Exploring Nature One Step At A Time

Archive for November, 2011

Blue Skies, Autumn Leaves, Berries, Birds and a Squirrel in the Park

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Finally a glorious sunny morning greets me as I enter Hot Springs National Park.  For the past week the skies have a been covered in a seemingly never ending band of dark gray clouds each morning.  Now the sunlight illuminates autumn Leaves as I enter the park and they look like beautiful glowing strings of lights.  Above me a juvenile Squirrel is practicing it’s balance and forage skills I head up Hot Springs Mountain.  I carry this joyous sight with me during my hike up and around the mountain.

Decorating the trail edges are lovely autumn Berries and glowing autumn Leaves. At the top of Hot Springs Mountain small Tufted Titmice are flying among vibrant leaves of red, orange, yellow and green.  They are busy feasting to prepare for the colder temperatures that have arrived early this year.

As I am reveling in the beauty of the changing Forest it is not long before I reach the Honeysuckle Trail.  I always Love stopping by Rick’s and my wedding Chapel, it is a blessing to remember the glorious day of our marriage.

Nearing home I spot a container lid in the park that has gathered rain water.  House Sparrows are happily splashing in the makeshift bath glittering in the sunlight.  As they fly back into a nearby Magnolia Tree I spot one of their nests.  Now I understand why they are so difficult to spot among the Leaves.  The nests are woven into a bowl that blends into the branches. A perfect place to hide from my lens :)

Love to ALL!
Lee


Into the Dark Autumn Forest and John Lennon Looks Out On Hot Springs

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An autumn chill has fallen over the Forest and only a sprinkling of leaves remain on the Trees.  As Rick and I hike up North Mountain the skies are covered in dark clouds.  The last of the colorful leaves glow in the gray of the late morning.  In the distance the call of of a Red-Bellied Woodpecker echos across the Mountain.

Colorful Leaves give way to bright curling Fungi decorating rotting stumps and Trees.  A small Slug is feasting on pieces of bright yellow fungi on a rust Leaf.  On the trail rocks once hidden by the foliage of spring and winter appear as Nature gives up her treasure.

Along the Promenade the color of the Forest is seen in a pair of beautiful Cardinals.  They are soon joined by a small flock of Juncos in search of food.  Swooping into the scene a pair of Northern Mockingbirds chasee the visiting birds out of their territory.

We decide to walk home through the Historic District and notice John Lennon is peering out from two Gallery windows.  His iconic face is always a welcome sight.  As we parallel the HSNP Bathhouses lovely Molly catches Rick’s eye, she is a sweet Bearded Collie.  Rick’s baby Thor who past away several years ago was also a Bearded Collie so Molly made his heart happy.  Have a lovely road trip Molly, thank you for saying hello!

Much love to ALL!
Lee


Vegan Thanksgiving and Hike – Thankful For My Life

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While the rest of the world shops I am typing my blog, thankful to be warm and rested sitting at my computer.  Yesterday my husband Rick and I went for a lovely Thanksgiving hike, a wonderful new tradition for the Hiller/London household.  Another new tradition was our vegan meal, my first attempt at a formal menu since we both stopped eating animal products.

I am thankful my husband has become a vegan because it means we can have a longer healthier life together.  I am thankful to be able to step out the door and go hiking in a National Park. I am thankful for the wonderful friends and family who care about us. I am thankful to be alive.

I am thankful to have so many lovely people read my blog. Have a wonderful day!

Much Love to ALL!
Lee


Rain, Rain and More Rain with a Flash Flood Warning

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Yesterday it rained almost the entire day so when it momentarily stopped I dashed outside to take a few photographs.  Dense fog kept the Tower and Trees along top of Hot Springs Mountain hidden and caused others to appear as if they were ghostly sentinels.  Rain drops hung like large glinting jewels from Branches and autumn Leaves. Tiny House Sparrows flitted among the Leaves feasting on tender Seeds.  Soon rain resumed casting a veil of gray over the Trees and little Sparrows once again.

Much Love to ALL!
Lee


Autumn Leaves Give A Second Curtain Call

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A cluster of storms are currently sitting over Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas.  As I sit at my desk  typing this blog rain is pouring down through dense dark low clouds, aka fog. Flood warnings are in place with a long term forecast going through Tuesday night.

