Because the climate has been so spectacular of late, it’s been possible and desireable to hang out in the park to make and see what one can. This is another bird post, but one that specializes in what’s possible here in the fall. Some of these species are found no where else…and for good reason. I start with a shot of the typical terrain one encounters at this time of year. What is a bird without some context? Naturally, the river predominates as the distinct landscape feature with mixed hardwoods flanking the shoreline. I’ll start first with an American Coot. Not a particularly rare bird, but one I always enjoy seeing at the river. I came across this lone individual and snapped this quick image for luck. The true rarities are ahead.
In the western section of the park a couple of late nesting birds can be found among the exposed roots of the great trees. This is the home of the Styro-Grackle and the Fleur-de-lis Dovelette. The next two images are of the grackle. I stumbled upon a male with its great yellow bill displaying with the remains of a baby’s pacifier. In this species, males vie for the attention of females by choosing objects they believe the females will like. The Styro-Grackle is a large, and noisey bird, but wary to the extreme.
Here’s a close-up image of its head, bill, and pacifier it found by the river.
Often found in association with the grackles are the gentle Fleur-de-Lis Dovelettes. The female specimen I came across was sitting on a fresh nest. No eggs were observed within it. The dovelette is not particularly fussy about what materials it uses to construct its bowl-like nest. This one was made from shredded plastic with hardly a trace of natural fibers interwoven into its structure. First, a picture of the bird itself in its woody habitat.
The bird derives its common name from the unusual crest upon its head. It is rumored that this was the inspiration for the symbol used by the City of Louisville on its flag, official letterhead, etc… More than likely though, it’s just a coincidence. Like many dove species, this one has tiny feet. Here’s a good look at the unusual nest constructed in the fork of a tree root.
And here is the bird and nest joined together. I didn’t linger because I didn’t want to disturb the dovelette anymore than I had to. If the conditions are right, she will lay three to four light green eggs. The dovelette will have to stand guard against raccoons, but otherwise her young have a good chance of reaching maturity. Wild prairie grass seeds make up much of its diet.
Near the middle of the park, Cane Run Creek flows into the Ohio River. It’s a spot that’s favored by fisherman and birds alike. Large rocks and trees deposited by flooding line its banks. Because of the vagaries of the larger river, the creek’s appearance is highly variable. It was in this area that I came across a rare and unusual shorebird that I would like to share with you. Here are two images of the Jet Piper. It is so named because it evolved a distinct crest that is believed to stabilize it during its speedy flight. One sees a similar structure on the tail of modern aircraft. The Jet Piper never stays in one place for long. It probes the mud along the creek bank in search of worms and other invertebrates. Recent studies have shown that this piper will on rare occasions, take nectar from hummingbird feeders. Here are two views.
The last specialty I came across is one of the sweetest singers in the park. In fact, that’s how I located the Styro-wood Wren first…by its optimistic, cheery song. I was sitting in my usual spot under the willows when I heard it nearby. I took a position along a path I thought it might take and with success, recorded these images of this rare endemic bird.
On a sunny morning, the Styro-wood Wren was making its rounds in the underbrush. Its singing has more to do with staking its feeding territory than it does with finding a mate. That will change once Spring arrives at the Falls once again. Among the interlopers that the wood wren is trying to discourage are other members of the family Troglodytidae. Sharing its range at various times are Carolina Wrens, House Wrens, and the tiny Winter Wrens. That’s a lot of competition to try and discourage. This particular bird was in rare form and seemed to pose for my camera.
It spread its fan-tail and with a shudder of its brown- wings burst into song. The small feathers along its neck make an attractive collar.
I made these birds from materials I found in the park. All the plastic and Styrofoam elements were once in the Ohio River where they interact with the natural ecosystem. Among the other materials used include: tree bark (for wings), coal (for eyes), and rootlets and twigs (for the legs). I make these artworks to call attention to the condition of the land and water, to draw attention to the unique qualities of this place, to celebrate creativity, and because I love birds! All the photos are mine and shot on location at the Falls of the Ohio State Park.
While I was making my faux birds, the real articles were busy in the tree tops above my studio. Among my favorites to watch are the Golden-crowned Kinglets. These tiny birds are ever in motion and hard to photograph! Here are a few more real bird pictures.
Lastly, the nest featured with the Fleur-de-lis Dovelette is in fact a genuine bird nest. I found it in the branches of a downed tree. I have no idea which species created it. I have seen within the park, the nest of a Northern Oriole that used cast-off fishing monofilament in its construction. I do, however, think I located a source for the plastic fibers. Near the discovered nest, a large barge rope was slowly unraveling and its threads look identical to the ones in the nest I came across.