Archive for October, 2011

We are now past peak here in Murray Valley, although there a still pockets of great color in protected areas. This trend should continue all week with good weather forecasted, and very cool mornings. I expect the hills and mountains to be fairly rusty by next weekend (lots of orange and brown), with still pockets of bright colors scattered in some locations. The temperature reached 30 this morning near Parthenon  and there was another heavy frost and possibly a short hard freeze after 4 AM this Monday morning. These photos by my sister.

Murray ValleyHeavy Monday morning frost


Heavy frost Monday




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Here in the Boston Mountains the color has peaked; probably Friday or Saturday. Lots of color still exists in general and pockets of peak color still exist. I understand that the more eastern portion of the mountains still has great color; maybe the best ever ….. and this in spite of dire predictions of a colorless autumn due to record high and continuous HOT temperatures, drought, and periodical cicadas. Here are two pictures from Sunday October 30; one from Haw Creek and one from Steele Creek:

Haw Creek

steele creek; the drive in

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Just a photo taken on the 26th of October in the rain:


autumn rain



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Singing one of the loudest songs per volume of bird, the Carolina Wren’s “tea-kettle, tea-kettle, tea-kettle” is familiar across the South. It is a common bird in urban areas, and is more likely to nest in a hanging plant or jar or tin can, than in a birdhouse. Those at my home on Murray road have used the underside of the LP Gas tank cap twice this year. They are sassy and fun to watch at all times. In Arkansas they are year round residents.

Nest Description

Nest a domed cup with a side entrance. Nest bulky and made of bark strips, dried grasses, dead leaves, hair, feathers, paper, plastic, or string. Placed in tree cavity, vine tangle, dense branches, or artificial site such as a mailbox, up to 10 feet above ground, rarely higher.
  • The Carolina Wren is sensitive to cold weather, with the northern populations decreasing markedly after severe winters. The gradually increasing winter temperatures over the last century may have been responsible for the northward range expansion seen in the mid-1900s.
  • Unlike other wren species in its genus, only the male Carolina Wren sings the loud song. In other species, such as the Stripe-breasted Wren of Central America, both members of a pair sing together. The male and female sing different parts, and usually interweave their songs such that they sound like a single bird singing.
  • One captive male Carolina Wren sang nearly 3,000 times in a single day.
  • A pair bond may form between a male and a female at any time of the year, and the pair will stay together for life. Members of a pair stay together on their territory year-round, and forage and move around the territory together.
Here are some 2011 of my 2011 photos:

carolina wren singing

Carolina Wren in a safe place on a Black Locust

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A assuming an Ivory-billed woodpecker is still present in east central Arkansas (I believe there is), the Pileated woodpecker is our second largest and and second most showy woodpecker. I believe the red-headed woodpecker to be more beautiful and colored much like an Ivory-bill woodpecker.  They are also quite common the the mountains of northwest Arkansas along rivers and streams and in the highlands too. Most people are familiar with their “jungle” call.

NOTE: Pileated Woodpeckers are common and of Least Concern; except for our state of Arkansas: Pileated Woodpecker populations declined greatly with the clearing of the eastern forests. The species rebounded in the middle 20th century, and has been increasing slowly but steadily in most of its range. Only in Arkansas do numbers seem to be going down.

These pictures, taken last spring, give a closeup look at three male (red stripe on his cheek) and two females (brown on forehead and  face); but otherwise they look much the same; with a bright red cockade.

  • The Pileated Woodpecker digs characteristically rectangular holes in trees to find ants. These excavations can be so broad and deep that they can cause small trees to break in half.
  • A Pileated Woodpecker pair stays together on its territory all year round. It will defend the territory in all seasons, but will tolerate floaters during the winter.
  • The feeding excavations of a Pileated Woodpecker are so extensive that they often attract other birds. Other woodpeckers, as well as House Wrens, may come and feed there.
  • The Pileated Woodpecker prefers large trees for nesting. In young forests, it will use any large trees remaining from before the forest was cut. Because these trees are larger than the rest of the forest, they present a lightning hazard to the nesting birds.
Photos taken by me:
male Pileated Woodpecker

male Pileated Woodpecker and past drillings

male Pileated Woodpecker starting a new drilling

female Pileated Woodpecker surrounded by termites

female Pileated Woodpecker tearing up a log

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Refections in the late morning sun. This is the usual put-in point for Class I-II floats on the upper River. Picture taken last week:

upstream from the Ponca crossing

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A cool morning will lead to fog and then some needed rain:

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The Red Shouldered Hawk in a forest dwelling hawk. Most common along streams and creeks in the Boston Mountains. I have seen several along the Little Buffalo River hunting frogs and crawfish.

Adult Description

  • Medium-sized to large hawk.
  • Wings and tail striped black and white.
  • Underparts barred reddish.
  • Pale crescent near wingtips in flight.

Immature Description

Juvenile in East streaked brown and white on underside, brown above, tail with dark and light brown bands, wing crescent tawny. Juvenile in West similar to adult, with more barring than streaking on underside and distinct tail banding.
These photos taken in 2011:
Red Shouldered Hawk
Red Shouldered Hawk
Red Shouldered Hawk

Red Shouldered Hawk

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Arkansas is the on far southern end of the sugar maple distribution map. A stripe of sugar maples exists in Newton County isn the Boston Mountains. There are many types of maples in NW Arkansas. The Hard maples are: Sugar Maple and Black Maple (rare); the Red and Silver and Big Leaf Maple are part of the Soft Maple sub-group as is the Box Elder (common). All are found in Boston Mountain locations but the Soft Maple are more common along the creeks and streams.

Black Maple in color change

Sugar Maple in an Oak-Hickory Grove

Under most circumstances, it’s usually possible to determine with a fair degree of certainty whether any given piece of wood is Hard or Soft Maple using the two previous tips; yet it can be nearly impossible to determine the exact species of Soft Maple just by looking at the wood, or even weighing it.

To achieve such refinement in identification, one of the best things to do is look at the leaves of the maple tree in question. (This option is obviously only available if you still have access to the living tree, and you are contemplating having it milled into lumber.) Below is a chart showing illustrations (and some scans) of maple leaves of various species, along with descriptions of their size and characteristics. While there are literally thousands of species of maple in the world, with numerous hybrids and cultivars, the list below should help to identify the most common ones.


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Photo taken 10/15/11 near the Little Buffalo River not far from Parthenon. They are harvesting and storing White Oak acorns:

Red-headed woodpecker near Parthenon, Ar.

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