biodiversity

Reformation

Feb 25, 2019
Ouchley
K. Ouchley

On the morning of December 20, 1987, I was working near the mainline Mississippi River levee in Tensas Parish. Waterfowl hunting season was ongoing, and I was prowling about in search of those who might violate federal laws that protect the long-term well-being of migratory ducks and geese. Before daylight, I walked a mile into a swampy, forested area that consisted of oak flats and meandering cypress sloughs. Palmetto blanketed the subtle ridges and drapes of Spanish moss hung motionless in the still, pre-dawn darkness.

Frog Poetry

Feb 18, 2019
Ouchley
K. Ouchley

There was a poetry slam going down at the pond this warm, winter morning. It was discernable when I first stepped out the front door of my house on the edge of the swamp. Since there are plenty of other water bodies nearby including a bayou and rising backwater, this venue seems to have been chosen expressly for the acoustics. Cajun chorus frogs, a dozen, a hundred or maybe a thousand of them had pulled out their combs and were dragging their amphibious thumbs across the teeth. The theme of the performance was obscure.

Tree Connections

Jan 7, 2019
Ouchley
K. Ouchley

At the top of my long driveway through a patch of diverse forest that is at least 130 years old, there was a peculiar episode of mortality not long ago. The deaths involved three large trees that, up until the time their leaves withered and transpiration failed, appeared healthy. They all died within a two month period. The victims were within forty feet of each other,and though trees were of three different species -  a white oak, a mockernut hickory, and a southern red oak.

Raw Land

Sep 25, 2018
Ouchley
K. Ouchley

No doubt landscapes tug on our psyche. Whether a snow-capped Colorado mountain or a shimmering gulf coast beach, our brains react to certain topographies in peculiar ways. We are all different in our feelings toward distinctive terrains – some attract, some are foreboding. For me there is a landscape in northeastern Louisiana that never fails to stir something below the surface of my consciousness.

 

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.

 

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.

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.