March 17, 2014 – Great Horned Owl


Dredge and Rainey Report
Ground-nesting Great Horned Owl

May 03, 2013

All through the winter, there have been a pair of Great Horned Owls in the vicinity of the Paul J Rainey Wildlife Sanctuary headquarters. In January, the Senior Sanctuary Manager, Timmy Vincent, discovered that they had established a nest on the ground at the base of one of our big oak trees. It wasn’t much of a nest, but soon there were two white eggs to watch.

Figure 1. January 14, 2014, parent owl sitting on the nest at the base of a large oak tree on the Rainey headquarters grounds.

Figure 2.On January 31, 2014, we found there were two eggs in the depression used as a nest.

With this opportunity thrust at our feet (pun intended), we endeavored to establish an online streaming video feed of the nest and related activities. I emailed every contact in Audubon for help. Meanwhile, we bought an off-the-shelf surveillance system with a DVR that was supposed to have online access.

We have been researching how to do this for some time now, but kept getting thwarted by the remoteness of the Sanctuary and limited power, internet, and even cellular access. With the nest only 100-ft away from the guesthouse we’ve been working on for so long, power was no longer an issue. With a new wireless router and a range extender, an internet connection was also not a problem. So, on January 31, 2014, we had a surveillance camera with night vision setup roughly 20 feet from the nest, and could watch it on the computer screen in the main headquarters building a good 400 feet away.

I did my best to configure the system for online access, but could not access it through my phone as the documents stated. Thus began a long running series of phone calls between the DVR manufacturer and our internet provider, both of which required long waits on hold. The final concluding result of several days/weeks discussion and research was that we could not stream video through our satellite internet connection. Thus, an external hardrive was purchased to transfer all video downloaded from the DVR for later viewing/streaming.

Figure 3. We set up a surveillance camera on the nest (shown by red arrow) on January 31, 2014

Figure 4. With a surveillance camera set up, we could watch the nest from inside the headquarters.

Figure 5. Night-vision allowed 24-hr surveillance

Sometime during the weekend, probably on February 2, 2014 by best we could tell on the video recordings, the eggs hatched. We have no clue what happened to the other egg or chick, for by the time we got pictures 3-days later, there was only one owlet. This was during the most hellacious winter weather south Louisiana has seen in a long time, with a week of below freezing nights, including sleet and freezing rain. These are some tough birds!

Figure 6. On February 5, 2014, the owlet was roughly 3 days old, and sits beside a leftover meal of teal.

We discovered that our video surveillance cameras just weren’t of a resolution to let us see what was actually happening at the nest, and we were reluctant to move the camera any closer and disturb the new family. Another camera, meant for nest boxes, was procured and installed on the tree above the nest area. This allowed two views to watch activities, one just of the nest and one of the surrounding area.

We were captivated, and each one of us would watch the video whenever we were in the headquarters. We dubbed the owlet “PJ” (for the Paul J Rainey Sanctuary), and soon caught on to the daily routine. Not much happened during the daylight hours. The male would bring food in, the female would meet him and take it from him to return to the nest around 5-6 AM. It was almost exclusively birds: teal, coot, snowy egret, black-necked stilt. Luckily, I never saw a Green Heron. The meal would stay in the nest area and be fed to the owlet periodically. The parent would either eat the rest or take it away after a day or two.

We were worried about predators until Timmy witnessed, twice, the adults chasing a full grown bobcat away. As the owlet grew, the parents became more and more aggressive. They were somewhat used to us wandering around taking care of the grounds, but when we approached the nest to deal with cameras or take pictures, they would hover ominously nearby, clacking their bills loudly. I even carried a laundry basket over my head and shoulders one day, just to make sure!

Figure 7. A second camera was installed above the nest for a more intimate look into the life of a growing owlet.

Figure 8. On February 12, 2014, PJ was 10-days old and sits next to leftover meal of coot.

Figure 9. February 13, 2014, meals were coot and snowy egret.

Figure 10. On February 18, 2014, PJ is 16 days old and looking more like a toddler.

Figure 11. February 19, 2014, 17 days old. Notice the feathered feet.

Figure 12. February 28, 2014, 26 days old and starting to develop ear tufts.

Figure 13 .On March 1, 2014, PJ was 4 weeks old and had developed his parents glare. He also started clacking his bill when I came too close.

Figure 14. March 6, 2014. This was the last picture I got of him before he became mobile, left the nest, and I couldn’t find him.

An example of the owl video from the overhead camera can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMDQ_8Ll1FI&feature=youtu.be

It is almost 6 minutes long, and a parent brings in a coot around minute 2.5. There are many vocalizations from all birds, including the other parent that is apparently nearby. Background buzzing noise I think is the water pump.

I still hope to overcome the challenges of an online streaming video feed from the Rainey Sanctuary. Proper equipment, such as that with the Eagle Cams and Puffin Cam, cost $20K just for one system. The internet is probably our biggest obstacle, and until we can establish a link to a landline, decent video resolution and live streaming can not happen. I think there is a system that uses solar power and cellular data uplink for $5K, but that is limited in bandwidth as well and involves a hefty monthly data plan.

So, until that time, I will continue to bring Rainey to the public through the blog, website and Facebook.

