The language of the Forest is beautiful and complex, I feel blessed whenever it shares it’s songs with me. Learning the language of many species has allowed me to photograph them in the wild as they are mean to be seen. No cages to trap them, no food to lure them; behaviors that are true not controlled by the devices of man. This morning as I hiked along the Oak Trail I heard a distinctive cry high above me. Actually it can be best described as the sound of cackling Chickens. Once you have heard it and spotted it’s source you cannot resist looking up to see this beautiful bird. Black and white with a sassy red crest the Pileated Woodpecker is ALWAYS a glorious sight. Slightly smaller with reddish brown eyes I know this is a juvenile. Although I can hear two maybe three, this is the only one I can spot among the Short Leaf Pines. Note for birder/photographers my camera lens is a 70-400mm the Sony Alpha 55 digitally extends the shooting capability to 600mm although very high in the tree the sun was in the perfect position to capture a clear view/shot.
I Love the West Mountain Trail, this is the second time I have caught sight of a flock of tiny Black-Capped Chickadees. They flit in rapid playful movement among the bright colored autumn Leaves. Their sweet pipping song fills the Forest trail the Trees around me and I have to guess at times where I think they will appear based on their voices. Even when I can hear them, within in the cover of the leaves they are often invisible due to their speed and tiny size. I Love being surrounded by their joyful song and playful flight.
The Autumn Leaves are vanishing quickly as December approaches Trails once bathed in red green gold and rust are nearly naked. This reveals Natures strength, Her Rocks and Trees now stand exposed to the coming winter. They become Her Winter canvas painted with a colorful pallet of Lichen, Moss and Fungi. Once hidden by the leaves of Spring, Summer and Autumn I see sculptures, twisted, bent, pitted chipped and broken. I marvel at Trees that hold one and other in gentle embrace against storms long past. At Rocks shaped by rain, hail, wind and ice. Where others see a barren Forest I see Nature’s strength, a beauty beyond the visual. Pure emotion can be seen in Her Winter Mountains, a world filled with exquisite detail and subtle colors.
I hiked up to the park’s highest point, the Music Mountain towers. The paths to the top are not marked by park signs, I Love that someone created trail head markers by stacking Rocks. I have seen stacked rock throughout the park and wonder if they are all created by the same person. If you read my blog THANK YOU for these wonderful markers, they point and flow with Nature’s beauty.
Although I am saddened by the sight of these Mountain top metal structures I am grateful for the park wide cell service. Cell service that allowed me to share my hikes with my Mother when she was nearing her death, a chance for us to be together with a background chorus of Nature. The spires of metal have now become perches to the largest of the feather creatures of the park Turkey Vultures, Eagles and Hawks. I wonder if the presence of these man made structures as encouraged larger populations of these magnificent birds? For good or bad the towers will remain. I felt guilty for photographing the Vultures on the towers the other day, it felt as it was cheating viewing them on these man made perches that act as lures. I wonder if the towers have changed their behavior as ground nesters.
As I am hiking down West Mountain I reach a bend just in time to spot a Slate-Colored Junco, it is a glorious blue black with a pale beak. It suddenly flies away at the sound of a Hawk screeching. Although near-by I cannot locate it’s Tree top perch, and it is only as it call fades I catch a glimpse of a wing tip flying away. A few steps further down the mountain and I hear a familiar beeping sound. I quickly scan every near-by Short leaf Pine until I spot the source. It is a wonderful tiny Male Downy Woodpecker hopping up, down and around the truck of a distant Tree.
As I near the end of the Oak Trail I can hear a chorus of birds that include Sparrows, Cardinals and another voice. They are gathered just off the trail on what once was the old scenic dirt carriage road that circled the park at the base of all six Mountains (Hot Springs, North, West, Music, Sugarloaf and Indian). It appears Trees were removed to create a fire break between the city below and the Mountain above. A Female Cardinal leads me down the old dirt road to a flock of Sparrows. The sound of the unidentified bird has grown louder and I look up to see what appears to be a small woodpecker. The spectacular back & wing pattern with a yellow belly and flash of red under the beak let me know I have found a juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.
I discover a spectacular Yellow wildflower, would love to know what it is! UPDATE: Special thanks to Twitter @USWildflowers http://USWildflowers.com for identifying this yellow beauty as False Foxglove. A wonderful treat to end my hike.
Get out and play a park, a forest, a dessert, a green space or your backyard… Nature is waiting for you :)
Love to You ALL!