Basic Field Skills

We are on for Feb. 11! Basic Field Skills will begin at Black Bayou Lake NWR in the Environmental Learning Center at 9 a.m. and continue until about 3 p.m.

This photo of an American Coot (Fulica americana) is evidence of a feature of coots and their scientific classification that many people do not know.

Click on the “Certification” tab at the top of this page. A flyer describing the day is available for download. To register, you can either click on the PayPal “Buy Now” button or download and print the form. It might be a little late to mail the form, so just let me (Bette Kauffman) know if you’re coming and bring it with you. Anyone who wants to pay on site can do so, but please let me know you are coming.

For those who did a Basic Field Skills workshop before, this one will be a bit different. I have refocused my portion of it to emphasize our important role as Master Naturalists in putting our skills to work. Here’s how I describe it on the flyer:

“We will have 45 minutes to an hour of instruction on the importance and value of doing citizen science. We will discuss the nature of ‘evidence’ and how contributing to citizen science platforms is different from sharing with your friends on social media. This will include how to use eBird and iNaturalist and how to observe in order to produce data that enhance the scientific value of these platforms, as well as how to use them to extend your own knowledge and help others in the online naturalist community.”

My iNaturalist profile.

The structure of this workshop will be instruction followed by application in short forays into the refuge, then returning to the education center to discuss and share what we did. The last 45 minutes of the day will be spent on interpretation, which will include examples of what others have done for their certification projects and strategies for sharing your natural history knowledge with different kinds of audiences, e.g., kids.

For those who wish to become Certified Master Naturalists, this is basic and important material. For those who are already certified or don’t wish to become certified, I think you will find things of value here that will enhance your natural world experiences.

Hope to see you next Saturday!

Plants & Plant ID

This is the first workshop of our 3rd cycle of workshops for those who wish to become certified master naturalists. Our instructor is Dr. Charles Allen, a giant in the field, and basic knowledge of native plants and how to identify them is essential to being a naturalist.

Dr. Charles Allen

Dr. Allen will meet us at the gas station in Georgetown. Don’t worry, there’s only one! This particular gas station has a couple of picnic tables under a canopy just outside its front door, and the management has welcomed us again to meet there and use their restrooms. I, for one, will definitely show my appreciation by buying snacks and lunch there.

After Dr. Allen walks us through plant identification principles, we will drive to nearby sections of the Kisatchie National Forest for field work. I don’t know for sure where he will want to go, but we have plenty of options. The Catahoula Ranger District extends from behind the gas station south almost all the way to Ball.

Dr. Allen’s newest book.

I will have copies of Dr. Allen’s very valuable handouts available for all participants. I have also asked Dr. Allen to bring a few of his newest books to sell.

To whet your appetite, I went scouting on my way home from Camp Hardtner last Friday. I drove into the forest on Lincecum Village Road maybe a mile south of the gas station, and had not gone far until I saw a clump of narrowleaf mountain mint (Pycnanthemum tenuifolium) alongside the road.

If I’m not mistaken, this is the plant that put Charles Allen on the path to becoming a botanist. He calls it “grandma’s mountain mint.” As usual, it was covered with pollinators.


Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus) on Narrowleaf Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum tenuifolium)

Soil Health

It’s new! And it’s our 9th and final workshop of our 2nd Cycle of Certification Workshops.

Soil Health is scheduled Saturday, April 30. A PayPal registration link has been added to the Certification tab of this website. Please register as soon as possible so I can tell the workshop leaders how many of us are coming.

The leaders of this workshop are Rachel Stout-Evans of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and Dr. Bill Patterson, La Tech faculty member. I urge you to watch the following 6 1/2-minute video in preparation for this workshop.

Our workshop will focus more on farm soil health, but the video introduces some important principles of soil health that apply everywhere.

We will gather at 9 a.m. on Marty Earnest’s farm near Columbia, La. The address is 1536 Hwy 133, Columbia, which is exactly .11 miles north of McClanahan Road and .35 miles south of Kelly Road. BTW, Google Maps is not accurate for this address; Apple Maps is.

Farmer Earnest is working with the NRCS to increase his soil health by practicing no-till and using cover crops. This workshop will be a combination of looking at soils in a field and some brief, interactive laboratory demonstrations, like aggregation and slake tests, and a sprinkler test to see infiltration vs. runoff. It is likely that they will have some soil test data and crop yield data to share.

