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  • Writer's pictureKaren Hogan

Mississippi NWR April 2018

Updated: Mar 5, 2019

Our National Wildlife Refuge Trip April 2018 would take us to Northern Mississippi and the Mississippi Delta Regions in the state of Mississippi. Seasonal flooding in the area had closed several of wildlife drives and trails of the 9 National Wildlife Refuges we had planned to visit but there would be plenty of trails, auto drives and birding observation opportunities available.

Teresa and Karen at Hillside National Wildlife Refuge April 5, 2018

March-December 2017

Teresa planned our trip to visit the National Wildlife Refuges in Mississippi for April 2017. We would meet in Memphis, Tennessee, hangout with our friend Karen for a few days and then make our way down to 7-8 refuges in the Northern and Delta regions of Mississippi, but lack of funding and vacation days, the trip would have to be postponed until 2018.

We abandoned our other scheduled 2017 spring and summer National Wildlife Refuge Trips because of personal issues. By fall of 2017 we were able to visit 6 National Wildlife Refuges in South Carolina and Georgia with a quick visit with my Son's family in Richmond Hill, GA. During the December 2017 holiday break we visited 9 refuges in the southern part of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.


January-February 2018 scheduling our Mississippi National Wildlife Refuge Trip

As we rescheduled the Mississippi National Wildlife Refuge Trip for April 2018 our original plan to begin the trip from Memphis was changed, we would start from Lexington, Ky driving to Nashville on Friday night after Teresa got off from work. Spending the night in Nashville shaved 3 hrs off our 8 hour drive to the first National Wildlife Refuge we planned to visit Saturday morning, Coldwater River National Wildlife Refuge. I was watching the weather forecast for Mississippi starting about 10 days before the trip. Heavy rain was moving through the area so I made phone calls to a couple of the refuge Headquarters. I talked to Amber at the Northern Mississippi National Wildlife Refuge Complex Headquarters located in Grenada, MS. Coldwater River, Tallahatchie and Dahomey National Wildlife Refuges are managed by the folks at the Complex Headquarters in Grenada. Amber said that all 3 refuges were open with some road closures due to flooding, sections of both Tallahatchie and Dahomey would be closed. I made notes about the road closures and best viewing areas at the refuges that would be open. I called the Theodore Roosevelt National Wildlife Refuge Complex and spoke with Dove, she said the complex manages 7 refuges including, Holt Collier, Theodore Roosevelt, Panther Swamp, Yazoo, Hillside, Morgan Brake, Mathew Brake National Wildlife Refuges. Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge has a staffed visitor center on site, overseeing Yazoo and Holt Collier National Wildlife Refuges. Dove suggested I get more information about these 2 refuges from folks at the Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge visitor center. Dove also said that Theodore Roosevelt National Wildlife Refuge was not open to the public at this time but would be in the future. She directed me to the Theodore Roosevelt National Wildlife Refuge Complex Facebook page that posted current updates about the refuges including flooding, closures and other information that would be valuable for our trip. There was a slide show on Facebook with recent flooding conditions at Panther Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. Flooding along the East Levee and River Rd would prevent us from visiting some of major birding areas at Panther Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. Dove suggested we give them a call closer to our visit because there might be a trail or drive that would be open by the time we got there. The rain forecast for the next week might cause additional flooding in the area but once again calling ahead and checking Facebook would be the best options for the most current road and trail conditions.

March 28-30, 2018 Mississippi National Wildlife Refuge Trip

I drove the 8 hours from Chapel Hill to Lexington on Wednesday March 28th, arriving a couple of days before our scheduled departure time on March 30th. Teresa arrived home at the end of the work day on March 30th, with some food from one our favorite Lexington Mexican Restaurants. Dinner finished, car loaded, we were on the highway headed toward our hotel in Hendersonville TN, just north of Nashville. The 3 hour drive from Lexington to Hendersonville got us 206 miles down the road toward Mississippi, leaving us a 5 hour drive to Coldwater River National Wildlife Refuge for Saturday, March 31st.


March 31, 2018 Coldwater River and Tallahatchie National Wildlife Refuges

Out of the hotel by 6 am we were on the way to Coldwater River National Wildlife Refuge, the northern most refuge in Mississippi. Coldwater River National Wildlife Refuge was established in 2000 and consists of 2,374 acres including 24 retired catfish ponds that 10,000 to 50,000 waterfowl use during the spring and winter months. This refuge was once used for agriculture but has been reforested with native bottomland hardwood species that are flooded during the winter and spring months for migratory waterfowl. Since we were visiting in early spring we were hoping to observe the 34 species of shorebirds reported during the spring and fall at this refuge. We arrived at Crowder, MS by 11 am and headed south on Dry Bayou Rd. Finally reaching an area of the road that was impassable because of flooding, we observed ducks and wading birds in the large ponds next to the road, we submitted an ebird checklist for this ebird hotspot called Dry Bayou Rd. By the ebird hotspot map 2 hotspots were designed for Coldwater River National Wildlife Refuge, one in Quitman County, the hotspot for the observation platform and the other in Tallahatchie County. We were unable to drive to the observation platform at the end of Dummyline Rd because of flooding.

