Paddle, Fish,

Run, Ride, Watch, Enjoy on Louisiana's Swamp Road 


Obnoxious Alligatorweed (Alternanthera philoxeroides) was accidentally imported to the US from South America in ship’s ballast-water around 1900 and immediately went about infesting coastal waterways from North Carolina to Texas. The stuff spreads out to cover a body of freshwater in mats so dense no sunlight gets to the plants and animals underneath and humans and wildlife can’t get through it. It will even crawl up on land where the soil is wet enough. Chopping it up doesn’t necessarily work because it can grow from the fragments. All it takes to infest a lake is to have someone carelessly carry some of it in on their boat trailer.  One lake was even dried up to kill a bad infestation until it was determined there were enough seeds left to re-infest the lake.

 In the 1970s some scientist went to where it came from to find out what eats and kills it (leaf beetles, thrips and snout moths). They declared the weed could now be eradicated. Unfortunately, that’s not the way it worked out and controlling the weed may require experimentation - trying the bugs, applying a range of aquatic herbicides and even using goats. Another factor is always money; state and local government budgets sometimes can’t keep up with it and control can only be spotty and/or infrequent.


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The Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) stands stock-still with a steely gaze, hunting on the edge of the water. Suddenly, it quickly uncurls its long neck and jabs its pointy beak to grab any fish, frog or insect that makes the mistake of coming too close.

These majestic birds are one of the largest birds of prey in Louisiana. The long-legged wader stands up to four and a half feet tall and can have a wingspan of over six feet. They are beautiful to watch in flight, gliding serenely up and down the bayou from one favorite hunting spot to another, seemingly floating along as they take measured strokes. One of their secrets is that, in spite of their great size, they weigh only 5 pounds.

If you happen to surprise one of these big birds you’ll be scolded with a loud, gruff squawk as they leap into the air to fly away. It’s an agitated kind of sound and the bird seems to emphasize its displeasure at the interruption by simultaneously lightening its load by ejecting the contents of its intestines.

Most of the time we see this bird alone by itself, but they do have a social life. During breeding season in early spring they take a partner with whom they do a little dancing, necking and staring straight up into the sky together. The couple usually occupies a previously used stick-nest high up in a tree, often with other nesting couples nearby. This rookery is referred to as a “heronry” by birding professionals. When the young are sufficiently raised up, the bird resumes the solitary life.Type your paragraph here.

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