BioBlitz Set!

I just received word from Dr. Joydeep Bhattacharjee that the BioBlitz flooded out last spring has been rescheduled Saturday, Oct. 6! Here’s hoping some Master Naturalists will be able to participate.

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An awesome colony of fungi from the 2016 BioBlitz, but I still haven’t identified them!     (photo by Bette J. Kauffman)

The ULM Biological Station, Charles Allen Nature Trail is near Columbia, La. It is a wonderfully diverse habitat ranging from a low-lying cattail pond along the east side bordered by Fischer Road, to high bluffs overlooking the Ouachita River, and down again to very low ground next to the river.

Google Map
The green twig on this map marks the entrance to the ULM Biological Station, which is the area between Fischer Rd on the west, the river on the east, and bayous to the north and to the south. Fischer Road can be accessed from the southeast corner of Columbia or from Hwy 849 and Huff’s Bend Road.

Several ULM faculty members will participate in the BioBlitz. Details are not yet set, but typically hikes begin about 7 a.m. Graduate students will go down the night before to set live traps in the pond.

Birds, trees, herbeceous plants, reptiles, aquatic life and more will be on the agenda. I will be looking for the crane fly orchid locations I marked a couple of years ago! Of course, the orchids are past blooming, but I might be able to locate the sites that still have spent flower stalks.

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Getting to the top of the bluff is well worth the effort!     (photo by Bette J. Kauffman)

This will be a great opportunity for a family-fun outing, so bring kids and grandkids who are old enough to do a little hiking. This 100-acre site is a great place to introduce them to the great outdoors, as the trails are wide and relatively easy to walk. Some are a bit steep but not rocky, and you can stay on gentle grades all day if you prefer.

This will be a great opportunity to practice what we’ve been learning in our certification workshops. Not only will we contribute our observations to a BioBlitz Species list, but we can generate one for our group’s observations, and we can add them to the iNaturalist project I started for this location some time ago.

Wading In to Watershed Dynamics

report & photos by Charles Paxton

As the dominant terrestrial species on this planet we naturally have a rather grounded perspective on our environment. We named our home “Earth” despite the fact that about 70% of its surface is covered with water.

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Prof. Bill Patterson of LaTech talks about how climate change is causing arid conditions to creep eastward across Texas.

Saturday, Sept. 25, 12 members of  Louisiana Master Naturalists – Northeast learned more about the crucial relationship between earth and water in a workshop on Watershed Dynamics delivered by Dr. Bill Patterson, Associate Professor of Forest Soils and Watershed Management at Louisiana Tech University.

We gathered at Louisiana Tech University’s Reese Hall, where we met Prof. Patterson unloading boxes of scientific equipment from a sleek minibus and accompanied him to a classroom for an illustrated presentation and discussion.

Redwine checkpoint 1
The lecture and discussion continue on the banks of Redwine Creek in Grambling.

He began with a basic introduction to the concept of a watershed, defining the term as any area of land that drains water into lakes and rivers. Watersheds are crucial sources of clean freshwater.

We learned how relatively scarce and precious, clean, fresh, liquid water is on planet Earth. Less than 2.5% of our water is fresh (that is, not saltwater), and of the 2.5%, 68.7% is locked up in glaciers and pack ice. Very little of the remaining surface water is clean enough to be potable.

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Procambarus clarkii for our species list, captured and released by Suzanne Laird.

Here in northern Louisiana we are blessed with, and dependent upon, the Sparta Aquifer — a pressurized body of fresh groundwater which overlays ‘fossil’ saltwater from our marine pre-history.

The forest soil to the northwest of the twin cities in Webster, Bienville and Winn Parishes, with its natural mixture of invertebrates, bacteria, and fungi underlain by porous sandy soil, makes an excellent watershed to feed the Sparta aquifer. Two thirds of our drinking water is organically filtered through forest.


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Searching for life at Redwine Creek checkpoint 2. Prof. Patterson has just thrown a cast net.

Nevertheless, the Sparta Aquifer is stressed. Fifteen to twenty years ago, industrial and commercial activities in the twin cities used more water than domestic households, but now domestic use exceeds industrial use. Overall, we are drawing upon the Sparta at an unsustainable rate; the level is dropping two feet per year.

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Bette Kauffman shows dragonfly and damselfly naiads she collected from under foliage in the water at Redwine Creek checkpoint 2. Prof. Patterson, Terri Maness and Jeff Barnhill look on.

After soaking up information for two hours, we loaded gear and ourselves into the minibus and headed for Redwine Creek in Grambling. There we waded in, testing water quality and searching for marine life at two checkpoints, one above and one below the water treatment plant.

Some had waterproof chest waders. Others just got soaked when their waders leaked! All in all, it was another glorious certification workshop adventure.

