July 24, 2015 – Green Heron Surveys and Dredge Site Visit

Dredge and Rainey Report
Green Heron Survey and Dredge Site Visit

July 24, 2015

The small dredge has been idle since August 2013 after completing the project. After being exposed to the elements for 5 years, the dredge needs critical maintenance. On September 3, 2014 we pulled the dredge to the Rainey headquarters to make work on it more convenient. In the meantime, I renewed our Coastal Use Permit for marsh creation, and we have been training with our new survey equipment which will be used to set up the next project.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

I made it to the Intracoastal City boat ramp at 7:50 and Katie and Virginia arrived shortly. We made it out to the Rainey Headquarters by 8:30. We dropped gear, reorganized the boat and headed for the western Green Heron route. We are starting to see a few kingfishers, Tri-colored Herons and a few egrets now, but not much moving around other than Red-winged Blackbirds and grackles. The Green Heron activity seems to be tapering off, but we are surprisingly still finding nests with eggs. I forgot to borrow Timmy’s camera that takes the good close-ups in the field, but I made do with my other 3 cameras. It was very hot, but partly cloudy thunderheads kept us partly shaded and brought a few breezes so it wasn’t too bad. It was reported to be 95° with 109° heat index.

Figure 1. Banding was slow, but we still have a lot of small chicks and eggs that will keep us busy in later weeks.

Our route today covered Belle Isle Cut, McIlhenny Long Location, Douce, Guyana, Blowout, Big Chick, Timmy’s Corner, W Chenier north, Belle Isle Bayou, and Deep Lake Canal. We discovered alligator nests on the levee in Deep Lake Canal – one looked opened with nothing around, the other two were being guarded by aggressive females. The first one startle Katie by hissing next to the boat.

Figure 2. Alligator nest on the low levee of Deep Lake Canal with a female nearby.

We headed back to house for a quick break, then over to Mile Bayou. The water level was still low, but we made it into the shallow waterway. We finished at 3:30 and decided to make it an early day rather than try to do anymore. We were elated to find that Timmy had caught and boiled crabs for supper. As the sunset bloomed into color, Timmy and I hopped into my boat to catch sunset imagery.

Figure 3. Evening color drew me out for an evening boat ride.

Figure 4. Evening color deepened to twilight.

I chose to sleep in the quiet, isolated apartment. I still had vivid dreams about a motorcycle gang with balloon wheels that had a party in front of the apartment, and the 2-room apartment had expanded to about 15 rooms with a back door and porch (??).

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Figure 5. Sunrise photography is part of my daily routine.

 

I was up at 5:30 to put out the GoPro. I got my usual sunrise shots while Virginia and Katie were getting ready. We left the house at 6:45 to head south.

 

Figure 6. Morning clouds over the south end of Belle Isle Lake.

The south route starts with North Goose Canal where we re-sighted banded chicks. At Last Point we had a few re-sights, a couple nests with eggs, but it too seems to be winding down. Pigtrap had nothing, Boundary Canal was at low water so we had to creep along to keep from hitting debris too hard. Here we spotted kingbirds chasing a Great-horned Owl which might be a major predatory threat to our chicks. It was a hot morning, so we set up the beach umbrella on the bow to cool the deck area. We successfully captured and banded a few more chicks there.

Figure 7. With a long slow creep into the morning sun on Boundary Canal, we set up the beach umbrella to cool off the deck.

Figure 8. A high nest allowed these chicks to elude capture.

Figure 9. Boundary Canal was at low water so there was danger of hitting snags.

Figure 10. Virginia taking one of the many measurements as part of the "processing."

Figure 11. A 3-4 day old chick showing off developing feathers on expanding wings.

The Bruner Canal had a couple of active nest. At Bob Gil, we got out of boat at the old landing by the derelict barge to attempt to see nests we know are hidden behind it, but it didn’t go far enough. A “sticktight” mom at one nest stayed just on the other side of the bush while we banded her chicks. Most of the adult birds disappear well before we reach the nest, so it is unusual to have them stick around. Some are reluctant to leave the nest so we call those “sticktight.” Others stay within sight and keep up a constant squawking complaint so those are “squawkers.” I set up the GoPro on the boat handrail and collected video of the run through Safari to Big Catfish Location.

South Goose Canal also had a sticktight mom on a nest of bandable chicks. She was using her wings to shade the nest and wouldn’t leave until we were within arm’s reach, then didn’t go far. We tied up in the shade of a hackberry tree about 8 ft from the nest and the parent crept back to sit on the nest and watch us. The other parent sat in top of tree across canal. These chicks looked very healthy and well cared for.

Figure 12. A “sticktight” parent is shading the nest and chicks with her wings as we approached, and the other parent watched from the top of a tree across the canal.

Figure 13. The chicks from the protected nest looked very healthy and well-fed. Multiple aged chicks are in the same nest. We could only band 3 of the 4.

