Exploring Nature One Step At A Time

Archive for June, 2010

Life in the Park is always full of Surprises

Tufa Terrace Eastern Cottontail

Carriage Road Brown Orange Blue Moth

Peak Trail Juvenile Male Cardinal

Carriage Road Hawk

Promenade Mourning Dove Babies

The park is turmoil as they try to prepare for the fourth of July weekend and I am having a crazy busy week.  An honest disclosure this is a combination of two days of hiking.  The National Park Service is trying to groom the park  for the Fourth Of July Holiday and they are out in full force with mowers and chainsaws.  Trying to find a quiet place in the park has been nearly impossible.

I find one Eastern Cottontail this morning on the Tufa Terrace Trail.  Still no sign of the second one with the little nick in it’s ear.  There is a sadness in not seeing them together for nearly a week.  Further along on the Peak Trail I can see a juvenile male Cardinal in a Tree singing his song.  It is a delight to see his beautiful transition to red.

Suddenly the park goes silent and shadow drifts over the Carriage Road.  I Look up to see a Hawk flying overhead between Hot Springs and West Mountains.  Further along I see a spectacular Brown Moth in the grass.  It’s wing pattern includes orange, white and blue on brown.

I hike up the Dead Chief Trail and am greeting by a bright red Male Cardinal.  He sings a glorious song in the green of the Forest.  I continue my hike on the Short Cut Trail up to the top of the mountain and to the Hot Springs Mountain Trail. From the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I connect with the Gulpha Gorge Trail.  On my descent I see a tiny Prairie Lizard, it pauses only briefly before darting under the leaves.

I decide to take the Goat Rock Trail up to the top of North Mountain.  As I near Goat Rock I hear a trademark whistling wing sound.  I look up and see a Mourning Dove on the branch above me.  At the top of the trail a lovely moth stares at me from a rock to my side.

I hike up to Hot Springs Mountain Road and head over to the Hot Spring Mountain Trail.  Looking at my watch I realize I have been out for many hours and need to get home quickly.  I get back on the Hot Springs Mountain Road to get home, part way down I find a sad sight.  Someone has recently run over a Copperhead Snake, I wanted so much to see it alive.

When I reach Fountain Street a sweet Squirrel is there to greet me as I near home.  Please leave Nature as you find it, drive with care through the parks that you visit.

Love,
Lee

PS: Rick and I took a lovely evening walk on the Promenade, we saw many lovely creatures.  A tiny Chipmunk popping in and out of the Ivy, a Northern Mockingbird (our friend Charlie) and some lovely baby Mourning Doves.  Near the end of our journey we met Harley the Wonder Puppy a gorgeous brindle Labrador.


Wings, Paws and Hooves in the Forest

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Deer Doe

Carriage Road Red Bellied Woodpecker

Peak Trail Squirrel

Carriage Road Hackberry Emperor Butterfly

Storms are expected today so I head into the park early this morning.  When I reach the top of the Tufa Terrace ramp I notice a horrible sight.  A branch has one end carved to a point and has been jammed into a Chipmunk burrow.  My heart ached for the fear this must have caused, I am thankful this burrow has several exits.

When I reach the Peak Trail I am surprised to see one of the Rabbits on the paved path and not over in the grassy glen.  Seeing one one of the two Eastern Cottontails has me wondering if there is nest tending or if the other was scared off. I hope the same people that was probing in the Chipmunk burrow did not find the Rabbits.

As I reach the Carriage Road I can hear the call of a Red Bellied Woodpecker.  I look up and see the lovely red head of a male in the Tree above me.  I notice it is a smaller juvenile bird and in the distance can see another one moving high in the Trees. On the ground a sweet baby/juvenile Brown Thrasher is searching for it’s breakfast.  I Love see all these amazing young birds.

A really cool insect I usually only see rapidly moving in the air is slowly crossing the path in front of me. It has a jet black body with orange wings, I would love to know what it is. [Thank You @Catawu for identifying this as a Spider Wasp] In a Tree above me a beautiful brown Moth is dancing in the branches.  I love watching it’s delicate maneuvers.

