Two popular foods in Cajun country are rice and crawfish. The former is traditionally a staple; the latter, more of a dish for special occasions. When I was growing up in Southwest Louisiana during the ’40s and ’50s, rice was grown on many farms in the region; however, crawfish were taken from bodies of water such as the huge Atchafalaya River Basin. Later, some rice farmers started converting their flooded fields to crawfish ponds on alternate years and became the first crawfish farmers. If you are interested, the crawfish farming process is described on this web page and crawfish harvesting is shown in this video.
Many species of waterfowl are attracted to crawfish ponds, so they have understandably become popular destinations for birders. Two weeks ago we discovered an area not far from our home that contains a tight cluster of rice fields and crawfish ponds. These are on both sides of a 1.6-mi-long gravel road, Dusty Road, named after either a person or a condition.
Here is a photo of part of a rice field adjacent to Dusty Road. The new levee at the front of the field is only few feet from the road.
The next image shows a crawfish pond a short distance down Dusty Road from the rice field above. Again, the front levee, older in this case, is only a few feet from the road. A close inspection of the photo reveals red-topped crawfish traps spread throughout the pond as well as several visiting Great Egrets.
We have made three trips to Dusty Road to date, two in the morning and one in the evening, and each time we’ve observed several species of waterfowl in and around the crawfish ponds. Our slowly approaching vehicle usually caused most of the birds wading near the road to fly or otherwise move rapidly away from the roadside levee. This did not seem to bother Donnette because, apparently, birders are satisfied as long as their subjects are close enough to be identifiable with binoculars. In my case, of course, it put a strain on my 100-400mm lens to produce sharp images of birds far from the roadside. Perhaps it is a matter of our automobile being strange to them, and maybe after we make more visits the birds will become less fearful of us. I can only hope.
By far, most of the birds seen in the ponds have been waders. However, while near the spot from which the preceding photo was taken, I noticed in the distance a Blue-winged Teal that was … well … ducking.
The dominant species we’ve seen in these ponds is the Great Egret. They are so plentiful that when you photograph one egret, another often appears accidentally in the frame. In the example below, shooting the flying egret led to my capturing another egret doing what they often do—perch on the red tops of the crawfish traps.
Another abundant species in these crawfish ponds is the Black-necked Stilt. Here is a pair wading near a crawfish trap.
Other bird photography from the rice fields and crawfish ponds near Dusty Road will be the subject of future posts to this blog.
The locations from which these photos were taken are shown on the map below. Zoom in for more detail. Note, however, that the character of the roadside fields and ponds has changed since Google’s map image was created.