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.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Frog Survey

My friend Dugan and I braved the dark shadows of the Basin levee Saturday night. We did the Louisiana Amphibian Monitoring Survey along the levee from Ramah (I10) to Bayou Sorrel. We started about 30 minutes after sunset and drove along the levee, stopping at 10 predetermined stops to evaluate the amount of calling activity at each stop. There are 31 species of frogs in Louisiana at last count (more keep coming in). This wintertime time is the breeding season for three species - spring peepers, northern chorus frogs and southern leopard frogs - so we listened for these species and noted the abundance of each at each of the ten stops. It was a really good night, having rained a lot over the general area the previous week. We use a system that designates a Code 1, Code 2, or Code 3 for the abundance of each species. A Code 1 means just a few frogs are calling and it’s easy to pick out individuals. A Code 3 means there were so many calling that it is just a loud wall of sound, and forget about picking any one animal out. It’s the Code 3s that are exciting to hear, and there were many Code 3s last Saturday night. Sometimes you just have to stand there and marvel at the sound spectacle of that nocturnal display of frog love in the ditches! Thousands of animals all coming together to a bedroom made by nature for the procreation of more frogs and more frogs. And if you are lucky enough to be able to stand close to them, they are so loud that it makes your eardrums crackle. Nothing shy about these little Romeos, they sing out loud for the ladies. The pictures are of one of the Saturday night singers: the northern chorus frog. It is only about an inch long, but in calm conditions you can hear one call for almost a half mile. I took these pics Saturday night in our front yard.

Anyway, we documented that there were lots of frogs calling last Saturday night.

Speaking of surveys, during the days between the holidays, the Lafayette Christmas Bird Count took place. Due to various unforeseen circumstances, I ended up having to do my assigned route by myself. That’s not really a problem, you just don’t see as many birds as you do when there are several pairs of eyes searching in all directions at once. Still in all, it was a beautiful day, with clear cold air in the morning and warm at midday. The most notable bird of the day for me was a peregrine falcon before sunup. It was cruising about twenty feet high over a grassy field between me and the pre-sun red sky, about a hundred feet out. A falcon at dawn, a day that starts like that can carry a lot of weight in your memories. The image is easy to recall, when you need the feeling again.

The rest of the day was spent trying to identify as many species of birds as I could find, and then trying to count each individual bird. I ended the day with 71 species, down about ten species from past CBCs. The 71 species added up to 13, 700 individual birds, with the majority of that being redwing blackbirds and brown headed cowbirds. I had a good time, and company would be welcome next year.

The river is at 11.3 feet on the Butte La Rose gauge, holding steady for the next several days, but the Mississippi and Ohio are both rising hard all the way up and that means more water for us next week. I have just about decided that I will have to trust that this is the beginning of a real high-water season, and I have to fix the dock for those conditions. It’s a lot of work to do that and I don’t want to do it and then have the water just fall again right away. When it goes past 12 feet, I’ll make the shift. The Corps of Engineers says the prediction is that we will have another unremarkable high-water season. Will have to wait and see.

Rise and Shine, Jim


Blogger M. Kircus said...

We have the same kind of survey going on in Texas. I took the course but I haven't learned the frog calls yet. I have to pass a test if I want to monitor frog on a route.

But I spent an accidental night out along a bayou and enjoyed the mating chorus of the lepord frogs last weekend.

Marilyn Kircus
Houston, TX

January 12, 2007 11:53 AM  
Blogger jim said...

Yes, the quiz is a national thing. We all have to do it. If you learn the frogs in your area, you shouldn't have trouble with passing it. "Accidental" night? Interesting. When I've had those, they haven't always been a good thing - broken cars, etc. Thanks for the comment, Marilyn. Jim

January 12, 2007 6:09 PM  

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