As a resident of Lafayette, I know Bayou Vermilion as a sleepy bayou lined with nice houses and immaculate yards. On the south end of town, the bayouside becomes more natural, the houses blend into nature a bit more, and the bayou heads down toward Abbeville. Yesterday, I got a different look at Bayou Vermilion altogether.
Intracoastal City is south of Abbeville, and the stretch of the bayou between Abbeville and Intracoastal was something I'd never seen. We headed out of Intracoastal City in the boat, and turned north into the bayou. Intracoastal City is on the edge of the marsh, without much in the way of trees along the waterways around the launch. A short way upriver, near where the "pogey plant" processes Gulf Menhaden (fish), things started to change. Cypress trees began to appear, and the banks of the bayou became lined by hardwood forests. We headed farther north through thick forests that made me wonder if this is what the bayou looked like when my ancestors first saw it over 200 years ago.
After a while, the sense of wildness became a little more pronounced when we spotted Swallow-tailed Kites circling in the thermals above.
As we slowly worked the channels leading into the bayou, the kites came lower.
It's hard not to marvel at Swallow-tailed Kites. Everything about them is remarkable. They can glide effortlessly, turn in midair, dive at lightning speed, and then swoop back into a lazy, unhurried glide--all within seconds. And they do it for hour after hour. They seem to delight in flying. And when they do flap, it's also slow and unhurried. They make defying gravity look easy.
We noticed that one of the kites was carrying something in its talons. We realized later it was a paper wasp nest, which I'm told is something they like to eat the larvae from. The nest was the object of several chases, but some of the chases we saw seemed to be nothing more than a game.
We were able to enjoy the kites all the way back to Intracoastal City. At times, the kites flew below the level of the trees and gave us excellent views. The most we saw together at one time was eight birds, although there might have been more.
When we came out of the woods, I had to remind myself that all of this happened just a short drive from Lafayette. This stretch of Bayou Vermilion is a treasure, and I hope it stays that way forever.
If you don't have a friend with a boat, another way to enjoy the area is by visiting Palmetto State Park. We docked there for a few minutes, and it's a first class facility. Their website is: http://www.crt.state.la.us/parks/ipalmetto.ASPX