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Posts Tagged ‘recycled materials’

At Hidden Hill Nursery and Sculpture Garden in Utica, Indiana, May 2016

In many ways this post is a continuation of my last published one on “The Crying Indian”.  I made that sculpture for this occasion which was a cart-blanch invitation from owner Bob Hill to place my river art in the context of eight acres of wonderful plantings that include many unusual and rare plants.  My work is far from the more durable art made from metal or stone that you would expect to see in a garden, but I’m always interested in placing my art in a less than typical gallery situations.  Hidden Hill is located in the tiny town of Utica, Indiana very near the Ohio River and not too far from my home in Louisville, KY.  To be on the grounds of Hidden Hill is a true delight and it’s easy to imagine that you are in a far more remote place than you actually are.

Bob Hill at Hidden Hill Nursery and Sculpture Garden, May 2016

Bob Hill is a well-known personality in our area.  He was a long-time columnist for Louisville’s Courier-Journal newspaper which in the days before Gannett took over was a Pulitzer Prize winning newspaper with a big and loyal following.  Bob is now “retired” from the paper, but he is still an active author of books and articles and a big advocate for the joys of gardening.  When he opened Hidden Hill with his wife Janet, he realized that if they were going to compete against the big box stores selling bedding plants and more that they needed interesting stock that you just can’t find anywhere else.  Garden aficionados know who he is and will travel throughout our region to see what new specialties he is cultivating.  At the opening of my show, two gardeners who traveled from a distant Kentucky county went home with one of the two Franklinia alatamaha trees that Bob had in stock.  The Franklin Tree was named after Benjamin Franklin and is a small flowering tree that is now extinct in the wild and was last seen in its natural habitat during the early part of the 19th century.  A few timely cuttings and seeds taken upon discovery have kept this pretty tree alive to the present day.

Welded and painted metal flowers at Hidden Hill, May 2016

Great plants are not the only attraction at Hidden Hill.  Bob’s idea was to create a destination that would also be fun to visit and he has invited many artists over the years to place work on his property.  If there is one word that would describe the kind of garden art that Bob likes it would be “whimsical” and his grounds are full of examples.  Hill is fond of creating mini-environments where the plants and art work in concert with one another.

Man made from welded and painted watering cans by James Voyles, HIdden Hill, May 2016

I love this figure made by artist Jerry Voyles out of welded and painted watering cans.  Voyles is particularly well-represented at Hidden Hill.  Other area artists of note who have work at Bob’s place include Matt Weir, Caren Cunningham, John McCarthy, Jeff Reinhardt, Samantha Grifith & Jen Pellerin, Joe Autry, and many more including yours truly now.

Earth Knight by Albertus Gorman, at Hidden Hill, May 2016

This is another of my newer sculptures made for this show.  I call this one “Earth Knight” and it is made completely from materials I scavenged off of the riverbank at the Falls of the Ohio State Park this year.  “Earth Knight” is about 7 1/2 feet tall and is mostly made from Styrofoam.  The body is embellished with the bottoms of aluminum cans which turns out to be the strongest part of the can.  Often, it is the only part of a can left after the river has its way with it.  Embedded among the can bottoms is a plastic gray heart that I also found at the river.  I thought the head seemed somewhat “helmet-like” and I went with that idea for the whole figure.  The Earth after all is in desperate need of defenders and protectors.  Other materials used in this piece include found plastic, driftwood, and coal which are in both eyes.  This piece is located next to a marvelous Weeping Katsura Tree and a large evergreen which form the perfect background for this piece.  Here are some other views of this work.

"Earth Knight" detail, May 2016

"Earth Knight" reflected in a mirror mounted on a tree, Hidden Hill, May 2016

When I sited this figure, I wanted to see if I could work with the mirrors that were mounted by another artist on a nearby tree.  This was the best of those images that shows “Earth Knight” in context, but reversed due to the reflection.  Here is another recent big piece.  I call this figure “Flora” and the numerous flower references on her are why she has this name.  Again everything I have used was found at the river.

