Bayou-Diversity

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

Spotted Bass

Jan 23, 2017

Always in late February when the first white crawfish reached two inches in length, a ritual began in the D'Arbonne Swamp that included my father, his cousin, and me, an adolescent youth in those years a half century ago.  The object of the tradition was to procure "smallmouth bass" for the deep, black skillet.

 

Attitudes

Jan 16, 2017

Since the founding of America, attitudes toward nature have changed and they continue to do so.  Early pioneers maintained a European mind-set, considering nature an entity to be conquered, civilized and rid of competing wild beasts as necessary.  The theory of manifest destiny reflected a theological belief that settlers were divinely appointed to "use" the earth for the enhancement of civilization, no holds barred.  Such attitudes eventually led to the decimation of Native Americans and the extinction or near extinction of several animals.

 

Carolina Parakeet

Jan 9, 2017

They were thought of as noisy mobs of rogues hell-bent on destruction.  They swarmed the grain fields and orchards of European settlers consuming the fruits of hard labor.  If they possessed redeeming qualities it was only after they were dead and skinned, either for decoration on women's hats or fried in lard for the table.  Linnaeus named them Carolina parakeets in 1758, and within that group there was a subspecies with slightly different colored plumage called the Louisiana parakeet.

 

Box Turtles

Jan 4, 2017

That an old, time-marred box turtle in my hand today could be the same one held by my great grandfather on the edge of this swamp a hundred years ago infers a connection mystical if not spiritual.  Though unlikely, it is possible.

 

Feeding Birds

Dec 26, 2016

Nothing can brighten a gray winter day faster than a splash of crimson cardinals or goldfinches gathered at a window side bird feeder.  The popularity of bird feeding continues to grow, and a recent report estimates that 63 million Americans provide food for wild birds, spending more than $2.5 billion on birdseed and feeding supplies each year.

 

Seemingly unrelated political decisions often impact wildlife resources and lead to a cascade of unanticipated events in the most unlikely of places.  That U.S. policy in Iraq and Iran could suddenly influence my daily biological work in the spectacular Lacassine marshes of southwestern Louisiana is a good example.  The nexus involves humans' peculiar obsession with fish eggs, and the story line goes like this.

 

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 lighter'd pine.

Thank you for the stew of odors distinct to our rivers and bayous: cypress needles, primal water, life and life-to be.

Groundhog Sawmills

Oct 31, 2016

Except for coastal marshlands and tallgrass prairies of the southwest, Louisiana was historically a world of forests.  Virgin stands of longleaf pine in the central part of the state, primeval bottomland hardwoods and cypress swamps, along with upland hardwoods and pines in the hill country were viewed by settlers as both daunting obstacles and coveted natural resources in the form of potential wood products.

 

Bullbats

Oct 24, 2016

The award for the Louisiana bird with the most misleading name should be conferred on the common nighthawk, also known as the bullbat.  No part of these monikers is accurate.  In the first place, they are not common anymore as long-term surveys show their populations in the United States have declined 61 percent between 1966 and 2014.

 

Velvet Ants

Oct 17, 2016

Boys are impressionable creatures.  They hone in on pronouncements that combine adventure and danger.  Such was my experience many years ago when I was warned by elders to avoid at all costs an insect with the moniker "cow killer."  How could such a beast in our midst not be a call to action?  It was claimed that the sting was so terrible that it could dispatch a healthy cow.  I set out to catch one in a Mason jar.  

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