Events.. & a Great Idea!

The heat of summer is here, but lots of cool things are happening! Here’s a few for you to consider:

1. Summer Solstice Paddle – Thursday, June 21, Black Bayou Lake, 7:30-9 p.m. It’s an annual event and I hope this year to break my record of never having gone! That will depend on the availability of a canoe or kayak to rent, as I don’t have my own. Call the Visitor Center at 387-1114 to see if any are available.

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Boy Scouts head out onto Black Bayou Lake to participate in last year’s Ouachita Water Sweep.     (photo by Bette J. Kauffman)

2. Louisiana Peach Festival – Things have been happening all week, but the serious fun begins Friday the 22nd at 8:30 a.m. with a kid’s fishing tournament and continues all day Saturday and into the night. Here’s a link to the full schedule. I will be there Friday afternoon and you can probably get me to pose again next to my Honorable Mention photo in the NCLAC Peach Exhibit at the Civic Center. My favorite snake photo of all time will be at Ruston Artisans, along with several other pieces. Did I mention peach ice cream? It all happens in Ruston.

Broadbanded Water Snake (Nerodia fasciata confluens)
“Endless Forms Most Beautiful” at Rustin Artisans, by Bette J. Kauffman

3. Aquatic Life: It’s the Little Things – Saturday, June 23, Black Bayou Lake. Three seats are still available. See earlier posts and the flyer on the Certification tab for details.

4. FOBB’S Fall Celebration – Saturday October 13, Black Bayou Lake NWR, and this is where the Great Idea comes in. I hope you candidates for Master Naturalist Certification are still reading!

Fall Celebration is a wonderful family day put on by Friends of Black Bayou, with lots of activities and exhibits that are fun and educational, and showcase our fabulous refuge. Last year, LMN-NE was there with a table. We were brand new and had little to show, but Roselie and I shared our enthusiasm and signed up members.

This year… what if one or two or three of you who are working on certification created your interpretive project for us to showcase at Fall Celebration this year? That was Anne Bloxom Smith’s idea and I think it is a GREAT IDEA. Indeed, I am motivated to figure out what MY interpretive project is going to be and get working on it!

So start thinking about that, and I will devote a future blog post to some guidelines and requirements for interpretive projects for certification purposes.


Everyone needs a few from time to time, right? So here’s a few.

+Aquatic Life – It’s the Little Things, our 4th certification workshop, is next Saturday, June 23rd. A few seats remain!

+Rendezvous 2019 is scheduled March 15-17 at Fountainbleu State Park on the north shore of Lake Ponchartrain. Yes, that’s a ways for us to drive, but ever since our state board discussion of the possibilities there, I can’t wait! So plan now.

+Species Lists – are linked to the “Observe…” tab of our website. I have posted the one for our 2nd quarter meeting hike at Heartwood, but have one correction to make. I’ll soon post one for the herps workshop.

+Blog posts archive – Please note that every word I post here is available to you in perpetuity. (Perhaps not good news? Sorry!) Go to the right hand column and scroll down for the archive. It’s a drop-down menu right under “Photo of the Week.” Of course, if you have no idea in which month I posted something, you’ll have to do a bit of searching, but it is all there.

+Kids – Please be reminded that kids are welcome at our meetings and any “family fun days” we plan, but not at certification workshops. I mention this because I heard of a rumor that kids were at a certification workshop. Not true. No one under 18 allowed at a certification workshop.

Cypress @ Chemin 10"
Magnificent Baldcypress (Taxodium distichum) on Chemin-A-Haut Creek     (photo by Jeff Barnhill)


Aquatic Life – It’s the Little Things

Have you ever looked at a swamp or lake and wondered about the life contained in a drop of that water? I do it all the time! Here’s our opportunity to find out.

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Registration is now open for the June 23 Aquatic Life workshop. Go to the Certification tab on this website to pay via PayPal and secure your seat. The workshop 4 flyer is also there to download. It tells you all you need to know to be prepared for a successful day, so read carefully.

Here are some highlights:

1. We convene early – 8 a.m. – at the boat ramp at Black Bayou Lake. Aquatic life is more active earlier in the day and it will be cooler.

2. We will go out onto the water in canoes and kayaks. We have reserved FOBB’s, but feel free to bring your own. If you bring your own, be there early enough to have it IN THE WATER by 8 a.m. sharp. Even if you are not bringing you own, if you can arrive by 7:30 to help launch canoes, please do.

3. After a couple of hours on the lake, we will be in the education center. Our workshop leader, Dr. Anna Hill, has borrowed expensive scopes from ULM for us to use. Due to the need for technology and individual attention from workshop leaders to understand what we are looking at, this workshop is limited to 16 participants. Register now to secure your seat.

