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Picture this!

Everyone can take better nature pictures, and an opportunity to learn how begins Thursday of this week.

The LMN-NE Events Committee is offering a series of basic nature photography workshops via zoom beginning Thursday, January 20, at 5:30 p.m. The meetings will begin with a bit of introductory conversation as people gather, then focus on specific nature photography topics. Participants will share tips and tactics from their own experience.

Charles Allen and me at the cattail pond on the Charles Allen Nature Preserve near Columbia, La. I have no recollection of what I was taking a picture of, but very possibly a dragonfly. More importantly, I have no recollection of who made this photo. Anyone want to claim it? I’d love to give you credit.

Who knows? You might pick up an idea that will make a difference in LMNA’s statewide photography competition, offered each year in conjunction with our statewide conference, Rendezvous. The photo above would go in the “naturalists at work” category.

Master Naturalists from across the state have also been invited to this series, so you will get to meet some new folks. Charles Paxton is the host. To prevent zoom-bombing, the zoom link is not published here. Contact Charles via email at <lmnacoms@gmail.com> and he will email you.

7 Things–

–simple things–you can do to help birds:

  • Drink shade-grown coffee
  • Citizen science (e.g., eBird, iNaturalist)
  • Reduce plastic use (good for the entire planet)
  • Make windows safer
  • Keep cats indoors
  • Plant natives
  • Avoid pesticides

And it is vitally important to do these things because we have lost almost 3 billion birds, just since 1970. For more information about these measures and about why we should care about birds, visit the 3 billion birds website.

Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa)

This and much more we learned last Saturday from Terri Maness, instructor for LMN-NE’s birds certification workshop. BTW, did you know that although a few particular points about the evolution of birds are still debated, most experts agree that birds are dinosaurs. Well, direct descendants. Think flying reptiles.

The rain quit by noon Saturday, so we piled on layers against the dropping temp and blustery winds and went out looking for birds at Black Bayou Lake NWR. We quickly learned that in open areas, the birds were hunkered down. Those with better hearing than I could hear them but we didn’t get many glimpses of them.

However, twice we went into wooded areas, where trees broke the back of the wind, and immediately began seeing the little birds. What a delight to be surrounded by ruby-crowned and golden-crowned kinglets! We heard song sparrows and saw white-throated and swamp sparrows.

White-throated Sparrow(Zonotrichia albicollis)

Out on the open water of the lake we saw a few ducks but mostly lots of pied-billed grebes–which we learned from Terri’s lecture are not ducks, but a different family of the Avian line. (I feel so smart knowing that now!)

And then there was the red-tailed hawk, perched on a tree overlooking the prairie out in front of the visitor center at BBLNWR. See it in my photo? No, you don’t. Because I never spotted it. I thought sure I was looking in the right place and I clicked away, but… in vain. Others saw it. I know because they have posted photos in our Facebook group. So go there, please, to see the red-tailed hawk.

Black Bayou Lake NWR

One day I’m going to publish a collection of my photos of clumps of leaves, sticks, shadows, etc.–all kinds of things that were supposed to be birds and weren’t! So goes bird photography.

See the Events list in the right hand column of this website to see what’s upcoming and I’ll blog about it as quickly as I can get to it.

Wild Talk

Our LMN-NE Events Committee invites all members to participate in a new nature-focused conversation salon called Wild Talk. It will be a zoom conversation, with focus topics provided along with the emailed zoom invitation.

The first topic is “Winter in Louisiana,” an interesting topic to be sure. The first edition of Wild Talk is scheduled this Thursday, January 13, from 5:30 until 7 p.m. The zoom invitation has already gone out, but if you’re a member and can’t find your email invitation, contact Charles Paxton.

This photo was made January 5, 2016 at Allen Acres in Vernon Parish. Can you identify the plant?

The sessions will begin with a short quiz–no grades issued, it’s strictly for fun! I will not be able to attend this first edition, but I already have some questions in mind that I will submit to Charles.

Participants in the conversation will share outdoor experiences of a seasonal nature, what kinds of wildlife and natural phenomena can be seen and where at this time of year, and so forth. If numbers warrant, the break-out room feature of zoom meetings will be utilized to make it easier for all to share in a small group setting.

The purposes of Wild Talk are to get to know each other better and continue our learning and sharing of information as naturalists. These sessions might well also spawn ideas for actual outdoor excursions.

