as big stuff since 99% of my trips to Home Depot are typically anythng but painless.)

Bonus: A beautiful Spring day enticed me to take the long way home and enjoy a few more encounters with Louisiana wildlife and landscapes.

For more Sunday in the Marsh images, click here.

Small Stuff #63: Creature Comforts March 13, 2010

Posted by dianehuhn in Louisiana Wildlife.
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Small stuff that I am grateful for today: After a week of hanging out with some pretty cool Illinois creatures, I enjoyed a day of hanging out with some pretty cool Louisiana creatures.

Bonus: Yesterday, I got hang out very briefly with this pretty cool creature.

For more Saturday in the Marsh photos, click here.

Long Days of Travel Brought Me From My Home… November 28, 2009

Posted by dianehuhn in Louisiana Wildlife, Photography, Travels.
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After my thoroughly informative and enjoyable trek through the world of Tabasco, it was time to head for the main attraction in my book–Jungle Gardens! I was a bit bummed that the sun had not decided to arrive while I was inside, but hey, it wasn’t raining so I decided I couldn’t complain too much.

So I headed back down the secondary gravel path to the main gravel path and hung a left, pulled in to the visitors center to pay my entrance fee and get my map to this 250-acre garden paradise. And not only did I not just get handed a map, I got a full blow-by-blow description of what awaited me around each bend by the most lovely and informative park attendant you could ask for. When I mentioned that this was my first trip to the island, Nonny grabbed her red pen and started circling and x-ing and drawing arrows to every little “must see” spot complete with reports on the wildlife she’d seen earlier that morning.  I haven’t seen that many red marks on a piece of paper since I got the first draft of my senior thesis paper back from Dr. Sipher at SUNY, Cortland. But while I wasn’t too excited about those red marks, I was practically drooling over these.

So armed with my map, I headed for the car and vowed to stop back with my report. I barely made it to the first corner before I had to pull over and grab the camera. I mean, could you ask for a more inviting path?

E.A. McIlhenny, son of the famed Tabasco genius Edmund McIlhenny, was the visionary behind this one of a kind treasure. An ardent naturalist and conservationist, McIlhenny was dismayed that the snowy egret had been driven almost to the brink of extinction by plume hunters supplying the feathered hat industry in the late 1800s. In an effort to save these graceful creatures, he gathered up the remaining seven left on the island, and built them a large cage over a pond. He also once built a cage for some nutria that he imported to the island, but that’s a whole different story that maybe we’ll save for another day.

Anyway, at the beginning of the next migratory season, he destroyed the cages, let them head south, and hoped for their return in the spring. And return they did, with friends in tow.

Now this guy really probably shouldn’t be here at this time of year, but Nonny seems to think he probably lost his mate round these parts and is waiting for her return. Oh, just break my heart why don’t you. But he was good for a bit of comic relief to cheer me up from that sad thought.

Another of my egret friends dropped by for a spell. He was a bit shy at first…

…but soon decided I was just another harmless Yankee with a camera.

You know, these guys are so graceful in profile, but pretty darn hard to take seriously when you meet them face to face.

Geez, I could have hung out in this spot all day, but I’d barely made it a half mile on the four mile path and I was itching to see what was waiting for me around the next bend. Oh man, doesn’t that look like an inviting spot for a picnic on a lazy summer day? Well, as long as no uninvited guests stop by.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, but ah yes, I had to take this one.

And I suspect that road is the one more traveled since it brought me to this.

I mean, are you kidding me? How did this get here?

And what a view.

Ok, must come back on a sunny spring day when the azaleas and the camellias and the irises are in all their glory and the 100,000 birds have returned from their winter vacation to enjoy this amazing Louisiana treasure. I guess we’ll just have to see if I can wait that long, but sure enjoyed a sneak peek. Hmmmm…where to next? So many choices. So little time.

