The Ohio River has receded by the Falls of the Ohio. For many weeks the river was loath to relinquish the territory it had recently flooded. I ventured down the river bank and explored the more eastern section of the park. The following post is some thoughts and images made during this expedition into a very moist and muddy area filled with debris and wildlife.
While exploring the park it is not unusual to run into others who are curious to see what the river has left behind. Sometimes just a nod of recognition and some small gesture to reassure that one poses no threat is made and each party then attends to their own business. And then sometimes a more sustained conversation occurs where information of mutual interest is exchanged. Such was the case on this trip where I ran into this fellow of short stature with a bulbous blue nose who had been investigating the same stretch of river as me. We tagged along with one another for a short time before family duties called me home. I believe our initial conversation had something to do with the muddiness of the area. In places, things looked safe and dry enough to stand on…and then the mud below would reach up and grab you by the ankles. Sometimes small, blue crabs would pop out of their holes to check out whether the trapped parties would be good to eat.
In my case, I am simply too big for them and once the crabs realized this they scuttled away. Getting back to “Mr. Blue Nose”, (funny how we didn’t think to ask each other’s name?), we were both astonished by the debris left behind by the retreating river. After witnessing several other high water incidents over time…this is fairly representative of the stuff we found.
As you can see it’s mostly plastic containers, polystyrene (aka Styrofoam), and lots of shredded bark and wood chips. Every once in a while, something more interesting would turn up. While exploring, Mr. Blue Nose and I found two sign fragments and I kept these for my Found Painting and Sign Collection. Here are the two precious finds. The first one is kind of self-explanatory. I like to muse that this is one way the universe communicates to me by leaving these things in my path for me to ponder.
I’m not sure what it is asking…Please don’t litter or Please, only you can prevent forest fires, whatever its actual message, this is at least a polite sign. The other one is more reclusive, in fact it is “shy”. Here’s a picture of this enigmatic sign.
I like the hand-routed and painted ”sign” for a person. I think this fragment may originally have asked dog owners to leash their pets…but its shy and won’t tell me for certain. Other found treasures included my second banana of the season…naturally it went into the old collecting bag to later join the other artificial produce I have found out here over time.
I also find other kinds of foam out here. Here’s an interesting found sculpture made from polyurethane. I have come across busted aerosol cans of this stuff where the foam has expanded out resembling entrails.
Mr. Blue Nose called my attention to a log that something had torn into and he wondered what could do this kind of damage. Chunks of bark and soft decayed wood were scattered all around.
I was happy to inform my new friend that this looked like the work made by a Pileated Woodpecker and I showed him images of this great bird I had taken just a few hours earlier.
Since no one can verify that the Ivory-billed Woodpecker is still alive along some wild river in Arkansas…the Pileated Woodpecker has the distinction of being our biggest living woodpecker. For years, I have observed a pair of these crow-sized birds in the park. This one is the male and can be identified by his red mustache. The female lacks this and has more black on its head.
The Pileated Woodpecker has a large bill that goes through wood in a hurry. Carpenter ants and beetle larvae can be found in these decaying logs and make up the main diet of this magnificent bird. If you look closely at the photo above you can see a nice grub about to be swallowed. This bird was so intent on looking for food that I was able to get closer than usual to it. A couple of weeks a go, I found a Bessbug beetle which is a nice sized insect that uses decaying wood in its life-cycle. This beetle is also known as the Patent-leather Beetle. Here’s an adult I found sunning itself on a piece of Styrofoam. These beetles can get nearly two inches long or about five centimeters. I wonder if our country will ever adopt the metric system? Anyway, these beetle grubs make nice woodpecker snacks.
Thanks to my new companion we were able to make one other nice bird sighting on this day. Mr. Blue Nose alerted me to some commotion happening in a nearby stand of trees.
My friend said that he saw several blackbirds (grackles) chasing a larger bird from tree to tree. I have observed this behavior before when birds of prey are present. I gathered my camera up and went to see if I could find out what was the object of all this attention. It turned out to be this beautiful Red-shouldered Hawk. Here are a couple of pictures of it before the smaller birds drove it out of the area.
I always feel lucky when I see such beautiful birds in the park. Before flying away, I saw this bird’s mate arriving and the two flew away together. Soon it was time for me to fly away too and I left my companion on the river bank.
We parted near the railroad bridge and perhaps we will see one another again? My last image is from an overlook area popular with visitors who want a better view of the tainter gates. I have taken many pictures here over the years, but this one is different. To give you an idea of how high the river was…this log was deposited on the fence by the retreating river! Or, I hope so…I would hate to think it jumped up here! So long for now!!
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