Posts Tagged ‘artistatexit0’

Plastic Pegasus/Unicorn toy, Falls of the Ohio, 2015

It’s the last week of April, which means the first Saturday in May is a few days away.  In Louisville, that signals the world’s most famous horse race, the Kentucky Derby, will be run. This edition is the 141st Kentucky Derby, which culminates in two weeks worth of Derby Festival parties and celebrations.  Over the years, I have had occasion to find, photograph, and sometimes keep the horse related toys that I come across in the aftermath of flooding at the Falls of the Ohio.  Following is a small album of river rejects.  I start with this image and though it is not a Pegasus (The Pegasus Parade is the oldest Derby Festival event) it is somewhat horse-like.  It appears to be a flying unicorn and has a mane and tail you could probably comb at one time.

Blue plastic fragment of a horse riding toy, Falls of the Ohio

I found this fragment in the western section of the park partially buried in the sand.  At one time this was a riding toy that had a wooden handle going through the head and was kid powered.

Pink Plastic  Horse with flowing tail and mane, Falls of the Ohio

I found this pink beauty tangled in the driftwood.  These ponies that have hair that can be brushed must be popular…

Pale Pink horse toy with brushable hair, Falls of the Ohio

…or not,…because here’s another one pulled out of the debris field!  I believe this unfortunate pony also had cockle burrs tangled up in its mane.

Small yellow plastic horse with chewed off leg, Falls of the Ohio

This small yellow plastic horse was probably put out to “pasture” because it can’t run anymore.  It looks like either some one or some thing chewed off its right hind leg.

Small, white plastic horse, Falls of the Ohio

This tiny horse was found upside down.  It’s missing the green plastic base it once stood on.  Fine droplets of rain begin to wet the sand on the day I came across this find.  My friend, Bernie from Vermont, gave me the idea for this post.  He needed a horse image for a story he had written and asked if I had any in my river archive.  This was one of the ones I sent him.  I have one last horse to show and it is a piece I photographed in place last weekend.  I hope everyone out there has a great Kentucky Derby and may your horse win, place, or show…from the Falls of the Ohio.

Brown plastic horse, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

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Mid April High Water, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

It’s mid April and the television meteorologists have said it all.  If the Kentuckiana area receives one more drop of rain…we will set an all time local record for precipitation during any April since records have been kept.  With half a month to go and more rain in the forecast for this week…that record is a goner.  As I write this…the river is still rising.  I mentally contrast this to what is happening in California with their severe drought.  I wonder if there are any billionaires out there that would like to invest in a pipeline that would send all this extra water to where it’s needed most?  After all, isn’t water a much more precious commodity than crude oil?  We don’t send exploratory satellites and space craft into the vast distances of the universe looking for petroleum.  It’s water we seek because in a fundamental way we realize that water is the key to life.

The high Ohio River at the Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

The following adventure happened last weekend which was warm and beautiful, but with an ever-rising river.  The large driftwood mound under the railroad bridge I documented in my last post has broken apart and floated away along with my absurd March Madness figure.  Perhaps when the river returns to its usual water levels, I may run into him once again?  For now, I am exploring a section of the Ohio River Greenway which is near the Interpretive Center’s entrance and has a nice view of Louisville’s skyline.  The riverbank does not lack for junk and before long I’ve photographed and collected a full bag of possibilities for future use.  It was while I was absorbed in my own head space that I bumped into a most unusual character that was engaged in what looked to be some type of ritual at the water’s edge.

Shoe Shaman of the Big Blue Nation, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

What I first thought was singing turned out to be chanting and it was coming from this exotic guy.  I’m sure I must have had the strangest expression on my face!  Despite my presence, this blue-helmeted figure with some kind of mandala on his chest was practically knee-deep in muddy water and lining up found flip-flops on a beached log.  A perfectly normal activity don’t you agree?  I’m assuming he gathered these sandals from all the other flotsam and jetsam that has washed into here?  That part I can understand because I have an ongoing collection of the same footwear that I hope to make into something grand and profound some day.

