It’s A Wild Wild Life

Turtles on a log at the Gulf Islands National Seashore – Davis Bayou.

December 14 – December 16, 2019.

I may have mentioned before that I have started planning where we go by just looking at Google Maps. I find that the green blobs on the map are usually interesting – being national parks, state parks, wildlife management areas, wildlife preserves, and other naturey things.

When I was looking at the map for things to do in Mississippi I saw a particularly large green blob not far from the coast near the Alabama border. I zoomed in on it. It was the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge. I clicked on the link to the website and found out that they give free bus tours of the refuge. No schedule was listed, they requested you just call ahead for info. I love tours – especially when they are free so I made a mental note to ring them up when I knew when we might be in the area.

When we made our plans to move on from Florida to Mississippi I checked the website again for the refuge’s phone number. This is when I noticed that there wasn’t going to be a tour the day we were planning to visit. There was going to be a free crane festival instead!

Crane Fest

I think this was my very first wildlife festival. Kind of like a music festival, there was a line up of presentations. Some of them overlapped but most of them repeated twice during the day. We made a plan hoping not to miss a thing.

Most of the presentations were in the visitor center. Outside there were booths from a variety of organizations ranging from an art museum to a brand new aquarium. I think every organization from a 50-mile radius involved with wildlife or the environment was represented.

The first presentation we went to was Going Batty with Vicky the Bat Lady! Most of the bats were in cages but they brought this little one out for everyone to see.
We had a 15 minute break before the next act, Birds of Prey with the Environmental Studies Center. Like the bats in the previous presentation, all these animals were rescues. Here we met Lucy the Screech Owl.
And Screech Owl Ricky.
Next up was barn owl Luna.
And Great Horned owl, Jasper.
Our last owl was a Barred Owl, Brodey. The Barred Owl call sounds like “Who cooks for you?”
Next up, Falcon Kestrel Casey.
Maverick the Red-Tailed Hawk. Most of the raptors ended up at the rescue because they were hit by cars. Garbage on roadsides attracts rodents, which in turn attract raptors.
Bailey the Broad Winged Hawk.
And finally we met Lucco the Bald Eagle. He was rescued because his beak twists to the right. He couldn’t survive in the wild. (Their beaks grow as our fingernails do, normally wearing down as they eat. His must be filed.)
Lucco can fly, though. Here he tries to lift his caretaker out of the room.
Outside we met Perigrine Falcon Apollo at the Wildlife Rehabilitation with Wildlife Care and Rescue talk.
In between presentations, we watched a Native American dance demonstration. This Choctaw family travels to pow-wows all over the country. The father watched his parents dance until he learned what styles he was interested in pursuing. Their son is doing the same. Here, the mom demonstrates a graceful dance.
Their daughter picked up dancing quickly. She competed against much older girls, winning and holding a championship for three years.
Son watches as Dad demonstrates a dance based on Prairie Chicken behavior.
One of my favorite booths was the bee guy.
This turtle was at one of the wildlife rescue booths outside. He had gotten a plastic 6-pack ring wrapped around his shell causing it to grow misshapen.
Another injured turtle.
You might be wondering where all the cranes are at Crane Fest. If you look to the right in this picture at the bottom of the tree line you can see a black stripe. This is a temporary pen meant for acclimating cranes to the environment of the refuge. Cranes at the refuge are hatched and reared in captivity. Once they are fully grown they are brought to the refuge and live in this temporary enclosure for a month while they get used to their new surroundings. There were three new cranes in the pen on Crane Fest. You could see the cranes through telescopes in the crane blind.
Our last animal presentation of the day was the Reptile Rendezvous. Here is Prince the King Snake.
Baby alligators have pronounced stripes that disappear as they get older.
They have lots of teeth, too. Alligators are rough on their teeth. This guy may go through 3000 teeth in his lifetime.
We thought we missed the Native Plant Walk & Talk but decided to head down the trail on our own. We ended up catching up with the group and joining the walk late. We would have missed many of these plants like this Parrot’s Beak Pitcher Plant if it wasn’t for our guide.
Maryland Golden Aster.
Ten-angle Pipewort.

The Gulf Islands National Seashore – Davis Bayou

After Crane Fest, we headed to another green blob on the map – Davis Bayou, part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. You may remember that we had previously visited the Gulf Islands National Seashore when were visited Fort Pickens in Pensacola. This National Seashore is actually a series of Islands running along the gulf coast of Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi. Many of these islands are only accessible by boat. And only two of the locations have campgrounds – Fort Pickens and Davis Bayou.

We camped for two days at Davis Bayou. We went on two ranger walks, an intro to birding (why we now own a pair of binoculars) and an alligator walk. We also broke out the kayak (she has a name now, Pirogue Bleue*) and spent an afternoon stalking birds with my camera.

* We were inspired traveling in Cajun country recently. Piroque is a cajun canoe. Bleue is the female French word for Blue.

Alligator at Davis Bayou.
Great Blue Heron.
We couldn’t camp at a bayou without taking Pirogue Bleue out for a paddle.
Great Blue Heron.
Snowy Egret.
Tricolored Heron.
Great Blue Heron.
Great Blue Heron.
Great Egret.
I think this raccoon was surprised to see us come around the corner in our kayak.

Do you have a fun or interesting wildlife experience? Have a favorite green blob on the map? Tell us about it in the comments!

6 thoughts on “It’s A Wild Wild Life

  1. A Wildlife Festival! I love it. You could have stayed an extra day to do the free tour… 🙂 Although, it looks and sounds like you got your activity fill, based on the photos. How interesting and fascinating. And, I can see why you own binoculars now. Glad to see you keep using the kayak. Were you in the water when spotting the alligators?

    Like you, we are attracted by green blobs on Google Maps, especially when looking for a lunch stop/picnic spot and to take Maya for a walk.

    Each time I read your blogs, I think: “We should do stuff like this more often.” I realize that being as frugal as we are, we do miss out on things. We easily skip sites with entrance fees, just because of that reason, like the St. Augustine lighthouse the other day.

    I also feel that I’d sightsee and visit more things if it wasn’t for Mark claiming it’s not worth the money to him, which doesn’t mean I couldn’t go (I have in the past), but it usually has me pass as well. 🙁 I’m determined to change this approach in the future, though.

    1. No we weren’t in the water when we saw the alligators. The ranger did assure me that they wouldn’t bother us if we saw any. I think it would be cool to see one while we are kayaking but a little unnerving.

      I kind of have a limit on how much we will pay for tours and entrance fees. Depending on the situation we might go over that. We paid for two lighthouse climbs in the Panhandle which I might have not normally sprung for but it seemed like the money was going for a good cause. This is why I don’t mind spending money for camping at National Parks sometimes – I love supporting National Parks and we get such amazing value out of our park pass.

      It is more fun to do these things with another person but perhaps you do need to just start leaving Mark behind. I don’t think we’ve ever paid for a museum or tour we’ve been disappointed in.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.