Archive for October, 2012

That was my HALLOWEEN scare, almost had a heart attack !! Haven’t seen many of these guys around for about 18 months; they have become overly scarce. A dozen years ago I could hear them all summer long calling “BOB WHITE”; not any more. The colors have peaked here in the Murray Valley and the Parthenon Valley although there is still some color in the protected pockets in the valleys. The beech-nut trees (Beeches) are still beautiful with an orange-rust- yellow mix …… and there are many beeches here is these valleys. I just cut the lawn for the final tim this year and I have about 12-15 bluebirds house hunting and catching insects; they are fooled by today’s warm-up and it is supposed to be in the 70s-80s all week here with lows in the 40s-50s — can’t beat it. As the summer grasses die out the Orchard Grass and Winter Wheat and Ladino Clover green up !

It is hazy today in the valley but morning clouds have given way to a bright blue sky.


Unable to upload photos due to Hurricane Sandy.



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Late last September I drove to Spy Rock for a look down into the Mulberry River valley; there were signs of bears. I’ll be returning next week to the same spot for another panorama (made of 4 pictures – stitched together) — Click to enlarge:

Spy Rock Overlook on September 26th

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The History of Arkansas Elk:

Elk were once common throughout North America, including Arkansas. Due to decreasing habitat, their numbers slowly dwindled. The species of Elk that was native to Arkansas (Cerrus elaphus canadensis) disappeared in the 1840.In 1933, the U.S. Forest Service introduced Rocky Mountain elk (Cersus elaphus nelsoni) in Franklin County’s Black Mountain Refuge. These guys were also gone by the 1950s.In 1981, Arkansas Game and Fish decided to try again. During the years between 1981 and 1985, 112 elk were released near Pruitt in Newton County, along the Buffalo National River.

Arkansas Elk Today:

A thermal infrared sensing project initiated in 1994 provided precise information on elk numbers and distribution. In February and March 1994, 312 elk were counted in areas normally surveyed by helicopter which included public and adjacent private land along the upper and middle sections of the Buffalo River, some National Forest land and private land in portions of Boone and Carroll Counties. In 2011 there were close to 1000 Elk in Arkansas. You can also stop at the Ponca Elk Center on Arkansas Highway 43 in Newton County to get information.

Time of Day to see Elk:

In general, elk are out in the fields at sunup and sundown. I’ve been told that during the summer, they normally retreat to the woods around 6:30 a.m. and come out around 5-6 p.m. During the cooler months, you may get to see them until 8 a.m. in the morning or 4 p.m. at night.

Times of Year to see Elk:

Late September and early October are when elk are breeding (rut). This is the favorite time for wildlife watchers, because the bulls are very active. Calves are born in May and June. The young babies are very hard to spot because the females keep them hidden. Male antlers fall off during February and March. During spring and summer, they’re covered with a velvety coating. They polish them for the rut in the winter.

Elk Viewing Tips:

The land in Boxley Valley is not public. Be courteous and respectful of private property. Drive slowly (you need to anyway because the path is curved). Don’t spend too much time in one place. There are often other elk down the road. Elk are wild animals and can be dangerous, especially during rut. Do not try to chase or restrain them.

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Along the BRT near Ponca:


Maples and Beeches on the BRT

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This week a good bunch of Hermit Thrushes have come through the area between Murray Road and the Little Buffalo River. Saw them last November also and I always see a good bunch migrating to the north in April. They live up to their names — because I only see one at a time; unlike Wood Thrushes, which seem to migrate in groups. Taken with my Canon 7D and a Canon 400 f/4 DO IS lens at f/4 on a very blustery day. These birds do winter in Arkansas during warmer winters.

They are unassuming birds with a lovely, melancholy song, the Hermit Thrush lurks in the understories of far northern forests in summer and is a frequent winter companion across much of the country. It forages on the forest floor by rummaging through leaf litter or seizing insects with its bill. The Hermit Thrush has a rich brown upper body and smudged spots on the breast, with a reddish tail that sets it apart from similar species in its genus.

  • Size & Shape

    Hermit Thrushes have a chunky shape similar to an American Robin, but smaller. They stand upright, often with the slender, straight bill slightly raised. Like other thrushes, the head is round and the tail fairly long.

  • Color Pattern

    The Hermit Thrush is rich brown on the head and back, with a distinctly warm, reddish tail. The underparts are pale with distinct spots on the throat and smudged spots on the breast. With a close look you may see a thin pale eyering (not a bold one).