Buddah Speaks
Peacefully I rest
Upon this lagoon’s bank
As pale green bamboo’s
Sway above my throne.
Clouds of blossoms
Soften the sifted light
Falling golden and misty
through the boughs above.
Long days of travel
Brought me from my home,
Yet I have known no hour of calmer rest
My thoughts are like
The swaying bamboos’ crest
waved to and fro
Above the rippling stream
Clear and blue
As from a glorious dream
–EA McIlhenny

If Birds Could Talk: The Great Egret November 21, 2009

Posted by dianehuhn in Louisiana Wildlife, Photography.
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Back by popular demand. Well, maybe not by demand. And I’m not exactly sure how popular the first two installments in this series were, but I enjoy these so just humor me, alright? Alight.

Back off buddy! That’s my crab.

Ok, ok, you can have it. Holy crap, how did this happen?

Ahhh! Come on. Leave me alone, would ya? I said you could have it.

Rahhhhh! I’m a Ningagret baby!

Dude! This guy has some serious issues.

Whew! I think I lost him. I’ll just go over to the other side of the canal if that will make you happy.

Oh my gosh! Are you kidding me? Fine. I’ll just hang with my friends the pelicans.

What the what? Come on people, can’t we all just get along?

Please don’t bite me. Please don’t bit me. Really, I’m just passing through to somewhere more peaceful. Please don’t bit me.

Ahhhh….that’s more like it. Wide open sky. Smell that beautiful marsh air. Now that’s what I’m talking bout, baby.

Lord have mercy! Am I on fire? Seriously, this is just not my day.

Night Heron Blues November 20, 2009

Posted by dianehuhn in Louisiana Wildlife, Photography.
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So a couple of yellow-crowned night-herons (nyctanassa violacea) have been chilling lately in one of my favorite spots out in the marsh. As you know, I really do dig those big birds of south Louisiana. I guess, however, that I’d classify the night heron as more of a medium bird in stature when compared to some of my other larger friends like the pelican or the great blue heron or the great egret or a whole host of other more typical winged creatures down the bayou this time of year. But it’s smaller size certainly doesn’t diminish my fascination with it.

Some locals refer to this magificant bird as gros-bec (pronounced as grow-beck) which basically translates as “big beak” due to it’s shorter, thicker and very powerful bill.

As you might have guessed from it’s name, the night heron is pretty much a nocturnal hunter which makes it a little tougher to photograph. They also seem to be a more rare to see than other herons such as the great blue or the little blue. During my travels, I guess I’d say I see night herons as often as I see green herons, which, well, isn’t super often. So it’s a bit of a treat for me to great up close and personal with these guys.

But, like I said, they tend to feed early in the morning and later in the evening when the light for snapping a great shot is a bit more of a challenge. And I also find myself tending to lower my camera when they’re around to just sort of drink them in with all of their surroundings.

The night heron tends to feed on crustaceans, mollusks, frogs and insects. They usually wait in ambush mode at the water’s edge or stalk their prey when it’s dinner time. And when they’re ready to attack, attack they do.

Their favorite bayou delight is the crawfish, but hey, it isn’t crawfish season so I guess a little crab is a mighty tasty alternative.

And they definitely don’t seem to play around with their food too long.

This guy seemed to swallow his meal whole in twenty seconds flat.

And as the sun began to set quickly as it seems to do down the bayou at this time of year, it was time to bid adieu to my medium-sized bird friend and hope for another chance encounter sometime soon. I just really like this bird. He’s just got this Joe-cool, rebel without a cause look and feel to him…kind of the James Dean of south Louisiana birds…like if he were a person, you’d see him riding down some lonesome highway on a vintage Indian with the wind in his yellow crowned feathers.

