News Shorts

Bear crime violations are subject to a maximum of 15 years in prison. Report bear crime to ENV's free hotline. ENV image and copright.

Bear crime violations are subject to a maximum of 15 years in prison. ENV is working to release bears from bear farms where their bile is extracted in a painful process. People are encouraged to report bear crime to ENV’s free hotline. ENV image and copright.

Education For Nature Vietnam Reports Massive Ivory and Pangolin Scale Smuggling Bust at Hanoi’s Noi Bai airport, also rescues bears, Hawksbill and Gibbons, and reviews Ten Crucial Action Areas In Fight Against Wildlife and Forest Crime

Education For Nature Vietnam is continuing to work effectively protecting wildlife, in addition to their education work their wildlife crime unit also freed bears and helped rescue an endangered and protected Hawksbill turtle  from a cooking pot and two gibbons that had been cooped up inside tiny wooden cages for a decade. Both of these rescues were thanks to public calling ENV’s toll-free wildlife hotline.

The evil continues — ENV report this October that Vietnamese authorities seized a massive illegal consignment of pangolin scales and ivory from Nigeria at Hanoi’s Noi Bai airport. According to ENV’s news release, almost a ton of contraband represents the illicit slaughter of a great many animals for the profit of organized criminal gangs.

In preparation for an international Illegal Wildlife Trade conference in London ENV have reviewed their progress so far regarding the ten critically important actions against wildlife and forest crime that they formally identified in 2016.

In brief these are:

1. Take down the leaders of criminal networks

2. Eradicate corruption

3. Establish effective legal deterrents

4. Ban rhino horn trade in any form

5. Destroy all stockpiles of confiscated ivory and rhino horn

6. Strictly monitor tiger farms and stop uncontrolled breeding of tigers at zoos and rescue centers

7. Finish the job: End bear farming in Vietnam

8. Strictly control the licensing of commercial wildlife farms and conservation facilities nationwide

9. Hold local authorities responsible for eradicating consumer wildlife crime in their jurisdictions

10. Pull the plug on internet wildlife crime.

You can read how they have been making some significant progress on these actions on their Education For Nature Vietnam website.

 

2. Powerful New Painkiller Discovered in Liverworts

 Anyone who has ever had cause to seek pain relief will be very pleased to hear that a new form of painkiller very similar to that found within Marijuana has been discovered in Liverworts. This is further evidence that it is often the small, ‘boring’ life-forms that prove to be valuable and it is important for us, even for selfish reasons, to best protect ecosystems in their entirety, whenever and whereever we can. See more on Science News

 

Event List for Louisiana Nature

Gymnopus eucephalus at Black Bayou NWR, Louisiana

Find out about fungi!

Dr. Charles Allen has very kindly sent me another Event Calendar for Louisiana Nature, this includes some environmental education/exploration events in southeastern Texas too and a glimpse of some of next year’s events. Dr. Allen is one of Louisiana’s foremost naturalists and environmental educators and is based at Allen Acres nature preserve and B&B, near the Kisatchie Forest, in Pitkin Louisiana.

Oct 27 Yard-to-Habitat (Y2H) Workshop Landscape transformation for homeowners

9 am-2:30pm, Acadian Village, Lafayette LA

Nov 3  One day plant id class Allen Acres

 

Nov 3  LITTLE THICKET NATURE SANCTUARY WALK,  2001 FM 945 SO, CLEVELAND Texas

This will be our second Walk at the LTNS in 2018,  owned by the Houston Outdoor Nature Club. Their website is www.outdoornatureclub.org  Click on the link on the upper right for LTNS information.  There are directions there too.  Bring collecting gear, rain gear if rainy, water, a sack lunch  (lunch will be planned for 12 noon).  We will meet at 10:30 AM, collect, display, identify and label the fungi on picnic tables near the building.   You may photograph the specimens if you like. We should be done by 2 or 3PM. Directions are: From IH69/59, North or South, take FM 150 at  Coldspring, go west on FM 150, 7+ miles, at Evergreen Baptist Church  turn left on FM 945, go 1.9 miles, look for a cemetery on right, then you will see a silver industrial fence on the left.  The entrance gate is to the left of that fence.  From IH45, take FM 150 and go east  toward Coldspring, turn right on FM 945, and proceed as above. Or you can search for Little Thicket Nature Sanctuary and it will pop up. The gate should be open. Thanks to LTNS and GSMS members for their help last June.  We had 29 species, we hope to top that count with this Walk. For more information or if you get lost, contact Sergio Henao   cell phone 713-825-2653   shenao(@)comcast.net

