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.

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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, April 17, 2006

Pregnant Shrimp

Morning fog can do some interesting things, like what it did this morning at sunrise.

Spent most of the day at the computer, sometimes you just can’t avoid it. The bees and the hummingbirds are getting along pretty well. There must be about 20 hummers feeding outside my window, and about 200 bees at the same feeders. The bees ring the feeder ports (seven or eight bees at each port) and the hummers perch on the feeder and stick their beaks in right past the bees. I have watched pretty carefully to see if conflict occurs, and I have seen none. Amazing.

Today the first-of-season swallow-tailed kites and the Mississippi kites both arrived over the river. I don’t often see both species at the same time but today they were both there and the swallow-tailed put on an acrobatic display catching dragonflies, while the other kites soared high in the distance. The osprey joined the other raptors at the river. For a while now, it’s been coming by every day. So there were three easy to see birds that are always good to look at.

We fished a little at the dock late this afternoon, using river shrimp as bait. We caught two catfish, two gous and one shortnose gar. The gous really fight, more than the catfish by far. Carolyn caught most of the fish.

My trotline was hung up on the bottom, a result of something floating onto it during the higher water we had in early spring. I can usually take care of this without losing any line, but this time it was hung in two places about 30 feet apart. I had to cut the line and retie it, losing about six hooks worth of line in the process. It should be OK now. This will be the first time I will have been able to leave a line in the water for the whole year. The water didn’t rise enough for me to have to take it out. It can handle up to 14 feet, and it only got up to 11.5 this year. I will have to change the stageons soon because the swivels are coming apart, as you would expect them to after this long in the water.

The river shrimp are running hot and heavy right now. I’m catching several hundred to the trap without having to bait them. Today’s catch included the first female of the season with embryos – they look like what we would probably call “eggs” under the tail. The old fishermen say they never bait with a shrimp with “eggs” because fish don’t eat them. Might be an interesting project to find out if the shrimp acquire some distasteful characteristics when in that condition. Still catching eels in the traps, although most of them are less than 24 inches long now, and only one to the trap.

It has been so dry that I have been reluctant to plant the tomato and cantaloupe plants that I have. My beds are made of that high organic flowerbed builder they sell in bulk and it’s really hard to wet when it dries out for a long time. It has dried out, of course, really dried out. So, I buried ten one-gallon jugs in the beds, right up to the very top of the jugs. Each one has small holes drilled in it so that when I fill it with water, the water slowly leaks out into the surrounding soil and does a good job of getting the water deep into the bed. Tomorrow I will plant the plants, I think. I was pleased so see some earthworms about a foot deep in the beds where some moisture remained.

After a long absence, the mosquito population has appeared. There is absolutely no water anywhere for them to breed in, and I understand they don’t use the river (really?). Where are they coming from?

The river is at 5.8 on the Butte La Rose gauge and will rise to 6.4 by Thursday, but that’s about it. The Ohio and Mississippi are both falling hard and so will we in about ten days. I feel for the Basin crawfishermen, some of them in the levee towns rely heavily on crawfishing for most of their income for the year. The betting crowd might be slim at the city park baseball games this summer.

Rise and Shine, Jim


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