Yellow-crowned Night Heron

During one morning, I stopped by a marshy area along Bayou St. John. I was planning on running over the levee just across the bayou. The sun was already out, displaying its devilish games. The grass was wet and dewy; in some parts mushy—remnants from Sunday’s storm that flooded some neighborhoods. I cut through the grass, checking what spots to avoid so my sneakers wouldn’t get soaked. “Ahh too wet.” The shaded spots were still wet, and the sunnier ones had dry yellow, green grass. I walked up a steep concrete incline to the top, overlooking a marshland tied along to Bayou St. John, which was close to the Robert E. Lee Blvd. overpass.


After my run, I went back to the car to check for my camera, and realized I forgot to charge my battery. At least I had binoculars in case of any bird sightings. My camera was obsolete at this point, and I was mad at myself. I suspected, I would not see too many birds, since it was past sunrise and it was hot outside. All the birds were probably hiding. From the top of the levee, I saw a bird with curvy neck observing the water. Some type of heron, I thought. It was a lot smaller than a Great Blue Heron, but it had a similar gray hue. I walked down the levee, toward the bird, keeping a good distance away, where I could see it better. Its head was black, minus the thick white patch across its face. I looked at it for a while before I walked closer. When it noticed me, it walked away to the left side near some over grown wild grass. It stood there wondering my next move, listening for any steps I might take. I walked closer, then once it noticed I was taking photos, it decided it had enough and flew away, making its way to a wide circular lookout. “Ha you can’t get me here,” it probably thought. I pointed my binoculars toward the heron, noticing its plumage, the curve of its neck, the odd white patch, its yellow eyes, and a tiny black pupil in the middle.

Most of the time, I only see birds up close through drawings or videos, and it’s always beautifully strange seeing them in the real world. I wish I could draw it, exactly as I saw the bird, with its smooth gray plumage, the superiority of its bill, but with my drawing skills, I couldn’t possibly capture exactly as it looked.

I noticed it was making a strange gesture with its wings, so I chose to walk away. It was turning aggressive even though I was far away. Its wings were folded on the side and its chest was pushed out, as if saying, “I’ll fight you.” “I think it hates me. It’s doing something weird,” I thought, and I playfully hid my face thinking the bird was pissed. Then it began cleaning the lower parts of its wings. Eventually, it forgot about me.

I also saw a Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron, standing by the overpass, but it soon flew away, seeing as no one was paying attention to it. It flew to a large tree behind the bayou.


Yellow-crowned Night Herons forage at all hours of the day and night, eating crustaceans near wetlands and wet fields, usually searching for crabs and crayfish. They slowly stalk prey near shallow water, plunge with their bills, impale, shake apart or swallow whole crustaceans. They also feed on earthworms and leeches, frogs, and young birds. They tend to be several feet away from the water’s edge, never too close to others—at least 15 feet from other individuals. These herons live along coastal marches, barrier islands, and mangroves. They have stocky bodies, short legs, and thick necks.

For nest building, they make use of dead, brittle twigs, breaking them if they have to, sometimes stealing from other nests. These nests can measure up to 4 feet. Both females and males work together in the building of the nests, and the process can take up to 10 days. Nests are sometimes re-used, filled with more twigs, often lasting 20 years. Herons tend to nest close or over water in trees such as pine and oak—as high as 60 feet or more off the ground—or on lower vegetation such as mulberry, myrtle, hackberry, and mangrove.

When it comes to looking for a mate, herons perform display flights and males will stretch their necks by slowly raising then quickly retracting its head while fanning his long shoulder plumes, to which the females will sometimes reciprocate. Pairing is socially monogamous, as they maintain their bonds year to year, nesting close together. Both adults and young defend their site from intruders, by lunging and thrusting with their bills while squawking.

Vanishing Isle de Jean Charles

 Isle de Jean Charles, located in the southern Louisiana Bayou, is home to the Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians. The island is quickly vanishing due to environmental problems from coastal erosion to canals dredged in the nearby marshland by oil and gas companies. These problems are further exasperated by a rising sea level. In 2016, the state used 48 million in grants to resettle 100 members of the island’s Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe. Many residents say that after a heavy storm surge or hurricane, few are able to leave the island for safety. 


Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana

After the ongoing curves we arrived on Island road. It was a thin strip, a two-way road, on the same level as the water. It became pertinent that I stayed glued to the left. If I glided too much to the right I would be driving over the gulf of Mexico, and sinking slowly. The two-way road was still somewhat spacious, though there were often large puddles of water. I drove on the opposite lane for fear of getting into a deep puddle or splashing the people fishing on the sides of the road. In front of me, I saw that half the road was covered in the water, but I figured the jeep could handle it, so I passed along carefully.

The sky was its truest blue with only a few white clouds hanging lazily in the background. On both sides of the road endless water and the land was protected by rocks and gravel. This was no time to drive fast, since it meant heading directly into water. We drove down, wondering where we could park. We passed a submarine and a sign that read “We’re not moving off this Island. If some people want to move, they can go. But leave us alone. The people have the right to live where they want, not where people tell them to go and live…”

Here the roads were wider and there was little flooding. There was a faded light pink house on high stilts with a long staircase on the side. “The water must get that high,” my partner said. I wondered if anyone lived in these houses, if  they just came on weekends or, if they abandoned them to the gulf.

There wasn’t anyone walking in the street. We stopped where it said Dead End, since up ahead the road had been thoroughly covered by water. It did not appear deep, but I did not see any land after that point. It could be the road was only just below the water, but I didn’t want to risk it. Other cars stopped at that point too, thinking they would cross, but then they weren’t sure so they headed back. Later on I saw two bicyclists without backpacks or water bottles, which meant they had come from nearby. “These people came by bike all the way from New Orleans,” I told my partner laughing.

We walked around for a short while over a small hill on the right, which left us by an open body of water. I used my binoculars to spot birds. All I could see were Red-winged Blackbirds flying above us. Two men were revving up their small motorboat. I stared at them through my binoculars then waved and they waved back. We walked to a blue house with a sign in the front that had a fish. I couldn’t see much else from where I was standing. We passed the parking lot, and made out something about fishing hooks on the sign. We decided to check it out. For the most part everyone on the road and around here had been friendly. We went up the stairs, hoping to find food or at least directions.

At the top of the staircase, we saw some long tables and chairs. No one was around except two or three men. One of them came toward us, said hello and shook our hands. He had a calming and honest quality about him, and his eyes told me he meant what he said. He introduced himself as Theo. He was bald and wore a white shirt. “I was wondering if y’all were going to continue driving.” I told him we left our car just past the parking lot. Storm Cindy had passed a couple of days ago so we wondered if they had any major flooding. Theo said that there was two feet of water by Island road and down the road after the Dead End sign. “How long have you been living here?” I asked. He said he had been in the island for 80 years, but lived in Houma now, and only came back to take care of his father’s house. Theo looked younger than 80.