OUTDOOR CORNER: Where can I enjoy the outdoors?

Lyle Johnson
A beautiful male redheaded woodpecker looks over his territory in the back yard.

The outdoors. What does it encompass and how do we explain it? This column is named Outdoor Corner, I co-host a TV show named Ascension Outdoors, there’s a popular radio show south of here is named Outdoors with Don Dubuc and there are many more columns and TV shows named Outdoors With (fill in the blank). In it’s simplest form, the definition means, “what’s out the door, front or back.” It’s not necessarily in a rural setting or doesn’t have to be in the country. It can actually be in the city, just about anywhere you’re out the door; even right out your back door.

When I’m outside, sitting on the patio, usually enjoying the company of my beautiful wife while drinking coffee or just having some conversation, I’m in the outdoors. It’s not too long before I see a limb in a tree showing the telltale signs of a squirrel jumping from one tree to another. This time of the year we’re picking pecans and we store them on the patio in a bucket, letting them dry before shelling them. Every once in a while squirrels will sneak up on the patio and to get to the bucket of pecans to harvest an easy meal.

I have a rubber glove hanging on a nail under the patio that is used to clean fish. After a successful fishing trip everything was set up to fillet our catch, I reached for the glove and put it on and a wren flew out of it; nearly scared me to death. After the fish were cleaned, I retired the glove in its place and now a pair of wrens uses it for their bedroom. Right before dark they return every day and fly into the glove and spend the night. If we sit a little too close to their boudoir, they fuss at us until we move.

A little further out there’s a dead pine tree in the back yard that has become sort of a nesting ground. A pair of red-headed woodpeckers pecked a few holes and took up residence three or four years ago and began to nest. The family has multiplied and so have the holes. (About 30 in all) Starlings have also taken to nesting in the tree so in the springtime when the little ones are hatched there is non-stop action and the birds are coming and going trying to feed all those babies. The beauty of those male woodpeckers keeps me watching on a regular basis.

I am what you would call a consumptive conservationist. I enjoy harvesting wildlife and preparing it for some of my favorite meals consumed at our dinner table. A rabbit and andouille gumbo graced it a short time ago; best one my wife ever cooked. Well, at least until the next one, she always tops herself in the kitchen. Being in the woods is certainly in the outdoors and nature really kicks it up a notch when you’re there.

But it really doesn’t matter where you might be - at home, at work or travelling on the road, the beauty of nature can be enjoyed almost anytime. As a matter of fact there’s an eagle’s nest just off of I-10 on the right side heading into New Orleans just before the 310 exit to Boutte. That’s some of the most beautiful cypress swamp around.

Although I don’t recommend that you take your attention off the road while driving, that four or five mile stretch is a remarkable scene. Lake Ponchartrain starts if off on your left and seeing a boat or two enjoying a fishing trip is not unusual. The Bonnet Carre Spillway is on your right - it’s one of my favorite fishing and crabbing holes.

After passing the lake, the Labranche Wetlands are on your left. This was open marsh that was filled in with dirt pumped in from Lake Ponchartrain and is a very successful project that not only re-established some much need marshland but also created a deep hole in the lake that has become a really good fishing spot.

Next on the right is a healthy marsh with canals and ponds that is home to wading birds of all kinds and winter stopping spots for ducks of all species. Then comes that cypress swamp and this time of year young eagles just born are being fed and tended to by the parents and can be seen pretty regularly.

If we’ll just take a short break from the hectic pace of life and look around when we are “out the door”, no matter where we are, nature can be seen and enjoyed. Just look on the ground and we’ll find insects or bugs of some kind carrying on with life.

The other night as I was walking around the back yard I almost ran into a giant spider web. I got to watch this big spider as it was spinning its web. The web was very intricate in design and beautiful to watch being built. Take a look around, you’ll be surprised at what you see.

Springtime is just around the corner and outdoor activity will begin to pick up. The colors will change from dull, wintertime gray to the bright green that comes with warmer weather. Remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. So until next time have fun in the outdoors, be safe and may God truly bless you.

A mother starling feeds her brood using one of the holes the woodpeckers made in the “holey” pine tree in the back yard.