Exploring the outdoors in Louisiana is never a “one and done” activity.
Nature is always changing, so places you've gone before are worth another visit and there's always new ones to investigate.
Whether it's an urban park, a wildlife management area or state parks, the Bayou State is filled with wonderful spaces to go. There's 61 protected areas known as State Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, Wildlife Management Areas, National Forest and State Historic Sites.
The timing of an outdoor excursion is important. You will see completely different flora and fauna in the winter than in the spring or summer. The time of day will also impact what you see.
Fall and spring are peak times for bird migrations, and birds are best sighted early in the day.
Early mornings and evenings are best for spying deer, while coyotes, skunks, opossums, raccoons and bats are night, ahem, owls.
When it comes to the floral landscape, Louisiana’s wildflowers are just as stunning in fall as they are in the spring.
Before you head outdoors, think safety and comfort. Here's some ideas for what you should put in your backpack:
- Additional clothing (rain jacket, warm sweater, water shoes)
If you're scouting trees and bees, birds and blooms, take these along:
Binoculars: To help spot birds, butterflies and dragonflies. You can even use them to get a better look at bugs and blooms by turning them into a makeshift magnifying lens by looking with one eye through the wrong end.
Magnifying glass: Great for getting an up-close look at insects, tiny plants and critters. Try this pro tip: Hold your magnifier in front of your smartphone’s camera lens and it will help you get the perfect picture of small things.
Camera: Keep track of what you see with your phone's camera. Download the iNaturalist and eBird apps to help collect data to add to community science projects.
Field guides: Although they can be bulky, these guides are great for identifying flora and fauna. Get familiar with the guide before you go so you can more easily find the species.
Maps: They can help find your chosen spot and stay on a trail when you get there. Take a picture with your phone of a trailhead map posted to help as a reference.
Journal: Taking notes and drawing pictures in a field journal or notebook is helpful for identifying and sharing what you have found or capturing your ideas while on the trail.
Litter bag: Bring a lightweight bag and try to pick up a least one piece of litter on every excursion. Beer, soda cans and water bottles are the usual suspects, but debris from helium balloons can also be harmful to animals. This small, kind act will help wildlife and keep the trail beautiful.
One good resource is "My Nature Book Adventures," a spiral-bound book that's part planner and part journal. The family-owned company did one for every state.
“The Louisiana State Parks Adventure” book includes maps and details for state parks, state historic sites, wildlife management areas and wildlife refuges. The book, good for use with children and adults, includes checklists for trip planning and reservations, along with questions to jump-start your journaling.
The book is available online at mynaturebookadventures.com.
While you're out and about, whether in the city or countryside, keep your music turned off. Not only can it can detract from someone else’s experience, you may miss seeing wildlife because the sounds scared off the bird, lizard or snake.
Try to observe everything around you. Look closely where you step, and listen for birds flying overhead. Take a moment and turn over a leaf to see what’s underneath.
Keeping your eyes and ears open is all part of an outdoor adventure.
This information is presented in conjunction with the Louisiana Master Naturalists of Greater Baton Rouge which seeks to advance awareness, understanding and stewardship of the natural environment. For more information, email, firstname.lastname@example.org.