"Flora", found materials from the Falls of the Ohio, at Hidden Hill, May 2016

Head of "Flora", at Hidden Hill, May 2016

“Flora” speaks the language of flowers and I have numerous found references from the Falls of the Ohio on “her”.  The main material is river-polished Styrofoam and the body was also found this year.  I also found the plastic planter with the bright pink sand shovel and was delighted when I came across a large root that I could use as an “arm” to hold these two elements with ease.  I have embedded found rubber balls around her waist line.  “Flora” is the second largest piece I have out at Hidden Hill and is about 6 1/2 feet tall.  Again all the elements that comprise her including the wooden base were found at the Falls of the Ohio.  One good aspect about my art is that I spend nearly nothing for art supplies because the world is already full of free stuff all around you.  “Flora” has a silk flower emerging from her mouth that was also found by the river and has traveled some unknown distance to finally reach this place.  And now, for the last of the four large works I have out in Bob’s gardens.

Detail of head of "Figure Holding a Red Ball", Hidden Hill, May 2016

Detail, side view of "Figure Holding a Red Ball", Hidden Hill, May 2016

"Figure Holding a Red Ball", Hidden Hill, May 2016

The smaller of the four new garden pieces is this one entitled “Figure with a Red Ball” which is about 5 feet tall.  Among the materials used in its construction include Styrofoam, plastic, coal, a glass marble, driftwood, and aluminum.  This piece has a very different “persona” from the other new figures I have made for Hidden Hill.  I do have other works on display and Bob has a covered shed where he let me set up several other more portable works from my Falls series.  Here’s a glimpse at that display.

Other river art on display by Al Gorman at Hidden Hill, May 2016

River art display, Hidden Hill, May 2016

So far, I’ve given a short tour for visitors and did a demonstration where I made a small, absurd figure from found river materials.  It was a cold and rainy day when the show opened, but some intrepid souls came out to say hello which I appreciate greatly!  I love that there is no definitive ending date and the figures in the shed will be available to be seen for about a month.  Certainly, not the art world as usual!  I will probably leave a couple of the larger figures out at Hidden Hills for a longer indeterminate time.  Bob and Janet’s place is open Thursdays through Sundays and by appointment.  If you are curious to learn more about their plant nursery here is the link to their website: http://www.hiddenhillnursery.com  I have since continued my river forays to the Falls of the Ohio and I look forward to presenting those posts on this blog.  Thanks for checking this out!  Until next time…

Back view of "The Crying Indian" at Hidden Hills Nursery and Sculpture Garden in Utica, IN, May 2016

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Trash intermixed into the driftwood, Jan. 14, 2016

Over the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday weekend I was able to make it out to the Falls of the Ohio State Park on a couple of occasions.  It helped that this was a three-day weekend.  I was curious to see what was lying around the riverbank after our first dusting of snow had blown away.  As I was expecting, I found a lot of plastic bottles and containers, Styrofoam, and plenty of driftwood.  I first inspect an area for the larger pattern left by the river.  The stuff that floats most readily often defines the high water mark on the riverbank.

Junk on the driftwood pile, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 14, 2016

This is a typical detail of stuff that builds up on a driftwood mound.  There are many automotive and boating references particularly plastic bottles that held various petroleum products.  There is also a wealth of plastic beverage bottles to illustrate the carelessness of some folks recreating on the river.  I have a mental image of this stuff eventually flowing downriver, into the Mississippi River, and out into the wider world through the Gulf of Mexico.  What I see at the Falls of the Ohio is only what I see.  I know there is a glacier of plastic and junk that by passes me and will show up somewhere downstream.  With each succeeding flood, I keep thinking that all the stuff that had been accumulating upriver has already been washed into the watershed.  That, however, doesn’t seem to be the case and the amount of “fresh trash” that shows up in the park seems not to have a limit.