Detail of the Shoe Shaman, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

Shoe Shaman of the Big Blue Nation and altar, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

I remained quiet, stayed observant, and took these photographs.  I saw the blue helmeted man face west and chant.  He later did the same thing looking towards all the cardinal directions.  On occasion, he would carefully pick up a sandal and whisper to it before placing it back upon the water-logged trunk of a limb-less tree.  For emphasis, he would also do this little hop dance step in the muddy water.  I waited for him to finish before interrupting him with a few questions of my own.

Head of the Shoe Shaman, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

Shoe Shaman with his altar, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

Finally, I had my chance to speak and the mysterious figure looked my way.  I was surprised that I could understand what he was saying.  First, he thanked me for respecting his custom by not interrupting his ceremony.  He also said that it is very important that the flow of energy continue unabated if the ritual was to take hold.  Filled with questions, I asked his name and what was he doing?  Patiently, he explained that he was the Shoe Shaman of the Big Blue Nation, a holy man and offered as proof the ill-fitting helmet on his head which was the official crest of his high office.  I didn’t say anything, but thought the Shoe Shaman’s head-gear bore an uncanny resemblance to a Smurf’s head.  I wondered if that was in fact the Big Blue Nation he was referring to?  If that indeed was the case…well, it did make some sense in a surreal sort of way.  There are many cultures that have legends about “little people”.  I asked what he was doing with the sandals and he said that working with footwear was his specialty.  Each shoe, in this case, each lost sandal…has a direct connection to the soul of its former owner and is holy to them.  The weight of each person is impressed into the sole’s foam and is as individual as a fingerprint.  In his culture, they have a saying that you can’t fully understand someone until you stand in their shoes.  I said we have a similar saying.  The Shoe Shaman said that his goal is to affect the river’s empathy and not to further enrage it for taking the water and environment for granted. My new friend was attempting to appease the flood waters by asking the river to forgive our carelessness and to accept the sacrifice that had been prepared for it on this altar of wood.  The shaman assured me that only in this way would the river agree to return to its normal banks and not seek out our kind that had been hurtful towards it.

Shoe Shaman of the Big Blue Nation with the skyline of Louisville across the river, April 2015

At the water's edge, the Shoe Shaman, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

I’ll admit that the idea of a revenge seeking river stunned me some, however, history is full of epic floods.  In our arrogance, we forget how at Nature’s mercies we really are.  My curiosity sated…it was time to move on.  I left the shaman at that interstitial zone between water and land.  Slogging through the mud, I paused briefly sitting on a dry log and thought about what I had witnessed as I also picked the mud off the bottom of my shoes.  I am hoping that he was successful in intervening on our behalf and only time will tell.  For my part, I will never forget the scene and will pledge to do my part to be respectful towards creation by celebrating it and in doing so…hope to save myself and those dearest to me.  I don’t ever want one of our soles to go missing and find itself on a log floating somewhere along the Ohio River.  Until the river retreats…

The Sandal, Wood Altar, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

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fallen willow leaves, Nov. 2013

A gorgeous fall day with light that was almost impossibly bright.  It’s autumn at the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  Small groups of migrating birds including various warblers, titmice, and kinglets are moving through the willow tops.  Around each stand of willow trees, the ground is covered by yellowing leaves that have been recently dropped.  There is a fresh, spicy, vegetative fragrance in the air as the more recently shed leaves give up their essence before curling up and turning brown.  Although I have been to the Falls numerous times lately… it’s been a few months since I last visited my old outdoor atelier in the woods.  Today seems as good a time to check out how my site has fared in my absence.

Styrofoam on site, Falls, Nov. 2013

The wooden structure that once surrounded my cached materials remains collapsed.  Some of the larger pieces of Styrofoam I had gathered from the river have been moved nearby.  Stuff has been scattered around, but that is also part of the ongoing history and fate of this material.  I may refer to this junk as “mine”, but I don’t feel a true sense of ownership.  While this material remains out here…it belongs to all of us.  We created, used, and then disposed of it, often carelessly.  I don’t have a lot of time to spend out here on this particular day and so I got busy making “something” from this largess.  I select a few chunks of polystyrene that will become my latest figure and before long I attract an audience of one.