My husband Rick and I dashed out for a hike the other day during a break in the storms.  Beautiful rainbow clouds reappeared as we headed into the Forest on West Mountain, a perfect start to our adventure.  They are always a awesome spectacle and I never tire of the view. As we hike up the Canyon Trail the clouds begin to get darker and I wonder if it might rain.   In the low light the last of the autumn Leaves glow in lovely shades yellow red and orange.  Each time I think a storm has taken all the glorious fall colors from the Trees the forest surprises me with another vibrant show of color.

Dark skies continue as we make our way across West Mountain,then back to the city.  At each view point between the Trees the city is framed by blue gray skies. As we hike back down the Canyon Trail a young crow is calling out to it’s family.  It’s cries/caws are a sad song, fortunately a few minutes later we hear a adult Crow answering back.

It was a wonderful break in the Forest…

Much Love to ALL!
Lee


How Nature Creates Beautiful Autumn Leaves

HSNP Hot Springs Mountain Trail Autumn Leaves

As autumn begins sunlight diminishes and the temperatures begin to drop there is not enough water or light for photosynthesis.  Now the sunlight is not warming the Leaves with the same intensity of the summer months. Trees begin to rest living off the nutrients stored during the late spring and summer months.  As Leaves shut down their internal nutrient factories the green chlorophyll vanishes from the Leaves. When the bright green fades away, we can see the now visible yellow and orange colors. These colors have been in the leaves in small amounts all along, but in the spring and summer other colors are hidden by the dominant green chlorophyll.

How are the bright reds and purples we see in Leaves made?  Within some trees, such as Maples the glucose is trapped in the Leaves after photosynthesis stops.  Now the sunlight plus cool nights in autumn causes the Leaves to turn the trapped glucose into a red color. The rust and brown color of Trees Leaves as found on Oaks are made from waste left in the leaves.

What conditions cause the most spectacular color display? The weather affects both the leaf color intensity and its duration.  The perfect combination for spectacular color display are a warm, dry summer followed by a rainy autumn.  Then in autumn, warm, sunny days with cool nights trigger brilliant color formations. If an early frost occurs this lessens the intensity of red. As a photographer I always think a gray rainy or overcast day will intensify the depth of vibrant autumn leaf colors.

For a more detailed scientific explanation please read The chemicals that cause leaves to change color in fall

Hope you all had a glorious leaf hunt this autumn…
Love to ALL!
Lee

HSNP Hot Springs Historic District Red Maple

Autumn's Last Burst Historic District Hot Springs

HSNP Historic District Autumn Leaves

HSNP Lower Dogwood Trail Autumn Leaves

Promanade Autumn Leaves

Tufa Terrace Autumn Leaves

West Mountain Trail Autumn Leaves

HSNP West Mt Canyon Trail Autumn Leaves

HSNP Tufa Terrace Trail Autumn Leaves

HSNP Promenade Autumn Leaves

HSNP Lower Dogwood Trail Autumn Leaves

HSNP Floral Trail Autumn Leaves

HSNP Peak Trail Autumn Leaves

HSNP Hot Springs Mountain Trail Autumn Leaves

HSNP Dead Chief Trail Autumn Leaves

HSNP West Mountain Loop Trail Autumn

HSNP Promenade Autumn Leaves

HSNP Gulpha Gorge Trail Autumn


Autumn Gold and the Return of Winter Friends

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This blog entry is dedicated to my beloved husband Rick. He has struggled through therapy for a torn ligament and when that had healed he was beat up by dental surgery plus a dry socket infection.  Congratulations Baby on getting back out into the Forest today!

If you have ever been to Hot Spring, Arkansas you will know about the amazing blue sky. Today it was so glorious as we stepped out the door to go for a hike I had to stop and breath in it’s beauty.  The sun had just crested Hot Springs Mountain casting a golden glow across the park as we reached the trail head.  Each autumn leaf appeared to have its own back light creating a spectacular glow against the rich blue sky. As autumn wanes individual Leaves becomes a glorious art piece.

As we are leaving the park favorite winter friends have reappeared, lovely little Juncos are perched in branches at the base of North Mountain. When temperatures drop in the north many lovely birds spend the winter in Hot Springs National Park.  Often when I am hiking in the snow it is just me and the Forest birds.

Don’t forget to get out and play!

