Exploring Nature One Step At A Time

Archive for October, 2010

Field Notes: Wild About Mockingbirds

Hot Springs National Park Promenade Northern Mockingbird

Hot Springs National Park Promenade Northern Mockingbird

Hot Springs Mountain Rd Northern Mockingbird

Hot Springs National Park Pagoda Northern Mockingbird

Hot Springs National Park Pagoda Northern Mockingbird

Superior Bathhouse Northern Mockingbird Chick

Superior Bathhouse Northern Mockingbird Baby

Promenade Northern Mockingbird Grabbing a Snack

Tufa Terrace Northern Mockingbird

Promenade Northern Mockingbird

On January 18th 2010 one of the first birds I photographed at close range was a Northern Mockingbird, it perched on bench posing for my novice eye.  I was surprised it would stay so long striking several poses.   Months later I would discover how gregarious these lovely creatures are.  Throughout the winter a lovely Mockingbird would wait for me on the Hot Springs Mountain Trail just below the Pagoda.  Often it would hide until we were alone, then it would sing out to me to announce it’s presences. In the Spring when I started regularly exiting the park from North Mountain a Mockingbird would wait for me on a bush near the fountain. It’s song of greeting at the end of my hike carried me through my day.  During the late Spring and Summer along the Promenade a Northern Mockingbird began a regular song exchange with my husband Rick.  We nicknamed this prolific tune master Charlie, he/she has a spectacular array of songs.  Newly hatched Northern Mockingbird chicks I photographed in July of 2010 are now juveniles that still visit me along the Promenade and Tufa Terrace.  Get to know a Northern Mockingbird they are delightful, spontaneous and curious.  They live an average of 10-14 years so there is plenty of time to exchange musical muse. Bother the male and female of the species communicate via song.

Mockingbirds love sit in the highest branches singing loudly to make their presence known. They have been expanding their territory within the United States since the 1930s. The Northern Mockingbird is the state bird of Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas. A group of Mockingbirds has many collective nouns, including an “echo”, “exactness”, “plagiary”, and a “ridicule” of Mockingbirds. Northern Mockingbirds breed from northern California, eastern Nebraska, southern Ontario, and Maritime Canada southward. Spends winters in the southern part of range. They are found in residential areas, city parks, farmlands, open country, Forests, Mountains with thickets, and Desert Brush. More Fun Facts About Mockingbirds

Much Love,
Lee


The Rusting Autumn Forest

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I Love overcast days, the gray skies make the colors of Autumn appear more vibrant.  My hike is bathed in the rust and gold glow of the rapidly changing Forest Leaves. When I reach the Carriage Road I arrive to witness a feral cat stalking both a Squirrel and a male Cardinal.  It’s concentration is so focused on it’s targets it does not see me until  a squirrel and I meet face to face.  I am happy to intervene as the Cat is NOT a native species in the Forest. It crosses my mind that the last time I saw the rabbits was just before the Cat began regularly prowling the the Carriage road.

The Dead Chief Trail is the last hold out of much of the vanishing green in the park.  That combined with the gold Leaves sprinkling the trail reminds me of a fairy tale path.  When I reach the the Short Cut Trail the Leaves higher on the mountain are changing to gold and rust.  The Trees in the picnic area are a lovely confetti pattern of green, rust and gold. As I stop for a drink of water a breeze causes a lovely rustling sound as it brushes past the changing leaves.

The Hot Springs Mountain Trail is no longer a tunnel of green the Leaves.  The Forest canopy is vanishing giving way to the Tree sculptures of winter.  It feels as if old friends from my first days of hiking in the Forest are returning to greet me.  I Love the changing seasons in the park, each day reveals new details hidden by spring and summer. My hike is tranquil in cloud covered skies of a wonderful Autumn morning.  As I near the trail head at the Hot Springs Mountain Road the Leaves begin the change to a rich gold.  On North Mountain the leaves becoming a rust and gold carpet across the Upper and Lower Dogwood Trails.  The greenery of the Forest floor is giving way to the rust of the falling leaves.

When I reach the Floral Trail standing to the side is a glorious Tree, vibrant contrast of Red against the green and gold along the path.  It is a beautiful sight as I finish my morning hike in the Autumn Forest.

Step outside and into the arms of Nature.
Much Love,
Lee

PS I hope you will view my new video Autumn Leaves

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Beautiful Birds in the Autumn Forest

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My late start proves to be fortuitous and I am blessed with the sightings of a bevy of beautiful birds. When I reach the Tufa Terrace the Autumn Leaves are glorious shades of orange, red and rust.  I love the transition between the summer green and the bold colors of Autumn.  As I head toward the Peak Trail I see one of the “Brats” foraging for breakfast.  I call the juvenile Blue Jays the “Brats as often they will follow me through the forest.  Some days they just watch other days they announce my position to all the creatures so I am unable to take any photographs of birds or small mammals.  I rarely see one out in the open and this is a wonderful treat.