Gray squirrel watching me, Nov. 2013

Gray squirrel watching, Nov. 2013

This Gray Squirrel seemed very intent upon my activities.  Perhaps he thought there might be food involved?  I have to say that I was really amused by this little animal checking me out.  He watched me for a minute or two and then headed deeper into the trees.

Styro-figure with large foam sections, Nov. 2013

The figure I created was not very complex.  It’s head was rather skull-like and so I added a found black and white swimming noodle and a pink nose that was the plastic handle to something to give it more “levity”.  One of the first places I posed my latest was by the larger remains of former projects that were moved away from the other Styrofoam pieces I had assembled.  It doesn’t appear that whomever moved this stuff…did anything else with it.

Fall mushroom, Falls of the Ohio, early November 2013

Coming across a late season mushroom, its whiteness and material consistency reminds me of the polystyrene I salvage to make art with.  Both the mushroom and Styrofoam are made from extracted, spent life.  The difference is the mushroom is alive and one day will also return to the earth to nourish other life.  The Styrofoam on the other hand, is a dead material and probably won’t decompose easily for quite a long period of time.  To move away from thoughts about decay and such…I move into the light and to be near the water.

Styro-figure with black and white swim noodle, early Nov. 2013

Head of Styro-figure, Nov. 2013

It doesn’t take long before I find just the right location that will represent this figure and day to me in photographs.  I rediscover an especially picturesque willow tree whose trunk and roots have been sculpted by time and the river to form a portal or window.  This is where I decided to photograph and leave this figure.

Figure seen through the willow portal, Nov. 2013

Through the willow portal, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2013

Because the ground was muddy and soft…it was also easy to stand my figure upright.  My attention wandered back and forth between the possibilities this novel view afforded.  I imagined the figure looking back at me through the portal and other shifting points of view.  Here’s how the figure looked set up on the other side where I once originally stood.

On the other side of the willow portal, Nov. 2013

On the opposite side of the willow portal, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2013

The day was getting late and it was time for me to move on.  On the walk back I came across a recently deceased mouse in the willow leaves.  Something about this season brings out the melancholy in me.  All life, no matter how small, strikes me as being worthy of note.  Using my fingers, I raked the willow leaves away from the mouse’s body and created this parting image.  See you next time from the Falls of the Ohio.

Mouse/willow wreath, 2013

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purple loosestrife at the Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2013

This post includes two recent trips to the Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) flowers in the western section of the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  I have made my peace with the fact that the Purple Loosestrife plant is an invasive species at this location. It is really successful at crowding out the other plants that gather in this wetlands area. Originally introduced from Europe, the Purple Loosestrife has spread across the United States.  Eradicating it is very difficult because millions of seeds are produced annually and the loosestrife can grow with just a fragment of root in the ground.  The loosestrife probably doesn’t realize that it has this poor reputation for it provides beauty to the landscape and food for a myriad of insects, particularly butterflies.  Surely, the loosestrife can be forgiven for being itself?  Can the same be said of our kind who after all perpetuated the Purple Loosestrife by planting it to begin with and then allowing it to escape into the larger environment?  The loosestrife arrived here floating down the river.  I can recall when there wasn’t any to be found in the park.

The Butterfly Man, 9/2010

Here’s a flashback from three years a go.  I remember it was my lavender-lipped friend, the Butterfly Guide, who introduced me to this loosestrife stand back in September of 2010.  We had a great time together and I managed a few nice butterfly images on that day.  Ever since the Butterfly Guide showed me the way, I’ve been returning on my own and observing and documenting what happens here.  I heard through the grapevine that my old friend has since passed on and is conducting tours in the great beyond.  He had a knack for revealing beauty to all who wanted to experience it.  Seeing his image again makes me feel nostalgic.

