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.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Season Changes

And it is that time, now. It seems that spring, summer and fall just kind of sneak up on you. The days get a little milder, and the winds come in March sometimes, and you look up and it’s spring. Spring comes with little fanfare most of the time. And summer, well, the days are 90 degrees before you know it and we sweat and it doesn’t do any good because the humidity also crept in without announcing itself. For three months or more we add Cajuns to mad dogs and Englishmen. Fall comes in with days that present no shock to the senses. Fall days might not be quite 90 degrees but still seem blessedly cooler. And the hummingbirds tank up on sugar water, waiting for the green light in the form of the first 50-something night – the signal to take off for southern lands. Small changes announce each of these three seasons most of the time.

But winter! The cooler weather that we call winter can come with the sound of a north wind that shrieks over the river and roars through the trees. It causes whitecaps going down current, and that takes a lot of wind. Things that usually don’t move much, do move before that wind! Duck hunters know this and pray for it. Our dock strains at the cable that holds it and gets blown up onto the bank. It will take a considerable rise to get the dock to float free again, but the rise will come. It is coming now, and has just about passed Memphis on its way to Butte La Rose.

A sign of the changes happening now is the arrival of our neighbors from the north. They come with muted colors, at least compared to their spring breeding finery. The goldfinches are here at the feeders today, drab compared to the bright yellow they are capable of. Yellow-rumped warblers flash their butter butts, the only clear mark on them in the winter. In the spring they are splendid with the black streaks and such. Geese are here now, and cormorants by the hundreds on Henderson Lake. Thousands of robins flew by today, going southeast in a very leisurely fashion. Odd, if these were humans migrating to warmer lands for the winter we would call them snowbirds. So, in that sense, I guess these feathered guys are snowbirds too.

Last week I mentioned that I was going out to run the trotline after having replaced and baited 50 of the 100 hooks on it. Well, the storm and the subsequent winds kept me off of the river the day I wanted to check the line. That is the first time that wind has kept me off of the river in the seven years we have lived here. It was blowing so hard that even if I had managed to run the line all the way across, when I would have paddled back the wind would have pushed me a long way downriver before reaching the bank where the dock is. But, when I did manage to run the line, the next day, it had 23 fish on the 50 hooks! Again, almost 50%. It was a sight to see. Some of the fish are pictured here taking a walk on the dock. I hate to coop them up all the time.

His majesty is doing well. He and Alcibiades get real frisky in this cool weather. We weighed Alcibiades today, he tips the scales (not really, no tipping on a spring scale) at an even 20 pounds. He seems content with that.

The river is at 5.2 feet on the Butte La Rose gauge, but will rise to 6.4 feet by Saturday. The Ohio and Mississippi are still rising all the way up, but not as fast as they had been.

Rise and Shine, Jim


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