Flooding on Dummyline Rd, Coldwater River NWR, Mississippi, March 31, 2018

Driving down the Levee Rd, we had to stop at the green gate where we had a good view of one of the catfish ponds. Observing 24 species of birds including: ducks, wading birds and yellowlegs, we reported our sighting on the eBird hotspot for Coldwater River National Wildlife Refuge in Tallahatchie County.

Levee Rd at Coldwater River National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, March 31, 2018

Catfish Pond at Coldwater River National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, March 31, 2018

Yellowlegs at Coldwater River National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, March 31, 2018

From the green gate we could see the observation tower at the end of Dummyline Rd, but getting there would be risky. A couple of trucks bottom out as they drove on the flooded road between the Levee Road and Dummyline Rd. Some folks in a truck offered to help us if we got stuck but we decided not to take a chance and instead headed toward Tallahatchie National Wildlife Refuge.

In Grenada and Tallahatchie Counties, Tallahatchie National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1991 and consists of 4,199 acres of fields and hardwood bottomland forests bisected by the Tippo Bayou.

Arriving at Tallahatchie National Wildlife Refuge we followed Amber’s instructions, turning north off of highway 8 onto Mabus Rd.

Mabus Rd at Tallahatchie National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, March 31, 2018

Birding along Mabus Rd, we enjoyed good views of Meadowlarks and sparrows. About a mile down Mabus Rd we found the entrance to the boardwalk that took us through a forested wetland and ended at the observation tower over looking a field of grass.

Forested Wetland at Tallahatchie River National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, March 31, 2018

Forested Wetland at Tallahatchie River National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, March 31, 2018

Observation Platform at Tallahatchie River National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, March 31, 2018

While walking through the wetlands we saw several species of birds including Prothonotary Warblers and Yellow-rumped Warblers.

Prothonotary Warbler at Tallahatchie National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, March 31, 2018

Traveling back to highway 8 we could see the results of the seasonal flooding as all roads going south were closed and gated. The sun was low in the sky when we stopped at the last parking lot off of highway 8 over looking the large wetland area.

Wetland Area along Highway 8 at Tallahatchie National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, March 31, 2018

At the parking lot we saw 2 Loggerhead Shrikes sitting in a large bush and heard the "pump per lunk" of an American Bittern. Another magically moment at a National Wildlife Refuge, the beautiful colors of the sunset as the back drop for the sights and sounds of this amazing Mississippi National Wildlife Refuge.

Headed to Cleveland to spend the night, we were delighted to find a Pasquales restaurant serving the same Stromboli Steak Sandwiches we ate as children. Just some minor changes to the menu item, Marina sauce and mozzarella cheese substituted for mushroom sauce and onions. So very yummy!


April 1, 2018 Dahomey National Wildlife Refuge

Out of the hotel early we arrived at the Dahomey National Wildlife Refuge unstaffed headquarters building by 7 am. Dahomey National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1991 and has 9,691 acres with 35 miles of hiking trails and roads. The trees around the headquarter building were full of birds and the morning chorus was in progress. The headquarters building grounds had a nice pollinator garden and Chimney Swift tower. We enjoyed reading the display boards explaining the Chimney Swifts story. I had called ahead of our trip and found out the main roads behind the Headquarters building, Headquarters Rd and Bear Rd were closed to traffic due to seasonal flooding.

Unstaffed Headquarters at Dahomey NWR, Mississippi, April 1, 2018

Closed Headquarters Road at Dahomey National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 1, 2018

Amber recommended birding and hiking at the Herbert Nature Trail off of Neblett Rd and the trails south of highway 446. As we drove down Highway 446 looking for Neblett Rd we spotted an American Bittern, undisturbed by our presents we observed this well camouflaged wader hunting for prey in the ditch.

American Bittern at Dahomey National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 1, 2018

Carolina Wren on Neblett Rd at Dahomey National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 1, 2018

Herbert Nature Trail at Dahomey National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 1, 2018

We turned right onto Neblett Rd and birded along the road until we reached the parking lot at the Herbert Nature Trail, a 0.9 mile loop that meanders along the banks of Happy Hollow Lake. The trail also has an observation tower with views of a meadow and a reforestation area.

