|No. 196||BATON ROUGE, LA||December 2001|
LOS Winter Meeting
Fall Meeting Minutes
LOS Awards & Criteria
Audubon Country Bird Fest
New LOS Members
Rufous and Pyro
Birding Lake Martin
Lake Martin Checklist
LOS Sales (+)
ABP Meeting Report
Winter Hummers - Keeping Track
Winter Hummers Figures and Table
Winter Meeting Form
LOS Officers (+)
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LOS NEWS: Page   
"Pancho & Lefty"
Livin' on the road my friend
Rufous was an immature
All our hummer havens say
Vermilion, he can't sing the blues
Well, the poets tell how Rufous fell
Buenas Dias, got to go
Vaya con Dios,
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Birding at the Lake Martin Wetland, South-Central, Louisiana
by Danny Dobbs, Jay V. Huner, Judith O’Neal, and Michael J. Musumeche
Picture thousands of pairs of nesting herons, egrets and ibises, and spoonbills together with a few Anhingas in front of you and no more than 15 minutes from Lafayette, Louisiana. Envision a forested wetland in southern Louisiana where you can expect upwards to 50 species or more of wading birds, waterfowl, raptors, vireos, thrushes, wrens, warblers, sparrows, blackbirds, etc. in a half day visit at any time of year. Imagine seeing 6-10 foot alligators during the warm months of the year. Such a place exists. It is the Lake Martin Wetland located roughly 5 miles to the east of the Lafayette, Louisiana Airport in the heart of Acadiana.
The Lake Martin Wetland is located in south-central Louisiana at the junction of the Coastal Prairie and the Lower Mississippi River Alluvial Valley. Lake Martin, itself, is a renovated oxbow of the Teche Channel of the Mississippi River and is surrounded by a levee to ensure that water levels remain high enough to sustain recreational activities including hunting, fishing, boating, and birding. The long axis of the leveed area runs from south-east to north-west. Approximate dimensions are 2 miles long by 0.75 miles wide. The southern one-third of the leveed wetland is a buttonbush-cypress swamp where upwards of 20,000 pairs of herons, egrets, ibises, spoonbills, and Anhingas nest annually. The eastern side of the Lake Martin Wetland is bounded by the natural levee of the Teche Channel of the Mississippi River about 2 miles from Bayou Teche. The southern, western and northern sides of the Lake Martin Wetland are bounded by many acres of various combinations of bottomland hardwood forest, cypress swamp, and live oak forest, depending on elevations. Well over 8,000 acres of this land is owned and managed by The Louisiana Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. The TNC’s Cypress Island Preserve includes extensive hiking trails located on the northwestern side of the leveed area.
Preparing for the Visit and Getting There
There is an excellent seasonal check list of birds that covers the Lake Martin Wetland area entitled “Checklist of South-Central Louisiana Birds”, compiled by and available from Bill Fontenot, Lafayette Nature Station, 1205 East Alexander, Lafayette, Louisiana 70501 USA. Coverage includes Lafayette, St. Martin, Acadia, and eastern Vermillion Parishes. August 1999. Web Contact: www.naturestation.org . This seasonal checklist compliments a “List of Birds of the Lake Martin Wetland” developed by the authors and appended to this article. One hundred and ninety-six bird species have been documented at the Lake Martin Wetland.
The Lake Martin Wetland (LMW) is readily accessible via I-10 from the east or west. From the east, leave I-10 at exit #109 at Breaux Bridge. Turn left on LA Hwy 328 and drive under I-10. Go about a mile and turn right in Breaux Bridge proper. Cross Bayou Teche and immediately turn left on LA Hwy 31 and drive 3.5 miles. Turn right on the road labeled “Lake Martin Road”. This will take you to the Boat Launch in the middle of the LMW. You intersect Rookery Road. Go to the right about a three quarters of a mile and the road ends at another small boat launch outside of the leveed area. Park here and walk about a mile to access The Cypress Island Preserve’s walking trails. From the main boat landing, go to the left about three-quarters of a mile and pass the rookery on your right.
