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.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Silhouette Spring

Sunrise on the river this morning.

A silhouette, an outline of the real thing, but only an outline against a bright background. That’s kind of what this season, as it is right now, reminds me of. The osprey, squirrel, crow and Alcibiades all produced an image in silhouette on the river this morning. Real cold weather is probably gone and real warm weather isn’t here yet. There is a glimpse of green, renewal, in the trees and grass. There are flowers in the trees, both the kind that look like flowers and those others that resemble stringy things that droop from the ends of new twigs. The ditches are crawling with very small crawfish scurrying around catching the slower tadpoles that winter frogs deposited. In the fields and the lawns this flower, the groundsel, calls for notice. Everywhere there is moisture there is this violently yellow flower. Each of these things is an outline of things soon to come, like a silhouette of spring.

And all around in the sky and in the trees there are birds returning from far away on that always astonishing nonstop flight across the Gulf of Mexico. The ruby throated hummingbirds are perhaps the easiest to wonder at. How could something that small fly so far? But they do, and that’s that. The little blue herons are coming in now. It a week or two there will be large flocks of them morning and evening flying to and fro over the river going who knows where. And there were barn swallows investigating the floating dock this morning. They always try to nest under the tin roof but the intense summer sun on the tin discourages them before any eggs are wasted. Perhaps my favorite spring arrival, the one I look for every year, is the yellow crowned night heron. In the early morning they fly over the river in what seems like a not very purposeful way. They don’t seem to have any real destination. In a little while they will. When I hear the sound they make, that kind of whistle-squawk, I travel back to sixty years ago when the grosbecs still graced many a table in the swamp. You could whistle at them and sometimes they would turn and offer themselves as sustenance. They were never wasted. So they tell me.

The river is at 11.2 feet on the Butte La Rose gauge. It will rise to 13.2 feet by this time next week. And it will keep rising for a while. It is a good thing that it went down from the 17 feet it was in the winter. There would have been no room for the spring water. But it did, and all’s right with the world. The Mississippi and Ohio are both rising about a foot a day all the way up. The pending floods in the upper Mississippi are bad for those folks, but by the time that water gets to the confluence with the Ohio it gets swallowed up in the big river channels. It rarely if ever affects us. The Ohio is the one to watch.

Rise and shine, Jim