Grand Isle, Louisiana is a 7-mile long, inhabited barrier island. It is a fascinating strip of land bordering on the Gulf of Mexico, that hosts the Grand Isle Migratory Bird Festival every year. This year, we visited during the Festival and, while we are not nearly as dedicated as the true birding aficionados, we tagged along with them and were just as thrilled to spot such creatures as the scarlet tanager, a brilliantly-colored bird, pelicans, terns, herons, shorebirds and more. We even saw shrimpers and shrimp boats!
We did not know that Louisiana’s coastal zone remains one of the most ecologically dynamic places in the world. It is the seventh largest deltaic system on the planet, and it accounts for nearly 40 percent of all the estuarine marshes in the Lower 48. Wow! Several nature organizations have purchased land around the island as bird sanctuaries and there is even a state park that occupies the eastern end.
The Festival organizers have trips in kayaks and boats to visit the birding sanctuaries. I had no idea that there were so many there! Grand Isle is one of the prime areas to observe migratory birds up close, and we certainly can attest to that fact. See this list for more details:
On the list, be sure to note “Sureway Woods” located behind Sureway Grocery Store. Only in south Louisiana, folks, I kid you not.
We were fortunate to be a part of a coterie invited by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to visit the pelican rookeries on Queen Bess Island Rookery (thank you, LDWF!). We spent quite some time (in the boat, thank goodness) where we observed hundreds of roosting pelicans, terns, along with shorebirds, and even a few roseate spoonbills.
What we also enjoyed about Grand Isle was the ability to navigate the island in a golf cart easily and learn about its past from many friendly locals as well – did you know that Grand Isle was frequented by such characters as the Privateer (think pirate!) Jean Lafitte and the writer, Kate Chopin? I loved reading her works in a Women in Fiction course at my college!
This Annual Celebration Event, initiated in 1998, was created in part to support the purchase and management of the Grand Isle Sanctuary to protect some of the last remaining undeveloped chenier habitats (live oak ridges), only 10% of which remain. I highly recommend a visit next year, if you are interested in this fascinating and treasured barrier island, its migratory bird watching and festival as well as a state park and several nature preserves. For seven miles, this little barrier island sure knows how to host a party for people, birds and more!