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 27, 2006

Eagles and Ospreys

More drama on the river today. I was sitting in a chair on the dock this morning, facing upstream. I noticed out of the corner of my right eye a bird flying upstream down the middle of the river – it came from behind me, me facing upstream and it flying upstream. I glanced to the side and it was an osprey, probably one of the two that have been patrolling the river lately. It was carrying a small fish, looked like a shad, but something was not right. You know how sometimes you see something ordinary but it doesn’t quite register as “right”? What I realized that was different was that the osprey was flying fast, I mean fast, instead of the usual lazy way they have of going along. I turned a little further to look downstream and there, about a hundred yards behind the osprey, also flying up the middle of the river was an adult bald eagle. And it too was moving fast. Both were only about 50 feet above the water. OK, so the eagle is chasing the osprey, but I thought there was no way the eagle could catch it, there being so much difference in their sizes – the heavier eagle is too cumbersome. The osprey was flying as fast as it could, I think, and the eagle caught it in about ten seconds. It closed the gap of 100 yards in ten seconds. I still don’t see how that could happen, but it did. Now the eagle started harassing the osprey which now was just doing acrobatics trying to avoid the larger bird. For a big animal, that eagle did some amazing aerial maneuvering, and it eventually caused the osprey to drop the fish which the eagle caught before it hit the water. Now the osprey started to harass the eagle, but it seemed not to be very enthusiastic about it. The eagle flew into the middle of a heavily vined tree right across the river from me – actually into the thickest brushy area of the tree. It would appear that the osprey generated at least enough respect so that the eagle had to try to make itself inaccessible. The osprey now went into that cheeping call that they make and started circling higher and higher, eventually going so high that you might have had trouble knowing it was an osprey, even with binoculars. And then it drifted away out of sight. Meanwhile, the eagle sat in the tree and ate the fish, and then flew off to the tallest tree about a mile down the river and just sat on an exposed limb for a long time. It was still there when I came back up to the house. From that perch, it could sure see any osprey flying along the river carrying a fish. I came back to the river about 5:30 this afternoon and looked around, and there across the river on a perch it often uses, was an osprey. I don’t know if it was the same one, but if so what might that mean? Maybe the highjacking that I saw happens all the time, and I do realize this behavior has been documented by other folks. I guess I was just surprised that the osprey came back, if it was the same one. Maybe the ospreys are so used to it, and so little harm comes to them from it, that they just keep on keeping on. Earlier I talked about seeing another similar encounter in exactly the same place last year, although that time the osprey literally seemed to place the fish in the eagles claws. Yep, our national symbol, ambushing for fun and profit. Whatever it takes, I guess.

The benches I made look OK to put around the yard. And the osprey in the upper picture (click on it) is kind of suggestive of an osprey, rather than a clear example. It’s not that I take this kind of picture on purpose, i.e. for artistic effect; it’s just that my camera isn’t good enough to zoom any closer.

The river is at 11.1 on the Butte La Rose gauge, falling to 9.8 by Saturday. The Ohio and Mississippi are still falling hard, and so will we next week! My friend Joel told me something interesting the other day about water in the Basin. He says that for every foot of water in a rise at Butte La Rose, they get about half of that at Charenton by the time it gets there. The water just spreads out as it goes south. I had wondered what the ratio would be, though. Thanks Joel.

Rise and Shine, Jim


Blogger Bud Forester said...

Eaglea and Ospreys, WOW! Those have been rare sights for me. I need to spend more time in your neck of the woods.

March 28, 2006 7:47 PM  
Blogger jim said...

Not too common for me either, but it does happen in this neck of the wooks. You are welcome anytime.

March 28, 2006 10:07 PM  
Blogger Jody said...

Jim, I really like the benches. Please send the dimensions. It looks like a great weekend project for me and could be a good addition to the garden. Hope to see you this week.

March 29, 2006 8:37 AM  
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March 31, 2006 11:26 PM  

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