Volume 9 - January 19, 2004
Aerial view of Grand Isle, Louisiana, a barrier island.

Grand Isle

Marshmission teacher, Sue Lockwood, bird-watching on the beaches of Grand Terre.

The day we moved the Wetland Wanderer from the dock at Lafitte to the barrier island Grand Isle, my eyes were opened to beautiful sights. Chugging along at about ten miles per hour on a crystal clear day, the wide open Louisiana marsh stole my heart! The Wanderer can go up to twenty-two miles per hour, but we travel slowly due to not only our extra boat mounted on the stern, but also to the quickly changing water depths. We need or “draw,” as sailors say, at least four feet of water to run smoothly.


 On the Barataria waterway, the main navigable part is dredged for large vessels and marked with buoys. We traveled through brackish marshlands. Fishermen, crabbers, and hunters passed us in a variety of boats. CC commented on the large amount of open water around us. He remembered much more marshland in this area in the past. Our vanishing marshes, real places really gone forever, how awful!


All the way to Grand Isle we were followed by laughing gulls hoping to spot a fish stirred up by our propellers. Halfway down the waterway, to my delight, bottlenose dolphins began to appear. Brown pelicans with bright yellow heads, their breeding plumage, were ever-present on our trip.


As we approached the marina at Pirate’s Cove (an old Jean Lafitte hang out!) on Grand Isle we were lucky to find our friends the Hebert family from Plaquemine. The Heberts helped us park the Wetland Wanderer in windy conditions. We are so grateful for the help we receive from so many wonderful friends, old and new.


Grand Isle was full of surprises. A very special surprise was meeting Governor Mike Foster and his lovely wife Alice! We enjoyed an evening visiting with them and some of their best friends at their Grand Isle camp. The two term Governor has spent over forty-seven years hunting, fishing, scuba-diving, and flying over south Louisiana. He has an appreciation for the abundance of life and great recreational activities that this area offers. Over dinner, the Governor and his buddy Sid told us story after story of adventures on and off the shores of south Louisiana.  


Governor Foster feels that this is a critical time in Louisiana’s history. He believes that Louisiana citizens and government representatives must act quickly to preserve, rebuild, and protect the delicate habitats that we all take for granted. Our hats are off to Governor Mike Foster who has is an enthusiastic Louisiana outdoorsmen, sportsmen, and advocate of wetlands preservation!


Grand Isle is one of the larger inhabited barrier islands on Louisiana’s coast. The southern edge of Barataria-Terrebonne Estuary is bounded by a chain of barrier islands, including  Grand Terre (just east of Grand Isle) and Timbalier, Dernieres,and Raccoon Point (to its west). The diverse habitats are home to a large variety of wildlife, each with special needs.


 The sandy beaches on the Gulf, the low sand dunes, shallow near-shore waters, and back barrier marshes provide resting, nesting, and foraging areas for seabirds, shorebirds, and migrating songbirds. These islands also help protect coastal bays and marshes from waves and storm surges. Baby fish, shrimp, and crabs seek refuge in the shallows behind the barrier island. Large fish and dolphins love the deep tidal passes between the islands.


High, well drained sand ridges on Grand Isle have maritime forest with live oak trees and thickets. These woodlands are important to millions of songbirds that use them as their first rest stop after a long journey across the Gulf of Mexico. These birds spend our winters in Central and South America, and it is a l-o-n-g flight home.


Unfortunately, every year the barrier islands decrease in size and many islands are projected to be gone in a few years if restoration projects do not work. What will become of the gulls, terns, plovers, pelicans, skimmers, songbirds, marsh rabbits, and other creatures if we turn our backs to the problem?

Giggling with Gulls

A Laughing Gull follows the Wetland Wanderer looking for tidbits of food in our wake.

I have been getting my exercise on the beaches of Grand Isle! CC and Sue do not have a car so when we need groceries Sue and I jog two miles down the beach to the Sureway Market. Graceful gulls are everywhere and when you run up to a group of them they explode into the air in a beautiful pattern. We have seen laughing, ring-billed, and herring gulls on our trip so far. These birds eat a lot of different stuff including eggs and babies of other seabirds. Gulls are the “vultures” of the coast cleaning up edible “garbage” or carrian washed ashore.  I call them garbage gulls and they get kinda mad! The laughing gull is my favorite so far having a black head in the summer and a white head in the winter! COOL! They also have a funny voice. “HA-ha-ha-ha haah-haah,” cries this small coastal laughing gull (Larus atricilla). 

Until next week, Annie says, “Do your homework early so you can have free time!”


ARF ARF………………and signing off………ANNIE THE M.U.T.T. of  the MARSH

- Barrier islands provide rich habitats for a great variety of animals, birds, fish, and plants.
- Barrier islands protect inland areas and people from storms.
Find the meanings of cool words like tributary, sediment, or amphibian and many more...
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1. Write a SYNTU about our vanishing wetlands.

A Syntu is a 5 line poem about a natural feature of our earth.
Line 1- Name the natural feature: one word
Line 2- Write about the natural feature using one of your 5 senses: no limit on number of words.
Line 3- Write a thought, feeling or evaluation about the natural feature: no limit on number of words.
Line 4- Write another idea about the natural feature referring to a second sense, one that differs from line 2: no limit on number of words.
Line 5- write a SYNONYM for the natural feature named in line 1: use 1 word



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la·gniappe    (ln-yp, lnyp)
2. An extra or unexpected gift or benefit

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Little Caillou Elementary asks:
We are part of a project called Bayouside Classroom where we do water sampling in Bayou Petit Caillou which runs in front of our school.  As part of this, we test water temperature, salinity, and dissolved oxygen.  Do you do any water sampling at the sites you visit?  If so, what are you finding out?

CC answers:  We are not doing water samples ourselves, but we have talked to the researchers at the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation who do weekly samples on the lake.  There findings are at:
Metairie Park Country Day School asks:
Our class now has eight crawfish as a class pet.  We are researching the best way to take care of them.  Have you seen much evidence of crawfish in your travels and do you have any advice for us?
CC answers:  We are in teh salt marsh right now, so there are no crawfish.  In February we will be in the Atchafalaya Basin where crawfish abound.  Crawfish will eat just about any meat you feed them and don't forget to give them a place to hide!
Southfield School asks:
Why is this a good time of the year to make  your trip?
Sue answers:  We are going to be out in the marsh in all four searson.  Spring and fall will be the most beautiful.  Winter is rough because of all of the cold fronts, but it is necessary to be out here for our project.
St. James Episcopal Day School asks:
Will the Wetland Wanderer travel through the Plaquemine Locks during this mission?
Sue answers:  The Plaquemine Lock is a historical landmark.  It is now closed because it is old.  The Port Allen Lock replaced it and is near the Port of Baton Rouge.  We plan on traveling up this route sometime in the spring.
St. Mary's Nativity School asks:
When was the water hyacinth introduced here?  What country does it come from?  What problems does it cause?
CC answers:  The water hyacinth was introduced to Louisiana at the World's Fair in New Orleans in 1884 as an ornamental plant.  It was brought from South America.
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