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HomeNL-2013-08 Bird Fest

 Bird Fest 2013
Lake Charlotte
July 7, 2013
by Joe Coker

Coordinators: Joe Coker and Dave Kitson

Participants: Joe Coker, Dave Kitson, Natalie Wiest & Ellen, Will Blumentritt, Cindy Cox, 
                    Diana Cooper, Paul Woodcock




The weather was kind to us for the Bird Fest. Forecasted 60% storms were a serious concern but never really materialized. Outside of some actually welcomed showers and a few distant rumblings, conditions were fine for paddling. The gauge was at about 8 feet, and winds were calm in the morning, rising to the usual 10-15 mph later on.


In view of possible bad weather, the original plan of doing a semi-circumnavigation of Lake Charlotte was modified to a shorter, less exposed route allowing for a fairly quick, more protected sprint home if need be. Our revised objective was to focus on Buzzard Roost and then go from there, if the weather was safe, up toward Mac Lake to visit the smaller rookery on Mac Bayou North. Side trips would be added into Secret Cut and The Sulfur Cut for lunch, weather permitting. As it turned out, the storms never really threatened, and we were able to accomplish everything, for a total of about 8.5 miles. 


We got underway from Cedar Hill shortly after 9:00, and did a rather hasty crossing down to Buzzard Roost... about a 1 mile straight shot. There were formidable clouds looming; occasional thunder in the distance; zero wind; water like glass... Calm before the storm?!? Maybe, but the worst of it was moving away from us and posed no immediate threat... Safe enough to go.
The activity at the Roost was everything we had hoped for... Incredible how quickly the tiny chicks from just a few weeks ago had transformed into beautiful, young adults. The roseate spoonbills dominated the scene... some perched placidly with their proud, more brightly-colored parents... others cavorting raucously in what seemed to be the designated Birdie Daycare Center!  We lingered a good long while, taking in all the action and snapping hundreds of pics. The cloudy skies made for some interesting lighting, and Lake Charlotte cooperated with nice flat water.

At last, we headed back north toward Mac Bayou. The storms were holding off, so we took the more leisurely, scenic route up the coast. Salvinia was ever-present, but thankfully seemed not as bad as last time, allowing us to paddle quite far back in among the trees and knees. Always beautiful. As we rounded Sand Island, except for intermittent light showers, conditions were still reasonably good, so we proceeded on up Mac Bayou. Interestingly, there wasn’t a single gator to be seen in the usual spots... Maybe, unlike us, they were heeding the storm warnings and had taken cover!


The trip out the Bayou was as pretty as usual, and we were across the Sulfur Cut  and up into the north leg in short order. It wasn’t long before we started hearing sounds from the near-by rookery. Activity there had diminished significantly from our last visit a few weeks ago, but there was still plenty to see at all levels of development. The general appearance of this rookery, which I’ve taken the liberty of unofficially naming “North Rookery”, is very different. Unlike the openness of Buzzard Roost with thick, protective foliage favored by the spoonbills, this rookery is nestled back in the twisted low trees and vines of the swamp. A myriad of unprotected, twig nests occupy almost every possible spot, and it is populated primarily by a variety of egrets and small herons (no spoonbills). Again we lingered a long while taking in all the action and snapping lots of pics. It’s unfortunate that more folks couldn’t make the trip and enjoy this spectacle of nature, but then again, our small group was much less disturbing to the birds and enabled us to get in close without causing much alarm.


The weather was still safe, so we finally pushed on and up into Mac Lake... beautiful and peaceful as always in its remoteness. Pressing our luck, we headed for the top end. But no sooner had we started, when the skies finally opened up with a drenching downpour. We took what meager shelter there was along the shore, and within a few minutes the rain slacked off. It was hot and humid, so the brief shower actually felt refreshing. Our tummies were growling by then, so we headed back down the bayou. Couldn’t resist a peek into Secret Cut on the way. It rained again while we were in there adding an eerie touch to this special spot.



The clouds were moving off as we proceeded south and reached Sulfur Cut, so we turned left into the lagoon and stopped for lunch at our usual place. Dave, Will and I explored the upper end a bit before rejoining the others for the trip back. Strangely, there were fewer gators around than might be expected at this time of year... just a few young ones... one on the north bayou and two on the Sulfur Cut. The effect of hunting? Salvinia affecting the food supply? Another Charlotte mystery.


The wind was freshening and our energy was waning, so we set course for home. As usual, Charlotte provided her “Afternoon Delight”... The water had kicked up substantially making for a bumpy slog across the final .6 miles to Cedar Hill. Very happy to finally reach land... A little tired but all good... We had beaten the weather odds and had a good time doing it!


Thanks again to all who attended for braving the elements and making more great Charlotte memories! And a special thanks to Dave for helping to organize the trip in my absence and for providing nice cold watermelon to top off the day!


Report and photos by: Joe Coker


The author, Joe Coker