Nov 10  WATSON PRESERVE.  WALK,  Warren, Texas

The Watson Preserve, 262 County Road 4777, Warren TX 77664,  is located in Lake Hyatt Estates off US Hwy 69, 16 miles north of Kountze or 4 miles south of Warren.   Look for very large brick markers reading “Lake Hyatt Estates”  on both sides of County Road 4770 (This CR is also between  several large metal buildings on the east side of the Highway that are East Texas Paint & Body Shop, and a plant nursery and sales.) Go east on CR 4770, for 1.2 miles (you will cross a dam with the lake on your left) to a fork in road. A “Watson Preserve” sign is on the street sign with an arrow pointing to the left.  Turn left there on CR 4777, go 2/10  miles to the Preserve on left.  You will see a grey building with “Gallery” across it and a Preserve sign.  You may park at the Gallery or along the road.

We will meet at the Preserve at 10:00 AM on Saturday, to collect and identify mushrooms and fungi, and observe native plants and trees.  Bring collecting gear (baskets, paper bags, knife) if you have it, water, bug spray, rain gear if rainy.  You may want to bring a sack lunch and drink, as we will plan lunch for noon.  We will provide tables, but if you want a chair, please bring your own. A port-a-potty is located near the Gallery and parking area, and should be in service.  We will have Jay Justice, an Arkansas mycologist who many of you know, to assist with the fungal ID’s.

 

Dec 7-9  Winter Foray  Camp Hardtner, Pollock, LA  organized by the Gulf States Mycological Society is a non-profit scientific and educational organization formed to promote the appreciation and study of the diversified fungal flora of the Gulf Coast region by amateur and professional mycologists. Society activities have resulted in the naming of many species previously unknown to science. The Society is affiliated with the non-profit North American Mycological Association, a 501(c) (3) organization.Please go to our website http://www.gsmyco.org for more details and a registration form.

 

Also dates to mark in your calendars for 2019 include:

 

Feb 1-3  Louisiana Native Plant Society meeting

 

April 6  Cajun Prairie meeting

 

April 12-14  Grand Isle Migratory Bird Festival

 

April 13  Festival des Fleurs, 8am – 4pm, Blackham Coliseum, Lafayette, LA

 

April 21  Easter (Always good to know when that will be)

 

May 3-4 Southern Garden Festival, 3502 E. Simcoe St., Lafayette, LA

 

May 5  Avec Souci Garden Tour, 1pm -5pm, Lafayette, LA

 

June 2-5  North American Prairie Conference, Houston, Texas

 

Life In The Leaf Litter

Autumn is here again in the northern hemisphere and I’m celebrating with an exhibition of images on the theme of ‘Life in the leaf litter’.

Scroll down this page to view a choice of images of wildlife down there amongst the fallen leaves! There’s a lot going on down there. Sometimes even the wildlife can’t move stealthily when there’s a crisp bed of dry leaves to be traversed.

I love the textures and the shapes in the leaf litter.

Recently I saw some very fine local crafts jewelry in the form of copper leaf pendants by Louisiana artist, author and Master Naturalist Amy Ouchley for sale at a gallery in Monroe and we were impressed. See the images at the end of the article for more info and her Facebook.

A Blanchard's Cricket Frog sitting still beside diminutive fungi. In some places these little frogs hop like pop-corn at your approach. This one is in Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge C. Paxton image and copyright.

