Arquivos de periódicos de julho 2019

06 de julho de 2019

Earth Day Volunteer Effort to Help LBJ National Historical Park Reduce the Invasion of Alien Species

We did it. As you may have noticed below, Town Creek - It's an Adventure! Creek Cleanup Notice, I described our efforts to help the park work on their own Town Creek and wetlands riparian habitat projects. If you're interested in the details, read below, but here I am pasting my summary of how our efforts are now beginning to demonstrate benefits to our approach towards the major invasive species in our area, Ligustrum, Chinese Tallow, and Japanese Honeysuckle. Here is the excerpt from my enewsletter to our volunteer group and those allies working on or supporting our efforts:

To start off, I have news and information I want to share about Town Creek and LBJ NHP’s riparian habitat and the progress we are making on our efforts at both places. I think you’ll be surprised.

First, some great news. Chinese tallows are dying, tall limbs are loosing their leaves. The other day I walked to the creek behind downtown and took a look at the tallows I had girdled prior to our work at the Settlement. I discovered several branches had lost their leaves and died. I was stunned, quite frankly, but a day or so later, showed Cali when she came downtown to give me a copy of the riparian book she obtained from Hill Country Alliance (as I already have a copy of this book, the one she gave me will be available to anyone wishing to learn more about natives vs alien invasive ones.). We made certain the limbs were ones I had girdled which meant trudging into the underbrush to manually get hold of the actual branch and make sure it was the object of our interest. They were and we confirmed the dying branches. So the next day I checked the trees at the Settlement, and the same phenomenon is happening. The trees are dying high up - photos included. As this process continues, I am sure we will see a significant set back for this species on the wetland and portions of the creek we’ve worked. And this bodes well for our efforts and lends credulity to our current work and points the way to further efforts.

Oh, and speaking of girdling. I checked in with Cliff Tyllick about several things and he realized that he might have misled me into thinking that Ligustrum had to be girdled at the base of the tree. But it was I who misunderstood, not Cliff, and as the photo of Alison Northup showed in the TXDOT online magazine, you may girdle the Ligustrum anyplace the volunteer feels most comfortable working. That means waist high or so is not a problem. I would also believe, based on what is happening with our Chinese Tallows, that a wider girdle would be more effective than a smaller one. I would imitate the work we did on the tallows as an experiment and see if we don’t get better results. I would also recommend the same technique we used on the tallows, to scrape away the bark and living layer of the Ligustrum with the use of a flexible small saw in place of the linoleum scrapers we used. The saw makes quick work of the scraping and can bite deeper into the trunk when used well. But this is up to the volunteer to decide how to work the Ligustrum, just doesn’t have to be at the base, but does have to include each branch of a single shrub or tree.

To be continued...

Posted on 06 de julho de 2019, 02:36 AM by billarbon billarbon | 3 observações | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário

Experiences With The Great Barracuda

I promised this story to Joe MDO,, about an experience or two I had years ago. I'll start with the Stella Maris, Long Island, Bahamas story and add others when and if anyone wants to hear more.

In summer of '77, my wife and I went to Stella Maris with Alan Tennant, author of The Snakes of Texas, and his wife. We stayed a week or so and each day had a completely different and exciting adventure snorkeling in various place around the northern half of the island. Long Island is one of the Bahama out islands far from the gathering hordes of tourists and the wildness of the place and its beautiful waters is really beyond compare. The island is partially surrounded by deep ocean water - greater than 3000 feet deep - of Exuma Sound and the Atlantic Ocean along the east and north coast similar to'Tongue of the Ocean' which wraps around the west side of the Nassau. Long Island has a very sizable shelf of typically shallow, clear and calm water where boats seem to bob at anchor in thin air. Visibility is always excellent (well of course, I wasn't there always). In shallow or deeper water, doing a 360 degree spin gives the impression that there is no limit to how far you can see. I always reckon it was like sitting on the sofa of your living room. Inside the room it's as clear as can be and just look out the window and see as far as you are able. Of course, that's not true. Is it? But I digress. We're after Great Barracuda in this story and we got'em like it or not. Here's how that happened.

