Wading in to Watershed Dynamics — An Account of LMNNe’s Sixth Workshop.

 

Dr. Bill Patterson with members of Louisiana Master Naturalists Northeast studying Redwine creek. C.Paxton photo, copyright LMNE.

Dr. Bill Patterson with members of Louisiana Master Naturalists Northeast studying Redwine creek. C.Paxton photo, copyright LMNNE.

Dr. Bill Patterson introducing and clarifying key pointsin his Watershed Dynamics lecture.

Dr. Bill Patterson introducing and clarifying key points in his Watershed Dynamics lecture.

As the dominant terrestrial species on this planet we naturally have a rather grounded perspective of our environment; we named our home planet Earth despite the fact that about 70% of its surface is now covered by water.

On Saturday Sept. 15th 2018, 12 members of the Louisiana Master Naturalists Northeast chapter learned more about the crucial relationship between earth and water in a workshop on Watershed Dynamics organized by our Chair, Dr. Bette Kauffman Professor Emeritus of ULM and very capably delivered by Dr. Bill Patterson, as Associate Professor of Forest Soils and Watershed Management at Louisiana Tech University he was the ideal instructor! I learned a lot from the event, facilitated by Bill’s clear and well-articulated presentation and I also greatly enjoyed the fellowship and conversations with these good people.

Professor Patterson explaining the Sparta watershed.

Professor Patterson explaining how the Sparta aquifer (green ) is fed by its watershed (blue).

Shortly before 09.00 we gathered at Louisiana Tech University’s Reese Hall for the sixth workshop event. We met Prof. Patterson unloading a series of boxes of scientific equipment from a sleek minibus and accompanied him to the classroom for a very comprehensive, illustrated presentation and discussion. An excellent introduction to the sbject, If I may say it.

He began with a basic introduction to the concept of a watershed, defining the term as any area of land that drains water into lakes and rivers.

Watersheds are crucially important sources of clean freshwater. We learned about how relatively scarce and precious, clean, fresh, liquid water is on planet Earth, that less than 2.5% of our water is fresh and that of that small subset, 68.7% is locked up in glaciers and pack ice. Very little of the remaining surface water is clean enough to be potable and so groundwater is very, very important. Here in northern Louisiana we are blessed with, and dependent upon the Sparta aquifer — a pressurized body of fresh groundwater which overlays ‘fossil’ saltwater from our marine pre-history.

Dr. Patterson explaing trends in precipitation levels. Climate change is noticeable in various ways, drying in the central portion of the US is gradually spreading eastwards.

Dr. Patterson explaing trends in precipitation levels. Climate change is noticeable in various ways, drying in the central portion of the US is gradually spreading eastwards.

Under normal conditions, our planet’s freshwater is a renewable resource in a constant process of refreshment through the hydrological cycle of precipitation and condensation (fog, rain, sleet, hail and snow) and evapotranspiration which is the return of water back into the atmosphere from atmospheric heating and through plants.

Prof. Patterson systematically introduced the concepts of patterns of orographic and convective precipitation, infiltration and percolation, groundwater, and runoff and streamflow. How storm flow builds, peaks and ebbs, and how land use factors affect watersheds. In order of declining suitability: forests are the best groundcover for watersheds, followed by pasture, then row crops and finally urban development.

We learned that the forest soil to the northwest of the Twin cities, in Webster, Bienville and Winn Parishes with its natural mixture of invertebrate life, bacteria, fungi, underlain with porous sandy soil makes an excellent watershed to feed the Sparta aquifer. Two thirds of our drinking water is organically filtered through forest.

We learned that 15-20 years ago the Twin cities’ industrial and commercial activities used more water than domestic households, but now domestic use exceeds industrial use.

We learned of climate change in terms of more severe weather systems, unpredictable seasonal swings of droughts (like July 5 through October 15th 2016) and increased rainfall (March 13th 2017 21.5 inches in 24 hours) but an overall drying that is spreading eastwards from central Texas and points north. Climate is changing, and it is doing so in unpredictable and complicated ways.  Healthy forests maintain watersheds that improve our overall resilience.

We also learned that withdrawal from Sparta is currently exceeding the natural rate of replenishment and as a result our water table in Monroe has dropped about four feet and is falling at a rate of 1.8 inches per year. So, it’s probably a good idea for households to consider re-using water responsibly and perhaps using more rain water for gardens and possibly greywater in cases where non-food plants need watering.

We discussed the tension between the planners’ need to prevent standing water accumulation in urban areas to control mosquito borne illnesses and the ecological need to retain water in soil rather than just drain it off. Incorporation of swales that create underground lenses of water within the soil seem good.

After a brief coffee break with thanks to Jennifer, the subject turned to description of methods used to measure streamflow and water quality.

I was very interested to see how scientists measure stream flow with a specific formula that can be applied with equal suitability to areas varying from the size of a drainage ditch to the mighty Mississippi! Where Q stands for quantity, V for velocity and A the cross-section area of discharge, then Q = VA.

Water can be studied at culverts, with pre-designed metal chutes (flumes) and even in stream beds by dividing the area into rectangles and triangles with known measurements and combining these distinct areas to ascertain the total area for the formula to be applied. Dr. Patterson showed us instrumentation and sampling equipment including an extendable current meter, an oxygen monitor with thermometer and measuring kits for specific pollutants like nitrates and phosphate.

Water quality factors include the dissolved oxygen, turbidity, temperature, phosphate, nitrate and nitrite, and ammonia. Tests for gender-bending endocrine disruptors or other chemical pollutants are possible, but are more specialist and expensive.

Some of these water quality factors interplay, for example:

  • water temperature and dissolved oxygen levels are related. Cooler water holds more oxygen, warmer water holds less.
  • Nitrates and oxygen are related in the way that excess nitrogen boosts plant growth which booms in algal blooms that then die and rot, consuming available oxygen, reducing dissolved oxygen to dangerously low levels that are lethal to fish and other gilled organisms.
  • Turbidity leads to higher temperatures because the sediment particles absorb more solar radiation than pure water alone can do. Excess sediment can choke fish and invertebrate eggs and block plants’ ability to photosynthesize starch from sunlight and carbon dioxide.

He showed us a Google Map of the Redwine Creek with study stations marked. The lower measuring station in land owned by Weyerhauser that was formerly granted the status of Wildlife Management Area is no longer accessible unfortunately. The creek supplies water to The Dugdemona river which in turn runs into the Red river which feeds the massive Atchafalaya wetlands, a huge wildlife-rich area approximately the size of Wales. An ecological jewel.

We would visit two of the study stations after lunch to sample the water quality and stream life. The first was on Grambling University grounds, accessed from Facilities Road.

Dr. Patterson arranged a Tech van to take us to the stream; some members drove independently. We disembarked at Redwine Creek in Grambling, La. Members helped carry equipment down to the stream.

First, we measured the discharge (streamflow), temperature, turbidity and dissolved oxygen level.  Members with waders gamely waded out to the culverts for sampling, others used dipnets and Dr. Patterson and Kalem Dartez cast a weighted castnet, both had good style! Betty and Suzanne used a seine net in tandem.  Kimmie photographed a fast moving Southern Broad-banded Watersnake.  Nobody fell in, but you can see from the data that we wouldn’t have contracted a cold or pneumonia from the warm water if any of us had taken a dip.

