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Wed, March 13, 2019

Mosaic of Gulfport Birds, Pencil w/watercolors, 2019 John Ruskey

LMRD 712: sharing some random stream-of -consciousness journal entries and quick pencil sketches; please don't judge too harshly: these are pure creative writing inspired at the edge of the tannin-tinged-Gulf, my pens and pencils moved by the mad, raucous doings in thelives of the winged world -- something we'll be doing more of this Spring in the big canoe. Want to join us? Several offering in the making that might appeal to bird-watchers, naturalists and also artistic types of any sort!

Cormorant Silhouettes, Port Gibson Harbor, Pencil Sketch, 2019 John Ruskey

(1) Mon Mar 25 - Sat Mar 30
Pearl River Expedition — Naturalist’s Retreat in Voyageur Canoe

(2) Mon April 22 - Sat 27
Horn Island Expedition — Artist’s Retreat in Voyageur Canoe

(3) Mon May 20 - Sat May 25
Pascagoula River Expedition — Naturalist’s Retreat in Voyageur Canoe

Bald Eagle, Venus, Jupiter, Moon, Brickyard Bayou, Pencil Sketch, 2019 John Ruskey

But first, the
River Report:

The Sunflower River has fallen 12 feet from the unusual February crest and is now flowing freely within its lower banks (between 10” and 11’ on USGS Clarksdale gauge 07288000), Monday night’s rain still coursing out of the fields and wetlands of the Upper Delta adding to the water backing up higher and higher in the Lower Delta, trapped by the Mighty Mississippi River as it crests at Vicksburg, a narrow band of rain emerged over the Ark-La-Miss Delta and drenched Monday morning ambitions, (not a bad thing for modern man to get a wet blanket thrown over his boundless ego). The Mississippi steadily falling (we saw a quick rise, a short plateau, and now, a relatively quick fall - is this the new pattern?).

But wait! Looking at the Mississippi River Gages: what’s that coming our way? Looking upstream another wave seems to be taking shape and gathering strength, a pulse appearing on the Middle Mississippi (Cape Girardau, 2.5’ above FS on the 15th) and the Ohio (Paducah 12’ above on the 16th). (FS = flood stage). This double pulse appearing on the two major trunks, the Lower Miss means that Cairo (at the confluence) will see 13.5’ above FS on the 17th. This might be lessened as this 2nd wave travels downstream, but it might not. It all depends on rainfall along the Lower Miss, and the river levels in all of the tributaries joining in below Cairo.

Two crests on one river? A double pulse? This is a unique scenario I do not think I have previously witnessed, a distinct double crest pushing southward simultaneously 500 miles apart from each other on the last 954 miles of the Lower Mississippi River! We’ll be keeping our eye on this interesting phenomena and report back next week.

Loons Fishing in Waves Before Storm, Ocean Spring Harbor, Pencil Sketch, 2019 John Ruskey

Avian All-You-Can-Eat

Sat, Feb 16, watching gulls, skimmers, pipers, pelicans and others, Teagarden Beach, the glorious Gulf of Mexico greeting me full of salty sweet smells, everyone seems happy to see me, laughing, singing, playing, eating, congregating, no one seems to be guarding turf, no fighting, gull stirring up crustaceans out of the mud and sand at low tide, vigorously pulsing her feet, dancing in place, making the sediment bubble and pop and stabbing Indian yellow beak into the bubbling brine no doubt snatching craw-fulls of crunchy crustaceans and other goodies out of the stirred-up cauldron momentarily created by her energetic dance, after 4 or 5 such dances she raises her beak backwards over her body and releases a series of screaming cries in the sweetly-salty-tinged way that gulls do, repeatedly ratcheting her beak back and forth and sweetly crying, a group of 4 others respond in kind and a sort-of call and response results, she seems to be expressing her satisfaction after a fine morning meal, letting the world know, and then slowly walks up the sand dune nearby while I talk to her, she seems completely at ease and comfortable with my presence until I pullout my iPhone and ask her if I can snap a photo, when I do she turns her butt to me, so I put it away, she preens her wings a while, and then her wings underside, one at a time, then cries out again, beak down, then beak up, each time revealing an enchanting chalky orange inner mouth tones softly glowing mango-orange ever, the tide retreated as low as it will go for the day, now returning upslope, bringing all of the winged world closer to my feet, mosquitoes taking advantage of the foggy morning to circle in for their own winged feast…

