Saturday, June 25, 2011

Saturday at the Falls of the Ohio

On a beautiful, non-humid Saturday, where else would I go but the Falls of the Ohio? The river is finally down enough that we can go on the upper fossil beds. The long awaited renovation of exhibits inside the Interpretive Center is under way.  We find the stuffed birds and animals from the lobby scattered through the rest of the building. Only the mastodon remains in its location, looking lonely without its friend the bison.
The mastodon will have to be moved too eventually, and how they got him lifted onto wheeled dollies is beyond me. He's a reproduction, not an actual bone skeleton, so I suppose his joints are firmly fastened together. But they certainly won't be able to move him through any doorways!

Hmmm, wonder how my new 24x zoom lens will do at the Falls?  It's about half a mile from the Interpretive Center to the wall of the dam, and of course, the birds I want to photograph are as far away as they can get. Here is a fisherman in the middle of the river at full zoom...

Here I've backed off a bit...

...and here you can see how far away things reallllly are!  Yes, I know I should be digiscoping to get the shots I want, but I'll see how this zoom does for the birds any way.

Fish swimming upstream run into the dam, so the vultures take advantage of the feast. Both Black and Turkey Vultures hang around on the rocks until warm air thermals are strong enough to soar into the air.

Great Blue Herons have a rookery just downstream a bit, so they fish here at the Falls all the time. Today they are joined by Black Crowned Night Herons and several Great Egrets. If you watch through the scope, you can actually see the fish struggling through the rapids, just to be caught by one of these patient fisherbirds. I don't think the human fishers have as much luck! (Click the picture for an enlargement. Looks pretty good considering how far away it is!)
But one of the white birds is much larger than the others, and has black tips to its wings.  The Kentucky bird list has reported an American Pelican at the Falls for the last several days, and I got to show him to our visitors. Yes, that's him on the left with the great big beak.  This is the third year now that we've had a solitary Pelican show up here for a while. Don't know if it's the same bird who decided he likes it here, or just a different young bird getting lost each time.

The bees are doing their job pollinating all the flowers, and the beds look much better since a bunch of us volunteers pulled most of the weeds.  No one has seen many butterflies this year though, and we wonder what's going on.
The river levels were higher than usual this spring, but some of my favorite trees are still hanging on.  I know that one year I will walk down the bank to find them gone, but not this year apparently.  Some of the dead trees used by Pileated Woodpeckers have disappeared though.
In grade school, I remember studying about the Nile River, and how it deposits silt each year to enrich the soil. Well, the Ohio River deposited much more silt this year than I recall seeing before. The silt looks like mud lava up to 6 or 8 inches deep, encroaching on our gravel paths.

Several visitors made remarks about the driftwood blocking walkways and paths. Here's the problem: wood floats. Plastic floats. Every time we clear some of it away in the spring, the river rises and brings more. We can't burn it, or push it back into the river. All we can do it try to cut through for the sidewalks, and push as much aside as we can. Next year, it will all float down to someone else's shore, and we'll get new driftwood. By the way, you can't collect rocks or fossils at the Falls of the Ohio, but you are welcome to take home as much driftwood as you can carry away!

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