Wildlife Abounds at Jean Lafitte National Park’s Barataria Preserve
Encounter date: March 28, 2019
This national park is a real New Orleans-area treasure, with boardwalk trails through amazingly lush wetlands and swamp, filled to the brim with birds, amphibians and reptiles just waiting to be found by the curious adventurer.
Where Were You?
While staying with friends in New Orleans, we embarked on a short day trip to one area of this vast six-site historical park and preserve, named for an early 19th century French pirate and smuggler who set up operations in Barataria Bay, south of New Orleans.
The Barataria Preserve is a 23,000-acre wetland park, and we traversed the 3.5 miles (roundtrip) of the three connected trails: Palmetto, Bayou Coquille and Marsh Overlook.
Save the Little Rays of Sunshine
Barataria is actively engaged in nest box projects to buoy the declining population of the Prothonotary Warbler. March/April is prime courtship and nest time, so the Palmetto trail had so many of these adorable birds singing their hearts out. There are nest boxes all along the Visitor’s Center Trail and part of the Palmetto trail.
“Look at the Fake Alligator!”
Thank goodness the people in front of us that uttered that phrase did not follow it with reaching out or otherwise poking said alligator because it certainly wasn’t fake.
It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day in the swamp and the American Alligators were hauled out and sunning all along the trails. They were all varying degrees of “small,” and really fun to observe the beautiful texture of their skin glistening in the sun and their toothy grins.
Even on a Thursday, the trails at Barataria were pretty hopping. I am usually the slow-poke who has to be prodded along the trails to move along, so I was delighted that all four of our party were engrossed in a creepy-crawly slow-paced hike along the trails, stopping frequently to observe the cornucopia of amphibians, reptiles, bugs and plants along the way.
Lunch for Herons & Egrets
It’s always fun to watch the big, face-sword, stabby birds prowl around on the hunt for prey, and Barataria’s trail provided some entertaining opportunities.
Serenity in the Swamp
It’s easy on a temperate spring day to find yourself outside of time and unwilling to return to civilization. If you ever find yourself within striking distance of this beautiful park, I encourage you to stop by and enjoy the day…the naturalist in you won’t be disappointed!
Like any card-carrying bird nerd, I have a running ABA (American Bird Association) spreadsheet of all the species I’ve seen, and this trip offered four new additions.