July 31, 2013 – July Update

Dredge and Rainey Report
July 2013 Update

July 31, 2013

Summary of accomplishments:

  • No dredging
  • Cell 3 averages marsh level or above
  • Worked in the guesthouse – finished plumbing and kitchenette cabinet constructed
  • Green Heron banding

Impediments: hot temperatures

Summary:

With C3 full, we are taking a break to concentrate on other Sanctuary issues.

This report can be downloaded in PDF file format by clicking the Dredge and Rainey Report, July Update hyperlink.

July 17-18, 2013

Wednesday’s goal was to get the plumbing done in the guesthouse. However, we had not stock-piled enough fittings to route the lines over and under the floor supports so could not complete our goal. Weather rolled in that afternoon and curtailed work elsewhere for the day.

The next day, Timmy wanted to pull the mudboat out to clean it and do maintenance. It had been used frequently in the Coles Bayou area to access the terraces and other project elements. It was full of rainwater when we got there, so he had to bail it out first. Then he tied a rope to it and pulled it over the levee with the Goose (our big boat). When we got to the Rainey headquarters, the boat was untied from the Goose, and Timmy used the 4-wheeler to pull it up our shell ramp while I put PVC rollers under it.

Figure 1. On Thursday, we pulled the mudboat out of the marsh for maintenance.

After that, we loaded some poles and plywood onto the deck and took a ride up the canal to a spot where a levee repair had been done last month. A large alligator continuously crossed the levee in the same place, and had worn a path that breached the levee with a shallow ditch. It had started widening with increasing tidal flow and had to be repaired to keep the interior marsh intact. The same thing was happening again over the newly placed mud plug, so we built a plywood wall to block the gator’s pathway.

Figure 2. Building a wall to block a big alligator that was cutting the levee with his trail.

July 23-26, 2013 – Guesthouse construction and Green Heron surveys.

Tuesday, July 23 – I brought the Avocet down and stopped at Stines in Abbeville to pick up supplies. I still made it to the Rainey headquarters by 10:00 AM.

We worked on the guesthouse all day. Timmy put the water and sewer lines in under the building while I worked on the trim inside. With the outside plumbing complete, he started building the support for the kitchenette cabinet. Once again, we couldn’t finish because we were missing a piece. A run to the hardware store would be two hours of boat and car travel. It could wait

Wednesday, July 24 – We continued to work in guesthouse, and Timmy finished the cabinet frame and installed the sink. While he worked, I took the long excursion by boat and truck to the Stine’s in Abbeville to pick up the missing pieces.

On the way back, I topped off the Avocet gas tank and picked up ice and water. Then I tied up at the boat ramp to wait for Erik and Molly, who arrived at 2:30. We made it back to the house, regrouped and at 3:30 left again for Green Heron survey.

By the time we returned, Timmy had finished all of the plumbing in the guesthouse. However, when he turned on the water, there were a few leaks, so he shut it off for later work.

Thursday, July 25 – We awoke to rainstorms pending, and could not resume the Green Heron banding. The storms were to our south though, so I had time to run up to the dredge site and check on conditions and new vegetation. The water level was barely above marsh level, and there was quite a bit of exposed mud with mudcracks in Cell 3. I am confident marsh grass will come, especially since it is already creeping in from every edge and sprouting up on the high spots.

Typical succession at our site on new mud started with spikerush  (Eleocharis parvula) which is the short grassy growth and Bacopa monnieri which is in the foreground. This was usually followed by edge growth of marshhay cordgrass (Spartina patens) seen on both sides, olneyi 3-square (Schoenoplectus olneyi) – and saltmarsh 3-square (Schoenoplectus robustus) seen in the background. On higher, still-wet elevations, Walter’s millet (Echinochloa walteri) seen in figure 6 as the two bunches of grass and amaranth (Acnida cuspidata) to the far left of the photo often made a show.

Figure 3. A view of Cell 3 from the walkway with water level barely above marsh level, showing expanses of mud above our target level.

 

Figure 4. View to the north, back toward the “dock,” from the south shore of Cell 3.

 

Figure 5. New grass is popping up on the higher elevations in Cell 3, and colonization from the edges can be seen as darker green grass.

Figure 6. Typical succession at our site on new mud started with spikerush -Eleocharis parvula- which is the short grassy growth and Bacopa monnieri which is in the foreground. This was usually followed by edge growth of marshhay cordgrass -Spartina patens- seen on both sides, olneyi 3-square -Schoenoplectus olneyi- and saltmarsh 3-square – Schoenoplectus robustus- seen in the background.

Timmy and I worked in the guesthouse while it rained and managed to fix the plumbing and finish baseboard trim. The hot water heater was tested and passed. Karen put the 1st coat of paint on door facing to bathroom and Timmy hung the door.

Walking back to the house, I noticed a swarm of purple martins. Our resident martins numbering only 2 dozen had already departed for southern realms, so I was quite amused to see migrating martins numbering closer to 150 trying to find space on our antenna and the tops of the oak trees.

Figure 7. Over 150 purple martins tried to fit themselves on our antenna causing it to droop with their weight, with the overflow in the tops of the oak trees.

At 1:30, the weather cleared and we headed south to look for Green Herons. We started in the McIlhenny canals and finished along the Bruner Canal before we ran out of time at 7:00 pm. We dashed back to the house for Erik and Molly to pack up, and I ran them back to the dock, making it just at 7:55 pm as the sun was setting. I made my way successfully back across the Bay through the gauntlet of hard-to-see crab cages, to arrive at the headquarters as the light was fading from the sky at 8:20 pm.

Figure 8. Handfulls of chicks make some people very happy.

Figure 9. A bucket of Green Heron chicks ready for banding and one sporting both the traditional metal band and the special red band that marks it as coming from the Rainey Sanctuary.

Figure 10. Me with one of the larger chicks, and the same bird being documented for age determinations.

Figure 11. It was a late trip to the dock and back to drop off Erik and Molly at the end of the day.

 

 

Karen A Westphal and Timmy J Vincent, National Audubon Society
Audubon Louisiana and the Paul J Rainey Wildlife Refuge
6160 Perkins Road, Suite 215, Baton Rouge, LA 70808
225-768-0921x202 office, kwestphal@audubon.org
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