I hike up the Dead Chief and Short Cut Trails to reach the Top of the Mountain.  As I start my hike on the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I see another young Brown Thrasher.  It’s wonderful to see all the new life in the park.  Further along a brown Swallowtail Butterfly lands on a plant on the side of the trail. As I am watching it I hear a loud snap below me, I look to see what made this sound.  Each step on my hike I can hear something big moving through the Forest.  Several minutes later I hear a startled movement and I carefully back track.  Deep into the lower reaches of the Forest a beautiful Doe looks up at me.  She eats some leaves,  looks at me again then lets out a loud snort and leaps deeper into the woods. I Love these moments and am thankful Nature shows them to me.

From the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I connect with the Honeysuckle Trail.  Along the trail a pretty female Robin appears on a Tree to my right.  She flies from Tree to Tree until she land in one with a Male Robin. I Love watching this beautiful pair of birds and wonder if they have a nest nearby.  Nearing the end of the Trail a small gray moth lands on a large green leaf.

I connect with the Peak Trail and onto the Tufa Terrace toward the park entrance.  As I finish my hike I reflect on the beauty I have seen in the Forest today.

Please pray for the people the wildlife of the Gulf Coast.
Love,
Lee


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Hazy Morning on the Summer Trails

North Mountain View of Hot Sprigs Mountain Tower

Tufa Terrace Hot Water Cascade

Upper Dogwood Trail

Note this was yesterdays hike… today I am having a newlywed day :) with my beloved Husband Rick.

It is a hazy humid morning in the park, hot the air is thick and my camera lens keeps fogging up.  The National Park service is grooming the trails so the wildlife is either high up in the Trees or has taken cover.  When I reach the Carriage Road I can see two juvenile Squirrels vocalizing their disapproval at one and other from the highest branches. Tails are rapidly moving back and forth in a sign of annoyance.

My hike on the Dead Chief Trail is difficult, crews are laying down a combination of earth, sand and rock to repair the trail. It is hard to get a foot hold in the soft mixture and every step up the incline is a struggle.  The Short Cut Trail is a bit better but last weeks grooming still is not totally packed down.  This is a wonderful sweaty cardio workout within the the beautiful Forest.

When I reach the top of Hot Springs Mountain I can hear weed whackers and chainsaws in the distance. I try to choose a trail that leads away from the noise, but it appears to be everywhere. I am resigned to the fact that the hike will be less than peaceful most everywhere in the park.  The haze is making it difficult to focus or get any clear images.  This is one of those days when life conspires against best laid plans.  I hike from the Hot Springs Mountain Trail to the Upper Dogwood and then onto the Lower Dogwood Trail.  From there I hiked to the Floral Trail and back home to my Husband Rick.

Take to time to get out for a walk/hike and listen to Nature’s music.
Love,
Lee


Bunnies, Baby Birds and a Sweet Chipmunk

Lower Dogwood Female Cardinal And Chick

Lower Dogwood Male Cardinal And Chick

Lower Dogwood Male Cardinal

Peak Trail Eastern Cottontail

Tufa Terrace Chipmunk

It’s been a busy two days so I have combined photos from yesterday and today.  I started my hike yesterday with lovely Bunnies (Eastern Cottontails) grazing in the grass on the Peak Trail.  As I crept into the glen slowly not wanting to startle them.  For half an hour I enjoyed the beauty of these graceful creatures.  As I slowly back up I glance to my side and saw I had attracted an audience. I imagine somewhere out in cyberspace are photos of me photographing the bunnies.

I ended yesterdays hike with a hilarious encounter with a sweet perhaps pregnant Chipmunk. I noticed it was climbing down the Tufa Rocks and coming toward me as I stood on the Tufa Terrace Trail.  It came closer, closer and shot between my feet then headed up the terrace.  After a moment she turned around and came back toward me and between my feet again.  She went up a stump and sat in from of me, I can see the 106 degree heat has her feeling itchy. I think she is either pregnant or recently so.