 

 

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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February 2014 – Ground-nesting owl

The headquarters of the Paul J Rainey Wildlife Sanctuary is host to a ground-nesting Great Horned Owl. We have put a camera on the nest and are endeavoring to get online access to the streaming video. We should be able to at least post recorded video clips of nest activity soon. As of today, we still have 2 eggs and expect them to hatch in the next week or so.

Great Horned Owl nesting at the base of a large live oak tree at the Rainey Sanctuary.

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December 12, 2013 – Marsh birds and Fires


Dredge and Rainey Report
Marsh Birds and Lighting Fires

December 12, 2013

Summary of accomplishments:

  • No dredging
  • Mist nets to catch birds along terraces
  • Testing airboat transects to count sparrows
  • Prescribed marsh burns
  • Whooping Cranes

This document can be downloaded as a pdf by clicking on the download button:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013 – Birding on the Christian Marsh Terraces

This week, the Audubon Louisiana Director of Bird Conservation, Erik Johnson, wanted to test some ideas for obtaining data on some of the marsh species that are more difficult to count. I drove down to meet Timmy and Erik at the boat ramp at 8:30 AM on a very cold, 37° morning. It was not only cold, but overcast and windy, making it feel even worse.

On arrival at the Sanctuary headquarters, it was determined to be even too windy for the airboat. Instead, we took a trip by mudboat to the terraces in Christian Marsh. Terraces are long, low, earthen ridges constructed of native material, and are a conservation tool used very effectively in this part of the country to break up wind fetch that causes erosion on the marsh edges bordering shallow open water. An excavator is brought in to scoop up the heavy clay of the bottom to create subaerial ridges about 3 feet above the average water level (See report from Oct 28, 2011). Conservation groups like the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana come out with volunteers to plant marsh grass around the edges, which increases marsh edge, creates more habitat, and helps to quiet the water so sediment drops out and submerged aquatic vegetation can grow (See report for Sept 6, 2013). The top of the terrace tends to stay unvegetated for a while providing resting and nesting areas for wildlife, and later develops a shrub habitat that provides even more of a wind buffer and for other wildlife uses.

We set up mist nets on two terraces, and then walked the marsh edge along the terrace to flush birds into the net. A mist net is made of very fine, black mesh that is hard to see, and is constructed to form pockets so that a bird flying into it will become trapped or tangled. The 1st terrace yielded 2 Common Yellowthroats, and the 2nd terrace yielded Swamp Sparrows, Common Yellowthroat, and a Common Gallinule. Erik banded them all. The gallinule is a larger bird that does not usually get caught in a mist net. When it was spotted flying toward the barrier, Erik took off running to grab it before it could escape.

Figure 1. A mist net is made of a fine mesh that is very hard to see and has loose pockets. Birds get tangled up when they fly into it.

Figure 2. Erik brings his portable banding station with him (left). Larger birds like the Common Gallinule (right) don't normally get tangled in the net, so Erik had to chase this one into it and tackle it.

Figure 3. Common Gallinule post-breeding has lost the bright red bill.

After a couple of passes, we left Christian Marsh to go to Pierson Ponds terrace where we had seen numerous sparrows previously. The bushes were full of birds on the levee when we arrived, and we had high hopes of catching many of them. We set up 2 nets on the terrace, and flushed birds twice by beating the bushes toward them. This effort yielded several Swamp Sparrows and a Marsh Wren, but missed several others that darted to the reeds around the nets.

Figure 4. Erik and Timmy set up the net (left), and walk to the end of the terrace to start beating the bushes on the way back (right).

Figure 5. A birder's Christmas tree, with each cloth bag holding a bird.

 

Each bird pulled from the net is placed in a small, cloth drawstring bag to wait their turn for Erik to record their data and put a band on them. The bags are usually hung somewhere safe so they don’t get stepped on or hurt. Since it was December, this convenient bush made me think of a birder’s Christmas tree, complete with live bird ornaments!

We headed back to the headquarters, but Erik wasn’t tired yet. After a brief break, he and I went over to the dredge site, but of course, this time there were very few birds.

The trail cam had been set up though, and what we found later was very interesting. The time stamp on the images it captured showed that a very large boar (wild pig) had been sunbathing in our clearing in front of the walkway around noon when a big male bobcat wandered past. Then, later the same day, the boar gets up and ambles off, one minute before we walk around the corner!

Figure 6. Trail cam images with time stamp show that a large boar left the area only one minute before we walked up!

With no birds at the marsh creation site, we decided to try the mudflats behind the terraces near HQ, but as we got close, we saw that Timmy had lit fires near the house. The area around the house is burned every year to protect it from unplanned natural fires later. Instead of going to the mud flat, went down the headquarters trail to watch the marsh burn and watch for any retreating wildlife.

Figure 7. With the wind in the right direction (away from the house), Timmy lit fires in the marsh. This will protect the house from natural fires later in the season.

As we returned to the house, we saw Timmy up on the new camp. He was relaxing with a smug look on his face. He had been given great news – 5 Whooping Cranes that were last seen in Dallas, Texas, were known to be in our area, either on Rainey or a neighbor’s property!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

With it being so very cold, we took our time getting up this morning with a big breakfast. When it warmed up a bit, around 8:00, Timmy fired up the airboat. Erik started training me to identifying marsh birds that were flushed by the airboat. We did several transects through the marsh and ponds to the east of the headquarters and flushed quite a few wading birds and waterfowl, as well as the small sparrows and marshbirds we were targeting.On the way back, Timmy started lighting fires in remote areas that had not been burned in a while. I got a little more confident identifying the blurs and darts that were marsh birds by the about the 7th transect.