I am not certain how long this workshop will run, but, as always, come dressed to be outside, and, as a product of an Iowa farm, I’m assuming that includes water/mud-competent footwear. Bring your own water, snacks/food, bug repellent, etc. Oh, and a cap. You can’t be on a farm without a cap. It’s just not allowed!

Woohoo! I am so excited for this workshop, I’ve already registered.

Birds, Birds, Birds

For those of you seeking certificate and those of you needing continuing ed credit, our own Dr. Terri Maness will teach us and lead our field work Saturday, January 15, 9 a.m. until about 3 p.m.

Dr. Terri Maness

Here’s the plan: We’ll convene at the Conservation Learning Center at Black Bayou Lake NWR at 9:00 a.m. (I will be there at 8:30 for anyone who wants to pay on site, but please let me know your intentions.) The cost for this workshop is $25 as usual.

After a short introduction to the field of ornithology, Terri will focus our classroom work on local bird populations and what we can do to help conserve them. We will take a lunch break at about 11:30, then at 12:15, we’ll reconvene in the BBL visitor center parking lot to caravan to the Mollicy Unit for field work.

It will be important to exchange phone #s and travel together because the Mollicy Unit is a bit hard to find. You have to know where you’re going, as the route is not marked. Terri will lead us.

The Ouachita River is visible from the observation tower at the Mollicy Unit. This area is likely to be holding water Saturday the 15th, but we hope not so much water that we can’t get to the tower.

Covid protocols: Physical distancing and masks indoors are required and either double masks or an N95 strongly suggested. Masks outdoors are perfectly acceptable and physical distancing will be maintained. Car pooling from BBL to the Mollicy Unit would be good but masks and no more than two per vehicle is highly recommended.

The link to register for the workshop is live. Click on the Certification tab of this website. A flyer is also available at the flyer link on the same tab.

This workshop is limited to 10 participants due to the necessity of physical distancing inside the learning center. I have already registered, but I had Terri’s workshop before. I’m looking forward to it again, but.. if a person who is not yet certified needs my seat to get into the class, I will turn it over to you and hang out in the refuge while y’all do the classroom work,

Also, if any of our already certified folks and/or experienced birders want to sign up for the field work portion only, let me know. You can pay $10 and join us at the appropriate time.

Finally, if for any reason going to the Mollicy Unit is not practical (flooding, extreme weather, etc.), we will do our field work right there at BBLNWR. Hope to see you there!

Congrats and News

Congratulations to our three newest certified Master Naturalists, David Hoover, Amy Ouchley and Roselie Overby!

From left: David Hoover, Roselie Overby, Amy Ouchley

David’s project was called “Snakes Alive!” and it is a great antidote to people’s fear of snakes. Roselie’s project was an educational hike down the Africa Lake trail in the Tensas River NWR. Amy’s project, “The Joys of Nature Journaling,” was an exhaustive review of the why, how, aesthetics and value added of same for nature lovers at all levels.

Each of these projects has a future as a resource for LMN-NE as we seek to build our chapter and pursue our missions of conservation and education.

Graduation was followed by a short business meeting. Our most important outcome is a new Board of Directors chart, as follows:

David Hoover was elected Vice President with the understanding that he will move up to president in a year. Susan Hoover agreed to chair a committee to look at ways to make our chapter more diverse and inclusive. Jessica Wright will become our volunteer and continuing ed hours coordinator. Bette Kauffman continues as president, Kim Paxton as secretary, Charles Paxton as treasurer, and Roselie Overby as membership chair.

Kelby Ouchley took advantage of the setting to teach us how to identify an Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides) by its leaf petiole.

Many thanks to Stephanie Herrmann for her term on the Board! And many thanks to the Events Committee, chaired by Charles Paxton, for the work they have done this year.

This graduation, meeting and holiday party were conducted in the pavilion at St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church, a beautiful, 2-lot space on Bayou Desiard. Karen Hayward, a member of the church’s Care of Creation Committee, came out to speak with the group. The church already has provided the pavilion, a pier and a paved walking path to the neighborhood, and is interested in involving us in the development of the space as a healthy, natural, educational oasis in the city. You’ll hear more about this!

Chillin’ around the fire with Bayou Desiard in the background.

It was a wonderful occasion. Thanks to all who brought gifts to exchange, food to share and thoughtful participation in planning our future.

Photos in this post by Kim & Charles Paxton.