Observation Tower of Herbert Nature Trail at Dahomey National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 1, 2018

Observation Tower of Herbert Nature Trail at Dahomey NWR, Mississippi, April 1, 2018

Prothonotary Warbler at Dahomey National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 1, 2018

Northern Cardinal at Dahomey National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 1, 2018

White-eyed Vireo at Dahomey National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 1, 2018

Needs ID at Dahomey National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 1, 2018

Water Moccasin in Happy Hollow Lake at Dahomey NWR, Mississippi, April 1, 2018

Walking around the observation tower we found a trailhead for Prothonotary Trail but soon found the trail flooded and returned to the Herbert Nature Trail to finish the loop back to our car. To explore more of the refuge north of 446, we drove down Christmas Lake Road and then out Logan Road to Highway 1 and then headed back to the main gate at the Headquarters building on Highway 446.

Barred Owl at Dahomey National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 1, 2018

Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs at Dahomey NWR, Mississippi, April 1, 2018

Amber said the trails south of the highway 446 were not flooded and would be accessible for hiking, so we drove down Sawdust Rd and chose a couple of trails to hike including the recently mowed Coyote trail.

Teresa on Coyote Trail at Dahomey National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 1, 2018

Suddenly, there was a black masked bird moving quickly through the lower branches in the bushes along the trail. I called Kentucky Warbler, a rare bird for this area at this time. Teresa missed the bird and as we searched for a look for her, she questioned my ID, was it a Common Yellowthroat? Hard to confuse these 2 bird species, I knew for sure I had seen a Kentucky Warbler. It was wonderful the Kentucky Warbler gave another quick appearance so Teresa could list the bird and confirm my ID.

As we continued down the path, I had a nagging feeling I had forgotten to lock the car. I checked my iphone Apple maps for the location of my car. Not sure it was locked but a comfort to know the location of the car. Teresa and I both really appreciate all the technology we have been able to use on our National Wildlife Refuge Trips, including GPS-keeping us from being lost, texting-keeping us in contact with our friends and family while we are on a trip, internet connection even in the field and remote locations for finding hotels and food. Of course our favorite use of the internet is the ability to record ebird checklist in the field, allowing us to know immediately infrequent and rare birds. This is a great help as we know to take a photo to load onto ebird for ID verification of our rare bird sightings. Observing lots of rutted out spots along the mowed trail we suspected wild hogs had been at work and later confirmed this observation with folks at the Complex Headquarters in Grenada. Before the sun went down we hiked the Cottonmouth Trail and then headed to Greenville, MS, to find dinner and spend the night.


April 2, 2018 Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge

Located in the heart of the Mississippi's Delta Region, Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge was established 1936, with a total of 13,036 acres of diverse habitat including sloughs, streams, lakes, shallow ponds and bottomland hardwood forest. Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge is the oldest National Wildlife Refuge in the State of Mississippi and home to a large population of American Alligators. Driving to Alligator Pond we birded around Deer Lake and along the roads through the refuge, at Alligator Pond we spent time birding at the observation tower with great views of Wood Ducks, Black-crowned Night Heron, Green Heron, American Coots, Snowy Egrets and Great Egrets.

Blue-winged Teal in Deer Lake at Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 2, 2018

Deer Lake at Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 2, 2018

Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge is home to nesting Great Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, White Ibis and Anhingas. From the Observation tower at Alligator Pond we observed with our scopes over 100 Little Blue Heron sitting in the trees and bushes along the edge of large pond.

Alligator Pond Observation Tower at Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 2, 2018

Wood Ducks at Alligator Pond at Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 2, 2018

Common Gallinule at Alligator Pond at Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 2, 2018

Swamp Sparrow at Alligator Pond at Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 2, 2018

Alligator at Alligator Pond at Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 2, 2018

Birding at the Headquarters/Visitor Center grounds we noticed the building was open. The Wildlife Officer and Refuge Manager were inside the Visitor Center and spent time answering our questions about the refuge and sharing their experiences managing this important National Wildlife Refuge in the Mississippi Delta Region.

Headquarters-Visitor Center at Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 2, 2018

Pileated Woodpecker at Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 2, 2018

Hiking to Big Lake and Deer Lake Slough Teresa heard the "Bee Buzz" call of the Blue-winged Warbler, determined to find the bird, Teresa and I both stood searching with our binoculars the scrubby bushes for the yellow belly warbler with a black eyeliner. Unable to see the Blue-winged Warbler we headed back to our car, we decided it was time for quick nap in the car but after a few minutes of resting I could not fall asleep. I decided to bird along the path close to our car while Teresa took her 10 minute nap, suddenly there were 2 birds giving chase right in front of me in the trees along the path, 2 Blue-winged Warblers. During our 12.5 hr visit to Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge we observed 62 species of birds including 7 species of warbler. As usual we hoped to hike all or most of the trails and drive all the auto drives available at this National Wildlife Refuge. Most of the time we allow for a whole day to visit each refuge but sometimes there are more miles to explore than can be done in just one day. Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge definitely had so many hiking trails we had to choose several trails that demonstrated the different habitats at the refuge, including Holt Collier Boardwalk and Observation Tower with views of the lizard lake.

Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 2, 2018

Winter Wren at Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 2, 2018

Holt Collier Boardwalk Trail and Observation Tower at Yazoo NWR, Mississippi, April 2, 2018


Holt Collier Boardwalk and Observation Tower at Yazoo NWR, Mississippi, April 2, 2018

Monarch Butterfly at Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 2, 2018

Lizard Lake at Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 2, 2018

We also hiked and spent time birding along the trail to the dike along the Steel Bayou. The last few hours of daylight were spent at the observation tower at the Alligator Pond where we observed Little Blue Herons flying overhead and landing in the trees surrounding the pond. For our ebird checklist we were able to submit a photo of one Tri-colored Heron sitting in a tree and a few flying overhead, a rare bird for the area at this time.

Little Blue Heron, Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets at Alligator Pond at Yazoo NWR, Mississippi, April 2, 2018

Glossy/White-faced Ibis Alligator Pond at Yazoo NWR, Mississippi, April 2, 2018

American Bittern at Alligator Pond at Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 2, 2018

Tri-colored Heron at Alligator Pond at Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 2, 2018

Back to Greenville, MS for one more night before heading east.


April 3, 2018 Holt Collier, Hillside, Panther Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

We planned to bird first thing in the morning at Holt Collier National Wildlife Refuge so we would have time to bird at Hillside National Wildlife Refuge by the afternoon. Holt Collier National Wildlife Refuge was established 2004 with 2,200 acres. We left our hotel early, arriving at Avon Darlove Rd around 7 am, one of the main roads bordering Holt Collier National Wildlife Refuge. This refuge was named for Holt Collier an African-American hunting guide who lead Teddy Roosevelt on his Mississippi bear hunting trips. The Holt Collier National Wildlife Refuge has no facilities at the refuge but birding is available along the roads and trails. We birded along Avon Darlove Road and then down Greer Road. As we approached Tribbet Rd, the road conditions deteriorated, it was muddy and looked almost impassable. We decided to turn around, we did not want to cause any more damage to the very muddy road as it was already a mess with deep tire ruts.

As we drove along Avon Darlove Road for a second time we saw and heard Broad-winged Hawks.

Hawk at Holt Collier National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 3, 2018

Hawk at Holt Collier National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 3, 2018

We spent time watching shorebirds along Watson Road and then headed east on highway 12 toward Hillside National Wildlife Refuge. Established in 1975 Hillside National Wildlife Refuge encompasses over 15,000 acres. We arrived at Hillside National Wildlife Refuge before 10 am and started birding on the South Levee Road, while observing birds in the shrub bushes along the levee drive, Teresa heard the "Bee Buzz" call of the Blue-winged Warbler and finally got a good look.

South Levee Road at Hillside National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 3, 2018

We parked at the Alligator Slough Nature Trail parking lot and hiked the beautiful trail through the bald cypress and tupelo slough.

Alligator Slough Nature Trail at Hillside National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 3, 2018

Along the trail we heard and saw Prothonotary Warblers and Hooded Warblers. We enjoyed the scenic half mile loop staying for an hour photographing the amazing reflections of the cypress trees in the water.

Alligator Slough Nature Trail at Hillside National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 3, 2018

Alligator Slough Nature Trail at Hillside National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 3, 2018

Boardwalk at Alligator Slough Nature Trail at Hillside NWR, Mississippi, April 3, 2018

Teresa on Boardwalk at Alligator Slough Nature Trail at Hillside NWR, Mississippi, April 3, 2018

One of the 2 wooden boardwalks had been damaged by a fallen tree but we were grateful there was enough intact boardwalk we were able to continue on this amazing trail. Teresa and I agreed, hiking the Alligator Slough Nature Trail was a magical moment at a National Wildlife Refuge.

View from South Levee Road at Hillside National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 3, 2018

Hoping for another amazing experience we headed down the Hillside Levee Rd to the next parking lot, an ATV trail. As we got out of our car to begin the hike along the ATV trail we felt hot and hungry. It was almost noon as we started down the ATV trail, the trees were quiet and we could not see any bird activity, we decided to head toward Panther Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.

