As April passes into May, many migratory birds leave the tropics of Central and South America in search of bountiful summer resources in the sub-tropical United States. Among them, the very charismatic Prothonotary Warbler flies from the northern tropics to the hospitable habitats of the United States. Prothonotary warblers live in forests near bodies of slow-moving water where they can hunt for insects and nest in cavities in trees. The cypress swamps of Louisiana are about as good as it gets for a prothonotary warbler, and they stay from April to August.  If you get out into the swamp during the summer, look for their bright yellow figures darting through low-lying foliage.
Prothonotary warblers have experienced a population decline in recent years that experts attributed to the destruction of their wintering habitat in the tropics. To improve breeding success and survivorship, the Audubon Society and other ornithological enthusiasts have encouraged people to install nest boxes that help to protect warbler nests from failing. Many natural threats exist in swamps for warblers, including a variety of snakes, birds of prey, and mammals. Since brown-headed cowbirds will use prothonotary nests to lay their eggs in when given the chance, nest boxes are suggested to have a 1¼“ hole to prevent larger birds from entering the box but still allow the warblers to enter. Boxes are not left on the ground, and are often mounted on poles. Some predators can climb, so many boxes have a skirt/collar that prevents snakes, raccoons, and cats from climbing the poles into the nests. More guidelines for a good nest box can be found at https://nestwatch.org/learn/all-about-birdhouses/features-of-a-good-birdhouse/.
 Petit, L. J. (1999). Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bna.408
 Kaufman, Kenn. “Prothonotary Warbler.” Audubon, National Audubon Society, 10 Mar. 2016, http://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/prothonotary-warbler.
Brannon, Peter. “Adult Male.” All About Birds, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Florida, 14 Sept. 2016, http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Prothonotary_Warbler/id.
What better way to spend a Friday afternoon than with jambalaya, Cajun music, and conservation? That is how the CWPPRA outreach team and many other organizations spent last Friday, April 20th, at the UL-Lafayette Fête de la Terre Expo. The expo showcased many wonderful local groups including, but not limited to, the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, the TECHE Project, and the Bayou Vermilion District, all hosted by the ULL Office of Sustainability.
Students visiting the expo could learn about how long it takes for different types of litter to decompose naturally, how solar panels are used to generate power, and whether or not to recycle different waste products. During their visit, they could grab free jambalaya, listen to the Cajun jam session, or decorate their very own reusable grocery bag. There are so many resources that help our community celebrate conservation, and the expo was a beautiful day for getting ULL students and faculty involved, interested, and informed.
The National Wildlife Refuge System includes public lands and waters that are set aside to conserve America’s wildlife and vegetation. The protected areas of the National Wildlife Refuge are managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Since initiation in the early 1900s, the system has grown immensely to over 500 National Wildlife Refuges.
A variety of habitats are managed by the National Wildlife Refuges, including wetlands, prairies, coastal and marine areas just to name a few. Conserving the threatened or endangered species of these habitats is a primary focus of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Employees must manage the refuge by controlling invasive species, securing adequate water resources, and assessing external threats to the protected area.
If you’re interested in outdoor recreational activities like hunting, birding, fishing or even environmental education, National Wildlife Refuges welcome guests to participate in the year-round fun that can be found at a refuge in any of the fifty states. You can find a National Wildlife Refuge you would like to visit by clicking here.
Visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website to read more information and updates about the National Wildlife Refuge System.
Located in the heart of South America is the world’s largest wetland that has not been significantly modified by humans, the Pantanal. The Pantanal is often referred to as South America’s biggest biodiversity star. However, it is also one of the continent’s best-kept secrets, often overshadowed by the Amazon Rainforest. This massive wetland covers an area estimated at 75,000 square miles across Bolivia, Paraguay, and (mostly) Brazil. The Pantanal is home to over 4,700 species of plants and animals.
The array of life in the Pantanal relies on an annual flooding cycle. When it rains, about 80 percent of the floodplain is submerged underwater; throughout the dry season the water lessens. This process is essential to nurturing a biologically diverse collection of plants and providing nutrients that the wetlands need to flourish. An area that is the size of Belgium, Switzerland, Holland, and Portugal combined needs a lot of water to guarantee that it continues to flood and a healthy ecosystem is preserved. The quality of the water is also important to maintaining a nourishing environment. Recently, human activity has been threatening this precious wetland. The Pantanal is threatened by intensive farming, deforestation, and pollution. Few signs of this situation improving are shown, and environmental issues are difficult to resolve quickly. Conservation of the biodiversity and natural resources of the Pantanal is essential.
