Monday, March 31, 2008

Jsmith PArk

The weather is that of a cool, stormy June- Its very warm and humid; a strong, yet gentle breeze sweeps the prairie. There were thick, dark grey clouds above me and the sky elsewhere is marbled in grey and blue
I start my hike in a direction from those that I have started in the past- Down the muddy, eroded path that is the Saeger Woods trail and our fire line. Above the wind I can hear the Chorus Frogs- they get louder when the darkest clouds roll over.
The area surrounding the path has been thinned of trees and the tracks of heavy machines packed the earth. I eased down to my knees to pick up a small chrinoid fossil out of the trail/stream bed and, to my surprise, discovered a small snake at the base of the rock. HE was about 12 inches long and his head was thinner than his body. He was a faded clay-red and a tan strip stretched the length of his spine.

Adult Texas Brown Snake- out and about!
Intrigued by my unusually march discovery, I flipped another rock just to my right. There was nothing, but after I had continued down the trail a bit I flipped two more. One, on the left side of the trail, hosted a large female five-lined skink and an equally impressive ground-beetle that had an iridescent purple glow.

The other rock was home to a handful of Prairie ringneck snakes, another purple ground-beetle, and a couple bombardier beetles. After I was through photographing the critter I was able to catch, I fixed up their homes and set them next to the rocks. I tried to capture the beetles, but the larger purple ones proved to be too quick and the others were too intimidating without a container.
I was first introduced to the Bombardier beetles at Jerry Smith's Bioblitz, where, upon capturing one in my hands, received a nasty pinch and an irritating blast of 'acid' from it's rear. The large beetles, which have a bright orange thorax and legs and a dark, iridescent abdomen and wing-covers (elytra), force the dark fluid (a mix of hydroquinones and hydrogen peroxide) into a thick-walled reaction chamber in their abdomen. The two chemicals are stored separately and when they meet with the chemicals in the reaction chamber, they are broken down and an exothermic reaction occurs which releases O2 and enough heat to vaporise a portion of it. A 'POP' is heard when the released O2 is pressurized enough to burst through a small opening on the tip of the abdomen and the vapors and boiling chemicals are squirted. It smells nasty and creates a sensation that is unique and sometimes painful.
I will have to get a photo of one this year to post up on the blog.

Anyways, I continued onto the prairie and the sun peaked through the clouds several times. I grabbed a hunk of OsageOrange wood that I found lying on the ground and iu headed back for the truck. The wood is very heavy compared to the size of the piece that I nabbed, and is a bright yellow colour. I will try to carve it.
My favorite tree on the park bears tiny green leaves and buds- it is the large one in the center of the prairie ( the one I got that cool sunset pic with)
The horizon behind it is as dark as grey can get before it must be considered black and is in awesome contrast to the remainder of the huge, bright sky. No rain yet.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Harry S Truman SP

about 1.5hour south and east. I decided to take off late last night and arrived around sunset. Buck Ridge was closed and three doe fled my headlights on the hill leading to the lake-side camping areas. The area had an RV settled in the center (1 RV too many)- I took site 56 on the main road. I set up the tent and any remnants of sunlight drifted west over the horizon when I created a fire. The fire blazed for a few minutes and an armadillo rustled the leaves behind the sight. I tried spotting him with a tiny maglite and succeeded- he camouflaged into the leaf litter about 60ft into the woods. I retrieved the camera from the car and began approaching him as he obliviously ate his way toward me. I got within 3ft to take a picture- It came out well with the exception of the flashlight's glare. The exposure took 1/4th second and Im surprised its not more blurry! I took a step and landed on a small stick that couldn't hold my weight. CRACK- he stopped everything and perked his head up. After the armadillo heard nothing else he slowly made away from the sound. I took a few steps at a time to catch up with him but the ground was too crunchy. He didnt stop to eat after that! He ran faster and faster until I couldnt keep up, and still faster. His shinny shell disappeared into the black behind the nearest trees. Gone.
I returned to the warm fire and through a log on. When the new wood hit the pile of glowing orange coals it let out a spray of a million luminous sparks that floated with the smoke toward the stars. After watching it once more I mounted the camera on my tripod and set it on bulb. I tried to focus on where I expected the sparks would be and started the exposure. Focusing proved to be more difficult than I expected because the slight breeze seemed to shift direction and speed continually. I kicked the hot logs and let out another display of sparks. The wood, witch had almost burned out, suddenly caught flames again and I finished the exposure about 10 seconds after I started it.
A raccoon wondered aimlessly over the leaflitter and brush. Upon hearing the commotion that he created I shown the light in his direction. Sure enough, there were his little glowing eyes- about 40ft from the tent. I watched him for a few minutes and he seemed not to mind the light. I left the camera- a sin, I know- and ventured quietly in his direction. He strolled across the area in different directions behind the campsite and stopped once in a while to investigate a scent. Peeper frogs were going in the background.
He heard me way before I got too close and duplicated the armadillos reaction to the noise- his ears perked and his glowing eyes peered directly at my light.

He bolted.