Portrait of a Blanchard’s Cricket Frog sitting still on a dried leaf beside diminutive fungi. In some places these little frogs hop like pop-corn at your approach. This one is in Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Monroe Louisiana. It obligingly stayed still, trusting in its fantastic cryptic coloration and texture to guard it from harm. I took several images with a 100mm macro lens on my Pentax K-1 and spliced them together with Affinity Photo’s Focus Merge function. C. Paxton image and copyright.

Forest fungi abound at the moment. These two remind me of the thatched rooves of huts.  C. Paxton image and copyright.

Forest fungi abound at the moment. These two remind me of the thatched rooves of huts. C. Paxton image and copyright.

There are many blue and green dragonflies flitting about and settling in their own territories among the forest trees at Black Bayou Lake NWR, Monroe, Louisiana. C. Paxton image and copyright.

There are many blue and green dragonflies flitting about and settling in their own territories among the forest trees at Black Bayou Lake NWR, Monroe, Louisiana. C. Paxton image and copyright.

A young Western Ribbon Snake peeking from out of the leaf litter at Crawfish Springs, near Farmerville Louisiana. C. Paxton image and copyright.

A young Western Ribbon Snake peeking from out of the leaf litter at Crawfish Springs, near Farmerville Louisiana. C. Paxton image and copyright.

An Eastern, Three-toed Box Turtle in the leaf litter at Crawfish Springs, near Farmerville Louisiana. C. Paxton image and copyright.

An Eastern, Three-toed Box Turtle in the leaf litter at Crawfish Springs, near Farmerville Louisiana. C. Paxton image and copyright.

Tom turkey looking splendid at the excellent Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo in Monroe, Louisiana. C. Paxton image and copyright.

Tom turkey looking splendid at the excellent Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo in Monroe, Louisiana. C. Paxton image and copyright.

Not leaves, but Giant Tiger Swallowtails puddling for minerals by Gourd Bayou in the Russell Sage WMA near Monroe, Louisiana.  C. Paxton image and copyright.

Not leaves, but Giant Tiger Swallowtails puddling for minerals by Gourd Bayou in the Russell Sage WMA near Monroe, Louisiana. C. Paxton image and copyright.

Tadpoles swim over leaves in the flooded oak woodland beside Bayou D'Arbonne beside Deep Well Road.

Tadpoles swim over leaves in the flooded oak woodland beside Bayou D’Arbonne beside Deep Well Road.

This Racer, Coluber constrictor, is about to shed beside the path alongside Rainey Lake in Tensas River NWR, near Tallulah, Louisiana.  C. Paxton image and copyright.

This Racer, Coluber constrictor, is about to shed beside the path alongside Rainey Lake in Tensas River NWR, near Tallulah, Louisiana. You can tell this because its eye scales have turned opaque and blue. Snakes tend to be bad-tempered in such a state and should not be approached. C. Paxton image and copyright.

May-apple flower at Crystal Recreation Area in Arkansas.

May-apple flower at Crystal Recreation Area in Arkansas.

Sunset with native Phlox at Crystal recreation area Arkansas.

Sunset with native Phlox at Crystal recreation area Arkansas.

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Emily Caldwell’s Wildlife Art Exhibit and Bayou Diversity 2

Author Kelby Ouchley with artist Emily Caldwell at the exhibition of her delightfully whimsical artwork in downtown Monroe.

Bayoudiversity and Bayoudiversity 2 author Kelby Ouchley with artist Emily Caldwell at the exhibition of her delightfully whimsical artwork in downtown Monroe.

Last night Kimmie and I celebrated the much-awaited launch of Kelby Ouchley’s  Bayou Diversity 2 by heading downtown to Monroe’s Central Business District for the Bi-monthly art festival Downtown Gallery Crawl, from 5-9 pm. There , amongst other wonders, we found an exhibition by artist Emily Caldwell of her spirited illustrations of nature that enrich the new sequel to Kelby Ouchley’s original Bayou Diversity, a seminal collection of his writings for radio broadcast celebrating the nature and people of Louisiana, published by LSU Press.