From the west, leave I-10 at the I-49/NW Evangeline Thruway Exit in Lafayette and travel south on NW Evangeline Thruway. Proceed roughly 1.5 miles to E. Pinhook Road and turn left. Continue about a mile to Carmel Street (LA Hwy 94) – 3rd traffic light – and turn right. Go about three-quarters of a mile past the Archdiocese of Lafayette and turn right onto LA Hwy 353 – Prairie Highway. Travel about 6 miles on LA Hwy 353 and look for a sign that says Lake Martin. Turn left onto Rookery Road. The rookery is located on the left and extends about a mile as you proceed northerly towards the main boat launch.
Sites of Interest
The Lake Martin Wetland Rookery is, by far, the most spectacular reason to visit the Lake Martin Wetland. Nest selection and nesting begins for Great Egrets in late February. From March into June, the area hosts thousands of nesting Snowy Egrets, Little Blue Herons, Tricolored Herons, Green Herons, Cattle Egrets, Black-crowned Night-Herons, Yellow-crowned Night-Herons, White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbills, and Anhingas. As available nesting space is taken from areas adjacent to Rookery Road, late nesting birds move closer and closer to the road. As a result, by the middle of the spring nesting season, the nesting waders are very close to the roadway.
The area in the rookery beneath the nesting birds is swampy and hosts numerous Common Moorhens and nutria. Alligators can usually be found ranging in size from 6-12 feet and seem to be waiting for displaced birds to fall into the water. The birds benefit greatly from these huge gators because marauding nest predators including raccoons, opossums, minks, and rats are usually kept in check. Few of these carnivores risk a swim through the gator gauntlet to raid nests. Fortunately, the gators in the rookery do not bother people viewing the wildlife.
During the non-breeding season, many of the wading birds that nest at LMW roost nightly in the area and are joined in the winter by both Neotropic and Double-crested Cormorants. Visitors to the LMW, after the wading bird nesting season, often miss the spectacular arrival at dusk and departure at dawn of thousands of waders, especially White Ibis.
Most visitors to the LMW are impressed with the rookery in the spring. However, besides roosting wading birds, in other seasons birders will find a great variety to interest them. Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Eastern Wood Peewee, Acadian and Great Crested Flycatchers, Eastern Kingbirds, White-eyed and Red-eyed Vireos, Northern Parulas, Yellow-breasted and Prothonotary Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, Indigo Buntings, and Painted Buntings nest at Lake Martin. Most common neotropical migrants pass through the LMW in the spring and fall. Wintering perching birds include Eastern Phoebe, Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets, House Wrens, Marsh Wrens, Winter Wrens, Hermit Thrushes, Eastern Bluebird, American Robins, American Pipits, Cedar Waxwings, Orange-crowned Warblers, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Chipping, Field, Fox, Song , Swamp , and White-throated Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, Rusty and Brewer’s Blackbirds, and American Goldfinches. Seven species of woodpeckers and eleven species of raptors including American Swallowtail Kite and Bald Eagle have also been recorded at the LMW.
Waterfowl are encountered during the cool months but, with the exception of Wood Ducks which nest at the lake, are not especially abundant because of hunting that takes place during the waterfowl season from November into January. Waterbirds such as gulls, terns, and shorebirds are not recorded very often at the LMW because the area simply does not provide the habitat sought out by these taxa.
The Nature Conservancy’s Cypress Island Preserve Hiking Area is well worth the visit. Best access is from the parking area at the northern terminus of Rookery Road. Unusual species such as Wood Stork, Bald Eagle, Vermillion Flycatcher, Mountain Bluebird, Bullock’s Oriole, and Black-headed Grosbeak have been recorded in this area. Interpretive signs help visitors to learn more about the ecology of the area and to identify common flora.
Visitors must expect to encounter large orb spiders when walking in wooded areas during the warmer months of the year. Bees, wasps, hornets, mosquitos and biting flies can be a nuisance. Visitors unfamiliar with “Fire Ants” should ask for assistance in identifying these unpleasant creatures. Ticks and chiggers have not been problems but appropriate precautions should be taken when moving about in grassy areas where these pests might expect to be encountered. One should always be on guard for snakes. Poison ivy and stinging nettle are common in wooded areas.
Hunting is permitted in the Lake Martin Wetland and as much as two thirds of the area outside of the leveed wetland area is private property. Visitors must be careful during the fall-winter hunting period and observe posted signs and warning signs at the Cypress Island Preserve Hiking Area. Residents do own dogs that are often un-tethered. Therefore, it is advisable to stay away from the housing area on the eastern side of the leveed area roughly half way between the rookery itself and the main boat launch.