Osprey Ripping Up Fish, Davis Bayou, Pencil Sketch, 2019 John Ruskey

Tues, Feb 19, lesser egret stilt-dancing back and forth in estuary at the end of Courthouse Road, gulls and skimmers flying in, flying out, from sandy landing pad emerging in the ebbing tide, muddy waves crashing to shore from galloping saw-toothed crests darkening as each wave enters shallows and is accentuated upwards and rippling walls leaning forward and cresting into foaming froth, mocha froth sediments stirred up by the 2nd day of NE now E winds, sand pipers, stilts dancing to and fro in ripple edged shallows as osprey patrols perimeter, a sudden fluttering of wings, a mid-flight readjustment, and he makes his move, diving into wavy shallows he snags a small squirming catfish and struggles back aloft, losing grip the squirming fish falls back into wavy shallows behind skimmers and gulls, osprey circles back around in 15-20 mph E breezes to approach again upwind and recaptures his prize with muscly talon purchase, successfully airborne he begins to wing away with the wind when he assaulted mid-air by one of his kin, another hungry osprey, they scream at each other and then curve in and out with madly beating wings, in and out, up and down, crossing wings and heads perilously close above the waves, he drops his hard-earned breakfast to confront his aggressor now with freed claws, on equal terms, who departs cowed by the emboldened and doubtlessly enraged defender, the hostile skies cleared of challenge, the hard working osprey returns to wavy shallows to recapture his prize, and takes to the wind again, now free of enemy fire, and sails off to the distant live oak treeline, now a couple of crows circle in to join gulls bathing in shallow inlet, a small freighter has been easing out of the Gulfport harbor into the Mississippi Sound, egret going, tall stilt returns, 3 big US Air Force carriers roar SE and 1 SW, 3 ear-popping fighter jets follow, scalloped clouds slide overhead, repercussion waves grey-blue dramatically tinged in morning honey yellow light…

Gulls and Brown Pelicans, Fog Lifting, Morning Sun, Katrina Ravaged Dock, Teagarden Beach, Pencil Sketch, 2019 John Ruskey

Sat, Feb 23, thick, misty fog hugging the coast like a Rocky Mountain fog, the avian all-you-can-eat at the end of Courthouse Inlet in full raucous lunchtime chaos, the joyous confusion of a schoolhouse cafeteria, breakfast in full swing, followed by bath-time, preening, fishing, plumbing the sandbars and mudbars with pointed beaks, slapping water with wings and diving head inwards underwater with hunched shoulders pumping rhythmically pulsing muscles and feathers to make water roll along downy backs, beating wings and snapping tails over and over again in different angles and directions, changing the angle no doubt to trip up fleas and others then jump into the air to vibrate wings and shake a tail feather, only to remain saturated in the soupy foggy mixture, gulls, waders, pipers, egrets, other shore birds and near-shore birds, a flock of doves intercedes for their morning ritual on the harbor rip-rap…

Osprey and her Prize, Courthouse Beach, Pencil Sketch, 2019 John Ruskey

Swirling Lines in Broken Seashells, Pencil Sketch, 2019 John Ruskey


Opening Reception: Thursday, February 28, 2019, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Meet the Artist and Gallery Walkthrough: Tuesday, April 2, 2019, 7-9:00 p.m.
Understanding Birds through Drawing: Thursday, April 4, 2019, 5:30 p.m.

The Art of Identification, a collection of watercolors by celebrated bird illustrator, ornithologist, and author David Allen Sibley, is on view at the University of Mississippi Museum beginning February 26.

The exhibit will display 25 original paintings from the Sibley Guides to Birds and Trees, as well as a few earlier works from the illustrator.

“Mr. Sibley exhibits in museums very infrequently, so this is a particularly great opportunity for Oxford and [the University],” said Robert Saarnio, director of the University of Mississippi Museum. “There is an appeal of partnering with such a wide range of organizations and we saw immediately the possibility of other related elements in the Permanent Collection supporting this show, such as recently-gifted, but not yet displayed, Audubon prints, and our Boehm ceramic birds collection.”

The UM Museum will host an opening reception on Thursday, February 28 at 5:30pm to celebrate the exhibit, which is on view until September 7, 2019. Sibley will visit the museum in April for several appearances and events, including a gallery walkthrough on April 2, a step-by-step demonstration on April 4, as well as to meet with students and local birding groups in the area. A full schedule of events can be found under the events tab.

“For me drawing is a tool, a method of study. It helps me to really dig in and develop an understanding of the things I am drawing, and the simple act of sketching has led to all kinds of discoveries,” Sibley said.

“Ultimately, I think the reward of studying nature is the chance to feel like a part of something bigger: to understand the patterns and rhythms of the natural world, to know what part each bird or tree is playing, and to see our own lives in that context.”

Sibley has authored and illustrated a series of guides for bird watchers and enthusiasts, which includes five volumes birds and one on trees. The Sibley Guides began publication in 2000 and have become one of the most accomplished guides for ornithological field identification in North America.
“I hope that sharing my illustrations through my books and through this exhibit acts as an introduction to the birds and trees that share our neighborhoods, allowing everyone to appreciate their place in the wider natural world,” Sibley added.

Local and regional bird and conservation organizations, including the Strawberry Plains Audubon Center in Holly Springs, Miss., Delta Wind Birds, and the Mississippi Ornithological Society, are equally excited to share Sibley’s knowledge and illustrations with the Oxford community.

