Let us party!

But of course, in keeping with who we are, some of our partying will be educational and natural history oriented.

We meet at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11, at Heartwood Natural Area near Rocky Branch, La. We will begin our festivities with a guided walkabout of this upland hardwood forest conserved by Kelby and Amy Ouchley. If you need directions to this location, please contact me at bjkauffman@gmail.com.

How did a Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra) get to Heartwood? Who knows. But note that the leaves are wider than those of the Southern Red Oak (Quercus falcata).  

Hot dogs and all the fixings, including chili, will be provided but you might have to roast your own around an open fire. These will be followed by s’mores! If you would like to bring a side dish or holiday goodies, please do.

If you would like to participate in our gift swap, bring a $15-$20 item, wrapped or bagged. Those who participate will draw a number and pick a gift. I can’t promise but bartering might ensue after the initial distribution!

Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium) thrives around the pond at Heartwood.

And please do RSVP. Again, you can email me at bjkauffman@gmail.com. We need a headcount to buy hot dogs, buns, etc.

We will also squeeze in a business meeting. I’ll try to keep it short, but we do need to elect officers, introduce some new members, and take care of a few things in order to get 2023 off to a good start.

BTW, you are not required to be a member to attend this event. If you are interested in what we do, come find out!


Dec. 11, 1:30 p.m. – Our Christmas Party and 4th Quarter meeting will be at Heartwood, the wonderful natural area Amy & Kelby Ouchley call home. We’ll begin with a guided hike around Heartwood, then party and meet. Details coming soon in another post.

We have a few new members interested in becoming certified Master Naturalists, and several long-time members who were interrupted in their progress toward certification by the pandemic. Therefore, I am working very hard on lining up 4 or 5 certification workshops mostly on second Saturdays in the spring. Here’s what I’m planning and have so far:

Feb. 11 and March 11, 2023, 9 am–3 pm – One of these days will be Basic Field Skills and I hope the other will be mammals, but I have not been able to pin that down yet.

April 15, 2023, 9 am–3 pm – This will be Aquatic Life, with Dr. Anna Hill instructing at Black Bayou Lake NWR. (This is the third Saturday of the month because the second Saturday is the one before Easter.)

May 13, 2023, 9 am–3 pm – This one will be Dr. Joydeep Bhattacharjee’s basic Ecosystems workshop. We’ll begin at Kiroli Park, meet in the public library for his lecture then go to Restoration Park–all in West Monroe.

June 10, 2023, 9 am–3pm – Possibly Geology.

To the extent possible, I have chosen topics that people in the process need to finish. However, anyone willing to pay the $25 workshop fee will be welcome to enroll. I for one am looking forward to repeating these, as I know I didn’t absorb everything the first time through.

Please put these dates on your calendar. I will update the Events list in the right hand column on this page as soon as I get confirmation from a workshop leader.

New Plan!

The certification workshop we had planned for Saturday, Oct. 29, had to be cancelled. We will meet anyway, at 9 a.m. at Black Bayou Lake Environmental Education Center. This will be a free “family fun” day. All are welcome.

David Hoover will present his certification project called “Snakes Alive.” It is fun and informative, and if you have a bit of a snake phobia you want to get beyond, this presentation will help you do that.

Refuge volunteer Jim holds “Grouchy,” one of the Refuge’s two Louisiana pine snakes.

After David’s talk, we will ask the refuge volunteer, Jim, to get one or two of the Louisiana pine snakes out of their tanks for anyone who would like to try touching or holding a snake. I will fill in a bit of information about the current plight of the Louisiana pine snake: Why it is a valuable snake and how it became an endangered species.

We will also go for a walk on the refuge and share information about what we see. Black Bayou Lake NWR never disappoints! There’s always something fun and interesting to see and talk about.

Bring your own snacks, lunch and water. Dress to be outdoors and walk. The weather is predicted to be beautiful: mostly sunny with a high in the 80s.

This will be a relaxed day with no obligation to stay to the very end.

3Q Meeting

We will meet Sunday, September 11, 3-6 p.m. This will be an all-members quarterly meeting, but as always friends who are interested are welcome to attend, observe and participate in every way except vote, should we need to vote.

We will meet at St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church, 3706 Bon Aire Dr., in the pavilion overlooking Bayou Desiard. Many will recall that this is where we met in December for our holiday party and 2021 4Q meeting.

Our speaker will be one or more members of St. Thomas’, who will talk about the congregation’s goals in making their 2-lot site a natural area for the community. You might want to bring a lawn chair for the presentation and meeting.

Back in December, we talked about helping. The first step to doing that is assessing what is already there. To that end, we will spend some time after our meeting beginning to identify species of plants and critters. David and Bette will meet ahead of time to create an assessment project on iNaturalist so that we will have an official record of what’s there. David is also looking into natural history signage that would enhance the educational value of the site as a natural area.

I don’t know if the Cooper’s hawks have been sighted recently, but here’s hoping!

Right now, the forecast for Sunday includes 47% chance of scattered thunderstorms and 86 degrees, so we might not get a lot of identifying done. That’s fine. We can start!

See you the 11th! And please check on someone we haven’t seen for awhile. A phone call from another member can be the difference between someone drifting away and returning to active participation.


Sept. 11, 3:30 pm – Our 3rd Quarter meeting will be at St. Thomas’ on the Bayou, where we were for our Christmas Party last year. We will use the occasion to learn more about the church’s Care of Creation efforts and begin identifying species along the bayou and walking path.

At last year’s 4th Quarter meeting at St. Thomas’, Kelby Ouchley teaches us how to identify an Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides) by its leaf petiole. This kind of information is a prime example of the educational signage this natural area needs.

Oct. 15, 10-1 – We will have a couple of tables at Friends of Black Bayou’s Fall Celebration, one with Master Naturalist items and another with Anne Frazer’s climate change information and activities. On the Master Naturalist table we’ll have t-shirts, coloring pages, and some new items like the “bingo” wildlife sightings game.

Oct. 29, 9-3 – Aquatic Life certification workshop, led by Dr. Anna Hill, at Black Bayou Lake NWR. This is a date change. It was previously scheduled Oct. 9, but I must be away that weekend at the annual conference of the national organization Louisiana Master Naturalist Association is a member of.

Dec. 11 – Our 4th Quarter meeting and Christmas Party will be at Heartwood, the home of Amy and Kelby Ouchley in Rocky Branch. A weiner roast, s’mores and other goodies planned, but I must admit I’m most looking forward to the opportunity to walk around Heartwood again. It is a wonderful natural area.

More information about each of these events will be forthcoming. For now, make sure they’re on your calendar!