Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Cool Louisiana Swamp Tours

Ruby and her grandson Simon, two of de la Houssaye's Catahoulas, share a seat on a sunset tour.

Louisiana Swamp Tours have been in full swing all summer. But, because of the heat and humidity common in south Louisiana, we have been mostly limited to sunrise and sunset tours since the heat wave of June this year.

Every morning this week the temperature has been near 60' and around 80' for a high.

And oh have the sunsets been spectacular as seen below.

Another cool thing happening at Lake Martin these days, is that The Nature Conservancy is building a long overdue and much needed improvement to the public use of this wilderness area in the form of public restrooms at the new visitor center they are constructing across the bayou from the rookery. I will post pictures upon completion. Go TNC!

One of the coolest parts of this week's climate change, is that natural air conditioning makes it comfortable once again to dance at The Blue Moon Saloon in Lafayette.

You see, the Blue Moon is the only place I go to dance in Lafayette because it is the best music in Lafayette, it is open air(I hate second hand smoke!) and I have a lot of friends who go there. My only complaints are the dance floor is too small, and in the summer it is too hot to dance. Heck, I sweat just taking pictures.

But, unless I have a sunset tour, I go to the Latin dance lessons on Tuesday nights as seen below.

As you can see below, the Wednesday night jam session on the back porch offers free fiddle lessons hosted by Mitch Reed of Beausoliel.

Everyone is having a good time. It is free admission, and you can eat red beans and rice for free too. Be grateful, and show some love, by leaving a tip for the chef who donates his time and ingredients to feed you.

For the rest of the week...You might be able to catch the Lost Bayou Ramblers as seen above. And join in on the dance floor as seen below.

Thursday through Saturday offers live music and dancing on the back porch, with a cover charge and cool refreshments in the back bar as seen below.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Lake Martin needs your Support

The best Louisiana swamp tours I have ever done have far the most part been at Lake Martin, but why can't they leave it alone? It is a swamp! It is supposed to be filled with plants.. But like in the Atchafalaya Basin, I have had to deal with a herbicide I regard as an enemy of nature and ecology called agent orange. The image below shows how plant control affects an indigenous species at Lake Martin. Pictured here is two leafs of American Lotus. One was sprayed and one not.

I am not against plant control, I am against the way it is being done. If water hyacinth is not controlled it will take over the lake and prevent recreational use of the lake. But to attack one non-indigenous invasive plant, and kill the tress and aquatic plants that are part of the ecology and natural beauty that our visitors come to enjoy is unacceptable. Furthermore, American Lotus naturally dies off every year at the end of summer, so what is the point of spraying it? Here it is being sprayed in August and by the end of next month, most of this will die off naturally. Are our government workers making work for themselves?

In the image below you can see that water hyacinth(in the foreground) was sprayed along with the lotus in the back.

In the image below we can see a helicoil snail on a lotus leaf, which was once very abundant at Lake Martin.

As neat as it is to show a snail on a swamp tour for educational purposes, more importantly snails are a part of the diet of white and glossy ibis which walk around upon the floating mats of plants being attacked here.

I can remember many times I was able to get in close range of glossy ibis busily feeding upon snails in the north end at Lake Martin while on tour. The entire conglomeration of floating plants and button bush on the north, east, and west sides of Lake Martin have been destroyed. Since plant control has destroyed hundreds of acres of button bush and floating mats of plants I see the ibis fly over, but never stop and feed the way they did a decade ago.

The chemical being used is very effective in killing trees too, as can be seen in the image below.

This is a cypress tree growing along the bank at the boat landing that was sprayed last week. Why? Bald Cypress is our state tree. Maybe the government workers spraying the herbicide don't know a cypress from an non-native, invasive species.

And in the image below, we can see a buttonbush that was also sprayed.

But let's have a closer look at this buttonbush.In the center of the bush is a nest, which last time I checked had baby birds in it as seen in the images below.
This is a button which is so close to my road that I could run over the nest if I was not careful. Not only is this nest on my road and on my tour everytime I went out to educate and entertain our visiting guests, I videoed the female building the nest about a month ago. One end of my boat was about 10 feet from the nest and the momma busily gathered strands of dead grass in the surrounding floating mat of plants and flew into the nest site with the nest building materials in her beak. I videoed her work for over an hour before my battery went dead and I later visited her for video purposes and passed within 2 feet of her nest everytime I did a tour there. When I brought Richard Martin of the Nature Conservancy out to witness the destruction of the button bush and floating mats of plants in this area he agreed that plant control was out of control, but argued that if we don't spray the floating mats of plants the lake will fill in. He also claimed that fish do not live under floating mats of plants. I thought to myself what planet does this guy come from!

Along with Redwing Blackbirds with baby birds nesting in trees being sprayed are also many other things we do not often see in the underwater world of the floating mats of plants. Many forms of insects use floating mats of plants to lay eggs that hatch into larvae which become food for fish and other forms of predators in the water.The dragonfly for instance not only provides food for fish as a larvae in the water, it is one of the reasons we don't have mosquitos on my tour. Anytime any one species is diminished it offsets the balance for all species in that ecology. The ecology of Lake Martin is being threatened by plant control and no one seems to care but me. You contact the Nature Conservancy and voice your opinion to support the wildlife that needs floating mats of plants and join the protest that I am organizing against unwarranted plant control at Lake Martin.