The Ohio River water level has been bouncing up and down these last few weeks. On this excursion, I caught up with it while the river was receding. The shoreline that I am accustomed to seeing is still underwater, however, if you walk carefully between the wet and the dry, there are areas you can explore. I brought a fairly empty canvas collecting bag along in anticipation of river treasure. After a couple of hours, I took a break and dumped the bag out and here is what caught my eye.
Literally, a mixed bag of junk including many familiar items that I have long-standing collections formed. The Styrofoam is for a small sculpture I have in mind. The flip-flop sandals, well…I have been collecting them for a while and I have a vague notion of an artwork that I want to make with them. I have ideas, but I’m waiting for the river muse to send me more signals. The same holds true for the small, plastic wheels. I have about two hundred of them stacked in a pile on my basement floor. I thought I could finish the wheel piece for the exhibition at the Carnegie, but it remains unresolved. I have also gathered several found combs and the variety of forms a simple object can take always interests me. Recently, I gave my comb collection to my friend Jeff for his birthday. He is probably one of the few people I know who would like receiving such a gift. Jeff was once a middle school art teacher and he keeps a cigar box filled with the smallest pencils in the world. Each pencil had been sharpened to within an inch of its existence by his former students. Here’s an example of an interesting comb followed by other images of objects found on this day.
Later, it was determined that this combination comb and brush is from some kind of vacuum cleaner. Now whenever I go out the river, my friend asks me if I have any other combs for his collection.
My Fake Food Collection keeps expanding. I found several new pieces on this excursion with this one being the most memorable. Plastic corn on the cob with a little pat of butter melting into the kernels. In the background, you can see how much junk is intermixed with the wood debris.
Here’s the latest addition to my hand-formed ball collection. This one is made from duct tape.
I’m starting to develop a large collection of sand toys of all kinds. Here’s a pink plastic octopus sand mold. I think I will photograph this collection soon.
I found two plastic dinosaur toys on this trip. I believe these are intended to be the same species…Dimetrodon which was an early reptile with mammal-like characteristics. Dimetrodon hails from North America and the early Permian period. When the Falls of the Ohio was an active marine ecosystem (about 370 million years a go)…Dimetrodon would still be about another 200 million years into the future. The vast stretches of time and the ebb and flow of life forms is mind-boggling. I am in the here and now and what I have noticed on this trip to the river is how few other life forms I’ve seen. The spring migration of neotropical birds is not too far off and I always have my eyes open for early arrivals. Today…I get lucky.
I was poking around the shifting shoreline when I spotted this heavy bodied bird in a willow tree. With its blue head, yellow ocher body, and light green tail…I knew I was looking at my first River Roller. Rollers are a family of old world birds and this is the only representative on this continent. This species has a rather large and heavy bill that serves it well when it feeds on the nuts of hardwood trees. At the Falls of the Ohio, you can always find walnuts, hickory nuts, and acorns. I believe that this was what this bird was doing…looking for food.
I think this is a female roller because the colors are not as bright as the pictures I’ve seen of the males. In size, this bird is comparable to the American Robin. I observed this bird checking out the holes and hollows in the willow trees which is pre-nesting behavior. The females are the ones that choose which sites are suitable to raise their chicks. This bird will eventually move on to the northern portions of the Ohio River Valley. The River Roller has never been documented nesting in this park.
The River Roller hung around for about five minutes before flying off for parts unknown. During the time I watched it, the roller demonstrated a strong curiosity for the environment at the river’s edge. It seemed especially interested in the willow trees themselves.
I wish this bird well and hope it reaches its intended destination. I feel this way about every bird that migrates through this area. After seeing this once in a life-time rarity I felt that my day like my collecting bag was full and it was time to go home. That wraps it up for another river adventure. See you next time.