We had enjoyed her artwork in that book and also her mixed media art-work in the exhibition of ‘Wild! Art’ at Union Museum of Art and History in Farmerville last winter. She’s a brilliant artist, capturing the essence of her subjects with a whimsical flourish of their own vivacity juxtaposing natural curvilinear forms with geometric print patterns that seem to emphasize the subjects’ natural forms in contrast with their regularity and in combination project the image. Her lichen covered twig is jaw-dropping — I’ve seen that very twig on the forest floor with its lichen crust. She’s captured it very skillfully.  If you enjoy nature, and particularly art depicting the nature and wildlife of Louisiana check out her website https://emilycaldwell-art.com/

Her artwork for Bayou Diversity 2 is great!

I’m a bit embarrassed to say how much I didn’t know about this Sportsman’s Paradise before reading Bayou Diversity.  In that sense, I think Bayou Diversity is similar to E.O. Wilson’s Diversity of Life; I think both books are literary watersheds, both written by southern gentlemen greatly impressed by the nature of the southern United States and passing on that wonder and their insights to their readers.  This natural world makes a lot more sense having read them.

You should know that there are generations of local natural history knowledge in the Ouchley family, I seriously think that the Bayou Diversity books should be required reading. As should be the children’s book “Swamper: Letters from a Louisiana Swamp Rabbit” by Kelby’s wife Amy. It’s beautifully insightful of southern wildlife in its habitat.

For a foretaste of Kelby’s writings, why not visit www.bayou-diversity.com ?

There’s a lot of knowledge and careful thought invested in these pages, but there’s also inspiration. Can appreciation of nature be transferred? Yes, indeed. I think that that transfer is wholesome and essential. Just as an art teacher can show students how to appreciate the quality of light, and how light reveals form and texture, a good writer and a good artist can distill their informed observations of nature and pass on that exquisite liqueur to be enjoyed in perpetuity for as long as we and the species and phenomena share our common environment.

Furthermore, I dare say that the more people who read this book, then the longer we’ll be around together to make such observations. Ignorance is expensive and opportunity costs are very real.

As the titles suggest, the Bayou Diversity books are intelligent reading matter, biodiversity means the extent of difference (variety) in living organisms and bayous, as Kelby helpfully explains, are the water bodies with seasonally varying degrees of flow and varying shorelines, peculiar to the southeastern United States. Put them together and you have the subject of these books. It is the very rich extent of this biodiversity and its ecological and social interactions that make for fascinating reading and amount to an extraordinarily rich natural heritage of which every American should feel proud.

For foreign nature-lovers such as myself, Kelby’s writing is pure gold but anybody interested in the nature of the southeastern US will find these books enjoyable and mind-expanding.

I have to say that the books are beautifully written too, with the type of witty clarity that I most admire in writers. I’m quite selfish about my reading matter, I expect it to improve my mind and expand my knowledge.

If you don’t know some very fundamental stuff about North American nature, for example that the flapping birds tend to do their migrating at night and the soarers by day, then fear not because enlightenment is at hand.

While the first book covers a wide range of critters and critter behaviour, natural phenomena and human interactions with nature, there’s only so much that can be packed into 225 pages, hence the need for this sequel about 20 yrs later that further expands on the subject by featuring new wildlife, phenomena and historical interactions with nature and by adding to subjects previously covered. I have only just bought it and so haven’t read much of Bayou Diversity 2 yet.

Anyway, like a box of chocolates, these are books that can be enjoyed in various ways — at the run as if a novel, or as reference works, or randomly dipped.  In my family we’ve used the first book in all three ways. The short chapters lend themselves very well to pre-sleep reading — they’ll calm a busy mind and ready it for repose, also suit the limbo of the waiting room and suit reading aloud to others on car journeys. Very often the topics spark interesting conversations and draw out personal observations.

Visitors to Louisiana should read Bayou Diversity books in preparation for their visit and retain for reference; that will add much to the quality of your field experience, I think. It has to mine!

I hope that you enjoy the books as much as my wife and I do.

 

 

 

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.

 

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