Cazan Lake may be one of the best places in Louisiana to watch and photograph nesting birds. Known as PJF Farm and Lodge, the 3,500 acre private property is a working rice and crawfish farm, and also provides easy access to hundreds of nests of popular wading birds.
I arrived just after sunrise at PJF Farm, a private conservation area near Ville Platte that is home to hundreds of popular Louisiana wading birds. Photographer Gary Meyers, who offers bird photography workshops at the lake, leads me down a gravel road to the rookery. This natural nesting area features egrets, roseate spoonbills and nearly every wading bird that frequents the Bayou State. We park, set up our cameras on tripods, and start taking pictures. The view from the road is spectacular!
The nesting birds of cazan lake
Watching the birds on their nests, taking photographs and shooting video is easy from our roadside vantage point. “Plenty of birds and they’re fairly close,” Meyers tells me. He adds, “You get a good zoom lens and you can get some really good shots.” Meyers should know. He’s been coming here for years and offers some of his prints for sale. He’s known as “Image Hunter 1” on Facebook.
watching an amazing natural show
As soon as you approach the rookery, you hear the constant squawking and chatter of hundreds of birds. And if photography is not your thing, bring a pair of binoculars and prepare to be entertained. You will see the great white egrets feeding their young. It looks chaotic, as the young birds push each other out of the way and compete for food from the parent. Meyers tells me that people ask him why the birds are fighting. “They’re not fighting, they’re getting fed,” Meyers explains. Younger or weaker chicks are at a disadvantage. “The other siblings will actually peck them and knock ’em out of the nest so they can get more food.” Meyers said. “It’s survival of the fittest.”
cazan lake has alligators
Like most Louisiana lakes and bayous, Cazan Lake has alligators. And biologist Bill Fontenot says that is one reason for the impressive rookery, that’s been here for more than 30 years. “It’s a cypress-tupelo swamp filled with alligators,” Fontenot explains. “And that protects the nests from predation by raccoons and other mammals that may want to get in.”
private farm open to the public
The Fontenot family, which owns PFJ Farm and Lodge, offers overnight stays in several cabins. A small blue cabin is located across the gravel road from the rookery. A lodge can accomodate large groups for overnight stays and meetings. The owners are in the process of adding more lodging at sites around Cazan Lake. Day passes and annual passes are available for sale to photographers and others who want to spend time at the conservation area. Anita Fontenot’s parents bought and developed the farm in 1960. And she tells me that the pandemic has generated interest in the property. “People are tired of being secluded inside,” Fontenot explains. “Outdoors is a wonderful way to just enjoy nature, and learn more about what nature has to bring to our health and to our life.”
getting to cazan lake
PJF Farm and Lodge at Cazan Lake is located near Louisiana’s Chicot State Park, which also features a large lake filled with cypress and tupelo trees. Both sites offer paddling for canoes and kayaks, and fishing. In addition to being a conservation site, PJF Farm is also a working rice and crawfish farm. The property is located at 4703 Cazan Lake Raod, Ville Platte, LA. Phone (337) 363-1830.