What’s in a Number? November 17, 2009

Posted by dianehuhn in Bayou Life, Louisiana Wildlife, Photography, Ramblings.
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So in my last post, I basically let the entire world know (well, maybe not the entire world, maybe more like 5 people) that I just turned 40. And the other night the Momster called to wish me a happy birthday and was like, “I read on that Blue Dog thing (ok, Mom, it’s called a blog) that you are lamenting your age.” And well, that’s not really it at all. It’s really more like, “What? Are we sure about this math? Hold on a sec. 2009 minus 1969 equals…wait, let me try this with a calculator. Ok, then. 2-0-0-9 minus 1-9-6-9. Hmmm…that’s weird. I guess it does equal 40. Or maybe this is just some kind of new fangled math. Yes, yes, that must be it.”

And again, don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m upset about this or something. I mean, I’m not having a mid-life crisis or anything. It’s just kind of weird, you know? Like…ok, hmmm…strange how that time thing works isn’t it? I mean, when I was a youngster, I pretty much figured I’d never make it past 30 so I think I kind of had my mid-life crisis at 15. And I’m sure the Momster will attest to that. Why I thought I wouldn’t make it past thirty is a tad fuzzy now, but I remember hanging out with my high school friends (who are now 40 or quickly approaching it which totally does not seem right either) trying to get someone to buy us alcohol (ok, Mom, just pretend you didn’t read that) and talking about Y-2-K although no one called it that at the time. It was just like, “oh my gosh, how weird is it going to be on December 31, 1999? Hey, we should all make a pact to get together for that New Year’s in New York City or something. That would be rad! We’ll party like it’s 1999!”

But honestly, I don’t remember exactly where I was or what I did on that New Year’s Eve, but I do remember getting up on January 1, 2000 and being glad that my alarm clock still worked and the TV stations were still on the air and my computer booted up just fine and there wasn’t some kind of “The Day After” landscape out my window. Not that I thought that was going to happen, but hey, no one knew for sure right?

Anyway, I guess I don’t have any new wisdom to share or insights in to the meaning of it all. I’m just thinking it’s time to enjoy another beautiful south Louisiana day and share a few pics of mullet flying through the air in all their majesty. What do you think? Isn’t that what it’s really about? Just enjoying where you are and who you’re with (but don’t take for granted that they’re going to be there tomorrow) and giving yourself a little challenge to be a better person than the day before? Not sure, but it works for me.

So…I’ve challenged myself to learn a little bit about the behavior of the mullet (from the family mugilidae). And let’s just say that they are a strange kind of bird in the world of south Louisiana fish. They seem to be best known for their jumping behavior although, honestly, nobody seems to have any definitive answers as to why they jump so much. Some say they jump to avoid predators. Others to say it’s to get rid of parasites. Who knows? But what I do know is that they jump a lot and they jump quickly and it’s not so easy to catch them in mid-jump with a camera. Most of the time, try as you might, you end up with something like this…

or this…

But with a little practice, you start to learn that mullet are kind of predictable. They typically jump about 3-4 times in a row. But if they flutter a little on that first jump, they probably won’t jump again right away. But if they fly out of the water on that first jump, you can sort of figure out where to aim the camera for the second, third, and if you’re lucky, fourth jumps. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to grab a good shot. Most of time you (well, me) get something like this…

Oh geez, I think that’s a fish. What is that? So, you just sit and wait and tune in your ears and eyes and try your luck again. Jump, click. Damn. Jump, click. Damn. Ok, well at least you can tell it’s a fish that time. Ooh, cool, he’s upside down.

Alright, let’s try again. And again. And again. Yes, definitely got him that time. Well, maybe not. But better.

Ok, come on guys. I’m getting tired and now the mosquitos are descending. Give me a break will ya? Alright, a little better. But could you jump a little straighter next time?

Ok, one more time and I’m outta here. Where is that bug spray?

Alright, my little flying fish friends, that’s gonna have to do it for today. We’ll try this again some other time. If I don’t get out of here soon, I’m going to be one giant mosquito bite. Oh, that’s a beautiful south Louisiana sunset. Click. Ahhh…thank’s buddy.