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.

Monday, March 20, 2006


There is always SO much happening out there. This morning there was a confrontation between a blue jay and a red-bellied woodpecker in the back yard, near the main feeder. I don’t often see these two birds interact about anything; they don’t seem to have many day-to-day activities that cause their paths to cross, so to speak. But now the jay is building a nest (may have eggs in it already) about 30 feet from the feeder, and when the woodpecker came to the feeder on its daily routine, the jay attacked it. I mean, a feather flying, squawk making, tussle that took both birds down to the ground – can be a bad idea in our yard. But this time Napoleon wasn’t alerted. The jay actually made the woodpecker retreat to a nearby limb, where it truly looked stunned, or something like that. In other circumstances, that spear-like woodpecker beak is the weapon of ultimate intimidation around the feeder. Nothing else hangs around when the woodpecker wants to be there. I know that we humans know that red-bellied woodpeckers will raid nests and remove and eat eggs and nestlings of other birds, but apparently blue jays know it too. Does this come with the genes, or do they have to learn this experientially? If so, how many experiences does it take? Ironically, both of these birds will raid and consume other bird’s nestlings and eggs. Shoe on the other foot, comes to mind, if shoes apply here.

In like manner, this morning there was a great screeching and yelling by two red-shouldered hawks as they chased a couple of crows - could be the same two hawks that nested nearby last year. I suspect the same situation as the jay/woodpecker above – with the hawks taking issue with the crows hanging around a nesting area. Crows may be one of the most successful opportunists when it comes to food - anything, almost, goes. Again, the chase was not a casual drifting around through the trees, it was a very intense acrobatic swirling and swooping that resulted in the crows (yelling loudly all the time) leaving the area with the hawks, also yelling loudly, close (but no cigar) behind. Nobody got caught as far as I could see. I imagine hawks eat crow with few reservations.

Turtles are moving around. An eastern mud turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum) crossed the driveway and was detained for pictures, and the red-eared sliders are sunning on logs on the river –notice all the scars on the face when you see it up close and not-too-personal. Life ain’t easy down in the murky depths, I guess. Can’t always see what you are about to run into as you forage in the dark water, and some of those things bite back.

Alligator eyes are on the river at night, now. Small ones, so far. They won’t like the 40 degree nights we will have this week, but then again they won’t need to eat much then, either.

The river is at 5.8 now on the Butte La Rose gauge, going to 8.7 by Saturday. This looked good for a little while but the Ohio and Mississippi are leveling out and don’t seem to be able to sustain a good rise. Meantime, crawfish are $20 an order (four pounds) at some restaurants. Come on, they aren’t THAT good.

Rise and Shine, Jim


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