Exploring Nature One Step At A Time

Archive for June, 2011

Summer at the Fordyce Ricks Pond and Gulpha Creek

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My beloved Rick is off for the morning getting therapy for his ankles at the wonderful Levi Hospital.  He is much stronger and I am thankful for the expert medical care they provide.

I went to Ricks Pond in Hot Springs National Park expecting to see water fowl.  Sadly there were no ducks, swans or geese were in residence.  The Hawks, Herons and Kingfishers I saw in the winter months were nowhere in sight either.  Although the sunrise is spectacular and everything looks beautiful I felt a lonely in the silence.  The smooth surface of the water is broken by a fish seeking the many moving insects hovering above the pond.  I miss the Hawks and Kingfishers teasing me with their loud calls and staying just out of lens range.

As the sun crests the Pines a light mist is traveling through Tree tops and all is sill quiet.  With the sun at my back the still water of the pond reflects the beautiful summer greenery.  It is in stark contrast to the bare winter Trees this past winter.  New Trail, Ricks Pond, Colorful Fungi and Birds

I hike into the Forest along the sunset trail and in the distance a lovely song is filling the air.  Further along the path I see to tiny birds flitting between small Trees and Bushes.  They are a pair of young Red-Eyed Vireos, the first I had seen in the park.  Although I could hear rustling in the distance I was never able to see the source of the many cracking sounds paralleling my movements along the trail.

As I left the pond I decided to pay my respects at the wonderful Purple Heart Peace Memorial located in DeSoto Park.  The parks gardeners were replanting the Purple Heart shaped flowerbed, I will have to come back in a few days to see it’s beauty.  Sadly as I was leaving the park I noticed oil had been recently dumped into the Gulpha Creek

At the Gulpha Gorge Campground I noticed the creek is extremely low and several gravel islands have formed.  Taking into consideration the heavy rain the day before this was surprise.  A lovely Blue Jay lands in a Tree above me, unlike those found on the west side of Hot Springs Mountain this one has both aqua and royal blue feathers.  As I turned I noticed a Squirrel standing and observing my photographic endeavors.  A beautiful butterfly landed at my feet when I began to unlock my van, a perfect end to a beautiful summer morning.

Love to You ALL!
Lee


Beautiful Blue Jay, Foraging Squirrels and a big Fly?

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Today as the storm rages across Hot Springs National Park I am reminded how quickly Nature can change what is familiar.  Thunder drowns out the once melodic bird calls and heavy rain obscures Hot Springs Mountain from my view.  Life giving rain has come to the state and thankfully will reduce the fire risk in the Mountains surrounding our home.

Yesterday a beautiful dark cloud sunrise awaited us as we left home to head into the park.  The sweet female bob-tail Squirrel watched us from her perch at the base of a lamp post on the Arlington Lawn. When we reached the Promenade the park is awash in Squirrels foraging for there breakfast.  As we passed they watch us from the Trees lining the Promenade. Perhaps based on today’s weather their activity was a clue to the impending storms.

Further along we witness the same Mockingbird singing and hopping as seen in my video from my last blog.  Even House Sparrows are now perching atop the bath house roofs in the National Park.  Appears the song birds are selecting territory in the Historic District. A large Fly looking Insect (Horse Fly?) with psychedelic eyes is using it’s proboscis to feed on something that spilled on a bench. Not far from the hot water cascade a tiny female House Sparrow Peeks out from between green leaves above above me.

As we are leaving the park a gorgeous juvenile Blue Jay is flying between the Trees leading to the entrance. It settles in a nearby Tree and glance back at me as I take many wonderful photographs. It was a lovely morning in the park with my beloved husband.

The rains continues to feed the park with life giving water as I finish my blog…. Water Is Life!

Love of Nature fills my Soul with joy.
Love to ALL,
Lee


Lets All do the Mockingbird Hop

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Although many beautiful creatures were seen visits to the Hot Springs National Park this week it was the hopping Mockingbird that really grabbed my attention. On two separate occasions I spotted hookbeak the Northern Mockingbird was perched atop the dome of the Quapaw Bath House.  His loud singing was echoing through the Historic District and into the Mountains.  While watching his serenade to the park I noticed he would hop up flapping his wings momentarily hovering above his perch.  I am uncertain if this is a mating or territorial ritual or both, but I had to share this wonderful display. My husband Rick and I were mesmerized.  Please see the video below…

My other favorite sighting is set of photos is of the lovely female Squirrel with the bobbed tail.  I felt a be voyeuristic peering through the leaves watching her graceful grooming. A lovely Blue Jay landed in the Tree above me and what I thought was dried leaves turned out to be a white Moth shedding a rust colored covering. Oh and don’t miss the sweet trio of House Sparrow Chicks.

