Exploring Nature One Step At A Time

Archive for March, 2010

The Brown Thrasher Serenade to the Sun

Hot Springs National Park Peak Trail Brown Thrasher

When I entered the park this morning I was greeted with an amazing serenade.  To be honest I believed I was hearing Northern Mockingbird with a phenomenal repertory of songs. It is a Brown Thrasher sitting in the Tree above me greeting the morning with a spectacular serenade to the sun.   According to Cornell Lab All About Birds “the Brown Thrasher has one of the largest song repertoires of any North American bird”.

The Brown Thrasher is also the size of the large Blue Jays that live in the park as you will note in the photo below.  It chases the Blue Jay off the Peak Trail, diving at it and striking until it succeeds.  I will assume it is a good idea to stay a safe distance from the Brown Thrasher.

As I reach the gates to the HRC Hospital on the Carriage Road I wonder if someone will unlock the gates and allow the patients to access the park.  Hiking up the Dead Chief Trail I notice the lack of Robins in the area since the arrival of the Brown Thrasher. Will this territory grab continue?  I will observe the the status of the Robins and other birds in the lower Peak Trail area during the next few weeks.  The recently ousted Blue Jay escorts me up to the Short Cut Trail and I am happy to have the company.

The Short Cut Trail is changing rapidly, beautiful green leaves add texture to the forest.  The Trees are wearing their new Spring attire, it is enchanting. Winter has truly given way to Spring.  Even the Valley view from the Hot Springs Mountain Trail is lush and green loosing the pale gray of Winter.

My journey along the trail is  gorgeous, Twinkling green Leaves and Wildflowers decorate the Forest.  A loan Hawk dips and soars riding the breeze above the Trees.  For the second day the Chipmunks are murmuring their warning, it echoes loudly all along the Trail.  I feel fortunate catch site of a sweet Chipmunk with full pouches gathering food during the high alert.

From the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I head to the Honeysuckle and over to the Floral Trail.  I can see numerous bulbs sprouting broad leaves and I cannot wait to see what Flowers will be blooming.  It is a delight to see my first Chipmunk on the Floral Trail, it pops up from behind a leaf surprising me.  The trail edges are covered with lovely lavender Oxalis, as always a beautiful site.  It is a perfect way to end my hike in the forest.

Love to You ALL!
Lee


Spring is in the Little Details of the Forest

Goat Rock Trail Busy Bee in the Wildflowers

When the Birds of prey are crisscrossing the sky above the forest only the brave appear.  Above the greening canopy I can see the flickering shape of a Hawk as I hike up North Mountain.  It’s cries are echoing throughout the forest silencing the song birds.  There is a soft murmuring underground as the chipmunks sound their alarm, it is an eerie mix as I head higher onto the mountain.

New wildflowers appear along the Floral Trail today and I spot a patch of lovely lavender Oxalis.  The yellow throat of the the Oxalis is spectacular in contrast to the lavender petals.  Each new Wildflower adds to the pallet of color possibilities along the Forest trails.

A  Hawk cries out in the distance and I am happy to catch one brave Robin on the Upper Dogwood Trail.  It is sitting in the shadows of a large tree silent, barely visible.  The Goat Rock trail is  transforming at an amazing rate. Wild Plum blossom glow in the bright sunlight and Wildflowers are painting the trail edges. Honey Bees are traveling from bloom to bloom, pollinating the various plants in their path.

Dog Violets, Birds-Foot Violets, Spiderwort and Yellow Star Grass are all spreading out from the path up and down the slopes. They surround the many Lichen covered rocks create an abstract canvas in the forest. It is a graceful spectacle of color and light.

From the Gulpha Gorge Trail I head over to the Upper Dogwood and down the Floral Trail.  The banks of the Creek along the Hot Springs Mountain Road are blanketed with Spring Beauty and Common Violets.  It’s a beautiful display of Pink and purple against the lush green of the grass and clover.  On Fountain Street I look down and see a Large Magnolia Pod from last years blooms.  It won’t be long before the air is filled with the sweet scent of Magnolias from the large Trees in the Historic District.

Why do we fight change? Nature shows us how elegant it can be.
Love to You All!
Lee

PS I have included photos of the Hot Springs Rehabilitation Center built in 1933.  It sits on the edge of the park and once a upon a time those recovering from the wounds of war would be taken into to the park via the carriage road.   I think it was a sound practice to let Nature heal their souls.


Cardinals Among the New Spring Leaves

Hot Springs National Park Dead Chief Male Cardinal

Clouds cover the sun this morning, it is a gray day.  The gray skies make the greens seem greener and today makes a Male Cardinal an amazing Red.  As I step closer he looks right at me but does not move, I feel blessed to be so close and hear his song.  A little White-Throated Sparrow joins us as the sky darkens and rain seem eminent.  The trail sparkles with the new spring growth in lovely light green and red.  On the Short Cut Trail I find a wonderful Rock that is an orange red color  with black Mold and green Lichen.