Eastern Checkerspot

This is an Eastern or Harris’ Checkerspot (Chlosyne harrisii) and was the most numerous butterfly I saw visiting the loosestrife flowers.  They were so intent on sipping nectar that it was easy to approach them as they fed.  Now for a few more checkerspot images.

Eastern Checkerspot feeding, Aug. 2013

Eastern Checkerspot, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2013

Eastern Checkerspot, Aug. 2013, Falls of the Ohio

I found myself carefully wading into the flowers to get as close as possible.  Many of the flower bunches were in the six to seven feet tall range and it was humid walking among the plants.  We have been having a mild streak lately with lower than normal temperatures and regular precipitation.  Residents in our locality have had few reasons to complain about the heat.  The checkerspots are not the only butterflies out here.  Various swallowtail butterflies also enjoy these flowers.  Here are images of an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, (Papilio glaucus).

Tiger Swallowtail on purple loosestrife, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2013

Tiger Swallowtail on Purple Loosestrife, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2013

We are fortunate to have many other species of swallowtails in our area.  Among the others I have associated with the loosestrife flowers include the Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor), the American or Eastern Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes), and the Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus).  Here’s an image of a Spicebush Swallowtail feeding.

Spicebush Swallowtail on Purple Loosestrife, Aug. 2013

We have several different Skipper species present.  This is the Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus).  The white spot on its hind wing shines like mother-of-pearl when the light hits it just right.

Silver-spotted Skipper on Purple Loosestrife, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2013

Another regular visitor is the Cabbage Butterfly (Pieris rapae).

Cabbage Butterfly, Aug. 2013

Cabbage Butterfly caught by a spider, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2013

I was struck by the unusual pose this Cabbage Butterfly was in and decided to get closer to check it out.  When it didn’t fly away…I knew something else was going on.  Although you can’t see it in this picture, a small spider has caught this butterfly by its head.  With so many insects feeding on the loosestrife, predators were sure to follow.  Large bumble bees also enjoy these flowers.  They are so heavy that they cause the loosestrife stems to bend upon landing on them.

Bumble Bee on loosestrife flowers, Aug. 2013

Over the years, I have watched the Purple Loosestrife become more common in the western section of the park.  The plant is now well established.  Typically, the loosestrife blooms continuously from July to September, but to my eye, it is looking like the blooms are starting to play out a bit?  Every year is different and some butterflies are more common in one year than another.  Missing from the loosestrife blooms this year are the Buckeyes, Monarchs, and their mimics…the Viceroy Butterflies.  Perhaps they will still make an appearance later on if the loosestrife flowers continue blooming.  I hope you have enjoyed wading through the loosestrife with me?  Next time, I will post something about the exhibition at the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft that is featuring this blog in their show.  Now time for one final image before closing.Purple Loosestrife at the Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2013

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Tree in the western section of the Falls of the Ohio State Park, Aug. 2013

Resolved to stay away from my old atelier under the willow trees for a while, I decided to explore the western section of the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  It was just the most beautiful day and residents of our area have remarked on how unusually nice it’s been of late.  The air today has wonderful clarity and although it’s summer and the sun is shining…we are many degrees below our usual temps.  I feel the western part of the Falls of the Ohio begins once you cross the creek at the end of the Woodland Loop Trail.  This is an area that receives fewer visitors and I’m happy just to wander with nothing on my mind.  As I walk the narrow strip of land that is the riverbank, on my left are sounds from the river and on my right are various bird songs originating under the tree canopy.  I see the formerly high river has deposited driftwood here in new configurations along with the usual plastic junk.  My eyes are open and ready for anything.  I doesn’t take very long before I make the first of several discoveries new to me in and around a patch of Wild Potato-Vines.

