Posts Tagged ‘loosestrife’

August has been the toughest month and I have two measly posts to show for it.  The ankle is better and thanks for all the well wishes I received.  I guess my other newsworthy item is that my trusty camera broke while on expedition to the Falls of the Ohio.  I received the dreaded “lens error restart the camera” message and of course everything I tried after reading whatever I could about fixing it…didn’t work.  Now, I will need to have the pros look at it.  Although I have  never dropped my camera, I am, however, guilty of working in a dusty and sandy environment.  I’ll bet a well placed grain of sand is all it takes to render the most precise instrument useless.  If my camera proves to be a lost cause…then this was its last adventure.

A couple of weeks a go I was approached by a person who was looking for a friend that was last seen at the Falls of the Ohio.  The missing individual had made a phone call to his friend stating where he was and that he would remain at the Falls for a while, but had not been heard from since then.  I was being asked to guide the concerned friend to the places mentioned in their phone conversation.  Perhaps the missing individual would still be there or some clues as to what happened to him?  Our journey took us to the western section of the park over the sweltering fossil beds.  Like I mentioned earlier, August has been a bear.

We walked by large areas of purple loosestrife flowers that were growing in the moist soil and sands near the edge of the river.  For a few moments, we lingered over the flowers and watched all the insects drawn to them.  There was a profusion of butterflies and more than a few exotic wasps and bees.  Each year it seems the loosestrife flowers are spreading and their nectar should make the insects very happy.  The place we were walking to was just a head of us.  I featured it in a recent post called the “Mahalo Tree House”.  It’s a wonderful old cottonwood tree that recently was turned into a “club house” by kids I think?  Here are two recent views as we approached the tree.

My guest became excited to see this unique tree house and mentioned to me that it was exactly as described in his friend’s conversation.  We walked over a couple old fire pits that proved this site had been occupied recently.  I made a few mental notes of other changes I observed since my last visit, but kept those to myself.

My companion grew excited when he spotted the plastic rabbit in his clay niche.  This was one of the details mentioned by the missing friend. There was another clue as well.

The garbage bag that had been left behind during my last visit was now full.  Who was going to carry it up the bank to dispose of in a responsible manner?  There were other signs that started to make me feel uneasy.  What do you make of this?

Do you think it is respectful to the tree to spray paint it?  I think not.  There were other ill omens all around us.  Someone or some group had been decorating the place with found bones.  Several clusters of bones were hanging on the end of strings attached to the tree.  Here’s an example of this.

The oddest bone creation, however, was the weird face we found.  It was made from a pelvis and vertebrae that I think originally belonged to a small deer.  Some man-made elements in the form of fishing float eyes and a fake flower were also added.  It took me a moment to register where the eyes might have originally came from.  Black magic marker was used to draw additional designs on the bone.  The head’s eyes had a way of following you around the interior of the tree house.  The bone additions definitely made the place seem primitive.

My guest and I were feeling uneasy when we made the discovery.  We found the missing friend or what was left of him behind the main trunk of the cottonwood tree.

It was too difficult to tell if the friend had succumbed to natural causes or had help of some kind?  All that was left were the bones and fortunately none of them was used to decorate the tree.  One part of the mystery had been solved…the friend had been found.  It was decided to leave the remains were they lay so that law enforcement could conduct their investigation.

All that was left now was to say good-bye and retrace our steps along the river.  My companion was quiet for the most part.  The one time he broke his silence was when we passed two barefoot boys playing next to the water.  The surviving friend said it reminded him of his own childhood when he and his late sidekick would skip rocks off the surface of the Ohio River.  Here’s hoping September will be a kinder month.

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Continuing my last walk…I came to the area that would be my base for the day.  There is a favorite tree with exposed roots that you can sit under and remain cool and out of the sun.  Previous visitors decorated this spot with many vertical sticks that give a fence-like impression.  Here’s two views, first the base of this tree as seen from the outside:

…and a view from the inside.  Over the years, I have left many small sculptures in this area.  They never seem to last very long in here.

Last week was my birthday, and so on this outing I have new tools.  Earlier in the year, I lost my handy two-bladed Swiss Army knife which was a previous gift from a friend.  It had a nice, easy to sharpen blade and a toothy saw that could cut wood.  Replacing that knife are these two objects.  My family gave me the updated Swiss Army knife complete with tweezers and toothpick.  My friend Jeff gave me the bigger saw.  Its blade folds out and has the advantage of locking.  I definitely can chew through a nicely sized limb with this baby! 

On this particular trip, the heat and humidity put a damper on doing anything ambitious.  I hung around this area for a couple of hours and made this guy who was checking out the butterflies in the purple loosestrife.

I found a little bit of Styrofoam to work with and this red plastic object that looks like a pipe.  I used tiny plastic fishing bobbers for eyes and the ears are clam shells.  Later because the shells kept falling off, I substituted a flat rock and sand-polished glass for the ears.  It’s subtle and you might not notice this change at first.  As for the place I was working at…last year the Purple Loosestrife was getting a foothold and now it is firmly entrenched.  This is a hard to get rid of invasive plant that plays havoc in small wetlands like this one.  The butterflies, however, love this weed. 

Among the many species feeding from the purple flowers is this Tiger Swallowtail, Pterourus glaucus.  This is a boldly patterned and large butterfly of summer.  I have seen some beat up looking butterflies of different species and am assuming they are from an earlier brood that perhaps over-wintered here?  The tiger swallowtail also has a common melanistic form and I also saw one of those out here today.

You can see the “tiger stripes” showing on his hind wing.  Also working these flowers were the large bumble bees we saw earlier on the morning glories.  I also observed several large, blue-black wasps that I associate with being spider hunters.  They are so intent on gathering nectar that they pay no attention to me.  All through the loosestrife insects were working the flowers.  Clearly, this plant has no shortage of pollinators.

Mr. Red Pipe was enjoying himself in all this purple haze and humidity.  There was something reassuring about watching all this insect life packed into a relatively small area.  Another favorite butterfly is hanging on a loosestrife blossom not too far away and if we move deliberately…we might not spook it away.

It’s an Orange Sulphur, Colias eurytheme.  We have several other members of the Sulphur family out here along with Viceroys, Red Admirals, and a couple different Skipper species.  I love the yellow-green eyes on this butterfly which seem to have a glow to them.

All my water is gone and so the idea of returning to my car sets in.  I have another bottle waiting for me there.  Tomorrow is supposed to be another high temperature day in the 90’s.  After our June being a record setter, it seems July is out for bragging rights too.  Before leaving, I snap one more picture of the Purple Loosestrife in its prime with the railroad bridge visible in the far distance. 

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