Figure 8. The airboat transects flushed more than the sparrows and marsh birds we were looking for, such as large flocks of herons, white pelicans and ducks.

Figure 9. Timmy started lighting marsh fires on our way back. This will prevent natural fires from occurring during nesting season.

We broke for lunch, and decided to go to the south end of the property to look for the Whooping Cranes. Erik and I kept a sharp lookout all the way down, and saw a small plane apparently looking for the cranes too. We had not seen them by the time we got to our most southeastern point.

We headed along an east-west canal and spotted a large group of snow geese, so Timmy decided to see if we could get close for pictures. He picked a spot on the side of the canal and we went ashore to look.

No geese, but Erik, looking the other way, started waving to us. We crept down the levee and looked to the east to see 5 large shapes moving around in the marsh by the levee a good ¼ mile away. Whooping Cranes!!! The boat had gone right past them and they never stirred enough for us to see them over the levee. What luck! We had no need to get a closer look and didn’t want to spook them, so quietly returned to the boat; all of us elated with big smiles on our faces. They were indeed on Sanctuary property!

The area they had chosen was well away from most civilization, was not accessible to the public and ensured they would be relatively undisturbed. We have high expectations that they will choose to stay.

Figure 10. Five Whooping Cranes last seen in Texas decided to spend the winter on Sanctuary property. We didn’t want to spook them so got no closer than this.

Figure 11. Snow Geese flying high as we headed back to headquarters.

 

 

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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December 6, 2013 – Plover Survey

Dredge and Rainey Report
Plover Survey

December 06, 2013

Summary of accomplishments:

  • No dredging
  • Shorebird Survey
  • Dredge maintenance – installed replacement winch for right traveling cable

This document can be downloaded as a pdf by clicking on the download button: 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013 – Plover Survey

It was a foggy drive through southwest Louisiana and Timmy met me at the boat ramp at 8:30. On the way in to the Sanctuary, Timmy drove through the Coles Bayou area canals to survey levee condition and look for breaches and water control structures for our GIS database.

We also stopped by the dredge site to check on conditions and acquire updated photography. No matter what the waterlevel, we always have birds in the marsh creation site. Today it was Yellow-legs and Black-necked stilts that flushed from the shallow pond.

Figure 1. A flock of Black-necked Stilts flushed from the marsh creation site as we approached.

Figure 2. Taking the 4-wheeler to the beach.

As soon as I unloaded my gear at the headquarters, we loaded up the 4-wheeler and cart and went to the beach to count shorebirds. A thick sea-fog kept rolling in and out all day. Although we count all the birds we see along our 9-mile long beach, we keep a special lookout for plovers since some of the species are experiencing survival challenges. On this trip we counted 9 Piping Plovers on the West Rainey Beach, and 39 behind the breakwaters on the East Rainey Beach.

Figure 3. A thick sea-fog rolled in and out on us all day. Some of the more picturesque parts of the beach are around the cheniers, where erosion has claimed some of the ancient oak trees.

Figure 5. A group of small shorebirds including Piping Plover, Semi-palmated Plover, and Sanderlings.

Figure 6. Black-bellied Plovers (left) and Royal Terns (right) enjoy the view from the top of the breakwater.

Figure 7. Occasionally, we come across birds that don't survive for one reason or another. This juvenile pelican had been banded on Breton Island, all the way to the east of Louisiana. No cause of death could be determined.

Figure 8. We got excited over another flock of small birds, but they turned out to be Sanderlings and Dunlins.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The next morning promised another foggy day, so we both used it to catch up on reports, do a bit of data crunching, and submit our eBird data from yesterday. We noticed a marsh fire to our southwest, probably in the south Christian Marsh area.

Figure 9. Marsh fire south of Christian Marsh.

When the inside work was done, we went to the dredge to put the new winch on the right traveling cable that had died last fall. As soon as the battery box was opened, wasps poured out, and I ran to the back of the barge, leaving Timmy to convince them to vacate (I am borderline allergic). I did return to help him bolt the new unit into place.

Before we could run the pump and test the system, we needed to add more hydraulic oil. Timmy left me armed with wasp spray while he went back to house to get some. After adding hydraulic oil to unit, we ran the pump for 45 minutes.

On earlier trips to the marsh creation site on the pond side, we had noticed scat on our boardwalk. To see what is in the area, Timmy installed a trail cam on dredge walkway. This should be interesting.

Figure 10. Working on the dredge is always an adventure. Timmy installed the winch, in spite of a wasp infestation, and we ran the pump for a while to make sure it all works. Left to right: Timmy installing the winch, dead wasps, new winch installed, testing the pump

Figure 11. Coyote or bobcat scat on our walkway, and nice lighting from an overcast and foggy December 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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November 15, 2013 – Terrace Birds and Marsh Grass

Dredge and Rainey Report
Pumphouse and another small dredge

November 15, 2013

Summary of accomplishments:

  • No dredging
  • New winch for dredge
  • Birding on Christian Marsh terraces
  • Marsh grass spreading at the marsh creation site

This report can be downloaded in PDF file format by clicking the download button. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I left Baton Rouge after picking up supplies and the boat, and stopped by Grainger’s in Lafayette to pick up a replacement traveling winch for the dredge. I stopped again in Abbeville at Stine’s for a small apartment refrigerator and pipe insulation which were tied securely into the boat.

