When I awoke the Weather Chanel informed me low temperatures had returned to Hot Springs, so I gathered up my cold weather gear. Out the door and into the park early, I could sense things were not as they were yesterday. The birds appeared to be flying into every low bush they could find, not basking in the first sunlight of the tallest trees. I glanced across to West Mountain and saw a large bird flying just above the tree line. What appeared to be a large hawk then banked heading straight for Hot Springs Mountain. As he/she flew over I was able to get a single photo before they vanished over the trees on the mountain top. I knew it would be a VERY long time before the small animals and birds came out from their hiding places so I continued my hike to the top of Hot Springs Mountain.
All the way to the top it was silent accept for an occasional bird call off in the distance. When I arrived at the Pagoda for my daily view shot all was still silent. As I raised my camera a Hawk flew into view it was spectacular. I often stand for 30 or minutes waiting for a large bird to soar past and generally walk away with nothing. Today I was blessed with two separate sightings.
I decided to hike over to Goat Rock and headed down Hot Springs Mountain Trail. During the Icy cold mornings late in December and in early January I would see only one other person when I was hiking. Today I introduced myself to hiking regular Robert (formerly of Colorado). He kindly imparted lots of information about what I should look for as the seasons change. He headed out on the trail as I continued my search for birds.
I ran into Robert again as I headed down the Gulpha Gorge Trail and we were joined by Cynthia and Teddy (Great Pyrenees). They were visiting from Chicago, Illinois for the racing season at Woodlawn. We all chatted parted company and headed out on our separate hiking trails.
It was a beautiful day and the view from Goat Rock was Spectacular and I sat for a while at the lookout enjoying the view. I decided to continue my hike by heading back up the Gulpha Gorge Trail to the North Mountain Overlook. The sky was an amazing blue and in the distance an Turkey Vulture slipped behind a ridge top. I stood there for 5 minutes and was rewarded with a spectacular display of two Turkey Vultures flying in tandem. This was my first experience trying to keep two birds in frame and not step off the edge of the overlook and crash down onto the Upper Dogwood Trail. Only one brave chipmunk had slipped out for a moment and I was please to see him/her safely return to their burrow.
I headed home via the Upper Dogwood Trail and the wind was punishing and it continued on Hot Spring Mountain and Honeysuckle Trails. My amazing day finished with a look out my window at my mountain as another large bird road the wind across the ridge top. The Raptors had been like surfers catching the perfect wave and not wanting to go home till darkness fell. Who could blame them.
Love to You All, Lee