Further along a Tufted Titmouse lands on a branch while below a male Cardinal vocalizes his discontent.  In a Tree ahead of me a female Cardinal lands and watches the interaction between the Blue Jay, Titmouse and male Cardinal. It appears to be a game of “King of the Bush” with the Blue Jay having a definite size advantage.

I head up the mountain on the Dead Chief  and Short Cut Trails.  There is great joy in watching a Squirrel leaping about in the changing canopy.  Looking up is a feast for the eyes, so many beautiful colors decorate the Trees.  My journey to the top of Hot Springs Mountain is a soul inspiring journey through the golden Forest.

When I reach the top I notice one of drinking fountains has it’s drain blocked providing the birds with a watering hole.  The first to arrive is for a sip is a sweet little Black-Capped Chickadee.  It land takes a quick drink they flies away.  A few moments later a lovely Red-Breasted Nuthatch lands and pokes it’s beak in the fountain.  It is the first one of these striking birds I have seen in the park, it’s breast is the color of the Autumn Leaves.

Along the Hot Springs Mountain Trail it is a divine symphony of sounds, crunching leaves and bird song combine into Forest fusion.  The sunlight through the leaves creates a light show of colorful rays that transform all they touch.  A Robin lands near me as a flock of adult and juvenile Downy Woodpeckers appear in the surrounding Trees. Their delicate pecking sound add to the chorus of the Forest.

I am bathed in a golden glow from the Trees along the Upper and Lower Dogwood Trails as I head across North Mountain.  As I am leaving the park all goes silent and I look up just in time to see a large bird glide over Hot springs Mountain and out of sight.

Step outside and breath in the green, it will heal your soul.

Much Love,
Lee


Sweet Squirrel and the Glorious Autumn Leaves

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To be honest what started as a beautiful day in the park became stressful as I was snarled and barked at by several off leash dogs. Two sets of runners thought they could run with big off leash dogs that were not always with their owners.  I was trying to take photos and relax but I ended up being pushed off the trail by runners and their off leash dogs.  See the ongoing saga of out of control dogs in the park.

This is my first full Autumn in the park and it is a subtle blend of red rust brown and gold. As I head up the Dead Chief Trail I can see the historic cistern on the hospital property has had a roof cave in.  I am sad to see this as many of the park animals use it for shelter during extreme weather.  It is also a spare source of water during drought conditions.  It has been here for over one hundred years, now it is a vanishing piece of history.  My hike to the top of the mountain is spectacular in the early morning light.  It is so quiet though and I wish I could hear a bird or the shuffling of squirrels in the leaves.

Along the Hot Spring Mountain Trail I am surrounded by the Autumn Glow of multicolored leaves painting the Forest.  Every step reveals the beauty of the changing Forest, from the smallest Vine to the tallest Tree. The sunlight filters in illuminating the varying shades of color making many leaves appear translucent.   I am perched on the edge of the trail photographing a leaf when a runner bumps me, several seconds later I am knocked by an off leash dog trying to catch up.  Another dog appears, this one barks and growls at me it continues the chase, seconds later another runner brings up the back. I move along the trail enjoying the gorgeous Autumn morning when suddenly a large tan dog appears (off leash) seconds later followed by a runner, followed by another.  They are steaming full on at me and I am forced off the trail off the edge of the embankment.  I realize these groups are the reason the wildlife has vanished.  I wish the NPS would uphold their prime directive to protect the wildlife and ban dogs from the unpaved areas of the park. To read more “Note to NPS about dogs in the park

I spend the rest of my hike warily waiting for the next round of dogs and runners.  As I pass other hikers I am asked by two women whether I have seen any dogs on the trails, when I confirm that I have they sigh and shake theirs heads. It has been a beautiful but sad day in the park. Who will stand up for the rights of the wildlife in the park? The local NPS officials only appear to care about the commercial viability of bath house row.  The Mountains, Forest and Wildlife are unfortunately the forgotten treasure of Hot Springs National Park.

Later in the evening I go out for a second hike with my husband Rick.  On the Upper Dogwood Trail a group of hikers appear with another off leash dog.  The only place we see any wildlife is as we exit the Forest and stroll on the Promenade.  A lovely squirrel is gathering acorns in the failing light as a Northern Mockingbirds sings a soulful song.  The sun sets behind West Mountain casting a pale golden glow pulling the treeline into silhouette.  I Love hiking with my Husband.  Nature can be enjoyed alone or with others, please make time in your day to visit the Trees.

