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.

Friday, July 21, 2006


I’m usually totally impressed with the sunsets we have been getting, but a while back two events presented at the same time: the moon was rising while the sun was setting. The images show the two events happening 180 degrees from each other, simultaneously. It was kind of a two-wow thing.

We spent most of a week at Toledo Bend about mid-month, explaining the lack of postings for that time.

As I posted earlier, the shrimp migration has begun in the Atchafalaya. At first there were only a few but it has been building up every night and continuing last night when you could see hundreds pass on the surface, going upstream to who-knows-where. At Berwick (44 miles below Butte La Rose), the massive shrimp movement is awesome – many thousands passing all night long. I built a trap made out of window screen wire. It would take that to hold them, they are so small. It was placed in the river last night in the path of the migrating juvenile shrimp and they promptly detected it and went around it. You could easily see them do it, like a canoe avoiding a big rock in the current. One thing, I did catch a couple of them and I took them out of the trap and threw them back into the water this morning. When I did, they didn’t instantly submerge like all the other, larger, shrimp do. They stayed on the surface and swam the six feet or so back to the dock. Very different behavior, stored for future reference.

There was a wonderful surprise waiting to happen for me this morning at the river. I was checking one of the shrimp traps and saw movement downriver a little ways. When it happened again I saw it was an otter, a large one, and it was swimming toward the bank about 50 feet below the dock. It came to the water’s edge and proceeded to jump up onto the land and lope up the bank into the cockleburs. It disappeared into the small, but dense, vegetation/woods behind the house. I watched for about 20 minutes more but it didn’t come out. I wonder if it is interested in making a den here. It sure would be welcome from my point of view, but it’s always dangerous for any wild animal to make a den too close to humans (other humans). Whoever shot the big alligator earlier this month would probably do the same to an unwary otter, given the chance. Anyway, it’s always a fine thing to see an otter. My pond-crawfish fishermen tell me another story, not one that shows appreciation for these big, smart weasels. It seems they reach into the open-topped traps and help themselves to the bait and the crawfish, and tunneling into levees is counter to water retention by the ponds. There is probably a lot of exaggeration in the stories about the damage they do, but I have no doubt that they do take advantage of our presenting them with food so easily obtained. Still, I like otters a lot.

The cardinals are finished with the nesting and young-raising for this year, or mostly finished anyway. And they look really ratty, just about all of them. There is not one pretty, fully feathered, proud-looking cardinal in the back yard right now – not one of the 40 or so I see every day. The image is taken through a dirty window and that’s not helping to spiff this one up any.

The river is at 2.9 feet on the Butte La Rose gauge, and staying about there for the next five days. The Mississippi has a small rise coming, nothing exciting, but the Ohio is falling hard now, and that predicts even lower water than we have had so far. That’s actually good for the people who are beginning to find sunken boats on river/bayou banks and some of these relicts (the boats, not the people) are being investigated for archaeological significance.

Rise and Shine, Jim


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