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.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


This past weekend was the first annual Eagle Expo, in Morgan City. It would be an understatement to say it was a success. By almost any measure it exceeded expectations, from the boats that ran on time to the wonderful cool weather to the profusion of magnificent eagles. No one could quite believe that by just driving to Morgan City you could see so many American Bald Eagles. On Friday afternoon, in a space of three hours on Lake Verret and Bayou Magazile we saw 17 individuals and we saw them 29 times. We saw them as immature brown birds and we saw them as the white-headed, white-tailed adults. We saw them sitting majestically atop huge, old cypress trees and we saw them on 2000 pound nests tending young. We even saw them catching fish right out there in plain sight. And when we saw them at a distance to begin with, suddenly they would fly right over the boat at a height of 30 feet. Even the cheapest cameras got good pictures of eagles.

But, oddly enough, the eagle was not the highlight of my birding weekend. No, it was a single peregrine falcon, sitting in silhouette with the fading sun in the background. My first peregrine falcon in Louisiana, although my friends seem to see them pretty often. There is something about that bird and the stories about them. They don’t scavenge carrion like eagles. No, they descend from heights at over 100 miles per hour and knock their prey dead in a single blow. That kind of power seems to deserve that we notice them, and be impressed. Sometimes they seem to get carried away, apparently, and kill for the sake of doing it – not for food. Maybe they have to practice? Mike told me a story this weekend about some peregrines that spend the winter on Marsh Island. They learn to follow the airboats and when ducks flush from the boats, the peregrines dive on them and knock them out of the air, and often don’t eat them. He says when you’re driving the boat and you see ducks get up and you look back over your shoulder, you see this pigeon-sized bullet coming down from the sky shaped like a feathered fist. And wham! Of course something does eat the ducks, the mink and otter and coons are only too happy to find an easy meal.

Anyway, I like peregrines, and it was the top bird for me that weekend – even with the eagles on parade, as it were.

The Carolina wren picks weevils, I think, out of the black oil sunflower seeds. I know it sure scatters the seeds looking for something, and weevils might be that something.

The river is at 10.0 feet at the Butte La Rose gauge today. It will fall a foot or so more and then it should take a stand. The Mississippi and Ohio are just kind of being sedate for the time being.

Rise and shine, Jim


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