Hello all and welcome to another adventure set at the Falls of the Ohio. Since my last visit, the Ohio River has risen in response to all the rain that fell in the northern portion of the Ohio Valley and has flowed down river in a southwestern direction. The fossil beds normally exposed during the summer and early autumn months are now submerged by swiftly flowing water. Walking this ever shifting shoreline I’m open for whatever presents itself as novel and different. Turning the corner around a stand of willow trees I was caught by this unusual sight.
A tree captured barge cable or rope was in a different position from the last time I had noticed it (see this year’s Halloween post). It is possible that the river rose high enough to dislodge it from its previous resting spot. I was struck by the way it seemingly is suspended in mid-air with its regular yellow and black intervals contrasting with the unruly roots and branches around it. Around here, water can both rise and fall quickly. In the fine silt and mud you can often find interesting patterns that were created by the movement of wind and water. Here is such an example.
The back and forth rhythm of the river caressing the land are recorded as peaks and valleys in this very fine mud. I can be “hypnotized” at times by concentrating on this movement which I find soothing. I’m always interested in the various subtle patterns that water can create on the mud of the riverbank. It’s akin to trying to “track” water and recognize its footprint as it moves onto the land. I also noticed about a two foot tall, low “wall” of material (mostly wood and dried grasses) along the shoreline that marks this latest high water moment. And of course, there is always the ever-present mostly plastic junk that also gets swept away and mixes with the natural debris. I found lots of plastic detergent bottles, bits and pieces from toys including another doll’s head. Here are images of other finds including an interesting toy ball.
I’m assuming this is a dog toy based on the image of the dog on the ball? The small knobs are different from the usual balls I find out here. Now, for a bright blue comb in a design that’s also new to me. The tiny grains around the comb are seeds from various river grasses.
More ” blueness” in the form of plastic wheels on a wrecked pull toy.
In the mud, I came across this other type of footprint that I thought was a bit unusual from the norm. Of course, it’s a sports shoe with cleats on the bottom sticking up from the mud.
And one last found wheel whose radial pattern inspired another image in my ever-growing “Coal Flake” series.
I’ve come to really like making these designs from river-altered coal that I find at the Falls. I’m under the impression that this coal has fallen or been swept off the immense barges that transport this fuel up and down the river. I suppose it’s possible that somewhere along the river’s journey the water has cut down through the rock to expose a coal seam somewhere, but I haven’t ever heard of this happening. The barges seem the likeliest answer. This particular example has more Asiatic Clam shells used in the design. These clams are the most common of their kind that I find at the Falls. Once upon a very recent time a go, the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys were the world’s epicenter for fresh water clams. By altering the rivers and the water quality in them, many of these amazing creatures have either gone extinct or have become so very rare. The Asiatic Clam is a non-native animal imported here in the 19th century as a good luck charm and has thrived as has the Zebra Mussel that you may have heard about? The day was moving on and except for a few Mallard ducks and Canada geese I hadn’t seen much in the way of wildlife. I decided to end my day by doing a little fishing. I found a short, recently beaver-chewed willow branch and attached some waste fishing line I found. I attached a hook and found bobber and into the water it went.
Oh, for bait I caught a small grasshopper and attached it to the hook. A small found lead weight kept the bait below the water. Every once in a while I would raise my short pole up and down in a “jigging” motion. To my immense surprise I caught this very unusual fish!
This fish is called the Iron Gill based on the metallic covers it sports around its gills. Other distinctive features include bright blue eyes and a small white dorsal fin. It’s body shape is unique and lends itself to easy filleting…although I wouldn’t normally recommend eating the fish from this part of the river. Catching this fish here was a surprise because normally this is a deep water fish found in large flowing rivers.
This species was first described to science by Constantine Rafinesque back in 1811. Rafinesque was a controversial figure and brilliant naturalist. He had a gift for collecting and recognizing new species, however, in his zest to publish and receive credit for his discoveries he was very sloppy in his methods. As a result, many of the animals and plants he introduced to science are poorly described and classified which led to much confusion and consternation among the other “scientifics” of the time. In the end, Rafinesque usually won out because science gives priority to the person who first (no matter how poorly) brings the new creature to the world’s attention.
After this last image, I released the Iron Gill back into the water and rebaited my hook. Alas, this was the only fish I caught on this day, but it reassured me that my skills in this area were still intact. For my next post, I want to show you images of a coal-themed exhibition I’m participating in the nearby town of New Albany, Indiana. It’s a good show and worth a post. For now, I would like to close with another image of a found toy I came across on this day. Have a great weekend out there in the wider world!