Goldstein's False Mum among Wild Potato Vine flowers, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2013

Close up of Goldstein's False Mum, Aug. 2013

This is Goldstein’s False Mum which is named after the resident naturalist at the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  This is another in a series of very odd flowers while being organic by definition  have little in common with the other plants that grow along side of them.  In general, plastic-like blooms and foliage characterize these botanical rarities.  None of these plants (which form a new order of their own called Artificialia ) are capable of photosynthesis despite the appearance of green leaves.  Goldstein’s False Mum is a summer plant that produces a hard, yellow, frilly blossom that appears on the terminal end of a woody stem.  It prefers sandy, disturbed soils or decaying wood and is usually seen in the company of traditional flowering plants.  It produces no scent and no insects were observed being attentive to the false mum.  Now the Wild Potato-Vine is also an interesting plant.  It is a member of the Morning Glory family and its bloom is primarily white with a purplish maroon throat.  I have seen large bumble bees pollinating this flower.  What sets this plant apart is under the ground.  The Wild Potato-Vine produces a large tuber that had food value for the indigenous people.  Here is a another specimen of Goldstein’s False Mum growing out of a soft, decaying log also in the presence of Wild Potato-Vines.

Goldstein's False Mum and Wild Potato-Vine flowers, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2013

Not too far away and also in association with the Wild Potato-Vines is another type of plastic-like plant and here is its portrait.

Wild Potato-Vine blossom with Saprophytic Zinnia, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2013

The Saprophytic Zinnia, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2013

The Log Weed is a saprophytic plant.  Lacking chlorophyll it relies on decaying matter for its sustenance.  The Log Weed is characterized by a corolla of hard plastic-like petals and never has what we would describe as leaves coming off its woody stem.  No one is quite sure how it propagates? Its blossoms appear in mid summer and seem to hang around forever.

Trumpet Creeper, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2013

These are tubular flowers from the Trumpet Creeper vine which is a native and natural sight at the Falls of the Ohio.  This is a climbing, spreading vine and wood ants seem to love them.  If you look closely at the above photo…you can see several ants crawling on the Trumpet Creeper’s attractive blooms.  I was admiring this vine when I noticed that there was something not quite right about it and this is what I discovered.

Unknown fruit on Trumpet Creeper, Aug. 2013

Notice the yellow orb to the upper right of the Trumpet Creeper blossoms? Thus far, the yellow fruit with its accompanying leaf remain unclassified.  It is, however, grafted to the woody stem of the vine.  Amazingly, it even has a false stem to deceive.  Could it be parasitic?  One hypothesis why this plant with the odd fruit appears with Trumpet Creeper might be the protection it receives from the vine’s wood ants?  The fruit and leaf are also very polymer-like and may indeed be plastic.  More and more we are learning how ubiquitous plastic is in the environment.  I heard a report about the Great Lakes the other day saying that there is a considerable amount of micro plastic in these large bodies of fresh water.  Upon examination, much of this plastic takes the form of tiny balls that are blended into deodorants and toothpaste to make the product flow more evenly.  These beads are so small that they pass through the finest screens at the waste water treatment plants and into the lakes.  I think Nature is metabolizing this plastic and recombining the hydrocarbons in novel ways, but that is just my theory.

Cottonwood tree fort, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2013

I paid my favorite cottonwood tree a visit and it’s been a while since I took shelter under its large, exposed roots.  People, especially the locals, like hanging out here and I witnessed much less trash since my last visit which is a good thing.  One big “improvement” has been made with the addition of a red, upholstered couch and I took a moment to rest here before moving on.

red couch under the cottonwood tree, Aug. 2013

The couch is very comfortable and I’m amazed that people actually dragged this piece of furniture down here.  Eventually, it will be reclaimed by the river.  Here’s another view from under the tree.

space under the cottonwood tree, Aug. 2013

For those who prefer their comforts a bit more on the rustic side…there is another bench for seating and it’s made from a slab of wood balanced on short logs.

under the cottonwood tree, Aug. 2013

I rested, had a snack and drank some water before moving on.  I’ve designated my intended destination as “Loosestrife Land” for the abundance of these non-native flowers that have taken over moist areas in the western section of the park.  I’m going there seeking something else which will be the subject of my next post.  I’ll catch up with you soon but for now…so long and happy trails to you.

