An Observation from the Bayou
by Wilton C. Corkern, President
I always enjoy visiting my family in Louisiana. There are also a few bonuses that come with the trip: a shoe shine in Louis Armstrong International Airport, the drive across the Bonnet Carre Spillway and the Atchafalaya Basin, oyster po-boys from Chris’s diner and crawfish at Prejean’s in Lafayette, and visiting some great wildlife habitat. One regular spot we visit is Lake Martin, in the edge of St. Martin Parish. It’s a great place to see birds, alligators, snakes, turtles, and other wildlife because one can see big stretches of Bald Cypress swamp without leaving the car (always a plus for my 94 year-old Mom).
On the most recent trip we saw hundreds of Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Louisiana Herons, Great Blue Herons, and Roseate Spoonbills on their nests and in the skies. Large (8” – 12” long) Red Eared Slider Turtles sunned on virtually every snag and log sticking up out of the shallow water. We saw the last of this year’s native Louisiana blue iris blooms. Then, just as we were about to leave the preserve, there was an alligator. We all spotted it about the same time. Anne could see its head; Mom could see its tail. All I could see was something big thrashing around in the green water. Anne said it was eating something. She saw it lunge and bite something, but then we couldn’t see what it was. I stopped the car and got out for a closer look. I stood on the side of the road with a clear view of the five footer’s head and mouth in the tall grass at the water’s edge. My reward was to see a fat Cottonmouth, about three inches in diameter, crosswise in the ‘gator’s mouth. It was chomping and jerking its head from side to side, working its way toward the snake’s head. Once the snake’s head was in its mouth, the alligator gulped it in and began swallowing it – chomp, chomp, chomp, chomp – until the blunt tail disappeared inside. I watched for another half-minute or so as the alligator slowly backed into the water and submerged. Then it was gone.
We headed back to Mom’s apartment in Lafayette where we made coffee and watched Ruby-throated Hummingbirds on the feeder in her garden just outside the living room window.