There are no public restrooms or food/beverage outlets at the Lake Martin Wetland. This situation may be resolved if/when access is limited and fees imposed for users – see below.
The gated portion of the levee area around Lake Martin is closed during the alligator breeding season, June-October. The huge female gators build their nests on the levees and can be a real danger to hikers. However, the remainder of the area is accessible along Rookery Road and still a wonderful place to see a real wetland up close and personal along with all of the wildlife that make this habitat their homes.
The Lake Martin Wetland is currently open to all visitors without restrictions with the exception of the closure of the gator nesting area on the perimeter levee during the summer months. The huge volume of visitors, however, has led residents to take action to develop a management plan that most likely will limit access to the area. Implementation of a plan that would likely include a modest fee to access the area is 1-3 years away from this writing (2001).
Crawfish Research Center
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* * Data based on contributions from the Lake Martin Com., D. Dobbs, C. Foil, B. Fontenot, J. Huner, M. Musumeche, and M. Powell.
[Crawfish Research Center, UL Lafayette, 1031 W. J. Bernard Rd., St. Martinville, LA 70582]
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Bird Survey and WMA Prescriptions Discussed
A meeting of the Atchafalaya Basin Program Non-game Birds Committee was held in Baton Rouge on December 3, 2001. The meeting was headed up by co-chairmen Jay Huner and Bill Fontenot, along with Ms. Sandra Decoteau, Director of the ABP.
The status of the Atchafalaya Birding map and survey projects was reviewed. Bill Fontenot will lead a two year bird survey of wetland habitats within the seven Parish area that was outlined in the legislative act that created the ABP. These are Assumption, Iberia, Iberville, St. Landry, St. Martin, St. Mary and Pointe Coupee Parishes. Team members will attempt to draw up a seasonal bird list, with relative abundance data for the ABP area. The team consists of eight paid volunteers: Bello, Cardiff, Carloss, Fontenot, Huner, Musmeche, and Patton. In addition, BILL FONTENOT, TEAM LEADER, SOLICITS DATA FROM AMATEUR AND PROFESSIONAL FIELD ORNITHOLOGISTS AND NATURALISTS. They will also be collecting available data from ornithology and wildlife management research projects that have been conducted in the basin as well as material from BBS and Bird Atlas surveys of the recent past. All birders who have kept records of their observations in the Basin are asked to send records to Bill Fontenot, 217 St. Fidelis, Carencro, LA 70520-6019 or by email bbboy@NATURESTATION.ORG. Birding trail maps and checklists will be one eventual outcome of this valuable data gathering project of the ABP.
Another order of business was a report by Randy Lanctot of the LWF about upcoming forestry prescriptions for Louisiana Wildlife Management Areas. Anyone interested in receiving an edited overview of all of the prescriptions or more detailed prescriptions for any of the WMA’s can contact Randy by email email@example.com. These are the WMA for which there are forthcoming prescriptions: Bayou Macon, Bouef, Buckhorn, Dewey Mills, Red River, Russell Sage, Sherburne, and Tree Rivers.
The forthcoming prescription for Sherburne involves compartment 5 and states that the goals of forestry management in the compartment are to maintain open understory over 35% of the compartment, release water oak and sweetgum regeneration, promote growth of early successional vegetation, maintain adequate cavity abundance, control Chinese tallow tree and maintain and improve aesthetic integrity of the drainages. There will be selective thinning within 145 acres allowing removal of “no more than 25% of the volume” with an emphasis on retaining cavity trees and the “best” cypress and cottonwood trees. For 163 acres along Hwy 975, there is to be a “shelterwood harvrest”, leaving 16 - 22 of the best trees but promoting the water oak component. For 279 acres, “group selection” is prescribed to release oak and sweetgum while retaining significant canopy for neotropical migrants, squirrels and wild turkey. An addition 123 acres of the compartment will be subject to “group and individual selection” to release regeneration and promote understory growth for browse and cover. No harvesting will be allowed between April 15 and June 15. Anyone wishing to submit commentary or questions about this prescription or any of the others on WMA’s is encouraged to submit these to Randy Lanctot, who will summarize commentary and questions and forward them to the State Forester for response.
The next non-game bird committee meeting is scheduled for March 26, 2002.
Carol Foil, LOS News, Editor
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