Found yellow and green plastic, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 2016

Both days that I worked at the river were very cold ones.  The piece I made using found yellow and green plastic was the coldest with temps hovering around 10 degrees and it was colder than that with the wind.  After picking up what caught my eye, I retreated to my little studio area near the U.F.O. (Unidentified Floating Object) that is this welded and painted steel platform that washed into this area over five years ago.

Massed yellow and green plastic, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 2016

I saw a possibility in the space under the UFO that was formed when the river shifted the driftwood mound.  I cleared the space a little bit and found a plank and stump in which to set up what I would eventually call “Arrangement in Yellow and Green Plastic”.  All the bottles and other colorful plastic items were picked up in the immediate area.  The wind was really biting and so I sought shelter by the treeline.  It took a little patience to make this piece because the wind kept blowing away the lighter items.  Eventually, I fit everything together and held it in place by strategically using found bottles that still had weight to them because mud or sand had become their new contents.

"Arrangement in Yellow and Green Plastic", Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 2016

My photos of this piece vary from one another because elements kept blowing off.  I was struck that I could make a colorful gradation using primarily yellow and green plastic found just in the willow habitat.  I favor doing these color pieces because they also reference the electromagnetic spectrum and without light, those ancient plants that lived and succeeded millions of years ago would not eventually become the crude substance from which these bottles were fabricated.  It’s interesting to me to think that much of the energy we derive from fossil fuels is captured starlight from an ancient time.  We owe it to the plants to be able to stabilize this energy through photosynthesis and fix it into their very tissues.

Arrangement in Yellow and Green Plastic by the old railroad bridge., Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 2016

Studio view, Arrangement in Yellow and Green Plastic, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 2016

Eventually, the cold started to get to me and I was fast losing what little light was present on this day.  I might have moved the blue plastic drum out of the bottom picture, but it was frozen into the ground and full of sand and mud and would have been a challenge to lift.  After awhile, I began to like it for the additional color it lent this scene.  One thing concentrating so much color in one area does is call into attention the brown drabness that subsumes everything else.

Random, found plastic in red, purple, and blue, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 18, 2016

I returned to the river two days later.  It was still very cold, however, a big improvement over the previous day.  The sun was shining and the wind was absent.  Having completed and photographed one colorful plastic arrangement, I set about creating a new one in a different palette of colors.  Searching the area I decided to work at…I could see plenty of red and blue plastic items spread out among the driftwood.  It took me an hour or so to pull these bottles and objects together.  I wished that I might have come across a few more violet or purple items, but I guess these are colors that are used less than straight up red or blue?  I know that in terms of lightfastness, red and purple plastic fades away quicker than many other colors.

Arrangement in Red and Blue Plastic, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 18, 2016

Using a bit of the geometry I was feeling from the willow trees and the way the sunlight was hitting their trunks…I decided to site “Arrangement in Red and Blue Plastic” on the sand.  There’s a distant view of the Ohio River through this informal avenue of trees.  Watching how the shadows of the tree trunks were being cast upon the sand was an important element in the overall composition of this piece.

Arrangement in Red and Blue Plastic, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 16, 2016

detail of Arrangement in Red and Blue Plastic, Jan. 18, 2016

Among the items comprising this work are a blue plastic child’s putter golf club, the cap to a plastic cane that held Christmas candy and several flip-flops of the right color.  When I finished this piece, I left it in place as I did the other arrangement.  Perhaps the next time I return to this area, I may combine the two groups of plastic?  I could create another grand rainbow with the addition of finding more orange in particular.  I probably would throw in some black and white plastic items since they are here in quantity as well.  I felt relatively good about this weekend’s projects and some of the images that resulted.  When I am occupied with a project, I really don’t feel the elements in the same way.  I suppose there is a bit of mind over matter happening too.  When I do feel the cold, however, is when I decide to turn for home and come across a frozen sight like these containers locked in ice!  Stay warm and safe everybody…from the Falls of the Ohio.