Much Love,
Lee


Playful Juvenile Mockingbirds In Autumn Leaves

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In the glow of the the first light of morning I head into the park for hike in the glorious Autumn Forest.  Heading up the Dead Chief and Short Cut Trails a breeze is blowing gently through the now dwindling leaves of the canopy above me.  The changing leaves twirl and twinkle casting dancing light ranging from gold to rose.  It is a glorious sunrise on the trail leading to the top of the mountain.

As I head down the Hot Springs Mountain Road I am struck how quickly the green has given way to to rust gold and brown. Even in the blue cast of  early morning light the colors of the Autumn Forest are a feast for the eyes.  On the Peak Trail I am dipped into a golden world of sparkling leaves.  Every hike I am witness to great changes on the many trails in the park. As I watch the changing leaves I am reminded of my first hike up to the top of the mountain on the Peak Trail.  It is hard to believe I will be celebrating my one year of anniversary of hiking in the park this November.

Nearing the promenade I can hear the chattering of juvenile Northern Mockingbirds battling for dominance.  When I arrive on the promenade they are diving and pushing each other off Tree limbs and rails.  It does not matter where I travel along the Promenade they are with me the entire journey.  I Love the passion of their new life in the park.  Today their  songs seem to mimic the workers whistling as they repair a nearby roof.  A young Squirrel is watching the antics perched on the side of a Tree with an acorn in it’s mouth.  A mid air tussle sends the Squirrel dashing across the grass to a bigger Tree.

Suddenly the Forest goes silent and the wildlife all vanishes.  I look up and see a large hawk surfing on a gentle breeze high above the park.  It is a spectacular end my beautiful autumn morning hike.   I Love the park.

Much Love to You ALL,
Lee


Splish Splash and Natures Transition

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Getting out to hike has been a bit tough lately… I am hiking but at times when the light is nearly gone.  Today I actually hiked through the park going from one point in the city to another instead of using a vehicle.  Happily the Universe has delivered several amazing events;  my book now has an ISBN and will be going out for global distribution, commissioned sales for my ph0totgraphs, I am included in book on green wellness issues and now I have been asked to be a guest blogger for a travel site.  So  this will be a not so many words Wednesday :)

As I headed across the lower portion of Hot Springs Mountain I came across a NPS Sprinkler watering a parched hillside.  We have been without any measurable rain for several weeks, this has left the park at a high fire risk.  The sprinkler was creating a puddle that had become a House Sparrow pool party.  From belly flops to splashing each other this was a wonderful chaotic scene.  I wanted to capture the sparrows at play but this meant timing my position with the moving sprinkler.  My camera is not water proof so I kept one eye to the lens and one to the encroaching water spray.

As I was leaving the park a flash of green and red went past and up into a Tree above me.  My first thought was that it was a female Cardinal.  It was in fact a spectacular Male Summer Tanager transitioning from green to red.  I nearly topple over leaning back to watch his antics in the leaves above me.  As the time for me to return home approaches Leaves fell like delicate feathers caressing my hair as a breeze travels through the waning canopy.

Nature gives us gifts everyday if we only open our eyes to the details around us.
Much Love,
Lee


Birds Spa Day and Autumn Leaves Fall

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Autumn has arrived but the cool temperature have given way to heat this morning.  The Forest is tinder dry and I wonder if others using the park realize the fires risk.  I am thankful the wind is still today as it reduces the risk of a run-away fire. As I reach the top of the Tufa Terrace I am greeted by a lovely Northern Mockingbird.

As I head up the Dead Chief Trail the sunlight ignites the colorful Leaves.  The Forest is glorious in shades of red, gold and green as I head to the top of the Mountain.  From the Short Cut Trail to the picnic Autumn Leaves are glowing all along the path edges.  Today I am on a mission  to reach the top of Hot Springs Mountain and deliver a photo to a wonderful new customer/friend.  I feel blessed when people want my photographs on their walls and desks.

I hike down the Hot Springs Mountain Trail and connect with the Honeysuckle Trail to visit the Wedding Chapel.  It looks rustic among the falling Leaves and golden Trees.  Visiting is always a rush of memories for my wedding day.  From the Honeysuckle Trail I connect with Peak Trail and head down the mountain.

On the Tufa Terrace as I am photographing some spectacular Autumn Leaves I hear a loud and vibrant song.  The Mockingbird that greeted me earlier this morning is now sitting in a tree watching me .  I turn and take several photographs of my wonderful new friend.

As I reach the hot water cascade on my way out of the park I notice it is spa day for the birds.  A male and female Cardinal are having a date at a private pool, splashing and dipping in the mineral water.  Nearby another Male Cardinal was being followed by a House Sparrow across the water trickling down the Tufa Rocks.  Later a Squirrel appears and enjoys the heat and steam.

It has been another glorious morning the park testing out my new camera.  Get out play and make new friends.
Much Love,
Lee


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