Directions: Finding Mayes Lake is relatively easy, even though the signs are not very helpful. The easiest approach is from I-55. Take the Lakeland (Highway 25) exit heading northeast towards Carthage. After traveling about 6/10 of a mile on Lakeland Drive, take a right at the second light (a Shell station is at the corner)where there s a brown sign that says "LeFleur's Bluff State Park Camping Entrance."
After traveling a block, a colorful sign announces "Mayes Lake" in large letters and "LeFleur's Bluff State Park" in small script. The daily entrance fee for automobiles in $2.00 (or pay $20.00 for an annual pass good for a calendar year). After passing through the gate, take the first right which will lead you to the picnic area parking lot. After scanning the lakes for waterbirds, the picnic area is often productive, particularly along the edge of the western lake (the one with the most cypress and cypress stumps). Thereafter, follow the nature trail. Several spurs from the nature trail are often productive. Watch out for adundant poison ivy as well as mosquitos, snakes and other critters. Take bug repellant and water in warm weather.
Be sure to visit the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, which is reached from the I-55 entrance to LeFleur's Bluff State Park. Current adult admission price is $4.00 and it is well worth the price. Individual ($25.00) and Family ($50.00) memberships are available. Benefits for the yearly membership include museum admission,(plus admission to more than 200 other participating museums) member-only events, Musuem newsletter and 10% discount at the Dragonfly Shoppe. Call the Nature Center at 601-354-7303 for details.
By Reese & Louise Partridge
Photo by Skipper Anding
New! Click here for a printable checklist of the birds of LeFleur's Bluff.
The Mayes Lake component of LeFleur's Bluff State Park (LBSP) is probably the best all-around birding spot that is convenient to downtown Jackson. While the main component of LBSP is located immediately adjacent to I-55 on Highland Drive, the entrance to Mayes Lake is located two miles away on Lakeland Drive (also called Highway 25). An often productive nature trail (portions of which are sometimes closed) with mature hardwoods and native understory connects the two locations. Part of the trail parallels the Pearl River and passes several picturesque cypress and tupelo gum ponds, one of which was used in the film version of Willie Morris's book "My Dog Skip." The trail entrance on the Mayes Lake side is at the "back" of the picnic grounds near the narrow strip of land that separates the two largest lakes. The trail entrance on the LBSP side is at the rear of the Mississippi Musuem of Natural Science. The LBSP trail entrance is located high on the bluff, and quickly descends down a series of wooden stairs to a pair of narrow cypress oxbox lakes. NOTE: The Mayes Lake area has been targeted for commercial development which would destroy this prime and rapidly vanishing habitat for Mississippi's native birds and wildlife. Do what you can to help preserve it.
Specialty Birds: In spring and early summer, Mayes Lake is the place to come to see the stunningly yellow Prothonotary Warbler (classified as a threatened species due to habitat loss) as it nests and raises young before returning to South and Central America for the fall and winter. Numerous other woodland species also nest here, as well as what is arguably Mississippi's most handsome year-around resident bird, the Wood Duck. At the Mayes Lake picnic grounds, Red Shouldered Hawks frequently nest near the stilt house. Mississippi Kites are regularly seen in the spring and summer over the river. You will likely hear a Barred Owl, even if you are not lucky enough to see one. Spring migration can be good, but the best migration is in the fall during September and October, when numerous migrating warblers may be seen (including Magnolias, Redstart, Chestnut-sided, Canada) and migrating Baltimore Orioles and Scarlet Tanagers. In September check all the lakes (including those on the road to the campground) for Wood Storks and White Ibis which frequently arrive during "post-breeding dispersal". Both the spring and fall migration nearly always brings surprises.
