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.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Back to Normal

            At least that’s what it feels like.  It’s hot and the grass is growing, and mosquitoes let us know they like the rain too.  We are seeing the first major hatch of mosquitoes in over two years, kind of unusual for our part of the swamp to go that long without them.

            Back- to- normal things include new grass.  Where the May high water left four to six inches of new soil in our yard, there is now an equivalent amount of new, very green, grass.  Mostly the new growth seems to be blue grass but the centipede variety will come in and outcompete it next year.  The barely noticeable burning ring will have to be dug up and reset, but the new soil is a modest gift from the river and moving the ring won’t take much effort.

That's our girl!
            I spent some time shoveling away the several feet (not so modest a gift) of mud/sand that annually covers the bottom several feet of the steps leading to the dock, and out popped a snake.  Our  granddaughter is back in the river swimming as often as she gets the chance and today she got to spend some quality time with the snake.  It is a glossy crawfish snake, harmless unless you are a crustacean, and the bluish eyes say it’s about to shed its skin, which made it even more docile than normal.

            Remember all that mud that was on the deck?  It is gone of course and in its place there are three new benches made from recovered lumber originally part of a Cajun swamper’s house in the Basin.  The wife was part of the Burns family saga in the Atchafalaya during the last century.  So, the benches are sort of a recalling of a real swamp life, lived by real swamp people.

            And the water is low enough now to begin fishing with a rod and reel.  Today I caught some catfish, an eel, two garfish, a buffalo and some gaspergou.  The gaspergou and catfish will probably end up in a courtboullion next weekend, and the buffalo will be turned loose since I have no use for cut bait before I get the trotline out. The eel was cut up to bait the shrimp traps and the garfish were too small to do anything with. 

  If you spend enough time looking out over water you see things come up and make the break from that environment to ours.  Logs rise to the top and sink again, nutria appear and swim and then disappear for their own reasons.  Fish do the same thing as the nutria, except in reverse, sort of.  They come up into the air and then go back. You can look out over water and you will see evidence of fish doing this but usually it is too late to see them, you hear the disturbance and see the splash but not the fish.  Except occasionally. The river is filled with gar and buffalo right now and most of the time they cause the splash and swirl of waves.  Often I have thought that you would have little chance to actually see one of these fish as it breaks the surface, I mean, you would have to have your eyes on the exact spot when the fish came up.  But today it happened.  I was fishing and looking at the river and right in front of my eyes there arose this huge garfish.  I saw its head, and torso and tail as it came up -  broke the surface, breathed, rolled and then brought its tail up and slapped the water just like on the whale shows. Wow and wow.  A person who believed in such things might have thought there was some communication intended, but nah........…nah. 

            The river is at 8.0 feet on the Butte La Rose gauge, falling to 7.5 by the end of next week.  Remember when it was at 23 feet just a little while ago? The Ohio and the Mississippi both show some rises up north, so they are not ready to give up their influence yet.  I can put in my trotline at 8.0 feet so it’s time to consider that.

            Rise and Shine, Jim