 

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Stats

Redwine Creek North

Turbidity: 74.55 NTU

Dissolved Oxygen: 7.20 DO

Temperature: 27.3°C / 81.14°F

On May 1st 2018 students had recorded the turbidity at 41.8 NTU, temperature as 18.5°C and Dissolved Oxygen as 8.9 so we were able to determine that water conditions had changed with regard to these factors and their quality at this station can be considered impaired. Even so, there was healthy-looking aquatic life in the form of two species of fish, a watersnake and two crawfish.

Afterwards we noted that soil disturbance on the banks would be at least partially responsible for the increased turbidity, it would be good to look into turbidity amelioration on that stretch.

We observed the following wildlife:

Bioblitz

Plants, Woody

River birch, Betula nigra

 

Plants, Herbaceous

Peppervine, Ampelopsis arborea

 

Plants, Graminoids

Slender spike grass, Chasmanthium laxum

 

Insects

Bordered plant bug, Largus californicus

Dragonflies

Lovebug, Plecia nearctica

Goldenrod with Love bugs by the Rewdwine creek, Louisiana!

Goldenrod with Love bugs by the Rewdwine creek, Louisiana!

Birds

American crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos

Black vulture, Coragyps atratus

Carolina wren, Thryothorus ludovicianus

Fish crow, Corvus ossifragus

Northern mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos

Red-tailed hawk, Buteo jamaicensis

White-eyed vireo, Vireo griseus

 

Reptiles and Amphibians

Broad banded water snake, Nerodia fasciata confluens

 

Fungi

Puffball mushroom, Basidiomycota sp.

 

Fish

“Red-finned” Shiner, Notropis cornutis

Western mosquitofish, Gambusia affinis

 

Crustacean

2 Crawfish, Astacoidea sp.

 

 

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We re-boarded the van and visited the second station where the river has passed through a water treatment plant and actually falls in a small cascade over a concrete step just past the bridge. Here the turbidity had dropped by 30.79 NTU. Dr. Patterson also conducted a Phosphate test which showed the level to be impaired.

Dr. Bill Patterson casting a weighted cast-net, its flight is shown in 5 frames that were stacked in post-production.

Dr. Bill Patterson casting a weighted cast-net, its flight is shown in 5 frames that were stacked in post-production, while other members sample aquatic life by large and small dip-nets, and explore the banks.

Dr. Patterson displaying the test kit for Phospahtes. Dissolved Phosphate levels in the Redwine were found to be about 4 ppm.

Dr. Patterson displaying the test kit for Phospahtes. Dissolved Phosphate levels in the Redwine were found to be about 4 ppm.

Here are the notes from the lower station:

Redwine Creek South

Turbidity: 43.76 NTU

Dissolved Oxygen: 7.36 DO

Temperature: 27.6°C / 81.68°F

Phosphate: 4

All the above figures show impairment.

Bioblitz

Plants, Herbaceous

Goldenrod, Asteraceae sp.

 

Plants, Graminoids

Virginia Wildrice, Poaceae sp.

 

Insects

Amberwing, Perithemis sp.

Lovebug, Plecia nearctica

Damselfly (green stripes on thorax, blue band on tail)

Dragonflies, Odonata sp.

Damselfly Naiad, Odonata sp.

Dragonfly Naiad, Odonata sp.

 

Birds

Black vulture, Coragyps atratus

Blue jay, Cyanocitta cristata

Northern cardinal, Cardinalis cardinalis

 

C.Paxton photographing and filming the exploration for a forthcoming film.

C.Paxton photographing and filming the exploration.

I am very grateful to everybody who cast their eyes about looking for the rubber eye-cup that fell off my camera’s new LCD panel loupe* near the second station. My thanks to Jeff Barnhill for finding it and getting it back to me.

From the conversations in the minibus it was clear that members enjoyed the event and found it very interesting and stimulating, Kimmie and I certainly did too.

Water is very much a part of life in northeastern Louisiana and we are never far from a water body of some sort. Some of our members live right by the Mississippi, others near Bayou D’Arbonne, and others Cheniere Lake. For our own part, we feel fortunate to have springs from the Sparta aquifer at the bottom of our land near Farmerville and so all of this seemed particularly interesting to us.

This is my first draft of the account, it is likely to be improved by the peer review process, so you can expect some revision.

*A note on LCD Loupes

I think they’re a brilliant accessory. Recently I’ve been aware of missed focus on some of my pictures and I have always had difficulty in bright sunlight seeing details on my cameras’ rear LCDs. I bought an LCD Loupe for about $70 inc. tax postage etc. last week and feel that it has helped a lot! The unit is about 10cm long and has a diopter adjustment ring and a rubber eyecup that you can use for either eye, that hugs your cheek. Watch out that you don’t knock off your eye-cup with the camera strap. It might be worth keeping that in a pocket and just applying it when you’re ready to shoot. It works pretty well without the eye-cup, but this extra friction on the cheek helps stabilize the camera nicely too which means you can knock back that ISO for cleaner images with more detail.

I don’t know about you, but I find any steadying effect is useful in wildlife photography because the more excited I am about my subject, the more likely I am to spoil a picture in borderline conditions through camera shake. How often the great shots are in lower light. What a pain to blur the special opportunities! Or be forced to use a high ISO to ensure a suitably fast shutter speed and appropriate depth of field. My cameras all have image stabilization in the lenses, bodies or both, but the steadier I can hold the camera the better.

The unit works in addition to the quick release plate on my Vivitar tripod, so I can have both on at the same time. You can adjust the placement with the side-knobs and flip up the magnifying optic to put it out of the way if you want to view the LCD screen unmagnified. In short, it’s like having a better viewfinder. OK, so you’ll use your camera battery up faster than if you just use the viewfinder, but that’s a penalty I’m prepared to accept for getting that line of finest focus where I want it, more of the time, very handy with a 50mm F1.4 and with macro lenses.

An LCD Loupe by Sevenoak.

An LCD Loupe by Sevenoak attached to my Pentax K-1. This attaches to the bottom of the camera by connecting to a screwed-on base-plate. It gives a 3X magnified view of the rear LCD which enables me to check finer focus and other details of the picture more carefully.

NB. C. Paxton’s endorsements are genuine, personal opinions, he was not paid to express them on this blog.

 

Watershed Dynamics

Here’s a great opportunity to learn about Watershed Dynamics !

ARCAS Annual Report 2017 — progress in difficult environment

Cover image of the ARCAS 2017 annual report with an image of a rescued Barn owl.

Right click on the image above and select ‘save’ option to download the ARCAS annual report 2017 to a folder of your choice.

Today I read the latest ARCAS Annual Report (2017) and was pleasantly surprised by the good news it contained. Central America has a wonderful biodiversity but it is a troubled region with logistical challenges ranging from exploding volcanoes to organised criminal gangs involved in wildlife and forest crime.

ARCAS (asociaciòn de rescate y conservaciòn de vida silvestre) is Guatemala’s leading wildlife rescue and rehabilitation organization with dedicated local staff and local and foreign volunteers and student interns working to help care for wildlife that has been rescued from the domestic and transnational illegal wildlife trade. They are also running a sea turtle conservation program on the Pacific Coast with sea turtle hatcheries and environmental education and volunteer activities.

ARCAS’ effectiveness is very much due to the dedication of their staff and collaborative work with partners in law enforcement, Parks authorities and domestic and foreign donors and volunteers.