3rd Quarter Outcomes

What a treat it was to meet in the Union Parish Library in Farmerville and see the shocking and compelling anti-littering campaign art exhibit produced by Treasurer Stephanie Herrmann and her patrons! It was an eye-opener. As  member of the Ouachita Parish Library Board of Control, I plan to make sure it comes to Monroe after it’s next stint at Black Bayou Lake.

Balloon Pelican

Kim Paxton’s minutes are linked below. I offer here some highlights of the meeting.

>Board of Directors – Suzanne Laird was nominated in absentia and was voted in to a seat on the Board by acclamation, pending the president asking if she was willing to serve. She said “yes”! Thanks, Suzanne. So glad to have you on the Board.

>T-shirts – Kim Paxton is working on designs and Suzanne Laird offered to help with the non-design aspects. Hooray! I hereby appoint Kim and Suzanne to be the t-shirt committee. If anyone else wants to help, please contact them. I will distribute designs via email so everyone can comment.

>Membership dues need to be renewed by the end of the year. A blog post will be devoted to that later this month. It was suggested and approved that we add a button to the website for people to donate an additional $5 when they renew so that we can make a donation to rebuilding the alligator exhibit at Black Bayou Lake.

Straw Butterfly cropOur guest speakers, Leslie Albritton and Micha Petty, engaged us thoroughly with their experiences as wildlife rehabilitators. We heard funny stories, heroic stories and sad stories, as not all injured animals can be saved.

The most shocking thing I learned was that wildlife rehabilitators receive no monetary support from the state for the critical work they do–not even to cover direct expenses like vet bills and food. We all need to help when we can. Check out Charles Paxton’s blog for more details.

Here’s a few more links you might want to use:

Leslie Albritton’s FB page

Micha Petty’s Indiegogo fundraiser

LMNaturalists-NE-3rd Quarter Meeting-8.28.18

Bottle Cap Owl

Members Meeting May 20

As posted a couple weeks ago, our 2nd Quarter Members Meeting is Sunday, May 20, 4:30 – 7 p.m. I have scheduled two and a half hours because we have the exquisite privilege of spending the first two hours learning about and hiking in the upland forest that surrounds the home of Kelby & Amy Ouchley.

The Ouchley’s live at 106 Heartwood Dr. The mailing address is Farmerville, but the location is Rocky Branch. Here are Kelby’s directions:

“Turn west off of Hwy. 143 in Rocky Branch beside the closed community store on Rocky Branch Rd. Go 1.5 miles and our driveway is on the right across from a red brick house. There is a “Heartwood” street sign at the driveway.”

For those so inclined, the GPS coordinates are 32°40’41”N, 92°13’24”W.

White Oak (Quercus alba)
White Oak (Quercus alba) is one of the trees of the upland forest.     (photo by Bette J. Kauffman)

We will reconvene on the porch about 6:30 for a half-hour meeting. Here’s the tentative agenda:

Agenda 5-20-18

My main thought in scheduling as I did was to be sure we had daylight to explore the forest, but would not be in the noonday sun. However, this particular timing does raise a couple of issues that require forethought:

1. We will be outdoors at dusk and there’s a swamp nearby. Mosquitoes are likely to be on our species list! Come prepared.

2. We are scheduled to meet over what is typically a meal time and the Ouchleys have promised we can linger on the porch. If you would like to be able to do that but expect to be hungry after two hours of exploring the forest, please bring snacks and finger foods to share. As always, bring your own water or other non-alcoholic beverage.

See you there!

Rendezvous 2018

Yes, it was cold and rainy, but…. what a blast! It would take much more than 37 degrees F and drizzle to ruin Rendezvous for me!

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In fact, rain makes beauty, not only like that above, but in terms of what requires wet conditions to grow. This year’s Rendezvous was at Camp Hardtner near Pollock, La., a place I have been many times. But I have never seen sundews all over the place as we did this weekend.

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Sundew (Drosera)     (photo by Bette Kauffman)

Sundew is a tiny omnivorous plant of bogs and seeps. The red basal leaves are about the size of a quarter. They are hairy and at the tip of each hair is a drop of sticky liquid that catches ants and other small crawlers for the plant to eat. The plants had flower spikes this weekend, with tiny pink buds about to open.

Because of the weather, we did not spend as much time in the field as is typical for Rendezvous. The Board meeting Saturday afternoon also kept some of us in. However, Sunday dawned cool and beautiful, so the remaining diehards went out for about two hours. Kim Paxton and a person from another chapter are both working on species lists, which will ultimately be integrated and put on iNaturalist.

The speakers were excellent, but probably the highlight of the entire weekend for me was the return of the calico pennant dragonflies. I have only seen and photographed this species here at Camp Hardtner. They are a small dragonfly with wings that look like gold filigree in the sun. We saw two, both females. I was ecstatic!

Calico Pennant (Celithemis elisa)
Calico Pennant (Celithemis elisa) (female)     (photo by Bette J. Kauffman)