Kelby Ouchley

Kelby was a biologist and manager of National Wildlife Refuges for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for more than 30 years. He has worked with alligators in gulf coast marshes and Canada geese on Hudson Bay tundra. His most recent project was working with his brother Keith of the Louisiana Nature Conservancy on the largest floodplain restoration project in the Mississippi River Basin at the Mollicy Unit of the Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge, reconnecting twenty-five square miles of former floodplain forest back to the Ouachita River.

Kelby was instrumental in the the establishment of Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge and its development as a premier environmental education site. Kelby has an undergraduate degree in Wildlife Biology and a graduate degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Science from Texas A&M University.

In 2011 he collected his essays that have aired on KEDM into the book Bayou-Diversity: Nature and People in the Louisiana Bayou Country. He is also the author of Flora and Fauna of the Civil War: an Environmental Reference Guide, Iron Branch: A Civil War Tale of a Woman In BetweenAmerican Alligator – Ancient Predator in the Modern World as well as many scientific and popular articles. Among other honors Kelby recently received the National Wildlife Federation Governor's Conservationist of the Year Award.

He and his wife Amy live in the woods near Rocky Branch, Louisiana, in a cypress house surrounded by white oaks and black hickories. Kelby's website is bayou-diversity.com.

Ways to Connect

Misused Biology Terms

Jan 11, 2016

If there was such a thing as word police to enforce the correct use of biological terms, jails would be full of repeat offenders.  None of the violations rank as felonies, but misdemeanors are rampant.  Here are a few examples.

  

Louisiana Bison

Jan 4, 2016

The image of thundering herds of buffalo racing across endless prairies is not one that is often associated with Louisiana, the Bayou State.  Historically, though, the scene is not far-fetched.  The animals we call buffalo are more correctly termed bison to separate them from true buffalo of Africa and Asia.  Early French explorers in Louisiana called them boeuf sauvage - wild ox.  

Christmas Bird Count

Dec 28, 2015

On Christmas Day 1900, twenty-seven conservationists in New York decided to protest a traditional holiday bird shoot in which teams competed to see who could kill the most birds and other animals in one day.  Instead of shooting the birds, the protesters counted them and unknowingly established an event that has become known as the National Audubon Christmas Bird Count.

  

Thank you, O Lord, in this bountiful season for the five senses to relish your world.  Thank you for the succulent smells of the fruits of the earth in the kitchens of our mothers and wives.  Thank you for the odor of rich delta dirt on a warm, foggy, winter morning.  Thank you for the smell of wood smoke; especially that tinted with lightered pine.  

Wilderness Store

Nov 16, 2015

Less than three months after Union Parish was carved from Ouachita as a new political entity, William McKay died there intestate leaving a grieving widow and two-year old daughter.  In 1839, Union Parish was essentially wilderness and sparsely populated, the surge of immigration by settlers from eastern states just over the horizon.  McKay owned a store on the Ouachita River, either at what could later be called Alabama Landing or farther south at Ouachita City, or maybe even at the mouth of Bayou de l'Outre.  In these roadless times goods moved efficiently only by water. 

Soaring gracefully overhead with a wingspan exceeding five feet, wood storks are more attractive at that distance than when up close in person.  With snow white plumage except for a black tail and trailing wing edges, they are the only true stork found in North America.  It's their naked gray head and neck that only a mother wood stork could love.  Add a large, thick, slightly curved bill and the common name "gourd head" is not totally inappropriate.

    

In retirement they seem innocent enough, often sitting quietly in the side-yard holding bouquets of pansies.  Back in their day though, they were instruments of hard manual labor, especially for Louisiana women who dreaded their weekly encounters.  For them, cast iron wash pots were undesirable necessities.

    

Drought

Oct 26, 2015

From our place on the edge of a Louisiana swamp, I can smell the drought.  The usual organic brew of odors is absent.  Now it smells like northern New Mexico in early autumn -- like a toddy of weathered adobe and rabbit bush resin.  It is late October and we have had 1/2 inch of rain since the 5th day of July.  

When I began writing Bayou-Diversity programs more than 20 years ago, there was little talk of conservation issues in this region unless they threatened or enhanced hunting and fishing opportunities.  Especially as our population becomes more urban and insulated from the natural world, there seemed to be a need to provide basic information about native flora and fauna.  Even more important is the necessity to educate folks of matters that threaten our local ecosystems and often times us in the process.

At the very mouth of the Mississippi River there is a small island that once served as the headquarters of Delta National Wildlife Refuge.  A surplus fire tower was erected on the site in order that the wardens might watch for poachers in the vast flounder-flat marshes of the delta.  A friend who worked there once told me that for several years the tower was deemed unsafe and off-limits for a couple of months each winter.  It wasn't because of high winds or lightning storms that the 100' tower was condemned but rather the presence of birds that some people called Tiger Owls.

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