The most accessible portion of Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge is the 16,000-acre impoundment known locally as “the Pool.” It’s a wonderful place to find ducks, geese, hawks, egrets, herons, and alligators, and best of all, it’s quiet and relaxing. The wildlife drive takes visitors about six miles through the protected marsh. Lacassine is a remote refuge. On most days, you may see only a few people traveling the raised levee roads.
A few hundred thousand ducks winter on the refuge. Lacassine hosted more than 100,000 Northern Pintails in winter in the 1980s, but the numbers today are only about 18,000, reflecting a downward trend for the species across North America. In addition to pintails, expect to see teal, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, Mottled Duck, Canvasback, and Redhead, among others.
Peak season starts in December and extends well into February. It’s thrilling to see and hear large flocks of geese rising up and descending in the fields and to find thousands of ducks spread out over the Pool. On the east side, a raised platform overlooks the miles of marsh; a stationary scope is located here. The tranquility, many species of birds, and lack of human occupation bring me back to the refuge every winter. — John Phillips, Jr.
John Phillips, Jr. is a wildlife photographer. He wrote about Smith Oaks Bird Sanctuary, High Island, Texas, Hotspot Near You No. 153, in February 2013.