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.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Just Before Dark

Today I had an opportunity to go on the “high water trip” down the Mississippi River with the Corps of Engineers. A friend took me as a guest, thanks Carl. I will write a note about that in a day or so. I mention it because it was the reason I only had only a few minutes down at the dock today. I would like to note here what I experienced in those few minutes just before darkness.

There was a pair of barred owls sounding off across the river. I bet this is one of quite a few common birds that most people can identify by sound. I was always taught that they were saying “I’ll cook today, you cook tomorrowww” and that always sounded OK to me, putting off the cooking I mean.

Purple martins from the surrounding area always visit the river late in the day. Thirty or forty were feeding and drinking on the wing, and making some of the pleasant sounds they make.

Big buffalo rolled on the surface of the river, looking for all the world like dolphins in salt water. The roll they do is quicker than dolphins, and you have to be already looking in the right direction, but the head, back, fin and tail all come up and go down in a rolling motion. Some of them were really big fish!

The osprey was back and I think it roosts in the willow tree at the edge of our property. It came and lit there right at dark.

Green treefrogs and one-inch long cricket frogs (picture) were warming up for a night’s serenading. The girl frogs should be getting interested soon. Usually you have to wait for 70 degree nights, but that might not be very far off.

A roseate spoonbill flew by. This was a very rare bird in this area not long ago. Their breeding and feeding range seems to have been expanding to include central south Louisiana. They sure are pretty in that late afternoon light, showing off that intense pink color.

Not as many heron/egret type birds flew by this evening. Usually there are hundreds going this way and that all over the sky. Not tonight. A couple flights of little blue herons and a few night herons, that’s all. The night herons were calling…think Pavlov and salivation.

A mockingbird chased Napoleon all over the walkway to the river. It’s kind of funny to see him, the arch enemy of birds and such, being made to run away from a bird. And he does get bothered by it, you can tell. He kind of looks embarrassed.

Of great importance is the absence of chicken sounds. Ever since we moved here six years ago there has been an annoyance from a yard two houses away where they raised wild jungle fowl – read fighting cocks. Not many, less than 15, I think. But, while I recognize that these are bird sounds no different from all the others, they do tend to monopolize the soundscape with their volume and persistence. They crow at night, and at dawn, and at sunset, and periodically throughout the day. And that’s just the roosters, you have hens celebrating the passing of large, white objects through their southern ends at any time. And every time they make a proclamation, it sets the roosters off again. I can’t imagine what it must be like to live within earshot of places that raise hundreds of these birds. But for the past week, there have been no chicken sounds. I don’t know why, but I sure hope it lasts.

All this took place in about 15 minutes, just before dark. Assume all the resident and just-arrived songbirds were singing away, because they were, and the list is too long to put in here.

The river is at 7.4 on the Butte La Rose gauge today, going to about 6.0 by Sunday. The Mississippi and Ohio aren’t going to provide water any time soon. During the trip on the Mississippi today, I talked to the manager of the hydroelectric plant at the Old River Control Structure , and he sees no hope for a high water season this year. I'm having to retie the dock every day as the water falls.

Rise and Shine (anyway), Jim


Blogger JZ said...


Nice frog pictures!


April 07, 2006 9:58 AM  
Blogger JZ said...


Nice frog pictures!


April 07, 2006 9:58 AM  
Blogger jim said...

Contrary to the technoelitist thinking, I believe you can go a long way before exhausting the potential of cheap digital cameras. Of course, there is always room for the purist with a lot of money. Their pics can be truly outstanding! Thanks for the comment, JZ.


April 07, 2006 10:20 AM  
Blogger CarolynF said...

Enjoy reading about your life on the river. Love the pics of the river at different times of day and really love the frog pics!

April 07, 2006 3:39 PM  
Blogger jim said...

CarolynF: thanks for the comment. Just read your blog and your yard sounds wonderful. Take care, Jim

April 07, 2006 7:34 PM  
Blogger Brigette said...


I have to put my two cents in... I, too, love the photos. Those are two of my very favorite amphibians, not only because of their cuteness as frogs, but also because they are the easiest ones for me to identify! *laugh* Anyway, thanks for sharing. Keep it coming!


April 10, 2006 3:21 PM  

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