Sunday, March 29, 2009

Three days along the Buffalo River

Christy and I spent 3 days playing along the Buffalo National River this past week. It was a much needed trip to the woods. Originally, we had planned to canoe for several days on the river, but heavy rains just before our trip put the water levels up too high for us. We did see a lot of folks putting on the river to enjoy a little white water fun. Instead of canoeing, we based camped at The Nature Conservancy's Smith Creek Preserve and day hiked around several places in Buffalo National River Ponca Wilderness Area. Wildflowers were blooming everywhere!

We saw: Wild Ginger, Bloodroot, Wake Robin, Rue Anemone, False Rue Anemone, Spice Bush, Redbud, Flowering Dogwood, White Trout Lily, Yellow Trout Lily, Bellwort, Toothwort, Spring Beauty, Rose Verbena, Hoary Puccoon, Wild Sweet William, Cleft Phlox, Purple Violets, White Violets, Yellow Violets, Violet Wood Sorrel, Pussytoes, Pale Corydalis, Harbinger of Spring, and Dutchman's Breeches.

Up, but not blooming yet, were: Solomon's Seal, False Solomon's Seal, Comfry, Jack in the Pulpit, and May Apple.

Some of our migratory songbirds are returning, too. We heard Louisiana Water Thrush and Black and White Warblers.

Here a some pictures of the trip.

Day 1

Driving through Boxley Valley, you often get to see part of the elk herd. Here, most of the herd were concentrated around a tree.

Water level at Ponca low water bridge. Good floating along this stretch is gaged by the amount of air space under this bridge. Anywhere from 2 feet of air space to 0 feet of air space is considered good floating, with 0 ft air space being really sporting. Less than 24 hours early, the water was about 2 ft ABOVE the bridge.

Wildflowers were blooming everywhere, and I was really hoping to see Dutchman's breeches. This is the perfect time to see them, and they were blooming in many places we hiked. These were photographed along the road down to Camp Orr.

Wake Robin (or Sessile Trillium) and Spring Beauties were also blanketing the forest floor everywhere. The trillium is the larger, purple colored flower, and the spring beauties are the smaller pinkish flowers. There were also photographed along the road to Camp Orr.

Our first hike was up to look at a cave entrance, and here is Christy standing next to the entrance. With so much rain, you could really hear the water roaring down in the cave.

Just an interesting picture of a small fern.

Another neat picture of some moss along the trail.

Our second hike was up Shop Creek. Along the creek, we saw our first Bellwort flowering.

The view up Shop Creek.

Shop Creek with Christy on a boulder for scale.

Shop Creek drops over a sandstone ledge that makes a beautiful waterfall. In normal flow, there are only two falls. But, after a good rain, all three were going.

Another view of the falls.

We had some time before dark the first night to walk along Smith Creek before we set up camp.

Yellow Trout Lilies were blooming along Smith Creek and in many other places we hiked.

Day 2

The second day, we decided to hike up Indian Creek to see if the waterfall at the box canyon was flowing and to see if water was flowing out of Tunnel Cave. About half the hike up Indian Creek is on a trail, but then the hike gets much more interesting with lots of boulder hopping and scrambling!

Along the creek, we saw False Rue Anemone in bloom.

Another view of Indian Creek looking upstream.

Indian Creek looking downstream of a small waterfall.

Self portrait of the two of us at a small waterfall.

We picked the perfect day to hike up Indian Creek. The creek and the woods seemed particularly vivid and alive that day.

Here we are a Tunnel Cave, and sure enough water was flowing out of the cave. I've never seen water coming out of the cave, so this was a real treat.

Day 3

On day 3, we decided to hike the Bench Trail and then bushwack down Fish Trap Hollow to see an ~80 ft waterfall. Unfortunately, our directions to the falls were a little vague, and we never made it. But, we did stumble upon one of our favorite wildflowers, Hoary Puccoon, blooming in a small limestone glade during our bushwack. Finding this wildflower was especially exciting for Christy, because it's been years since she's seen it.

On the same glade, we also found Rose Verbena in bloom. It was disappointing not making it down to see the falls, but finding these two wildflowers in bloom on a tiny limestone glade in the middle of the woods definitely makes up for it.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Back yard delights

It's definitely springtime. Here a few pictures of flowers from our backyard.



Mmm...I can't wait for strawberries!!!


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Wildflowers at Lake Wilson

I went for a hike at Lake Wilson after work, yesterday, to see if there were any new wildflowers in bloom. Sure enough, the warm weather has brought out a few more. Because I was there late in the day, the sun was low and really helped back light some of these wildflower pictures. I love this time of year!

White Trout Lily



Bloodroot. This is one of my favorite early wildflowers.

Buttercup. Not sure which one this is because buttercups are difficult to identify. The genus is Ranunculus which is Latin for "little frog", named because many buttercups have affinities to wet habitats.

Rue Anemone


Upclose picture of Pussytoes.

I like finding daffodils in the woods, because you can almost always bet there is a homestead nearby. I found a few remnant sections of old stone wall near here and part of a stone foundation. I really think daffodils are the path to immortality. The homesteaders are long gone, but we are reminded of their memories, lives, and loves every spring. It is a natural lasting legacy, and I always try to plant them where ever I live.

Lake Wilson looking north. The light was perfect and calling in this backwater were spring peepers and southern leopard frogs.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Wilson Park Macro Photography

Today is a beautiful day, and it's very hard to spend it in front of the computer. So, I decided I would go practice using my new macro photography set up at Wilson Park, which is close to my office. I want to get good using the camera set up, because I plan to begin shooting small cave invertebrates to bring a higher awareness to folks of the hidden diversity found in our Ozark caves.

Wilson Park is a great place to practice because of all the landscaping around the park. Several things are blooming there which is attracting the organisms I want to photography, namely insects. Here are few of the better shots of the day.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Shine Eye Bluff

Today, I drove to Mountain View, Arkansas, for several days of caving fieldwork. Tomorrow, I'll be underground monitoring one of two known populations of the endangered Hell Creek cave crayfish. It's been a while since I've been in this cave, so it should be a fun trip. On Wednesday, I'll be spending some time in Blanchard Springs Caverns looking for a rare cave pseudoscorpion and collecting soil samples for a fungi study. Thursday, I'll be visiting a few springs looking for rare isopod crustaceans.

Usually on my way to Mountain View, I stop at a place on the Buffalo National River known as Shine Eye Bluff. I love stopping here, because it's a beautiful place to sit and relax for a while. Today, standing on the gravel bar and looking at the river was a great treat. Here are a couple of pictures.

Shine Eye Bluff. This gravel bar is a great place to camp.

Looking downstream from Shine Eye Bluff.

Wild Sweet William was blooming in the woods along the road to Shine Eye Bluff. I can't remember seeing this wildflower in bloom so early in the year.