Snakes Alive

Have you heard it said that the only good snake is a dead snake? I have, and it pains me.

Why do many people hate and fear snakes? Do snakes deserve the reputation they have been given? How dangerous are they, really? Can human beings learn to live in harmony with snakes?

Rough Green Snake (Opheodrys aestivus), by David Hoover.

David Hoover will explore these questions and more in his Master Naturalist certification presentation, “Snakes Alive.”

The doors of the Environmental Learning Center at Black Bayou Lake NWR will open at 4:30 p.m., Sunday, July 25. David’s presentation will begin about 4:45.

All members who attend will be invited to submit feedback on the form we have devised for that purpose (copies will be provided), or via email. The jury will meet via zoom within the week.

As one whose journey to becoming a Master Naturalist had to include overcoming a certain dread of snakes, I am really looking forward to David’s presentation.

Just to keep it fresh in your mind: Roselie Overby’s experiential certification project is scheduled at 2 p.m. October 10 at Tensas River NWR. Check out our other upcoming events in the column to the right.

Heads up!

Thanks to the work of the events committee, we have events to put on our calendars. Some good ones. So pull up your calendar and let’s go!

July 25:

  • 4:45-5:30 p.m.: David Hoover certification project. BBL Education Center. Details forthcoming.
  • 5:30-6 p.m.: LMN-NE Board of Directors meeting. (Members welcome to stay & observe.)

August 29, 7 p.m.: LMN-NE B of D meeting on zoom. Your Board of Directors has decided to meet on last Sundays of the month on zoom. Members are always welcome to attend, provide feedback and observe, so if you are NOT a Board member but want to receive the zoom invite, notify me (bjk).

September 25: So sorry to report that Bats & Rats must be rescheduled. Will keep you posted.

September 26, 7 p.m.: 3rd Quarter Members meeting on zoom. (Board will not meet in Sept.)

Roselie and me at our first Fall Celebration. We have come a long way!

October 10, 2-3:30 p.m.: Roselie Overby certification project presentation at Tensas River NWR. Roselie is going to do our first ever experiential certification project. We will meet at Tensas. This is an amazing NWR about which I know little. Can’t wait!

October 16, 10 am – 2 pm: Fall Celebration at BBLNWR. Yippee! So glad to have this fun, educational event back. We will need volunteers to staff our table, hand out our brochures, sell t-shirts, sign up new members, etc.

October 31, 7 p.m.: LMN-NE Board of Directors meeting on zoom.

November 14?: Field trip to Molicy Unit with Kelby Ouchley? This one is not yet set for sure, but Kelby has offered and we are eager to take him up on his offer. Pencil it in.

November 28, 7 p.m.: LMN-NE Board of Directors meeting on zoom.

December 12, time??: Graduation, 4Q meeting and Christmas Party! Yay!

A word about safety: The pandemic is not behind us! Things have improved and it is great to be able to make plans, but we must continue to be vigilant. If you are fully vaccinated, wearing a mask–or not–is up to you. It’s not required, indoors or out, but you are certainly free to wear one if you wish and no one will care. If you are not fully vaccinated, please do wear a mask. And we all should continue to practice physical distancing.

It was fun, really!

I was sweating so profusely that I couldn’t keep my glasses on my face. But it wasn’t a problem. The privet I was pulling out of the sandbar was easy to distinguish from the native ferns also growing there.

And there was something deeply gratifying–even fun–about whacking invasive plants!

Carey King, one of Saturday’s work crew, stands on a sandbar in Tunica Hills WMA with a loess bluff behind him. Photo by Amber King.

The work day I participated in this past Saturday was organized by Dan Strecker as a project of the Louisiana Native Plant Society, Capital Area chapter. The target of his project and the place we put in our sweat equity Saturday is Tunica Hills WMA, a place that stands out in my mind as one of our most beautiful WMAs.

