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Archive for November, 2012

A redheaded woodpecker in the Murray Valley caching acorns meats. He/she will protect them for the next 3-4 months. These woodpeckers are becoming scarce because their feeding areas are disappearing. They need large stands of elms, hackberries, and other mature bottom tree species.

 

redheaded woodpecker caching acorns

 

 

 

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A review of park operations has resulted in a revision of the reduction in services decision announced two weeks ago. A dramatic outpouring of concern and support for Buffalo National River was received via telephone, email, and various social media with offers of volunteer assistance. Significantly, there was little anger at the initial decision to close developed campgrounds, but there was a great deal of frustration coming from the user groups who make the most of the park during it’s “off” season. Winter hikers and horseback riders were the most vocal in their concern that their favorite outdoor activities would have to be reconfigured around the closures.

As a response to this interest and concern Superintendent Kevin Cheri has, with the input of his field staff, decided to try a more limited closure. Those facilities that will be closed are Kyles Landing, Erbie Campground, all sites at Tyler Bend, and Shine Eye. The restroom near the Hwy 14 Bridge at Dillard’s Ferry will be closed. Other campsites will see a reduction in services which translates to less frequent servicing of restrooms and trash collection. The only river access point affected by this decision will be the put-in at Erbie which will be closed along with the campground.

All day use areas and trail-head restrooms will remain open throughout the winter. Other camping facilities that will remain open include Steel Creek Campground and Horsecamp, Erbie Horsecamp, Ozark, Carver, Mount Hersey, Woolum, Bakers Ford, Grinders Ferry, Gilbert Launch, Maumee North, Maumee South, Spring Creek, Loop B of Buffalo Point, and Rush. Erbie Horsecamp will be made available to all campers.

Photo below is of Erbie Access on the upper Buffalo River, on November 6th, this last week (Click to Enlarge):

Erbie Crossing on the Buffalo River on 11/5/12

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This YouTube Video posted last year is such an interesting perspective of the middle Murray valley. It was made as a sales presentation or a advertisement for Beckham Cave, I assume. Beckham cave is a lovely place, well known to the residents of Murray Valley and all the area around Parthenon, Arkansas. The video is a “fly around” that starts on a point of Shiloh Mountain and the copter flies down the Beckham Creek Valley and intersects the Little Buffalo River near the Tibetan Buddhist Temple and then continues east trough the valley to about the location of my home which is near the Rivendale Organic Farm on Hogshead Creek, then makes a 180 degree turn to the west back toward Beckham Creek and beyond. The video mostly shows the river valley but not the surrounding Boston Mountains. The clip is 15 minutes long and is accompanied by music. If you decide to view this video you will see many good aerial views of the world famous Little Buffalo smallmouth bass fishing water; and at higher water levels the Little Buffalo is an excellent canoeing stream:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQ_3pBYazlU

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These photos are from November 3-6, 2012, which seemed to be the second color peak the the Boston Mountains of Arkansas. The first two pictures are from the northern Boston Mountains near Ponca and the next four are from the southern Boston Mountains near Cass. Colors change from north to south:

reynolds mtn

Boxley Mill Pond

Morgan Mountain Road

Southern Boston Mountians Hare Mountain

 

Southern Boston Mountains Spyrock look off

Southern Boston Mountains Spyrock

 

 

 

 

 

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Also know as the BRT, locally. I hiked from Ponca to Steel Creek on Sunday 11/4, when turning around and facing west, I got a terrific view of the trail I had just walked over; with late afternoon light streaming through the trees and highlighting the path. The trail is pretty all year around due to the population of Beech trees which stay yellow and rust all winter. There are plenty of mosses and ferns along the trail also. This is one of the easiest and best short hikes in Arkansas (exactly 2 miles and a total climb and fall of maybe 300 feet); there is almost always a good view of the flowing river and huge rocks and bluffs. Beware, some locations on the trail are close to the edge and dangerous for children.

