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.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Snakes and LAMP

The hummers seem to be coexisting with the bees. The birds actually land on the same places where the bees are gathered around the holes and put their beaks in right past the bees.

A diamond-backed water snake swam by the dock today. At one time this wouldn’t have been a very noteworthy event, but there are very few snakes around the river now. For years I have been saying that you don’t see water snakes in the abundant numbers that you used to. Growing up on the bayous you saw water snakes on just about every limb and stump, sometimes several, but they are not that common any more. I realize that you really can’t count on anecdotal evidence like this to provide conclusions about observations, but observant people notice things, and when the scientific types hear these anecdotes often enough, they begin to wonder if there is a fact hidden out there to be discovered. From that point it’s hypothesize (ask the question and suggest an explanation), formulate a testing procedure, do the testing, determine the results, check to see whether the results are possibly due to chance or that they really describe a proof of the hypothesis, publish the results of the experiment, and then sometimes wait to see if other people can duplicate your results. So simple and direct, if you have the time, the money and the skills to put your reputation into print. Our colleagues who do this are to be admired and appreciated; they provide us with facts with which to hold back the wolves of superstition and fear. It was not always so. Reflect on the time before rational thought ruled the day, a time when a + b didn’t necessarily = a + b, a time when anything might be the answer to a question, no matter how irrational that answer might be. That time was not so long ago when it could be that the snake I saw would be explained as a sign from my mother-in-law, or the lack of snakes was due to my not washing my house enough. But now, at some point, someone will rationally determine if water snakes are becoming scarce, and if so, what to do about it.

Awareness of the worldwide decline of amphibians began this way. People noted an observed decline in some populations in various parts of the world, and when enough of these anecdotal reports came to the attention of alert people who had wide options for communication, almost suddenly we realized there was a crisis of major proportions building among amphibians on several continents. From this began the Declining Amphibian Population Task Force, an international group that seeks to define the extent of the problem and helps direct activities to determine the causes. What we here in Louisiana do with the Louisiana Amphibian Monitoring Program is part of that effort. Volunteers are trained to identify frog voices and then go out at strategic times to collect data on the presence/absence and size of the populations (if present). This project, LAMP, has been active since 1996 and always needs people to volunteer to help with gathering important scientific data on Louisiana amphibians. The purpose is to establish a baseline for populations of Louisiana amphibians so that, as more data are accumulated over the coming seasons, there will be some basis for saying whether the populations are growing, reducing, or remaining stable. We cannot make that determination with the data we have right now, but we are getting there.

Amaryllis sure do perk up a yard about now.

The river is at 5.1 today on the Butte La Rose gauge, rising to 5.7 by Saturday, and going up from there next week. We will get a good slug of water from the Ohio to help raise my raft, whew. The Ohio and Mississippi are rising at the rate of 2.5 feet/day.

Rise and Shine, Jim


Blogger Marcel said...

Jimmy, I'm just catching up on a few missed "Riverlogues". I enjoy them so much and shall I say, I faithfully read them for ACE!!! My amaralys' (sp) are beautiful--I have a gorgeous pink one.

Annie says Hi....she speaks of you often...in a few hours, she made precious memories.

Hello to Carolyn.

April 26, 2006 12:20 AM  

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