An American beech tree at the Oakley Plantation in Saint Francisville, Louisiana.

John James Audubon spent much of the summer of 1821 at the Oakley Plantation. The plantation is located just south of Saint Francisville, Louisiana. The still charming small town sits just north of where Bayou Sara empties into the Mississippi River. Just down river from the mouth of Bayou Sara is the much larger and heavily developed Baton Rouge. The plantation house is currently closed. Wasps moved in that park workers are trying to move out. A nature trail remains open to the public. It offers ground on which Audubon likely stepped and a view of a forest that stands in a sea of coralberry. One type of tree coming out of the coralberry is an American beech (Fagus grandiflora). The tree somehow escapes identification in John James Audubon’s Birds of America. Audubon does though write about “beech” trees and the importance of their fruit as a food source for birds. Six of them are ducks that also happen to be popular with hunters: the Mallard, American Black duck, Gadwall, American wigeonNorthern pintail, and Redhead. Also a beechnut consumer is the Greater White-fronted goose. Hunters often refer to the goose as a Specklebelly. It is no coincidence that hunters favor the ducks and geese that like to eat nuts.

The Greater White-fronted goose as drawn by John James Audubon for his Birds of America.
Audubon’s “Specklebelly”