Monday at 9 a.m., Tuesday at 6:45 a.m. and Thursday at 1 p.m.

Kelby Ouchley, former manager of Black Bayou Lake and other area National Wildlife Refuges, provides expert insight into the flora and fauna of Louisiana. Each week, he brings awareness of conservation ethics and education about what makes our area special -- and worth preserving.

Archived editions of Bayou-Diversity (December 2014 and older) can be found here.

Ways to Connect

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.  

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.



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.



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.