Much love to ALL!
Lee


Fall Leaves, Sundogs, Blue Jays and Mysterious Jelly Blobs

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Storms raged for nearly two days knocking down much of the beautiful fall foliage on Hot Springs Mountain. When I leave for my hike the rain has stopped although the clouds are still dark. The deep red, rust and yellow of the autumn leaves appear to glow in the dim light. From the Tufa Terrace to the Dead Chief Trail I am still not sure if the storm has past.

Near the Short Cut Trail the sun begins to shine and I remove the rain covers from my cameras.  The warmth of the sun on my face is rejuvenating and taking a deep breath I feel a lightness in my step.  Hiking up the trail I love the soft sound of my footfall on the damp rust leaves now vibrant in the bright late morning light.

At the top of the Mountain I glance up to see two small juvenile Blue Jays perched among the autumn Leaves.  I am surprised they are without an adult and that they have not alerted the Forest to my presence.  They are a lovely sight after the storms of the past days and a sight to fill my heart with happiness.

My hike along the east side of the mountain reveals that most of the autumn foliage has been blow free of their branch perches.  The leaves create a rust brick road and I think to myself “Lions and Tiger and Bears, Oh My”.  I know I am somewhere over the rainbow when I look up to see a colorful sundog in the sky above me.

Heading down the Mountain on the Floral Trail I see clear glinting ice-like objects on the path.  Thinking they are ice I reach down to touch one piece only to discover they are jelly blobs.  I wonder if they were dropped here by a human traveler or a natural phenomena produced during the lightning storms.

Leaving the park I am surprised by a sound to my side and I look up to see a sweet young Squirrel on the branch above my shoulder.  It has been wonderful hike in the park.

Much Love to ALL!


Birds of Hot Springs National Park: Brown Thrasher

HSNP Promenade Brown Thrasher with Insect

Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum)

Length: 9.1–11.8 in (23–30 cm)
Wingspan: 11.4–12.6 in (29–32 cm)
Weight: 2.2–3.1 oz  (61–89 g)
Color: vibrant reddish brown with a speckled buff and brown chest and belly
Eyes: bright yellow
Feeding: Omnivorous (Insects, other arthopods, fruits, and nuts.)
Vocalization: known to have perhaps over 3000 unique songs in their repertoire.

In Hot Springs National Park Brown Thrashers are found in dense brush, Trees and Bushes. They are omnivorous and can be seen foraging in dry Leaves for Insects or plucking Berries from Bushes and Trees.  Brown Thrashers can also be found in perennial gardens and where they are often spotted jumping from the ground to catch insects on flowers.  My observations have noted they are gregarious and curious about humans that frequent their territory. Although they are highly territorial I have never been met with any aggression even during mating season.  This does not mean they may not attack animals or humans that get too close to their nests.

My first encounter with a Brown Thrasher in the park was when I initially believed I was going to see a someone using a Nintendo  Game Boy.  I came around the bend on a trail to discover it was a Brown Thrasher mimicking Super Mario World.  After 10 minutes of spectacular auditory acrobatics it flew away.  I have since this first encounter heard them sing glorious tunes, imitate cell phone ring tones and mock other birds.  Brown Thrashers are always a wonderful sight in Hot Springs National Park.

HSNP Promenade Brown Thrasher with Insect

HSNP Promenade Brown Thrasher with Breakfast

HSNP Promenade Brown Thrasher Duo

HSNP Promenade Brown Thrasher


Butterflies: Red Spotted Purple Butterfly

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Red Spotted Purple Butterfly

Red Spotted Purple Butterfly (Limenitis arthemis astyanax)

  • Family: Brush-footed Butterfly (Nymphalidae)
  • Subfamily: Admiral and Relative (Limenitidinae)
  • Average Wingspan: 2 1/4″ – 4″
  • Habitat: Wooded areas, forests

On an overcast day wings spread the Red Spotted Purple Butterfly will appear to be black with blue or turquoise on the the lower portion of the wings.  It is in the bright sunlight that you see the spectacular transition of dark to bright blue with each pulse of it’s opening wings. Large orange spot are vibrant against a purplish back background when wing are closed and seen in profile. The males are territorial and will put on a spectacular display to secure an area.  Both sexes of this species are identical except that the females are slightly larger than the males.  There is a wide variation of the open wing color in this species from black with bright blue to brown with turquoise. The Red-spotted Purple Butterfly is close in appearance to the poisonous Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor) which is typically found in open woodlands and along forest edges. I have to this date not seen a Pipevine Swallowtail in Hot Springs National Park.