Please do read the report for the details of their activities in 2017 which in summary include:

  • the intake of 238 species of wildlife to the ARCAS rescue centers, many of them endangered
    Advertisement of Wildlife Medicine and Conservation in Guatemala courses with ARCAS — Learn HANDS-ON with the largest rescue and rehabilitation center in Guatemala. Get to work with Spider Monkeys, Crocodiles, Parrots, Macaws, Coatis and much more.

    Advertisement of Wildlife Medicine and Conservation in Guatemala courses with ARCAS — Learn HANDS-ON with the largest rescue and rehabilitation center in Guatemala. Get to work with Spider Monkeys, Crocodiles, Parrots, Macaws, Coatis and much more.

    and rare, all of them precious to the ecology,

  • the completion of installations for the rehabilitation of small felines and carnivores, an area removed from humans where they can learn to hunt and adapt to the wild.
  • the improvement of habitats for the pumas and jaguars that cannot be rehabilitated
  • the training of 57 students from twelve North American and European universities in Wildlife Medicine and Conservation in Guatemala courses with ARCAS. See the poster on the right.
  • participation in the Colores project on the Pacific coast, protecting Yellow naped amazon (Amazona auropalliata) parrots as a flagship species to conserve the last remaining wild animals and places on the Pacific coast of Guatemala.
    In 2017 COLORES carried out parrot-monitoring and nest protection, environmental education, and public outreach
    in support of anti-trafficking activities.
  • working together with the San Carlos University, CoNAP, HSI and local NGos, to draft and present animal welfare legislation that was passed by the Guatemalan Congress. The report states that “For the first time, Guatemalans have the legal means to denounce acts of cruelty to animals, not only domestic pets, but also wildlife and livestock.”
  • Together with the newly-formed Animal Welfare Unit of the MAGA and Animal Defenders International, ARCAS is working to transport over 50 circus animals to appropriate sanctuaries in Africa and the US.

     

  • With the support of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the Disney Conservation Fund, this year ARCAS expanded its installations at the San Lucas office and built new enclosures to hold the increasing numbers of animals that it is receiving there, improving their overall well-being and supporting wildlife trafficking enforcement efforts.

     

  • ARCAS is participating in the project “Forestry management and Protection (FMAP) System for Tackling Illegal Logging” funded by the UK Space Agency (UKSA) International Partnership Programme (IPP).
    ARCAS is to work with Guatemalan partners, including the CoNAP, DIPRoNA, the Public Ministry (MP), the National Forestry Institute (INAB) and the Ministry of Agriculture (MAGA) to:
    – Reduce land crime through increased land use change detection with a higher temporal resolution to provide intelligence to enforcement agencies;
    – Upgrade existing traceability systems through the addition of space-based data and GNSS mobile applications to support better forestry management and tackle illegal activities;
    – Increase the efficiency, impact and scalability of the forestry incentive programs by reducing the costs of surveying, monitoring and land-use verification in the current systems.
    This is delivered by a consortium of international technology companies led by Edinburgh-based Astrosat.

This is an impressive body of work and we wish ARCAS the very best of luck with their endeavours.

ARCAS is always interested in being contacted by potential volunteers and donors, so if you think that you can help, please don’t hesitate to contact Development Director, Colum Muccio

ARCAS

Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Association, Guatemala
Asociaciòn Rescate y Conservaciòn de Vida Silvestre

(cc502)5704-2563, 7830-1374
www.arcasguatemala.org

 

 

1 Ecologist, 2 Parks, 16 Naturalists

Dr. Joydeep Bhattercharjee describing the phenomenon of arrested succession in forest development to Louisiana Master Naturalists Northeast, illustrating his point with a vine-clad forest clearing. C. Paxton

Ecosystems and Restoration Ecology Professor Dr. Joydeep Bhattercharjee describing the phenomenon of arrested succession in forest development to attending members of Louisiana Master Naturalists Northeast, illustrating his point with a vine-clad forest clearing in West Monroe’s Kiroli Park. C. Paxton photo.

By C. Paxton

My commentary on Bette’s article follows here. I thought this was a very enjoyable and full event, with two field trips and a lecture! I have picknicked and cycled in Kiroli before, but this time I was able to learn a lot more about the popular park in West Monroe. Our thanks to Louisiana Master Naturalists Northeast Chair Dr. Bette Kauffmann for organizing another fantastic learning experience for us.

Louisiana Master Naturalists Northeast chapter founder and Chair, Dr. Bette Kauffmann photographing wildlife with telephoto and reflector. C. Paxton image and copyright.

Louisiana Master Naturalists Northeast chapter founder and Chair, Dr. Bette Kauffmann photographing wildlife with telephoto and reflector. C. Paxton image and copyright.

We congregated at a gazebo and heard a brief introduction to Dr. Joydeep Bhattercharjee, a brilliant and very approachable young Professor of Restoration Ecology at ULM,  Monroe and his important work in studying ecological systems here and at Russell Sage WMA where he’s engaged with cutting edge forest ecology studies creating a spectral library of southern forest using a highly specialist camera drone!

Originally from Bhutan and trained in Texas, mongst other notable achievements Prof. Bhattercharjee also GPS-mapped this forest with graduate students in 2012-14 using equipment with just a 10 cm margin of error, so we couldn’t have had better guide to our local ecology! He explained that ecologists have the unique perspective of never viewing anything in isolation — his holistic vision has developed over ten years of studying post-doctorate ecology.

The information flowed thick and fast as we explored the nature trail. This area is uniquely located between the Mississippi river to the east, the southern coastal prairie the Ozarks to the north and the Texan plains to the west, he explained. Later in the library he showed the Biome as seasonal tropical forest and prairie.

A good quality tarmac pathway winds through some nice mature woodland with mixed pine and hardwood and bottomland hardwood forest with streams and a diverse native flora and fauna. There are areas with distinct populations, e.g. pines near the gazebo drop needles that acidify the soil, keeping the area clear of other vegetation to suit the pines. At the same time this suits a particular subset of plants and animals like blackberry briars, Eastern Fence lizzards, birds, cat squirrels and fungi etc. that are adapted to this habitat. This is termed a wildlife community.

It’s a special needs community. Pine cones won’t open without intense heat, the new Mayor has approved selective, controlled burning. This is a progessive measure because burning resets succession — that crucial ecological process of passage in vegetation type from grassland to forest.

Grassland is ony found in conditions that don’t suit forest, if prevailing conditions are too dry, for example — otherwise, all things being equal, there is forest! The progress from grassland to forest is called succession. This process can be arrested by an overgrowth of ground-hugging vegetation like vines that chokes tree seedlings. We learned about canopy gap dynamics, canopy shyness, the edge effect and that scouring (from flooding, tornado etc.) is also good for regeneration. The green blur of woodland vegetation rapidly came into focus with intelligent interpretation, we were introduced to an impressive floral diversity of oaks, Witch-hazel, Chain ferns, Jack-in-the pulpit, Beech drops, Partridge berries, Ginko biloba,  Elephant’s foot! Also to invasive Privet and the toxic Chinese Tallow Trees that reproduce by suckers and seeds very efficiently while releasing toxic allelopathic chemicals that suppress neighboring vegetation —bad neighbors.

Dr. Joydeep pointing out an example of a damaging invasive species — Chinese Tallow, Triadica sebifera.

Dr. Joydeep Bhattercharjee pointing out an example of a damaging invasive species — Chinese Tallow, Triadica sebifera.