Plastic containers frozen in ice, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 18, 2016

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river frosted bottle glass, Falls of the Ohio, Dec. 2014

I hope all of you out in blogland are having a great holiday season.  My own family has enjoyed having the additional time to connect with folks we don’t see often enough.  Today is the last day of the year.  With no pressing commitments scheduled for today, I thought I would squeeze in one final post before the ball drops later tonight.  You may be wondering what an image of a hand holding river polished and frosted bottle glass has to do with anything?  Well, that’s the subject of this craftier than usual post.  Every year I enjoy sending out original holiday cards and other “stuff” I make and gift from river junk.  This year in addition to the cards (which featured the Christmas Bird of previous post fame), I created more of my “Ice Blossom Ornaments”.  Friends who were the recipients of these “river treasures” assured me they were blog worthy.  We shall see about that.

Styrofoam fishing floats and old Styrofoam Christmas ornament, Falls of the Ohio, Dec. 2014

To make an “Ice Blossom Ornament” you need a bit more than broken glass found at the river or beach…you also need a body or form to attach the shards to.  In this case, I like using the Styrofoam fishing floats I find and ironically polystyrene balls that are the remains of former Christmas tree ornaments that have washed into the park.  I have seen a few of these original ornaments in various states of decomposition and they are usually covered with a shiny fabric that is glued to the ball.  I prefer the balls that have lost their covering. When placement of the glass pieces has been decided, you cut into the ball form using a sharp Exacto knife.  The hole I create is traced around the glass shape that I will embed into the ball  A drop of glue holds the glass in place.   I love using this river-collected glass because all the sharp edges have been worn away and I like the “frosted” surface created from abrasion with the sand and water.  The same natural processes that tumble the Styrofoam and coal I use, also works its magic on glass.  Even with something as trifling as these ornaments, I like that nature had a “collaborative role” in their making.  The ornaments are finished off with the addition of found wire or waste fishing line and the occasional found piece of hardware.  Here are some finished examples.

Two Ice Blossom Ornaments , Dec. 2014

2014 Ice Blossom Ornaments made with Falls of the Ohio found materials

The next two pieces are a little larger and utilize bigger glass fragments.  Some of these larger ornaments reference seed pods and marine forms like urchins.

Ice Blossom Ornament with copper wire, Dec. 2014

This year I added polished coal to the list of materials used.  Coal is after all, stored energy from the sun and suits the “star” image.  Also, at the heart of every living star is a potential black hole and this ornament has that going for it as well.

Ice Blossom Star with Coal, Dec. 2014

The original ideas behind the “Ice Blossoms” comes from the 2009/10 holiday season.  It was an important element in a story I wrote about the very rare migration of the Arctic Hummingbird (Styrotrochildae polystyrenus).  When the conditions are just right, the very unusual Arctic Hummingbird times its appearance with the emergence of the Ice Blossom flower.  The hummers seek out the concentrated energy found in the Ice Blossom’s nectar.  I just happened to be lucky enough to be at the Falls of the Ohio when the Ice Blossoms were in bloom.  Here’s an image I captured showing the relationship between the bird and flower.

Arctic Hummingbird feeding, 1/2010

Later I created another series of ornaments that I used to decorate the trees and vines at the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  Some of these images were later incorporated into my Christmas cards.

Ice Blossom ornaments and briar vines

I liked the idea of ornaments in nature and still feel some of the trees in the park are just as worthy of decoration as the trees we set up for the holidays.  Regardless, the next time you find yourself around beach glass and Styrofoam…here’s an idea you can try to reuse both materials.  Happy New Year everybody…see you in 2015.

Ornaments in Nature, 12/09

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Christmas Bird at the Falls of the Ohio, Dec. 2014

In the eastern section of the Falls of the Ohio State Park I came across a remarkable bird.  As far as I know, this is the first documented sighting of the so-called Christmas Bird (Xmasii noelensis) in our area.  The bird’s red crest, green collar, and azure-colored wings are diagnostic as is the bicolor beak.  I was down at the river on a rather foggy morning when I noticed the bird flashing its wings in mockingbird fashion which is a distant relative of this species.