  • Behavior

    Hermit Thrushes hop and scrape in leaf litter while foraging. They perch low to the ground on fallen logs and shrubs, often wandering into open areas such as forest clearings or trails. Sometimes a Hermit Thrush will cock its tail and bob it slowly, while flicking its wings.

  • Habitat

    Look for Hermit Thrushes in forest understories, especially around edges or openings.

    October Hermit Thrush

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A year old photo at the 2011 color apex:


Boxley Mill Pond in late October 2011

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Fresh off the Tornado Watch on yesterday, I was searching for other severe weather events in the area this year. On July 19th, this past summer, I’ve been to told a tornado touched down in the Smith Creek Reserve; or about 3 miles west of my home. For me, 3 miles west of Parthenon, it was a severe storm (un-predicted by the NWS); no warning was issued. On the tails of a hot (104F) day with high dew-points (75 degrees); the temperature reached 102F at 5 PM; at the simultaneous time; the falling barometer bottomed out at 29.71 and the windspeed hit 28 MPH in a downpour. Rains feel between 5 and 7 PM recording 0.50. The cloud to ground lightning was continuous and just west; I could view a very dark and lowering thunderstorm cloud to the west also; but it never reached Murray Road.

The NWS still issued no warnings but did issue a Special Weather Statement for the Lost Valley Area, to my northwest of me.

Murray Road Weather Station readouts 7/19/12

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The Hurricane Wilderness lies about 20 miles south of my home base in Newton County, AR. The colors are really peaking earlier than I thought, and with storms tonight and winds to 40 MPH from the northwest forecast on Thursday, this may be the peak day.


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Color is coming early this year to the Boston mountains compared to last years November 1-4 date. This is a photo of the color change at Steel Creek on the Buffalo River below Ponca just after sun up:


Dawn at Steel Creek



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As mid October approaches, and last year peak in the Boston Mountains was slightly earlier than the normal and very colorful too (in a drought year); I am looking to the last week of October, again, and maybe as late as November 3-4 in the more sheltered areas; coves, gulfs, and hidden valleys, and sheltered creek valleys.

from 2cooly’s fabulous web-site on fall foliage 

2012 Color Potential

We have been watching individual and groups of drought-stricken trees which had suffered obvious drought stress. Leaves were pale green, or even yellowish. Some trees had brown, dried-up leaves, which shows those trees had gone dormant. However, after the rains MANY OF THESE TREES RECOVERED!

Those trees with the pale green or yellow leaves turned normal green again. Ever have a house plant that wilted because you forgot to water it? When you watered it the plant returned to normal within a few hours. Same for trees in a forest.

Moreover, the acorn crop is heavy this year. Acorns and other nuts are everywhere. Forest animals will eat well this fall! Stressed trees do NOT produce heavy acorn amounts.

There WILL be good fall color this year – provided we get the right temperature and sunlight conditions. Cool nights in the low 40’s and upper 30’s, with sunny days in the mid 50’s or low 60’s is what we need. As long as leaves are green there will be color – IF we get the right temperature and sunlight conditions.

Watch For False Starts

Fall 2012 will be our 15th consecutive year of reporting on area fall foliage. From that experience we can say that in mid-October there will usually be a cold spell. Foliage will begin to turn very nicely, then all of a sudden here comes a warm front with cloudy days. That stalls the color turn. Where color ends up depends on how long that warm front hangs around. This happens almost every year, but not all years. We get the best fall color when the weather turns cold, and stays cold, for two weeks. This happens about once every 5 to 8 years. This is why we believe it is a fool’s game to try to predict color intensity more than a week in advance!

Long Term Trip Planning For Peak

While we don’t predict color intensity more than a week in advance, we can say for sure that, barring some real freak of nature, whatever the color level is to be, it will happen in the last week of October into the first few days of November. This has been true for all 14 years we have reported. All of the photos on our site where taken in that time frame.

However, keep in mind that from mid October on there will be color. Foliage in the Ozarks starts at low elevations and moves “uphill” over a three week period. So if you can’t make it during the last week of October for peak, that does not mean you can’t see color at all. You will. You’ll see grand color on individual trees, or small stands of trees. In fact this color tends to be more intense in places than the peak. What we call “Peak” is simply the most color on the most trees at the same time. But if you want that intense color that really “WOWS!” you ( and that is what we personally like the most), you can experience that any time from mid October through the peak.

HOWEVER! As long as the leaves are still GREEN there can be plenty of color IF the fall temperature and light conditions are right.

Remember: Year 2011 was also a drought year. Yet we saw some the best color here in many years in fall of 2011.

for more go here:



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