September 6, 2013 – Coles Bayou Planting

Dredge and Rainey Report
Coles Bayou Planting

September 6, 2013

Summary of accomplishments:

  • No dredging; Cell 3 is “full” and growing grass
  • Bug-proofing the guesthouse
  • CRCL plantings in Coles Bayou

Impediments: afternoon thundersqualls

This report can be downloaded in PDF file format by clicking the Dredge and Rainey Report, Coles Bayou Planting hyperlink.

Summary:
With C3 full, we took a break from dredging to concentrate on other Sanctuary issues. The Coastal Bird Survey had started, and I had hoped to make it to the beach at some point this week, but water level was too high and other activities had priority.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013 –

I arrived at the Rainey headquarters in Audubon’s 17-ft boat, the Avocet, at 3:15. Timmy was away on a trip, so I worked in guesthouse to install towel and paper racks. Timmy arrived from his trip by 5:00 pm.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013 – Guesthouse work and dredge site check

Timmy left at 9:00 in the flat boat for a Dr. appointment in Lafayette and didn’t return until 3:00, then the afternoon thunderstorms rolled in, precluding any shorebird survey for this week. While he was in town, I worked in the guesthouse. We continue to have a problem with insects getting in, especially small roaches and mosquitoes, so I worked to put up ceiling strips and door weather-stripping to close up gaps that might allow access. I also worked on the counter trim and made a list for an intended supply run into town.

During my 1:00 lunch break, I checked radar and discovered there were some hefty storms building that were expected to head this way. I had finished what I could do in the guesthouse with the supplies at hand, but decided it wasn’t worth the risk to cross the bay for the needed items.

Figure 1. A willet and 2 snowy egrets were combing the exposed substrate in Cell 3 for their dinner.

I took a run to the dredge site instead. The water level in the pond was -4” ML, exposing the mud substrate across the filled cells. A Willet, several Snowy Egrets and a Tri-colored Heron were scattered across the site shopping for dinner.  The marsh grass continues to grow at a surprising rate. Cell 5 will soon to be nothing but marsh!

Figure 2. Spikerush, Bacopa, Olneyi 3-square, saltmarsh 3-square, Walter’s millet, marshhay cordgrass and other vegetation are growing well throughout the cells. This view is from Cell 4 looking into Cell 5, which is almost completely filled in with marshgrass.

I kept a careful eye on the sky as the cloud cover continued to move in and darken. At the first bolt of lightning in the north, I bolted, headed back to the boat and fast tracked it back to camp. As I approached the safety of the boat shed, it started booming around me and I sat low in the boat as if that would save me. Timmy had just gotten back, and made fun of me as I dashed inside. The rain fell in sheets and buckets and accumulated 1.64 inches in just 2 hours.

When the storms moved off and the rain cleared, we discovered there were two marsh fires to our east.  It wasn’t quite dark, so we took a ride to make sure the fires were on the State Refuge property. The north fire burned bright well into the night.

Figure 3. The lightning storms left two large fires burning to the east of our property on the State Refuge.

Figure 4. One of the fires to our east burned well into the night, and could be seen easily from the back deck.

Thursday, September 5, 2013 – transporting CRCL plants

By morning, the fire had burned out, and storm remnants lent interest to the early dawning sky. Today, we were scheduled to help the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL) transport thousands of marsh plants to the Coles Bayou terraces (CWPPRA project) for tomorrow’s volunteer planting event.

Figure 5. Post-storm morning on September 5, 2013

As soon as breakfast was done, I took the Avocet to follow Timmy in the mudboat to the levee crossover at end of North Canal.  Timmy tied the mudboat there and we returned to the headquarters for Timmy to get the airboat. While he was warming it up, I went to the old test site and ran into Pete Lege’ setting alligator lines along the McIlhenny side of the canal. I had just enough time to take pictures at the test site before Timmy passed in airboat.

The “test site” was our practice site back in 2010 when we first received the small dredge and were learning how to use it. It was filled to a few inches below marsh level back in 2011, and I continue to document the vegetative progression. Spikerush and Bacopa have dominated the shallow water until this year. High rainfall and low water levels have encouraged marsh grass proliferation and it is now growing at an increasing rate. The smooth cordgrass planted next to the containment and walkway have increased in width and height and the 3-square and marshhay are spreading well into the center of the site.

Figure 6. Sept 16, 2012.

Figure 7. Sept 5, 2013, one year since photo above.

