Intro to Tensas NWR

What fun to have two events in a single weekend, but all the more fun that one of them is our first ever experiential certification project presentation! Roselie Overby is the candidate for certification and will lead our experience.

Sunday at 2 p.m. join us at Tensas River NWR headquarters, 2312 Quebec Road. That’s a Tallulah mailing address, but for our purposes, in case you’ve never been to Tensas, you can also put it into your GPS. Please note on the map that you must exit I-20 at Waverly and travel a few miles further east on Hwy 80 before turning south on Quebec Road, which takes you into the refuge.

Directions to Tensas River NWR headquarters. (This map is based on a fragment of a Google map.)

We will meet at the headquarters building, which has an ample parking area. After brief introductory comments, we will move to Africa Lake, one of the most interesting features of this diverse, wildlife-rich refuge. It will be important for a few people to pool together in vehicles for the short drive to Africa Lake because the parking area there is quite small.

We will hike a mile or so as time allows, with Roselie sharing some history and natural history of the refuge. This area is mixed bottomland hardwood and bald cypress, with diverse plant life and fungi. Roselie has spotted ‘gators in the lake and a variety of tracks in the soft ground, including deer, raccoon and, possibly, coyote. Snake sightings are also possible. Fall flowers are blooming and birds are migrating.

Question Mark butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis), photographed in the Africa Lake parking area, 6/12/21, by Bette J. Kauffman.

This sounds like a wonderful opportunity to do something we haven’t done in awhile, namely create a species list after the hike. So I’m commissioning everyone who can come to bring a notepad and help me keep track. It’s going to be impressive.

Remember also that a committee of three will evaluate Roselie’s presentation but all members of LMN-NE are encouraged to complete and submit our evaluation form for the committee’s consideration. (Forms will be distributed via email.)

To fully enjoy this hike, be prepared! The weather is predicted to be warm and sunny, and the area is usually muddy. You’ll need footwear that can deal with mud, insect repellent, protection from the sun and plenty of water.

We are also required to sign in to the refuge using one of the orange cards for that purpose at the refuge sign at the corner of Quebec and Mill Roads.

Finally, refuge buildings are still closed due to the pandemic, thus there are no restroom facilities. Plan accordingly! Of course, the hardy can also take advantage of “facilitrees”!

Just a reminder: The other event this weekend is the Jungle River Litter Pick, 7 – 8:30 a.m. Saturday at Restoration Park.

Note: I’ll be happy to take up to three fully vaccinated people in my car for the short drive from headquarters to Africa Lake. We will wear masks in the car as a precaution. We will physically distance outdoors and if you are more comfortable wearing a mask the whole time, do so. We will have a sign-in sheet that also constitutes a liability waiver.

Litter Begone!

If you hate litter, as most of us Master Naturalist types do, here’s an opportunity to make a difference!

This Saturday, October 9, meet at the gazebo at the 700 Downing Pines Rd. entrance to Restoration Park in West Monroe at 7 a.m. That’s right in front of the Ouachita Green office.

Before: Fallen trees are perfect snares for trash coming downstream.

Wear work gloves and waterproof boots and bring a trash picker if you have one. We hope to have some extras borrowed from Friends of Black Bayou; however, a lot can be done with gloves. LMN-NE will provide trash bags.

A pocket knife or pen knife is also useful for cutting out trash entangled in roots or cutting plastic that is partly buried.

After: The trash is “in the bag.” What a gratifying difference!

LMN-NE has taken on the task of clearing litter from “Jungle River,” which runs through Restoration Park. The Paxtons have done the bulk of the work so far. This is an excellent opportunity for many more of us to get involved.

Jungle River is a delight. Willows and taro plants line its banks. It is home to native birds, amphibians and insects, and a variety of other critters leave their tracks in the soft banks.

Jungle River is perfect habitat for this Ebony Jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata).

The river has a natural gravel bed and, in fact, the park was once an industrially mined gravel pit. Then it became a garbage dump, so today the trash that mars its beauty is a mix of new and old–new brought into the park from it’s much larger drainage area and old that resurfaces after every heavy rain.

We’re planning to do another litter pick from kayaks at Black Bayou Lake later this month or in November. For those who are certified, these are great opportunities to do your required volunteer hours.

BTW, I will not be able to participate this time. The Paxtons are in charge of this event and will have a sign-in form that constitutes a liability waiver, as is our practice.

Note: Photos in the post are by Charles & Kim Paxton.

La Birding Trails

The Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism has embarked upon the task of reviewing and updating all Louisiana Birding Trails. Amy Wise, Public Relations and Media Coordinator at the Monroe–West Monroe Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, contacted our Board Member & Treasurer Charles Paxton last week with information on how we can help.

What a terrific project! She can use our help in more than one way. Three Ouachita Parish sites have already been suggested to her: Black Bayou Lake NWR, Kiroli Park and Lazarre Park. Amy needs to know what birds can be seen at these locations and when.

I have mentioned to Amy the Prothonotary Warblers (Protonotaria citrea) at Black Bayou Lake and at some point will send her this, my best photo ever of a PW.