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view from BRT off to the north

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A photo from last Monday of a juvenile Red Tail Hawk in a tree on Highway 327 in the morning in a stiff NW breeze:

 

 

 

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Having seen the first color peak in the later part of October and feeling the 2012 color was just average; and feeling it was over for the year, a second peak occurred on Sunday 11/4 through today. During the first peak (mid-later October), the sweet gums, black gums, hickories, a few soft maples, sumac. some dogwood, and ashes got moderately pretty but never came together on the palette for a photographer. Thus year, however, a once in every 10 years even occurred; the oaks turns beautiful reds and yellow-orange starting about November 2-3, and the Sugar Maples and Beeches are at their peak giving new life to the color. It was overcast this morning which enhances overall color saturation. Unfortunately, all I had with me was my iPhone 4 for photos.  The red oak in my backyard is still going through color change today (November 6th) and it red-orange on its way to scarlet. This is NOT usual. Oaks often go from green to tan to brown.  I drove through the Parthenon Valley this morning and the overall color palette is now exceptional; the best in 4 years. I crossed the Buffalo River at Pruitt today and it was a spectacular sight upstream and down. Even the sugar maples are peaking there. This looks to be a very good week for additional colors in the eastern Boston Mountains:

Buffalo River looking west at Pruitt 11/6

Highway 7 near Marble falls 11/6

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These cute little guys are born live, not hatched, and are camouflaged as babies. I have seen 2 since November 2; likely born in late October:

 

TAXONOMY

Order: Squamata
Family: Colubridae
Genus/species: Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta

DESCRIPTION:

The common rat snake is medium-sized, averaging 42 to 72 inches (106.7 to 183 cm) in length. At the widest point of the snake’s body, its average diameter is 1.5 inches (3.8 cm). The rat snake is covered with keeled scales, and has a powerful slender body with a wedge-shaped head. The anal plate of the common rat snake is divided. A variety of subspecies is found across the United States.

The black rat snake, as the name implies, is completely black except for a white chin. Hatchlings of the black rat snake have a pale grey background with black blotches along the back. As the snake matures, the color becomes darker until the snake reaches its adult phase. Hatchlings are often mistaken for copperheads because their skin patterns are similar.
Common rat snakes tend to be shy and, if possible, will avoid being confronted. If these snakes are seen and confronted by danger, they tend to freeze and remain motionless. Some adults attempt to protect themselves. They coil their body and vibrate their tails in dead leaves to simulate a rattle. If the snakes continue to be provoked, they will strike.

Rat snakes produce a foul-smelling musk and release it on the predator if they are picked up, spreading the musk around with their tail. The musk acts as a deterrent. A few of the rat snake subspecies tend to be more aggressive. The Texas rat snake and the black rat snake are very snappy, while the yellow rat snake is more passive. When alarmed, the Everglades rat snake swims away through the swampy waters. Rat snakes are excellent swimmers.

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I drove to Ponca yesterday with my sister and her friend Karlene to see if we could find the Elk Herds; we did ! Three harems of 30-50 cows right before sundown. It was a gorgeous evening with temperatures in the mid-60’s down about 10 to 20 degrees from the previous days. A few horse riders were riding the Buffalo River Valley in the very late day sun. Upon arriving, we walked half way to Steel Creek on the BRT and back to Ponca (about 2 miles), where a got a few pictures with my point and shoot Canon S95. The trail was nice with Beech Trees lighting the way with yellow and rust; this species will not loose it’s leaves until mid-spring. Boxley Pond was equally scenic with the sun falling behind us. The day couldn’t have been more pleasant; one of those 10’s that are so common down here.

This morning it rained briefly about 0.02 so far and its about 60 at 11 AM and sunny, with a chance for more showers today then warmer the rest of this week.

Buffalo River at Ponca

Horeses and riders in the Buffalo Valley

Bull Elk and Harem

Reflection on Boxley Pond — late day

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Just some photos for HCR on Saturday afternoon (even the red oaks are colored red this year):

 

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