As I enter the park today and head up the Tufa Terrace Trail I spot several piles Northern Mockingbird feathers. I cannot see any blood, yet cannot imagine this sweet creature surviving with this many feathers lost. Sadly the only predators in the park that could have done this would be either a feral Cat or Human. The feathers appear to have been plucked rather than ripped off with skin. As I reach the top of the Tufa Terrace there is an unnatural silence, it is as if there is a moment of silence for the loss of one of the winged family members.
At the entrance and exit to the Hot Springs Mountain Road I was serenaded by Northern Mockingbirds. This lifted some of the pain I experienced at the sight of the feathers strewn about on the Tufa Terrace. I feel a mix of emotions while I am hiking. The sadness of a life loss and the joy of seeing those still living.
It’s early morning and I spot a squirrel dumpster diving, well it is really garbage can diving. The receptacle sits below an Oak Tree and it catches all the falling acorns, the squirrel carefully fishes them out. Judging by the look on its face I am an unexpected witness. Adaptation means survival, the squirrel population exploded in the lower areas of the park.
When is a feral Cat not feral? There is a lovely cat living on the ground of the old Gothic hospital, I cannot tell if it is a pet of some of the employees living on site. I have captured photographs of this cat hunting in the park, yet when I come near it there is not the normal fear. This time after taking photos it meowed at me as I walked away, this cat needs to stay out of the park. In the area I have seen it hunting the rabbits have vanished, as have the chipmunks, squirrels and bird populations are down by half. This is a cat in serious need of a relocation. A barn ratter would be an excellent occupation for uncollared cat.
I am new to world of Dragonflies, should I be surprised to see them all over the park? We have had many nights of below freezing temperatures, not sure why I thought this might end their cycle of life. We had a little warm up today so perhaps they all woke from a sweet cold slumber.
Wonderful discovery, a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers on the Upper Dogwood Trail. High, very high above me I spot a male and female feasting on berries. The female stays in the Tree for several minutes after the male leaves. She does a delicate dance holding on to the thin branch as it blows in the wind. Later the male returns landing in a nearby Short Leaf Pine and I can see the lovely red markings near his beak.
On the Lower Dogwood Trail I hear a familiar call and see a juvenile Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker. It is hopping up and down the Tree pecking and pipping, I am so blessed to witness Nature’s changing face as the seasons transition from one to another. As I hike out of the Forest I am stuck by how fast the autumn Leaves are falling from the Trees. Winter is nearing.
I am thankful for the chance to hike in Hot Springs National Park and the new lens that has allowed me to see more of its lovely creatures. I am blessed to have an amazingly understanding husband, my beloved Rick London and his faith in my reignited passion for Nature photography.
Get Out and play, breath in the air and feel Nature’s blessings.