Don’t forget Nature is waiting to wrap you in her beauty!

Love to ALL,
Lee


Hiking with a Tufted Titmouse, Box Turtle, Squirrel and Chipmunk

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Due to the extreme temperatures I have been hiking much earlier in the morning. The limited light often makes it difficult to photograph the many beautiful sights.  I have begun to see another world as the rays of the rising sun crests the surrounding Mountains.

Colorful Flowers glow in the half light along fences  as I hike toward North Mountain. Small shadows take shape as I move closer, a Chipmunk climbing on the rocks and a Squirrel foraging in the grass.  A faint song draws me closer and I can see a lovely little Tufted Titmouse chick grooming on the branch above me.  A lump on the trail ahead of me comes into focus and it is beautiful Box Turtle stretching it’s neck.

So much is revealed in the light of a new morning, Nature lifts my Spirit…
Love to ALL!
Lee


Pileated Woodpecker Brothers in Hot Springs National Park

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Many of you will know the Pileated Woodpecker is one of my favorite Birds. In Forest without feeders to lure them they are often shy and stick to the highest Trees.  I often spot them after hearing their wonderful chicken cackle call or very loud pecking on Trees.  Today it was pecking that caught my attention as I was heading home.  I looked up in a nearby Tree and saw a flash of red.  My first thought was that it was a Red-Bellied Woodpecker, I was happy to discover a Juvenile Pileated Woodpecker busy looking for a meal. After a few minutes it flies over to a very large Oak Tree.  I hiked up the hill to discover two male Pileated Woodpecker high above me. Two! It was wonderful to watch them jostling for control over Tree territory and pecking rights.

Later one flew off and I decided I had better video the one still in the Tree.  Soon the other brother spreads his wings and I watched him fly to another Tree.  As I turn my head I see the Woodpeckers  are side by side each on their own Tree.  As other hikers approach they fly farther away.  I track their path and am split as to which one to follow as they each head in opposite directions.   I catch up to the one closest and take a couple of photographs, but soon it is airborne again.

I discover the two brothers have again chosen to be on the same Tree.  Both are now frantically pecking using beaks and tongues to grab their targeted meal.  As I get closer I can see they are unaware of my presence, this allows my to take many photographs and video their activities. This was only one of the blessings from Nature today and I will share the rest of my hike tomorrow.

Much Love,
Lee


Early Morning Wildlife in the Park

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The past few days I have been taking morning walks along the Promenade in Hot Springs National Park with my Beloved Husband Rick. He has been waiting to begin therapy sessions for his ankle. Today he learned it is tendon damage so the trails will have to wait for about a month. Thank You all for your kind messages for his recovery.

Our early morning strolls have allowed us to witness many wonderful sights on the edge of the Forest.  I never imagined we would see a Sharp-Shinned Hawk flying and landing on the lowest part of the Mountain or witness the grace of sunlight illuminating the radiant pink of Mimosa blossoms. There have been mother Squirrels out with their children teaching them to forage.  Young Mockingbirds learning to sing and to defend territory from Robins.  A Male House Sparrow trying to convince his offspring to forage and feed themselves, he ended up hiding from them in a hedge.

Pause, breathe and see Nature with your Heart.

Love to You ALL!
Lee


Stroll in the Park for Our First Wedding Anniversary

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Today is my First Wedding Anniversary… I had a lovely early morning stroll in Hot Springs National Park with my beloved husband Rick. A breeze lifted a bit of the heat even though the skies were dotted with dark clouds.

Lovely creatures join us as we moved along the promenade. A sweet Carolina Chickadee sings between pecking at a green seed held against a branch above us in a leafy Tree.  Further up the path a juvenile Northern Mockingbird is hopping in and out of the gaps in a chain link fence.  Ants feasted on something dropped on the brick surface and a Squirrel is foraging for Nuts on a rise to our left.  Below us a colorful Mourning Dove gathers vital nesting materials. It is a perfect day immersed within Natures Love at my Husband’s side.

Much Love to ALL!
Lee

Happy 1st Anniversary to my Beloved Husband Rick


A Quick Dip into Nature with Mockingbirds, Brown Thrashers and Squirrels

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Many of you will already know my beloved husband Rick has a foot injury so we are scaling back his hiking to the lower portion of Hot Springs Mountain.  His therapy at Levi  Hospital begins next week and hopefully this will heal the damage to his ankle. This blog reveals Nature’s beautiful creatures on the edge of the Forest.  Sometimes we forget they are our neighbors living only a couple of minutes from our front door.  As we took an early morning stroll through the park today we were greeted by a sweet serenade from an old friend Hook Beak the Mockingbird.   A family of Brown Thrashers appeared in the Trees including a lovely chick with Blue Eyes (they change to yellow as they get older). Lively adult Squirrels foraged and battled of territory as juvenile Squirrels practiced hunting for their breakfast.