The Christmas Bird, Louisville in the background, Dec. 2014

I was looking for interesting pieces of driftwood and odd items washed up by the Ohio River when I came across this bird.  This is a long distance migrant and one that hails from as far north as the Arctic Circle.  The Christmas Bird earns its name in a couple of ways.  Of course, its complimentary plumage is rather seasonably inspired and it does seem to migrate to the lower 48 states around the time of the holidays.  Where the bird will appear is rather unpredictable, however, it is a welcome sight in most any location.  Here I have photographed the bird “flashing” its wings against its body while perched upon a driftwood log.  The park is in Southern Indiana and the skyline of Louisville, Kentucky can be seen across the Ohio River.  After taking this shot, the bird flew off.

Display of the Christmas Bird, Falls of the Ohio, Dec. 2014

I said to myself…”Well, that’s that”.  I fully did not expect to see this rare bird again, but I received a “gift” of a rather unexpected nature.  Underneath the old iron railroad bridge, not too far away from my initial sighting, I came across this “decorated” nest and recognized its significance.  This is a display from the Christmas Bird.  Using an abandoned mud-lined nest of an American Robin, (Turdus migratorius), the Christmas Bird has created an assemblage involving red berries and the remains of a string of old Christmas lights that washed into the park with the other river-bourn detritus.  From this evidence, I suspected the bird had “claimed” this area.  If I in turn displayed patience…I might get another opportunity to photograph this unusual species.

Christmas Bird with its display, Falls of the Ohio, Dec. 2014

I waited about an hour and the Christmas Bird did appear to my great joy!  It arrived at the nest with a red berry in its beak which it added to its growing collection.  It is believed that this bird is attracted to the color red.  Usually, berries from the holly tree are used, but in this instance I recognized them as the fruit of the Nandina plant.  The bird probably discovered them growing in a private garden in nearby Jeffersonville, Indiana.  It is suspected by ornithologists that the southerly migration of the Christmas Bird, which brings it to warmer climates, may trigger this unusual nest-like and courting behavior.  The Christmas Bird is known for its ability to tolerate extreme cold and it takes a great drop in temperature to stimulate it to migrate.

Close up of the Christmas Bird with red berry, Falls of the Ohio, Dec. 2014

Christmas Bird with display, Falls of the Ohio, Dec. 2014

I was able to observe this bird making about ten trips back and forth between the nest and its berry source.  If the bird was aware of my presence…it did not appear to be overly alarmed.  Once in a while, the bird with crest erected, would cock its head back and forth trying to differentiate my form among the willow branches.  I held my breath and tried to remain still and as unthreatening as possible.

The Christmas Bird with its seanonable display, Falls of the Ohio, Dec. 2014

The weather grew damp and cold and the sun looked like it was not going to appear from beneath its blanket of clouds.  I made the decision that I had enough images and it was time to leave this bird in peace and go home.  On the ride home, I felt I had been given this great gift, the gift of nature which remains priceless and timeless!  For me, nothing packaged in a box and wrapped with a bow can equal this living blessing.  To all who have followed my adventures by the river this year…I offer my sincerest good wishes during this season of holidays!  I hope that at least once in your lifetimes, you will be visited by the Christmas Bird bringing red berries for your nest.

Christmas Bird with red berry, Falls of the Ohio, Dec. 2014

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Stacked wood, Falls of the Ohio State Park, Nov. 2013

Moving past the Woodland Trail Loop, I’m in the western section of the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  It’s been more than a month since I last visited this area.  One of my favorite trees is here and although I’ve already missed the prime leaf color moment…I’m hoping some autumn splendor remains.  Along my walk I come across a driftwood structure that has been stacked teepee-style by other park visitors.  I see this kind of expression regularly and there must be a kinship between this activity and piling and stacking rock upon rock.  It’s satisfying to do and when you step back from your work…it’s obvious you left an impermanent mark in the landscape that says you were there.  The tree I seek is just a short walk away and in no time at all I arrive on the scene.

