Posts Tagged ‘herons’

Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Falls of the Ohio, 2013

I’ve had some interesting birding encounters of late at the Falls of the Ohio and so I thought now is an opportune time to post them.  I took this image of the Northern Rough-winged Swallow recently.  To my eye, this species seems to be on the increase as is its cousin, the more familiar Barn Swallow.  This is especially good since they eat big quantities of flying insects.  Herons (especially Great Blue Herons and Black-crowned Night-Herons) are abundant and since the fishing has been good of late…I’ve seen plenty of both species.  Here are two more recent images.  The first is of a pair of Great Blue Herons that were taking advantage of the recent Skipjack Herring run.

Great Blue Heron pair, June 2013

The most common heron here is the Black-crowned Night-Heron.  They are considerably smaller than the Great Blues and have striking red eyes.  You can find them wading in the shallower waters looking for fish, crayfish, or small frogs.  This image was taken in the eastern section of the park and this bird was perched on a log stranded on top of the dam’s wall.

Black-crowned Night Heron at the Falls of the Ohio, June 2013

I’ve saved the two most interesting avian encounters for last.  A couple of weeks a go, I was sitting at my outdoor studio under the willow trees when I heard the sound of a young bird pleading for food.  Looking around, I was able to find the hungry bird and I snapped this picture of it.

young Brown-headed Cowbird, June 2013

I recognize that this is the young of the Brown-headed Cowbird.  What is fascinating about this species (and the two other species of cowbirds in North America) is that the adults do not raise their own young.  Cowbirds parasitize the nests of other bird species.  In the case of the Brown-headed Cowbird they have been known to lay their eggs in the nests of about 200 different species of birds.  Usually, the young Brown-headed Cowbird out competes the host specie’s nestlings.  I was curious to see who this bird’s “parents” were and it didn’t take long to find out.

Brown-headed Cowbird chick and Carolina Wren, Falls of the Ohio, June 2013

In the case of this cowbird chick it is being raised by a hardworking pair of Carolina Wrens.  The baby is nearly double the wren’s size and vibrates its wings along with calling out to stimulate the wrens to feed it.  Here are a couple more pictures of the wren feeding the cowbird.

Carolina Wren feeding a Brown-headed Cowbird chick, Falls of the Ohio, June 2013

Carolina Wren and Brown-headed Cowbird chick, June 2013

In case you were wondering, cowbirds are not the only species to lay their eggs in other bird’s nests.  In Europe, the cuckoo also does this, but parasitizes fewer species.  I often wonder how does the cowbird know it’s a cowbird especially if it is raised by a completely different species?  Obviously, some behaviors are “hard-wired” and innate .  In the early Spring, Brown-headed Cowbirds are early arrivals and always on the look out for other breeding species of birds and their nest sites.  Their courtship is not a thing of beauty with each drab Brown-headed Cowbird female usually being pursued by multiple males.  Moving on, here is a recent picture of an adult male and you can see why they are called Brown-headed Cowbirds.

male Brown-headed Cowbird, Falls of the Ohio, June 2013

Recently, I was in the far western section of the Falls of the Ohio State Park where I saw my very first Indiana Rail.  Rails are much smaller relatives of the heron family and other wading shorebirds.  The Indiana Rail is a little smaller than a chicken and rarely seen since it favors dense underbrush and is usually more active at night.

Indian Rail at the Falls of the Ohio, June 2013

I was taking a break sitting on the fossil rocks when this bird with a long, bright red bill appeared from among the ever-growing vines.  I held still and was able to record this species with a small series of photographic images.  This bird seemed very interested in the holes situated among the rocks.

Indiana Rail, Falls of the Ohio, June 2013

Indiana Rail, Falls of the Ohio, June 2013

Unlike the cowbirds…both the Indiana Rail male and female participate in raising their own young.  Typically, four or five green mottled eggs are deposited in a loose bowl constructed of decaying river vegetation.  It is believed that the heat generated from this decomposing matter helps to incubate the eggs , but this is still speculative.  There is a lot left to learn about this enigmatic creature.

Head of the Indiana Rail, June 2013

Indiana Rail, Falls of the Ohio, June 2013

I watched the rail for about twenty minutes as it poked around the vines that were beginning to cover the fossil rocks.  Every now and then it would use its strong-looking bill to probe the cracks around the drying mud.  Just as mysteriously as it appeared…it disappeared leaving me with this wonderful memory and a hand full of pictures to prove it was here.  See you later!

Indiana Rail, Falls of the Ohio, June 2013

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Louisville cityscape from the Falls, 6/08

Since I was feeling a little nostalgic about lost trees, I checked into my archive and pulled up these images from late June of last year.  In the above photo, the tree in the right foreground fell during the last few months.  This view with a glimpse of the skyline of Louisville on the opposite shore was made from the park’s western boundry.

Black Jack, 6/08

I called this figure “Black Jack” when I made it.  It didn’t last long in this configuration.  Although this section of the park is more remote…”Black Jack” was found and assaulted by someone who needed to break something.  I wonder sometimes if there might be a balance between the amount of energy it takes to create and the effort required to destroy?  It would be some type of karmic equation.  Yes, this wasn’t the best piece I ever made, but it did have some points of interest.  I believe this was the only time I ever came across black polystyrene and in this case I believe it was once part of a car’s bumper.  I also found the little stearing wheel and the broken baseball batter’s helmet along the same stretch of beach.  Tires can be found everywhere and in this piece, made a nice base.  The head is a battered Styrofoam form for styling wigs.

Black Jack in situ, 6/08

I left this sculpture parked by this wonderful cottonwood tree that has incredible roots.  Over the years, the elements have eroded the bank exposing the roots without killing the tree.  In this case, you can literally sit under the tree in this unique space and stay dry during the heaviest rainstorm.  From the fire pits around this area it is obviously a favorite place for campers, fishermen, and lovers.  The candy cane hanging on the tree is something else I found that day.  It is a hand-painted Christmas decoration on wood and I added it to my growing collection of river junk I hauled home.  This styro-sculpture had a buoy-like quality to it that appealed to me and nicely marked the day. 

Herons at the Falls, 6/08

Across from where I sited my sculpture is an area of exposed fossil rock that touches the water.  It is a favorite place for herons to do their fishing and a nice image taken the same day to end this post.

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