Friday, April 28, 2006

Tensas River Basin

We spent the week of 4/17 – 4/21 working based out of Tallulah, Madison Parish. Madison Parish is located in extreme northeast Louisiana, one parish south of the Arkansas border. We were working in the Tensas River Basin, setting out frogloggers in various locations. Even this far north, migration was quite apparent. The bulk of the migrants were Orchard Orioles, but we had a decent selection of other migrants as well. In the cotton fields of Winnsboro, it was a real treat to see Horned Larks on their breeding grounds; something I’ve never witnessed in Louisiana. I have seen them on breeding territory in New Mexico. Also in Winnsboro, Susan Walls and I came across a very large cottonmouth hunting a ditch for frogs. At this site we heard Cope’s gray treefrog, northern cricket frog, bronze frog and bullfrog.

By far my favorite place we visited was the Tensas NWR. This vast expanse of hardwood bottomland is home to loads of breeding birds and interesting insects, but also home to another population of Black Bears. Susan, Mike Baldwin and I got to see a bear on Thursday, as we were riding into one of our study site on the north end of the NWR. We rounded a corner, and after studying some scat along the road, I spotted an adult bear at the edge of a meadow full of flowering vetch. When the bear saw us coming on the four-wheeler, it took off for the forest without looking back. Samantha Hill and Chad Case had just run back to the truck to retrieve another froglogger, so unfortunately they missed the bear. Migrants here were Tennessee Warbler, Dickcissel and Blue Grosbeak. Many others were around too, but species like Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Swainson’s Warbler and Yellow-breasted Chat were likely local breeders.

My favorite experience at the refuge (besides the bear) was a full chorus of bird-voiced treefrogs (Hyla avivoca) at the big lake. (at right) Just before hearing this large chorus, I had found a ring-necked snake, but it proved to be very difficult to photograph, and consequently zero out of six pictures came out worth keeping.

Before we set up shop in Tensas NWR, we visited Buckhorn NWR. As we were unloading the ATVs, we noticed a problem with one of the trailer tires. It would turn out that Chad and I would have to bring the trailer into town to have the problem fixed. So, we missed out on setting out the frogloggers at Buckhorn, but not before I heard a Prairie Warbler singing!

Overall, we had a great trip and saw lots of neat things. Most of the animal pictures didn’t come out worth keeping, but the scenery pictures did. I have included pictures at the end here of some of the oddly-shaped cypress knees in the swampy area on the north end of the Tensas NWR.


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