One of the excursions you take - or are offered at Stella Maris, is a trip to the coral heads off the northeastern tip of the island. The water where you're taken is about a hundred feet deep, but it's still part of the sandy shallow shelf that fringes the island. Peppered on the bottom are these large columns of stacked coral that grow towards the surface, so the coral heads can be quite close to the surface while the base may be in 90 feet of water (anyone who has been there more recently than me and wishes to dispute my story is welcome). The boat from the eastern dock at Stella Maris is a large cabin cruiser type that can carry plenty of people and gear, which it has to as this is a scuba diving trip and there are a good number of scuba divers angling to get to the bottom of these coral heads. Local Bahamian guides accompany us and they free dive to the bottom to point out interesting items and highlights. While all the divers went to the bottom, I tried to follow free diving, but truth is, you have to acclimate to the technique and I just wasn't there long enough, but venture I achieve about a third of the way down to the bottom. I was able to get down to the coral heads and poke around a bit before fleeing to the surface for air. As I had grown up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I had been accustomed to free diving, but that was just too many years prior to this trip.

One of the highlights of the trip is to feed the Nassau Groupers and you are given sandwiches and such in plastic bags to lure the fish close. Ha! Lure, hell, the Groupers are so used to the routine, they command the show and woe indeed is the person who is not able to pass out the treats fast enough. Before the show ends, the final participants show up for their treats: Great Barracuda. Big ones. And yes, I know my mask magnifies my surroundings and what I see, but I saw these guys from the boat as well and they were good sized. No doubt about it. And they were not aggressive. I swear. Anyway, with the end of the sandwiches, and the return of the scuba divers from the bottom, it was time for everyone to get into the boat. For some reason though, I didn't get the message and the first thing I notices was I was alone in the ocean. No one but me and the fishes. Knowing now I needed to vacate the scene, I started to the back of the boar when all of a sudden things began to hit the surface of the water and sink. The large chunks of an off color sort of creamy pinkish meat was sinking slowly around me. The guides were feeding the Barracuda their treats of fresh conch and I was in the middle of the feeding pool.

Barracuda began swishing and zooming, speeding through the water grabbing their 'prey' and it was like I was just with them. Among them. One of them? I don't think so. The place was literally swarming with Barracuda - most other fishes having disappeared, and as I neared the boat a piece of conch landed right in front of my faceplate. Interesting, I thought, and then a huge head, mouth open wide, teeth shinning, glittering, smiling lips, converged on the tid bit, mouth snapped shut, and brushed past my face. Wow, that was close! Cool, though. Yes, but then again. Deciding I'd better turn myself in, I looked up out of the water at the people on board and let them know I was still in the water. Pandamonium ensued and in no time, I was heaved aboard amid a profusion of apologies, none of which were necessary, thank you. I had one of the most memorial - but not the last encounter with the Great Barracuda! I hope everyone can have as great an experience with these toothy speedsters.

PS, I don't have any photos to share of the Great Barracuda. Yet. Oh, and the native guides who fee dived to the bottom? They could move about and stay down almost as long as the scuba tourists;-) Seriously.

Experiences, part II

So this second experiences with Great Barracuda is probably my first as an adult and not part of an earlier family experience of living on the Gulf of Mexico in Biloxi, Mississippi. This experience happened out of the water with me as an observer and not participant in the diving that went on in the Gulf of Mexico where this experience took place. I got a summer job one year during my college years working offshore Louisiana for Brown and Root, the oilfield equipment and support company. My job was as a welder's helper on a Pipelay barge which is an ocean going barge towed by ocean going tugboats. The tugboats pull the barge along as five sections of oil field pipe are welded on board and then lowered to the bottom linking oil drilling platforms with pump stations and at the like. The barge is a free floating affair that is in every way ship except it has no self propulsion, hence it rocks and rolls like you would expect. From my earliest memories of steaming back from Japan on an Army transport ship in the late '40s, I felt right at home above and below decks waiting my shift's turn, or turning in afterwards. Rockabbyebaby rings true. But I digress.