In the park a favored area of these Butterflies is at the base of North Mountain from the Floral Trail to the cold water fountain at the foot of  the entrance to Hot Springs Mountain Road.  Best time for sighting in the park is late spring to early autumn from dawn to dusk.  Red Spotted Purple Butterflies are always a glorious sight, the jewels of the Forest.  It is always a joy to find one warming itself in the sunlight.

HSNP Hot Springs Mt Rd Red Spotted Purple Butterfly


HSNP Goat Rock Trail Red Spotted Purple Butterfly

Floral Trail Red Spotted Purple Butterflies

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Red Spotted Purple Butterfly

 


Hike Our Planet 2nd Anniversary 378 Posts and 15,000+ Photographs later

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Thank YOU for your kind support of my blog! Two years ago I barely made it up Hot Springs Mountain with my old Sony Cybershot camera.  Not sure why I decided to climb up to the top so I shot photographs to document my hike to the top (proof for Rick my fiance’ now my husband).  As I had not initially intended to hike up to the Tower it was dumb luck that I had money in my pocket from the night before when I had used my debit card for groceries.  Rick had paid me cash for potatoes I grabbed for him.  The cash in my pocket covered my ride to the top of the Hot Springs Tower.

Two years on this is post 378 and I was surprised, no shocked to see I have posted 15,007 photographs and 45 videos during the past 2 years.  I Love Nature, every detail makes my Heart joyful.  I Love sharing the wonder of each beautiful Creature, Plant, Rock, vista and everything in-between.  Dian a new friend on Chime.in asked me, “Wow, that’s a lot of photography! How do you choose what stays and what goes? ” My answer, “I shoot on average 500 shots a day…  I sort down for my faves then cut again looking for the photographs that have an emotional connection.”  To be honest I shot 900 on this hike seeking to capture the beauty my eye sees.  I sorted down from 900 to 75 photographs.

Please join me on a photo journey of my 2nd Anniversary hike in Hot Springs National Park on a dark and stormy morning. As always thank you for spending time to visit and or comment on my blog.


Colorful Autumn Leaves Fall Revealing Beautiful Birds

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It is a brilliant clear autumn morning as I head up Hot Springs Mountain.  Although many of the Trees have lost their foliage a few spectacular red leaves are hanging on. As I stop to enjoy the view of West Mountain there is a noise in the dried leaves below me. I turn to see a tiny White Throated Sparrow foraging for it’s breakfast.  The first I have seen since early last spring.

The sun rises slowly as I head up the Dead Chief Trail on my hike up the Mountain. Glorious yellow leaves twinkle like golden drops of sunlight as a strong cold breeze pushes against my body.  Hidden in the golden canopy above me is a lone Male Cardinal singing to the morning light. Further up the trail I am delighted to see two beautiful Yellow False Foxglove Wildflowers blooming on the side of the Trail.

As I am staring up at the beautiful foliage I catch a fluttering out of the corner of my eye.  On a log to my side a tiny Carolina Wren is watch me as I am gazing up into the Forest canopy.  Autumn Leaves float down on me as I hike up the Short Cut Trail.  The colorful confetti looks spectacular raining down across the brilliant blue sky. I stop to enjoy the display, my face tipped up warmed by the sun as I am decorated in leaves of red, orange and  yellow.  I have a wonderful child like feeling with each step of my hike as I shuffle, kick and crunch on the leaf covered trail.  I wish there was someone with which to have a leaf pile fight.

Continuing along the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I see many of the Trees are already wearing their bare winter shapes.  In the distance a small Tree stands alone red leaves vibrantly on display.  Small and sassy it makes me smile as I photograph the beauty of it’s leaves.

As I near the rest hut on the Hot Springs Mountain Trail a chorus of bird song fills the air. High in the Trees a mixed flock of tiny birds are moving through the Forest.  They are darting about so quickly and I am unsure which direction to look. I am barely able to spot an Orange-Crowned Warbler and a Tufted Titmouse as they land and fly off in what seems the blink of an eye.

