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James Knott: Right now we’re at Lake Martin in Cajun Country Louisiana. We’re about to take a boat out on the lake to see what we can see.
Our guide today is Bryan Champagne of Champagne Swamp Tours. He has been giving tours at the Lake Martin Swamps for 8 years. It is January and the trees have shed their leaves. A sepia tone swamp is painted beneath the pale blue sky. We creep slowly on a boat through the swamp. Bryan Champagne: But the trees in here look dead now because they lose all their leaves in the winter time. They are not conifers. The bottom of the trees are big in here because water is kept in here year round so it swells them up and it also act like a base. Next tree coming up would be the one with the ridges around it like this one to the right or the front or to the left or what not. That’s your ball cypress and that’s the hard wood; expensive wood. They are all totally protected right now of cutting down because water is here year round. So, no cutting of tree, no branches, no root— James Knott: It is dropped into the 40s today, not an ideal day to be out but Bryan is persistent in his search to help us find the swamps treasures. Bryan Champagne: The holes in the trees, you all, is damage by the second largest rodent in the world which is called a nutria; a big rat. Look at that hole, that tree to the left; see if we have any baby nutrias in there. James Knott: There were none in that hole but we find some baby nutria few minutes later. Bryan Champagne: There is baby just right here, not moving. There they go, yeah. They'll get 15 pounds in size or bigger than that. Those are babies, maybe a couple of weeks old. James Knott: Lake Martin is known for the rookery where it season thousands of birds come to nest from February to July. Access to the areas cut off then but right now, we can still take the boat through the rookery and see some of the first birds to arrive for the season.
Bryan Champagne: Off to the right, you all, in the plants, that's a great blue heron bird. That's the one that's starting to nest right now. They'll eat fish, eels, baby gators. That's why we don¹t have a lot of snakes in here because of the great blue herons and also the gators that eat them
This is just the beginning of it right now. Within the next couple of months, you’ll have thousands of birds in here. He's probably got a fish. Yes, they got a fish; a big fish
James Knott: The trees are drape with the plant, unique to the south Bryan Champagne: The gray in the trees is moss. Spanish moss and it's something that actually got to be called that by Spaniards with big beards, so it’s not from Spain or moss. It's an air plant, you all, which is an epiphyte that has no root system to it. It's also a plant that contains 25% water. It does make a little yellow flower but the time you see the little flower, usually the air takes it and it gets carried by the wind and gets high—it is put on trees and what not. James Knott: Craw fish is a main ingredient in Cajun cooking and traps in the swamps can be used to catch them.
Bryan Champagne: Craw fish crabs, that is how we try to catch craw fish here in Louisiana. When you pick it up, you just grab it like this and you just dump them. It has a three—where they go into here they get in. We have a pipe with a hole and where you put catfish in it for bate early in the morning. We set it back in the water to come out the following day to raise it up—that craw fish.
James Knott: Late Martin’s most famous resident has to be the alligator. Most of the gators are hibernated because of the cold weather but Bryan found an alligator in the swamp and gives us a chance to appreciate it up close. Bryan tapes the mouth shut so the alligator can’t bite us.
Bryan Champagne: But you see a gator has no power to open her mouth, the power is close, okay so—
Female: How do I hold it?
Bryan Champagne: Just any kind of way.
If it starts warming up, the gator starts coming out. Cold like it this right now, they shut down because they are cold blooded. But you see their legs, help them climb on logs or when they are floating there, all four of their legs is straight out. That’s all their leg, It doesn't help them swim and whatsoever. Their legs just fold to the side. The tail does all the work in the water. If a gator loses their tail, they can't swim but they can run up to 35 miles an hour on dry land straight, you all, so if a gator starts to chase you, it run zig zag, they can't keep up with you that way. They mostly in stay in the water like right now they are underneath the plants and we’re nagging, sometimes they are not—Other plants catch them there and that is where they go down for hibernation or some unbear themselves in the mud.
James Knott: After a brief examination of the reptile, we put the alligator back into the swamp.
Bryan Champagne: There, see the waters got him cold. See the legs how this kick to the side and the tail does all the work.
James Knott: It was a fascinating and fun trip and if it is this good in January then I can only imagine what it’s like in the warmer parts of the year. Each season had it only meet; challenges and rewards so I encourage you to come check it out for yourself.
Check out champagneswamptours.com for more information. For more travel videos, you can check out my website, straycompass.com or if you are on another video sharing website, don’t forget to subscribe to my videos. I am James Knott, thanks for watching, goodbye.