Purple Loosestrife flowers in bloom, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2013

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the riverbank, cracks in clay, July 2013

I never told you how this story played out and so now is as good a time as any.  A few weeks back, I had posted on how some unknown visitor(s?) had been altering my outdoor studio at the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  For a least two years previously, I had been storing my river found art materials at this site.  People who stumbled upon this spot often mark their presence by changing how I left it in some way.  Folks might rifle through the junk or take or destroy the Styrofoam figures I might leave behind.  I don’t mind this…in fact, I encourage the interaction.  On site, it’s easy to make the connection that all these poor materials I use came from the river.  I still think of my outdoor studio as a shared laboratory for this exercise in creativity.  It’s an acknowledgement that all this junk is out there and that something else positive might come from it.  For several weekends, my latest visitor has been building a wooden driftwood structure over my spot to the point where it usurps my ability to continue working there.  So, I made a few changes that I thought would benefit both of us.  I modified the structure so that I could stand within my site.  I also opened up the space more which I thought also encouraged additions.  I was curious to see how my visitor would react and here are the pictures.

destroyed driftwood structure, July 2013

destroyed driftwood structure, July 2013

destroyed driftwood structure, July 2013

It appears that my “improvements” weren’t appreciated because I arrived one day to find it all laying on the ground.  All the nylon line and strong knots that were holding things together were cut with a knife.  Stuff was scattered and the big polystyrene figure I had left there was destroyed again.  Here’s how I discovered my Styrofoam man.

fallen figure, July 2013

He had been sitting in a fork of a nearby tree.  I think my visitor picked him up and threw him across the site…again!  At this point, I’m feeling pretty bummed out.  I left this figure as I found it.  My visitor also left me some additional trash behind as is his custom and I gathered it together again to create this “portrait”.

trash at my site, July 2013

I thought the “Big Red” with the “Big Blue” was an interesting touch.  In our area, those are the home colors of rival universities.  Another giant Styrofoam cup joined the group and I have my suspicions that the cigar packaging is from the same individual as well?  I think this is what saddens me the most that all this convenient store trash would be walked to this site and simply thrown on the ground.  As much trash that appears here from upriver, I’m shocked by how much park garbage originates from the nearby towns.  And yes, there are trash cans available everywhere.  I sat by my site for a while and pondered the situation.  I wondered why with all the space and driftwood available in the park that this spot became so important to my visitor?  Feeling like this individual more than likely doesn’t play well with others…I decided to walk away from this site for a few weeks or months before returning.  So far, I haven’t been back to my old spot under the willows.

two fishermen, July 2013

The day felt shot, but I didn’t want to leave things that way and so I went for an extra long walk.  After all, I have the rest of the park to potentially explore.! Along the way, I spotted these two guys attempting to fish by the wall of the dam.  They didn’t appear to be having any luck and so I left them with these fishy images by the side of a trail they would pass by.

coal fish, July 2013

coal fish, July 2013

coal fish, July 2013

I used river smoothed coal I gathered on site and improvised these three fish on the sand.  Peppering the silica granules black is coal dust.  The white dots are pulverized mussel shells.

three coal fish on the sand, Falls of the Ohio, July 2013

Thus far, it has been an atypical and sometimes unsettling summer at the Falls of the Ohio.  All the early season rains and subsequent high water have disrupted the usually hot, humid, and lazy routine found here during this time of year.  In an odd way, it doesn’t feel like summer has truly arrived for us yet.  We have a few more months for this to happen before the leaves start turning colors.  To close, here is one more coal-fish image in a slightly larger context.  Have a great weekend!

coal fish in context at the Falls of the Ohio, July 2013

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Muddy Ohio River at the Falls of the Ohio