Teresa on ATV Trail at Hillside National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 3, 2018

Blue-winged Teal along ATV Trail at Hillside National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 3, 2018

Driving toward Panther Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, we checked Yelp for nearby fast food, we took a detour to Yazoo City to grab some lunch at a local drive-in fast food restaurant. After lunch we headed to Panther Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.

Seasonal flooding closed the East Levee Road and the River Road entrances to the refuge, the best areas for birding at Panther Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. Entering from highway 149, we spent our time driving and birding along 3 miles of the West Levee Rd.

East Levee Road closed at Panther Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 3, 2018

West Levee Road at Panther Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 3, 2018

West Levee Road at Panther Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 3, 2018

West Levee Road at Panther Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 3, 2018

Snake on West Levee Road at Panther Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 3, 2018

The Panther Swamp Headquarters/Visitor Center was designated as an eBird hotspot so we spent about 1.5 hours birding the grounds including: the small pond at the entrance, the main yard and along the driveway. We especially enjoyed talking to the Refuge Manager, he was excited that we might be able to meet Renee Tressler, he said she had visited 366 National Wildlife Refuges and was working as a volunteer counting and documenting waterfowl for the Refuges in Mississippi Delta Region. There was a Refuge meeting the next day and the Manager recommended that we should be at the Headquarters building around 11am to meet up with Renee.

Headquarters-Visitor Center at Panther Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 3, 2018

The last hour of daylight we spend driving along River Rd checking the flooded fields for shorebirds and sparrows. Most of the roads leading into Panther Swamp National Wildlife Refuge from River Rd were closed due to flooding. We would be back the next day for more birding at this Mississippi Delta Refuge and to meet Renee.

We headed to our hotel in Yazoo City.


April 4, 2018 Panther Swamp and Morgan Brake National Wildlife Refuge

Planning to meet Renee at 11 am at the Panther Swamp National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters, we had plenty of time to bird along the West Levee Rd for morning views of birds and other wildlife species. We spotted a Tri-colored Heron along the levee, a rare bird for the area this time of year and posted a photo on ebird.

Tri-colored Heron along West Levee Road at Panther Swamp NWR, Mississippi, April 4, 2018

Marsh Area along West Levee Road at Panther Swamp NWR, Mississippi, April 4, 2018

Killdeer at Marsh Area along West Levee Road at Panther Swamp NWR, Mississippi, April 4, 2018

Greater Yellowlegs at Marsh Area along West Levee Road at Panther Swamp NWR, Mississippi, April 4, 2018

Greater Yellowlegs at Marsh Area along West Levee Road at Panther Swamp NWR, Mississippi, April 4, 2018

Greater Yellowlegs at Marsh Area along West Levee Road at Panther Swamp NWR, Mississippi, April 4, 2018

Birding for 2 hours along the West Levee Rd to the Satartia Road, we then drove and birded along River Rd from Calihan Road to Stewart Ridge Road until 10:30am. Back at Panther Swamp Headquarters at 11 am we met Renee, it was great to compare notes with her about our common goal to visit and bird at all the National Wildlife Refuges. Several other Refuge Managers were also attending the meeting including the Morgan Brake National Wildlife Refuge Manager, he recommended the best places to bird at Morgan Brake and Mathews Brake National Wildlife Refuges.

Morgan Brake NWR Manager-Renee at Panther Swamp NWR, Mississippi, April 4, 2018

Karen-Renee-Teresa at Panther Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 4, 2018

After leaving the Panther Swamp National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters we could not resist another stop in Yazoo City for a burger at the drive-in fast food restaurant. Our next stop was Morgan Brake National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1977 and encompasses 7,400 acres situated along the ecotone of the Mississippi alluvial plain and loess bluffs. About 20 species of shorebirds visit this refuge each year feeding and resting during the spring, summer and fall months. We hiked the Morgan Bayou Trail through a mature hardwood forest with great views of woodpeckers, chickadees, titmouse, gnatcatchers, kinglets, vireos and warblers.

Morgan Bayou Trail at Morgan Brake National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 4, 2018

Morgan Bayou Trail at Morgan Brake National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 4, 2018

Morgan Bayou Trail at Morgan Brake National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 4, 2018

Yellow-rumped Warbler at Morgan Bayou Trail at Morgan Brake National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 4, 2018

Morgan Bayou Trail at Morgan Brake National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 4, 2018

The large ponds in front of the Refuge Headquarters were the perfect place to watch as the sun was getting low in the sky, we observed Chimney Swifts, Purple Martins and 4 species of swallows flying just over the water surface. My Son also called and we spent about 30 minutes doing a Face-time with him and his 10 month old Daughter, my Granddaughter.