National American Eagle Day is observed each year on June 20th. This day is celebrated in honor of our national symbol, to raise awareness for protecting the bald eagle, to assist in the recovery of their habitat, and to educate Americans on their significance. The bald eagle can be sighted during its breeding season at nearly any wetland habitat such as seacoasts, rivers, large lakes, or marshes. You can find these eagles around large bodies of open water with an abundance of fish.
In the mid 20th century, America’s precious eagles were almost lost due to the effects of habitat destruction, poaching, and environmental negligence, specifically the contamination of food sources by the pesticide DDT. Thanks to conservation efforts of various organizations, conservationists, and protection laws – the bald eagle populations recovered. Habitats restored through CWPPRA projects aided in the delisting of our national symbol from the endangered species list in 2007. CWPPRA has protected, created, or restored approximately 97,177 acres of Louisiana’s vanishing coastal wetlands in its first 25 years. Those restored swamps, marshes, barrier islands/headlands, and associated open-water habitats provide foraging, nesting, breeding, wintering, escape cover, and nursery habitat for wildlife, in particular the American bald eagle.
On May 23, we celebrated the 17th annual World Turtle Day sponsored by American Tortoise Rescue. This nonprofit organization was established in 1990 to protect all species of tortoises and turtles. They created World Turtle Day to serve as an annual observance of protecting tortoises and turtles around the world and their disappearing habitats. Wetlands that serve as habitat for turtles include shallow fresh waters, pelagic salt waters, and heavily and scarcely vegetated areas. Various species of turtles reside in every type of wetland environment.
Did You Know?
- The majority of turtles that you see on the road are females traveling to their annual nesting sites.
- Turtles like to eat dead material lying on the bottom of ponds, lakes, and wetlands. Turtles keep the water clean!
- Snapping turtles rarely snap at humans in water. They do not like the way people smell or taste.
- If you are helping a turtle cross the road, be sure to move the turtle in the same direction it was originally headed. DO NOT turn it back around! It is likely it will try to cross the road again.
- If you touch a turtle, it is important that you wash your hands thoroughly. Turtles may carry salmonella.
How to Protect Turtles?
- Avoid walking or driving on sandy areas where turtles are nesting.
- Create a “no wake zone” to reduce damage to shoreline wetland habitats and stop the removal of plant materials.
- Do not remove turtles from their natural habitats.
What Can You Do?
- You can put signs and small barriers around nesting sites and wetlands that are on your property.
- You can contact local programs to help pay for habitat restoration in your area.
- You can add beneficial features to turtle habitat by planting native plants to buffer wetlands and turtle nesting areas. This will attract frogs, snails, insects, and other species that turtles eat.
On April 1st residents of Lafourche Parish and places farther afield had a sunny and windy day to celebrate the 4th Annual Leeville Art & Heritage Festival in Golden Meadow, LA. Organized by Launch Leeville, this festival works to highlight changes in the landscape and community around Leeville as processes like subsidence, erosion, and sea level rise convert land to water. Staff from the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act, and other exhibitors such as the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, were present to talk about the causes of land loss and options for protecting and restoring what remains. In addition to live music, craft vendors, and a shrimp boulette competition, festival-goers could learn about coastal restoration projects, see Houma basket weaving demonstrations, and participate in a fishing rodeo.
Leeville sits along Bayou Lafourche and Louisiana Rt. 1, two geographic features that have witnessed a number of CWPPRA projects, from the West Belle Pass Headland Restoration (TE-23) project, which created new marsh and stabilized shorelines to the south of Port Fourchon, to the GIWW to Clovelly Hydrologic Restoration (BA-02) project, which increased freshwater availability to prevent higher salinity levels which could damage local vegetation. Another CWPPRA project, East Leeville Marsh Creation and Nourishment (BA-194), is currently in engineering & design and would provide increased southeastern protection for Leeville from weather and tides. Preserving the livelihoods and heritage of small communities like Leeville requires both protecting their physical setting and giving them the time and space to develop strategies for a changing future.