A familiar loud voice echos above me and I scan the Tree tops for a favorite sight.  Usually big bold and easy to locate, I am happy when I finally see an unexpectedly small juvenile Red-Bellied Woodpecker. Joy fills my hearts as they are my faithful winter friends often traveling with me as I hike through the Forest even on the coldest days.

It was a wonderful hike through the autumn Forest, thank you for visiting with me.

Love to ALL!
Lee


Flashes of Red, Orange and Gold Autumn Leaves

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I am a day behind in blogging because I have been really busy hiking, taking photographs, editing, designing and writing.  Yesterday my beloved husband and I took a quick trip across the base of Hot Springs Mountain to enjoy the beauty of autumn.  I am still in awe when I look at the glorious colors in Hot Springs National Park. Nature is always my favorite artist and it is a joy to share her work.

For those who have asked me “how tall are the Magnolia Trees in Hot Springs, Arkansas”… please see the photograph of the 3 story tall Magnolia Tree next the the Fordyce Bath House.

Had a lovely hike today and will post that blog tomorrow :o)

Much to ALL!
Lee


Hiking the Autumn Forest Trails Of West Mountain

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A gray day greets me as I head out the door and I wonder if the impending storm will arrive a day early.  The West Mountain autumn landscape I photographed the day before from Hot Springs Mountain was glorious.  I knew I would have to hike among the beautiful leaves before the storm blew through.  As I near the the Oak Trail I feel as if I have entered a painting.  It appears that every autumn color possible is a part of the mosaic of Leaves.

Along the Oak Trail I am surrounded by Leaves of gold glowing in the intermittent sunlight. The Twins, two large Trees rising from a single trunk are both topped with a full plum of yellow Leaves. An orange Gulf Fritillary Butterfly is searching the last remnants of the goldenrod that are now going to seed.

Dotting the landscape are lovely purple Asters, they are a beautiful contrast against the rust Leaves covering the Forest floor.  The glorious purple blossoms lead me along the West Mountain Trail to the top and onto the Sunset Trail.  A lovely Orange Sulphur Butterfly is trying to camouflage itself on a yellowing Leaf.  As I look up I again see a sundog cloud formation in the clearing sky.  I never tire of seeing the beautiful rainbow effect as the sunlight touches the clouds.

It was another beautiful morning hiking in the Mountains, thank you for coming to my blog and joining me on my hike.

Love to ALL!
Lee


Autumn Leaves, Sundogs, Butterflies and Mockingbirds

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It is a lovely autumn afternoon and my beloved husband Rick is beginning to recover from his recent dental surgery. We decided to take a stroll on the lower reaches of Hot Springs Mountain to help him heal.  Clouds drift across the sky interacting with the sun in a spectacular display.  Rick discovered online this phenomenon might be called Sundogs. The sun in Hot Springs National Park often interacts with the clouds over our valley creating a rainbow effect.

Beautiful Orange Sulphur Butterflies are dancing over the newly blooming False Garlic Wildflowers.  Their colorful orange and yellow wings look like fluttering drops of sunlight.  A delightful ballet as we head into the final weeks of warmth.  Bird song resonates from a beautiful berry laden Bush, a sweet Mockingbird is belting out a beautiful song.  In-between soulful tunes it takes time to feast on the abundant red orbs clustered on each branch.

A stroll home through Hot Spring’s Historic District reveals that autumn is transforming the Trees as the city begins a Holiday decoration spree.  The once pink blossoming Cherry Trees are now covered in leaves of red and green.  It is amazing how quickly 2011 is moving toward its conclusion.

Love to ALL!
Lee


Colorful Autumn Leaves Create Fireworks, Tapestries and Mosaics in the Forest

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Sunlight peeks in and out of the clouds as I begin my hike on West Mountain in Hot Springs National Park.  Each burst of sunlight reveals a gorgeous display of red, orange, yellow and green leaves.  As I look up into the canopy it is as if I am witnessing a glorious private fireworks display.  I spread out my jacket and lay on the ground to savor the show.   The trail is lined with a tapestry of vibrant colors woven of leaves and branches.  Further ahead leaves of various colors sparkle in the light creating intricate patterns as if part of a flowing mosaic. As I move along the park trails I am bathed in color changes from gold to rust to pink in a rainbow of ever changing light.  I feel as if my Soul has been painted with the colors of the autumn Forest.

Love to ALL!
Lee