Within the park there are also a wildflower meadow and some moisture loving plants on ridges which suggests that there may be seeps there, or that they possibly mark the ephemeral passage of rainwater run-off  (K.Paxton’s reflection). I was very excited to be using my new Yongnuo TTL flash on my Pentax and I think you’ll agree that it did pretty well for the most part on my Pentax K-1 in a fill flash role coupled with a soft-box attachment and my Pentax 28-90mm zoom. The only trouble I had was when it began firing off like a disco light when I was photographing an unusual spider! Whether it was the high humidity, heat, or something I was doing wrong, I don’t know.

Anyway, back to the wildlife! The unusual web was like a diving bell with an entrance at the bottom and constructed of complex strands of web, possibly intended to guard against predatory wasps – many spiders’ worst nightmare.

My favourite encounter was with a Three-toed Box Turtle, Terrapene carolina  triunguis. Amy Ouchley, environmental educator and author of Swamper spotted it in a ravine beside one of the bridges. She then swiftly collected an assortment of trash along the river including the remains of a doll’s house! I want to be like her when I grow up!

A pretty female Terrapene carolina triunguis with white lip markings.

A pretty female Terrapene carolina triunguis with white lip markings.

You can read up about what else we saw in the iNaturalist Kiroli Park page

A student naturalist examining a complex spider's web in West Monroe's Kiroli Park. It would be tough work for a wasp to get to the spider.

A fellow student naturalist examining a complex spider’s web in West Monroe’s Kiroli Park. It would be tough work for a wasp to get to this spider.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our party then visited West Monroe’s Ouachita Parish Library where we attended a great introductory lecture to ecology in a classroom by Ecosystems and Restoration Ecology Professor Bhattercharjee. When we asked librarian referred to him fondly as Dr. B. We learned principles of nutrient cycles, energy flows, ecosystem structural components and organization.  We were also introduced to his system of recording observation data by mobile phone. He reiterated the importance of people engaging with citizen science for recording a wealth of observations in an age of shrinking research budgets and increasing need for data for such things as ethology (animal behaviour) and phenology  — the study of seasonal and cyclical natural phenomena, in an era of climate change. Climate is changing and things are changing with it. If we don’t pay attention, we’ll likely miss something critical and fail to act appropriately.

After this class we were ready for lunch in West Monroe’s remarkable Restoration Park, famous for its urban beavers. London has urban foxes, Brasov has urban bears, West Monroe has urban beavers and they’re living in Restoration Park near the I20. Formerly one of the city’s waste dumps, the park is now a popular forested recreation area with a network of paths winding around a fish-filled stream and two lakes with two beavers’ lodges and probably what is one of the world’s most accessible beavers’ dams. Walking along the wooden board walk you are effectively following the course of a dam. There’s a wide expanse of lily pads haunted by dragonflies, Bronze frogs, egrets, herons and Belted Kingfishers on either side. Look straight down and you can see beavers’ foot-prints and clumps of faeces.

In the evenings watching with binoculars from the path just 50 yds from the metal Crane sculpture will reveal motion among the lily pads in the form of beavery swimmers! Magical.

Our party exploring West Monroe's Restoration Park, at the stream we saw fish, butterflies and a Katydid.

Our party exploring West Monroe’s Restoration Park, at the stream we saw fish, butterflies and a Katydid.

 

Again there was a non-stop exchange of information among the members of our group. View some of our observations at Restoration Park on iNaturalist by clicking here.

 

Louisiana Master Naturalists - Northeast

And it all added up to a fabulous Ecosystems and Restoration Ecology certification workshop!

IMGP3237 72-12A baby skink (Plestiodon sp.) tries to hide in the gravel of the path in Restoration Park. Sorry, not enough info here for a species ID.     (photo by Bette J.Kauffman)

We met Dr. Joydeep at Kiroli Park and hiked the Wildflower Trail, then went to the Ouachita Valley Branch Library to learn some basics of ecology, and ended the afternoon at Restoration Park just south of I-20, all in West Monroe.

And we came away with new questions to ask about the natural world. What happens over time when a hole opens in the forest canopy and shrubs and vines are allowed to grow unchecked? How does a beaver dam affect not only the flow of water but the plant and animal life that surrounds it?

Netted Chain FernNetted chain fern (Woodwardia areolata) in Kiroli Park.     (photo by…

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A Kite On A String and Other Tales of Wildlife Rehabilitation

Micah Petty, President of Louisiana Exotic Animal Rehabilitation Network addressing Louisiana Master Naturalists Northeast on the subject of Wildlife Rehabilitation at Union Parish Library August 28, 2018

Micha Petty, Louisiana Master Naturalist and President of Louisiana Exotic Animal Rehabilitation Network addressing Louisiana Master Naturalists Northeast on the subject of Wildlife Rehabilitation at Union Parish Library August 28, 2018

If you saw a Mississippi Kite, desperately entangled in fishing line, dangling, exposed and pathetically vulnerable high off the ground between a tree and a house. Would you:

A: Curse the fates, fall into despair and say “There’s nothing to be done!”

B: Wait about 600 years for the fishing twine to break down naturally

or

C: Call Micha Petty, President of LEARN Louisiana Exotic Animal Resource Network and certified Wildlife Rehabilitator at (318) 773-9393

Who ya  gonna call? Yes, LEARN, Micha rescued the bird with due ingenuity. He is also the man to help reconstruct an injured turtle’s shell and grant it a new lease of life with jeweller’s wire and the Good Lord’s help. Sadly not all cases can be saved, sometimes it is skill in the application of the most humane and contextually appropriate euthanasia that is required.

The process of Wildlife rehabilitation in Louisiana requires certification, is labour and cost intensive, an unpaid, emotional rollercoaster with uncertain outcomes, but the joy of wild lives saved helps off-set the pain of those lost.  Animal rescue and rehabilitation is a labour of love, truly.

That’s what we heard last night before the Louisiana Master Naturalists Northeast third quarter meeting as we listened with wrapt attention to two speakers on the theme of wildlife rehabilitation at the Union Parish Library in Farmerville, Louisiana.  The first was Leslie Albritton, who is a certified Wildlife Rehabilitator in the Farmerville area who rescues distressed mammals in northeastern Louisiana. She too has been to Batton Rouge, passed the rigorous certification tests and risen to the requirements in terms of preparation of approved rehabilitation conditions and then saved raccoons, possums, even calves and ponies in distress. Furthermore she has enriched the lives of local care home residents by providing stimulating animal interactions with her wards! She says people who interact with animals generally have improved outcomes.  Her wildlife care adventures began with a powerful lesson as a child that rescuing animals from cars, while important, comes second to guarding your own personal safety.

Undeterred by the childhood whooping she received for rescuing her dog from traffic at personal risk, she has gone on to rescue a large number of wild and domestic animals with due care and attention to her own safety. She stresses the importance of this, citing a sad case last year when a local girl was hit by traffic while attempting to rescue a turtle that was crossing a road.

It takes devotion and informed care, baby possums need feeding every three hours, but the love is rewarded when the patient is released. Then comes a brief sense of personal loss from “empty nest syndrome” and prayers that her ward will fare well in the wild.

Micha says it takes faith to rescue, rehabilitate and then release an animal back into the wild when the same dangerous conditions that caused the necessity for its rescue are still clearly present in its native habitat. Fishing line is an absolute menace and kills and injures a large number of animals yearly – please dispose of tangled line responsibly.