Observation Platform at Morgan Brake National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 4, 2018

Headquarters at Morgan Brake National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 4, 2018

Teresa at Morgan Brake National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 4, 2018

As we headed back to our hotel in Yazoo City, Teresa noticed there were trailheads at Hillside National Wildlife Refuge that originated off of 49, we checked out these locations just as it was getting dark. It would great to be ready at sunrise to begin hiking these trails the next day. One more night in Yazoo City, we would bird at Hillside and Mathew Brake National Wildlife Refuges and then heading north to Grenada, MS.


April 5, 2018 Hillside and Mathews Brake National Wildlife Refuge

We walked the Hillside National Wildlife Refuge ATV Trail at the Turkey Point Unit from the Christmas Rd Trailhead where we saw many species of birds including 62 Great Egrets, 20 Little Blue Heron and 12 White Ibis wading in a pond surrounded by marshy fields.

Hillside National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 5, 2018

Great Egrets at Hillside National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 5, 2018

Great Egret, Snowy Egret and Little Blue Heron at Hillside National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 5, 2018

Since this trail was flooded about half way, we also hiked the other end of the trail from the entrance point originating at 49E. We saw more than 305 White Ibis, 20 Great Egrets and 26 Little Blue Heron feeding in the marshy area along this end of the trail. We were amazed to hear a White-eyed Vireo making a call that sounded like a White-breasted Nuthatch.

White Ibis at Hillside National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 5, 2018

White Ibis at Hillside National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 5, 2018

White Ibis at Hillside National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 5, 2018

Entering the Hillside Levee from Thornton Tolarsville Rd we started our ebird checklist. In the large marsh area we could see so many species of birds including Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shovelers, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets spread out across the marsh.

Marsh Area along Hillside Levee from Thornton Tolarsville Road at Hillside NWR, Mississippi, April 5, 2018

Marsh Area along Hillside Levee from Thornton Tolarsville Road at Hillside NWR, Mississippi, April 5, 2018

There was also a large number of Egrets sitting in the rookery area, we felt over whelmed about getting an accurate count of all the nesting birds. 

Rookery along Hillside Levee at Hillside National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 5, 2018

We didn't stay at the marsh area long but instead birded as we drove south on the Hillside Levee Rd.


South Levee Road at Hillside National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 5, 2018

South Levee Road at Hillside National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 5, 2018

Karen at South Levee Road at Hillside National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 5, 2018

Teresa at South Levee Road at Hillside National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 5, 2018

Teresa at South Levee Road at Hillside National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 5, 2018

Yellow-crowned Night Heron at South Levee Road at Hillside National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 5, 2018

White-throated Sparrow at South Levee Road at Hillside National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 5, 2018

Teresa-Karen at Alligator Slough Nature Trail at Hillside NWR, Mississippi, April 5, 2018

Enjoying the spectacular scenery of the bottomland hardwood habitat along the Hillside Levee Rd we took our time, stopping to take photos. It was 2 pm as we drove by the Alligator Slough Nature Trail, we were tempted to walk the magical trail again but it was getting late and we needed to allow enough time to visit and bird Mathews Brake National Wildlife Refuge.


Mathews Brake National Wildlife Refuge

Established in 1980, Mathews Brake National Wildlife Refuge has a total of 2,418 acres including a 1,810 acre oxbow lake, 422 acres of hardwood bottomland and 186 acres of reforested cropland. Most of the refuge is only accessible by boat with views of bald cypress and tupelo-gum trees in the deeper portions with buttonbush and swamp privet thickets in the more shallow water. Teresa and I sometimes consider our missed opportunities at some of the National Wildlife Refuges because the main access for viewing the Refuge is by canoeing, kayaking or some other boating craft. We have participated in kayaking trips for a couple of our boat viewing efforts but in the future we hope be able to take advantage of more water viewing activities. We drove on highway 249 to the boat ramp where we found the trailhead for the 1 mile hiking trail through hardwood bottomland at Mathews Brake National Wildlife Refuge.

Mathews Brake National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 5, 2018

Mathews Brake National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 5, 2018

Mathews Brake National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 5, 2018

Trailhead at Mathews Brake National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 5, 2018

Mathews Brake National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 5, 2018

Teresa at Mathews Brake National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 5, 2018

Karen and Teresa at Mathews Brake National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 5, 2018

Mathews Brake National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 5, 2018

Blue-winged Teal at Mathews Brake National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 5, 2018

Loggerhead Shrike at Mathews Brake National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 5, 2018

We spent the night Grenada, MS to be ready for our visit to the North Mississippi Refuges Complex Office the next morning before heading to Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge.


