Leaving the Hill Country of Texas on August 5, I drove straight east into the southwest corner of Louisiana where I visited Sabine National Wildlife Refuge. My stay there was brief (part of one very hot night, after which I crashed in a motel). The next day I traveled northward to Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge in south-central Arkansas. Below are highlights from those two locations.
Sabine National National Wildlife Refuge
Sabine National Wildlife Refuge is a large expanse of coastal marsh in the southwest corner of Louisiana (see above photo). I arrived at the “Wetland Walkway” at about 7:45pm pm on the evening of August 5. It was almost dusk, so I grabbed my parabolic microphone and rushed down the trail to the boardwalk, in hopes of capturing some bird action before the marsh musicians settled-in for the night. Within a minute, I homed-in on a Marsh Wren, singing at a good pace in thick marsh vegetation to one side of the boardwalk (see above for featured recording).
I don’t consider this a “stellar” catch because I have dozens of marsh wren recordings in my collection. Nonetheless, it was great hearing his chattering, cheerful-sounding song, an unexpected delight given that it was early August (I presume that the male was still occupied with breeding activites).
Moments later I came across a noisy flock of Boat-tailed Grackles. They were dull brown and appeared (to me) to be immatures. I was able to get a very nice recording before they flew away. While the average listener may not find their harsh notes very exciting, I was quite pleased because (I believe) it’s my one-and-only example of this particular call:
Calls from a flock of immature Boat-tailed Grackles. 8:40pm 5 August 2016. Sabine National Wildlife Refuge, near Hackberry, Louisiana © Lang Elliott.
Want to hear what an adult male Boat-tailed Grackle sounds like? Well, I found one along the boardwalk and got a sampling of its variable calls (or are those songs?):
Calls and songs of an adult male Boat-tailed Grackle. 8:50pm 5 August 2016. Sabine National Wildlife Refuge, near Hackberry, Louisiana © Lang Elliott.
As darkness descended, I returned to the parking lot and was surprised by the sudden arrival of a flock of Snowy Egrets. They swirled overhead and then landed in a patch of trees, croaking loudly as they secured their roosting spots for the night:
Snowy Egrets croaking at roost. 9:30pm, 5 August 2016. Sabine National Wildlife Refuge near Hackberry, Louisiana. © Lang Elliott.
The marshland was surprisingly quiet in the darkness of the night. At one location, I could hear a very distant chorus of Green Treefrogs (Hyla cinerea) but there was no way to get close. I decided to call it quits and headed north, hoping to find a motel somewhere and get a good night’s rest. But just before leaving the refuge, I stumbled upon a treefrog chorus right next to the road and got a very nice soundscape:
Chorus of Green Treefrogs calling from marsh. 11pm, 5 August 2016. Sabine National Wildlife Refuge near Hackberry, Louisiana. © Lang Elliott.
Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge
A broad expanse of southern swamplands, Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge has long been one of my favorite stopovers. If I hold up my end of the deal, I seem to always walk away with several useful recordings. This visit was no exception, though I did have to work hard under rather hot and humid conditions.
I arrived just before dusk and quickly set up camp. Aside from cicadas, nothing much seemed to be sounding off, but then I heard the calls of two Gray Squirrels off in the distance. I carefully approached them with my parabolic microphone and snagged a brief recording before they quit calling. Note how one individual ends his call with a sweet, downward whistle. That’s a new variation for me!
I have no idea what these Gray Squirrel calls mean, although the two squirrels seemed quite close to one another. Even though I couldn’t see them because of intervening saplings, I assume they were interacting. The calls are rather melancholic in effect (in a human sense), but we should not presume the callers were in that particular state of mind. On another note: dang those pesky flies!
Two Gray Squirrels calling at dusk. 7:40pm, 6 August 2016. Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge near Crossett, Arkansas. © Lang Elliott.
In spite of the humidity, heat, and the constant hum of mosquitoes outside my tent, I had a fairly restful sleep … no bothersome owls or coyotes to shake me from my dreams. I awakened fresh the next morning to a pleasant dawn chorus of cardinals, crows, Indigo Buntings, and trilling crickets:
Cardinal singing at dawn, with crows, trilling crickets and songs of Indigo Buntings. 7am, 7 August 2016. Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge near Crossett, Arkansas. © Lang Elliott.
Walking around a large pond, I stopped to record a group of crows, their resonant calls enlivening the soundscape. Listen also for the songs of Indigo Bunting, the buzz of flies, distant calls and an outburst from a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and of course the constant backdrop of trilling tree crickets and ground crickets:
Resonant crows plus other bird sounds, against a backdrop of trilling crickets. 7:15am, 7 August 2016. Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge near Crossett, Arkansas. © Lang Elliott.
Homing-in on an Indigo Bunting, I was quite lucky to also capture an intimate series of resonant calls of a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, hidden among thick shrubs quite close to me … but dang those big flies that kept buzzing by my microphone!
Indigo Bunting and Yellow-billed Cuckoo. 7:30am, 7 August 2016. Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge near Crossett, Arkansas. © Lang Elliott.
As the day wore on, I decided to spend another night in the area, camping at nearby Moro Bay State Park. At dusk, a thunderstorm blew in and I drove nearby highways in search of … you guessed it … FROGS! I soon found an interesting chorus, but I only got a brief snippet. Why? Because a big lightning strike nearby sent me scurrying back to my car. So here is the snippet featuring the nasal notes of Green Treefrogs (Hyla cinerea) and the rattling trills of Cope’s Gray Treefrogs (Hyla chrysocelis):
A chorus of Green Treefrogs and Cope’s Gray Treefrogs. 10pm, 7 August 2016. Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge near Crossett, Arkansas. © Lang Elliott.
I drove back to my camp and waited until the storm had blown over. Then I went back to the spot where the frogs were cranking earlier in the night. To my dismay, they were silent, although I did find a single Cope’s Gray Treefrog calling from shrubbery next to the road. I’m quite pleased with this sublime recording, which features drip from nearby pines and the trills of crickets. It’s also a very fitting recording for ending this post … a meditative and immersive listening experience:
A lone Cope’s Gray Treefrog with drip from pines and cricket trills. 1am, 8 August 2016. Recorded on a backroad near Moro Bay State Park, Arkansas. © Lang Elliott.
Imagine actually being there. A hot summer night after a rain storm, pitch black darkness, gentle drip from the the pine woods, crickets softly trilling, and one frog punctuating the soundscape with intermittent rattling calls. Simple yet complex. The music of nature at its best.
I hope you have enjoyed these eleven highlights from the Louisiana and Arkansas portion of my trip. Next up will be recordings from the forested hills of western Kentucky. I got some compelling material there and I’m sure you’ll be delighted. So please stay tuned!
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