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, April 17, 2007

Snakes and Snakebirds

Sunrise on the river on a chilly morning. When the sun looks like this it makes you feel like the scene is incomplete somehow. The light is there, the shadows are created, but where is the warmth? Sometimes an unfulfilled promise is like this, all the words are there but there is no sincerity, no truth, no warmth and it becomes a one-sided communication. I wish I had always known this when sharing myself with children in the past. It is hard to think of becoming light without warmth to a child. Even little promises matter.

Life at Butte La Rose goes on, always interesting, always changing, always ready to teach something. A couple days ago I was processing some reclaimed cypress lumber in the yard. I pull the nails out of it, brush the dirt off if necessary, and trim the ends so that the wood will be ready to use when the time comes to give it life again. I walked around a small area that day for several hours, back and forth, back and forth. At some point I noticed something in the leaf litter and looked harder at it. Yep, it was a snake, coiled up near a log and resting comfortably (it seemed) very near my foot. It was a small copperhead, venomous, but not dangerously so. It had been there for some time, judging by its position and demeanor. It’s not obvious down there where I first saw it, but look for something circular – not many things are circular, like the coils of a snake, in nature. The close-up of the pattern of the colors is striking, I think, when not blended with leaf litter and forest debris. A larger copperhead, about two feet long, had Carolyn treed in her car in the garage last week but I rescued her like the knight in shining armor that I am.

Anhingas are called snakebirds sometimes. They have those long necks and slender heads and beaks and often that is all you see when they swim on the surface. Of all the water birds around here, they are among the most adept at getting food from an aquatic environment. They swim and take fish on the fishe's turf and make a living at it. Then they hop up on a branch near the water and spread their wings to dry them, a thing seen often by people who watch the water. But they aren’t limited to that. It can come as a surprise to see anhingas soaring high, very high, in the warm currents of updrafts. This picture is of four of them doing that last week. So, from down in the dim depths of the river in the morning, to cruising at two thousand feet in the afternoon - the master of both elements. Something to admire, being able to fish and soar on the same day.

The river is at 11.3 feet at the Butte La Rose gauge, falling slowly for the next few days to about 10.6 feet by Friday. The Ohio and Mississippi are both rising above Memphis, with the Ohio kicking in with strong to moderate rises up into its watershed. More water will come to keep the river up.

Rise and Shine, Jim


Blogger Bud Forester said...

Hi Jim, snakes seem to be out in force this year. I always marvel at those cormorants and anhingas. I saw pictures of such critters when I was young, but they didn't seem to live around here. now, I laud their return; we had just wiped them out along with pelicans and lots of other critters. Rachal Carson's Silent Spring and Earth Day generated the impetus to ban DDT and allow the return of some of those critters... like anhingas. I like to believe that the economic trade- off has been worth it: I'm glad when I see them.

April 25, 2007 9:32 AM  
Blogger jim said...

Yep, so right Bud. Every time I realize that it is almost impossibe to find a chemical that will kill colonies of fire ants, I remember that those potent chemicals came at the cost of pelicans, eagles, ospreys, falcons and others. A few fire ant bites seems a reasonable price to pay for not killing off whole species of birds. At least, it seems so to me. Thanks for the comment.


April 25, 2007 9:50 AM  
Blogger Lewis F said...

I happened upon your website, how I do not know.

I worked at the USPHS (Marine) Hospital in New Orleans about 11 years (1970-81) then left Louisiana. One of my co-workers, a maintenance man, Charles Hutchinson, Jr. "Hutch" was, at that time, the premier wood carver of birds of prey in Louisiana.
He spent much time floating in a batteaux in the swamps and rivers.

His carvings and paintings appeared to be taxidermy specimens. I have Googled his name and come up with nothing, absolutely dry. Curiosity, ever heard of him or know if his works are still around?

Nostalgia is setting in.

July 13, 2007 1:01 AM  
Blogger jim said...

Lewis, sorry, can't help you. Good luck. Jim

July 14, 2007 3:51 PM  

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