Saturday, April 05, 2008
Although my flooded basement is not fun (those soggy cardboard boxes are heavy!), the Falls of the Ohio are still interesting in the flood season. The river boat captains used to say that the Ohio was frozen 3 months a year, flooded 3 months a year, and dry the rest of the year. In the early years, river pilots would be glad to see this much water so they could float the boats stuck on the rocks for months. I hope our floods don't last 3 months this year! The water completely covers all the fossil beds and walking trails along the river. Some trees host large logs wedged in their upper branches. Entire tree trunks bob gently in the eddies, while other large trees float downstream, carrying Ring Bill Gulls along for the ride. What is that squeaking sound? It's the sound of timbers rubbing against each other. The water lapping against the bank sounds like gentle ocean waves. The current in mid-river races downstream, plunging over the dam wall. The current in front of the bird deck flows upstream so slowly it hardly seems to move at all. A child's plastic slide takes all morning to move a few feet downstream in this eddy. Someone will spend hours with a chain saw cutting the logs into pieces to clear the paths. Logs not blocking a path or sidewalk will be left alone. The river will take care of them next year. Several sorts of birds hop from log to log in the shallow backwaters. Pileated woodpeckers dart from one tree to the next over the water. A group of Mallards take a break from swimming and climb on a floating log to preen for a bit. It's not quite breeding season for a pair of Hooded Mergansers, and I had to check the field guide to discover they were actually Mergansers in eclipse plumage. Cormorants perch on a half-submerged snag to dry their feathers after diving for their fish breakfast. Some brown Swallows swoop by, the first since last summer . They seem too big for a Bank Swallows, and sometimes the Tree Swallow is brown. A beaver slides into the water from a tree crotch, and heads towards shore, while a ground hog strips the fresh leaves from a bush in the rocks. Until he moved, he looked like a rock himself. We are all serenaded by the Red Winged Blackbirds and Mockingbirds singing from the top of the trees not floating in the water.
Leaves and flowers are just beginning to bud. I don't usually think of trees as flowering plants, and never noticed the many variations in tree flowers before. Crab apples and red buds are easy to identify in bloom, but I am not sure of the species I saw blooming today. Look at the shapes! It's hard to appreciate these tiny flowers hanging 20-30 feet above your head. Trying to get close enough for a good photo, and to get my camera to focus on a small target is a challenge.
We had more visitors this morning than expected, given the high water and brisk temperatures. They were all astounded to see photos of the river in August, and I invited them to come back when they could really enjoy the fossil beds. In the meantime, we rummaged through my Box O' Rocks as a sample of what they might find come summer. Earth Day is the next festival at the Falls. Earth, Air, Fire and Water - the four elements. Who needs any more?