Often after my noon to midnight shift I would go up on deck, find a secluded spot on the railing and sit and watch the sea, the waves, and the play of the barge's lights upon the water as we rose and fell with the waves. As it turns out, just like on land, sea creatures in myriad forms are attracted to the lights cast by the barge and as these lights have to match the power of sunlight to give working men vision to weld and seal the pipeline before its 150 foot plunge to the bottom of this portion of offshore, I got to take in the scene with an emphasis on nature instead of industry. As this was summer, the water around us abound in warm water and tropical species of fishes, many of which were pelagic instead of coastal and shallow water types. Oh, and the water was crystal clear so peering into the depths was not a problem and in fact, I never did stop thinking of a way to get into that water. Alas, it did not come to pass.

It did do so for the professional divers and it was they who had the actual personal experiences with the local Barracuda, which were numerous. The reason for that was simple: Flying fish. Out here offshore the Atchafalaya River and Bay was the motherlode of fishes and out on the blue water, the motherlode of flying fish. Flying fish are large sardine like fish, silvery and deep blue on top and like sardines, are tasty to lots of other fish, hence their need to escape. They have evolved the ability to glide thanks to their long airfoil shaped pectoral fins which extends their leaps from the waters to many meters from where they leaped to escape a predator. Their flights are spectacular and it is not uncommon to see numerous individuals flying at the same time. Around the pipelay barge, Flying fish congregated, especially at night in the bright lights. And that's where my second story comes in; a bit about that in a moment.

One of the functions of the pipelay barge is to make the pipe connections to oil wells (heads) and such, all of which are underwater, on the bottom to be exact, because the pipe and the well heads have to meet up and the pipelines lie solidly on the bottom of the Gulf. It is the responsibility of the professional divers to make the actual connections there and have their own welding abilities, etc, all of which takes place as they dive to their job sites. They were paid many times more than I was, and for good reason, one of which is the dangers they face. While the Great Barracuda is usually content to chasing tasty Flying Fishes, sometimes they get unruly and on one occasion this happened. One of our divers who was already vexed over the difficulties he was having connecting two parts of the pipeline surfaced to shout for a speargun. He said he was being harassed by a Barracuda and wanted some protection with him or he would not go back down. A speargun was produced and back down he went. The barracuda was not heard from again.

But my own experience happened at night and what I learned was that Barracuda are smart. Hell, probably all fish are smart (so many teach people how to feed them), but I had the opportunity to see another cunning Barracuda in action. This was at night on the dark side of the barge where I was, but the water around my location was lit by our lights so I could see the action clearly. What I saw was several schools of Flying fish being herded by Barracuda into the light of our barge. Both species played cat and mouse with the Flying fish moving constantly forward of the Barracuda. Once the big predators got too near, the Flying fish leaped out of the water and flew a distance away, but still around the lights, so the pattern would just repeat itself until...One large Barracuda herded his school of Flying fish ever closer to the side of our shell living quarters and after feigning an attack made his prey flush right into the steel side of our barge, knocking themselves senseless, floating on the surface and easy meal for the enterprising Barracuda. Watching and observing during the 40 some odd days I was on the water allowed me to see much of the offshore life of the Gulf of Mexico I had longed to see. From daylight sightings of mating sharks, to a stupendous night-time surface display of a beautiful Sailfish right in front of me were some of the other highlights of my toil. I wouldn't have traded them for anything, but one thing I knew at the end of my voyage. I would never go back to the oilfields to make a living. And I didn't.

Posted on 06 de julho de 2019, 03:17 AM by billarbon billarbon | 6 comentários | Deixar um comentário