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, March 15, 2006

A Buzzard Tale, and Aphids

Interesting thing down at the river this morning. A single black vulture was across on the other bank working pretty hard to get an old, dried fish carcass to give up something for breakfast. It was standing on the carcass and pulling up on it with considerable force. It must have been a really dried up fish because the bird sure worked hard at it. The interesting thing was that there were also three crows on the ground around the buzzard, kind of like the scenes you see of Africa where the lesser scavengers try to move in on the main ones. But these crows had a technique I have never seen before. While two of them stood out in front of the vulture and dodged in and out, feinting, so to speak, the third one would go around behind and run in and pull the vulture’s tail. Honest! The first few times, the vulture would spin around and lunge at the crow, which was well out of reach by that time. Predictably, the two in front would grab the carcass and drag it away during the distraction but the vulture would turn and force them to jump back and up with a couple of wing flaps. After doing this two or three times, the vulture didn’t respond to the tail tweaking anymore, it just kept on worrying the carcass for more dried fish. The crows eventually gave up and flew off together down the bank. The vulture was still there when I came back up to the house. Looks like crows live up to their reputation as alert, intelligent birds, and teamwork is a tool they use. And vultures learn not to jump every time their tail is tweaked, teamwork or no.

It’s going to be a bad year for gardeners and a good one for aphids, if you go by what’s happening right now. The pictures show aphids both present and absent from a common weed in our yard, the sow-thistle (Sonchus sp.). These insects build up a population so fast it seems to happen overnight! My friends with the carefully planted and nurtured tomato plants had better be prepared. Sometimes I guess you have to resort to chemicals if the situation is bad enough, but I learned a trick from my father that is worth knowing, at least I think so. Aphids will try to avoid strong light if they can, and usually will try to stay under the leaves if possible in the brightest part of the day. The trick is to put pieces of aluminum foil under the plants. Apparently the foil reflects the light up toward the underside of the leaves and the aphids try to go around to the other side, where they meet even stronger light. Now, I don’t know why stronger light should bother them, but whenever I have done this, there are always a lot fewer aphids on my plants. And I don’t have to use chemicals when only a small number of aphids are on my tomatoes. So, it’s me and Reynolds Wrap this year, not me and Monsanto. I think I see lacewing eggs among the aphids, so maybe I’ll get some good pictures of lacewings (and ladybugs) eating aphids this year. The lacewing eggs are individually on little stalks, kind of like tiny parking meters stuck to the plant stem. I think you can actually see some on the plant that is bare of bugs, on the stem in the upper right corner, little parking meters.

The river is at 3.1 right now on the Butte La Rose gauge. Hard to believe. It didn’t get much lower than that when it was SUPPOSED to be low. But, water is on the way. It will be at 7.1 here by Monday – that’s a fast rise of 4 feet! The Ohio is still pumping up at the rate of about 2.5 feet/day and that will do the crawfishermen some good– get them traps ready.

Rise and Shine, Jim


Blogger Bud Forester said...

Thanks Jim. And that's hilarious about the buzzard and crows!

March 15, 2006 7:39 PM  
Blogger Ross said...


Mel Bartholomew (the Square-foot Gardener) also suggests putting some type of refelctive material around plants to "confuse" aphids. You might want to start moderating you blog because I think you got some kind of spam in the Annie posting.

March 15, 2006 8:20 PM  
Blogger Ross said...

Sorry, Jim. The spam was in the hummer posting.

March 15, 2006 8:21 PM  
Blogger jim said...

Bud, you sure see some stuff out there when you get out into it - like you do, I think.

Ross, I believe that spam came through the Blogger system. Not sure what to do about it. I use Norton Antispam on my machine and it seems to work very well so far.

March 15, 2006 9:28 PM  

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