Driving with care is very important. We should expect to see wildlife in beautiful country roads, especially near natural areas near water, anywhere you see barriers be extra-alert. Don’t risk your own safety, but where possible, keep your tires clear of the critter. When safely avoided the wildlife can live on and breed according to God’s plans for it.  A deer through the windscreen isn’t much fun for us people either, best avoided!

We learned a great deal from the two speakers and I’ll list some key points here:

  • An ounce of prevention is worth several pounds of cure – avoiding injury to wildlife is by far the best course, rescue and rehab is second best
  • Wildlife retention and rehabilitation requires training and certification
  • All vets in Louisiana may hold a wild animal for up to 72 hours prior to transportation to a certified rehabilitator
  • It’s illegal to keep any wild animals as pets in Louisiana. I think as kids we’ve all probably experienced some small critter die under our ‘care’, pollywogs, fireflies in jars etc. They really are better enjoyed and left in their habitats.
  • If you see an animal that might be in distress, try to observe the situation and call an expert first. It may not need rescuing, young birds will be fed by parents if they are on the ground.
  • If you feel you must catch it, wear gloves or use a receptical, avoid personal contact at all costs because this will lead to some animals having to be destroyed and their corpses checked for zoonotic dieases likerabies post mortem. Some animals cannot be rehabilitated: deer, bears, bats. Healthy bears in the wrong place can be transported by proper authorities.
  • It’s a good idea to apply to volunteer to help an existing rehabilitator first
  • Wildlife rehabilitation is a very good cause and worth funding

A very useful links page can be found at the LEARN website https://www.learnaboutcritters.org/links/

The LEARN site also offers an electronic version of  Micah’s excellent reference book A Primer on Reptiles and Amphibians

This contains a wealth of information about reptiles and amphibians, their anatomy, lifestyles and their care requirements, also how to recognise venomous from non-venomous snakes and how to avoid snakebite.

There is also an ongoing campaign to raise funds for a printed hard copy of the book to be produced A Primer on Reptiles and Amphibians on Indiegogo. A pledge to the project may see the book printed if enough sign up for it.

Please see the video below for more info.

Also you are invited to join the Facebook group Introduction to Herpetology at https://www.facebook.com/groups/herpintro

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/yuMPtWFgvxk?rel=0

The work of these animal guardians is nothing short of heroic.

Bioblitz at Allen Acres July 21

An enormous Polyphemus moth at Allen Acres. With prodigious plant diversity comes broad animal diversity! long known for its biodiversity, Allen Acres is celebrating the identification of its 711th moth species! The July bioblitz is expected to be rather promising!

The July bioblitz is expected to be rather promising! With prodigious plant diversity comes broad animal diversity! long known for its biodiversity, Allen Acres is celebrating the identification of its 711th moth species! The above image is of an enormous Polyphemus moth at Allen Acres, C. Paxton image. 

Eminent Louisiana naturalist Dr. Charles Allen pictured in his moon garden at Allen Acres Bread and Breakfast. Click the image to visit their website.

Eminent Louisiana naturalist Dr. Charles Allen pictured in his moon garden at Allen Acres Bread and Breakfast. The choice plantings are popular with nocturnal insects such as The Hummingbird Hawk Moths. Click the image to visit their website at Eminent Louisiana naturalist Dr. Charles Allen pictured in his moon garden at Allen Acres Bread and Breakfast. Click the image to visit their website http://allenacresbandb.com/

I heard today by email that Allen Acres will begin its bioblitz on July 21.  A bioblitz is an intensive exploration and recording of a designated area’s wildlife within a given period, a popular form of citizen science. The idea is that people can gather in the area and make a sweeping survey of what they encounter, recording photographs, video and sound recordings as evidence of the presence of the wildlife and for positive identification purposes. The exploring /recording phase is generally followed by an identification phase where the observations can be peer-reviewed on iNaturalist. The process is particularly simple for smart phone users who can use their built-in camera with the app, but you can use cameras and computers too.

The process yields interesting results that are shared with scientists.

  1. The first event is the Saturday morning sheeting for moths commencing 5.30 am
  2. Mac Myers will lead a bird inventory at sunrise.
  3. At 9 am, David and Pat Lewis will lead the fungus inventory.

Plants, herps, mammals etc. will be checked off throughout the day.

Bette Kauffman is coming Thursday July 26 and will be checking out dragonflies and damselflies till Sat afternoon.

Dave Patton is coming with his bird, butterfly, dragonfly (and more) knowledge probably on July 28th.

Linda Auld will be there for the butterfly count which will be led by Craig Marks. We’re advised not to forget to bring your Louisiana butterfly book so Craig can sign it.

 

Forthcoming Events -Integrating Native Plantings With Roses, Sunflower Festival and More!

Giant Swallowtail butterfly. Learn how to integrate native plantings in gardening.

Giant Swallowtail butterfly. Learn how to integrate native plantings in gardening.

My thanks to Dr. Allen again for this interesting events news!

First, the 2018 GREEN THUMB SEMINAR

“Native Plants & Roses: A Love Affair in your Garden”

 

Shreveport, LA- The American Rose Center invites you to our third 2018 Green Thumb Educational Seminar on Saturday, June 16, 2018.

 

Date: June 16, 2018

Place: Klima Rose Hall, The American Rose Center, 8877 Jefferson Paige Road

Time: 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

Cost: Seminar is FREE and open to the public. Registration is not necessary, but helpful, 318-938-5402

 

Schedule:

9:00 a.m. Welcome and Introduction of Program

9:05-10:35 a.m. Janet Creech – Native Plants and Roses

Though Janet has a degree in Fine Arts, she developed an interest for landscaping and native plants after moving into her grandparents Highland area home that had a mature landscape. Soon her interest became a passion which led to much self-study of botany, horticulture and ecological issues. Janet is a master Gardner with certification in ecological restoration. She has landscaped school grounds, parks and museums utilizing the principles she has learned. Currently Janet’s biggest volunteer project is developing the grounds at the headquarters of the Red River Wildlife Refuge using native plants.

 

Janet Creech will discuss the advantages of using native plants in your garden and suggest ways to combine natives with roses.

 

And not too far away is this interesting festival:

https://www.sbfunguide.com/event/sunflower-trail-%26-festival/4302/

 

The 20th Annual Sunflower Trail and Festival will take place, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Saturday, June 16 in Gilliam. The event will feature art and entertainment for all ages including handmade items for sale by heritage crafters and artists, hands-on arts and crafts activities for children, art exhibits, a sunflower photography contest and more. Food and refreshment vendors will be available at the festival, and lunch will be served at nearby businesses including Main Street Restaurant and Adger’s Store in Gilliam, as well as The Wild Petunia and D&I General Store in Belcher. Live music will be performed in the festival area. Admission is free and open to the public.

 

Festival activities will take place behind the Crossroads Museum in Gilliam, just off of Highway 3049. Highway 3049 (also known as Dixie/Shreveport Road) can be reached from Shreveport by heading north on Grimmett Drive and turning right onto Highway 3049. The physical address of the Crossroads Museum is 12797 Main Street (LA-3049) in Gilliam.

Wildopeneye opinion is there could be some great opportunities for photography, blue skies and sunflowers!

Also check out the   list of Louisiana Nature Events

Botanical Workshop Events

Indian pink, just one part of Louisiana's rich plant biodiversity.

Indian pink, Spigelia marilandica, is just one part of Louisiana’s rich plant biodiversity revealed to us by Dr. Charles Allen.

