Sunday, August 05, 2007

Hazy, Hot and Humid - The Dog Days of Summer

The "Dog Days of Summer" come with the Kentucky State Fair, and I've always called it Fair Weather. We have conditions of 95 degrees in temperature, 95% humidity and Indiana disappears altogether in the haze and pollution when you try to look across the river. Now, schools start in mid-August, so children have to concentrate while sweating if they are in non-air conditioned buildings. We've always had this kind of weather in late summer, I suppose, but you notice it more when moving from A/C to non-A/C. I remember moving to the basement in the summer as much as possible when I was growing up. Even with air conditioning, my interest in outside activities lessens in this hot weather, thus the lack of entries in the blog in the last few weeks.
At the Falls of the Ohio, the Army Corps of Engineers closed down the gates in the dam in May this year, since there was not a steady supply of rain. The river depth at the gauge above the McAlpine Dam is about 12-12.5 feet now. The barge companies are complaining that they cannot put a full load on their barges due to the shallow depth of the water. Occasionally, the Corps will open the gates just a bit to flush out the stagnant water at the Falls, and all the birds appreciate it. Castellations cut in the dam allow water to flow into the ponds and marshes required by the birds and animals all year. Small springs feed puddles on the Lower Fossil Beds, and early in the morning ducks such as this female Wood Duck come to look for bugs and small aquatic life before the people and heat arrive.
As the water recedes, more rocks are exposed, covered with a layer of silt that proves attractive to many birds. Herons and Egrets leave their tracks in the mud. They take flight if you come too close to the mudflats and go sit in a tree in the shade - not a bad idea. Yesterday we saw two Ospreys on a branch overhanging one of the waterfalls, and then they moved to the shallows where they just sipped water and waded around. Either it was just too hot to fly and fish, or these were juveniles who have not perfected their fishing skills yet. I suspect the later. It was great to get them in the spotting scope and invite our visitors to watch them, since we don't see the Ospreys as often as the other birds.

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