Heading into its seventh successful year, the Eagle Expo is a tribute to the return of the American bald eagle to Louisiana, which was removed from the endangered species list in June 2007. Laws banning the use of harmful pesticides such as DDT and greater public awareness and education have increased the bald eagle population throughout Louisiana and the United States. Currently, there are 284 active nests in Louisiana with a large concentration in the St. Mary and Terrebonne Parish areas.
This year’s expo will include a presentation by Save Our American Raptors (SOAR)-South on Feb. 9, from 6-7:30 p.m. at the Patterson Civic Center. This presentation is a lively and informational presentation showcasing a variety of live raptors including a falcon, a hawk, an owl, a black vulture and a bald eagle. SOAR is sponsored by the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program.
A photography workshop taught by renowned wildlife photographer C.C. Lockwood will be held Feb. 10. Lockwood is known for his numerous publications and books, especially his 11th book, “Marsh Mission,” which brought attention to the crisis of the vanishing Gulf Coast wetlands. His photography has been featured in prominent publications such as the Smithsonian magazine and National Geographic magazine.
The workshop includes a seminar at the Atchafalaya Golf Course in Patterson beginning at 9 a.m., with a field trip to Bayou Black beginning at noon. The boat trip to Bayou Black will focus on birding and marsh landscapes. The workshop requires separate registration and payment. Contact Lockwood at www.cclockwood.com or call 225-769-4766 to register. Space is limited.
Tours to view eagles will take place Feb. 10 and 11. Featured waterways include the Atchafalaya Basin, Lake Verret, Turtle Bayou, Bayou Black, and Bayou Long. Tours will be 9-11 a.m. and 1-3 p.m. on Friday and 9-11 a.m. and 2:30-4 p.m. on Saturday. Each featured boat tour offers something different to attendees.
The Atchafalaya Basin is the largest overflow swamp in the U.S. with 10 distinct aquatic and terrestrial habitats. Home to over 170 bird species, 50 mammalian species, 40 reptilian, 20 amphibian species and 100 species of fin fish and shellfish, the basin offers more than just eagles.
The Bayou Black Tour meanders through old oil and gas canals. Birds of prey including bald eagles, ospreys and various species of hawks call this place home. Other birds likely to be encountered include various species of ducks, wading birds and song bird species.
Lake Verret and Bayou Magazille highlight another part of the basin spillway. Past participants have seen bald eagles and ospreys soaring overhead, fishing, or resting on treetops along the waters edge. Other wildlife including blue heron, snowy egret, great egret, white ibis, belted kingfisher, red-tailed hawks, double-crested cormorants, anhinga, the American white pelicans and an occasional peregrine falcon have been seen.
The Turtle Bayou Tour includes two small natural bayous that provide for fantastic views and local wildlife. Aside from eagles, other birds likely to be encountered include anhingas, double-crested cormorants, red-shouldered hawks, white ibis, yellow-rumped warblers, carolina chickadees and various species of terns and gulls.
The Bayou Long Tour includes various waterways including Lake Verret, Bayou Magazille, Fourmile Bayou, Grassy Lake, Bayou Cherami, Bayou Milhomme, and Lake Palourde. On this tour you will be able to view bald eagles and their nests, blue heron, great egret, belted kingfisher, white ibis, and various species of birds.
On Feb. 10, from 6-8:30 p.m., there will be a dinner and a presentation by writer Ann McCutchan, author of “River Music: An Atchafalaya Story” at the Petroleum Club of Morgan City.
Louisiana’s Atchafalaya River Basin, the heart and soul of Acadiana, or Cajun country, is the focus of McCutchan’s compelling narrative. A masterful weaving of cultural and environmental history, “River Music: An Atchafalaya Story,” also tells the life story of Louisiana musician, naturalist, and sound documentarian Earl Robicheaux.
An original blend of nature writing, music history, biography, journalism, and memoir, “River Music: An Atchafalaya Story” eloquently celebrates the one-and-half-million watery acres that have shaped the lives of the people there and been transformed by the people in return. An epilogue written in the aftermath of the deepwater horizon explosion and the devastating oil spill that followed provides a fitting and emotional addition to this memorable book.
McCutchan began her writing career as classical music critic for the Austin American-statesman and art and antiques columnist for Gannett News Service. As a journalist, she wrote hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles on the fine and literary arts, family issues, travel, and the environment, and received a Distinguished Achievement Award from the Educational Press Association of America.
She has been awarded grants, fellowships and residencies from a number of prestigious foundations. She holds music degrees from Florida State University and the University of Michigan, and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Houston. She is the founding director of the University of Wyoming’s MFA creative writing program, and has taught creative writing at the University of North Texas since 2005.
Feb. 11 will feature a variety of speakers including Michael Sealy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Donna Dittman and Steve Candiff, LSU Museum of National Science; and Reese Lukei Jr., the Center for Conservation Biology at the College of William and Mary.
Sealy will give an overview of the American bald eagle throughout the United States with a special emphasis on the National Eagle Repository. His presentation will begin at 7:30 a.m.
Dittman manages the Genetic Resources Collection — the world’s largest frozen tissue repository. She is also the museum’s specimen preparator. Candiff is manager of the Bird and Mammal collections.
In addition to their involvement in ornithological research projects in Louisiana and elsewhere, both are also members of the Louisiana Bird Records Committee, with Dittman serving as secretary and Candiff as chair. They will be speaking about the status and identification of eagles and other large, dark, confusing raptors in Louisiana.
Lukei has been a volunteer for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since 1974 and a licensed bird bander since 1979, specializing in raptors. He participated in the peregrine falcon reintroduction program at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge from 1978-82.
Lukei operated a raptor banding station at Eastern Shore of Virginia NWR from 1985-2003. He has been a research associate at the Center for Conservation Biology at the College of William and Mary (CCB) since its founding in 1991 and has banded about 16,000 raptors. He currently manages a live bald eagle web cam for CCB at Norfolk Botanical Garden (www.NBGS.org), which in 2007 was named one of the 10 best live wildlife web cams in the world.
Lukei’s PowerPoint program will educate guests on how to identify bald eagles during their first five years, and it will explain how satellite tracking works, some of the data collected through this research, and the wanderings of the eagles being tracked.
The Cajun Coast Visitors and Convention Bureau has partnered with BTNEP, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Conrad Industries, Johnny’s Propeller Shop, LouisianaTravel.com, the Audubon Society, LUMCON and volunteer birding enthusiasts to showcase not only the American bald eagle, but the numerous species of birds and wildlife found within the Atchafalaya Basin and surrounding areas.
For a complete event schedule, costs, a registration form and listing of hotel rates, contact the CCVCB at 395-4905 or visit online at www.cajuncoast.com or info®cajuncoast.com.