May 8, 2015 – Green Heron Nest Surveys


Dredge and Rainey Report
Green Heron Nest Survey

May 8, 2015

The small dredge has been idle since the project was completed in August 2013. After being exposed to the elements for 5 years, the dredge needed critical maintenance. On September 3, 2014 we pulled the dredge to the Paul J. Rainey Wildlife Sanctuary 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.

Monday, May 4, 2015 – GRHE

I left Baton Rouge, stopped in south Lafayette for gas, headed to Abbeville, and stopped at Shuck’s for a lunch of oysters. I picked up the boat, the Avocet, from the Sportsman where I had left it for a “tune-up.” Even with all of that, I got to the boat ramp an hour earlier than I had told Katie I’d be. I waited for her to arrive before stopping at Shell Morgan to top off fuel and picking up ice. We dropped our gear at the Sanctuary Headquarters, and left as soon as we could for the Green Heron nest survey through Last Point, North Goose, and South Goose canals. We returned to headquarters at 5:30.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015 – High water

I was up at 5:00 and watched the moon set as the sun rose.

Figure 1. The near-full moon was setting as the sun was on the rise.

Figure 2. Bucket house backlit by sunrise.

We left the house about 7:30 to start today’s nest survey. The water level was very high and into the yard, and it was quite windy with 17mph winds and gusts to 25 mph from the SE.

Our route for the GRHE nest survey was Bruner Canal, Sagrera Canal, Boundary Canal, South Last Point, Bob Gil & Safari locations, and then back to HQ for lunch. The 3 chicks we banded last time on Bob Gil were all missing.

For the afternoon, we surveyed North Canal, Deep Lake Canal, North location, Bayou Club location, the north end of the West Chenier Canal, and Belle Isle Cut-off.

Figure 3. Katie was keeping an eye out for flushing herons or nests such as this one with new chicks hatching.

The tide continued to come up all day and water filled the backyard. A Spotted and Solitary Sandpiper came right up next to the house with a least sandpiper, where I could get great imagery, some of which was posted to Facebook. Other birds, including Black-necked stilt, Killdeer, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, our resident Green Heron, and Lesser Yellowlegs, plus alligators were all in the yard.

Figure 4. Spotted, Solitary and Least Sandpipers were together right next to the house where we could study the differences in plumage and behavior. Top right with yellow bill and dark spots is a Spotted Sandpiper; Top right with white spots on a dark back is a Solitary Sandpiper; Bottom left with white spots on a dark back and yellow legs is a Lesser Yellow-legs; and the little guy running around with yellow legs is a Least Sandpiper.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015 – GRHE

Katie and I left the house at 7:30 AM on a breezy morning for Green Heron nest surveys on the west side. We surveyed Timmy’s corner, Big Chick canal, McIlhenny Long Location, Guyana, Douce, and Duck City.

Figure 5. Orange sunrise for May 6, 2015.

Figure 6. Our morning office. A Green Heron nest is in the bush on the right.

Figure 7. The chicks we banded came in a variety of sizes and mobility.

Figure 8. Family of four.

Figure 9. Katie diving into a thorny bush to capture mobile chicks.

Figure 10. Details of developing feather tracks and skin pigment were fascinating.

With so few nests and time left in our day, we decided to go look around in a new complex of canals for our survey. Surprisingly, we found no GRHE nests or adults at all, and headed back to the headquarters. After a brief break, Katie brought out new trailcams and got them setup. We put two in One Mile Bayou off of east Belle Isle Bayou and another in Deep Lake Canal.

As we were unloading the Avocetfor the end of the day in front of the house, I noticed a small brown snake (non-venomous) swimming back and forth along the bulkhead. When it saw me leaning over to look at it, it tried repeatedly to jump up on the bulkhead with me, but was too short to make the 2-foot leap. I used our dip net to scoop it up, and it was very docile (probably tired of swimming), allowing us to handle it and look it over. It was a mystery snake that we could not identify. I put pictures out on FaceBook and sent it to various biologists I knew, but the best they could come up with was a juvenile racer of some kind. It wasn’t until a month later when we observed an adult that we identified it as a Black-masked Racer, locally common on cheniers and marsh ridges.

Figure 11. This brown snake puzzled us for a while, but it turned out to be a juvenile Black-masked Racer.

Thursday, May 7, 2015 – Tom’s Bayou Survey

I was up at my usual 5:30 AM to greet the day. Katie was up by 7:00 and we left headquarters at 7:30 with Timmy driving to conduct nest surveys along Tom’s Bayou. The morning was breezy and humid, and the day warmed up but winds increased to keep insects down and keep us from overheating. We finished surveying all of the bayous by 11:30 and returned to the house.

Figure 12. Left - heading east toward Tom's Bayou; Right: Milan's Ditch had appropriate bushes to host a few nests.

Figure 13. The Tom's Bayou area is very picturesque with some of the most beautiful marshes in Louisiana.

Figure 14. A female Red-winged Blackbird was complaining about our presence.

Figure 15. A Green Heron nest with an unusual 5-egg clutch.

With the Green Heron nest survey done for this week, I took Katie back to the boat ramp, and picked up hamburger lunches from Maxie Pierce Grocery next to the boat ramp for Timmy and me. The return trip was too choppy in the bay so I took the Freshwater Bayou route back to headquarters.

 

The afternoon was rather warm, so Timmy and I worked on “Frosty’s” bench under the shade of the big oak tree by the workshop. The late Frosty Anderson, who was responsible for hiring Timmy, was head of Sanctuaries for National Audubon Society, spending 21 years working for wildlife and retiring in 1987. Timmy knew him well and like other close friends, called Frosty “Old Dad.” The bench has sentimental value as well as a historical connection so we were fixing it. Timmy had sanded and treated the metal parts, and I had made new wood slats. I drilled holes in the new slats while he sprayed primer on the frame.

With that done, Timmy decided to move some limestone from the stockpile in the side yard to the holes in front of the steps at the bulkhead to eliminate a safety hazard posed by the ground settling against the new bulkhead. Moving rocks is difficult. Timmy shoveled it as best he could into the trailer behind the lawnmower, and I used a rake to loosen it up and shove it onto his shovel. We made two loads before getting too hot to continue.

We only need to move about ten more loads to finish.

Figure 16. Moving rocks to fill in against new bulkhead.

Friday, May 8, 2015

I spent most of the morning helping Timmy clean up around the house and grounds for tomorrow’s visitors.  Our Chairman of the Board, Christy Brown, and Sara Mack from Tierra Resources would be arriving first thing Saturday morning. The Rainey Manager’s job is never done!

I finally left around 11:30 so Timmy would have at least a little time for himself.

 

 

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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