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LMRD 782 - Lower Mississippi River Dispatch
"Voice of the Lower Mississippi River"
Tuesday, June 9, 2020 -- Quarantine Birds


Quarantined from Mexico? Black Bellied Whistling Ducks
(Thanks to Matt Sutton for the ID!)



Black Bellied Whistling Ducks, Sunflower River
(sketches & photos by John Ruskey)



Mark River (with turtle eggs uncovered by rising waters; we re-laid)

Mark River: Birds of Quarantine

I sit on my patio in my courtyard sipping on ginger mushroom tea anticipating the sunrise to peek over the concrete wall before me. I live downtown and my porch faces the back of a feed and seed store so my sunrise is delayed by a few minutes. The building is old, but solid, with various cracks, crevices, and abandoned infrastructure existing in its walls. During this health crisis, I've sat here and watched the birds turn this small downtown courtyard into a quarantine sanctuary.


Osprey feasting on Fish, Davis Bayou

A blackbird has claimed an old laundry exhaust pipe. The mother sitting on eggs inside, the male continuously hunting and singing on the power line. Another pair are nested up in the old wooden window frames that have been compromised by weathering over the years. They used sticks and discarded plastic bags to construct a water resistant nest. My neighbor has bird feeders so various species visit us throughout the day. Night hawks are zooming in the sky, while the pigeons fly in formation doing their daily configurations around town. A mockingbird toots its horn. The sun is just showing above the building and birds are everywhere.


Nighthawks Diving for Dragonflies over Downtown Clarksdale

I see the silhouette of a hummingbird visiting the trumpet flowers checking on their bloom. Small sparrows and finches are singing and eating out of the feeders, while others spill seeds to the ground. Many plume their wings in the dusty gravel beds while swallowing small pebbles to help them digest the seed. All this is happening within fifteen minutes.


Great Blue Heron, Sunflower River

I take my pre-workout morning walk towards the Sunflower River as a great blue heron flies over, headed to the river-bank. The sky is filled with Mississippi kites showing up from Mexico, Central, and South America. They make this journey to mate and to feed on this favorite foods cicadas and Delta dragonflies.


Interior Least Tern Mating Ritual, Island 62

By the river a family of cardinals whistle amongst each other in the cottonwood tree, while killdeer and sandpipers forage on the mud-flats. A family of black-bellied whistling ducks take refuge along the Sunflower River in a small natural inlet behind our shop, while a green heron feeds along a downed hackberry along the muddy banks.


Black Bellied Whistling Ducks, Sunflower River Cypress

I take a seat on a deck underneath a large sycamore tree. An oriole lands on the branch above me. I marvel at the striking colors that only nature creates. It goes from seed pod to pod jamming it's beak into each one, setting the seedlings afloat in the wind. I love it when I"m able to witness an event in nature that connects all the dots.


Black Bellied Whistling Ducks

My quarantine Quapaw brothers and I have been spending our time reconnecting and bonding by gardening and finishing a project that was halted by the Sunflower River Flood of 2016. The Dragonfly Dawn canoe has been woken. The energy is amazing that comes from the sacred construction of a canoe. It has given us the strength and intestinal fortitude to continue on in this time of crisis. It makes you look at yourself and realize what's important in this life. This morning I was aware of the importance of the birds spreading seed and controlling our important sacred food chain.


Terns with Minnows and Tuna, Mississippi Sound

With the health and social injustice crisis the world is facing, I believe the Creator is trying to get our attention. The message is that all living creatures are important to the health of the world: and we were put here to sustain and protect for future generations. We have the intelligent minds and science to pursue this, so let's not be afraid to ask the serious questions, to create dialogue, and to not be afraid to be the country we say we are.

-Mark River
(sketches & photos by John Ruskey)


Mark River is chief guide and youth leader for the Quapaw Canoe Company. He is also southern leader of the 1Mississippi Program, which connects people who care about rivers with the people who make decisions about rivers. He is self-isolating in the canoe shop for construction of the next big canoe. His blog writing is inspired by his work on the Mississippi River -- and its many tributaries such as the Big Sunflower and the Arkansas Rivers.

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We Can't Breathe

We at Quapaw Canoe Company are shocked, hurt and angered by the knee chokehold murder of George Floyd in the river city Minneapolis, and subsequent injustices suffered by non-violent protestors, by ethical police trying to do their job, and by the many innocent people across our great nation. This is not what we are about. The right to breathe is the most basic of human needs. The right to clean water would have to be second. Everything we do at QCC is about a good, healthy life for all. We can’t breathe in this kind of atmosphere.

If you would like to read more about our internal rationale, please go to end of newsletter for a description of our core values and how they apply to this difficult time in our nation’s history.

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Balance, Diversity, Democracy



Quapaw Canoe Company core values are balance, diversity, and democracy, which all derive from our experience paddling big canoes on the big waters of North America. Balance is exemplified by the passage of our canoes. Everything we do is about keeping even keel. To do otherwise is dangerous to our health and well-being. Pandemic and police brutality are symptoms of the imbalance we seek to counteract in our services and work as canoe builders, guides & outfitters. Other imbalances include species loss, global warming, and loss of wild places. Diversity for us includes all peoples and all creatures great and small. We have always created equal access for all. Our staff reflects our regional demographics, around 60% Black and 40% White. Since 1998 we have made it our mission to make sure all communities found along the Lower Mississippi River enjoy equal access to the wonders of the big river, and the life changing experience of the wilderness. Our adventures practice the best qualities of Democracy. Everyone in the big canoe sets aside their differences and paddles together for the good of the whole. We believe in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Inherent in life is the right to breathe clean air, the right to drink clean water, the right to eat good food, and the right to live in healthy shelter, in healthy communities.

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We're all Connected:

Ending here with Big River Love to everyone. Wherever you are, in on any of the seven continents, or on any of the seven seas -- wherever the passage of life flows onwards forever flowing -- we hope you are well and making good decisions for yourself, your friends, your family, and the future of humanity.

We feel you, and we are all in this boat together. Yours always, in service,



"Driftwood Johnnie"
"Weedy"
John Ruskey