It’s hard for me to believe that October has come and gone. There isn’t much sand left in 2012′s hourglass. I’m virtually alone (if you are only counting people) at the Falls of the Ohio today and it’s understandable. The weather is cool, gray, and an occasional spit of rain falls against my face. I like it out here when it feels a bit lonelier because my chances of seeing wildlife increases. Such was the case today when I explored the area next to the tainter gates and under the old railroad bridge. This area is sheltered a bit from the wind and many times I have found birds in the high grass and low trees near the sloping riverbank. Today I observed Song Sparrows, White-crowned Sparrows, Mourning Doves, and Hairy Woodpeckers in immediate proximity to each other. In the sky, the first of the Ring-billed Gulls has arrived and a pair of Osprey with their broad wings searches for unwary fish too close to the surface of the water. Many of the tree leaves have dropped and it looks like we will have a bumper crop of cockle burrs as I pull dozens of them off my shoe laces and socks. Their prickly hooks irritate my skin as they work through the fabric of my clothing. On days like this I’m just trying to attune myself to the subtleties of this landscape and I’m amazed at how often my patience gets rewarded here. As I was walking to photograph uprooted trees against the flood wall…
…I spotted something shockingly white moving near the water’s edge. Carefully moving as close as I could…I recorded this image of another rare bird seldom seen at the Falls of the Ohio.
A few more pictures in relatively close succession and I was able to identify this beauty as the Lattice-necked or Brown-winged Ibis. I prefer using the Lattice-necked moniker because the long neck with its unusual patterning is distinctive to this bird alone. I happened across an individual that was hunting for food and stalking the margins of the water. I did observe it feeding on black snails that were common on the rocks. I recall from my old art history days that the ibis was a sacred bird to the ancient Egyptians and often was mummified to accompany dignitaries on their journeys to the afterlife. In my mind I made the association that this ibis species in front of me was sacred to the life of this river. Enough gabbing, here are a few more pictures.
This ibis species is more commonly seen around the Gulf coast and points south of here. Every once in a while, a storm or hurricane will blow a few individuals into the heartland where they are a welcome treat to the hardcore birders. The Lattice-necked Ibis has always been less common than the other larger shorebirds. It is less aggressive than the herons and egrets which out-compete the ibis for prime nesting and feeding sites. This bird did spy me and flew away, but only a short distance away. I was able to catch back up with it and captured these final images of this graceful and dignified bird.
Here is the same ibis that found a nice fishing spot next to a small whirlpool. Every now and then a little fish would get caught by the rotating water only to find itself food for the lightning quick ibis.
I felt refreshed and energized by my encounter with the ibis. I left the river with a song in my heart which I whistled all the way back home. Above me, two osprey I had seen earlier were circling in the clear, cool blue sky…another blessing of this day.
BONUS FEATURE…in process shots of how the ibis was made. The head and body are pieces of Styrofoam I found out at the Falls of the Ohio. The bill of the bird is a plastic handle from something…perhaps a feather duster? The bird’s eyes are two small pieces of coal. The neck I’m guessing is the plastic arm of a hanging flower planter? At the base of the neck, I attached a small bit of white plastic hose I came across. The brown wings are the soles of two mismatched shoes I found. The tiny tail and legs are found wood. These are all the materials that make up this sculpture which owes something to the tradition of decoy making. Thanks for tagging along with me on another adventure by the Ohio River.