This blog originates on the banks of the Atchafalaya River, in Louisiana. It proposes to share the things that happen on and by the river as the seasons progress. As the river changes from quiet, warm, slow flow to rises of eighteen feet or more, there are changes in the lives of the birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles that use the river. And the mood of the river changes with the seasons. I propose to note and comment on these things.

My Photo
Location: Butte La Rose, Louisiana, United States

I transitioned a few years ago from a career as a water-pollution control biologist. I want to do this blog to stay in touch with a world outside my everyday surroundings, whatever they may be. I like open-minded company and the discussion of ideas. Photo by Brad Moon.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

A Comfortable Drabness

Well, as I thought, cut bait isn’t the best bait to use right now. Off of the hundred hooks, only eight catfish were caught – four channel cats and four blue cats. The picture is of one of the blue cats. You can tell the difference between these two common species in several ways, the easiest is the straight edge of the anal fin (the bottom fin just in front of the tail) on the blue cat, and the rounded outline of the anal fin on the channel cat. There usually are spots on the smaller channel cats, but this isn’t consistent. The spots vary in number and size, and sometimes aren’t there at all. So, shape of the anal fin is the preferred diagnostic character.

We still have hummingbirds using the feeders. I saw the marked buff-bellied hummer this morning; the marking is the spot of temporary paint Dave put on the top of its head when we captured it. It’s the one that was banded and has returned here from way far away for three years now. The other one is an immature rufous hummer. It likes to use the feeder right outside the window where I’m writing this. I mean, it’s three feet from my elbow. This morning there is an unusually large number of honeybees trying to get at the sugarwater in the feeder. There are bee guards on all four ports on the feeder but there must be enough nectar that they can reach to keep them interested. The hummer buzzes around in what must be a disruptive way until one of the ports is free of bees and then drinks from it. I wonder what would happen if these were Africanized bees? Would they attack the bird?

We host spotted sandpipers on the Atchafalaya all year long. I think this species is the only member of this group (shorebirds) that routinely lives in the Atchafalaya Basin. Others may sometimes be seen passing through on their way to someplace where there are mudflats and such, but the spotted sp stays here in the bayous. When you flush a small shorebird (usually only one to three) as you run a boat in the Basin, and the bird flies away near the water calling “tweep…… tweep”, it’s usually a spotted sandpiper. If you get a good look at one right now, you might wonder why it’s called spotted if there are no spots, and right now there aren’t. The spots will appear only as it changes its clothes to enter the breeding season in the spring. And just as some folks who have been with partners for a long time, and the need to be flashy is over, a certain comfortable drabness sets in – kind of a low maintenance mode. Sure takes a lot less energy. And so the bird is spotted for part of the year, and kind of unremarkably brown and white the rest of the year.

The river is at 4.2 feet on the Butte La Rose gauge. And it looks like some water will be coming down in the next week or so. The Mississippi has a two-foot-plus rise from Cairo down and the Ohio is rising about 1.5 feet/day. Not a whole lot, but some change will show up down here from this.

Rise and shine, Jim


Post a Comment

<< Home