Figure 8. Sept 16, 2012, view to the west from the end of the walkway at the test site.

Figure 9. Sept 5, 2013, one year of growth since the photo above. Arrow shows same stake in both photos. The Spartina alterniflora at the walkway is almost too tall and wide to see over.

I headed back to the boat when I heard Timmy passing, waited while he used the airboat to widen the path across the levee and parked it, and picked him up for the ride back to headquarters. At the appointed time, we left in the Goose for Intracoastal City. We stopped at Shell Morgan for fuel, water, and ice; and met with Kevin and Coy from McIlhenny at the boat ramp. When the truck arrived with bags of plants, we loaded them onto the two boats. Roughly 25 bare-root smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) plants were bundled into a coarse-weave sack to protect the roots and aid in transportation. Blaise Pezold from CRCL showed up in time to help us load the Goose.

The loaded boats crossed Little Vermilion Bay and met at the end of North Canal (where we had left the mudboat and airboat). Timmy used the airboat to pull the mudboat over the levee into the canal on the other side, which was the access to the Coles Bayou area.  We set up a relay line to offload the marsh grass and move it to the other side of the levee. The mudboat (Kevin and Coy) and airboat (Timmy, Karen, and Blaise) were loaded with as much as they could hold several times to move all of the plants to the terraces. At the terraces, the sacks of marsh grass were thrown ashore spaced for planting.

After all plants were transported to the terraces, I took Blaise back to the boat ramp in the Avocet so that the McIlhenny crew could go on to their camp.

Figure 10. Moving plants from the truck to the boats at the boat ramp.

Figure 11. The plants were transported by boats, then carried across the levee to be loaded onto the mudboat and airboat, and tossed ashore on the terraces at appropriate intervals.

  Friday, September 6, 2013 – CRCL Volunteer planting

Figure 12. A beautiful sunrise started the day, and the marsh hummingbirds were busy early.

Timmy drove the Goose and I drove the Avocet to the North Canal levee to meet the McIlhenny boat, which had another mudboat loaded on the bow. Once the mudboat was offloaded, Timmy used the airboat to pull it over the levee.

I tied the Avocet out of the way, boarded the Goose, and both big boats went to the boat ramp at Intracoastal City to meet up with CRCL at 9:00 AM. After being signed in and equipped for the day, the volunteers were transported to the North Canal levee. They were split into groups and shuttled to the terraces by mudboat or airboat.

Figure 13. Volunteers waiting for transportation to the terraces.

Figure 14. A mudboat loaded with volunteers winds its way through the marsh to the terraces

I elected to stay on the airboat with Timmy and Hillary Collis (CRCL) to help supervise and check on volunteers. Blaise went with Kevin in a mudboat to move people and grass around as needed. The day was warm and sunny with storms clouds building to the south.

Figure 15. The volunteers worked in groups of two or more to plant along the terrace water line.

Figure 16. Another group of happy volunteers.

Figure 17. This group had their procedure worked out efficiently.

Figure 18. The supervisors, Timmy Vincent and Hilary Collis.

We had a good group of volunteers that worked steadily along the perimeter of each terrace. A dibble, which was a long spike on a handle, was used to make a hole in the soft, sticky mud right at the shoreline, a stem or two of marsh grass was dropped in the hole, and the hole was closed by pushing the mud in with a foot. Two rows of holes about 2 ft apart were planted along the 9 terraces. Some groups were more efficient than others, and the group of men from Cargill would have won a prize had there been one. They worked like machines and finished two terraces by the time some of the other groups had only done a half.

Although we were threatened by storms all afternoon, the storms stayed to our south, bringing welcomed breezes and occasional shade. The crews finished up around 3:00 PM, and were transported back to the big boats at the levee to cool off and clean up a bit. The McIlhenny boat pulled both mudboats over the levee into the canal and then took all of the volunteers back to Intracoastal City.

 

Timmy and I herded the boats together, and I got into them to tie both mudboats to the Goose. I followed him in the Avocet back to the headquarters boat ramp where we pulled the small boats up onto land using the 4-wheeler. I took him back to the levee to get the airboat, and we both returned to the Rainey headquarters. I packed up and left camp at 5:00 PM, barely ahead of a squall that eventually caught me as I trailered the boat away from the Intracoastal City boat ramp.

Figure 19. Timmy and the Goose towing the two mudboats back to the Rainey headquarters.

Figure 20. My trip back to the boat ramp was a little wet, but the squall didn't catch me until I was back on the road.

 

 

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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