May 31, 2013 – Birds and No Dredging

Dredge and Rainey Report
Birds and No Dredging

May 31, 2013

Summary of accomplishments:

  • Marshbird Surveys
  • Banded Green Heron chicks

Summary:

This week, birds were the priority. Erik Johnson brought Molly Folkerts out to help with the marshbird survey and Green Heron banding. Timmy has been interested in having the Green Herons banded so that variations in the historical yearly population can be explained, and possible conservation efforts can be constructed.

This report can be downloaded in PDF file format by clicking the Dredge and Rainey Report, Birds and No Dredging hyperlink.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Karen had arrived the evening before so was up before dawn to start the day.  Timmy had to leave at 6:30 AM to pick up the crew that would install our new septic system, including one for the overflow bedroom that is still under construction. I had time to take lots of photos of the operation before I was expected at the dock myself to pick-up Erik and Molly.

Figure 1. Early morning work included the installation of our new septic system.

I left the headquarters early to go by the marsh creation site.  The water level was at +1ML and would have been perfect for dredging, but there would be no time for that this week. However, I took the opportunity to move the outfall end of the dredge hose. The water was high enough to float the hose and let it slide across wet mud, and yet not too high to walk the marsh. We have two ropes tied to the outfall to move it around, so I hopped off the boardwalk with a paddle to help me balance in the unstable marsh surface, and made my way over to the far rope. I untied it and flipped it over the island and marker poles as I walked back to the boardwalk. I also untied the second rope and walked it to the south walkways where I could pull the outfall from the northeast to the south, before pulling it on around to the west to aim toward the dock. I tied both ropes off, so that the hose would be ready to go the next time I get a chance to dredge.

Figure 2. With water covering the mud, it was easy to move the hose outfall around to the dock.

I finished up and headed in to Intracoastal City to get fuel before tying up to the boat ramp. Erik Johnson and Molly Folkerts arrived shortly after 10:30 AM and we headed back to the house. We passed Timmy heading the other way to the boat ramp to drop off the work crew. They had completed installing both units, but the water pump pressure valve had failed while trying to fill the huge tank, so Timmy was going on into town to get necessary parts.

Figure 3. A green heron nest with newly hatching chicks.

We unloaded our overnight gear at the house, ate a quick early lunch, and headed down to the Bob Gil Canal to start looking for Green Heron nests. The nests are a flat disc of sticks with a slight indentation, about a foot in diameter and 3-4” thick, usually hidden in a thorny bush that overhangs the water, between knee and shoulder high off the water. Every nest location was marked by GPS, and the host bush was identified and measured. After a while, we learned what to look for and were discovering them in all kinds of places.

We cruised close to the bank and watched for the adults flushing ahead of us and for potential bushes next to us. When a nest was located, Erik would determine with binoculars whether it had eggs or chicks. If it had chicks, we would dash in for Erik and Molly to try to catch them, while I tried to keep the boat from destroying the bush or nest, jamming them into thorns, or tossing them overboard.

When chicks were captured successfully, they were placed into a bucket so they couldn’t escape. There is a small window of chick age that is appropriate for banding – too young and the band slips off; too old and they can run down the branch to disappear into the brush, drop into the water and swim away, or fly away. Two bands were placed on the bird – a metal band for its official documentation, and a color band that will help us visually identify them as from this location and year. Each year will get a different color band so we can figure out if they return to the same area.

Figure 4. Erik and Molly catching chicks, and a green heron chick that is almost big enough to band.

Figure 5. Banding station on the Avocet live well, and a perfectly banded young heron.

Nests were documented and worked along Bob Gill Canal, then we took the “safari” trip along the little bayou through the tall reeds into the cutoff location canal (“Big Catfish Location”) for more nests. The Bruner Canal was next, and the high water allowed access to the south end of Last Point Canal.

The first evening marshbird survey started at Pig Trap which was right around the corner from Last Point Canal, so we timed it just right to be on line in time. The three of us worked the points as we trained Molly in the procedure. We finished up as the sun was setting, and we were exhausted from a long hot day. When we made it back to the house, we found that Timmy had returned, and had caught and boiled a mess of blue crabs for supper! He had a house-full of happy and very grateful guests!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The early morning marshbird survey started 30 minutes before the sun rose, and fortunately was across from house. Molly had not brought boots, so I loaned her mine. This meant that she was committed to helping with all of the points today while I handled the boat and used the time to clear the dry part of the trails of summer overgrowth. The mosquitoes were thick and voracious until the sun rose and the flies joined in.

Figure 6. I watched the day dawn from the boat, and Erik and Molly swatted bugs while listening for marsh birds.

This route took us to the dredge site, and the birds were quite talkative. The waterlevel in the pond was at +5” ML. I looked longingly at the small dredge as we headed back to the house, but there was no time for that today.

We took a short break for second breakfast, then packed up both small boats and Timmy came with us to work the Green Heron nests along Last Point Canal and Goose Pond Canal. At some of the nests with chicks, we were able to use a two-boat assault from two different sides so that Erik and Molly could catch the older birds that tried to run.

Figure 7. Timmy helped capture chicks, and an older chick that had been banded earlier eluded a repeat capture.

We had covered all of the known nests that could be reached from the main canal. We decided to take a break at the house, to decide where to head next. The wind had picked up so a trip to the nests in Tom’s Bayou across the open water of Fearman Lake was out. We decided to go back to Bob Gil for a chick that got away, and Timmy went to explore southwest canals. With high water, we could traverse the south end of McIlhenny Canal to access Boundary Canal, an east-west canal that originally connected to Last Point Canal. This turned out to have quite a few nests at the eastern reach, and we unsuccessfully attempted to catch an adult by hanging a mist net near the nest.

We were having such a good time, we ran overtime, and were late to the evening marshbird survey along Last Point Canal. At one of the stops, I became aware of a concerned red-winged blackbird that was watching me very closely. Only then did I notice the nest woven into the Baccharis bush that the boat was tied to. The marshbird survey went well, and we still made it back to the house before it was too dark to see.

Figure 8. Concerned female Red-winged Blackbird watching the nest in the bush to which the boat was tied.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

I took Erik and Molly down to the Goose Pond for the morning survey, and ended at Bob Gil again. Once again the mosquitos and deer flies were atrocious. I hid in the boat with long-sleeves, a head net and lots of insect repellant while they took care of business.

I had to leave to make a meeting in New Orleans later (for LMNGNO), and took my boat with me. Erik and Molly stayed through the day and Timmy took them to the west-side canals where they found another populated neighborhood or two of Green Heron nests. The total nests found to date were 170!!

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