Exploring Nature One Step At A Time

Archive for February 18, 2010

The Lovely Creatures of the Forest on the Hot Springs Trails

Hot Springs National Park Pagoda Cedar Waxwing

Hot Springs National Park Pagoda Cedar Waxwing

Spring has come to the park, at least for a few days. It was nice not to be bundled up in three layers of clothing, liberating movement. As I entered the park I could feel the change, and energy of life.   From the Tufa Terrace I heard the alert and  looked up to see a large bird fly across from West Mountain and circle over the city below.  As I reached the bottom of the Peak Trail I spotted a sweet squirrel having a breakfast.  A Robin swooped into the tree to take cover and knocked the poor squirrel off the branch to another below.

On the Carriage Road another squirrel was darting up a tree to have snack while a Northern Mockingbird looked on.  The activity in the park was boisterous and every creature was enjoying the warmth of the sunny morning.  The bird song and squirrel chatter was lively.

I made my way up the Dead Chief  and Short Cut Trails to the top of the Mountain.  It was peaceful without the chainsaws of the day before.  I could hear bird song and feel the life around me as I hiked up the trails.  When I reached the top the picnic area was silent and there appeared to be very view birds.  However, as I moved toward the Pagoda I saw a large flock of Robins, they ignored me as I walk through them to the steps.

I had finished my view shot and from the corner of my eye saw a bright fluttering in the large tree next to me.  I could see these were not Robins and when I put my camera up the zoom revealed a flock of Cedar Waxwings.  Looking below I could see the two flocks were mixed together.  This was the second time I had witnessed Robins and Cedar Waxwings flocking together.  It was a spectacle of acrobatics and feeding, I hardly knew where to look next. I photographed a rare Cedar Waxwing that had Red tail tips instead of yellow.

While I was photographing the birds Bud and Donna from Bonne Terre, Missouri arrived.   They asked about things to see and  were keen to visit Bathhouse Row.  I suggested while they were on the mountain they should go up in the tower for an amazing view of the park and city below.  On the drive out they could take the North Mountain Overlook Loop in hopes of watching eagles soar.  They headed to the tower and I to the Hot Springs Mountain Trail.

The eastern part of the trail loop was quiet and I could only hear bird calls in the distance.  There was light rustling in the leaves, but I could not tell if it was small creatures or the occasional burst of wind shooting along the trail.  It is always a lovely hike and the lingering snow on the bend near the trail head was a gentle reminder winter was not quite over.

The North side of the Trail loop was a musical delight,  pips. beeps and chirps all blended into a sweet serenade.  As I was passing a stream I could see tiny birds darting back and forth across the path ahead.  Near a log crossing the water a squirrel was busy digging up a tasty lunch.  As as Slate-Colored Junco landed in the bramble  to my side it was followed by a Blue-Headed Vireo.  In the leaves ahead a perfectly camouflaged White-Throated Sparrow was foraging for food.

At the fork of the trail I decide to take the Honeysuckle Trail back to the West Side of Hot Springs Mountain.  I was rewarded with the a sighting of a sweet little brown creeper hopping up and around a tree in search of insects.   Further down the path another large flock of Robins were flipping leaves in search of a meal.  From the Honeysuckle Trail I connected with the Peak Trail, then the Tufa Terrace to the entrance.

As I was preparing to put my camera away I heard a noise and looked at the tree next to me.  A squirrel was looking down at me, he/she then moved down to eye level to show me the glorious prize they had in their mouth.  After show and not much tell they turned and headed back up the tree to eat.

Back on the main lawn I Saw Bud and Donna at the pool of hot spring water that is filled by the cascade above.  They were trying to use the timer on their camera so I offered to take one for them.  After a lovely conversation about some of the local history we parted company.

Be joyful in the sight of all Nature’s creatures.
Much Love to You ALL,
Lee


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