Exploring Nature One Step At A Time

Archive for May, 2012

Lovely Rainbow Sunrise, Squirrels and Spring Trails

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Within the stillness of the dawn the Forest speaks softly of the new day. ~ Lee Hiller London

A beautiful spring morning in the park unfolds as I look skyward to see a rainbow painting the shimmering clouds above the rising sun.  The trails are peaceful in the early light, a gentle breeze provides relief from the humidity and climbing temperature.  Lovely Squirrels are foraging throughout the park for breakfast. Tufted Titmice (or is that Titmouses) are abundant and their song echoes softly on the trails.  I have had a wonderful morning hike…

Field Notes: For the first time in the three years I have been hiking in Hot Springs National Park I witnesses squirrels searching for liquid via human sources. First a Squirrel hopped past me carrying a lid with a red straw, it sat down and feverishly started licking trying to get all the liquid.  As I was observing the first Squirrel with the straw another Squirrel strolled past with a cup.  The straw, lid and cup appeared to have at one time contained a coffee beverage. Above me another Squirrel comes down a Tree to watch, we glance at each other then continued to stare.

Now the serious stuff… when you visit Hot Springs National Park PLEASE use the garbage receptacles! They are specially designed to keep curious wildlife from obtaining human food and garbage.  These are not cartoons Squirrels as depicted in “Over the Hedge” and “Hoodwinked“.  In the wild a squirrel plus caffeine could be fatal not funny. Thank You!

Much Love to ALL!
Lee


Wildlife, Wildflowers and Magnolias in a Lovely Spring Morning

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I Love heading into the Forest before the sun has crested Hot Springs Mountain.  It is a world of shadow and half light where Nature is waking from her slumber.  I knew it was going to be a perfect morning when I immediately spot an old friend, Bob the Squirrel.  I call her Bob because sometime before we met 3 years ago a portion of her tail had been removed (bobbed).  Her survival skills and parenting have always made her a welcome site.

As I head up the mountain I find 2 clusters of Daisy Fleabane waving in the cool breeze. On the Carriage Road I have the feeling I am not alone.  Looking up I expect to see a bird, but it is instead a lovely Squirrel hanging upside down watching me.  By the steps heading up the Dead Chief Trail a single blue Asiatic Dayflower glows by a steam vent.

The soft glow of Yellow Sunflowers dot the trail edges as the sun lightly illuminates the way forward. Two purple Asters are peeking out from sparse greenery.  The Short Cut Trail is slowly awakening as light begins to caress the canopy. At the top of the Mountain I am taken by the gentle rustling of the Leaves, a soft morning melody. It is a peaceful hike around the eastern side of Hot Springs Mountain, I had forgotten how beautiful the trail is in the first light.

When I reach the north side the sun is beginning to reach over and bird song leads me to a tiny Carolina Chickadee. An adult and juvenile Blue Jay are supervising flight training of a lovely little fledgling.  It is beautiful watching them diving in and out of the Pine Trees calling to one and other.  While I am enjoying the show my camera battery goes dead so I change it out.  As I snap in the battery I glance to my side and see a glowing shape on the trail ahead of me.  Standing illuminated in a single patch of bright light it take me moment to realize it is a Deer.  A lovely Doe has been watching me and after several seconds she gracefully trots off into the Forest.

I head home down the Floral Trail and take another tour past the lovely Magnolia… it has been a beautiful morning in the Forest.

Love to ALL!
Lee


Mockingbird Babies, Magnolias and May Looks Like August

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There are 10 days left in May and we are into our 2nd week of 90+ temperatures.  Spring Wildflowers barely had time to bloom in early April before the heat took over and they withered. Bird numbers appear to be lower in most areas in the park, but Lizard and Turtle numbers are up. Magnolia leaves are loosing their glossy deep green and now are olive or a toasted brown color.

Today I decided to try and get a few Southern Magnolia photographs before they all turn brown.  As I was hiking from Tree to Tree I noticed the park service was watering all the small decorative foliage in the groomed areas of the park.  This is not the first time I have seen them do this, but usually it happens late in the summer, not spring.  The usually lush spring green grasses have already dried and small Trees are loosing their Leaves.

The fragile delicate balance needs us to stop heating our planet Earth…  I am already planning my fire escape routes for every trail before I hike. We really need some rain to feed the Forest!