This morning I hiked up the Dead Chief  to the Short Cut Trail and up to the Mountain Top.  The thunder storms from the night before  and dark morning skies has the residence of the park hidden away. I decide to hike down the Mountain on the Hot Springs Mountain Trail to the Honeysuckle Trail and onto the Floral Trail.

I cross over to North Mountain and hike up the Floral to the Lower Dogwood Trail.  I hike around the north side of the Trail, a surprise awaits me as I reach the west end.  A sweet Northern Mockingbird Juvenile is in the Tree above me.  It looks down at me then flies up to a top branch, picks a berry and holds it out for me to see.

Further along I see a flash of red moving through the Trees, a male Cardinal lands on the low branch.  It does not stay long and moves to were a female is nesting with a new chick. It is a blessing to see this beautiful family in the Forest today.  I cannot wait to get home and share my adventure with my Husband Rick.

Play in Nature everyday!
Love,
Lee


Lovely Doe, Buck, Rabbits and Squirrels

Hot Spring Mountain Trail Deer Doe

Peak Trail Eastern Cottontail

Upper Dogwood Trail Deer Young Buck

Tufa Terrace Squirrel Babies

Basically I have been hiking much of the day, 3 1/2 hours this morning and another 1 1/2 hours this evening.  When I wasn’t hiking I was editing photographs.  As such I will give you a few highlights and let the wonderful creatures I saw in the morning and with Rick in the evening tell the tale of my fantastic day in the Forest.

I began on the Tufa Terrace Trail this morning and was greeted by two Squirrel babies racing around a Tree.  While I am watching them I realize I am giggling out loud and have a big grim on my face.  Their antics are wonderful.  When I reach the Peak Trail I spot two sets of Rabbit ears glowing in the new morning light. For half an hour they let me hang out and capture their beauty to share with you.   Eastern Cottontails are so lovely and it is a blessing to be so close to them.

On the Carriage Road a pretty little yellow Moth lands in front of me, I love it’s delicate colors.  I hike up the Dead Chief and the the Short Cut Trail to the Mountain Top.  When I Arrive I meet Cindy and Todd from Texas, Celebrating 20 yrs of marriage by hiking in Hot Springs National Park.  They want to visit Goat Rock, I give them trail directions and they in turn tell me about amazing places in Arkansas I need to visit.

I hike around the mountain via the Hot Springs Mountain Trail and at the junction with the Honeysuckle a lovely surprise.  In the distance I spot a pretty Doe gracefully moving through the Forest.  After I have taken several photographs she lets out a snort and leaps deeper into the Woods. She is a beauty and I feel blessed to see her.

I take the Honeysuckle to the Peak Trail and then over to the Tufa Terrace.  A lovely Squirrel is sitting at the ramp out of the park eating a tasty treat. It a perfect way to end my morning hike.

Several hours later, my husband Rick and I head up North Mountain via the Floral Trail. As we begin the hike a beautiful Dark Blue Butterfly lands on the path before us.  We hike up to the Lower Dogwood Trail and just before we reach the Upper Dogwood Trail I hear a large animal moving in the Forest above us.  As we  hike along the Upper Dogwood my wonderful Tall Husband spots a movement above us. He points me in the direction of his sighting, a young buck is watching us.  After staring at us for 15 minutes he strolls down behind the bramble and sneaks a few more looks at us.  In the end he casually leaps off into the Forest.

As we head down the mountain in the fading light fireflies dance in the edges of the forest.  It has been a perfect date night with with my Husband on North Mountain.

Open your senses to the beauty of Nature.
Love,
Lee


Beautiful Butterflies, Moths and Birds

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Black-Capped Chickadee

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Brown Moth

When I entered the park maintenance was out with a large tractor mowing and flattening grass.  A Cardinal landed in a Tree near me but the noise from the tractor sends him off into the twilight Forest. Beautiful Asiatic Dayflowers are forming a wildflower bouquet at the base of the Dead Chief Trail.

The heat and humidity are rising so I decide to hike with purpose up the Dead Chief Trail and connect with the Short Cut Trail.  The heat has most of the mammals laying low and I only hear the occasional bird as I make my way to the top.  As I near the Mountain Top I spot a sweet Lizard hanging on a Rock behind a Tree.  It looks up at me but does not run off,  it has the perfect sun spot so why move.

