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

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"

    

  Lest you think French influence on our state is restricted to the southern half, consider the sinuous streams of northeast Louisiana.  They flow through our geography with Franco-laden labels both pure and bastardized - and with good reason.  Frenchmen were the first to establish a lasting presence.  They were not Acadians.They plied every major stream in northeast Louisiana.  They put their names on nearly all of them.

Turkey Vulture
K Schnelder / Flickr.com

  Vultures get a bad rap.  At best they are thought of as nature's garbage men - not a bad label, by the way.  At worst they are considered dirty, disease carrying scavengers - not a true representation either. 

Vultures were once thought to be kin to birds of prey such as hawks and eagles, but recent DNA work has revealed a much closer tie to storks, and they are now placed in that family.

In the beginning there was mud, bayou mud, molding the ontogeny of the boy.  The summer of 1964 was the beginning for him, when he was thirteen and loosed upon the bayou and its swamp for the first time.  Rules were minimal.  Even the "be home by dark" decree was rescinded by autumn.  An intimacy with local geology started with the half-mile barefoot walk from home to the bayou.

As a boy, I never looked forward to hay-cutting time.  It seemed to be scheduled for the hottest days of summer and stacking the bales in a low, tin-roofed barn aggravated the situation. 

Blistering spears of profanity were sometimes launched by the driver of the hay cutting tractor, and were triggered by a small, bare-tailed mammal with buck teeth that was derisively called a 'damn salamander.'

World Heritage Sites are places deemed by the United Nations to have cultural or natural significance on a global scale.  Poverty Point, a prehistoric cultural site of exceptional merit in West Carroll Parish, was recently added to the sparse list of those in the United States that includes the likes of Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Parks.

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