Field Notes: January 22 2011
It was a “will I” or “won’t I” hike morning, “I will” of course won out. Nature rewarded my efforts to overcome my indecision with the sighting of many beautiful creatures. I arrived at the Peak Trail as a mother Blue Jay was installing her Chick in a Tree. It sat bravely and silently perched in the sunlight pressed closely against a branch. Interestingly I was not alone watching this event, a Northern Mockingbird was intently surveying the situation. Never getting too close it hopped up the Tree and walked across a branch to look at the Blue Jay Chick. Once satisfied with the situation the Mockingbird found it’s own higher perch and sat quietly basking in the morning sun.
I headed up the Peak Trail to the stone wall hoping to see a Chipmunk, sadly there were none in sight. Passed a large Rock and remembered it was the first place I had seen/photographed a Carolina Wren (Moss, Lichen, Fungus and a Carolina Wren). Lost in the beauty and memories of past trail visits a flash of white brought me back to the present. Just past the mid way point to the top three Whitetail Deer where staring at me from below the trail edge. I often spot the three Does between west side of the Hot Springs Mountain Trail over to the Short Cut Trail. This was the first time they had stopped long enough for me to take a photograph. Normally all I ever see is a trio of white tails bounding into the Forest cover. I suspect one of these Does is the responsible for bumping my lens hood when we had a near miss during a recent trail crossing (A Mixed Flock Of Little Birds and a Near Miss).
Near the top of the trail a flock of lovely Carolina Chickadees arrived, their happy Bird Song filled the cold crisp winter air. The tiny winged songsters are in fine form swinging on branches, singing and pipping a beautiful tune. As I cross the Hot springs Mountain picnic area I can hear more birds singing on the Short Cut Trail. When I reach the top of the path I can see another favorite songster, the Black-Capped Chickadee. They too are hanging on the finer branches with acrobatic grace.
It is a beautiful hike along the Hot Springs Mountain Trail, the Trees are dark sculptures shaped by storms past. I travel down the Honeysuckle and Floral Trails as I head down to the Hot Springs Mountain Road. As I am walking down the road out of the park I hear a commotion to my right. I cross the road and look over the creek at North Mountain, it is hard not to giggle out loud.
On the south side of North Mountain I can see at least 20 (closer to 25) individual Chipmunks. They are running along downed Trees, diving in Leaves, sitting on Rocks and popping up out of burrow holes. Considering I had not seen a Chipmunk for several weeks this was a surprise. I believe the cause of the population explosion is a male Chipmunk guarding several burrow entrances. There is no polite way to put this, I have never seen a Chipmunk with this large a set of testicles. Now that he created his new over-sized family he is fighting to hold onto his own burrow. Prior to this moment I had only seen four Chipmunks on North Mountain, at least this group has room to spread out and multiple.