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.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Neutral Rat

It seems that if you look out over a river, any sunrise is pretty. This was yesterday morning and it was 70 degrees. During the day, the wind changed from southeast to northwest and began to prepare us for colder weather.

Ready or not, it’s here today. The colder weather is especially not welcome for all those folks who were in the path of the tornadoes that came through this area two nights ago – no deaths but much rearrangement of living conditions for those people affected. Luckily, all we had was evidence that the big wind tried to push the dock up on land. All that held it in the water was two 2x4 poles that are set to hold it about 20 feet offshore. One of these was splintered in two. It took a force to do this that I’m just as glad not to have seen.

Sometimes when a front is coming in from the north and west, the clouds make this pattern in the sky that reminds me of flocks of gray sheep grazing on a blue hillside. Standing on the dock and watching this yesterday, with the wind blowing from behind, and the ripples on the water, really gives you a feeling of cold and shivers, even without the whiteness of snow in the ground that our friends to the north are experiencing now. We will have that snow here in a month or six weeks, in the form of a spring rise on the river.

A nutria decided to visit yesterday, the first I’ve seen around the dock in daylight. I see evidence of them coming up on the raft at night to eat the vegetation they pull up off of the bank. They seem to like to have feeding stations away from the food source, and I guess any raft in the water will do for that purpose. All my older Cajun friends call them neutral rats. When these animals came into the U.S. from Argentina in 1938, the word “nutria” was not something that many here could relate to. So, the closest seems to have been the word “neutral” and that, combined with “rat” (which we knew a lot about from having had muskrats around and common) became Neutral Rat. It still is a commonly heard name today. I like it.

When the trees are brown, the osprey stands out no matter how far away it is. It sat in the trees across the river yesterday for most of the day. Click on the picture to bring it a little closer.

The river is doing some of its more dynamic seasonal activity. Not long ago it was up at 16 feet, now it’s at 10.3 feet on the Butte La Rose gauge, and falling to 7.7 feet by Sunday. That’s a lot of fluctuation in a short time. The poor crawfishermen have a tough time keeping up with traps that are in the woods at times like this. Traps in the small bayous are less likely to be stranded than those in the swamp. Sometimes it hard to make a living when you have to spend all your time moving traps instead of fishing them. The Ohio and Mississippi are both showing small rises due to the rain and snowmelt that is happening in the Ohio valley right now. When some of that gets here next week it might be enough to slow this rapid fall in the Atchafalaya. Hope so.

Rise and Shine, Jim


Blogger Bud Forester said...

Hi Jim, great pictures!

February 18, 2007 5:53 PM  
Blogger M. Kircus said...

And three days later we also saw an osprey and a nutria - but at the top of the Rio Grand Valley in South Texas on the Frio River (near Three Rivers, Texas between Corpus Christi and San Antonio). We saw 72 species of birds, including olive sparrow, green jays,carracaras, Harris hawks and the more usual birds like white faced and white ibis, great blue herons, great egrets, blue and green winged teal, canvas backs, common morhens and coots.

February 18, 2007 5:53 PM  
Blogger jim said...

Wow. A neutral rat way up there. Sounds like a good bird day too. Thanks Ms Kircus, for the comment!

February 20, 2007 9:32 AM  
Blogger jim said...

Thanks Bud! Glad you shared some of my pleasure in seeing them. Jim

February 20, 2007 9:34 AM  

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