Cottonwood tree, late autumn, Nov. 2013

Under the Cottonwood tree, Nov. 2013

This old Cottonwood tree with its raised roots looms large in my imagination and is my personal favorite tree out here.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way because there is usually plenty of evidence laying around in the form of empty beer bottles, spent camp fires, and yes…the odd bits of furniture people drag to furnish the room that exists underneath the tree.  I’ll wager for some…this is known as the party tree.  I was elated to see that most of the junk (old tarps and a red couch) have been removed by some other purists.  The Cottonwood tree had already dropped most of its leaves, but there were still a few hanging on.  After resting a moment under the tree and admiring the distant view of Louisville across the Ohio River…I decide to turn for home.  I was in the process of walking away when I noticed something moving along the fossil rocks.  I froze to see if I could get a better look at the creature that was walking towards me.  Naturally, my camera is at the ready!

Golden Hour Ground Beetle, detail of head, Nov. 2013

detail of head from Golden Hour Ground Beetle, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2013

Regular visitors to the Riverblog know that the Falls of the Ohio State Park is home to several out-sized insect species that have uniquely evolved here.  All the different species are critically endangered and not to be harmed in any way.  I was quick to identify this as the Golden Hour Ground Beetle.  It was so named because it usually makes it first appearance of the day when the sun is about to set.  Otherwise, it is nocturnal in its habits.

Golden Hour Ground Beetle, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2013

Golden Hour Ground Beetle, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2013

The Golden Hour Ground Beetle does not fly.  It relies upon stealth and six strong legs to scramble across any surface.  In form, it is not unlike the much smaller tiger beetles that also make the park their home.  Unlike the smaller beetles, the Golden Hour Ground Beetle is a scavenger and not a hunter.  I suspect this specimen was at the Cottonwood tree because it has learned to find scraps of discarded camping food here.  This beetle has fairly large eyes that can gather the most meager light in the darkest of settings.  It’s abdomen is banded with a coarse hair that insulates this insect during cold nights.  As long as I didn’t make any rash movements, this giant bug was tolerating my presence.

Golden Hour Ground Beetle drinking water?, Nov. 2013

I observed my new “friend” moving to the water’s edge to obtain a drink.  I wondered if it had the ability to swim in its survival tool kit?  I watched the insect as it searched all around the fossil rock shelves that were created by the river dissolving the old limestone away.

Golden Hour Ground Beetle exploring a hollow log, Nov. 2013

View of the beetle through the hollow log, Nov. 2013

I came across a second giant beetle almost immediately after crossing the small creek that separates the western and eastern sections of the park.  Male and females are virtually identical.  There are gaps in our knowledge about their life cycle.  This specimen was in the process of checking out a short, hollow log.  I’m presuming that it was either seeking food or shelter?  I think poking my camera through the end of the log spooked this one a little.  It ran away, but didn’t go far.  I kept my movements to a minimum and after a while it seemed to relax again.

Golden Hour Ground Beetle relaxing on Sycamore tree roots, Nov. 2013

Beetle laying flat on a sycamore root, Nov. 2013

I observed this 14 inch or 35.5 centimeter beetle relaxing on the exposed roots of a Sycamore tree.  As the golden hour approached, the beetle stopped seemingly acknowledging this magic moment when everything is bathed in a warm golden light.  I did the same watching the sun set before finding my vehicle in the parking lot of the Interpretive Center.  To everybody in the wider world…have a great week.

The Golden Hour at the Falls of the Ohio State Park, Nov. 2013

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Black Vultures on the Fossil Beds, Falls of the Ohio, Sept. 2013

The resident flock of Black Vultures were taking advantage of the fossil beds now exposed on the Kentucky side  of the Falls of the Ohio.  The wier dams were temporarily closed and with it the flow of water.  With the river level reduced much of the sculpted limestone normally underwater is briefly seen again.  Fishermen have been accessing new fishing spots along the freshly revealed fossil beds which turns out to be a boon for the vultures.  Not only do they get to feast on fish left by the anglers, but they also enjoy any other trash including left over fishing bait.  Early autumn is a transitional season among the park’s bird life as residents gear up for over-wintering or prepare for the southerly migration.  Birds from the northern latitudes particularly Canada and the Arctic Circle pass through our area on their epic journeys to Central and South America.