As personal testimony, I can say that those of us who registered for 2021’s virtual statewide Rendezvous did two sessions like this and had a blast. I highly recommend it.

If you want to submit questions for the opening quiz, send them to Charles Paxton via email <lmnacoms@gmail.com> by Wednesday, January 12, for inclusion in Kimmie Paxton’s Power Point.

So… tell the truth now! Who knew the plant in the photo to be Summer Huckleberry (Vaccinium elliotti)?

Birds, Birds, Birds

For those of you seeking certificate and those of you needing continuing ed credit, our own Dr. Terri Maness will teach us and lead our field work Saturday, January 15, 9 a.m. until about 3 p.m.

Dr. Terri Maness

Here’s the plan: We’ll convene at the Conservation Learning Center at Black Bayou Lake NWR at 9:00 a.m. (I will be there at 8:30 for anyone who wants to pay on site, but please let me know your intentions.) The cost for this workshop is $25 as usual.

After a short introduction to the field of ornithology, Terri will focus our classroom work on local bird populations and what we can do to help conserve them. We will take a lunch break at about 11:30, then at 12:15, we’ll reconvene in the BBL visitor center parking lot to caravan to the Mollicy Unit for field work.

It will be important to exchange phone #s and travel together because the Mollicy Unit is a bit hard to find. You have to know where you’re going, as the route is not marked. Terri will lead us.

The Ouachita River is visible from the observation tower at the Mollicy Unit. This area is likely to be holding water Saturday the 15th, but we hope not so much water that we can’t get to the tower.

Covid protocols: Physical distancing and masks indoors are required and either double masks or an N95 strongly suggested. Masks outdoors are perfectly acceptable and physical distancing will be maintained. Car pooling from BBL to the Mollicy Unit would be good but masks and no more than two per vehicle is highly recommended.

The link to register for the workshop is live. Click on the Certification tab of this website. A flyer is also available at the flyer link on the same tab.

This workshop is limited to 10 participants due to the necessity of physical distancing inside the learning center. I have already registered, but I had Terri’s workshop before. I’m looking forward to it again, but.. if a person who is not yet certified needs my seat to get into the class, I will turn it over to you and hang out in the refuge while y’all do the classroom work,

Also, if any of our already certified folks and/or experienced birders want to sign up for the field work portion only, let me know. You can pay $10 and join us at the appropriate time.

Finally, if for any reason going to the Mollicy Unit is not practical (flooding, extreme weather, etc.), we will do our field work right there at BBLNWR. Hope to see you there!

Congrats and News

Congratulations to our three newest certified Master Naturalists, David Hoover, Amy Ouchley and Roselie Overby!

From left: David Hoover, Roselie Overby, Amy Ouchley

David’s project was called “Snakes Alive!” and it is a great antidote to people’s fear of snakes. Roselie’s project was an educational hike down the Africa Lake trail in the Tensas River NWR. Amy’s project, “The Joys of Nature Journaling,” was an exhaustive review of the why, how, aesthetics and value added of same for nature lovers at all levels.

Each of these projects has a future as a resource for LMN-NE as we seek to build our chapter and pursue our missions of conservation and education.

Graduation was followed by a short business meeting. Our most important outcome is a new Board of Directors chart, as follows:

David Hoover was elected Vice President with the understanding that he will move up to president in a year. Susan Hoover agreed to chair a committee to look at ways to make our chapter more diverse and inclusive. Jessica Wright will become our volunteer and continuing ed hours coordinator. Bette Kauffman continues as president, Kim Paxton as secretary, Charles Paxton as treasurer, and Roselie Overby as membership chair.

Kelby Ouchley took advantage of the setting to teach us how to identify an Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides) by its leaf petiole.

Many thanks to Stephanie Herrmann for her term on the Board! And many thanks to the Events Committee, chaired by Charles Paxton, for the work they have done this year.

This graduation, meeting and holiday party were conducted in the pavilion at St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church, a beautiful, 2-lot space on Bayou Desiard. Karen Hayward, a member of the church’s Care of Creation Committee, came out to speak with the group. The church already has provided the pavilion, a pier and a paved walking path to the neighborhood, and is interested in involving us in the development of the space as a healthy, natural, educational oasis in the city. You’ll hear more about this!

Chillin’ around the fire with Bayou Desiard in the background.

It was a wonderful occasion. Thanks to all who brought gifts to exchange, food to share and thoughtful participation in planning our future.

Photos in this post by Kim & Charles Paxton.