Posts Tagged ‘imagination’

The stars were in alignment and I got to spend a nice Earth Day at the Falls of the Ohio.  It was a little cold and windy…nothing layering in sweat shirts couldn’t handle!  I found so many interesting objects and spaces that I filled up my camera’s memory card.  I now find myself with a richness of images I couldn’t post in one go…and so I will try to keep it focused in some way.  As proof that everyday should be Earth Day…the official celebration in the park has been moved to May after the Kentucky Derby.  Supplanted by a horse race!  Last night was Thunder Over Louisville which year after year is usually the largest fireworks display in North America and kicks off the two weeks long Kentucky Derby Festival.  Thousands of people were out here partying on both banks of the Ohio River.  They left their trash after the event, but fortunately it looks like the clean up crews are doing a good job and keeping this stuff out of the park.  After all, it already has enough detritus of its own.  Of late, I’ve been really fascinated by how these big barge cables and ropes that wash into here weather over time. They are made of tough stuff, but the river wins in the end.  Sometimes they unravel and drift beautifully from willow root to branch like mutant Spanish moss.  Some of their colors can even be shocking compared to the neutral earth tones of their surroundings.  Here’s one such scene I’ve been trying to describe.  This is one of my Earth Day photographs.

I later came across a nice length of barge cable stretched out across the sand. For fun, I started coiling it and taking pictures of the different configurations I came up with.  Here’s the way it looked stretched out.

When I look at my pictures at home, many of these cable fragments reference fossils.  I get a strong feeling of ancient sea lily crinoids and nautilus-like ammonites preserved in the rock that was silt millions of years a go.  I also played with the spiral form and activated an intimate space with its spring-like energy.

Creating a tighter spiral evoked ammonite shells and wavy tentacles.  Ammonites were coiled cephalopods with some resemblances to our squids and octopi. The ammonites were so successful for so long.  Beginning somewhere in the Devonian they prospered and radiated out to fill all the world’s oceans until the Cretaceous Period crashed.  Their run lasted more than 330 million years and now they are all gone.  We have a way to go to match that record.

In most of the places I walked today I could hear the Northern Orioles singing.  I tried imitating their call notes and once in a while I could get a bird to reply.  I saw various warblers, vireos, woodpeckers, wrens, and more…however, the most memorable bird event happened at my feet.  I stepped too near the nest of a Song Sparrow and flushed the bird that was hiding with its clutch of eggs.  Here’s a photo of the scene.  Can you find the bird’s nest?  Look closely at the dark spot on the left side of the young willow greenery.

And now…lets look a little deeper and closer at this spot.

Inside were four tiny eggs tinged in green and speckled with brown spots.  I’ve read that the Song Sparrow is heavily parasitized by the Brown-headed Cowbird which opportunistically lays an egg of its own among the sparrow’s clutch.  The unsuspecting parents raise the cowbird as their own.  As far as I could tell, this nest was in good shape.  Perhaps having a really obscure nest site has so far protected it from the cowbirds which are common in our area?  Walking further, I came to another nesting site of a different kind near my outdoor studio.  Like the Song Sparrow…this spot was also well hidden.

The tire swing helps give it away otherwise it easily blends into the natural driftwood environment.  I imagine a family coming to play here because there is evidence of children… including a misplaced fuzzy duck toy.  The kids keep raiding my Styrofoam cache, but haven’t made anything back at their fort!  Walking around the structure, I find the door is closed.

I even crawled up on the “roof”  for a look.  The builders have taken a natural space created by interlocking logs and enclosed and defined the space by leaning and propping up other found wood.  It all blends in perfectly.

I moved a few planks and logs aside and could see the interior.  I set the duck back up and snapped this shot.

Because my driftwood structure neighbors like to borrow the Styrofoam I’ve collected…I decided to leave them a present using the biggest polystyrene chunk they dragged over here.  First, I need to improvise a head.

After finding some appropriate limbs…I set the figure up in the corner of the log fort.  I thought it looked pretty good against the new green leaves of the willows.  In my head I heard this little bit of imagined dialogue…”Wait, wait…it’s not yet Earth Day!  That’s been postponed until May 12.  Come back then and bring the family.”…as he waved all wild-eyed and everything.

I’m not sure how long this guy will last?  It would be nice to think that the kids who play here could see this figure as a part of their creative environment.

The root mass from this great log makes up one “wall” of the driftwood fort.  Here’s another view looking back before I moved on to the rest of my day.

I’m going to bring this post to a close with two photos of a willow tree I saw the other day.  These trees are buffeted by the elements and begin to take on character and personality as their will to survive kicks in.  With their branches reaching for the sun…their incredible roots hang on to the mud and are sculpted by the Ohio River.  It’s good to think of trees during Earth Day.

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On a warm Saturday morning in mid February, I was exploring the eastern section of the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  At first glance, I had the place to myself and I began my systematic sweep of the shoreline looking for whatever the river had temporarily marooned here.  Usually, I will walk down to the water’s edge first and then I comb the bank walking back and forth until I hit the treeline.  This typically takes an hour or so and my collecting bag quickly fills up with all kinds of river treasures both natural and artificial.  This morning was to prove to be a memorable one when I came across a creature new to me and I believe science as well?

Years of bird watching had trained me to key on the slightest movement that might betray a creature’s location.  Such was the case when I came across this extraordinary insect that was exploring the same territory as me!  I saw a little motion from the corner of my eye while scanning the riverbank that proved to be this very large ant’s wiggling legs.  This is not my first encounter with a large insect at the Falls of the Ohio.  Previously, I had discovered five other giants of different species all belonging to a genus I had dubbed “Polystyrenus”… because their exoskeletons look like they are made from weathered Styrofoam.  The following is my report complete with photographs and observations made in the field.