After one more stop at the Sportsman for boat oil, I launched the boat into very low water at 2:00. The water was so low, that the boat motor was dredging up mud just trying to get away from the boat ramp. There was no way I could cross the Bay or get through the terraces, and had to go the long way around thru Freshwater Bayou to Belle Island Bayou. My safe driving instincts came into play as a boat came out right in front of me from one of the cross channels. I made it safely to the Rainey headquarters at 2:30.

Louisiana fall colors were in full show, and the backyard pond (Belle Isle Lake) was busy with waterfowl, wading birds and shorebirds.

Figure 1. The backyard pond (Belle Isle Lake) was well populated with Mallards, Gadwall, teal and an occasional Pintail.

Figure 2. Black-necked Stilts cross the lake along the near shore.

Figure 3. Fall colors frame the mud flats exposed by low water, contrasting with the bright white egrets.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

We were up early for a very cold (40°F) tour of the Christian Marsh terraces. We discovered the open water covered with American Coot and other waterfowl, and the terraces flitting with sparrows and wrens. The sky was crossed frequently by ducks of all kinds, and the mystical call of Snow Geese could be heard as they passed high overhead.

Figure 4. The terraces were busy with small birds, flitting through the grass or hopping along the open ridge.

Figure 5. Large rafts of American Coot were in every open water area.

Figure 6. The mystical sound of Snow Geese on a cold, fall morning is a very special experience.

Figure 7. The best form of transportation in the shallow Christian Marsh waterways is a "mudboat."

After our morning exploration, Timmy brought the 4-Wheeler and trailer around to unload my boat and transfer the goods to the apartment. The refrigerator was unpacked and set up in the guesthouse kitchenette.

We spent the rest of the day replacing or fixing the Rainey boundary signs along McIlhenny Canal and the West Chenier Canal. Fall colors were at their peak along all of the waterways.

Figure 8. Fall colors along the West Chenier Canal surrounded us as Timmy worked on our boundary signs.

Figure 9. The Rainey headquarters in fall, viewed from the south approach.

Friday, November 15, 2013

While Timmy mowed and took care of Sanctuary duties, I worked in the guesthouse to put up towel rack and install some of pipe insulation under the building.

When that was done, we headed to the dredge. Timmy put a new hydraulic hose on the dredge and killed wasps, and I brought diesel and added diesel treatment to tank. I had not been to the marsh creation site for a while, so we went ashore when onboard tasks were done to inspect changes and take pictures. Even though the tops of the grass were going dormant and turning a nice golden brown, the roots were still active, sending out numerous tillers and new growth.

Figure 10. Once again there were wasps hiding from the cold in any crevice.

Figure 11. The marsh creation site was drained but wet, creating a perfect substrate for spreading roots.

Figure 12. A flock of Greater Yellowlegs was enjoying Cell 4.

Figure 13. Even thought the tops of the grass were going dormant, the roots were actively sending new shoots into the wet substrate.

Figure 14. The estimated status of the marsh creation study site as of November 15, 2013.

Before I packed up and left for home, we walked the headquarters trail. There weren’t any unusual birds to report, but we found more wasps searching for any crevice to hide from the coming cold. I left at 3:30 to head back to Baton Rouge.

Figure 15. Wasps looking for crevices in bark or dead trees to hide from the coming cold weather.

 

 

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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November 01, 2013 – Rainey Sanctuary work days

Dredge and Rainey Report
Rainey Sanctuary Work Days

November 1, 2013

Summary of accomplishments:

  • No dredging
  • Work about the Sanctuary

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

 

I met Timmy at the boat ramp late Wednesday after the Mississippi River Delta Campaign retreat that was held on the campus of Louisiana State University. Even with the low light of the setting sun, I could see that fall had arrived in the marsh, with brilliant colors exploding along the levees.

Figure 1. Heading to the Rainey Sanctuary after a week of meetings, I was greeted by fall colors along the levees.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The morning dawned with light overcast of autumn cirrus clouds, and high water in the yard. I was hoping for some new birds along our birding trail, but only found the usual mix. I worked in the guesthouse some, adding a few details like towel racks and towels; then I joined Timmy outside cleaning up the grounds. We made a small bonfire to burn the sticks and trash, and filled bags with other stuff that would have to be transported to a dumpster on high ground. I‘ll never take curbside pick-up for granted again!

 

Figure 2. Sunrise on October 31, 2013 showed high water in the yard.

The wind was starting to pick up and was kicking up some good sized waves in the canal. With the high water, Timmy decided to head to the Goose Pond. An osprey passed over us carrying a fish. I don’t think I have ever seen an osprey here without one!

We bumped along in the flatboat for the 5 miles it took to reach the Goose Pond so that he could add another board to the water control structure there to keep the waterlevel high. He is trying to drown cattails that are spreading into the Pond and filling in the open water meant for ducks and shorebirds. While he was doing that, I harvested some of the mustard greens that were growing wild on top of the levee for dinner tonight. Timmy had seeded them two years ago, and they continued to self-seed and maintain a healthy patch.