Canada Geese feeding on grass, Falls of the Ohio, Sept. 2013

The vultures will fly away, but many of our Canada Geese will brave it out.  We seem to have at least two distinct flocks of Canada Geese sharing the area around the fossil beds.  It’s amazing how intolerant each group is of the other.  There is competition for the best food sites and each group frequently bump into one another with much squabbling.  That’s what makes the next image interesting to me.

Domestic goose mixed with the Canada Geese, Falls, Sept. 2013

Canada Geese can have limits on how much mingling occurs between their own species, but in this case, are willing to accept a true outsider.  This domestic goose seemed integrated into its adoptive flock.  It swam with its wild cousins and accompanied them to a favorite feeding location and was never bothered by the other geese.  Recently, I came across a young Cooper’s Hawk and I was surprised when it did not immediately fly away after I bumbled across it.  There was a good reason why it didn’t leave.

Young Cooper's Hawk, Falls of the Ohio, Sept. 2013

The hawk sized me up and then jumped down off the log it was standing on to retrieve something it had dropped.

Young Cooper's Hawk with prey, Falls of the Ohio, Sept. 2013

The hawk had what appeared to be a freshly killed Mourning Dove.  After securing its prey with its talons, the hawk seemingly jumped into the sky and  vanished within moments.  I thought I saw it disappearing into the tree tops of a stand of willow trees within walking distance.  I did investigate the area, but never saw the bird again.  I love it when I get to observe behaviors.  Life has a job to do and can’t wait around posing for pictures.  Here’s a different kind of behavior being demonstrated by an American Robin.

American Robin bathing at the Falls of the Ohio, Summer 2013

I love this image which I captured earlier in the summer.  This American Robin is focused on taking a bath.  Its head is under the shallow water and droplets and beads of water are splashed over its body.  Our resident American Robin population is doing well and seem to be increasing at the Falls of the Ohio.  Some of the robins will hang out over our gray winter, while others will seek warmer climes.  My last adventure to the Falls resulted in images of a bird that I had never recorded previously in the park.

Gross Blue Bill at the Falls of the Ohio, Falls of the Ohio, Sept. 2013

Gross Blue Beak and flowering plants, Falls of the Ohio, Sept. 2013

The Gross Blue Beak is strictly passing through and in fact, this is the first recorded instance of this bird appearing in the park.  Good thing I have all this photographic proof that the bird was here because the resident birders are a skeptical lot.  Reputations and lifetime bird lists are at stake and there is a great burden of proof to produce irrefutable documentation.  This bird has traveled thousands of miles from the edge of the Arctic Circle in Canada and is bound for the Argentine coast.

Gross Blue Beak with corroded aerosol can, Falls of the Ohio, Sept. 2013

portrait of a Gross Blue Beak at the Falls of the Ohio, Sept. 2013

The Gross Blue Beak receives its name not because it has disgusting habits that require an out-sized bill.  Rather the “Gross” idea comes from the German word for “large” .  The Ohio River Valley was settled by many immigrant groups and the Germans were among the most prominent.  This bird’s beak is a heavy-duty tool it uses to crack open nuts, crush mollusks (particularly snails), and jack hammer soft decaying logs in pursuit of beetle grubs.  All three of these food sources are found at the Falls of the Ohio.

Gross Blue Beak at the Falls of the Ohio, Sept. 2013

I was able to get quite close to the Gross Blue Beak to snap off these images.  I’ve noticed before that many northern migrants of various species will allow me to approach more closely than the local birds that are around people more.  Perhaps that’s the key?  For the moment, the region around the Arctic Circle has seen less of our influence than other places in North America.  To close, I have one other bird image, but it is noteworthy because of the people in the far distance.  Recently, I received a question about the back wall that is a part of the system in place to produce a stable pool of river water for commercial barge traffic.  I’ve heard that the Ohio River carries more tonnage of goods along it’s 800 plus miles than the Rhine River does in Europe.  The back wall of this dam is quite high up and the actual river level is perhaps a meter or so below the top of the wall.  Beyond the Great Blue Herons, the small band of hikers provides some sense of scale on how the river would be over their heads!  When you are walking the now exposed fossil beds…it’s a sobering thought!