Dr. Allen's Plant Identification workshop in Kisatchie National forest was entertaining and informative. C. Paxton image and copyright.

Dr. Allen’s Plant Identification workshop in Kisatchie National forest was entertaining and informative. C. Paxton image and copyright.

I enjoyed our Louisiana Master Naturalists Northeast Plants class with Dr. Charles Allen so much that I thought I’d blog his forthcoming events information here to spread the word.

Dr. Allen says “In Louisiana, the big event this week is the Cajun Prairie Meeting in Eunice on Sat May 12.

Check out the details http://www.cajunprairie.org/

 

 

Dr. Allen’s plant identification classes:

Tuesday May 15, on Graminoids.  graminoid class

“What on Earth’s a Graminoid?”, you might ask, as I did, and was informed that they are plants with grass-like morphology, the grasses, sedges and rushes. A massively important group of plants.

I’ve just learned that the Sat May 19th Plant Identification class at the Woodlands Conservancy in Belle Chase on  belle Chasse spring

and the Sunday May 20th  half day Edible Plants Workshop   edible belle chase  have been cancelled, but no doubt will be repeated at some stage because they’re popular courses.

The final one until the fall will be in Tylertown, Mississippi on Sat May 26th.

MS PLant ID Class Form

Dr. Charles Allen with students in the field.

Dr. Charles Allen with students in the field on a Plant identification course. Click here for detail.

 

For the Event Calendar Louisiana Nature see the attached events, lana

Please note that these fixtures are subject to possible change, please see Dr. Allen’s website http://www.nativeventures.net/ for the latest information on his courses and also eco-holidays at Allen Acres bed and breakfast and explore the biodiverse Kisatchie National Forest.

 

 

An Interview with a Pine Snake

Louisiana Pine Snake with award winning environmental educator, Ranger Nova Clarke

Louisiana Pine Snake with award winning environmental educator, Ranger Nova Clarke

by C. Paxton

The Louisiana Pine Snake is Officially Listed by US Wildlife and Fisheries as Threatened as of May 7th, 2018

Monroe, Louisiana. It was my birthday. To celebrate we’re standing in front of  Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Reserve’s modern and well-appointed Visitors’ center about five yards away from a majestic bronze statue of an Alligator Snapping Turtle, it’s big enough for a toddler to ride, it’s life-sized.  A warm gentle breeze is lightly blowing Wildlife and Fisheries Ranger Nova Clarke’s hair. Around both her arms entwines a lithe, beautiful snake about five feet long. “This is ‘Brother’, Nova explains, “Our other Pine Snake, ‘Grouchy’ declined to be interviewed today as he’s shedding.”

Our laughter subsides. “So, you’re North America’s rarest snake then?” I opened the interview, feeling rather awed by my proximity to this living national treasure.

Louisiana Pine Snake with Ranger Nova Clarke

Louisiana Pine Snake with award winning environmental educator, Ranger Nova Clarke

“Well, obviously.” Brother responded languidly. He would have rolled his beautiful dark brown eyes, if he could, but instead he flicked out his quick tongue to taste the air around his interviewer.

Fancy being sensed by such a celebrity! “Congratulations upon your newly designated status as an threatened species effective as of May 7th 2017,” I blurted self-consciously, wondering what I tasted like.

Awkward silence ensued.

I broke it with a piercing question, “How do we know that you really are Pituophis ruthveni, the rare and endangered IUCN Red-listed Louisiana Pine snake and not some sort of cheap foreign copy?”

"Brother", one of the Louisiana Pine Snake ambassadors at Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

“Brother”, senses his environment with his tongue and Jacobsons’ organ.

“Phew! That’s a relief.” Brother answered, “For a moment I thought you were going to ask, ‘how do we know that you’re a male?’ That would have been a tough one! There’s very little to distinguish between us visually you see, and I can see from your somewhat less useful tongue that you wouldn’t detect the pheremonal difference. My tongue is forked so that I can smell in stereo. What I do is flick my tongue out gather the significant molecules and whip them back in to my mouth to my Jacobson’s organ. Then I know what I’m dealing with. Well, to answer your question, in lieu of a driver’s licence or other form of ID, I’d have thought that my clean lines, slightly up-turned nose and smooth, cool dry skin of creamy ivory marked with bronze-brown patches would serve to prove that I am Pituophis ruthveni and none other. The more common Pituophis has more black on him you see.”

“Ah. There’s nothing common about you, I can see. You seem very good-natured and harmless. One of Louisiana’s model residents, I’d say. Wouldn’t hurt a fly I expect?” I thought he looked gentle as my camera clicked away. His pupils are round, not vertical slits like the venomous vipers, and nobody could confuse him with the stripey (‘red and yellow can kill a fellow’), venomous Coral snake. I stroked his skin gently with two fingers, it’s wonderfully silky.

“Yes. We’re nonvenomous, good neighbors really, unless you happen to be a Baird’s Pocket Gopher, or the occasional small bird. We tend to strike the birds and wrap them in our coils and sqeeeeze them tight before we eat them whole. We live in the gophers’ burrows. We squeeze them against the burrow wall before swallowing them whole.”

“Well, why not? A snake has to eat after all and have somewhere to lay its head.” I shrugged. “What do you eat here?”

“Here, dinner consists of frozen white mice, defrosted in hot water. Every six weeks. Totally hygienic and kosher.”

No wonder he keeps his figure, I thought, “Not microwaved?” I joked.

“Cook out the vitamins? Please! That would be gross.”

“So it would, yes.” I conceded, “Now could you tell us a bit about your native habitat?”

“Give me the rolling hills with sandy soils and Long leaf Pine trees every time. These days we’re only found in a few places in western Louisiana and eastern Texas. We live in Kisatchie National Forest so you don’t have to trespass on private property to visit us. ”

Kisatchie National Forest's rich botanical diversity being explored by Louisiana Master Naturalists' Plant Workshop with Dr. Charles Allen. 2018

Kisatchie National Forest’s rich botanical diversity being explored by Louisiana Master Naturalists Northeast Plant Workshop with Dr. Charles Allen who runs a variety of Botanical courses, 2018. There were over 486 entries on our checklist and we added some!

Pine snake in the grassAt this point Nova let him down onto the short grass for some free exercise.

“That’s handy, yes, but why are you endangered anyway? You look like you can take care of yourself.”

Brother showed us how well he could conceal himself in the very short grass. When coiled, his five-and-a half foot length disappeared in a two-foot square area of grass and daisies.

“We have to watch out for hawks and eagles, we are diurnal and spend much of our lives hidden or underground. Changing forestry practices have reduced our habitat, we can only live where the gophers are. Frequent forest fires opened up the woodland and made space for the herbaceous plants that the gophers like to eat. More fires mean more gophers and in turn, more of us. Ironically, modern fire safety hurts us as it reduces our food supply. ”

Louisiana Pine snake mounting a curb

Controled burn of understorey in native Long-leaf Pine forest at Kisatchie National Forest. K.Paxton image

Controled burn of understorey in native Long-leaf Pine forest at Kisatchie National Forest allows space for plants that sustain the food web. C.Paxton image and copyright.

He then approached the kerb of the pavement. “We are found in a few other forest types that border the pines, like Blackjack Oak, but it’s mostly Longleaf Pine that suits us. We like basking on warm roads, so watch out for us, please, in our home area. Please avoid running us over or stepping on us, because our bones are delicate and we can easily suffer internal injuries.”