Figure 3. It was a rough ride down the canal, and an osprey flew over with dinner.

 

Before returning to the house, I had him take me around to where some of the shrubs that held Green Heron nests were. I was hoping to find fall fruit to help me with some identifications. I also collected some berries and stems from two different kinds of possumhaw. I find it interesting that the shrub species increase to the south end of the Rainey property and the tallow trees fade out.

 

Figure 4. At least two different species of possumhaw grew within 10 feet of each other on the southern levees

 

We made it back to the house before the rain started in afternoon, and we got 3 inches by morning.

 

Figure 5. The rain started in the late afternoon and we got 3 inches by morning.

Friday, November 1, 2013

By dawn, everything was quite wet, so we both worked inside on a document in preparation for a meeting later today. Timmy brought me back to the dock around 11 and I was back in the office for the 2:00 call.

 

Figure 6. Storm clouds moving away after an all night deluge.

 

Figure 7. Early morning light over a very wet front yard and dock.

 

 

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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October 28, 2013 – Yellow Rails and Rice Festival

Dredge and Rainey Report
Yellow Rails and Rice Festival

October 28, 2013

Summary of accomplishments:

  • No dredging
  • First stay in the Guesthouse
  • Yellow Rails and Rice Festival in west Louisiana

This report can be downloaded in PDF file format by clicking the
Dredge and Rainey Report, October 28, 2013 Yellow Rails and Rice Festival hyperlink.

Wednesday, October 24, 2013 – first stay in the Guesthouse

I stayed in the guesthouse at Rainey for the first time. Timmy had come to Baton Rouge for an Audubon staff planning meeting, and there was a Rainey Conservation Alliance meeting at Avery Island the next day. I had arranged to stay at Rainey with Timmy, then Kevin and Nick, also attending the RCA meeting the next day, requested lodging as well. Since I was the odd gender out with only 2 bedrooms at the Headquarters, and I was comfortable anywhere at Rainey, it fell to me to occupy the guesthouse.

We got to the camp right at sundown. Timmy immediately dissembled the single bed in his room and we carried it over to the guesthouse and set it up. I unloaded my gear from the boat into the guesthouse. After an excellent Timmy-cooked supper, we worked on the Miradi conservation plan until 10:30.

I retreated to my cottage and made myself comfortable. However, I discovered the hard way that the hot water in the shower only lasts for 3 minutes! I was very fortunate that the night was warm. I finished up my cool shower, let the hot water heater recover, and later timed it. We definitely have to get a bigger hot water tank!! The room was quite comfortable and bug free, so future guests (probably me) will have a comfortable stay.

October 25-26, 2013 – Yellow Rails and Rice Festival

Thursday, October 25

Erik and I started the day at Avery Island, Louisiana for a meeting of the Rainey Conservation Alliance. It was running long, and Erik was needed for evening activities at the Yellow Rails and Rice Festival in Thornwell, LA. I tried to leave when he did so I could follow him, but forgot my computer in the meeting room and had to go back. I took the opportunity to change into field clothes before heading out again.

I made it to Thornwell, and found the field group in time to help clear trails and set up mist nets in the woods by a water tower. I then followed the group back to the Lodge at Thornwell where a pavilion was set up with a jambalaya dinner and music for the Festival participants. The Yellow Rails and Rice Festival included much more than I would do. There were all-day workshops and presentations, and so many more people than the group I would shadow. This was the 9th Festival so far, and occurs late every October. For more information and dates on the next one visit

http://snowyegretenterprises.com/Snowy_Egret_Enterprises/Yellow_Rails_%26_Rice_Festival.html

I noticed a research friend of mine, Tommy Michot, and sat with him to eat when I found out that it was his band providing the music. It’s a very small world in south Louisiana! As the sun settled lower in the sky, we were treated to the soft calling of low flying ibis and geese as they flew just above the treetops on the way to their night-roost. It was a very eerie but magical experience. With some of the flocks, you could even hear the soft hiss of wind through their wings. After plenty of food and music, I settled into my roost as well, in an upper floor room of the Lodge,

Figure 1. A jambalaya dinner was waiting for us at the end of the day.

Figure 2. Seemingly endless flocks of ibis and geese streamed toward their night roosts.

Figure 3. Flocks of ibis and geese flew just above treetop level, so low that you could hear the wind through their wings.

Figure 4. Tommy Michot's band provided live Cajun music into the evening. The mosquitos finally chased everyone off.

Friday, October 26 – Yellow Rail and Rice Festival

As usual, I was up at 5:30 AM so quietly descended the stairs to the kitchen to make coffee. The rest of the group trickled in, and at 6:15 I went with banding group back to the water tower to work mist nets. After the first run, I got into the routine of recording for the banders, and got to see the birds close up as they were brought in and “processed.” Our most numerous catch were Cardinals, but we had a variety of other birds such as Carolina Wren, Indigo Bunting, Blue Jay, sparrows, etc. We closed the nets around 11:00 AM and took a lunch break in the nearby town of Lake Arthur.

Figure 5. Scott processing a Blue Jay and Erik is explaining the plumage of a sparrow.