The Hot Springs Mountain Trail is peaceful, a beautiful hike as a light breeze dances along the trail.  I hear lovely bird song and stop under a leafy green Tree.  A small bird is high above me in the leaves and I do no recognize the markings  (Looking for help in identifying  it hint, hint). When I reach the trail head a beautiful dark blue Butterfly is flitting around the rest hut.  A moment later it flies off as a lovely Orange Moth appears.

I cross over to the west side of the Hot Springs Mountain Trail and the heat has me feeling a bit soggy. A brown Moth lands on the bark of a Short-Leaf Pine, it is dazzling in the sunlight.  The site of it mentally unmelts me. On the lower bends I see a cute little black beetle speedily crossing the trail ahead of me.  Further along a vocal Black-Capped Chickadee is peaking at me from the Tree above. It’s sweet face and song lightens my feet as I head to the Honeysuckle Trail.

I hike along the Honeysuckle Trail to the Peak Trail and down to the Promenade. As I reach the bottom where it meets Fountain Street a beautiful battered brown and turquoise Butterfly lands. Nature’s beauty is often fragile, the battered wings of the Butterfly make me wonder how it is still able to fly with such grace.  Heading home I check the Arlington Lawn and spot one of the cute baby Cardinals foraging in the green grass.  A lovely way to end my hike.

Dance in the sunlight and play in the grass.
Love,
Lee


Squirrels, Wildflowers, Fungi and Rabbits 1 + 1 = ?

Peak Trail Wild Rabbit Eastern Cottontail

Peak Trail Wild Rabbit Eastern Cottontail

Hot  in Hot Springs the heat index is already 95 degrees when I leave for my hike at 8 am.  On the Arlington Lawn a sweet Squirrel is searching for food in the dry earth.  The weather has been August hot not the normal June hot.  I am happy when I finally see it has found a breakfast morsel.

I head up to the the Tufa Terrace I see several lovely Squirrels foraging under bushes.  On sweetie is sitting on a platform by the stairs grooming and watching photographing other Squirrels.  Further up the trail I see a Brown Thrasher sheltering under a bush.  The heat is beginning to dry the foliage and I wish it would rain.

On the Peak Trail I spot a pair of long ears in the grass being lit by the sun.  I move very slowly so as not to scare this beautiful Eastern Cottontail Rabbit.  As I am moving with little baby steps I hear a noise to my left and a second Rabbit is crossing in front of me.   Two Rabbit in the same space might mean Baby Rabbits will soon emerge.  I have a lovely time watching and photographing these beautiful Bunnies.

More gorgeous Asiatic Dayflowers decorate the grass below the steps that head up to the Dead Chief Trail.  I head up the Trail and the heat is beginning to climb as I get deeper into the Forest, I stop again to drink some Spring Water and see a male Cardinal high above me fluffing his crest and carrying a seed.  The Forest foliage is beginning to wilt as the heat continues.   As I connect with the Short Cut Trail I can see more sunlight is able to penetrate the Forest canopy.

When I reach the top I am greeted by a lovely large Woodland Sunflower, it’s a beautiful yellow bloom.   Increasing heat helps me decide to drink from one of the drinking fountains in the picnic area letting a little spill over into a small pool on the stones.   In the increasing I  pick up my pace and head over to the Hot Springs Mountain Trail.  As it get hotter less creatures appear to be moving about.  Even though water has been scarce for weeks pretty Wildflowers in lavender and violet are appearing on the trail edges ( if you know what they are can you please let me know).

I continue on the Hot springs Mountain Trail to the Honeysuckle Trail, past the Wedding Chapel and down the Floral Trail heading home. Three hours in the heat has drained me, but it was still an amazing day in the park.

Nature is fragile and strong, we need each other to survive.

Love,
Lee

PS Rick and I were married in the Wedding Chapel on Friday June 18th at 8 am.

Our Mountain Wedding June 18 2010


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