Summer at Mayes Lake (June, July, August): Expected Birds: Woodland species you may see or hear during the summer include Carolina Wren, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Cardinal, Mockingbird, Eastern Bluebird, American Robin, Brown Thrasher, Blue Jay, Red-bellied, Red-headed and Downy Woodpeckers, Northern Flicker, White-eyed Vireo, Yellow-throated Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Summer Tanager, Orchard Oriole, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Prothonotary Warbler, Eastern Wood Peewee, Acadian Flycatcher, Great Crested Flycatcher, Northern Parula, Pine Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Eastern Towhee, House Finch, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Chimney Swift, Rough-winged Swallow and Barn Swallow. Birds that you would expect to see near the lakes and ponds inlude Great Blue Hern, Great Egret, Green Heron, Anhinga, Double Crestd Cormorant, Wood Duck, Mallard, Canada Goose, Killdeer, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Eastern Kingbird and Belted Kingfisher. Raptor possibilities include Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks, Mississippi Kite and Barred Owl. Other Possible Birds: Yellow crowned Night Herons have recently been discovered nesting in the Mayes Lake area. Pileated Woodpeckers are also nesting species and may be seen or heard. Bald Eagles have been seen over the river. Beginning in August, migrating shorebirds may use exposed mudflats of the lakes and ponds. Photo by Skipper Anding
Fall & Fall Migration at Mayes Lake (September, October, November): Expected Birds: Woodland species you may see or hear during the fall include Carolina Wren, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Cardinal, Mockingbird, Eastern Bluebird, American Robin, Brown Thrasher, Blue Jay, Red-bellied, Red-headed and Downy Woodpeckers, Northern Flicker, White-eyed Vireo, Phoebe, Eastern Towhee and House Finch. Birds that you would expect to see near lakes and ponds include Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Double Crested Cormorant, Wood Duck, Mallard, Canada Goose, Killdeer, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Belted Kingfisher. Raptor possibilities include Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks and Barred Owl. One of the earliest signs of fall migration of woodland birds begins in mid-August with increased numbers (or arrival) of Kentucky Warblers, Black-and-White Warblers, and Blue-winged Warblers, along with apparent increases in numbers of common summer residents such as Yellow-billed Cuckoo, White-eyed Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Yellow-throated Vireo, Northern Parula, Prothonotary Warbler, and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Other Possible Birds: While in migration back to their Central and Southern America wintering grounds, common woodland species you might see during fall migration include Yellow Warbler, American Redstart, Magnolia Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler and Black-throated Green Warbler. Other birds that you might see include Nashville Warbler, Blue-winged Warbler, Golden-winged Warbler, Wilson's Warbler, Black Throated Blue Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Bay Breasted Warbler, Red-eyed Vireo, Yellow Throated Vireo and Catbird. Early arrivals of winter residents include White Throated Sparrow, Winter Wren, Cedar Waxwing, Yellow-rumped Warbler and American Goldfinch. Photo by Skipper Anding
Winter at Mayes Lake (December, January, February): Expected Birds: Ducks and sparrows are arriving now that the "neotropical" migrants have departed for South and Central America. The cheerfully plaintive song of the White Throated Sparrow now accompanies us in our walk in the woods, compact flocks of Cedar Waxwings fly from treetop to treetop, and American Goldfinch are now seen and heard. Brown Creeper, Brown Headed Nuthatch and in some years Red Breasted Nuthatch are seen and heard. In addition to the common Carolina Wren, Winter Wren and other wintering wrens are seen. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Red-headed Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Blue-headed Vireo, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Pine Warbler, Song Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Field Sparrow and Eastern Towhee are seen. On the ponds and lakes, you may see Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Wood Duck, Mallard, Canada Goose, Pied-billed Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant and Belted Kingfisher. Keep in mind that the gates to Mayes Lake are sometimes closed for days at a time in Winter and early Spring due to high water on the Pearl River. Other Possible Birds: Some of the favorite finds in wintering woodland birds include Orange Crowned Warbler, Common Yellowthroat and Catbird. Sometimes on the lakes or in the river we find Hooded Merganser, Ring-necked Duck, Green-winged Teal, Gadwall, Scaup, Bufflehead and Northern Shoveler. Photo by Skipper Anding
Mayes Lake in Spring & Spring Migration (March, April, May): Expected Birds: The first harbingers of spring are the swifts and swallows as early as late February, with Black and White Warblers, Northern Parulas, Yellow Throated Vireos, Yellow Throated Warblers, Prothonotary Warblers and others soon following in late March and early April. Other woodland species during spring migration include American Redstart, Magnolia Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler, Chestnut sided Warbler, Blue Winged Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, White-eyed Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Blue-headed Vireo, Indigo Bunting and Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Birds that you would expect to see around ponds include Little Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Cattle Egret and Great Egret. Birds lingering through the early part of spring before departing northward include Cedar Waxwing, American Goldfinch and White Throated Sparrow. Many of the birds mentioned under "Summer" will already be present or be arriving during spring and may be seen. Keep in mind that the gates to Mayes Lake are sometimes closed for days at a time in Winter and early Spring due to high water on the Pearl River. Other Possible Birds: Other possible spring migrants include Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Scarlet Tanager, Baltimore Oriole, and Orchard Oriole. Look for the handful of mulberry trees along the trail that serve as magnets for fruit eaters like orioles, Rose Breasted Grosbeaks, tanagers and Indigo Buntings. Vines also frequently attract migrants. One of the migrant hotspots is the area within 50 yards or so of the narrow strip of land between the lakes near the Nature Trail entrance. Photo by Skipper Anding