After lunch we headed to the rice fields to set up mist nets for the field where the harvester would be working. We had 10 nets setup and tied to one another to make a long wall at a corner of the field. As the harvester worked the field, you could see birds flushing out of the grass around it. The ones that would flush usually fly low, and the few that flushed in the right direction we hoped would get caught in the net we had set up.

Even though the marsh birds here aren’t rare, they are extremely difficult to see. Several people at a time would ride on the harvester so that they could look down into the grass in front of the blades. Many marsh birds prefer to run through the grass rather than fly, so that perspective is the best one to see some of the shy species.

It was quite windy, and as the birds flushed over, around, under and sometimes through the net, some of the birds would hit the net and bounce out without getting tangled enough to be caught. When it looked like a bird was heading in the right direction, there was a rush of people running through rutted mud to try to catch the bird before it could get away again. It was more fun than I can describe! Each bird was its own reward for its captor, and there were squeals of “I got a Sora!” “I got a Virginia Rail!” “LeConte Sparrow, guys, I got a LeConte!” Very few Yellow Rails were caught, but I was one of the lucky ones and caught the second one of the day. It was like finding the Golden Egg at an Easter Egg hunt!

As the harvester made each round, the net crew had to pull the poles holding the nets out of the wet, sticky mud, make our way across the deeply rutted landscape to set it up again close to the next pass of the harvester. We kept the nets tied together to save time, and made our way across the field in a long line keeping the nets taught so they wouldn’t drag and pick up debris or get damaged. It was exhausting, but each one of us was eager to move the net and set it up as quickly as possible so we wouldn’t miss an opportunity or a bird.

Figure 6. Ten mist nets were set up bordering the rice field that was being harvested to catch low flying birds.

Figure 7. People took turns riding the harvester to watch the birds running in the grass. An American Bittern flushed (right) at the beginning of the run.

Figure 8. Soras were the most numerous bird captured (left) and Virginia Rails (right) were next.

Figure 9. Erik holds the yellow-rail I caught up for everyone's admiration.

Figure 10. The elusive Yellow Rail.

As the workshop attendees dispersed for the evening, the workshop crew headed toward dinner at the Regatta in Lake Arthur. Some of us then returned to the Lodge at Thornwell to recuperate and prepare for the next day.

Figure 11. Dinner was at Regatta in Lake Arthur for some of the people that made the workshop a success.

Saturday, October 26 – Yellow Rail and Rice Festival 2nd Day

Today was a repeat of yesterday. I was up at 5:30 to make coffee, and the banding crew headed to the mist nets at the water tower before dawn. The pros instructed the workshop attendees on how to extract birds from the nets, how to safely and gently handle them, and how to band, age and sex the various birds that came in. Someone provided sandwich makings for lunch today so no time was lost traveling to the next town.

Figure 12. The woodland bird processing station was set up on a levee between fields, with the nets in the woods to the right.

Figure 13. Erik and others taught the workshop attendees how to handle and collect the necessary data from each bird.

Once again, we headed to the rice fields after lunch. After yesterday’s excitement, everyone was eager to see the harvester head out like a ship into a fresh sea of grain. The net was the focus for most of the crowd, but other groups were on the harvester, walking the other side of the field, or being ferried around in a wagon pulled by a tractor to get close to the action without having to trundle through the muddy field. Steve Cardiff drove a group in a 4-wheeler, and everyone (including him) was surprised to watch him reach out and catch a rail as it flew past the vehicle.

Figure 14. The unharvested rice field was a sea of grain, literally.

Figure 15. The dedicated net crew, waiting patiently for the next pass of the harvester.

Moving the net today included moving across the levee and ditch to another field, and the undaunted net-crew hoisted their poles and moved like a train up and over without hesitation. Determination oozed from the bird-chasers, doing what we could to try to corral the elusive feathered creatures. It was sweaty, muddy, panting work, but we loved it!

Figure 16. Anticipation as the harvester approaches.

Figure 17. Successfully captured birds are brought to the processing station in little cloth bags (hanging in front of the camera top left) and are measured, weighed and admired.

At the end of the day, as the harvester finally trundled off to its mooring, a field full of exhausted but happy people congregated at the processing station to see the remaining results of their hard work. Each bird was extracted from its small cloth bag to the sound of “ooo’s,” “aahhh’s” and camera shutters. After being banded, documented, and utterly admired, each bird was released with our deepest gratitude for its participation.

Figure 18. Another successful day at the Yellow Rails and Rice Festival!

Figure 19. And of course, I had to get a picture of me holding a Yellow Rail!

Yellow Rails and Rice Festival:
http://snowyegretenterprises.com/Snowy_Egret_Enterprises/Yellow_Rails_%26_Rice_Festival.html

 

 

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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2013, Oct 10 – Plover Survey and Dredge Maintenance

Dredge and Rainey Report
Plover Survey and Dredge Maintenance

October 10, 2013

Summary of accomplishments:

  • No dredging
  • Plover Survey
  • Dredge maintenance and site assessment
  • Guesthouse work

Monday, October 7, 2013 – Shorebird survey

On my early morning drive down, avian activity confirmed that it was fall. I saw a large kettle of raptors riding thermals over Perry, Louisiana, and the fallow rice fields shimmered with thousands of shorebirds. I launched the Audubon boat, the Avocet, into extremely low water levels, and knew I wouldn’t be able to cross the shallow bay. I had to go the long way around through Freshwater Bayou Navigation Channel to Belle Isle Bayou.  Muddy banks of the bayou were exposed and the marsh was draining in gushets from any break in the natural levee.  I made it to the Rainey headquarters at 11:00 AM.