Again, please read the flyer. It contains valuable information. As always, if you do not wish to pay via PayPal, shoot me an email. I will reserve you a seat and collect from you that day.


The Case of the Mad Snappers

We came away with stories to tell!

Our day began in a ULM classroom. Dr. John Carr patiently walked us through the major families of amphibians and reptiles of northeast Louisiana with the help of an illustrated PowerPoint and a couple of great handouts. We had many questions.

Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)
Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)     (photo by Bette J. Kauffman)

Armed with our new knowledge, extensive notes and phones/cameras, we then headed to Black Bayou Lake NWR and reconvened near the Visitor Center. We were greeted there by Ryan, McKenzie and Ben, Dr. Carr’s graduate students, and… two turtles!

One of the two was a Map Turtle (Graptemys sp.), who had been rescued off a road on the way to the Refuge. She was quickly determined to be bearing eggs that Dr. Carr and his students wanted to incubate and hatch for research purposes, so she was placed in water in a tub. By the time we returned from our field work, she had laid one egg in the tub!

The other turtle that greeted us at BBLNWR was a male Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina). It was a scorching day and we were hot, but the snapper was hotter! We kept a healthy distance from his darting head and beak-like jaws while Ben held the turtle and Dr. Carr notched his shell for identification purposes before releasing him back into the wild.

Dr. Carr, Ryan & McKenzie (photo by Charles Paxton)

Later, Dr. Carr and his students emerged from the swamp carrying a female Common Snapping Turtle (photo above), who was equally hot under the carapace! Of course, we also got to see Louisiana’s favorite Red-Eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans), plus a couple of skinks, and–momentarily–a tiny escape artist Eastern Narrow-mouthed Toad (Gastrophryne carolinensis).

A hardy handful of us returned to the Refuge at 8 p.m. and were met again by Dr. Carr, his graduate students and Dr. Kim Tolson, who will lead a mammals workshop for us later this year. Back down the trail we went, to be greeted first by a deafening chorus of insects. The closer we got to the lake, the more the frogs took over.

What a wonderful cacaphony! We heard everything from tiny cricket frogs to deep-throated bullfrogs and several sizes in between, including bird-voiced tree frogs, bronze frogs, green tree frogs and more.

Bronze Frog
A bronze frog (Lithobates clamitans) sits on Ryan’s wrist. It’s call sounds like a chord struck on a banjo.     (photo by Bette J. Kauffman)

Hearing frogs and seeing them are quite different things, but with many eyes looking and several people willing to leave the boardwalk and wade, we were also able to see and photograph several species.

Did I mention snakes and ‘gators? Yes, we saw those, too. It was a fabulous day.


Heartwood Natural Area

What a special time we had learning about upland hardwood forests and touring Heartland Natural Area that surrounds the home of Kelby &Amy Ouchley!

Kelby Ouchley
Kelby Ouchley is a great storyteller!

We heard many interesting stories of the Ouchleys’ 30 years of experience buying bits of adjoining land when they were able, fending of the unwanted advances of pipeline builders, and more. I was particularly fascinated with Kelby’s historical account of how public outcry intervened in the loss of bottom hardwood forests east of the river. But the farms among the hills west of the river were smaller, thus the more incremental loss went almost unnoticed.

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Heartwood NA is in the LDWF Natural Areas Registry program.

The Ouchleys have preserved a treasure, the 13 acres around the house now 140 years old and one of the few examples of the eco-type available to us today.


After talking and touring, we had our 2nd Quarter meeting on the back deck overlooking the forest. Perhaps most notably, a red-shouldered hawk flew behind me as I conducted the meeting. Everything came to a halt so I could turn around and get into position to see the bird where it had perched in a tree top a hundred yards or so from the deck. Love this group! What other kind of meeting could you stop to view a bird?!

Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium)
Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium) thrives around the pond.     (photo by Bette J. Kauffman)

Highlights: 1) Charles Paxton is working on a t-shirt design. If you have a favorite northeastern Louisiana critter, find or make a sketch of it. He’s going to try to create a collage design. 2) Our next three certification workshops are scheduled. See “News & Events” on the website. I am working on a brochure that will tell about membership and certification at a glance. 3) We must purchase liability insurance. I’m working on that, too!

Northern Red Oak
How did a Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra) get here? Who knows. But note that the leaves are wider than those of the Southern Red Oak (Quercus falcata).     (photo by Bette J. Kauffman)

I’ll post a species list at some point, so anyone who kept a record of what you saw, please send it to me. The Ouchleys say we are welcome back. I can assure you, we will go back. I want to see the upland hardwood forest in fall colors!