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

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.

In the mid-1970s I lived for a while on an old homestead in the shadow of Driskill Mountain, the highest elevation in Louisiana.  There the sole source of water for drinking, cooking, washing, and life in general was a small spring behind the dog-trot house.  For many people in the hill parishes, shallow hand-dug wells and springs provided water until subsidized community water systems, which relied on deep bored wells, were developed.  Dependable springs, in particular, were a treasured resource on any property.

    

Bullfrogs

Aug 24, 2015

Eighty years ago wherever there was freshwater habitat in the state of Louisiana, it would have been difficult to sleep during the warm nights of May.  The booming territorial choruses of our largest frog, said to resemble the roaring bellows of bulls, were common.  Now greatly diminished in numbers throughout their range, bullfrogs are native to the eastern half of the United States.  

There is an art exhibit at the Masur Museum in Monroe that you should not miss.  It is titled "Emily Caldwell - Naturally."  I can't tell you what Ms. Caldwell was thinking when she created this art.  I can, however, point to its origins.  She insisted on experiencing her subjects first-hand in situ.  As an informal guide I led her to wild places and stood aside.  The art in this show is a result of her mental foraging on these excursions.

Not long ago a cousin passed along to me a chair that once belonged to my great-great-grandmother.  She is said to have brought the chair with her when she came to Union Parish from the Atchafalaya Swamp or south Mississippi.  No one is sure which.  She died in 1925 at the age of 77.  The chair is laden with hints and mysteries of lives past.

    

East Carroll Odes

Jul 13, 2015

People who don't live in East Carroll Parish, Louisiana go there for various reasons.  Most are likely passing through on Highway 65 heading north or south for destinations far from the rural, egrarian landscape.  

It's been that way for a while.  

Foolish Snake Myths

Jun 29, 2015

The myths that surround snakes are almost as amazing as the irrational fear that many people have of these reptiles. 

It is likely that more people injure themselves trying to kill harmless snakes than are harmed by poisonous ones.  The myths are just as foolish.

After 20 years of traditional Bayou-Diversity radio programs, I am wandering into the realm of prose poetry.  Here's a couple for your consideration:

  • "Troubling Time"
  • "Notes on Albert near Brookhaven, Mississippi: August 22, 1979"

    

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