Our Events Committee has been at work! And they have a lot of great ideas. Here’s what’s coming:

Feb. 13, 9:45 – Noonish: Trillium Walk & GBBC – Calling all birders to join us on the Trillium Walk! It turns out that Saturday, Feb. 13, falls within the dates of the Audubon Society’s Great Backyard Bird Count. So we’re going to participate. In addition to spotting trillium, red buckeye and crane fly orchids (see header photo), we will be looking and listening for birds.

I plan to be at the entrance to the Charles Allen Nature Preserve by 9:30 a.m. We want to walk into the woods at 10 sharp. Please see my earlier post here for a map and details. Again I encourage some of you to make plans to meet in Columbia to leave a vehicle in the parking lot there and carpool out to the Preserve, where parking is limited.

BTW, I called the town of Columbia, which bought the property from ULM last year. They are excited that we are using this natural area as intended.

March 7, 2020, 2 p.m.: First Quarter Meeting – Zoom will be the venue for our first quarter meeting this year. (It is my hope and prayer that by 2nd Quarter we will be able to meet in person! But we will stay safe…)

That’s Erin with the giant scissors opening the newly refurbished alligator exhibit at Black Bayou Lake NWR. Photo by the News Star.

The Events Committee has invited Erin Cox, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Refuge Coordinator over several refuges in our area to be our speaker. Erin will give us an overview of the USFWS, then zero in on the refuges she manages and what we can do to help in fulfilling our mission as conservationists and educators on conservation. After Erin’s presentation, we will have a brief business meeting.

In planning: The Events Committee shared ideas they are working on and I am delighted and excited. These include:

Dec. 5 – Fourth Quarter meeting at Kiroli Park, hosted by our own Stuart Hodnett, who now is parks coordinator for West Monroe. In addition to our meeting, we will go birding in the park. Of course, some of us will also be distracted by the other flora and fauna of the park! Details to come.

Second & Third Quarterly Meetings – These will probably be in May and October respectively. Ideas being considered include asking our own Kelby Ouchley and his brother Keith Ouchley of the Nature Conservancy to lead us on an expedition to the Molicy Unit. Yes!

Additional ideas for meetings or seasonal events include asking Gary Stringer to tell us about his whales at the ULM Museum and inviting the new manager at Tensas NWR to talk about the refuge and the bears.

Is there anything in the above that does not totally excite you? I am so on board with all of this and deeply grateful to the Events Committee for their leadership. Here’s who they are: Charles Paxton, Chair, Suzanne Laird Dartez, Stuart Hodnett, Amy Ouchley, Ann Smith. Kim Paxton took notes for them because, you know, with the Paxtons you usually get a two-fer!

Woohoo! It’s gonna be a good year.

Trillium Walk

A few years ago, I began making an annual pilgrimage to the Charles Allen Nature Preserve near Columbia to see trillium in bloom. I love them! So beautiful and so ephemeral. The window for seeing them is short.

Trillium (Trillium sp.)

This year, in part because we have not been able to get together much, it occurred to me to invite y’all to come along. We will be outdoors. I am happy to wear a mask outdoors if that will make you more comfortable. We can physically distance without a problem.

So…. Saturday, February 13, is the day. The entrance to the Charles Allen Nature Preserve is on Fisher Road, a bit south and east of Columbia. There’s a map below because I do not believe your phone GPS will recognize that name. Meet me there. I will get there at 9:45 a.m. and plan to head into the woods at 10 a.m.

In fact, there’s not a lot of parking at the entrance and Fisher Road doesn’t have much in the way of shoulders, so if you are comfortable carpooling with someone or meeting someone in Columbia and just carpooling the short distance out to the site, that would be good. There’s a school along the route through Columbia and leaving a car there would be easy.

Hiking in the preserve is not extremely difficult but it does involve somewhat steep climbing on layers of leaves and pine straw for short distances. Wear suitable shoes. After we’ve seen the trillum, we’ll hike to the river overlook for a fab view. I estimate we will be in the woods for about two hours.

In addition to trillium, we will see red buckeye just starting to bloom and, if we look carefully, perhaps violets in bloom and crane fly orchid leaves, which I plan to mark with plastic tape so we can come back in August and look for flowers.

And who knows what else? I have invited Dr. Charles Allen, after whom the place is named. He didn’t promise but he said he’d try to come. If he makes it, I promise, you will get an impromptu lesson in native plants of Louisiana.

I have also invited the CenLa Master Naturalists and… this is a family fun day! Your kids old enough to hike are welcome! And bring a friend.