“We’ll bear that in mind. I’ve heard that you can sometimes hiss quite loudly when riled up. It’s not nice to scare people, you know.”

“Hiding’s my first line of defense, running away is my second – I don’t start hissing until I’m scared for my life! If people stay still when they see a snake and give us some space and due respect, then there’ll be no unpleasantness. We don’t want to bite you. We can’t eat you.”

Following the kerb, he was now fully stretched out and I was flat on the ground in front of him.  Just then a family of visitors approaching the center paused to admire him and I saw ‘Brother’ serving in his ambassadorial role, not just for his species, but for the whole snake family. Nova quickly scooped him up to control the encounter, introduced him and said that he could be gently touched.

The magic of bonding!The flaxen-haired toddler Bryson fearlessly reached out to stroke him. I saw the magic happen. The adults were warier, but allowed the contact. Bryson was gentle, Brother was unphased, he has met thousands of people including many school trips.

“You’re a star!” I praised him.

“Well, maybe, but Bryson’s family is the bright hope, because of his parents’ trust today he’ll grow up free of prejudice and maybe he won’t throw rocks at snakes or shoot them gratuitously. I don’t think his folks will either for that matter.”

Hopefully the new designation will help protect his species long into the future.

If you would like to see Louisiana Pine Snakes for yourself please visit Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge off Highway 165 in Monroe, Louisiana.

Kisatchie National Forest

Kisatchie National Forest after dawn in late April. Wonderful camping conditions.

Kisatchie National Forest near Georgetown, Louisiana after dawn in late April. Wonderful basic camping conditions, very quiet and tranquil.

You can find most of Kisatchi Forest in central and central western Louisiana and a section in north eastern Louisiana that includes Corney Lake. It has a variety of great camping opportunities including basic campsites for primitive camping in lovely woodland scenery.

 

Check out The Friends of Black Bayou group on Facebook to see some lovely wildlife pictures taken at this super nature conservation area and be advised of forthcoming events!

Charles Paxton was not paid for any of these endorsements.

Louisiana Master Naturalists’ Rendezvous 2018

Camp Hardtner, near Pollock. Louisiana Master Naturalists Rendezvous 2018. Kimmie photographing a Luna moth.

Hello mother, hello father, here we all are at Camp Hardtner, it’s in Pollock, central Louisiana. This excellent camp hosted Master Naturalists Rendezvous 2018. Kimmie photographing a Luna moth.

Some of the Rendezvous 2018 participants gathered for a group photograph. Our thanks to all who helped make it such a success! Kimmie Paxton image.

A great bunch of people! Some of the Rendezvous 2018 participants gathered for a group photograph. Our thanks to all who helped make it such a success! Kimmie Paxton image.

Louisiana Master Naturalists and trainees convened on Camp Hardtner near Pollock, Lousiana for the Rendezvous 2018 event. It proved an ideal venue for the annual meeting of naturalists gathered from the various regions of Louisiana. Dr. Bette Kauffman, Ranger Nova Clarke,  my wife Kimmie and I attended from the newly formed Northeast chapter. Kimmie and I are training for certification and learning as much as we can. We’ll be reflecting on what we heard and saw at this camp over the next few weeks as it was so intensive and factually rich.

We stayed in the hotel accommodation, which proved very comfortable and provided easy access to a diverse community of fungi, plants, scientists and other interesting wildlife. There were also a variety of attractive cabins offering shared accommodation. Volunteers from the LMN cooked the superb meals and washed up. Thank you very much! The food was delicious and healthy.

The Christian Camp Hardtner has a very high biodiversity and great conference facilities with halls, classrooms and well appointed kitchen. Louisiana Master Naturalists Rendezvous 2018

The Christian Camp Hardtner has a very high biodiversity and great conference facilities with halls, classrooms and well appointed kitchen. Louisiana Master Naturalists Rendezvous 2018

The exquisite Luna moth with its startling faux eye decoration and fresh mint and milk and white chocolate colour coordination. K. Paxton photo and copyright.

The exquisite Luna moth with its startling faux eye decoration and fresh mint and milk & white chocolate colour coordination. K. Paxton photo and copyright taken on Panasonic Lumix GX-8 with 100-300mm lens at 600mm equivalent.

We arrived in advance of a powerful storm front and after a warm welcome we kicked off with an exploration of some of the camp’s some 160 acres and beside one of the pretty lakes laid out in series, we saw a Luna Moth, Actias luna, one of the largest moths in North America and one of the prettiest.

In the course of our exploration we bumped into Master Naturalist, Herpetologist and environmental educator Micha Petty returning with fresh images of mating Anoles (Anolis carolinensis) that he’d encountered on a woodpile by one of the lakes. Later I’d attend his lectures and see a slide of those romantic lizards. Micha runs an animal rescue center and is involved in environmental education through L.E.A.R.N. This the place to contact about an injured reptile or amphibian! They even help reconstruct cracked turtle shells with jewellers wire, God bless them!

Dr. Bob Thomas, conveying knowledge and inspiring at Louisiana Master Naturalists Rendezvous

Dr. Bob Thomas, conveying knowledge and inspiring at Louisiana Master Naturalists Rendezvous 2018

After a very pleasant dinner we heard an informative and entertaining welcoming lecture by Dr. Bob Thomas on “The Thrill of the Pursuit: Some of the Top Nature Stories of Louisiana.” This could be the basis of a good popular science book really, it set the right mood for our explorations at the camp.  From Ogre faced spiders, and the variety of irises here, to the bizarre structures and variety of galls,  to evoloutionary ghosts, it was all pretty inspirational, mind-opening and focusing, but I particularly loved the revelations regarding the distribution of Honey Locust’s brutally large and highly pointy spikes in relation to pleistocene megafauna, specifically Mastodons! Also the amazing relationship between Jaguars and the survival of avocados after the demise of the Gompothere!   Dr. Thomas recommended further reading too, so we could follow up our interest. Ghosts of Evolution! There’s a good article on this in the Smithsonian online. It was wonderful to hear about the insect galls on Friday night and then to see them on Sunday in the Bioblitz! He also delivered the great news that the Louisiana Pine Snake (Pituophis ruthveni) has been registered as a threatened species, effective as of May 7, 2018.

Wool Sower at Camp Hardtner, Louisiana Master Naturalists Rendezvous 2018

A wealth of Wool Sower galls revealed in the bioblitz at Camp Hardtner, Louisiana Master Naturalists Rendezvous 2018

Check out the 2018 Rendezvous Program (detailed) for the breakdown of the weekend’s excellent schedule. As you can see it was an impressive range of lectures. We were cozy and dry while the storm broke outside, lightning flashed and thunder rolled.

The storm conditions calmed and the environment cooled down overnight. The following day was chilly, after a hearty breakfast we began a fascinating and entertaining series of lectures.  As they ran concurrently three at a time, we couldn’t see them all, but hopefully we’ll get another chance to see the ones that we couldn’t attend this time.  Kimmie and I decided to be strategic and select different ones so that afterwards we could pool our learning. I selected Birds and bird watching, Reptiles and amphibians, City Nature Challenge, Snakes, Interpreting nature and we both caught the end of the LDAf Feral Hog Control presentation. Also we could all enjoy the Keynote address by Professor Joydeep Bhattacharjee, specialist in restoration ecology and professor at ULM.

