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.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Water Wandering

That’s what we were doing for most of last month; almost three weeks in Ireland. There are lots of things to see there, it seems, and each person already brings with him the things he will see. I am a water and fish person, so I see water and fishing things. I am a bird person, so I see birds. I am not a pottery person or a castle person and even though those were there, I didn’t see them – although I looked at them. I did see 63 species of birds, 41 of which were new to me.

Northern Ireland is where the Titanic was built and I didn’t know that, in Belfast. Most of us only know Belfast because of “the troubles”. But there were seven sister ships to the Titanic and they were all built in Belfast. Today you can stand inside the dry dock that housed the big ships. You get the feeling down there in that big hole that the ruler stretches at both ends – you seem smaller than before, and the ships seem to be even bigger than you know they were.

Ireland is filled with rivers, all of them running with black water. It is stained that way by the peat in the soils through which the streams run. The rivers are host to trout and salmon, something our local waters won’t do, and I guess that testifies to the coldness and high oxygen levels in those black Irish waters.

They catch and eat/export a lot of seafood. They eat mussels like we do clams and oysters, though I didn’t see anyone eat the mussels raw. They catch a type of rock crab and lobsters. The traps (pots, everyone but us seems to call them) are used for both species. These devices are so strongly built you would think you would have to have bolt cutters to break one up. If that’s how powerful the crab’s claws are, well… Everywhere you go you can get a local seafood chowder, and we could learn a thing or two from those cooks! Man, talk about good! Every place does it a little differently with local ingredients, and each time you eat a new one you would swear it has to be the best of all – until you try the next one. I had one that actually had about ten little octopuses floating around in it. Carolyn had it too but she gave me her octopuses. Chewy little guys, but good.

The boats are very different from anything we use here, the commercial fishing ones I mean. Most of them are double-ended (of course, but I mean pointed or rounded at each end). There is a reason for this but I don’t know what it is. A lot of sailboats were the only fishing boats until pretty recently. They have a festival to celebrate a type called the Galway Hooker. I mentioned to them that in the US maybe that name would require a small explanation.

While we were gone Ike came and went. It missed us and went to Galveston and Bolivar Peninsula but a local legacy is hard to avoid with these storms. The rain that fell in the upper Mississippi and the Ohio watershed caused the Atchafalaya to rise from 7.4 feet to 10.4 feet while we were gone. That unexpected rise, coupled with me not being here to monitor the dock, caused some damage to the walkways to and from the bank. A minor issue to be sure, so no complaints. The biggest log jam that I ever saw in front of the dock was cleared away with minimum subsequent aches and pains. Minimum, not nonexistent.

The river is at 9.6 feet on the Butte La Rose gauge now, falling to 6.8 by next Wednesday. The Ohio and Mississippi are both falling all the way up. So, what’s done is done, and it’s good to be back on the river again. My friend Rusty, the buffalo fisherman, came by this morning setting nets. Seeing him is like seeing the leaves turn, it means Fall is coming soon.

Rise and Shine, Jim


Blogger Bud Forester said...

Welcome home, Jim; sounds like a great trip!

October 03, 2008 9:11 PM  
Blogger Bryant said...

Glad you had a safe trip.

October 11, 2008 12:12 PM  

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