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Wise Ones

We are losing the old wise ones. Some of our most erudite naturalists never heard a professor’s lecture or studied in a biology lab that reeked of formalin and moth balls. Still, they know the eddies where giant flathead catfish prowl and the ridge-top trails of foraging coyotes. They possess the skill to weave hoop nets five feet in diameter to catch spawning buffalo in a spring freshet, and the knowledge to boil new coon traps in green walnut hulls to mask human odors. Most of these sages have a lifetime of experience commercial fishing, trapping, or otherwise supporting themselves and their families by harvesting the natural products of our forests and streams. Those remaining were born b

Swamp Snow

Bayou-Diversity (9 December 2017) SWAMP SNOW Swamp snows don’t come often to Louisiana. Only during a rare conjugal visit of otherwise estranged weather gods, warm wet air from the gulf overrides a lingering cold front to produce moisture that morphs into hexagonal crystals. If the snow seeds are sufficiently fertile and the humidity high, flakes the size of dimes, nickels, or even the wings of bride moths float into the winter world of baldcypress trees, Spanish moss, and squealer ducks. Almost always the temperature is marginal, the apparition fleeting as a persistent sun sweeps clean the spell in a cruel shower of snowmelt. It is best to visit a snowed swamp soon while the sky is still le

Ghosts

I saw a ghost a while back. He appeared out of thin air, transformed a peaceful, bucolic scene into murderous chaos, and vanished in seconds. I loved it. It was one of the never-to-be-forgotten highlights of my experiences in the natural world. The scenario occurred in a pine thicket at dusk as I perched in a deer stand not really caring if a deer showed up or not. I was content to listen to the hermit thrushes’ harsh, going-to-bed, chirring calls from the brush, while being entertained by a cottontail rabbit foraging in a small opening. Ghosts are fast. In a blur of motion, and as I watched, he caught the rabbit and disappeared. I had not seen him before the commotion and never saw him agai

 

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