Timmy gave me just enough time to stow my gear in the house and load what I needed into the larger Audubon boat, the Goose. We loaded up the 4-wheeler and immediately left for a shorebird survey. The wind-depressed water level exposed a wide storm-swept beach. We headed east to the breakwaters first, and spotted one lone piping plover actively feeding at the first one. Very few birds were observed after that though, until we reached the last few breakwaters where Ring-billed Gulls and Caspian Terns were loafing. The small bay to the east of the breakwaters was swarming with gulls, terns, Brown Pelicans and Blue-winged Teal.

Figure 1. Low, low tide caused by a steady north wind exposed a wide beach with little wrack and light shell hash.

Figure 2. The small bay east of the breakwaters was swarming with gulls, terns, pelicans and teal.

When we reached the end of the traversable beach, we headed back to start the west beach survey. There weren’t too many birds, but once again we started the survey with an actively feeding plover (semi-palmated) on a silt flat behind the old breakwaters. There were small groups of birds along the beach that stayed just out of camera range as we headed west. Black-bellied plovers and sanderlings were the most numerous birds we saw.

Surprisingly, we came across two very large alligators in the nearshore surf zone at the base of the beach, that slid out toward deeper water as we approached. As large as they were shallow nearshore profile, they couldn’t quite get deep enough to submerge.

Figure 3. One of two very large gators that we saw laying in the surf zone against the beach.

We ran into a small flock of plovers about halfway down the beach. They continued to move ahead of us until we reached the western end. We knew it was the same group because they were traveling with one Least Sandpiper. It was a mixed group of Semi-palmated and Piping Plovers with 3 of the Piping Plovers tagged. [We later found out that one of them was tagged in North Dakota]. I could only get a fuzzy photo of 2 of the tagged birds, since they were either sitting on their tags or running up and down the beach. They seemed to prefer the shelly parts of the beach where they blended in, or areas where there was wrack to hunker out of the wind.

Figure 4. Part of the plover group that was mostly Semi-palmated Plovers.

Figure 5. Another part of the group that is dominated by Piping Plovers. One of the tagged plovers is third from the right.

Figure 6. Figure 4 expanded to show the bands and tags on the center piping plover.

The wind shifted as we were making our way westward. The water level immediately started to rise. We had to hurry to make it back to the chenier trail before we ran out of beach to traverse, and made it back to camp at 5:00.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013 – Dredge Maintenance

Timmy heard speckle bellies (white-fronted geese) crossing the sky before the sun came up. We sat on the deck at sunrise to drink our coffee while watching flocks of herons, shorebirds, teal and other ducks come across the lake.

Figure 7. October 8, 2013 sunrise over Belle Isle Lake.

While Timmy mowed grass and took care of Sanctuary business, I worked in the apartment to finish up a few details. Before I could finish completely, the power went off. While waiting for it to come back on, I walked the headquarter trail. I was hoping to see some migrating warblers, but I saw only the usual residents – Downy Woodpecker, Cardinals, Common Yellow-throat – and some unidentifiable brown blurs that had to be sparrows.

Figure 8. I used a piece of 2x4 to scrape barnacles from the left spud.

In the afternoon, Timmy took Leonard Chauvin and his crew in the airboat to look at the Deep Lake proposed project elements. It had been a while since the dredge had been run, so I took the Avocet to the dredge to run the hydraulic unit. As soon as I engaged the pump, one of the old hydraulic hoses popped a leak. I quickly disengaged and put a bucket under the leak, then found a rope to tie the leak above the pump so the entire unit wouldn’t drain. Other maintenance was due, so I picked up the left spud to scrape barnacles, but couldn’t get the right spud winch to work. Then, I couldn’t get the waterpump to start. We obviously need to spend some time to get the dredge back in running condition before the next dredging event!

I then went ashore for my usual inspection of the marsh creation site. A Common Egret was fishing from the outer containment, and a Belted Kingfisher had claimed one of the marker poles as its fishing perch. The marsh grass is still spreading, even though the main growth is starting to turn golden before going dormant for the winter. The water level in the pond was at +2” above marsh level (ML), so most of the study area was barely under water. Even with our multiple containment structures, minnows, mullet, crabs and even a spotted gar had found their way in and were taking advantage of the shallow water. It was obvious the pond had been flooded for a while with fresh water as even the study cells were starting to develop submerged aquatic vegetation of wigeon grass (Ruppia maritime) and banana lilies (Nymphaea Mexicana).

Figure 9. View to the northeast across Cell 3 from containment 3b. The 2x4 was originally in open water.

Figure 10. View to the north from the old canoe passage at containment 5a. All of the dark green is new growth of Schoenoplectus robustus.

Figure 11. A large spotted gar had found its way into Cell 5.

 Wednesday, October 9, 2013 – Guesthouse Work

It was such a wonderfully calm and peaceful dawn, we sat outside for sunrise to watch flock after flock of birds coming across the lake. Egrets, herons, yellow-legs, gulls and terns drifted across in seemingly endless streams of feathers.