Great Blue Herons and hikers on the fossil beds, Falls of the Ohio, Sept. 2013

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Falls black styrofigure, July 2013

With the sun spotlighting this little patch of sand…my newest Styro-figure proudly stood upright.  He’s the first persona created in the reconfigured studio.  I found a rare piece of “black Styrofoam” on today’s walk.  It’s part of what passes for car bumpers these days.  This material has a rubberized compound mixed throughout the foam which makes it harder to cut or pierce.

Leaving home, July 2013

After making new friends it’s time to venture out into the world.  The leafy green complete with bird song is complimented by the creaky willows that sway with the occasional breeze.  There is another sound, however, that your feet are hearing and you walk in the direction of its source.

Black Styro-figure by the river, July 2013

The mighty Ohio River has been running muddy for more that a week now.  Although it’s hot and humid today, thus far, this summer has been wetter and cooler than average.  As a result of all the rain, the river has been higher than usual.  What I like about the Falls of the Ohio is that in such a relatively intimate space the park can take on all kinds of different looks depending on the weather and season.  Small waves break upon the heightened shoreline and there is a family nearby fishing and playing by the river.

Family fishing for catfish, Falls of the Ohio, July 2013

Seeing that they were having some luck catching fish, I gestured if it was all right to take their pictures.  The family didn’t speak English and I’m guessing that they are recent immigrants from Southeast Asia?  Regardless, both adults and children were having a ball in the river.  I wondered if they came from someplace like this since they seemed so comfortable and natural by the water? After receiving the okay signal I recorded these images of people interacting with the river.

little boy, Falls of the Ohio, July 2013

This little guy was cute and really determined that I should take his picture in what I’m assuming is a martial arts pose?  I obliged him several times and this was my personal favorite snapshot of the group.  Looking through my riverblog…I’m struck by how often children appear and interact with my artistic process.  First, my own two sons would accompany me and now it’s the kids in the park on any given day.

Man with Flathead Catfish, Falls of the Ohio, July 2013

Flathead catfish, Falls of the Ohio, July 2013

I watched this fish being landed and it’s a decent sized Flathead catfish, (Pylodictus olivaris).  This fish probably weighed in the ten to twelve pound range, but this catfish can get as large as a hundred pounds.  It is a fish of big rivers.  A very simple rig was used to catch this fish.  Four slipshot lead weights were clamped onto the line about eight inches away from the hook.  A single nightcrawler worm was used for bait which was cast about 25 yards from the riverbank.  The fishermen would wade in about knee-high to waist deep to increase casting length.  I was amazed that with the current and all the potential underwater obstructions that their lines didn’t get snagged more often than they did.

Catfish stringer, Falls of the Ohio, July 2013

This was the stringer of catfish they were working on.  In addition to the Flatheads…another big river fish the Blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus) was also being caught.

catfish stringer, Falls of the Ohio, July 2013

The Blue catfish is a slatey-gray color and has a forked tail.  The two fish on the lower right in the above image are blues.  The flatheads are more of a mottled olive color and have very different fins.  Both are omnivorous and will eat most anything that they can catch.

Man and catfish, Falls of the Ohio, July 2013

All the fish on the stringer will be used to feed this family.  It is still not recommended that people eat the larger fish (especially bottom dwelling species) from the Ohio River. The river is much cleaner than it used to be, however, toxins do build up in the fat tissues of the fish that live the longest and grow to be big.  Every once in a while, making a meal of some of the smaller fish should be okay.  Because I was needed elsewhere today…I let my day at the river draw to an end.  Good thing too…because if you stand too long in the same spot at the water’s edge…you chance sinking down too far!  See you soon.

Styro-figure in black, waist deep in wet sand, July 2013

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