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, February 20, 2007

A Marked Bird

They are always changing, these seasons. And the signs of the changes are always out there to see. Right now a whole new crop of wildflowers are doing their best to produce seeds for next year’s generation, from the bright yellow groundsel to the tiny purple blossoms of henbit. In the clock of our yard, these things mark time. And so too do the trees. The limbs show the swelling of the twigs and the new buds that the birds and squirrels are so quick to take advantage of right now. I guess you can’t say we had a hard winter, but not finding much food for even a few days (much less weeks) has got to be an issue for wildlife that depends on the provisions of nature for sustenance.

Dave Patton came out Sunday and set out his trapping apparatus to catch the calliope hummingbird that has been staying here this winter. Within a short time he did catch it and then he did the measurements he routinely takes, placed the band on its leg (visible in picture), and released it. In a short time it was back at the feeders sucking down sugar water. It may spend a few more weeks here before leaving for its breeding grounds in the northwest, perhaps as far north as central British Columbia. That’s a long way for this little animal, the smallest bird in North America, to travel. . Information in the reference source “Birds of North America” shows this species breeding in the Pacific Northwest and Canada and wintering in southern Mexico. Obviously some of them head east instead and spend the winter around here. I am always appalled when I think of the hazards that will present themselves to this animal on this twice-a-year thousands-of-miles round trip! And some of them seem to do this for a life span of at least six years, the first year by necessity without any previous experience. Pretty hardy little bird, I think.

Sometimes when we do the banding, we have to put His Excellency Napoleon Bonaparte Felis inside, where he watches the birds at the window feeder. By now he knows he can’t catch the birds (many lunges having been abruptly stopped by the glass, with unknown numbers of headaches) but he watches anyway. Yesterday I was outside and it occurred to me to wonder what he looked like to a bird feeding so close to the window. Did they really see that a cat was just six inches away from them and could they see this and still come to the feeder? So I took a few pictures from the bird’s point of reference. The result was a set of very eerie-looking images of the cat – just inside the window. In the one here you can see the trees outside behind me, the glass window, and Nopoleon inside. I told Carolyn I should make up a story that the cat had died and when I went outside I could see his ghost looking out the window at me, and I got a picture of it. She said no.

The river is at 6.8 feet on the Butte La Rose gauge, rising slowly to 7.4 feet by Sunday. But the Ohio and Mississippi are both falling all the way up so we may soon get even lower stages than we see now. This is an example of why docks are so hard to maintain on the Atchafalaya. The water has fallen almost ten feet in the last few weeks, enough to leave any unattended docks high and dry until the next high water floated them free again, and that has been an iffy situation the last few years (high water, I mean).

Rise and Shine, Jim


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