Exploring Nature One Step At A Time

Posts tagged “Gray Catbird

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!

A Hiking Break Between Tornadoes, Storms and Flooding

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The past few weeks have been my first living with the threat of tornadoes.  Engulfed in thunder storms, hail and heavy rain we have not been able to get out into the Forests and Mountains that surround our home.  So when I discovered there was a 4 hour window in the morning of moderate weather I grabbed my boots and headed out for a hike.

Although my cell phone is suppose to ring me when there is an elevation in the weather alert system I tend to trust my eyes.   I have a plan for distance and time that will bring home safely before the storms reach us.  A Male Cardinal sits on a branch looking out toward West Mountain as I reach the Peak Trail via the Tufa Terrace.  On the Carriage Road the Squirrels are high in the Trees screeching out a warning.  They appear to be railing at the sky for the wind, rain and lightning that has bombarded the park for several weeks.

I reach the Dead Chief Trail as another Male Cardinal is singing a sweet song trying to beckon the sun to come out. He is unsuccessful.  The hike up the trail is much better than I expected as often heavy rain will carve a channel into the rock and dirt surface.  When I reach the Short Cut Trail I hear an unfamiliar bird call and turn to see a Juvenile Blue Grosbeak.  Another call rings out and a Male Cardinal appears, the third I have seen this morning.  The many vibrant red Cardinals are spectacular perched within the gorgeous spring greenery.

On the second rise of the Short Cut Trail clusters of leaves are strewn across the path.  The wind definitely came up this part of the Mountain, as I reach the top I see a tree that has been twisted and bent over (see Hot Springs National Park – Twisted Bent Tree – Microburst, Tornado or…?).

The skies are darkening as I step into the Hot Springs Mountain pagoda and look out over the valley.  I decide it is best to continue at a quicker pace as I am unsure how quickly any storm cells will form over the park.  A sweet Chipmunk stops briefly on a log as I move along the Hot Springs Mountain Trail.  I am pleased to see many new steams have filled and cross the path, water is life!  A loud bird call reveals a lovely Gray Catbird in the mist ahead of me. As I finish taking a photograph a not so friendly reminder of spring smacks me in the forehead.  As I feel the burning it is already too late, I pull from my face a huge winged stinging insect.  Not the greeting I have expected or wanted to announce bug season has begun.

Near the trail head I can see a Tree laying across my path, it is sad to another lost life in the Forest. The saturated soil could not hold its roots against the storms of the past week and it was uprooted.  On the North Mountain leg of the trail there is little or no sign of the high winds of the previous evening.  Only the sound of running water in the distance reminds me of the volume of rain which has fallen in the park.  A lovely Tufted Titmouse, a Male and Female Cardinals are all foraging for food before the storms return.

I connect with the Honeysuckle Trail then the Floral to make my way back home.  Just over three hours have passed and I want to be home safe before the next storm warning.  A sweet Male House Sparrow and a baby Squirrel guide me out of park, it is a perfect end to my much need hike in the Forest.   I can see my beloved husband Rick is relieved and happy as I walk in the door… I am a very lucky woman.

Love to ALL!

It’s Spring Nesting, Nurturing and a New Bird

Promenade Baby Northern Mockingbird

Promenade HSRC Fence Northern Mockingbird Berry

It is the first morning in a while that I could see the Mountain clearly, no rain and no fog. A perfect hiking day mild temperatures and patchy skies.  As I enter the park I notice the fragrant air does not feel as heavy, it makes breathing much easier.  Even though the humidity is lower the pollen count is high and the city is covered in it’s yellow dust.  I feel blessed, for the first time in my life I am not suffering from allergies including those related to pollen.

At the beginning of the The Tufa Terrace is a delightful cluster of Fungi.  Little gray and brown umbrellas nestled around an old stump. Spectacular new Wild Roses are appearing every day along the terrace, their beauty a perfect start to my morning.  I hear a noise above and look up to see a yellow and white Fixed Wing Single-Engine 1969 CESSNA flying over the park. The sky is a perfect Arkansas Blue, the view from above must be amazing.

As I connect with the Carriage Road I hear this odd bird call, it sounds like a screeching cat.  When I stop to listen more carefully it switches to a series of tones similar to a Northern Mocking Bird.  As I head up the Dead Chief Trail I see a male Cardinal and a dark unknown bird.  The male Cardinal is doing his best impression of a crooner singing to the rising morning sun.  Suddenly the dark bird (I learn later is a Gray Catbird) sings and I know now this is the bird I have been hearing the past week along the Carriage Road.

When I reach the Short Cut Trail I can hear another male Cardinal and spot him in a Tree up ahead.  Although not coming close he does stay visible, moving so I can clearly see him.  Movement below and his motives are revealed,  a female Cardinal is gathering leaves in her beak for nesting.  The male has been acting as a decoy until she can get safely back to their nest.

I hike across the mountain top over to the Hot Springs Mountain Trail.  Lovely Wild Roses are appearing along the trail in two glorious shades of pink.  The green of the trail is lush, its color reflects on everything along the path.  There are times in the forest I feel as if I am being followed, this was one of those moments.  It has been so quiet and I cannot immediately locate my companion in the Trees.  A flicker in the leaves, a large Blue Jay is moving slowly along the path.  Usually the Blue Jays are noisy warning the Forest of my presence, today I am being quietly observed.  The dense green leaf cover has given it perfect camouflage.  I am thankful to have this guide moving through the Forest with me.

When I reach the Honeysuckle Trail I decide to head over to “The Wedding Chapel”, to sit and listen to the birds.  For the first time I decide to take photos from the inside. Looking at the rock pillar in the back corner I start to giggle, I never realized it looks like a Tiki totem.  This is the perfect place to sit for a moment, close my eyes and soak in the beautiful song of the Forest.  Later as I slowly open my eyes I see a lovely Black Swallowtail Butterfly gliding along on a delicate breeze.

I count my blessings as I head down the Floral Trail, it is glorious in the Forest this morning.  When I reach the Fountain Street Wall at the Fountain Trail I see a Squirrel foraging in the clover and another in a Tree. Two male  Robins are battling over territory as a female gathers nesting materials below.   I turn to see I have been noticed, a squirrel is walking along the wall right toward me, I have been made.

On the promenade the the birds are singing and in the Trees I can hear the chirping of babies waiting for food.  Above me a Northern Mockingbird land on the Light post above me.  It twists it’s head and looks at me with a single eye, then flies over to a nearby Berry Tree. From there it lands on the fence that boarders the Hot Springs Rehabilitation Hospital, below a baby waits for a feeding.  Two House Sparrows sit watching  between the spears of the fence.  A sweet female House Sparrow lands on the fence to my right with a blade of glass in her beak.

At the entrance I stop to take a deep breath filling my senses with the sweet perfume of Magnolias.  Thank You for following me through the Park today, I Love knowing you are there.

In Nature we are cradled in the infinite beauty of the Universe.
Love to You ALL!


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