Drs. Thomas and Kauffman at Louisiana Master Naturalists Rendezvous 2018

Drs. Thomas (right) and Kauffman (left) at Louisiana Master Naturalists Rendezvous 2018

“What are their adaptive advantages?” and other important questions were raised.

The presentations we saw were brilliant. I was very pleased with breadth and depth of content and the fluent skill of the delivery. Each speaker could deliver a superb TED talk, of this I have no doubt. I had no idea that I didn’t know very much about birds, amongst a lot of other different things. Birds! I see them every day, but I knew very little about their remarkable anatomical adaptations, things like the wishbone, wing and feather structure. “What are their adaptive advantages?” and other important questions were raised. As well as learning a lot, I really enjoyed the presentations.

Kimmie attended Ranger Nova Clarke's course on Environmental ethics amongst others.

Kimmie attended Ranger Nova Clarke’s course on Environmental ethics amongst others.

Rough Green Snake revealed in the Bioblitz at Louisiana Master Naturalists Rendezvous 2018

Rough Green Snake revealed in the Bioblitz at Louisiana Master Naturalists Rendezvous 2018

In the Snakes talk I learned a great deal too, and was particularly pleased to be taught about the research into defensive reactions in Cottonmouth vipers. It seems they do act defensively rather than aggressively (interesting figures on their unwillingness to strike in favour of escape or threat responses can be read here in Gibbons & Dorcas’s paper)

The advance of Citizen Science had been on my radar for a while with eBird, also in terms of archeological discoveries with Megalithic Portal , and recently diverse Zooniverse projects have become increasing entries in my inbox.  What I didn’t realise was the vast range of the possible involvements and the positive impacts that Citizen science is already having. I will add examples to this article in coming days. The stunning array of technology within a mobile phone, coupled with online databases like INaturalist makes it possible for interested members of the public to make real contributions to science through “Research quality” observations. This means that an exploration of a natural area can have lasting scientific benefits, benefits that can be shared globally. Heady stuff!

We saw INaturalist in use this weekend for the Bioblitz. Click here to visit this project on INaturalist.

What is a Bioblitz?” you might wonder, as I did. I hadn’t heard of this phenomenon before this weekend. It is an intensive exploration of an area with the purpose of finding out what lives there and recording the observations. Very interesting really! Something that you can conduct yourself, in the place where you are!

In addition to INaturalist here is the list of Citizen Science projects that Marty Floyd kindly shared:

LABird.org

The Great Backyard Bird Count

Breeding Bird Survey

Feederwatch.org

NestWatch.org

eBird.org

This has the Big Day on May 5th and also a really cool migration tracker: “Real-time analysis maps show intensities of actual bird migration as detected by the US weather surveillance radar network. Migration traffic rate is defined as the number of birds that fly across a 1 km transect line per hour, with transect line running over the earth’s surface perpendicular to the direction of movement of the birds.” Last night, April 11, was a very busy one!

The Institute For Bird Population Studies

Hummingbirdsathome.org

“Audubon’s Hummingbirds at Home program was designed to mobilize citizen scientists across the U.S. to bolster current research by documenting the feeding patterns of hummingbirds.” There are fears that climate change may cause some of the birds’ food plants to be opening sooner than the birds expect, possibly causing them to miss-time their migrations.

What do birds eat?

We can send in any pictures we have taken that show birds in the process of eating something recognizable.

North American Butterfly Association butterfly counts

The Clemson Vanishing Firefly Project

Dragonflies and Damselflies

Bee Spotter currently only collecting Bee Spottings in the states of Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, and Ohio,

bumblebeewatch.org

bugguide.net

“Identification, Images, & Information for Insects, Spiders & Their Kin for the United States & Canada”

Singing insects of North America

songsofinsects.com

Here you can hear different identified songs.

Frog Watch

 

Dr. Bette Kauffman showing an American Beautyberry bush , while guiding the bioblitz with Dr. Bob Thomas.

Dr. Bette Kauffman showing an American Beautyberry bush , while guiding the bioblitz with Dr. Bob Thomas.

It was in the Keynote presentation that I learned of the importance of large numbers of observations to scientific investigation. While one or two reports of observations might be interesting in their own right, one or two hundred have far greater statistical significance. The possibility of citizen naturalists to contribute their observations, backed up by supporting photographs is transformational. We learned from Dr. Bhattacharjee’s presentation how a networked climate study by Louisiana schools won funding and produced high quality data set, how a B&B owner in Assam published a report of a new species of beetle in an internationally prestigious Indian scientific journal, how a chap living in a hut in the Rockies (with a martin and a raccoon at times) contributed 40 years worth of climatic data that has featured in an increasing set of scientific studies and how Bhattacharjee is himself using infra-red drone photography to accumulate data on forest health at Russel Sage Wildlife Management Area in Monroe. Cutting edge science!

A lady and a living jewel. One of the chief delights was my first encounter with the exquisite Calico Pennant dragonfly, a living jewel. Louisiana Master Naturalists Rendezvous 2018

A lady and a living jewel. One of the chief delights was my first encounter with the exquisite Calico Pennant dragonfly, a living jewel. Louisiana Master Naturalists Rendezvous 2018

I found the whole Rendezvous experience very stimulating, for me it was a holiday break with a difference! I found the people very friendly and welcoming, the volunteers somehow made the huge amount of work involved in organization and laying on great meals and the superb educational programme seem effortless.  The catering was fabulous and there were options for omnivores and vegetarians, thank you! The Bioblitz is still opening our eyes to the amazing range of biodiversity. Our thanks and Kudos to all involved!

One of the chief delights was my first encounter with the exquisite Calico Pennant dragonfly, a living jewel. The variety and form of the various insect galls was startling. Different insects, midges and wasps shape their host plant by injecting hormones that cause the plants’ tissues to develop into protective structures that also serve as food for the larva!

The interior structure of a gall revealed! We saw multiple varieties and instances of galls on the same Cherry oak tree! Louisiana Master Naturalists Rendezvous 2018

The interior structure of a gall revealed by Irvin Louque of Louisiana Master Naturalists Southwest, one of the speakers at Rendezvous 2018!  The insect larva is on the left. We saw multiple varieties and instances of galls on the same Cherry oak tree! Louisiana Master Naturalists Rendezvous 2018.  K. Paxton image

Flowering Dwarf Sundews (Drosera brevifolia) proliferate around natural seeps on the hillside above the lakes and camp buildings in a focus-merged composite photo that shows an enhanced depth of field. These carnivorous plants supplement their mineral intake from the roots by catching small insects in sticky droplets exuded on their leaf bristles, liquifying them and digesting their fluid. They are North America's smallest native sundews. This image taken by C. Paxton on Pentax K-1 with Sigma 70-300mm zoom at macro setting. Processed from two images in Affinity by focus merge then tone mapped.

Flowering Dwarf Sundews (Drosera brevifolia) proliferate around a natural seep on the hillside above the lakes and camp buildings pictured here in a focus-merged composite photo that allows an enhanced depth of field. Otherwise I couldn’t have included the flowers and the foliage in one shot at this resolution. These carnivorous plants supplement their mineral intake from the roots by catching small insects in sticky droplets exuded on their leaf bristles, liquifying them and digesting their fluid. They are North America’s smallest native sundews. This image taken by C. Paxton on Pentax K-1 with Sigma 70-300mm zoom at macro setting. Processed from two images in Affinity by focus merge then tone mapped.

*Thank you Allan Sherman.

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