Posts Tagged ‘adventure’

It’s the Falls of the Ohio State Park in late summer.  We haven’t had any significant rain in a few weeks and the fossil beds are exposed as the river has retreated away.  This isn’t a permanent condition…just the way it is during this season. Visitors are walking over the rocks and admiring the many ancient fossil corals that during the rest of the year are under water.

The best time to get a sense of the extent of the fossil beds is during summer.  From the top of the riverbank you can get a good overview of the area.  You can see across the fossil beds to the high wall that keeps the Ohio River at bay. Bird watchers are scoping the rocks and the top of that wall on the look out for seasonal birds or that once in a lifetime rarity.  Well today was their and my lucky day!  I was sitting by the picnic table when in the far distance I noticed something large and white winging its way across the ancient limestone terrain.  At first I thought it was a pelican, but it clearly wasn’t big enough.  That’s when I heard one of the bird watching flock who also spotted it say that he thought it was a heron or egret of some kind.  I grabbed my camera and hustled down to the river.

I watched the white bird circle the area by the lower tainter gates and I anticipated its possible landing spot.  As I approached the area my mental field guide was going through all the possible species.  Great Egrets are seasonally common here and while they are white…they do not possess a black bill.  One white wader that does have a black bill is the Snowy Egret, however, it is smaller and has black legs with yellow feet.  Snowy Egrets come to the Falls but they are less common.  It couldn’t be a Whooping Crane because I couldn’t see any black tips on the wings.  For a moment, I even thought this bird might even be an albino.  Nevertheless, it was shaping up to be a mystery which are among the most fun birds of all.

I saw the bird alight in the sedges and grasses near the river which is where I took these photographs.  This beautiful bird was distinctive with its black bill and white head crest.  It’s tail feathers were also tipped in black.  I watched it catch and eat grasshoppers that were numerous in the weeds.  For the moment, I would concentrate on taking pictures and being discreet.  I could always identify it later in the comfort of my home, but already I knew it wasn’t a bird normally found here or in our country.  This bird’s beauty was enough and knowing its name wouldn’t make it more beautiful.  Time stood still until the bird spooked or just decided to fly off.  Later that day I saw the heron return to the river and I hung around hoping for just this opportunity.

I was struck by the great contrast between the snow whiteness of the bird and the dingy black of the tire resting in the water.  I thought the heron was exhibiting signs of distress or anxiety, but I was surely projecting my own feelings onto this animal…or maybe not!

In one of the most curious bird behavior moments I have ever observed, the heron walked over to a group of discarded plastic bottles and started hitting them with its bill.  I guess it was just checking them out?  A passing fisherman came too close and the bird was gone for good.  I took a deep breath and hoped that I had a few good images and turned for home.  The bird turned out to be the Black-billed Heron which is more accustomed to being found around the heat of the equator.  Few confirmed records exist of this species being seen this far north. But since it’s been hot just about everywhere this year, the right conditions were present for it to make this appearance.  This same individual would create quite a bird watching stir wherever it was sighted in the United States and even made the cover of several bird watching magazines.  The Falls of the Ohio was as far north as this bird was seen and for me it was a happy privilege to see a bird that even John James Audubon never saw.

Postscript:  Readers familiar with the riverblog know that the Black-billed Heron was made with materials deposited at the Falls of the Ohio.  These found materials include:  River polished Styrofoam, plastic, sticks, river tumbled coal, the black tail feathers were cut from the soles of cast off shoes.  Thanks for tagging along on this avian adventure!

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This past June became our hottest June on record breaking a mark that stood since 1952.  Before the month slid into history, there was time for one more adventure at the Falls of the Ohio.  Rising from the polystyrene and insulating foam, I constructed this little figure to be my guide and companion as we toured the sights together.  Here’s his very first picture.

The little Tour Guide’s hat is the cap from a deodorant stick, but it fits his Styrofoam head just right.  He offered to take me around to see what we could see on this sweltering day and I offered no resistance.  Following are a few of the marvels we came across as we walked the riverbank.  The fishing had been particularly good and our guide was able to land a fish of his own.  I’m not sure what he used for bait, but this fish is like no other I have seen before.  Looking closely, I could see it is made from green foam.

The last high water incident deposited a lot of wood and junk upon the bank and there is plenty to discover.  Among the more unusual finds was this wooden Easter Bunny who offered our guide an egg.  I’m guessing that this was originally a seasonal yard decoration used in pagan celebrations?  With a pink dress, this is obviously the female and it made me wonder what the male looked like and was he carrying an egg too?

Near the rabbit was a truck tire.  I know what you are thinking…what could be so special about that?  I feature them in this blog all the time.  Well, this tire is also a record breaker being the largest one that I have come across in the last seven years I have been working this project.  I bet this thing was originally very expensive and now it’s apparently worthless.

It’s usually a treat to find artworks made by others out here.  This time our guide showed me a series of sand drawings he came across.  I think the one where abstract wavy lines are coming out of a drum is my favorite one.  The sand drawing featuring the head with open mouth is a bit naughty and so I’m only showing you part of it.  Here are three images in succession.

We moved off of the sandy bank and headed towards the Interpretive Center.  The little guide told me that the day lilies were looking especially colorful and I couldn’t wait to see them.  I snapped this image of the guide by some very intensely orange blossoms.  These flower beds are just past their peak and I’m glad I saw them when I did. 

This Fourth of July weekend is shaping up to be cooler and so I’m anticipating being able to work out here a bit longer.  Thanks for coming along with us on this outing…we enjoyed showing you the sights.  I’ll close for now with this nice image from the day lily garden overlooking the Falls of the Ohio.

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