Dan is also a Master Naturalist and began his work in habitat restoration a few years ago with the Greater Baton Rouge chapter of Louisiana Master Naturalists. The project he started for LMNGBR is now run by Karen Pinsonat, the statewide winner of our recent Rendezvous 2021 Scavenger Hunt.

Tunica Hills is extraordinary in my eyes because of its ridges and deep ravines, many of them featuring a stream at the bottom. The sandbar I worked Saturday was at the bottom of a ravine on Trail A. The stream was dry on this day, but the sandbar was well-shaded. In addition to pulling privet, I cut trifoliate orange–several big clumps of it–with a big lopper, then Dan came along with his spray bottle and treated the cut stems with a chemical that will kill the roots.

Two reasons I find Tunica Hills special: It’s the only place I’ve ever photographed Little Wood Satyr (Megisto cymela) and this particular species of Trillium (Trillium foetidissimum). (Photos by BJK from 2019.)

People who know me best might be surprised to learn that I took not a single photo! I was too focused on the work and throwing all my energy into whacking invasives.

So… the Northeast chapter of Louisiana Master Naturalists Board of Directors met on zoom yesterday evening and we will organize to do something like this in our corner of the state. The places I know of that all have invasive species issues include Camp Hardtner (near Pollock), Kiroli Park and Restoration Park in West Monroe, and Black Bayou Lake NWR.

Of course, there are protocols for removing invasive species properly and safely. We will learn them and follow them. If you’re interested in joining this good work, let us know. It’s cathartic!

Next Sunday…

Do you record or preserve in any way your encounters and experiences out in nature? If so, how? If not, why might one want to start doing that?

Come next Sunday afternoon, May 16, at 2 p.m. to Amy Ouchley’s certification presentation, The Joys of Nature Journaling. She has been studying this process and honing her practice while participating in workshops and now has a lot to share with us.

Our newly reprinted brochures are ready for you to distribute.

As one who spends a LOT of time peering through a camera’s viewfinder, I’m looking forward to learning more about the how’s and why’s of another way of observing, recording and responding to the natural world.

This event will probably take place in the Environmental Learning Center at Black Bayou Lake NWR, but I’m still waiting to hear from Erin Cox. I will send out an email early in the week with final word on that.

Since we have just one presentation this time, we will have a short 2nd Quarter Meeting afterward. Kim Paxton has redone our brochure, and I have lots to hand out to you to give to friends and distribute in places like-minded folks will find them.

And after that, I for one will “take a hike”! Hope some of you will join me. Indeed, this would be a good time to invite folks who might be interested in checking us out.

A Face Only a Mother Could Love

And maybe a bunch of naturalists? We were certainly enthralled!

Alligator Snapping Turtle (Macrochelys temminckii)

That’s the hand of Nelle Jenkins, one of Dr. Kim Tolson’s biology graduate students, who is doing her thesis research on turtles in Bayou Desiard. This awesome critter wandered into one of her live traps. Note that she is firmly grasping the carapace right behind the turtle’s head. Does anyone doubt that those jaws could snap off a carelessly placed finger in a heartbeat?

Today was our Herpetofauna of Louisiana workshop with Dr. John Carr. We were graciously hosted on the ULM campus by the Museum of Natural History and its director, Dr. Kim Tolson, who opened the Museum for us so we could explore before the workshop proper began and again on our lunch break. What a fantastic resource for our community!

Broad-headed Skink (Plestiodon laticeps)

So… after exploring the Museum, learning herp taxonomy, meeting this impressive snapper plus a bunch of other turtles on Bayou Desiard, and observing graduate students in action capturing, measuring, tagging and releasing turtles… we went out to Black Bayou Lake NWR for more field work.

To be honest, I lost track. But I’m certain that at least three cottonmouths were sighted, two broad-banded watersnakes, two broad-headed skinks and several little brown skinks, a southern leopard frog, probably a dozen cricket frogs and one green tree frog.

Green Tree Frog (Hyla cinerea)

All in all, it was a most rewarding day. Thank you so much, Drs. Carr and Tolson and ULM Museum of Natural History.