Up top on the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I discover several new patches of Spiderwort, their colors are always striking.  As I am setting up to photograph the Wildflowers a Mourning Dove lands next to me. I step closer and it looks over it’s wing at me and does not fly away.  The Mourning Doves are usually on high alert and I have never been able to get close enough for a clear shot.

Moving down the trail I see a lovely Female Cardinal in the distance. Her lovely red and olive coloring is always a spectacular site on the Trails. The Chipmunks are still on high alert, their chirping echoes throughout the forest.  I do not see the Falcon anywhere but do hear it’s call later when I am further along on the trail.

Each trail is being decorated with baby leaves and blossoms. The hike back toward home is a fantastic world among the twinkling leaves with wildflowers in purple, blue, white, pink and yellow. Nature has painted an exquisite forest for me to visit each day, I am humbled by her artistry.

Breathe Nature in!
Love to You All,
Lee

PS Rick and I had a lovely stroll along the Promenade this evening.  A squirrel greeted us from a tree as we headed up Fountain Street and a Northern Mockingbird exchanged musical notes with Rick. It was a perfect night out.


The Birth of Spring in the Forest

Dead Chief Red Leaves Green Insect

As I begin my hike there are signs and tents proclaiming it is “Discover Nature” Day. It is exciting to think many people who might not visit the park regularly are having an adventure here today.

It’s in the details that we witness the birth of spring in the forest.  Today the park has a light green glow of the baby leaves sprouting from once barren branches. I head up the Dead Chief and connect to the Short Cut Trail, stopping along my journey to view the delicate green and red emerging.  For the second day I see two young men plotting out different hiking routes to complete with friends.  I am happy to see another generation enjoying the park, most of the hikers I see are are my age or a bit older.

The Wildflowers are spectacular up top at the Pagoda, the jewel tones of the Spiderwort still draw me to them. Their beauty stands out against the new rich spring greenery.  There are still a few glorious Cherry blossom left on a tree near the Rocks along the trail.  The new leave frame the last of the blooms, they are so beautiful.

I am just starting to hike along the east side of Hot Spring Mountain Trail when a tour group of  thirty comes up from behind me.  A young scout is trailing behind, I suggest he look up just as a Turkey Vulture flys low over the Trail. Sometimes we have to follow a new path, so I head over to the west side of the trail and am greeted by a sweet Tufted Titmouse high in the Tree above me.

The trail is spectacular, large pods are opening on branches to reveal wondrous clusters of new leaves. Elusive squirrels are darting about like small rockets, nearly running each other over.  Several Trees along the trail have delicate white blooms that appear to flicker in the light breeze.  Sweet Pussy Toes Wildflowers are sprouting up all over the park, today I spot them on both the Short Cut and Hot Springs Mountain Trails.

Once I reach the Honeysuckle Trail I connect to the Peak Trail and head down to the Promenade.  I am fascinated by the unfurling of the Leaves on several of the Trees in the lower part of the park.  Each Tree has a unique way giving birth to baby leaves.  It has been a lovely Spring Day in the park, the rains are expected later to renew the forest.

Thank You for sharing my journey, with you along I am never alone.
Love to You All!
Lee


Peregrine Falcon, Wildflowers, Lovely Birds and Small Mammals

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Birds-Foot Violet and Hornet

The sun rise is spectacular as I head into the park, rays of light beaming between the forest giants. The lower reaches of the park are quiet so I head over to the Dead Chief Trail and connect with the Short Cut Trail.  As I near the top I see both a Male and Female Hairy Woodpecker flying from Tree to Tree.  They are a beautiful site high up in the Tree Tops.

When I reach the top of the mountain I hike over to the Pagoda.  As I head up the Trail a squirrel hangs off the side of a Tree showing me it’s lovely Nut treat.  When I finally reach the Pagoda a Male Cardinal is sitting in a bush in front of me.  I believe he can see me and I am surprised he does not fly away, instead he hops around on the bush. Much later he flys up into a Tree above me to sing a song to the sunrise. His coloring is glorious in the bright sunlight.

The Hot Springs Mountain Trail it is very quiet and I begin my hike in the eerie silence.  I am surprised when a Chipmunk  pops up looks at me, ignores my presence, looks away and sounds an alarm.  This alarm is echoed by other Chipmunks all along the Trail.  Even as I move closer the Chipmunk continues to ignore me.  Suddenly up off the forest floor a bird rises up and lands in a Tree.  I cannot make it out in the distance what type of bird it is other than knowing it is larger than the birds I normally see flying in this area.  It is not until I see the images on my computer I discover it is a Peregrine Falcon.  It is an unexpected site.

