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.

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.


Tidbit #1. The beautiful organizational business cards Kim Paxton designed are in. Our website URL, email address, and Facebook page handle are on one side and our mission statement is on the other. Those who attend Saturday’s herps workshop will receive some to hand out to people who might be interested in us and/or leave places where such people might congregate.

If you want some personalized with your name and contact info instead of the mission statement on them, contact Kim. You will be asked to pay for those, but the price is very reasonable. Well done, Kim!

Tidbit #2. Reserve Sunday afternoon, May 16, on your calendar. Amy Ouchley will present her certification project. Yay!

One other person, whom I will not yet name since it might not work out, might also be ready. Regardless of whether for one or two presentations, we will meet that afternoon.

I’m waiting to hear from the events planning committee for details, but please reserve the afternoon.

From my most recent hike at Black Bayou Lake NWR, a prothonotary warbler who came out of the thick stuff and posed for me for a split second!

Tidbit #3. Certification going forward: I am working on rescheduling the astronomy workshop that got canceled last fall. Terri Maness has agreed to another birds workshop in the fall. Also, Kim Tolson will do a mammals workshop with us in the fall called “Bats and Rats.”

These workshops are just waiting for me to work on details, which I will as soon as my spring semester of part-time teaching ends in a few short weeks!


Herpetofauna of Louisiana is on for Saturday, May 1, 9 am – 3 pm. A PayPal button to register and pay our $25 fee for workshops is on the Certification tab.

The flyer is in Dr. Carr’s hands for approval, but here’s the tentative plan:

We’ll gather in the same lab on the ULM campus we have met in before–Hanna Hall, Rm 250–for our classroom instruction. Dr. Carr’s illustrated lecture will be an intro to herpetology and the herpetofauna of Louisiana.

Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)

I know, of course, that some of us heard that lecture a few years ago, but we have new members who need the basics. For me, I just hope more of it will “stick” this time than did the first time I heard it! Repetition is good.

Our first piece of turtle-focused fieldwork will be on Bayou Desiard where it flows through the ULM campus. Feeding the turtles has long been a feature of student life at ULM, but.., better yet, we will learn about a research project being conducted graduate students with the Bayou Desiard turtles.

How many universities can provide a natural turtle lab right outside the biology building? Too cool.

After that, we hope to go to Moon Lake, which is home to many turtle species, including some less common ones we will not see in Bayou Desiard. A fact of life in Louisiana–that roads to certain wonderful natural areas become impassable certain times of the year–might force us elsewhere.

Black Bayou Lake NWR is a possible back-up fieldwork location, but…. will the boardwalk be open? That is a crucial feature we need to get close to the turtles.

Broad-headed Skink (Plestiodon laticeps)

Bottom line: We might not know where we’re going until Saturday morning. Dr. Carr is doing some scouting and I assured him that we are flexible.

There’s a wonderful Natural History Museum on the first floor of Hanna Hall, and if we have time, we will visit it.

If you want to do this workshop, please get registered ASAP. We will follow Covid-19 guidelines, which means: 1) if we have more than 11 people who want the workshop, Dr. Carr will have to find a different classroom. I’ve already registered, so there’s room for 10 more. 2) We will wear masks while indoors.

As for transportation to our second field work site, I am fully vaccinated and happy to take passengers willing to wear masks in the car. If you’re not fully vaccinated and/or don’t want to wear a mask in transit, you should drive your own vehicle.

Call/email if you have questions.

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!