LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Ecotourism is growing in popularity among people who want to visit fragile, pristine and largely undisturbed areas.
We have those right here in Southwest Louisiana. That's why an internationally known birding guide and 32 major supporters of Cornell University are here.
Here at Sam Houston Jones State Park, John Fitzpatrick sounds so much like the barred owl his song beckons other species.
"Haw, haw haw haw haw! Awwww," he shouts, with apparent authenticity. "There's a sapsucker! Sapsucker just called! Two sapsuckers chasing!" he said, as fellow birders scan the trees.
"It's a common owl in the southern swamps and these woodpeckers want to come in and find out where the owl is because they don't want to be surprised by it," Fitzpatrick said.
He is the director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, in Ithica, N.Y., and one of one of 32 birders from all over the country united in their support of the bird lab.
"The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is the world's premier center for the study and appreciation and concentration of birds. We do scientific research. We train students," Fitzpatrick said.
Their guide is internationally known Victor Emanuel, who leads birding and nature tours all over the world. He said there's great potential for ecotourism here in Southwest Louisiana. He said the birds are spectacular.
"There's so much to see here. It's an easy part of the country to get to. A lot of people want to travel within the United States and see bird and animals. It's a hobby that's growing incredibly fast," Emanuel said.
They're staying at Grosse Savanne Waterfowl and Wildlife Lodge, located way off the beaten path in a Cameron Parish marsh.
Bobby Jorden is eco-tourism manager.
"Grosse Savanne has unlimited access to about fifty thousand acres of agricultural lands along with native coastal prairies, fresh and saltwater marshes. So, we're very fortunate to have various eco-types here. We do a lot of hunting and fishing along with these eco-tours," Jorden said.
While this area and the parks are well known for wildlife and nature, many locals may not realize the thrill of seeing certain birds. What has been the highlight so far?
"The huge numbers of geese and ducks. We saw a bird called the Cinnamon Teal, a little chest nut colored duck that one of the local guides had seen only once in his life in Louisiana," Emanuel said.
And you may wonder, why birds and why a laboratory at Cornell devoted to their study.