Lake Martin Swamp Tour

As I said, in the previous essay, Brenda and I went on a swamp tour last week. I suppose if you’re a Cajun living along the Bayou Tesche or the Atchafalaya Basis, this is no big deal. But for this Montana boy transplanted to Nebraska, the following is pretty cool. (You can click on the picture to see the full-sized version.)

An anhinga drying its wings in the windWe saw a few anhingas. This one is drying his wings in the wind. They are the only flying bird currently alive that has solid bones (not unlike the ancient flying dinosaurs). Modern flying birds have hollow bones. Their closest relatives are cormorants which were also abundant. Neither anhingas nor cormorants have oil in their feathers but they dive under the water to catch fish, so they spread their wings in order to dry their feathers.

A Little Blue Heron and Great EgretIn early March the egrets are nesting on Martin Lake. The nesting area is off limits to boats, but there were many egrets around. Along with the egrets were Great Blue Herons (which are abundant in Montana and Nebraska, so I didn’t bother taking a picture) and Little Blue Herons, which are new to me, so in a touristy manner, I clicked away with my camera.

Our tour guide did tell us something about Great Blue Herons that I did not know. He claimed they are the true bad boys of the swamp and, other than man, the only significant threat to alligators. He even had a series of photos of a Great Blue Heron killing and eating a three foot alligator (by spearing it in the head, flipping it up in the air, and swallowing it whole). We also saw a black crowned night heron and a spoonbill from a great distance but did not manage pictures of either.

Alligator laying on a logWe also got to see a number of alligators. This particular one, probably because it was Mardi Gras, had festively adorned himself with the closest thing he could find to Mardi Gras beads.

Cypress trunk made into a duck blindOur guide had also found a hollow cypress trunk that he was able to work loose from the ground. He attached it to a log and transformed it into a floating duck blind.

Pink cypress lichensThe cypress trees also had a lot of lichen and moss on it, including this neon pink variety. (Is it participating in the “Race for the Cure”? $100 for every tree ring I can grow in the next few centuries.)

The most disconcerting thing is how utterly turned around I got in the swamp. One cypress looks pretty much like the next one and the egrets on this side of the lake are pretty much like the egrets on the other side of the lake. An hour into the tour I was so totally lost that I had no sense of direction (it was a very cloudy day) and no sense of which direction the open water or the shore might have been. But in the hands of a good guide, it was most marvelous couple of hours.

Cypress tress growing in Martin LakeSnowy Egret


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