A Fab Event!

The Fourth Quarter Membership Meeting of the NE Chapter of Louisiana Master Naturalist Association at “Heartwood” December 11 was a fabulous event. A few of us had some difficulty finding it, but it was well worth finding.

Once we had assembled, Kelby Ouchley led a marvelous lecture and group discussion about red and white oaks. He also spoke briefly about pines. Then we embarked upon a walk of discovery! We saw many species of mushrooms and fungi, a variety of trees, and a plethora of plants, including many patches of crane-fly orchid leaves.

After the walk, we returned to the gathering spot, roasted hotdogs and enjoyed a buffet of great food, including chicken of the woods and lots of desserts.

During the Membership Meeting, we elected new officers and discussed the broad plan for the new year. Bette Kauffman, who is now President of the Louisiana Master Naturalist Association (our statewide organization), moves to the position of Immediate Past President and will act in an advisory capacity to the NE Chapter’s new President, David Hoover. Charles Paxton agreed to continue in the capacity of treasurer. April Honaker was elected to be our secretary and Susan Hoover to be Membership & Outreach chair.

After the meeting, we drew numbers to exchange gifts. Charles Paxton got to open three gifts because other people kept claiming his prizes. It was all in good fun!

We are planning workshops for 2023 and hope to have one every month from February to June. Watch your email and check on our website for updated information! Hope to see you there.

Susan Hoover

Good Times!

We lost a workshop but gained a very good time! When a workshop had to be cancelled, we gathered at Black Bayou Lake NWR anyway, first in the Environmental Education Center then on the boardwalk, where the birds entertained us well.

Grouchy,” BBLNWR’s resident Louisiana pine snake, attends an LMN-NE board meeting back in the early days.

David Hoover kicked off the day by presenting his certification project once again. It’s titled “Snakes Alive!” and I’m sure you haven’t heard the last of it. It’s excellent and I think/hope we got a good recording of it this time. It’s fun, informative and especially helpful to people who want to overcome a snake wariness. So if you know a group or organization that would like a fine educational experience, let us know. Our certification projects are meant to be shared!

After David’s talk, we played with Grouchy (see above) for awhile, then adjourned to the boardwalk. It was an overcast day, which was better for photography than you might think! On a sunny day, birds sitting high in trees turn into black silhouettes against the bright sky. A cloudy day can be a relief.

It was a woodpecker day for me. First a red-belly in a tree along the boardwalk, then both a downy and a sapsucker on snags out in the open. Of course, a great egret stalked fish along the edge of the open water and a flock of coots passed us by.

But the crowning observation was a bald eagle–high on a snag and quite a long ways away. Nevertheless, I managed a shot–not the best, but suitable to share here and for iNaturalist, the online citizen science platform where many Master Naturalist post our observations.

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

So it was a great day after all. Our next event is our 4th Quarter meeting and Christmas party. That will be at Heartwood, the home of Kelby and Amy Ouchley, and a delightful natural area in its own right. Visitors will be welcome. Look for details here soon.

And be sure to go to our public Facebook group to see lots of photographs and stories from our outings. You’ll find it here.

Fall Celebration

Come on out to Black Bayou Lake NWR tomorrow (Sat., 10/15). It’s Fall Celebration time!

Fall Celebration is the annual event of Friends of Black Bayou. LMN-NE will be there and a number of our members helping with various things.

This female anhinga (Anhinga anhinga) lives at BBL and often poses patiently for my camera.

Activities begin with a nature walk at 9 a.m. The LMN-NE table will have coloring pages for kids and our great t-shirts for sale. We also have bingo cards, and if you walk the boardwalk and see some of the critters on our bingo card, you could win a cool sticker. Great fun for the kids!

Our member Anne Frazer will be next to us with her Climate Change display and activities. More fun and educational as well.

Of course, we have gators! But only at night do you see the red in the eye. This was an after dark “frog walk” by special permission of the Refuge. We’ll do it again. Come along!

The zoo will be on hand as usual, and you might get to pet one of the snakes that live in the Environtmental Learning Center. Don’t worry, they’re non-venomous and accustomed to humans.

I hear the food trucks will be fab and that a concoction called “Black Bayou Mud Pies” will be served. Yay! I hope mud = chocolate!

Fall Celebration has been on hiatus due to the pandemic, so this will be a big, beautiful celebration of being together again at our fave refuge. Admission is free. Don’t miss it!

Earth Day’s Promise

LMN-NE is pleased to share our member Anne Frazer’s letter that was published in the Ouachita Citizen, April 21, 2022. Thank you, Citizen!

Earth Day is a hopeful celebration held around the world on April 22nd. More than a billion people participate to “change human behavior and create global, national and local policy changes.” The theme for 2022 is ‘Invest in our Planet.’ It recognizes that “this is the moment to change it all — the business climate, the political climate, and how we take action on climate” (www.earthday.org).

This theme is especially timely in 2022. Congress enacted bipartisan climate legislation in the omnibus bill at the end of 2020. This is an excellent start, but not sufficient to mitigate the climate harms we increasingly experience. It’s time to address the major driver of climate instability – the burning of fossil fuels, which releases climate warming carbon dioxide and other pollutants to the air.

Congress now has the opportunity to enact a crucial carbon fee and dividend policy. It’s similar to a policy proposed on January 17, 2019, in the Wall Street Journal opinion piece: Economists’ Statement on Carbon Dividends.*

It provides incentive to transition away from the combustion of fossil fuels. It does this by levying a gradually rising fee on fossil fuels. It also delivers a cashback to individuals and keeps U.S. businesses competitive internationally. It’s administered in a transparent fashion that doesn’t grow government.

A summary of H.R.2307, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, is available on the http://www.congress.gov website.

This is the time to go big on climate policy. After all, Earth is our only home.

*This link will bypass the WSJ paywall and take you to the article on another website.

Swamp Night

It’s a different world. For one thing, as dark falls, the swamp comes alive with sound. The frog chorus can be deafening.

Our Earth Day Frog Walk kicked off from the Environmental Education center at Black Bayou Lake NWR at about 7:15 p.m. Once on the trail among the trees, darkness fell quickly.

Near the beginning of the boardwalk we heard the banjo sound of bronze frogs, but they were soon drowned out by the steady chatter of the bird-voiced tree frog, the tiny frog with a big voice that really does sound like a bird.

A few yards farther on, the “cheep, cheep, cheep” of many cricket frogs filled the air with a softer sound. And whatever else was calling, the deep-throated croak of a bullfrog interrupted every so often.

American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)

We went to hear and see frogs and were not disappointed, but the swamp had another treat for us. When we got to open water, a 6-foot ‘gator was waiting to give us the eye. In fact at one point, he (or she) came closer to the boardwalk to get a good look at us!

BTW, the “red eye” is totally due to my speed light, but I love the slightly spooky effect in this photo. ‘Gators have black eyes.

Of course, at nightfall the mosquitos also made their presence known, ensuring that we didn’t linger too late on the boardwalk.

Black Bayou Lake NWR closes at sundown every day. It is necessary to get permission to be out there at night, so if you want to do a night walk in the swamp with your group, contact Louisiana Master Naturalists–Northeast or Friends of Black Bayou. We had a blast leading this frog walk and will do it again!