Louisiana is known for a lot of things. Mardis Gras, New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina, crawfish, oil production, coastal erosion, chemical plants; all encompassed within one state and a whole lot of coastline. It’s that coastline, however, that called me to Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge, an oasis drawing migrating waterfowl like a magnet.

My husband and I pulled through the gates of the refuge an hour or so from sunset, already invigorated by the Snow Geese, ibises, and Greater White-fronted Geese we had seen feeding in the fields near Lacassine’s entrance. Early February brought a brisk wind to the region, and we mostly birded from the car as we drove a slow loop around the shallow wetland.

Is there anything better for a birder than when the target species are literally everywhere, with nothing to obstruct them? American Coot and Common Gallinules paddled serenely in the canals nearest the road, occasionally mixing with flocks of Ring-necked Ducks and Northern Shovelers. The water was generally open, edges rimmed with cattails and other bronze-hued emergent vegetation. Large flocks of ibis flew directly across the road, and Northern Harriers, Bald Eagles, and Red-tailed Hawks patrolled the skies. Wading birds were fewer in number than I would have expected, but we still spotted a Tricolored Heron, a Great Blue Heron, and a Great Egret.

Only encroaching darkness and a long way to our hotel forced us to leave; with more time, I would have made another hour-long lap around the tote road.

On the way back to the main road, we paused in the flooded fields once more. Here the shorebirds had landed, included yellowlegs and my personal favorite, Black-necked StiltsSo many Black-necked Stilts. Though difficult to see from the road, I warn all future visitors that this is private property, and only road-views are allowed. In the back of one such wet field, a flock of egrets and Roseate Spoonbills flew up in the air for just a moment, then fluttered back down again.

Over the course of an hour, my husband and I wracked up almost 30 species, many of which were year birds for me. Louisiana, I do so love you for your birding opportunities!

Written by Erika Zambello
Erika Zambello is a National Geographic Young Explorer who grew up in Maine, inspiring a deep interest in nature at an early age. She fell in love with birding after receiving a Sibley field guide for Christmas during her senior year in college, and has birded across the eastern seaboard and internationally ever since. To inspire others to protect birds and the environment, she has blogged for the Conservation Fund, Sarah P. Duke Gardens, Triangle Land Conservancy, and Duke University, and is writing a birding guide to Northern New England for Wilderness Adventures Press. She has founded OneWorldTwoFeet.com, and is currently living along the Emerald Coast in Florida's Panhandle. You can check out her exploration site or follow her on Instragram.