Ray offers Eco Tours in the late afternoon every day to tour Lake Barkley in search of interesting fauna, especially the avian sort.
“We’re taking a tour of the lake to look at osprey,” said Joy Anderson. “We thought it was a great time to get out on the lake.”
Whitey Anderson looked forward to his time on Ray’s boat. “This is our first time ever in this area. It’s beautiful.” He added that the name of his hometown, Bemidji, is a Native American term meaning “Lake with a river running through it,” much like how the Cumberland River forms Lake Barkley.
Ray took the helm of his comfortable motorboat leading the party along the channel formed by the meandering Little River, through its estuary, and out into Lake Barkley’s main valley.
The first bird spotted swooped over the green waves of the lake. Ray identified it as a black crown night heron. “They were discovered nearly 25 years ago living on an island near Linton and Highway 68/80. They have the reddest eyes and nest n colonies. DDT had reduced their numbers so finding the colony was a surprise.”
Ray observed another bird and asked the passengers if they could identify it. This reporter speculated it could have been a small sandhill crane. Ray produced his guitar and sang a song identifying the bird as a great blue heron. “Please don’t call me a crane, because it drives me insane,” he sang. Without the presence of the pesticide DDT, banned in 1972, herons, osprey and egrets have flourished. Ray added that the herons enjoyed a “baby boom” 25 years ago.
The tour passed a rock wall where Ray described the process of tickling and noodling fish-catching fish with bare hands- to the Andersons. “Along here some guys caught a large catfish. I saw them using a gaff, but some people use their bare hands.”
“Unbelievable,” said Whitey Anderson.
Ray said that he began offering Eco Tours in 1999. Prior to that, he served as head naturalist at the Land Between the Lakes under TVA operation. “I spent 20 years with LBL and helped organize the boat trips on Eagle Weekend.”
For the rest of this story, read this week's Cadiz Record.