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.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Bluebirds and Clean Waters

For some reason the bluebirds we have had in our nest boxes for the last five years didn’t choose to use them this year. Not yet, anyway. The boxes were used first by chickadees and then later on by prothonotary warblers. The latter are more aggressive than you might think, for warblers I mean. They may have actually ousted the bluebirds. Last year’s bluebirds were the subject of these pictures. I don’t know why I was surprised at the color of bluebird eggs – for some reason I didn’t expect them to be blue. It seemed too logical, but they are, and very blue at that. And the babies are blue from very early on in their lives. The parent looking through the nest box hole seems unintimidated by me or the camera.

I have been thinking about something I read in a recent National Geographic, and how it relates to living here on the Atchafalaya River. The article was written by someone who did one of those “Boy, I sure would like to have done that” things. In this case, she decided to travel the length of the Irrawaddy River in the country now known as Myanmar – historically Burma. The river begins in the mountains of Tibet and runs over 1300 miles to the Indian Ocean. It is the famous "Road to Mandalay" of Rudyard Kipling fame. She (Kira Salak) paddled the first 350 miles in a kayak and it is during that part of the voyage that she says something that caused me to pause a moment. She says “As I paddle, streams of barges overloaded with old-growth teak logs come at me like leviathans; it’s a wonder there are any trees left. The river, passing numerous towns becomes covered for miles with raw sewage”.

Now, two things come at you from this. One, that other places are still cutting old-growth timber, and will probably sell all of it, just as we did our cypress. And two, what a great thing we have here in Louisiana – a river clean and wonderfully not “covered for miles in raw sewage”. I look out the window and see the river in my back yard, and I know that I could drink the water from that river when it is in high flow and not be harmed by it. It is that clean. When we fished season after season during the ‘70s, we never took water from home to drink. We always drank right out of the lake (river) and didn’t think twice about it. Now that I know what I know about the lack of regulation during that time, maybe we should have thought twice, but we didn’t. Now I find myself being grateful for the water in the Atchafalaya, as well as the waters in almost all of this nation’s streams and lakes. It is a good place to live, this country, this place where “[the river] becomes covered for miles with raw sewage” does not happen. I believe we too often take this for granted. A little wake up call to stop and smell the roses, or take a dip in the river, is a good thing.

Said clean river is at 8.2 on the Butte La Rose gauge and will stay about the same for the next five days, and the Mississippi and Ohio are generally both falling slowly (small rise on the upper Ohio).

Rise and Shine, Jim


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