“One could say the depth of Audubon’s legacy is carried today by David Allen Sibley, whose detailed avian portraits are equally field guides and works of art,” said Mitch Robinson, Conservation Education Manager at SPAC.

“John James Audubon, the namesake of the National Audubon Society, was the first European to document, draw and bring to life the diverse abundance of avian life in North America, inspiring awe and wonder in naturalists and bird lovers alike for over two centuries,” he added.

Admission to the UM Museum, as well as to the opening reception, is free. The galleries are open every Tuesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Be among the first to know about upcoming events, exhibits, and workshops by becoming a member and supporting the mission of Mississippi’s largest academic museum.

The UM Museum is located at the intersection of 5th Street and University Avenue.

For more information, call 662-915-7073 or email

David Allen Sibley: link to the exhibit information on our webpage:


Rhythm and Flow is an exhibition of contemporary art that examines the natural beauty and environmental diversity of Mississippi’s wetlands and rivers. Juried by the professors of the NWCC Fine Arts department, this exhibition will explore Mississippi’s rivers, tributaries, and wetlands through the eyes of the regions talented artists. From the rhythms of the migratory flyway where an astounding number of bird species stop to rest seasonally, to its multifarious plant life, and the struggles of flooding, Mississippi’s waterways offer a myriad of opportunities for expressive and expansive works. Selection will be based on a fresh approach to the subject matter, skill, and creativity.

• Artists working in all media and styles are encouraged to apply.
• This invitational is open to all artists over the age of 18 years.
• All subject matter must be related to the theme of Mississippi wetlands and rivers. It is the sole discretion of the jury to determine which works are accepted into the exhibition. Artworks may explore themes of the river, its wildlife, landscapes or ecosystems in a representational or abstract manner.
Artists should send up to three digital images and a short artist statement to deadline for submissions is August 5th. Please include in your email: Name, Telephone Number, Title of Art- work, Medium, and Date of Completion.

If you are accepted into the invitational you must deliver your artwork to the NWCC Art Department gallery Senatobia campus on (or before) September 1st between 9 AM and 3:30 PM. Artworks will not be accepted after 3:30 PM on September 1st. All 2-dimensional works must be framed and ready to hang. It is also the artist’s responsibility to pick up their artworks (or make other arrangements for timely pickup) on September 30th between 9 AM – 2:30 PM.

The NWCC Art Department does not assume any risk for the works of art put on exhibition as part of this invitational. By submitting your work for this exhibit, you agree to these stipulations.

Dana Finimore

Quapaw Canoe Company
Calendar, Spring 2019
February 2019

Sat, Feb 9
Community Half-Daytrip - Sunflower River, 9am-1pm

Sun Feb 10 - Mon Feb 11
"The Mighty Mississippi: A Mosaic of America's Growth"
Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock
(Live Dugout Canoe Carving Demonstration)

Sat, Feb 16
LMRF General Annual Membership Meeting
Helena Outpost, 107 Perry St, Helena
12noon - 1pm, Cleanup in Helena Harbor to follow, 2-3pm

March 2019

Sat, Mar 9
Community Half-Daytrip - Mississippi River

Mon Mar 25 - Sat Mar 30
Pearl River Expedition — Naturalist’s Retreat in Voyageur Canoe

April 2019

April 11-14
Juke Joint Festival 2019
Camping,Carving, Booksignings, Canoeing Sunflower River
And much, much more!

Sat, April 13
Community Half-Daytrip - Sunflower River, 9am-1pm

April 18 - May 18
Water, Water: A Pop Up Invitational
Walter Anderson Museum of Art

Mon April 22 - Sat 27
Horn Island Expedition — Artist’s Retreat in Voyageur Canoe

May 2019
Sat, May 11
Community Half-Daytrip - Mississippi River

Mon May 20 - Sat May 25
Pascagoula River Expedition — Naturalist’s Retreat in Voyageur Canoe

June 2019

June 3rd-7th
LMRF Summer Camp
for Mississippi and Arkansas youth!

Sat, June 14
Community Half-Daytrip - Mississippi River

June 15
Buck Island Adventure
Experience the East Arkansas Mississippi River Canoe Float
9am-5pm from Helena, Ar.
In partnership with the Mississippi River State Park

Our Dream for Quapaw Canoe Company in 2019:

"To share the raw, wild, power & beauty of the big river
with patience, balance and compassion
for our clients
for the river
for all its creatures
and for our mother earth"


The Lower Mississippi River Dispatch "Voice of the Lower Mississippi River" is published by the Quapaw Canoe Company. Photos and writing by John Ruskey, Mark River and others. Please write for re-publishing. Feel free to share with friends or family, but also credit appropriately. Go to www.island63.comand click on "Quapaw Dispatch" for viewing back issues of the LMRD.


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