April 6, 2018 North Mississippi Complex HQ and Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge

A phone call the night before to determine if North Mississippi Refuges Complex Office on Sunset Dr, in Grenada, MS would be open. The office opened at 7 am, we were excited to get our Blue Goose books stamped with the refuges managed by this office. We really enjoyed talking to the staff members at the Complex Headquarters. In the parking lot we observed Purple Martins flying overhead, sitting on the wires and hanging out at the Purple Martin houses around the parking lot. As we observed the Purple Martins we realized the grounds at the Headquarters building had some great habitat for many species of birds. After 2 hours of birding in parking lot and natural area around the headquarters building we reported 22 species on ebird. This would make a great ebird hotspot.

North Mississippi Refuges Complex Headquarters, Mississippi, April 6, 2018

Purple Martin at North Mississippi Refuges Complex Headquarters, Mississippi, April 6, 2018

Purple Martin at North Mississippi Refuges Complex Headquarters, Mississippi, April 6, 2018

Purple Martin at North Mississippi Refuges Complex Headquarters, Mississippi, April 6, 2018

Purple Martin at North Mississippi Refuges Complex Headquarters, Mississippi, April 6, 2018

Eastern Bluebird at North Mississippi Refuges Complex Headquarters, Mississippi, April 6, 2018

North Mississippi Refuges Complex Headquarters, Mississippi, April 6, 2018

Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge

At Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters/Visitor Center we got our Blue Goose Books stamped and then headed to the gift shop, where we met Dalton, a truly dedicated Refuge Volunteer. I really enjoyed talking to him about his experiences at the refuge and the artist program. The program invites artist to stay at the refuge for at least a week exploring the refuge, giving demonstrations and creating art. It was exciting to see the amazing pieces the visiting artist had left at the refuge to be displayed.


Bluff Lake at Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 6, 2018

Eastern Kingbird at Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 6, 2018

Teresa at Webster Memorial Oak Grove at Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee NWR, Mississippi, April 6, 2018

Webster Memorial Oak Grove at Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee NWR, Mississippi, April 6, 2018

Webster Memorial Oak Grove at Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee NWR, Mississippi, April 6, 2018

Webster Memorial Oak Grove at Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee NWR, Mississippi, April 6, 2018

Eastern Phoebe at Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 6, 2018

Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 6, 2018

Established in 1940 Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge encompasses 42,500 acres of upland and bottomland forest including oaks, cypress and other hardwoods.

As the sun went down we headed to our hotel, Teresa checked on the App, Yelp, she found Larry's Catfish, we purchased our meals to go and headed to our Starkville hotel. The catfish was delicious, a great choice and even better there was plenty for our lunches the next day.


April 7, 2018 Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge

By 7:30 am, we arrived at Sam D. Hamilton National Wildlife Refuge aware of the weather forecast for the day: overcast skies, possible rain, cold and windy. Our first stop was Bluff Lake boardwalk, through a wetland forest with an observation platform overlooking the Bluff Lake, we got great looks of a Blue-headed Vireo, Red-headed Vireo, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Yellow-throated Warbler, 10 Yellow-rumped Warblers and 3 Prothonotary Warblers.

Double-crested Cormorants in Bluff Lake at Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee NWR Mississippi, April 7, 2018

When we arrived at the Visitor Center we could see a Common Loon in Bluff Lake. The Loon was not a rare bird but an unusual bird for this area, later Teresa would make sure the other birders we met would know the location of Loon. As we walked around the visitor center to our car we noticed some folks gathering for a bird walk. We met the bird walk leader Jeffrey Harris and he invited us to bird with his group.

Karen-Jeff-Teresa at Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 7, 2018

As we all jumped in our cars the group got separated so we birded with Marion and Michael at the Webster Memorial Grove and Loakoma N. Overlook. Then we headed over to the Goose Overlook where we caught up with Jeffrey and the rest of the birding group. We enjoyed birding with the Oktibbeha Audubon Society and hope to connect with more local birders during our National Wildlife Refuge Trips.

Loakoma Walk at Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 7, 2018

Teresa-Karen at Loakoma Walk at Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee NWR, Mississippi, April 7, 2018

We continued to bird for the rest of the day, checking out these ebird hotspots at the refuge including Loakoma Walk, Triplett's Pasture Rd, Scattertown Trail and Woodpecker Trail. At Loakoma N. Overlook we searched without success for Purple Gallinule that had been reported but did see the Solitary Sandpiper. Almost 1 pm we began our 1.5 mile hike at Scattertown Trail and after 1.5 hrs only reported 3 bird species but really enjoyed the hike through this mature forest with many native plant species.


Teresa at Scattertown Trail at Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 7, 2018

Scattertown Trail at Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 7, 2018

Scattertown Trail at Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 7, 2018

Scattertown Trail at Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi, April 7, 2018

At Triplett's Pasture Rd we walked along a wide road surrounded by forest where we got good looks of 4 species of warblers and many other woodland birds.

