Volume 5 - December 15, 2003

Pokin' Around the Pontchartrain

The Wetland Wanderer is back.  It’s repaired and cleaned up and ready to go after a long journey on a truck from Kentucky.  Too bad we did not get to finish our voyage down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.  Winter is upon us, the marinas were closing, the rivers were becoming swollen with rainwaters, and navigation conditions were too dangerous to complete the journey.  Our schedule has been altered from un-foreseen difficulties, but CC, Annie and I will persevere. Please remember that you can archive back to our past stories at the top of the Coastal Correspondent Newsletter to review our adventures so far. Also click on JOURNAL on our home page and archive back for stories from CC and Rhea.


We are ready to move into the marshes near Lafitte, Louisiana and sadly into Barataria Bay an area losing land as fast as any place in Louisiana.  Right now we are on the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain. Lake Pontchartrain is Louisiana’s largest lake covering 625 square miles. The Lake Pontchartrain Basin has the complete list of coastal habitats CC describes in his Gulf Coast Book.  The fringe, marsh, bays, islands and Gulf.  The rivers in St. Tammany Parish are lined with bald cypress swamp, the marsh fills the area north of Chandeleur Sound, which is like a bay, and the Chandeleur islands are the barriers before the Gulf.  Piney woods north of Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River to the west are also in this Basin. The Pontchartrain Basin covers over 4,700 square miles of land. All the land in this basin drains into rivers, canals, and bayous which empty into Lake Pontchartrain and it’s connecting sister lakes, Maurepas and Borgne. The water in Lake Pontchartrain is brackish because it is connected to the Gulf of Mexico. A strait called the Rigolets and Chef Mentuer Pass allow water to flow between Lake Pontchartrain and the Gulf. This connection to salt waters makes the lake an Estuarine System.


CC and I plan to go out with the scientist of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation to learn more about this area soon.  I want you to learn about habitats that blend together to form a complete ecosystem such as ours on the Louisiana Coast.

Our State Bird

Arf!  Our state bird is flying by as we put the Wetland Wanderer back in the water on the Industrial Canal in New Orleans.  The Brown Pelican, Pelicanus occidentalis, is an endangered species success story.  CC tells me that in 1962 this long winged, big-pouched fish eating bird was extinct in the state.  Not really extinct because they were still living in Florida and other places, extirpated is the word we use to say they are gone from one certain area.


This was sad because it is our state bird.  The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and fisheries decided to do something about that problem.  They borrowed some birds from Florida and put them on a small but safe island near Grand Isle and watched them very closely.  Over the next 41 years they prospered.  And now we have them all over the Louisiana coast flying in formation looking for fish.


The reason they all died was because they were eating fish that had been eating smaller fish that had been eating aquatic plants that were poisoned with DDT, a very toxic pesticide that had gotten in the waters of Louisiana after it ran off farm fields and went into streams, then rivers, then into the coast.  The DDT did not kill the pelicans out right. DDT caused their eggshells to be thinned, so when the parents sat on the eggs to incubate them they broke.  With no new baby birds they soon all died.


We have banned DDT so now the Brown Pelican, the Osprey, and the Bald Eagle are laying good eggs and raising healthy baby birds.


I watched a Brown Pelican dive-bomb into the water to catch a fish to eat. This cool water bird has a lower beak that is a built in fish trap. The beak has hard edges with a pouch of loose skin that can stretch to hold over two gallons of water! The Brown Pelican can dive from 30 feet in the air, fill its beak with water, drain the water out, and swallow the fish whole. What a great fisherman this creature is! I hope I will be half as successful with the new fishing pole I asked Santa-dog to bring me!

Prowling around the Pontchartrain,

Your M.U.T.T. in the marsh signing off……..


- Lake Pontchartrain is Louisiana’s largest lake and it is apart of a huge watershed or basin which contains many coastal habitats.
- The Lake Pontchartrain Basin is an estuarine system because it is directly connected to the Gulf.
Find the meanings of cool words like tributary, sediment, or amphibian and many more...
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1. Write a paragraph describing a Brown Pelican. Use plenty of adjectives! Illustrate your description on the bottom of the page using colored pencils.

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la·gniappe    (ln-yp, lnyp)
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Audubon Elementary asks:
We learned that the environment determines an area's ecosystem.  What might happen if an area has a dramatic decrease in rainfall?
CC answers:  It could turn into a desert habitat if the rainfall goes below 10 inches per year.  New Orleans get a little over 60 inches per year.
Phoenix Magnet Elementary asks:
Has Annie ever been chased or attacked by any of the animals she has encountered on your trip?
Sue answers:  Annie is a good observer of nature.  She is usually still and quiet in the wild.  She has never been chased or attacked.  However, her one weakness is chasing squirrels.  Annie cannot stop stalking them.  When she sees them she points to the tree they are in.
Southern University Laboratory School asks:
What are some preventative measures that scientists have exployed to save our wetlands?  Are these preventative measures working?
CC answers:  Most of the work being done would be considered repair like the siphons put up along the Mississippi River to get the sediment back out into the marsh.  Sue and I are going out to the Davis Pond project this week and will write about it next week. 

Many measures are working, but now they are on a small scale, putting a few new acres of marsh back where we have lost much.  Many more projects are on the drawing board.
St. Mary's Nativity School asks:
How old is Annie and how long have you had her?
Sue answers:  Annie is three and a half years odl, we got her when she and her sister walked up our driveway one summer evening.  They were puppies.  Nobody claimed them so we kept Annie and gave her sister to a neighbor.  Annie is a great companion and a very smart canine!  Annie has good manners because Abby, our 14 year old dog keeps her in check.  Abby is too old for marshmission adventures but she is a great influence on Annie!
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