We were back at the house for 12:30 and Timmy was just loading the flat to go catch crabs. Katie and Virginia were curious so Katie rode with him and Virginia and I followed. An Asian carp jumped into my boat again just as we pulled up to tie off. Luckily it was behind the seats, and I left it there to calm down.

Katie and Virginia attended crab-catching 101 with Professor Timmy. It took less than 30 minutes to catch 3 dozen crabs. Back at house, Timmy started boiling them while we charged equipment and regrouped for the afternoon effort.

Figure 14. Another Asian Carp jumped into my boat on our way to catch crabs.

Figure 15. Timmy teaching crabbing 101.

Around 1:30 we headed out for the Tom’s Bayou route. With low water, we were targeting active nests and didn’t try to cross to South Tom’s Bayou for the one nest (not-active) there. Moran’s ditch had eggs and chicks, and we found a new nest at the NMFS spur. That chick was banded and another new nest was found at Coydog Run. We almost got stuck in the vine covered spur off of South Lake Bayou. It was too narrow to turn around, and the vines hung over into the boat to catch on anything available. I had to keep rocking the boat forward and back and get Katie and Virginia to clear cleats and rear bumpers and we finally powered our way out.

Figure 16. Entering NMFS Spur.

Figure 17. My multiple umbrellas came in handy when trying to keep chicks from overheating.

Figure 18. Virginia putting chicks back in the nest in Coy-dog Run.

Figure 20. A bucket of healthy chicks with enough energy to squabble among themselves.

Figure 19. One of my favorite insects enjoying a horsefly meal that it grabbed off the boat. I wish I had a fleet of them!

 

Figure 21. Katie setting up a trail cam on an active nests before we put the chicks back.

We were back to the house for 4:00, so Katie and Virginia opted to head home. They packed and stripped beds while I swept the boat, then I ran them in to the landing. Shell Morgan was shut down for a funeral so it was good that I still had enough fuel to get back to Headquarters. I got back in time for an early supper of boiled crabs and broccoli salad.

I put together a video of the Green Heron work from this season:
https://youtu.be/KSyqk2mnyPQ

Thursday, July 23, 2015 – Dredge site visit and exploring north of ICWW

As usual, I was up at 5:30 to find Timmy already up and preparing for the day.

Figure 22. Sunrise, July 23, 2015.

Timmy headed out to clear the water control structure at the Deep Lake flume. I stayed at the house to catch up on reporting and imagery. I also used the time to catch up on laundry, made beds, swept bedrooms and washed dishes.

I joined Timmy at the dredge site at 10:00 AM and he had finished mowing the landing and was clearing walkways with the weedeater. Even though it was still morning, it was oppressively hot and Timmy quit soon after I got there.

Figure 23. Timmy took the lawnmower to the dredge site for landing maintenance.

All of the rain during the spring, and freshwater from the Atchafalaya and Mermentau basins during the summer, has allowed the dredge fill to explode with plant life. I went down the canal a bit further to the original test site for some photos, then back to house to cool off. I looked up some of the old photography to show the results of small dredge marsh restoration in the following before/after pairs.

Figure 24. Before/after photos of Cell 3 viewed from the dock, with the top photo taken July 22, 2011 and the bottom photo from July 23, 2015.

Figure 25. The test site before/after with top photo from July 22, 2011 and the bottom photo taken July 23, 2015. The tall clump of roseaucane at the end of the dock grew from the cane bundles we had used as containment. Spartina alterniflora was planted along the boardwalk into 3-inch deep water and it took over the cell within three years.

With it too hot to do anything physical outside, we opted for a boat ride and Timmy took me for an exploratory run in the Avocet looking for Green Heron nests north of the Intracoastal Waterway. He told me stories of the old route the Rainey Managers had to take before the canals were dug, including a bayou named “Go to Hell Bayou.” We had to maneuver around anchored barges to enter Chien Bayou, then inspected Green Bayou, Schooner Bayou to 6 mile, only finding about 4 old nests. From there, we traveled down Freshwater Bayou Navigation Channel and turned west onto the continuation of Belle Isle Bayou that leads to the locations that come close to Highway 82. It was a very informative day for me.

Figure 26. We went on an exploratory expedition up the Intracoastal Waterway and around the barge on the right to Chien Bayou.

Figure 27. Bayou Chein was lined by cane on the east end.

Figure 28. We only found a few Green Heron nests.

Figure 29. Bayou Chein on the west end was aptly named as it was originally flanked by oak trees.

Figure 30. We weren't sure we could make it through the thick water hyacinth and shallow water of Green Bayou, but we did.

Figure 31. A camp with all the amenities on the west end of Belle Isle Bayou

Figure 32. There was a maze of canals on the west side of Freshwater Bayou Channel.

 

 

 

 

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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