In addition, if you know of additional sites she should consider, she would be pleased to hear from you. Of course, sites with public access are best, as the state will put birding trail information online so that people can access it and walk the trails on their own.

The list of information needed to propose a site is a bit daunting, but Amy emphasizes that if we don’t know it all, we should still send her what we can and she will do some research to try to fill in blanks. Charles sent a letter to our current members last week detailing the information needed, but again, please do not hesitate to send information to Amy because you can’t answer every question.

We, collectively or individually, can also propose a site. The state has set up a website specifically for this purpose. Amy is most interested in Ouachita Parish because she works for the Convention & Visitors Bureau. We can propose sites anywhere. Of course, we know the Gulf Coast is hot birding territory, but wouldn’t it be terrific to draw birders to northeast Louisiana?

I personally intend to check out Lazarre Park. I’m also wondering about Chemin a Haut way up in the northeast corner of the state. Is it good for birding? And how about Chenault Park in the southeast corner of Monroe? Poverty Point, both the reservoir and the heritage site? And I’m wondering if the Molicy Unit should also be proposed, although we all know access can be tricky.

You can contact Amy via email <awise@monroe-westmonroe.org> or by telephone: 318.387.5691. If you want to get started on your own proposed trail, here’s a link to the website: Louisiana Birding Trails Update.

Happy birding, all!

3rd Quarter Meeting

Join us Sunday afternoon, September 26, in beautiful Kiroli Park, 820 Kiroli Road, West Monroe, La. Pick and choose your level of participation from the following items.

2 p.m. Hike – Park your car in the vicinity of shelter 6, which is the first picnic shelter on the left side of the road just past the guard shack at the entrance. We will gather near the entrance to the Conservatory, which is right across the road.

Key: #6 = shelter 6. #2 = Conservatory. Yellow = Outer Trail. Blue = Garden Trail.

Two trails begin right next to the Conservatory. My plan is to head down the Outer Trail (yellow on the map), then switch to the Garden Trail (blue) where they intersect at the end of Azalea Hill. We’ll continue on to the Covered Bridge, then return via the Garden Trail.

As will be our standard operating practice from now on, we’ll begin the hike with a brief safety orientation and all will be asked to sign our waiver of liability sign-in sheet.

3:30 p.m. Guest speaker: Stuart Hodnett – Our meeting will begin in Shelter 6 with our usual educational guest speaker. Our own Stuart Hodnett is now the Director of West Monroe Parks & Recreation, and he will speak to us about the parks system. This will include information about Restoration Park, another wonderful asset in West Monroe we have visited and will visit again.

4 p.m. Business Meeting – I always say “short” but I have to be honest and admit sometimes it goes over 30 minutes! Nevertheless, we should be finished by 4:45 p.m.

Jack-in-the-Pulpit berries (Arisaema triphyllum) from a 2018 visit to Kiroli Park.

That’s it, folks! Don’t forget that the charge to enter Kiroli Park is $1 per person. That’s a very modest fee to help maintain a wonderful park. One of the questions I want to ask Stuart is, How many annual visitors does Kiroli Park have? I’m sure it is a pretty high number.

We will soon have information regarding litter pick-up opportunities.

Updates

Trying to plan certification workshops and other events for the fall has been frustrating to say the least. Right now, it is clear we are safest when we are outdoors. That suits this Naturalist pretty much! So here are some reminders.

A big un’ going for a stroll behind Headquarters in the Tensas River NWR. Photo by BJK.

Tensas River NWR with Roselie Overby – Oct. 10, 2-3:30 p.m. We will meet at Refuge headquarters and caravan to a few places. This is Roselie’s certification project and our first experiential project. Can’t wait!

Fall Celebration – Oct. 16, 10-2. We will have tables outdoors. Our member Anne Frazer will have a climate change-focused table next to ours. We have two beautiful brochures plus business cards to hand out, thanks to Kim Paxton. We will have our t-shirts for sale and other good stuff. Who can help? Please let me know.

The Molicy Unit with Kelby Ouchley – Nov. 13, time TBA but a.m. for sure. As many of you know, this natural area exists in large part due to Kelby. He’s going to do a “show and tell” hike with us at the site. What a privilege!

Now for some things in progress:

Birds – January; Dr. Terri Maness. Here’s hoping we’ll have Covid on the run again and can do classroom work. Terri hopes we’ll be able to go back to the Molicy for field work. Me too.

Bats & Rats – We’re looking at spring. Dr. Kim Tolson (ULM) is a bit in limbo waiting for the the university to figure out its fall semester strategy for dealing with the Delta variant of Covid, and that makes it impossible to think about how to do a workshop with us while the weather is still suitable for such a venture.

Soils: At the Roots of it All – Spring. New idea! I’ve been talking with Dr. Bill Patterson, whom some of you will remember from our Watershed Dynamics workshop a couple years ago. He is contacting Rachel Stout-Evans, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Resource Soil Scientist, to see if she will collaborate with us (see video below). After classroom work, we plan to visit a farm out in west parish that is carrying out soil conservation practices. As a former farm girl, I’m very excited about this.

Stay tuned, folks. There’s life in spite of Covid.