Bordered on three sides by the Mississippi River, the 609-acre Woodlands Trail and Park in Belle Chasse is a pristine wooded oasis hidden within the urban expansion around it. The forest here is a mix of bottomland hardwoods and “back slope” hardwoods, with hiking and horse trails meandering along paths frequented by armadillos and a wide array of native and migrating birds.
Check these woods for numerous neotropical nesting birds including Mississippi Kite, Red-shouldered and Cooper’s hawks, Acadian and Great Crested flycatchers, White-eyed and Red-eyed vireos, Carolina Wren, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Northern Parula, Prothonotary, Hooded, and Swainson’s warblers, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-breasted Chat, Northern Cardinal, Painted Bunting, and Orchard Oriole.
During the spring and fall, numerous other neotropical migrants such as transient flycatchers, vireos, thrushes, warblers, tanagers, and grosbeaks commonly use these bottomland hardwoods for crucial foraging and roosting purposes. In winter, these woods receive Sharp-shinned Hawk, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Blue-headed Vireo, Winter Wren, Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned kinglets, American Robin, Hermit Thrush, Cedar Waxwing, Orange-crowned and Yellow-rumped warblers, Swamp, Song, and White-throated sparrows, and American Goldfinch beginning in late October.
Directions: From the intersection of I-10 and US 90 Business/ Pontchartrain Expy/ Exit 234C in New Orleans, go southeast on US 90 Business for 2.8 miles. Merge onto LA 428/General Degaulle Dr. and go east 1.2 miles, continuing another 1.7 miles on General Degaulle Dr. to LA 407/ Woodland Hwy. Go right (east) on LA 407 about 1.3 miles to LA 406/ Woodland Hwy. Turn left and go south-west about 0.6 miles to Woodlands Trail and Park.
Woodland Plantation was built in 1834 on the west bank of the Mississippi River some 28 miles south of New Orleans by river pilot cum sugar baron William Johnson. Today, Woodland Plantation serves as an elegant bed and breakfast, replete with a converted gothic chapel and gourmet dining.
Woodland’s 50+ acres include riparian, swamp, bottomland hardwood, and meadow habitats. The bottomland hardwood component offers excellent foraging and nesting opportunities for both resident and transient birds such as Red-shouldered Hawk, Barred and Eastern Screech owls, Red-bellied, Downy, and Hairy woodpeckers, Blue Jay, Carolina Wren, Carolina Chickadee, and Common Yellowthroat.
Ospreys are often sighted from the Mississippi River levee as they travel and hunt over “Big Muddy.” Wood Ducks are also common in “Le Petit Marais,” the historical name for the swamp situated between the plantation home and the levee. Look for Yellow-crowned Night-Heron and Little Blue Heron in the swamp, not to mention American Alligator.
Directions: From the intersection of I-10 and US 90 Business/Pontchartrain Expy/Exit 234C in New Orleans, go southeast on US 90 Business for 2.9 miles. Merge onto the ramp for Terry Pkwy and go southeast on Terry Pkwy for 2.6 miles to LA 23/ Belle Chasse Hwy. Go left (southeast) on LA 23 for about 26.0 miles to Woodland Plantation on the left.
This stately 82-acre site is generously populated with some of the oldest, most beautiful oaks south of New Orleans. Named after War of 1812 hero Andrew Jackson, at whose urgent behest it was constructed, Fort Jackson was eventually classified as a national historical monument in 1960 by the U.S. Department of the Interior, and restored and reopened in 1962.
The fort offers a spectacular view of the Mississippi River and the Laughing Gulls and Caspian Terns that patrol it on a year-round basis. During the fall, winter, and spring months, these birds are joined by American White Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Lesser Scaup, and Ring-billed and Herring gulls. To the immediate south of the fort is a large impoundment where Spotted Sandpiper, Double-crested Cormorant, and others commonly hunt and rest. To the immediate south of the impoundment is a large tract of bottomland hardwood forest, which hosts a diverse bird community that changes dramatically with the seasons.
In addition to the usual bottomland hardwood-dwelling birds such as Red-shouldered Hawk, Barred Owl, Red-bellied, Downy, Hairy, and Pileated woodpeckers, Blue Jay, Carolina Wren, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, the oaks around the fort as well as the associated woodlands often host migrating flycatchers, vireos, thrushes, warblers, tanagers, orioles, and others.
Directions: From the intersection of I 10 and US 90 Business/ Pontchartrain Expy/ Exit 234C in New Orleans, go south- east on US 90 Business for 2.9 miles. Merge onto the ramp for Terry Pkwy and go south-east on Terry Pkwy 2.6 miles to LA 23/ Belle Chasse Hwy. Go left (south-east) on LA 23 for about 61.0 miles to Fort Jackson, which is located on LA 23, about 8.0 miles north of Venice, LA.
Tidewater Road forms the southern boundary of a massive freshwater marsh that is usually teeming with birds. During spring and summer, wading birds such as Great Blue, Little Blue, Tricolored, and Green herons, Great and Snowy egrets, and White Ibis use this marsh for foraging purposes. Moreover, experienced New Orleans birders consider this site to be the “epicenter” of the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron population in southeastern Louisiana. This site is also an epicenter of sorts for the Osprey, which are especially prevalent during the fall, winter, and spring months.
Winter brings in a plethora of ducks, especially Gadwall, Northern Shoveler, and Blue-winged Teal. Other common winter birds include American White Pelican, Common Moorhen, American Coot, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, and Belted Kingfisher. Also keep an eye out for American Alligators, which can be found in the open pools and canals associated with the marsh.
Directions: From the intersection of I 10 and US 90 Business/ Pontchartrain Expy/ Exit 234C in New Orleans, go south-east on US 90 Business for 2.9 miles. Merge onto the ramp for Terry Pkwy and go south-east on Terry Pkwy for 2.6 miles to LA 23/ Belle Chasse Hwy. Go left (south-east) on LA 23 for about 70.0 miles to its end in the community of Venice. Tidewater Road veers off to the right (west) for 3.5 miles.
Because of heavy oilfield and fishing traffic, it is recommended to skip the first mile of Tidewater Road. Also, please use extreme caution when pulling off onto shoulders because the marsh creeps right up to the roadway in most places.