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, September 01, 2006

Sex at Sunset

Sunrise with cat.

Tonight it’s all about sex. There have been many mayflies out this evening. They are out there flying over the river. The thousands of males all hovering and dancing, for all the world looking like they are anticipating something. And they are of course doing exactly that, in their own way. They dance in the air, and on a cue dictated by instinct a female comes out from the bushes along the bank to avail herself of the myriad attentions available to her on this soft summer evening. Rather than seductively gliding through the cloud of males, she zips into the midst of them and somehow one of the males is singled out as an acceptable mate, and he grasps her and off they fly in tandem on the only night of sexual abandon they will ever know. Tonight the mayfly duets are coupling and flying and landing all over the place. They land on the dock, and they land on the boat and in final tribute to an ephemeral cycle, they land on the water. The female liberates (the right word) her contribution to the continuation of her species. She literally bursts and the eggs spray out into the water. If they survive the minnows and other hungry river life, the eggs will sink to the bottom of the river, and if they land on a bottom suitable for mayfly life, they will hatch there and begin the year-long experience that culminates in what I see tonight. Having done their part, the adult mayflies are now dead or dying, some weakly flutter on the surface before becoming still, most hit the water and never move. At this point other animals incorporate the mayflies into their own existence by consuming this abundance of available nutrition. Turtles swim back and forth gathering the dead mayflies by the hundreds. Garfish do the same thing, swimming along on top of the water and gently snapping up each mayfly that comes within range. Some other fishes that I can’t identify fill the river from bank to bank with dimples and larger circles that remain after a meal is taken. For everything you can imagine there is a bounty out here on the river this evening. It is good to see this, and not at all sad. Rather, there is a feeling of completeness that comes from knowing that a natural cycle is working the way it should, and all’s well with the river tonight.

The river is at 1.3 feet on the Butte la Rose gauge, and there is about a six inch daily tide. The Ohio and Mississippi are both rising somewhat.

Rise and Shine, Jim


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