April storms, fresh wildflowers, and imminent blue skies greeted us the few days we were at Armand Bayou. Armand bayou provides our crew with many projects and educational opportunities for it is one of the largest natural spaces inside an urban area in our country. Our PT was directly across an extremely active Rookery, where we were able to witness juvenile Great Blue Herons build their wing muscles by flapping them while poached on the structure. White Egrets would skim right over our heads and Roseate Pink Spoonbills sat deep in the rookery protecting their young. Deer would scatter around us, hopping from one spot to the next, and we even got to sneak a peek at an indigo bunting
The project was classic conservation work. We were helping close out an area where we previously fell large diameter sweet gum trees. That mostly consisted of chopping up the larger pieces of lumber into smaller ones which we would then transport into a nearby forest. This was to allow a large tractor with a batwing brush cutter to safely mow over the prarrie without destroying the equipment.
While half the crew was working on that the others with helping me fell medium sized tallow trees as well as trim the larger trees canopies to prevent them from creeping into the road. This was one of the projects where sensitivity to rare and even endangered wildlife was a key priority. The team clearing road corridor was right near the active rookery and many birds don’t like loud noises, especially blaring chainsaws. So during our breaks we would pause, gaze at the home of 100’s of birds and hopefully wait for something rare to fly over us.
Other than our standard work day, we did get to experience some of the common challenges we come across performing conservation work. And when you work in a coastal tall grass prairie you realize that if you step off one side of the main road you will sink, sink deep, and sink even deeper. Well, one of the UTV’s didn’t make it back from the worksite. It was buried deep, in a slick-muddy pile of gunk that was so soft that you leg could sink all the way to your knee, a fellow crew member, and my bigfoot sized field coordinator tried to push it out of the mud, and with my bosses strength we could pretty much lift the thing out of the mud, but because the mud was so soft, the frame was underneath the terrain thus preventing all the tires from spinning.
At that point we were in a large pickle and all hands on deck were required. The team that was out in the prarrie was called in to help get us unstuck. The whole team was helping now. Three on the front, two on each side, and the lightest member was driving. We all worked together and got the machine out of its sticky situation. Even though much of our afternoon was sacrificed in order to help a machine, we got to experience some of the challenges in working around sensitive habitats. Getting stuck is like a right of passage for conservation work. And the more experience you have getting unstuck the easier life will be for you in the future.