The Sights and Sounds of the Big Sunflower River

Take a virtual tour with the beautiful wildlife residents of Mississippi’s Big Sunflower River, whose habitat is threatened by the Yazoo Pumps project.

Alligator Stack | Stephen Kirkpatrick

This blog is a part of our series on America’s Most Endangered Rivers® – the Big Sunflower River in Mississippi.

The Big Sunflower River topped our annual list of America’s Most Endangered Rivers® this year. Have you been there? Have you paddled or fished in this special place? Tell us your story below!

In case you’ve never been there (sadly, I have not either), I wanted to share some beautiful images that capture many of the curious creatures that call this place home (and some whimsical commentary that you can take or leave). These images are all credited to Stephen Kirkpatrick.


Check out the stack of alligators above! I suspect they must have been keeping warm by piling up (this image was taken in March). Or perhaps they are waiting in line for the all-you-can-eat buffet!

Credit: Stephen KirkpatrickDid you know that armadillos can swim? I did not. Yet, here is this rolly polly stretching out and taking a dip in the river. It reminds me of a tiny amphibious tank.Barred Owl at Sunrise | Stephen KirkpatrickWhoooooo do we have here? A gorgeous Barred Owl. Did you know that supposedly Barred Owls have a call that sounds like, “Who cooks for you?” Listen here and then tell me below if you agree with the experts at The Cornell Lab of Ornithology (I’m not sure… it just sounds like a bunch of hooting to me… although I admit that I am not a bird expert AT ALL)!

Beaver Eating Vegetation | Stephen KirkpatrickWell, I’ll be dammed! While beavers drive some people crazy, they can actually be really helpful for the river environment in some places. If you want to learn more, check out this recent article!

Belted Kingfisher in Willow | Stephen KirkpatrickThe beautiful Belted Kingfisher. I love that blue-grey. Of course, I had to compare the soulful hoots of the Barred Owl to this Belted Kingfisher, and HONEY, this bird sounds like it is ordering me around! I don’t know what I am supposed to be doing, but I better get on top of it! (Does this remind you of anyone you know…?)

BARRED OWL:  Whoooo cooks for you?

BELTED KINGFISHER:  Goodness, you don’t even know. Nobody is cooking for me! Where are my helpers? Nowhere to be found. But you can bet when the food is ready, there they will be with their empty bellies waiting for some tasty fish. Did anybody help catch the fish? Nope. You just don’t even know…

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks | Stephen KirkpatrickThese Black-bellied Whistling Ducks live in the trees and forage at night. Of course, I had to have a listen. Here you go! Definitely less quacky and more chirpy.

Cattle Egret | Stephen KirkpatrickDon’t you just love the look of this Cattle Egret? It’s as if he just woke up and was like—what did I miss?? Listen to this Cattle Egret having a good laugh about something or other. Not surprisingly, these birds hang out with cows, eating bugs that get rustled up or even ticks on the cows themselves. Gotta love that symbiosis.

Fox Squirrel | Stephen KirkpatrickLots of birds. Something else! Fox squirrel! This one is starring in the new movie: Mission Impawsible. Before it leaves for its mission, it needs to track down some nuts!

Hoverfly on Chickasaw Plum Blooms | Stephen KirkpatrickThis is Mississippi. You know there are bugs in this Delta! This is a Hoverfly on a Chickasaw plum bloom. Don’t worry though. Hoverflies are harmless to most other animals.

Wild Hog | Stephen KirkpatrickLook at this momma wild hog with all her hoglets! I cannot imagine having that many babies at one time. Good luck, momma!

Indigo Bunting in Spring | Stephen KirkpatrickBird break over. Y’all, I had to share this Indigo Bunting! Look at that stunning blue plumage. What a happy sounding bird!

Wood Ducks | Stephen KirkpatrickCheck out this goofy Wood Duck! I think he’s yelling—Stop! We didn’t wait 30 minutes to digest before going in the water! What do you think he is yelling?

Red-Bellied Woodpecker | Stephen KirkpatrickDid you know that Red-bellied Woodpeckers have suuuuuper long tongues? Their tongue can stick out nearly two inches past the end of their beak, plus it’s all barby and sticky, to get tasty morsels out of deep crevices.

Roseatte Spoonbills & Black-crowned Night Heron | Stephen KirkpatrickLastly, we have fabulous Roseate Spoonbills and a cameo by Black-crowned Night Heron. There’s something wonderful about a bright pink bird with a big ole spoon beak that just makes me smile. Nature is a crazy place.


Truly, these magnificent creatures are just a small snapshot of the amazing wildlife that would be impacted by the Yazoo Pumps project in the Big Sunflower watershed. Take action today to help us save this special place.

Please join us in telling Congress that a Clean Water Act veto is final and to dump Yazoo Pumps once and for all for the benefit of nature and people.

If you loved these images as much as I do, go check out more of Stephen Kirkpatrick’s wildlife photography at: https://www.kirkpatrickwildlife.com/index.

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