Basic Field Skills

We are on for Feb. 11! Basic Field Skills will begin at Black Bayou Lake NWR in the Environmental Learning Center at 9 a.m. and continue until about 3 p.m.

This photo of an American Coot (Fulica americana) is evidence of a feature of coots and their scientific classification that many people do not know.

Click on the “Certification” tab at the top of this page. A flyer describing the day is available for download. To register, you can either click on the PayPal “Buy Now” button or download and print the form. It might be a little late to mail the form, so just let me (Bette Kauffman) know if you’re coming and bring it with you. Anyone who wants to pay on site can do so, but please let me know you are coming.

For those who did a Basic Field Skills workshop before, this one will be a bit different. I have refocused my portion of it to emphasize our important role as Master Naturalists in putting our skills to work. Here’s how I describe it on the flyer:

“We will have 45 minutes to an hour of instruction on the importance and value of doing citizen science. We will discuss the nature of ‘evidence’ and how contributing to citizen science platforms is different from sharing with your friends on social media. This will include how to use eBird and iNaturalist and how to observe in order to produce data that enhance the scientific value of these platforms, as well as how to use them to extend your own knowledge and help others in the online naturalist community.”

My iNaturalist profile.

The structure of this workshop will be instruction followed by application in short forays into the refuge, then returning to the education center to discuss and share what we did. The last 45 minutes of the day will be spent on interpretation, which will include examples of what others have done for their certification projects and strategies for sharing your natural history knowledge with different kinds of audiences, e.g., kids.

For those who wish to become Certified Master Naturalists, this is basic and important material. For those who are already certified or don’t wish to become certified, I think you will find things of value here that will enhance your natural world experiences.

Hope to see you next Saturday!

A Fab Event!

The Fourth Quarter Membership Meeting of the NE Chapter of Louisiana Master Naturalist Association at “Heartwood” December 11 was a fabulous event. A few of us had some difficulty finding it, but it was well worth finding.

Once we had assembled, Kelby Ouchley led a marvelous lecture and group discussion about red and white oaks. He also spoke briefly about pines. Then we embarked upon a walk of discovery! We saw many species of mushrooms and fungi, a variety of trees, and a plethora of plants, including many patches of crane-fly orchid leaves.

After the walk, we returned to the gathering spot, roasted hotdogs and enjoyed a buffet of great food, including chicken of the woods and lots of desserts.

During the Membership Meeting, we elected new officers and discussed the broad plan for the new year. Bette Kauffman, who is now President of the Louisiana Master Naturalist Association (our statewide organization), moves to the position of Immediate Past President and will act in an advisory capacity to the NE Chapter’s new President, David Hoover. Charles Paxton agreed to continue in the capacity of treasurer. April Honaker was elected to be our secretary and Susan Hoover to be Membership & Outreach chair.

After the meeting, we drew numbers to exchange gifts. Charles Paxton got to open three gifts because other people kept claiming his prizes. It was all in good fun!

We are planning workshops for 2023 and hope to have one every month from February to June. Watch your email and check on our website for updated information! Hope to see you there.

Susan Hoover

Let us party!

But of course, in keeping with who we are, some of our partying will be educational and natural history oriented.

We meet at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11, at Heartwood Natural Area near Rocky Branch, La. We will begin our festivities with a guided walkabout of this upland hardwood forest conserved by Kelby and Amy Ouchley. If you need directions to this location, please contact me at

How did a Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra) get to Heartwood? Who knows. But note that the leaves are wider than those of the Southern Red Oak (Quercus falcata).  

Hot dogs and all the fixings, including chili, will be provided but you might have to roast your own around an open fire. These will be followed by s’mores! If you would like to bring a side dish or holiday goodies, please do.

If you would like to participate in our gift swap, bring a $15-$20 item, wrapped or bagged. Those who participate will draw a number and pick a gift. I can’t promise but bartering might ensue after the initial distribution!

Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium) thrives around the pond at Heartwood.

And please do RSVP. Again, you can email me at We need a headcount to buy hot dogs, buns, etc.

We will also squeeze in a business meeting. I’ll try to keep it short, but we do need to elect officers, introduce some new members, and take care of a few things in order to get 2023 off to a good start.

BTW, you are not required to be a member to attend this event. If you are interested in what we do, come find out!


Dec. 11, 1:30 p.m. – Our Christmas Party and 4th Quarter meeting will be at Heartwood, the wonderful natural area Amy & Kelby Ouchley call home. We’ll begin with a guided hike around Heartwood, then party and meet. Details coming soon in another post.

We have a few new members interested in becoming certified Master Naturalists, and several long-time members who were interrupted in their progress toward certification by the pandemic. Therefore, I am working very hard on lining up 4 or 5 certification workshops mostly on second Saturdays in the spring. Here’s what I’m planning and have so far:

Feb. 11 and March 11, 2023, 9 am–3 pm – One of these days will be Basic Field Skills and I hope the other will be mammals, but I have not been able to pin that down yet.

April 15, 2023, 9 am–3 pm – This will be Aquatic Life, with Dr. Anna Hill instructing at Black Bayou Lake NWR. (This is the third Saturday of the month because the second Saturday is the one before Easter.)

May 13, 2023, 9 am–3 pm – This one will be Dr. Joydeep Bhattacharjee’s basic Ecosystems workshop. We’ll begin at Kiroli Park, meet in the public library for his lecture then go to Restoration Park–all in West Monroe.

June 10, 2023, 9 am–3pm – Possibly Geology.

To the extent possible, I have chosen topics that people in the process need to finish. However, anyone willing to pay the $25 workshop fee will be welcome to enroll. I for one am looking forward to repeating these, as I know I didn’t absorb everything the first time through.

Please put these dates on your calendar. I will update the Events list in the right hand column on this page as soon as I get confirmation from a workshop leader.

Good Times!

We lost a workshop but gained a very good time! When a workshop had to be cancelled, we gathered at Black Bayou Lake NWR anyway, first in the Environmental Education Center then on the boardwalk, where the birds entertained us well.

Grouchy,” BBLNWR’s resident Louisiana pine snake, attends an LMN-NE board meeting back in the early days.

David Hoover kicked off the day by presenting his certification project once again. It’s titled “Snakes Alive!” and I’m sure you haven’t heard the last of it. It’s excellent and I think/hope we got a good recording of it this time. It’s fun, informative and especially helpful to people who want to overcome a snake wariness. So if you know a group or organization that would like a fine educational experience, let us know. Our certification projects are meant to be shared!

After David’s talk, we played with Grouchy (see above) for awhile, then adjourned to the boardwalk. It was an overcast day, which was better for photography than you might think! On a sunny day, birds sitting high in trees turn into black silhouettes against the bright sky. A cloudy day can be a relief.

It was a woodpecker day for me. First a red-belly in a tree along the boardwalk, then both a downy and a sapsucker on snags out in the open. Of course, a great egret stalked fish along the edge of the open water and a flock of coots passed us by.

But the crowning observation was a bald eagle–high on a snag and quite a long ways away. Nevertheless, I managed a shot–not the best, but suitable to share here and for iNaturalist, the online citizen science platform where many Master Naturalist post our observations.

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

So it was a great day after all. Our next event is our 4th Quarter meeting and Christmas party. That will be at Heartwood, the home of Kelby and Amy Ouchley, and a delightful natural area in its own right. Visitors will be welcome. Look for details here soon.

And be sure to go to our public Facebook group to see lots of photographs and stories from our outings. You’ll find it here.