Teresa at Triplett's Pasteur at Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee NWR, Mississippi, April 7, 2018

At Woodpecker Trail our bird call identification abilities were tested as we heard several species of woodpecker including Red-cockaded, Red-bellied and Red-headed Woodpeckers.

We spent our last night of our Mississippi National Wildlife Refuge Trip in Starkville. Headed home tomorrow Teresa would have to report back to work on April 9th.


April 8, 2018 Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge

Sad to leave this beautiful National Wildlife Refuge we decided to bird in the area until noon. Checked out of the Starkville hotel, gear loaded in the car, we arriving at the Woodpecker Trail at 7:30 am hoping to get another look of the 3 species of Woodpecker. A couple of Red-headed and Red-bellied Woodpeckers made an appearance, but no sighting of the Red-cockaded Woodpecker this morning. A Great Horned Owl flew through the area with prey in talons, landing in a tall tree along the path before heading out of sight. It was delight to see 4 Wood Ducks standing on the high branches of some very tall trees along the Woodpecker Trail.

Red-headed Woodpecker at Woodpecker Trail at Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee NWR, Mississippi, April 8, 2018

Wood Ducks at Woodpecker Trail at Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee NWR, Mississippi, April 8, 2018

Wood Duck at Woodpecker Trail at Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee NWR, Mississippi, April 8, 2018

Woodpecker Trail at Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee NWR, Mississippi, April 8, 2018

Woodpecker Trail at Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee NWR, Mississippi, April 8, 2018

We could not leave the area without a quick stop at the Goose Overlook where we reported 23 species on eBird including 6 Wood Ducks.

Wood Duck at Goose Overlook at Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee NWR, Mississippi, April 8, 2018

Birding at Loakoma N. Overlook we finally got the Purple Gallinule and enjoyed watching the 30 Northern Rough-winged Swallows as they landed one by one in a bush along the pond's edge and then startled, taking to flight en masse.

Northern Rough-winged Swallow at Loakoma N. Overlook at Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee NWR, Mississippi, April 8, 2018

Red-winged Blackbird at Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee NWR, Mississippi, April 8, 2018

A completely different day from yesterday, blue skies, calm winds and no rain, the roads, boardwalks and trails were crowded with visitors hiking and riding bikes.

Blue-headed Vireo at Bluff Lake at Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee NWR, Mississippi, April 8, 2018

Prothonotary Warbler at Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee NWR, Mississippi, April 8, 2018

As planned we were on the road headed to Lexington by noon, Teresa found a local barbecue restaurant in Tupelo where we enjoyed some delicious Barbecue, amazing sides and yummy dessert. Unable to resist we purchased barbecue and sides to carry home in our cooler to be enjoyed for our dinner later and the next day. As we headed to Lexington, Teresa found an amazing drive home on Natchez Trace Parkway with many ebird hotspots along the scenic highway. Of course we stopped many times to check out the scenery and of course bird at each hotspot. About an hour before sunset we crossed the Tennessee River and parked just as we got over the bridge at designed ebird hotspot Natchez Trace Parkway-Lauderdale Park. We observed a tern and some Common Loons. Unable to ID the tern we got goods looks of a Yellow-throated Warbler in the wooded area surrounding the parking lot. Deciding to watch the sunset with this amazing view of the river we pulled out our barbecue to enjoy dinner as well. To my dismay, my poor placement of the food in the ice filled cooler had resulted in the food containers becoming filled with freezing ice water soaking our delicious dinner. Teresa was unhappy that her food was more ruined than mine and an argument began. I probably deserved her frustration, since I usually don't have much patience with her when she makes these kinds of poor decisions about food placement in ice filled coolers. Tension off and on for the next 6 hours for our drive back to Lexington, our argument in a stalemate, each of us with our own perspective. Ugh, traveling and living with another human being in close proximity for days is hard even for twin sisters who usually get along. We made it back to Lexington just before midnight and had finally agreed to take 2 coolers on our trips with each of us responsible for our own food transportation and storage.


We visited 9 Refuges in Mississippi

Coldwater River National Wildlife Refuge, 3/31/18

Tallahatchie National Wildlife Refuge, 3/31/18

Dahomey National Wildlife Refuge, 4/1/18

Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge, 4/2/18

Holt Collier National Wildlife Refuge 4/3/18

Hillside National Wildlife Refuge 4/3/18

Panther Swamp National Wildlife Refuge 4/3/18, 4/4/18

Morgan Brake National Wildlife Refuge 4/4/18

Matthew Brake National Wildlife Refuge 4/5/18

Sam D. Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge 4/6/18. 4/7/18, 4/8/18

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