Directions from Monroe: Drive south on Hwy 165. Shortly after crossing the Ouachita River into Columbia, turn left onto Church St. Go 4 blocks and turn right onto Boatner St. Go one block and turn left onto Fisher Rd. Fisher Rd. goes straight to the edge of the swamp (Brandon Lake) then curves right, as you can see on the map. From the intersection of Fisher Rd. and Boatner St, it’s about 2.5 miles to the entrance to the Preserve.

If you have trouble finding the place, call me: 318-372-8117.

Rendezvous 2021

We’re going to have some fun AND stay completely safe while doing it!

The Louisiana Master Naturalist Association Board of Directors recently decided that a face-to-face Rendezvous in April of 2021 was still too dangerous. Not enough of us are vaccinated yet!

So we postponed the face-to-face gathering for another year but decided to do some fun things anyway, all completely safely. April will be Rendevous month. We will have three zoom meetings of an hour and a half each spread out over the month of April, at least one of which will feature a keynote address by our Dorman Award winner.

Other activities we are working on include a photo/video competition, a scavenger hunt and a citizen science project. These will be designed so that you can do them individually or with small groups outdoors using proper pandemic precautions.

Screenshot of Rendezvous 2021 FB Group

Please note that the Facebook group is a private group because only Louisiana Master Naturalists can participate in Rendezvous. When you get to it, you will be asked to confirm that you are a member of an LMN chapter before you will be admitted to the group.

I and Charles & Kim Paxton are on the planning committee and much planning remains to be done. For the moment, however, I urge each of our members to go to the Rendezvous 2021 Facebook page and ask to join. That is where we will post info as plans develop and where we will feature activities as they happen.

Here’s a link to the group: LMNA Rendezvous 2021.

Forage on!

It’s been almost a week since our fungi workshop. It was a busy one, which is why this report is so late. But it has also been a delicious one, featuring eggs scrambled with black trumpets, stir fry veggies with chanterelles, and mushroom soup–some of which is still marinating in the frig!

Black Trumpets and Chanterelles

That’s the reward for doing a workshop with a guy who is highly skilled at foraging delectable mushrooms. Thanks, Todd Maggio, for the great information and for taking us to some of your “secret” sites in Lincoln Parish Park.

The truth is, I’m not very confident I will ever find a black trumpet in the wild again. They are definitely hard to see! I think it was halfway through our field work before I saw the first one on my own.

Black Trumpets in the Wild

Here’s a fun fact: Todd says black trumpets love hurricanes. Well, that we seem to be able to provide. So.., after Delta moves through… 🙂

Chanterelles are a good bit easier because of their distinctive bright gold color. However, this is not the time of year for them, so we found only a few. I’ll be out there with a collecting basket come spring.

The only downside of the day was that we accidentally left Suzanne Laird Dartez behind. She got to our rendezvous point in the parking lot about 10 minutes late. No one noticed that we were going into the woods short one person. Folks, we need to do a better job of exchanging phone numbers and counting heads! Suzanne will get a free workshop, but I really don’t want that to happen again.

The Spore You Know

It’s our first fungi workshop and the weather should be perfect: sunny skies and a high of 69 degrees!

Todd Maggio

That’s this coming Saturday, Oct. 3, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Todd Maggio will instruct, assisted by Dr. Laura Sims. Todd is a fungi aficionado and expert, but his day job is graphic design–both doing and teaching at La Tech. Dr. Sims is a member of the La Tech forestry faculty.

We will spend the day in Ruston, gathering at Ruston Artisans at 203 W. Alabama Ave. for what Todd promises will be a short period of instruction. At mid-morning we will adjourn to one of the various parks in and around Ruston.

The flyer, now available at the Certification tab of this website, says we’ll go to Cook Park but Todd asks us to be flexible. He has been scouting and we will caravan to the area that is most promising for foraging mushrooms. Yay to that!

A few from my fungi photo collection. I’m not good at identifying, but I’m pretty sure the one on the left is an Amanita, the one on the right probably a Russula, and the one in the middle perhaps an oyster mushroom.

In the field, we will search, then regroup to identify what we’ve found on a picnic table or whatever likely spot is available. Dr. Sims is bringing a microscope to assist in that process. I encourage all of you to bring your field lupe.

Todd is big on identifying edible mushrooms, so if that appeals to you, bring a basket and/or some mesh bags to collect into. I’m hoping to go home with a few to incorporate into dinner.

We’ll eat lunch at whatever park we are in at the appropriate time while regrouping to identify. Plan accordingly, and although I am not familiar with these locations, I’m guessing we won’t be terribly far from a fast food joint if that’s your preference.

Register at the Certification tab above or let me know you’re coming and pay on site. Suzanne Laird Dartez is coming, so we will have yellow t-shirts to sell for sure.

See you Saturday!