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.

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Pied-billed Grebe

Sep 17, 2018
Ouchley
K. Ouchley

The degree-toting ornithologists call her pied-billed grebe but in Louisiana she answers to “di-dipper,” or “hell-diver” on a bad day. For her the water’s surface is only an interim point in space and time. That she spends precious few moments there is an aggravation for birdwatchers and boys with BB guns, not to mention the serious predators be they finned, feathered or scaled. Departing the planner ecotone dividing atmosphere and liquid is more graceful if she chooses the denser of the two mediums. The downward dive is faster than the eye can appreciate the choreography.

 

Fences

Sep 11, 2018
Ouchley
K. Ouchley

About a hundred yards north of my house in the dense woods, the remnants of an old fence can be seen running north-south over a sandy-clay hill on the edge of D'Arbonne Swamp. The forest looks the same on both sides of the rusty wire now, but it once enclosed a ten-acre field where my father chopped cotton as  a teenager. When boll weevils, armyworms, and worn out soil forced Union Parish hill-country cotton farmers to seek work in paper mills, chemical plants, and on pipelines, the field reverted to forest through natural plant succession.

 

Wild Grapes

Sep 3, 2018
Ouchley
K. Ouchley

Grapes are woody vines that climb with tendrils in search of sunlight. About twenty species of native grapes are found in the eastern United States in a variety of habitats. The well-known fruits of grapes have been consumed by humans for thousands of years in some form. The famous early naturalist William Bartram described Native Americans’ use of grapes near Mobile in 1773. He wrote, “The Indians gather great quantities of them, which they prepare for bunches in the sun and air, and store them up for provision.”

September

Aug 30, 2018
Ouchley
K. Ouchley

In Louisiana, September is the season of winding down, of transition to better times. It is as if all things in the natural world are fed up with the necessary struggles to carry on in the heat and humidity of our subtropical summers. Within the trunks of white oaks and black hickories, the growth rings of summer wood form a defined edge. The trees stop growing. Buckeyes have long since lost their leaves and those of black gum flame scarlet in protest.

Noise

Jun 25, 2018
Ouchley
K. Ouchley

It is quiet here now on the edge of this swamp, quiter than it has been in many years. Perhaps the level of background noise approached that when my father was a boy here 75 years ago. I live in the woods off a rural parish road and almost two miles from a major highway. Even so, typically a steady barrage of traffic sounds - mainly from log trucks on the highway - filters through the trees to persist as an annonying backdrop.

Mayhaws

Jun 18, 2018
Ouchley
K. Ouchley

For those of us who might be considered unrefined epicureans, May is the month of ritual pleasures involving a wild gourment treat. It is the season to gather Mayhaw fruits and make one of the finest jellies to grace a buutermilk biscuit.

Born of the southern swamps, mayhaws are small trees technically considered hawthorns in the rose family. They grow in wetloands across the Southeast and are usually found only in soils that have a sandy component.

Darters

Jun 11, 2018
Ouchley
K. Ouchley

Probably the most popular kinds of fish in this area are bass, white perch or crappie, bream, and catfish. They are well known because they are fun to catch and good to eat. However, in terms of biological diversity, this group falls at the bottom rung of the aquatic ladder. In Louisiana, there are only two species of black bass, two species of bream-like sunfish. Another group, almost completely unknown even to amid fishermen, swims our rivers and creeks with dramatic diversity of form, color, and species. Collectively, they are called Darters.

Lunar Cycles

Jun 4, 2018
Ouchley
K. Ouchley

For as long as humans have looked up into the night sky, the moon has caused people to behave in strange ways. One of the most peculiar is the tendency for people to correlate phases of moon with various human behaviors. Lunar cycles have been claimed to affect homicide rates, traffic accidents, suicides, the birth of babies, assaults, emergency room visits, casino payout rates, and psychiatric admissions. The only crazy thing here is that scientific studies have failed to show any reliable significant correlation of these events with lunar phases.

Lowland Oaks

May 29, 2018
Ouchley
K. Ouchley

Oaks were once a major component of Louisiana landscapes. From the highest hills to just one step above cypress brakes, oaks were found in a variety of habitats. Today we'll consider those that grow in lowlands, such as are found in the parishes east of Monroe to the Mississippi River.

Oaks can be divided into two major groups consisting of red oaks and white oaks.

Vicksburg/Loess

May 29, 2018
Ouchley
K. Ouchley

The Civil War citadel of Vicksburg fell on July 4, 1863. On that day, Confedearte regiments marched out one at a time and stacked their arms. Of that occasion, General Grant's telegraph operator, Samuel Beckwith wrote, "The trampling of myriads of feet had stirred up a fine, yellow clay dust that coated our garments and filled our eyes and ears and nostrils until it was almost unberable." Like the union soldiers, this dust had origins far to the north of the Vicksburg hills.

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