On a brighter note Nature still has wonderful surprises even on the hottest days.  I found a few lovely creamy Southern Magnolias and watched a lovely Mockingbird flight school for new offspring.  Nature calls to my Heart to come and see her beauty…

Love to ALL!
Lee


Reptiles Rule in Hot Springs National Park

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I decide to hike to a location in Hot Springs National Park that has a lower visitor count. It is my hope the Fordyce/Ricks Pond and the Sunset Trail will have an abundance of Wildflowers.  The heat this spring has sorely limited the number of Wildflowers blooming along the most accessible trails in the park.

Unexpectedly the only blooms I can locate around the pond turn out to be an alien invader… a domestic pink Tea Rose.  The pond is low and murky, the Striped Bass are barely visible even in the sunlight.  The shell to shell line of Turtles that usually line the exposed logs basking in the sun are scarce.  The usually abundant Dragonflies are not present either, the most hopeful sign is a swarm of gnats.

Further into the Forest on the Sunset Trail only tattered single Wildflowers appear on the trail edges.  The usually encompassing canopy has many gaps and it seems too bright in the early morning light. I miss being wrapped in the dark green of past late springs. Even broad Leaf evergreen Trees are dropping there leaves covering the trail as if it were Autumn.

As I photograph and stare wistfully at a Black-Eyed Susan I have the feeling I am being watched.  Slowly turning I see a sweet face peeking at me from the top of an old stump.   A tiny Five-Lined Skink is watching me,  after I take couple of photos he/she vanishes.  As I take a step forward past the stump I see the beautiful blue tail of my new friend.  It calmly stretches its full exposed body until we are eye to eye.  I am surprised it is not moving it’s bright blue tail to lure me from seeing the lovely striped face.

Another half mile along the trail, still no sign of birds or small mammals and only a distant huff of a deer.  Nearing the top of the ridge I spot a lovely turtle walking toward me.  She stops momentarily unsure of my presence, then pokes her head back out continuing past me to the edge of the trail.  Stopping to look back at me I am taken by the beauty of her markings and the lack of damage to her shell.  Living off the beaten path has offered her some protection.  The shells of most of the turtle on Hot Springs, North and West Mountains always seem to have damage including canine teeth punctures. This is becoming the year of reptiles in Hot Springs National Park.

I am concerned the extreme heat will add an extra layer of combustibility to the Forest.  If you are out in the park this spring/summer please don’t smoke.

Love to ALL!
Lee


The Global Warming: The Canary in the Coal Mine has Purple Petals

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It is the hottest year on record in the United States (USAToday). In Arkansas our winter lasted about 10 days then we began a cycle of above normal record breaking temperatures.  The Cherry and Magnolia Trees  began to bud and bloom in February and March.  In DC they had to moved the Cherry Blossom Festival ahead several weeks.   It is currently mid May and I discovered Asters blooming, usually they appear in Hot Springs National Park in late summer or after the first frost of autumn.

The light in the park feels different, the color of the leaves are not the deep rich green of years past.  It is as if the new foliage was unable to fully open and complete the upper canopy.  The overly bright heated Forest floor has created the perfect landscape for the park reptiles.  I have seen more snakes, box turtles and lizards in the first 4 months of this year than in the past two years combined.

Although this is only one small eco-system it is obvious the Forest is undergoing a dramatic climate change.  What have you noticed in your part of our precious planet?

Love to ALL!
Lee


Wings and Wildflowers Under the Spring Canopy

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As beauty unfurls beneath the Spring canopy as I am wrapped in Nature’s embrace.  Blue wings of Asiatic Dayflowers spread out before my feet and the radiant glow of Lance Leaf Coreopsis light the path before me.  A male Summer Tanager sings above in feathers transitioning from green to red.  Warming in the the morning sun Mourning Cloak and Red Spotted Purple Butterflies stretching their wings along the trail edges.  Gently the Forest coaxes my senses and I am once more at peace.

Love to ALL!
Lee


Pink Fire lights up my hike on West Mountain

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“When we think we have discovered the meaning of life it changes as the Universe smiles.” ~ Lee Hiller-London

To every season… my first year hiking I saw no Pink Fire blossoms, my second year one cluster and this year there are clusters everywhere.  They glow with radiant beauty along the edge of the darkening spring Forest. Each day Nature redecorates the trails so no matter how many times I hike it feels new. It is a blessing to see creation…

Love to ALL!
Lee

PS Special Thank You to my beloved husband Rick for hiking in the brutal humidity with me <3


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