Volume 11 - December 2, 2004
Aerial of the salt water marsh near Highway One in Leeville, Louisiana.

Salty Circumstances

High cirrus clouds over a salt marsh.

Being tied to a pole in the salt marsh surrounded by water and the wind blown winter marsh grass is different! The two towers of the Leeville, Louisiana Bridge on Highway One rise above our “wet-prairie” view. At night the lights of oil rigs twinkle in the distance. The tide’s ebb and flow is as obvious as daylight and dark and I realize its importance to the salt marsh.


We arrived here a few days ago from the “easy life” on Grand Isle. Wonderful people, a cool beach to explore, and a nice grocery store seem far away from here. At the marina in Grand Isle we enjoyed shore power and water; here we must conserve the fresh water in our tanks and electricity from our generator. I am glad they invented fleece clothing! Natures Grocery Store has been open and we have caught redfish and snagged oysters off the muddy shoreline at low tide. I can certainly understand how the salt marsh has provided a living for many people through time. Native Americans, first, then early European settlers knew and enjoyed the bounty from this marshy maze.


Salt marshes occur where salinity is highest. The Gulf regularly floods salt marshes making grasses and an occasional small black mangrove patch the only vegetation that can survive. Many kinds of fish live in the salt marsh and birds abound. Redfish, speckled trout, blue crabs, and shrimp move in and out of the salt marsh at different times during their lifecycle in order to survive. Did you know that the delicious blue crab begins life in the Gulf as an egg, hatches into a zoea larva, grows to a megalops larva, and then swims to the salt marsh to become an immature blue crab! The little crab hides among the marsh grass growing until it is large enough to go back into the Gulf and start the cycle again laying eggs of its own! Lifecycles of creatures are so interesting and need such specific conditions!


The salt marsh needs to stay healthy just like you! It needs fresh water from the land to bring it nutrients and sediment. The tide pushes salt water into the marsh and when the tide goes out to sea, the salt water drains and fresh water from the land can move into the salt marsh on its way to the sea. The salt marsh food web includes plants, detritus (dead plants), and phytoplankton which store energy from the sun just like plants. Zooplankton also abound. These tiny creatures float in the water and some grow into larger creatures such as crabs. Oysters and baby fish use zooplankton as their main source of food. The many birds, raccoons, fish, shrimp, oysters, and crab that make the salt marsh their home eat well!


The salt marshlands are rich habitats. The day we moved the Wanderer into the salt marsh from Grand Isle we were lucky to have CC’s college buddy, Ray Cheramie, riding with us to help navigate. As we traveled through wide open expanses of sparkling water, I was saddened as Ray told story after story of growing up in these marshes. Land masses that “used to be here” were apart of almost every tale. Man’s activities and natures causes are to blame. Ray is an advocate for restoration projects. Realizing that if you took all the land that is lost to water in 45 minutes and put it all together, it would equal an area of land the size of a football field. If my Baton Rouge neighborhood was vanishing at that rate I think I would PANIC!

The Bodacious Black Skimmer

A flock of Black Skimmers following the Wetland Wanderer.

I am in grassland! Sue has been catching some redfish for supper and I have been tiptoeing around sharp oyster beds. My land wanderings have been difficult because the grasses are taller than me and this salt marsh is mucky muddy! We are seeing lots of bird life but I have decided to tell you about one of the friends I made back on Grand Isle, the black skimmer (rynchops niger). This brightly colored bird and I really hit it off. Red happens to be my favorite color so this shorebird really caught my canine eye! CC captured some nice photos of the black skimmer and I just loved this short-legged bird. It has a scissor like bill but the top bill is shorter than the bottom bill! The bill is bright red tipped with black. At dusk it flies low over the water with its beak open. The long bottom part of its beak slices through the water like a knife. If it touches a fish both parts of the beak snap shut to catch a meal! The body of my skimmer friend is beautiful, black on top and white below. It has long graceful wings which make it a lovely flier. CC calls the skimmers the Grand Isle Air force with their fine uniforms and their skill in flight.  Skimmers also make a barking sound which really caught my attention. I am learning to appreciate many different creatures and many ways of life in the wetlands. Be tolerant and appreciate differences in your school friends and in your travels because it will open your eyes to richness and diversity! Each of us has a story and a heritage that is important to share.

Your salty M.U.T.T. Annie signing off from the spongy wetlands near Leeville!

Have a great week!

- The salt marsh has provided a bounty of food and a livelihood to many people throughout time.
- The salt marsh needs a balance of salt water and fresh water with its combination of sediment and nutrients to keep it a rich habitat.
Find the meanings of cool words like tributary, sediment, or amphibian and many more...
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1. Find an article this week in a newspaper concerning wetland loss, endangered species, or a coastal resource such as oil or shrimp. Cut your article out and attach it in your journal. Write a one paragraph opinion about your article. Starter sentence ideas are following……….
One thing I learned is………
I would like to……….
One question I would ask is……..
Click here to find sources of more great information!
la·gniappe    (ln-yp, lnyp)
2. An extra or unexpected gift or benefit

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L.J. Alleman Middle School asks:
Do you fish or trap for animals to use for food while you are living in the basin?  What is the most common snake that you see in the basin?
CC answers:  Sue caught Redfish two times last week and cooked them for me.  The recipe will be up on the Recipe Page under Lagniappe, soon.  We have not trapped anything yet.  Once we reach the Atchafalaya Basin we may try to trap a few crawfish.

Most snakes I see livein the Atchafalaya Basin.  The one I see the most there is the Broad-banned water snake (Nerodia fasciata confluens).
St. Mary's Nativity School asks:
How much of Grand Isle has been lost over the years due to hurricanes, etc.?
CC answers:  Most barrier islands move and change over time.  The currents in Louisiana move sand from the west toward the east end of Grand Isle.  When there is no new sand to be moved, the island loses land.  I will have to research exactly how much land Grand Isle has lost in modern history due to hurricanes and get back to you.
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