Figure 12. Thousands of birds crossed the early October sky.

After breakfast, we took a walk down the headquarters bird trail where we saw our usual residents, plus a Lark Sparrow, which was a new one for me.

Timmy headed out to work on some of the equipment and I worked on our guesthouse. I hung blinds in the only window, and installed a different kind of weather stripping to the front door in another attempt to keep the insects out. With towels hanging in the bathroom, it’s starting to look quite homey!

Figure 13. Detail work in the apartment is starting look comfortable.

One of the neighbors passing the camp in his boat saw us working in the yard and stopped by to talk for a while. Timmy finished mowing the low area of the yard and started clearing the headquarter trail of overhanging bushes. When I finished in the guesthouse, I helped haul limbs until it was time for me to go.

I packed my stuff into the Avocet and finally left the Rainey Headquarters at 4:30.

 

 

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
Posted in Bird Related, Dredge Reports, The Paul J. Rainey Wildlife Sanctuary | Leave a comment

Sept 19, 2013 – Guesthouse and Grounds

Dredge and Rainey Report
Guesthouse and Grounds

September 19, 2013

Summary of accomplishments:

  • No dredging
  • Bug-proofing the guesthouse

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

Summary:  With C3 full, we took a break from dredging to concentrate on other Sanctuary issues.

Monday, September 16, 2013 – Guesthouse work

I left Baton Rouge at 6:33AM towing the 17-ft boat, the Avocet. I stopped at Stine’s in Abbeville for a few miscellaneous things for the guesthouse, then stopped at Winn Dixie for supplies. Got to the camp at 10:00 AM and Timmy was mowing the yard. I unloaded my gear and was working in the guesthouse by 10:30.

Figure 1. Karen working on the ceiling in the guesthouse.

I had to vacuum up thousands of bugs and wash out the shower before I could even think of starting on my intended tasks. I installed the rest of the ceiling strips and painted the mildew-stained areas again with a spraycan of Kilz. I glued support pieces to the counter for the end-piece, and walked to the workshop on the other side of the house to shape the formica end-piece.

Timmy was using the airboat to knock down the roseaucane (Phragmites) bordering the lake and got it stuck on top of the back levee. Using the 4-wheeler, he pulled it around until it could be run through the flooded yard. When this task was completed, he cleaned up and left after lunch to go to high ground for his mother’s birthday.

With him gone, I took the 4-wheeler with me back to the guesthouse because I could see the tide rising into the yard and I didn’t want to have to wade back. I glued the end-piece onto the counter and trimmed the edges with my knife. Since bugs were still getting in, I removed the old weather-stripping from the outer door and replaced it with new, but it still doesn’t seal properly.

The bathroom door did not close properly, and rather than waiting for Timmy, I decided to fix it myself. This involved partially removing both door casings from the latch side, removing the shims, unscrewing all attachments, and then re-screwing everything to the proper depth, replacing the casings and re-caulking. Now the door works perfectly. I packed up the tools and my stuff, loaded the 4-wheeler and splashed my way back to the house.

At 5:30, I took crawfish tails out to thaw, hopped into the Avocet and took a ride to the dredge site. The water level was at +6”ML (ML = “Marsh level”) so the site was quite flooded. Two Tri-colored Herons were reluctant to leave when I got there, and settled in the hidden pond behind Cell 5. I watched as a flock of about a dozen teal pass by high, heading north. The low afternoon light made the marsh glow.

Figure 2. One of the two Tri-colored Heron at the dredge site.

Figure 3. Low afternoon light shining down the length of our permitted pond, with the outer containment barely above the water line.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013 – Clearing WCS

Today, I helped Timmy clear brush from the water control structures. This is important for many reasons, the first of which is to keep marsh fires, whether natural or prescribed, from harming the structures.

We loaded up the Goose with chainsaws, brush cutters, loppers, rakes, gloves and water and headed south. It was a long, hot, exhausting day. Timmy would cut, and I would haul and pile. The roseaucane and Baccharis bushes are extremely prolific plants, and Timmy had not been able to keep up with their growth this summer with all of the other activities where his participation was required. At the end of the day, we were both covered with dirt, plant shreds, ant bites and sweat. I treated myself to a long soak in the tub.

 

Figure 4. Timmy using the brush cutter to clear the last of the roseaucane.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013 – More yard work

After a glorious sunrise in the marsh, Timmy worked to clear the lake edge. He started with the roseaucane he had smashed down with the airboat, and worked his way along the edge cutting down bushes. He was adamant that it be cleared before the birds started coming down for the winter, so that we could see all of the lake from the back window of the house where the spotting scope was set up.

I stayed out of his way and worked inside either the guesthouse or on the computer inside the headquarters house. I finally loaded up the Avocet and headed home mid-afternoon, trying to avoid rush-hour in the Intracoastal Waterway, or the Interstate. Watching the full moon rise as I approached Baton Rouge, I wish I could have stayed one more evening, just for photographs.

Figure 5. After a beautiful sunrise in the marsh, we got busy clearing more brush.

Figure 6. My trek home involved boat and car rush-hour traffic, with a rising full moon.

 

 

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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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
Posted in Dredge Reports | Leave a comment