Darkness was upon us as we motored in the dinghy back to the houseboat, then, orange as a pumpkin and surprising as a Christmas present, the moon rose just above the bald cypress tops at the edge of Bay Wallace, in western Terrebonne Parish. It was a "waning" full moon (the night after a full moon, long lasting total lunar eclipse) that seemed to look bigger than a hubcap held at arm's length (an optical illusion to the human eye). Though by then I had a grand whole day of shooting photographs, capturing on film the deep orange moon low on the horizon, when it appeared to be larger than life, was "the one that got away." When the view was perfect, the dinghy was rocking too much for a good shot; meanwhile, by the time I got the camera tripod on a stable platform, the moon was so high above the horizon that the orange color had faded to milky white, and it appeared to be much smaller size than it had been earlier. Be that as it may, the deep orange, apparently very large moon, view is locked in my mind, and a photograph would never do it justice. Such a view of the newly rising full moon must be seen first hand. On camera film, the moon appears the same size, whether it is low above the horizon or very high in the sky (about ½º wide).
Sue and I spent a great deal of time in this area last spring and much of it at Bay Wallace. On our return toward that bay from the Pearl River on the border of Mississippi and Louisiana, I was looking forward to seeing this marsh and swamp in a different season, and, of course, we did. Even though the fall colors are trying to set in, given the record hot October of 2004, the marsh plants are still tall and somewhat green. Where there was vegetation barely emerging last March, the wetlands had fence-high plants hiding most of the water!
Though I did not see so many birds as last March, I still heard and saw them when they flew by. Ibis and Egrets were in big numbers last spring; now Great Blue Herons, coots, and moorhens filled my lens. Meanwhile, the bald eagles have come back. We saw five of them today, and there was one sitting nearby the spot I took the shot you can see at http://www.marshmission.com/.
The bald cypress at the edge of Bay Wallace had a touch of rusty red, and I look forward to the first freeze and hope it makes them as fiery red as they were six years ago. The fields of native giant blue iris were smothered by exotic water hyacinths and elephant ear. It's a sad shame that at this time of year those two troublesome exotic species can completely envelop the beautiful iris. Next spring, however, the iris should win out for a while, because any very cold week this coming winter will "knock" the water hyacinths "to their knees."
Sue and my year in the wetlands on the houseboat is almost over, and I can't help recalling very often the numerous beautiful landscapes and abundant wildlife we have seen. It sometimes seems as if it is perfect down here. However, as our coast sinks away at the rate of about ½ inch per year, we need the help of all Americans, plenty of federal dollars, and the courage to spend it on the right projects to abate the rate Louisiana's wetlands are vanishing.