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Posts Tagged ‘signs’

A gray day with the Ohio River rising and I’m exploring this huge driftwood mound created by last spring’s flooding.  Over the last few months this section has seen other minor floods and even a fire.  It’s interesting to me to see how the river has a leveling effect as it flows under and moves the driftwood pile. The shifting reveals new “treasures” that were formerly buried.  I’m out here to see what I can find and possibly reuse.  Soon I uncover a sign that tempts me.

Yes, I have a found sign collection as well and you can see it on my Pages section where I keep other collections of stuff I have stumbled across.  First, let me tell you why this particular sign caught my eye.  In this neck of the woods, we still remember the now mythic frontiersmen who explored and settled this great land.  Daniel Boone, Audubon, Lewis and Clark, and one Davy Crockett are among these pioneers.  Seeing this sign caused me to “flash forward” and I speculated what Crockett’s descendants were now doing after taming our great wilderness.  Did they as Joni Mitchell once sang “…paved paradise and put up a parking lot” and here was the sign to prove it?  As signs go, this one was interesting because it’s double-sided and the reverse message is different and says “Life Vest Required” in red stenciled letters.  Here is a detail that I like.

I was contemplating whether I wanted to drag this heavy and muddy sign with me when an unexpected thing occurred. Life happened! My activity flushed out a bird I didn’t recognize and it flew right over my head and landed in an area of bottom land just east of the railroad bridge.  I kept my eyes on it the whole time and I saw where it landed.  I forgot about the sign and grabbed my camera gingerly stepping over the driftwood.  I would hate to twist my ankle again as I anticipated my rendezvous with this rare bird.  After quietly searching the underbrush, I located it and excitedly snapped the following images.

I have the honor of announcing the first documented sighting of the Temperate Bird of Paradise ever seen at the Falls of the Ohio!  I found it at the water’s edge skulking among the litter and downed logs.  FYI, this is the only bird of paradise found in North America (hence temperate) from a family of birds that are almost exclusively tropical.  You are more likely to encounter a bird of paradise in New Guinea or the Aru Islands than here.  Interestingly, the first tropical examples to reach Europe were ethnographic specimens and the prepared bird skins were missing their feet and sometimes their wings.   This resulted in the early European naturalists assuming that the birds of paradise were forever on the wing kept aloft by their magnificent feathers.  (That’s a true story!)  Here are a few more pictures of this magical bird.

What this bird has in common with the other birds of paradise are very unusual feathers that the males use in courtship displays.  You can see the wiry, blue, flower-like feathers near the base of the tail.  In the wild, the males compete against each other for the affections of the females by wildly dancing and showing off their unusual plumage.  Once mating has occurred, the female builds a nest near the ground and the male takes off and plays no part in raising the young.  The particular bird I was observing was a juvenile male and lacked the small tuft of feathers found on the heads of the adults.

While I was taking these pictures and recording my observations, a train was passing overhead on the bridge.  I could tell it was making my visitor uneasy.

The diesel locomotives were noisy as they hauled their great loads over the span.  My bird of paradise began walking nervously back and forth and then flew away.  I was, however, able to snap one more image of it before it disappeared for good.  I returned to the area over several days, but it definitely left the area.  This is my final picture of the bird of paradise at the Falls.

Because this was a juvenile male, I’m hoping that this signals that the Temperate Bird of Paradise is on the increase and this young bird is seeking out new territories.  The bird initially became rare during the hey day when exotic bird plumes worn on fancy hats were all the rage.  Since then, habitat loss and the fact it is a ground nesting species makes it more vulnerable.  Excitedly, I rushed home to view my pictures on the computer!  I forgot all about the sign and I’m not sure it is still there anymore?  The rising Ohio River may have reclaimed it.  The next time I’m out there, I will look for it and the rare Temperate Bird of Paradise in case it returns.

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The debris I find along the riverbank is an unfortunate sign of the times, but that pales to the ongoing debacle in the Gulf of Mexico now in its 58th day!  The signs that our way of life are overly dependent on fossil fuels and petroleum in particular have been in place for some time now.  The funny thing about signs is that after a while they become so familiar that they are also easy to ignore.  I decided to visit a place I feel I’m familiar with and learn what I could from the other more literal signs that are around here and this is what I found.  The further away from the park you are, the more likely you are to find signs that beckon or welcome you.  The Ohio River Scenic Byway sign promises an adventure complete with the possibility of steam boats and church steeples if you only follow the road that runs parallel to the river.  Next you come to a sign that alerts you to the historical significance of the town itself which is just outside the park.

As you travel from east to west in our country you run into all kinds of markers that are a reminder of how arbitrary the “west” actually is…eventually you do run into the Pacific Ocean which was Lewis and Clark’s eventual goal.  There are several signs that lead you into the park starting with this rather modest example.  Eventually things do build up leading you to the Interpretive Center with its limestone sign.

The historical significance of this place not only to our country, but to the world’s heritage is well-marked.  I’ll start with the more recent sign that represents the effort to recognize the Lewis and Clark bicentennial.  This expedition of discovery was one of the great moments of exploration and deserves remembrance.  We had to remind the historians, however, that this area played a huge part in the overall trip and had to fight for the recognition which included lobbying on the highest levels.

At least the sign for the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail includes two representations of the explorers.  I think it’s doubtful one of them wore a coonskin cap!  Here’s the bronze plaque under the “official” statue (a story for another time!) explaining some of the significance of the voyage to the history of our country.  And , one other plaque I found on the Interpretive Center honoring the fossil beds themselves.

Around the park are other descriptive markers that alert you to some of the attractions in the park.  This sign describes the rich bird life that has been recorded here dating back to Audubon’s experiences.

The oddest signs in the park, however, describe two piles of dirt and rubble that I think we can thank the listed corporation for?  They are used for educational purposes so kids in particular can have a fossil finding experience by sifting through this material.

Once you are in the park, however, one also encounters many signs that tell you what you can and cannot do.  The park and Army Corps of Engineers have many rules and some of them alert you to potential dangers and hazards.  Here are a few of those signs in the contexts in which they are found.

And if you break the rules…you better watch out because…

I can’t leave this post on this note, so just two more images.  The first photo is the sign that gives credit where credit is due…and the last image is what it is giving thanks for!  I know it is said that people no longer read, but if you pay attention to your surroundings, then you can learn all kinds of interesting things and ways to say them.

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