Posts Tagged ‘earth art’

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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Greetings from a very hot and humid Falls of the Ohio State Park.  The Ohio River is receding into its summer pool and more of the riverbank has been exposed.  Of late, I’ve been running into more rope fragments from commercial barge traffic (or it seems this way).  I don’t  rule out the possibility that my desire to work with these objects in this setting has brought them into my universe and attention.  See the recent post I did about “Play on Earth Day” which also features a rope project.  I’m enjoying what can be done with them to create images.  Here’s two rope investigations I did the other day.

As ropes go…this isn’t the thickest or heaviest rope I’ve found out here.  What is interesting is that most of this rope is still buried under the sand.  There is a point where it enters the ground and remains hidden and fixed to this position.  I started out just coiling the rope…I love working with spirals.  The exposed end of this cable is covered with duct tape.  Next, I pulled the rope straight to see how long it was and to see how it activated the area it was found in.

The terminal end of this rope is buried under the sand.  I used that point to move and pivot the rope to create these other images.  Here are two side views of the straight rope and the scene it underscores.

Next I tried creating a circle by joining the ends together.  The rope was stiff and not easy to shape.

This image makes it appear to be more of an ellipse, but I did my best to try to form as neat a circle as I could.  The area I’m working in is in the eastern section of the park right under the railroad bridge.  The last photo I made using this rope is more of a figure eight and loosely reminds me of a chromosome.

Now for the same rope shape involving the roots of a nearby willow tree.

I came across a second rope on this sweltering day.  My clothes were literally sticking to me.  It occurred to me that I left my water bottle in my car which on this day was not a good move.  I needed to take frequent breaks under the shade of the willow trees to keep from overheating.

This second rope fragment is much thicker than the previous example.  It also appears to be made of a natural material.  Someone else found this rope in some other part of the park and carried it to this location under the bridge where it was abandoned.  I returned a couple of days later and this rope was gone.  I wonder what other project it was destined for? Anyway, here are a few of the images I made with this interesting object.

Next I placed the unraveling end into the river to link it with the riverbank.

Last view with the unraveling end draped over a log.  This is the position I left the rope in before departing for home.  I very nearly took this rope home with me, but it was too big and heavy and the heat of the day took its toll on me.  At the time, I told myself that if this rope was still here the next time I returned that I would collect this object for later use.  Nebulously, I had this idea in my head for another installation project.  Just what I need…more junk!

After playing with this rope, my curiosity was satisfied for the day.  I’m sure I will find other ropes and cables out here as time goes by. I found myself being very envious of this trio of male Mallard ducks!  They seem to have the right idea and so I will end this post with them.  Stay cool everybody!

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