It was a beautiful (HOT) morning with my beloved husband at the foot of Hot Springs Mountain.

Let all plan to have a play date with friends at our favorite Nature spaces!
Love to ALL,
Lee


John Muir, a Lizard, Turtle and Wildflowers

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Dear John Muir,

I come humbled by your message and sadly late to the congregation.  Although your body has passed your spirit still delivers passionate sermons among the Trees.  Once heard in Natures voice your message to mankind became part of my heart forever.

In the Forest I hear a choir so sweet it often brings tears and I wonder if its song is a whisper to my Soul from the Universe. There is not a Rock or Flower that does not hold my Heart as I pause to learn its secrets. How is it I could have reached fifty plus years before knowing the intimate beauty of Nature?  I am thankful my life will from this point forward move in unison with the natural world.

Thank you for being there to guide me as I hike within Natures sacred spaces.

Much Love,
Lee


Hiking with My Husband June Wk 2: When Squirrels Rule the World

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I am dedicating this blog to my beloved husband Rick. An injury will leave him sidelined from the hiking trails and his Forest for nearly a month and a half.  Be brave baby I promise the Forest will be waiting with open arms for your return after you heal.  Until then we will always have our gentle stroll on the promenade to visit and sing with the Mockingbirds, Gray Catbird and Brown Thrashers.

This month hiking has been a Squirrel fest,  emerging from nests are many new and old friends.  Lovely Juveniles out foraging for the first time alone and old friends showing up as we head into the Forest. Lovely pregnant soon to be Moms, search for nuts is the soft green grass.  As I look through my photos from that past two weeks at the many Squirrels appearing throughout the park it hard to imagine a world without them.  Some of Natures sweetest gifts often have four paws and a bushy tail.

Love to You ALL!
Lee


Late Spring Hike with Butterflies, Birds and Chipmunks

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The Spring heatwave is continuing and it is a sunny 85 degrees as I leave at 7:25 am for my hike in Hot Springs National Park. Holding my camera up to take a photograph my sunglasses begin to fog up in the humidity, this could be why most people are on their way out of the park. I am beginning to think I will have to start getting up earlier in morning.

As I head up the Tufa Terrace I literally nearly trip over a small Chipmunk crossing the trail.  Once it pauses to look at me for a moment it careful climbs up the slope covered in Tufa Rocks.  Half way up the sweet Chipmunk tentatively steps onto a patch of moss and delicately sniffs the surface.  as more people arrive on the trail it moves quickly over to the hot water cascade flow.

When I reach the Peak Trail a Gray Catbird is belting out a tune high above the park in a tall Tree catching the first rays of the sun as it crests the Mountain.  Along the Carriage Road are glorious wildflowers, Asiatic Dayflowers in rich blue rise above tiny yellow Sneezeweed leading me to the Dead Chief Trail.

At the top of Hot Springs Mountain a beautiful Red Spotted Purple Butterfly is sitting wings spread warming it self in the morning sun. Its colorful wings shimmer in the soft morning light.  As I head along the Hot Springs Mountain Trail Wild Bergamot and Lance Leaf Coreopsis are blooming along the edges.   I stop to take photographs of the lovely wildflowers as song breaks out in the Forest, I look up and see a wonderful juvenile Carolina Wren in a nearby leafy Tree.

When I reach the Upper Dogwood Trail a blur runs across the rocks to my side and dives behind a small Tree.  Standing very still for five minutes I am rewarded with the appearance of a full cheeks Chipmunk. It peeks at me from the rocks and soon pops up to run across the Forest floor. The heat seems to have caused the Squirrels to stay in the cool of the leafy branches while the Chipmunks are happy to be out foraging.

I connect with the Lower Dogwood and then the Floral Trail on my hike down North Mountain to exit the park.  As I near the bottom of the Trail I see a Chipmunk sitting on a log, a perfect sight to end my hike on this beautiful if somewhat sticky morning.

Love to ALL!
Lee


Happy World Environment Day – Hot Springs National Park

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As you will all probably already know my husband Rick and I believe everyday is Environment Earth Green Trails Day.  Living surrounded (literally) by the Forests of Hot Springs National Park it would be impossible not to be thinking of the planet’s health everyday. Have a Happy World Environment Day,  please enjoy a few sights from National Trails Day within Hot Springs National Park.  Don’t forget to mark your calenders for next years International Hike Our Planet Day on March 14th!

Love to ALL!
Lee