I cross the Hot Springs Mountain Road and continue my hike on the West side of the Hot Springs Mountain Trail.  I am so happy to see a sweet White-Throated Sparrow flying among the lovely new green forming along the Trail.  I find another patch of Birds-Foot Violets, a bee is busy collecting pollen from each flower.

I continue on the path until I reach the Honeysuckle Trail then connect with the Peak Trail. Squirrels are busy foraging for nuts in the leaves and I watch as they find their burred treasure.  I can still hear rustling of leaves, looking up I see a squirrel pushing a pile of leaves up a Tree. It is the first time I have witnessed this.

From the Peak Trail I connect to the Promenade and it’s a beautiful explosion of wildflowers.  Henbit and Dead Nettle are blooming everywhere, a big Yellow and black Bumble Bee is pollinating the Wildflowers.  As I exit via the stairs a lovely little House Sparrow looks down at me from the Hospital Steps above.

Let your Love carry you to Nature.
Love,
Lee

PS I had a lovely hike with my Love Rick this evening.  I showed him all the glorious new wildflowers, a lovely Northern Mockingbird paid us a visit and we stopped a woman from abandoning her dog in the park.  It was wonderful night out!


Spring Rain, Warbler, Woodpecker and Wildflowers

 

Honeysuckle Pine Warbler

The Spring Rain was back again today, it left a glossy coating on everything.  I notice a cool rock as I enter the park, black with a vein of white.  The Spring blossoms and tree buds are glistening from the mist of the light rain.  The park is quiet as I hike up the Dead Chief to the Short Cut Trail.  The trail ahead harbors an unexpected sighting, a  small well fed cat/kitten is standing far up the path.  I try to get close enough to the take a clear photo, but as I take a step forward it is off like a rocket.

The rain begins to increase as I reach the top,  still no  small birds or indigenous mammals. At I cross the Hot Springs Mountain Road to connect with the west side of the Mountain I notice a lovely patch of Common Violets. Their  delicate purple petals stand strong against the spring rain.

As I head down the Hot Springs Mountain Trail the sky grows darker and I notice how the  rock colors and green Lichen stand out. The bark color has deepened making the new spring leaves appear to twinkle in the breeze.  Each day the forest has new beautiful changes.

On the Honeysuckle Trail I am greeted by a lovely Pine Warbler.  It is a surprise when it lands on the trail in front of me, staring then showing me it’s foraging find.  As it flys away a Red Bellied Woodpecker lands in the tree above me.  It has been a long time since I heard it’s cackling call.   I am smiling as I connect with the Peak Trail and head to the Promenade.

On the sides of the promenade Wildflowers are blooming and I see lovely purple Henbit and Dead Nettle patches.  It’s a gorgeous way to finish my hike.

Treat yourself to a dip in Nature :o)
Love to You All!
Lee


Spring Wildflowers, Little Birds and Small Creatures

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Spiderwort Fuchsia

I Love the Park, an overcast day is made sunny by Squirrels and more Squirrels.  I am taking photographs on the Tufa Terrace and Peak Trail of blossoms and small buds.  As I straighten up it becomes apparent I am surround by squirrels.  On the ground in Trees everywhere I look Squirrels, some are indifferent, others skittish and a few are curious.  Digging for nuts, eating breakfast, staring at me and hanging off of Trees. They are a beautiful early morning sight.

As I head up the the Dead Chief and short Cut Trails it is still Twilight and the only thing I see moving is a large gray rabbit in the Army Navy Hospital grounds on the edge of the park.  The very fast bunny is impossible to photograph, but now I know where it lives :o)

At the top of the mountain I discover a colorful assortment of Spiderwort in Blue, Purple and Fuchsia just below the Pagoda.  The colors have deepened since the rain a few days ago, it is a gorgeous display of Wildflowers.  As I am about to step onto the Hot Springs Mountain Trail a Male Cardinal and White-Throated Sparrow appear.  They happily forage for their breakfast and are undaunted by my presences.

As I near the end of the east  Hot Springs Mountain Trail Loop I am nearly run over my two squirrels as they chase each other across the Trail.  I am trying to follow their antics and see a lovely little chipmunk who was watching the squirrel chase in-between the Trees.  The dry leaves are flying around in the light breeze adding to the  scene.

Along the Upper and Lower Dogwood Trails Birds-Foot Violets are popping up in small patches.  Fungus fans are forming on many of the logs laying near the trail edges.  Spring leaf pods are bursting open reaching  up to the sunlight.

As I walk along the  Hot Springs Mountain Road to exit the park I marvel at the glorious Spring Beauty that is beginning to blanket the creek edges.  A final treat awaits me as I near the park entrance, a lovely little Chipmunk  appears to my left.  It is busy searching, digging, climbing on and around the rocks.

Nature soothes your soul.
Love to You All,
Lee


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