The Ohio River has remained high and muddy the last couple of weeks.  It’s summer, past mid July when we usually find the river retreated to its summer pool.  This approaches the time when the fossil beds on the Kentucky side of the river would be exposed.  The little bit of flooding that occurred has displaced more than random logs and debris.  I was investigating the riverbank under the railroad bridge and came across an interesting mix of ducks.

domestic and wild ducks at the Falls of the Ohio, July 2013

Joining the wild, female Mallards with their iridescent blue-violet speculum on their wings was a small group of domesticated ducks.  More than likely the river overwhelmed a farm pond somewhere which was the opportunity the domesticated ducks needed to swim away and explore the larger world.

Domestic ducks, July 2013

They landed at the Falls of the Ohio and are sharing a vacation together.  White and piebald (a mix of black and white) are the colors of domestication.  These farm ducks are also much larger than their wilder cousins.

two resting female Mallard ducks, July 2013

female Mallard duck, July 2013

female Mallard duck grooming, July 2013, Falls of the Ohio

The Mallard duck (Anas platyrhynchos) is our most common species of duck and can be found at the Falls throughout the year.  I once stumbled upon a Mallard nest that was built inside a hollow log.  When the mother-to-be flushed out of the log, the surprise took a few years off my lifespan!   They are members of the duck family known as “dabblers”.  Mallards hang out near the zone where water and land meet.  They have specialized bills for feeding in shallow water.  Mallards prefer small grass and sedge seeds for food, but will also strain the water and mud for small organisms.  I have come across other ducks at the Falls of the Ohio that are hybrids of Mallards and domesticated ducks.  Many duck species must be closely related to one another because other inter-species hybrids have been documented.

Blue-ringed dabbler, Falls of the Ohio, July 2013

Head of Blue-ringed dabbler, July 2013

I have also recently photographed an unusual duck for the Falls of the Ohio.  On a recent foray to the river I came across this Blue-ringed Dabbler ( Anas azurcephalos) plying its trade at the water’s edge.  This diminutive duck is native to the western part of North America and rarely strays east of the Mississippi River.  Perhaps it found its way here because of the recent storms that have tracked west to east across the country?  Domesticated ducks are not the only birds affected by severe weather.

Blue-ringed Dabbler at the Falls of the Ohio, July 2013

The Blue-ringed Dabbler is an unusual duck in that it nests in trees or more specifically, in the holes created and abandoned by larger woodpeckers.  This formerly rare duck is now on the increase because conservationists have taken advantage of this breeding preference by setting out nest boxes which the Blue-ringed Dabbler will accept.  A similar program helped the colorful Wood Duck to recoup its former population numbers.

Blue-ringed Dabbler, Falls of the Ohio, July 2013

This is a female Blue-ringed Dabbler identified by its browner coloration and lack of iridescent color on the wings.  The dabbler regarded me for a while before swimming off to a deeper part of the river where I lost track of it.  I returned the next day to see if I could find this duck again, but it was gone.  I get a big kick out of recording bird species that are not a part of the official bird checklist distributed by the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  I love bringing these rarities to the attention of hard-core birders who will only accept as evidence good photographic proof or multiple sightings recorded by multiple birders.  They can be a suspicious lot and highly competitive.  Often bird watchers present themselves as being more interested in what number a particular bird represents on a life list than in the bird itself which seems to me to miss the whole point of watching birds.

domestic ducks with dead catfish, July 2013

Although I never saw the Blue-ringed Dabbler again, I did however, locate a couple of the domesticated ducks I had seen the previous week.  They were investigating the waterline in a particularly muddy area.  I was shocked to discover the dead fish in the foreground upon downloading my images.  I certainly don’t remember seeing this when I snapped this picture.   I doubt these ducks will ever find their way to the farm again, but for now…they seem content.  I’ll end today’s post with one other image of the Blue-ringed Dabbler that I came across on the internet.  It shows a bird in the hand of a conservationist.  So long for now!

Blue-ringed Dabbler in hand, Falls of the Ohio, July 2013

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