Friday, March 29, 2013


Some days in the West Delta field a layer of silty, brown water floats on top of the Gulf's opaque green. It's outflow from the Mississippi River, several of the mouths of which are nearly in sight. Throttle up and the boat's propellers create a green "hole" in the muddy freshwater.

Old Man River carries all sorts of nutrients that feed small organisms that feed bigger organisms ... you know, that whole food chain thing. At Barataria Pass, the Gulf inlet through which we travel several times a day, strong currents from Barataria Waterway and Bay, Bayou Rigaud and the Gulf itself converge in a channel that in some places is as deep as 150 feet.

It is a smorgasbord for fin and feather.

There are dozens -- scores -- possibly hundreds of dolphins in and around the pass. Oddly, I have yet to see one longer than about 5 feet. They are noticeably smaller and darker than the same species in the Coastal Bend and in South Texas.

I've seen more brown pelicans here than anywhere in Louisiana, and there is a colony of black skimmers on Fifi Island, just across the bayou. There also appear to be some scattered black mangroves, which is interesting.

Herring and ring-billed gulls, along with my old familiars laughing gulls abound, and often soar along next to us at wheelhouse level as we come through the pass.

Offshore, there are quite a few northern gannets, members of the booby family. These striking birds are ungainly in the water, as on land, and it's apparently a great effort for them to make a long, paddling take-off.

Often I catch sight of them frantically swimming out of the way of the boat, tails wagging rapidly. *The Northern Gannet photo is courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

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