I would estimate that this insect’s body, (which looks to be an  “ant”), to be about a foot in length.  Of course, the articulated legs make it seem bigger.  Its eyes appeared to be simple and its mouth parts seemed feeble.  I surmised that whatever it fed upon didn’t require the shearing power of larger mandibles.  I could be more certain of this, but I refused to “collect” or kill this creature in the name of science just to complete a more thorough morphological examination . The thought crossed my mind that this could be the young of the Giant Blue Ant I had seen here a couple of years a go?  I also noticed that many of its legs were different from one another and each appendage might be a different tool like blades in a Swiss Army knife?

While the ant explored its world I discreetly followed along.  My camera is equipped with a telephoto lens nearly as big as the bug.  Still, I found this particular specimen to be amazingly tolerant of my presence.  I watched it while it moved to the river’s edge, but I could not gauge its purpose here.

Interestingly, I did observe it checking out a couple of frayed barge cables that were snagged and unraveling among the willow branches.  It seemed very intent with the fiber strands and used its six legs to gather up the strings into a ball.

Here’s the ant on a different branch.  I wonder if it is responsible for the cuts on this cable?  You can see an intact length of this heavy rope on the sand below.  Could this be some form of play?  This is a question to be answered later.  I never saw the ant do anything else with these two cables .  Does anyone out there have a hypothesis?  Moving on, I did get some very interesting images of the ant either feeding or drinking that show how unusual this ant is from its smaller kin.

On several occasions I was able to observe our remarkable ant taking “sustenance” from iridescent water which flowed in rivulets from the sand below.  What is this stuff?  Is it petroleum pollution or the oils and minerals leaching from other biodegradable materials breaking down below the sand?  As it fed, the ant was at its least cautious.  Perhaps it was drunk?  I walked up to it and was able to take this aerial view.  The rainbow-effect on the sand contrasted nicely against the whiteness of the insect. You can easily see the basic insect body plan with its head, thorax, and abdomen.  Of course, all true insects have six legs.

Here’s another image that comes as a revelation and shows clearly how it feeds.

Like a butterfly, the ant unveiled a long proboscis or feeding tube and lowered into the sheen.  Its abdomen pulsed while it sucked.  I kept thinking about what this stuff is that bubbles to the surface and could it be responsible for the appearance here of these large insects?  Is this some local version of the “Godzilla-effect” where pollution mutates the endemic creatures into giants?  Well, at least I think Clarksville, Indiana will be safe from this ant for the time being.  Now if millions of these ants were to show up at the same time…then this story could change.

After imbibing this strange brew, I observed the Giant White Ant exploring the park.  A previous visitor had found an orange life-preserver and placed it over the branch of a tree.  Here the ant gets on its “hind” legs to investigate the ring.  This ant displays a lot of curiosity about its world.  For a short-time, I lost track of the ant which is able to walk across the driftwood more quickly than I, but I was able to relocate it when I came across this shattered plastic barrel.  It kind of looked at home here and so I left it be and moved on.

That’s it…I have more pictures, but they don’t reveal anymore about the Giant White Ant’s behavior.  Of course, I hope to see it again provided it manages to evade its enemies and stay alive.  What will the “Godzilla-effect”  produce here next?  I wonder if E.O. Wilson has encountered anything like this before in all his researches?  I’ll close now with a final image of my ant.

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under the willows, 10/09

Under the willows the trap has been set.  With mask on and gun drawn the Trick or Treater isn’t waiting for the end of the month.  Halloween is now.  Soon a victim will appear and it will be “your candy or your life”!  Sugar can do that to a fella…even one made from Styrofoam.

Question Mark butterfly, 10/09

Waiting requires patience and so the Trick or Treater stays hidden.  Insects are plentiful today.  Fresh Question Mark butterflies flit through the zone demarcated by shade and sunshine. Can you see the small question mark sign on the hind wing that gives this butterfly its name?  Small tiger beetles chase each other across the sand and a hundred small grasshoppers are making lace from the wild grapevines.  Sooner or later, someone is sure to come by and then the trap will be sprung.

mask of the Trick or Treater, 10/09

Today is warmer than it has been for a few weeks.  The bear mask starts to get hot and with that a change in tactics is required.  Rising from his hiding place, the Trick or Treater begins to stalk the margins along the willow habitat.  Do you hear voices or is it just imagination playing tricks?  Carefully, he follows a line of driftwood towards the sound in the woods.

Trick or Treater, 10/09

Trick or Treater, 10/09

The ambush is set and everything is ready.  The trusty squirt gun is armed and the Frankenstein-head candy bucket is eager to find fulfillment.  The prey has been spotted next to a pile of Styrofoam and sticks that look vaguely familiar.  Inching closer, the Trick or Treater is aided by the noise his potential victims are making and the crunch of sticks and leaves is unheeded until total surprise is achieved!

the Trick or Treater's surprise, 10/09

The idea for this figure came from a destroyed teddy bear I found at the Falls last March.  Either some child or dog came across it first and knocked the stuffing out of it.  The bear was still damp having been carried by the river to the spot where it was discovered. The empty bear’s head would make a perfect mask and I waited until now to put it together.  There is a face I made with acorn eyes and pink plastic mouth under the  disguise.  Every now and then, I find Halloween related items and I decided to put a few together to create this figure.  I’ll probably use it for a decoration this year where it will greet fellow tricksters in their quest for candy.

destroyed pink teddy bear, 3/09

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