September 25, 2015
We are fortunate to have received a NFWF grant to demonstrate another small dredge, the Amphibex 400, with greater pumping capacity than our mini-dredge at the Sanctuary (see new page explaining the new project). We are under a tight time constraint to begin pumping before the seasonal low water conditions set in. Before the Amphibex can arrive at the beginning of October, the site needs to be prepared. We need access corridors for equipment and the dredge pipe, and we need to place marker poles to help bring the mud up to the appropriate elevation for proper marsh growth. We also want to document as much of the pre-fill conditions as possible to compare with the result of our efforts in years to come. Timmy has been maintaining the current experimental site access at the east side of the permitted pond, so we decided to re-occupy the old test site access and then create another access at the west end of the pond. The three trails are roughly 500 feet apart.
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
With several traffic delays coming in from Baton Rouge, by the time I got to the Rainey Wildlife Sanctuary at 9:00, Timmy had been hard at work for two hours clearing the test site trail. Fortunately, the temperature was a bit cooler than it has been to facilitate all of our physical labor. I ran to the house to drop some of my gear and pick up my boots then back to meet Timmy. He was just returning from dumping brush at the end of the canal.
Timmy used the weedeater to knock down the brush and a chainsaw to cut down bushes and trees, then ran the lawnmower over it all to mulch it. I pulled the brush out of the way and stacked it on the Goose. When we had it all loaded, we ran down to the end of the canal and I pulled the brush off.
There was a neon orange float with blue reflector tape on it right next to us and I could see a gar laying at the top of the water near it. Obviously, another poacher had been through last night.
At 12:30 or so, we moved down to find an access route at the west end of the pond. It took me a few circles in the boat looking at satellite imagery, my GPS and the tree density on the levee, but we did pick a site and got to work. Timmy used his blade weedeater to knock the brush and reeds down, and the chainsaw on the few small trees, then he unloaded the lawnmower and mulched everything. I helped with the chainsaw and moving the brush out of the way. It took a long time.
I took advantage of one of his short breaks after he got through the area of dense brambles to forge ahead through the reeds. There was a large tallow tree with reeds leaning against it that made a dark tunnel obviously used by wildlife. Shortly pass that, the reeds ended at a Spartina patens marsh that edged the exact spot at the west end of the pond that I wanted to access. Timmy finished the trail, we took a long water break, then pushed the boat out to clean the bank. We were finished and exhausted at 3:00, and headed back to the house to unload and put up all of the equipment.
After a brief break at the house, we loaded the flat boat with a tub to retrieve the gar we had seen when unloading brush. It would be a waste to have the gar perish, so we always check to see if we can get them off of the line safely, or harvest it. I am fascinated by the patterns so readily apparent in the armored scales of a gar.
After cleaning and storing the gar filets, we sat on the deck to catch our breath. It was breezy and clear, and finally cooling toward evening. We watched as a Say’s Phoebe used the weather station for a hunting post, returning again and again after flipping down for a bug or two, in spite of the constantly twirling Anemometer (wind gage) within inches of its perch. It also liked the peak of the Purple Martin bucket house. An 8-point buck crossed the yard in front of us as well, quite used to the house and the sound of our voices. The poor thing was covered with biting flies. For once, I missed the brown-headed cowbirds that targeted the flies during the summer.
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
Up at 5:45. Started getting ready for today by figuring out where all of the marker poles would go on Google Earth. When it was time to leave to meet Lindsay, I stepped into the Avocet and got my feet wet. What? – the boat was leaking! I flipped on the bilge pump to empty it, and went to gather empty gas cans while I waited. I got to the ramp 15 minutes late, loaded Lindsay’s stuff and went to Maxie’s to pick up breakfast. I paid and left Lindsay to wait for it as I took the Avocet to fuel up. As I was about to finish another boat came zooming up straight at me and Lindsay was onboard! He hitched a ride rather than waiting for me to return! I find it amusing that most of the regulars around the area know me as the “lady/girl with a boat,” and had no problem finding me.
Back to camp, Lindsay and I worked to get the fathometer and GPS set up for today’s work. Around 10:30 we followed the airboat over to the new project area and Timmy ran the airboat through the test site trail. He tied up to the old dock at the test site and we loaded the airboat from there. Unfortunately, the fathometer was not talking to the computer.
After about an hour of Lindsay trying to get it to work, we gave up and started placing marker poles. I had used colored duct tape on 5-ft PVC poles to use for a visual water level gage. Timmy took us over to the benchmark that LSU had installed at the experimental dredge site to get water level reading to transfer to marker poles. We placed 39 poles roughly 100ft apart based on GPS locations.
We finished about 2:00, and unloaded the airboat so Timmy could head back to the house. While Lindsay hooked up the equipment in the Avocet to test it further, I headed back to the dredge site to double-check the water level. The fathometer still would not work. We headed back to the house where Lindsay called for technical assistance and still couldn’t get it to work. We gave up. I took Lindsay back to the dock for 4:30.
Thursday, September 24, 2015 – Fall Equinox
Sunrise this morning marked the astronomical Fall Equinox, where the day and night is of equal length. The sun rose from our perspective, from the middle of the island, marking the mid-point of its north and south migration. The yard was flooded.
Randy Moertel arrived around 8:00 with his drone in hand. We all went to the dredge site so he could practice with it. It was quite amazing, but its range was limited, so we moved to the test site boardwalk which is more centrally located. He will send the photos to me later.
Mid-morning, Timmy took the Goose to Danny’s Marina and I followed in the Avocet. He used his truck to pull the Goose to the Sportsman to get the motor lift fixed. We headed back to camp in the Avocet for lunch and for me to pack up.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org