Hiking with Winter Snow Birds on West Mountain
Field Notes January 11 2011:
I enjoy the solitude of hiking alone, it allows me to hear the Forest and Mountains. The soft whoosh of fall snow, the drip of melting ice cycle, the happy pip of a Chickadee or huff of a Deer annoyed by my presence; this is the song of Nature. When I hike I listen for pecking, chirping, scratching, tossing of leaves and digging. Each sound reveals a beautiful resident of the parks in which I hike. For me it is a symphony, a changing song of life that resonates to my Soul and is captured by my lens.
As I hike along the snow covered West Mountain trails I am being followed by a vocal crowd. A family of Crows are patrolling the the Oak Trail this morning. I enjoy watching their social and family interactions, I have never been sure why people fear Crows. I have but one complaint as they shadow me, they drown out my ability to hear the smaller birds and creatures. Fortunately as I near the end of the Oak Trail they decided to fly off toward the south end of Hot Springs Mountain. I don’t think I have seen Crows head toward North Mountain since the Hawk incident on April 04 2010 when I heard a blood curdling scream and looked up to see…
Although the snow cover on each trail is beautiful, the true joy of today’s hike is the lovely birds that stay in Hot Springs National Park throughout the winter. As I near the junction of the Oak and West Mountain Trails I am able to see Nature’s breakfast buffet. A flock of Pine Warblers are flipping leaves along the trail in search of Seeds. Often in pairs males and females work together to forage for the food hidden beneath the now fallen autumn Leaves. A lovely male Pine Warbler flies onto a branch and preens in the sunlight. It is as if he has become one with the glow of the golden rays flowing down from above. On the Rocks ahead of me a curious Warbler hops between the patches of Ice and Snow searching for food. A familiar happy song draws my gaze upward into the nearly bare Trees. Above me a Black-Capped Chickadee swings on a spiky Tree Seed in delicate acrobatic contortions. It is a beautiful aerial ballet.
When I reach the Mountain top the sky is a deep vibrant blue and the now bare Trees are silvery sentinels along the trail. The stone ruins of a rest hut sit silently in the changing winter landscape, I wonder how it looked in 1914 when it was originally built. Far across the valley below snow etches detail into the dark distant features. This is my first winter hiking on West Mountain and the view from the top is spectacular.
On my journey back down the mountain I encounter the flock of Pine warblers on the West Mountain Trail. A bold Warbler turns to show me his newly discovered Seed among the leaves on the trail. The more timid Juncos have joined the Warblers and I can see them peeking at me from within the thick twists of leafless Vines. Nearing the bottom of the Mountain on the Oak Trail I see a Male Cardinal nestled in Snow covered Leaves. His soft pips revealed his location in the coniferous Tree. When I reach the Canyon Trail I smile as I see engaging snow capped plants along the edges of the path.
Love to ALL!
Side note: I have not seen any Robins in the park this winter, last year they were everywhere. I miss them!