Intro to Tensas NWR

What fun to have two events in a single weekend, but all the more fun that one of them is our first ever experiential certification project presentation! Roselie Overby is the candidate for certification and will lead our experience.

Sunday at 2 p.m. join us at Tensas River NWR headquarters, 2312 Quebec Road. That’s a Tallulah mailing address, but for our purposes, in case you’ve never been to Tensas, you can also put it into your GPS. Please note on the map that you must exit I-20 at Waverly and travel a few miles further east on Hwy 80 before turning south on Quebec Road, which takes you into the refuge.

Directions to Tensas River NWR headquarters. (This map is based on a fragment of a Google map.)

We will meet at the headquarters building, which has an ample parking area. After brief introductory comments, we will move to Africa Lake, one of the most interesting features of this diverse, wildlife-rich refuge. It will be important for a few people to pool together in vehicles for the short drive to Africa Lake because the parking area there is quite small.

We will hike a mile or so as time allows, with Roselie sharing some history and natural history of the refuge. This area is mixed bottomland hardwood and bald cypress, with diverse plant life and fungi. Roselie has spotted ‘gators in the lake and a variety of tracks in the soft ground, including deer, raccoon and, possibly, coyote. Snake sightings are also possible. Fall flowers are blooming and birds are migrating.

Question Mark butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis), photographed in the Africa Lake parking area, 6/12/21, by Bette J. Kauffman.

This sounds like a wonderful opportunity to do something we haven’t done in awhile, namely create a species list after the hike. So I’m commissioning everyone who can come to bring a notepad and help me keep track. It’s going to be impressive.

Remember also that a committee of three will evaluate Roselie’s presentation but all members of LMN-NE are encouraged to complete and submit our evaluation form for the committee’s consideration. (Forms will be distributed via email.)

To fully enjoy this hike, be prepared! The weather is predicted to be warm and sunny, and the area is usually muddy. You’ll need footwear that can deal with mud, insect repellent, protection from the sun and plenty of water.

We are also required to sign in to the refuge using one of the orange cards for that purpose at the refuge sign at the corner of Quebec and Mill Roads.

Finally, refuge buildings are still closed due to the pandemic, thus there are no restroom facilities. Plan accordingly! Of course, the hardy can also take advantage of “facilitrees”!

Just a reminder: The other event this weekend is the Jungle River Litter Pick, 7 – 8:30 a.m. Saturday at Restoration Park.

Note: I’ll be happy to take up to three fully vaccinated people in my car for the short drive from headquarters to Africa Lake. We will wear masks in the car as a precaution. We will physically distance outdoors and if you are more comfortable wearing a mask the whole time, do so. We will have a sign-in sheet that also constitutes a liability waiver.


Trying to plan certification workshops and other events for the fall has been frustrating to say the least. Right now, it is clear we are safest when we are outdoors. That suits this Naturalist pretty much! So here are some reminders.

A big un’ going for a stroll behind Headquarters in the Tensas River NWR. Photo by BJK.

Tensas River NWR with Roselie Overby – Oct. 10, 2-3:30 p.m. We will meet at Refuge headquarters and caravan to a few places. This is Roselie’s certification project and our first experiential project. Can’t wait!

Fall Celebration – Oct. 16, 10-2. We will have tables outdoors. Our member Anne Frazer will have a climate change-focused table next to ours. We have two beautiful brochures plus business cards to hand out, thanks to Kim Paxton. We will have our t-shirts for sale and other good stuff. Who can help? Please let me know.

The Molicy Unit with Kelby Ouchley – Nov. 13, time TBA but a.m. for sure. As many of you know, this natural area exists in large part due to Kelby. He’s going to do a “show and tell” hike with us at the site. What a privilege!

Now for some things in progress:

Birds – January; Dr. Terri Maness. Here’s hoping we’ll have Covid on the run again and can do classroom work. Terri hopes we’ll be able to go back to the Molicy for field work. Me too.

Bats & Rats – We’re looking at spring. Dr. Kim Tolson (ULM) is a bit in limbo waiting for the the university to figure out its fall semester strategy for dealing with the Delta variant of Covid, and that makes it impossible to think about how to do a workshop with us while the weather is still suitable for such a venture.

Soils: At the Roots of it All – Spring. New idea! I’ve been talking with Dr. Bill Patterson, whom some of you will remember from our Watershed Dynamics workshop a couple years ago. He is contacting Rachel Stout-Evans, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Resource Soil Scientist, to see if she will collaborate with us (see video below). After classroom work, we plan to visit a farm out in west parish that is carrying out soil conservation practices. As a former farm girl, I’m very excited about this.

Stay tuned, folks. There’s life in spite of Covid.

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!