With winter behind us migratory waterfowl have begun to be spotted on waterways within St. Charles Parish.
On a water retention pond at the Monsanto plant in Luling many different species of waterfowl have been photographed. Some of the varieties that have been spotted so far this year are blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, northern shovelers, canvasbacks, redheads, gadwall, mallards and the roseate spoon-billed ibis.
As a member of the Wildlife Habitat Council Monsanto has encouraged the cultivation of the environment around the plant to allow more access for wildlife to come and visit and for plant visitors to enjoy the wildlife.
Workers with the plantís Wildlife Committee have taken steps to sustain the birds such as planting native vegetation for feeding purposes and setting up nest boxes for species like the wood duck, the mottled duck, and the black-bellied whistling duck that call the plant home year round.
"We actually just hosted the Southeast Regional Wildlife Habitat Council conference last June here at the plant at our Wildlife Committee nature trail," said Warren Freman, co-Chairperson of the Wildlife Committee. "So we do a good bit with all of our extra areas throughout the plant."
Freman said the plant first began cultivating its grounds with a mind towards wildlife in the 1980s, but that in recent years the volunteer workforce that makes it possible has slowly taken on projects meant to further transform the plantís grounds and all signs are there will not be any stopping soon.
"The problem is I have a regular job here at the plant," said Freman. "Iím not just a wildlife guy. Thatís all extracurricular stuff."
Even though the members of the committee are also work full-time workers at the plant, they have been purposeful in the transformation of the grounds all the same. In that vein, the committee constructed a nature trail on the land.
"It was a work in progress about 6 years ago and we just took off with a machete and a roll of flagging tape and mapped out this little trail in a block of woods," said Freman.
The trail is now used as a learning environment that is often taken advantage of by local scouting units and schools.
"Theyíll come and do studies and come and do just little wildlife classes," Freman said. "We have the butterfly garden that [girl scouts] come in and plant every spring time."
The newest addition to the grounds will be a butterfly dome. Construction on the dome is planned to end by mid summer and after a year of growing plants within the dome it should be ready for visitors.
"We actually have a big screened in walkthrough area where they are actually going to grow the butterflies from larval stage and have all of that going on for kids to see when they are on the tour," said Freman.
The plant grounds are certified as Corporate Lands for Learning through the Wildlife Habitat Council, which gives them the distinction of being recognized as a place where ecological learning can begin within the community.
Freman said the migratory waterfowl are expected to move on soon, but there will be others to take their place.
"We also see quite a few migratory song birds - indigo buntings, the painted bunting to migratory warblers - that are coming through," said Freman. "That is getting ready to kick off."