The stars grew brighter and more numerous every time I spared a second to look up. A satellite traversed the broad sky. Horizon to horizon- many thousands of miles in only a few minutes.
I recognized some common constellations and struggled to remember the names of some not-so well-known ones.
The fire dimmed to a pile of dark coals after all the wood I brought had been burnt. I considered finding more but my eyelids became heavy within minutes and off to the tent I went.
Sometime around 3am I noticed a bout of strong wind gusts and poked my head out of the tent to find that a heavy cloud cover had developed above me. The clouds seemed to move fast and the forest whispered with busy leaves. It had grown very cold, but I took a sec to take a 360*. The bright lights from a far-away RV just about ruined my eyesight for some seconds after I looked away. I can hear his generator-there are two RVs.

I zipped up the tent and quickly retreated, desperately, for the warmth of my sleeping bag. I found it and listened for several minutes to the wind. There was a moment of adrenaline following a heavy gust that evoked a flashback of the tornado that had hit the park an early morning in 2004. I considered leaving after the gusts became more frequent. I had a line of excuses prepared for leaving, but never used any. I woke with the sunrise, though I waited 'til eight to put on my jacket and dare the chilled wind. The birds were incredible! There were so many and so many different kinds. They sang to each other and to whomever would listen. small spots of blue sky hid in openings of the continuous cloud. I was able to id a flicker and some small woodpeckers, a small group of robins and a cardinal.
By the time I had packed up the clouds were starting to break. The sunlight highlighted the eastern edge of every bit and chunk of cloud. I drove toward the lake to see how high it was-heard boat traffic. A meadowlark and phoebe were both at the entrance of the glade trail. Another cardinal-this one more dull- flicked above the road and into the woods again. A few more deer.
The beach-area is smothered in gulls- many cormorants and a few scattered pelicans were in the cove. The white pelicans towered over the small black cormorants when they got close enough to compare. For a few minutes the gulls fought over something- handfuls at a time exploded into the air- some only a foot or so, some flew over the cove, screaming- everyone was screaming that gull scream.
Another dozen or so patrolled the edge of a flooded parking lot on the far end of the SP Marina. The clouds continued to lift until I reached ~Clinton.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

ErnieMiller Burn

Ernie Miller Park, a prairie restoration area that started with KCWildland's Cedar tree event in 2001, is located on Hwy7 south of hwy10 by ~3mi in Johnson Co., KS
Today was the area's first prescribed burn (since it became a park, anyway). The park was difficult to burn due to its proximity to the hwy, the nature center and nearby neighborhoods. The only wind that would fit it's prescription was an Easterly one- one that is hard to get!

Grant(JoCo parks) identified a pair of phoebes in the grasses and amongst the tall remains of thistles and rattlesnake masters.
Around 10am this morning Johnson co. parks people met a small group of individual volunteers who were fortunate enough to be able to participate. Larry Rizzo, Linda William, Mel Haney, Dick Dawson, myself and my mother. The wind gusted at about 13mph and was more consistent near 5mph. The humidity read ~46%- pretty low for a cloudy, drizzly day. The prairie was fairy small and hosted years of dead fuel-mostly sedge and dead cedars.

Larry and Leon (Ernie Miller) started the burn. Larry led Leon on opposite sides of the burn area to create a bit of a black line using a backfire. Larry ignited a cedar near the line to get it over with. They lit several other large brush piles-dogwood, honeysuckle and cedar that volunteers had cut and piled over the years. A few of the piles were directly on the line and required supervision. The largest pile was in the center of the prairie and let flames grow to over 20'!! Larry was the only one who stuck around close enough to feel that one.
They stripped about 1/2 of the area and then lit a head fire at the border of the Hwy.
The fire roared across the remaining portion of the prairie- flames were about 6' and the heat was intense, though it was all over very quickly. We left a field of blackened brush and rocks- a burnt deer skeleton, two burning wood piles and a whole lot of green. The penstemon is green and the bases of each bundle of grass is getting that way, too.
They finished torching a few standing trees. Mel mentioned the lack of critters fleeing the brush piles and the fire overall. for as much as there was, I guess there should have been something living in there.?
We went over to the plantings surrounding the entrance road and front parking lot. They required little in the way of backfire because both were surrounded by wide trails and roads. They circled the thick grassland and let it do its thing. The fire was loud, hot and fast. it drove over a patch of something that sounded like when you run your finger over a cactus or hair comb- all prickly and such. A small vortex developed on the backside of the fire-carried burning debris and smoke.
A mouse or rat fled the slower part of the fire. He bounced from his stand of grass into the woods near the Nature Center.

Found a pile of pheasant feathers near the car- they're out there!

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Its a one-stop shop at any one of the local hardware and grocery shops along Arkansas' blue highways. We left Wed. afternoon for mt. Ida- on a quest for quartz.
Its about 5.5 hours to Mt Ida from our home. Everything from Harrisonville to the Ouachita Mnts was flooded- fields were lakes, roads became swallowed and the rivers and streams, in many cases, came within a few feet of every bridge we went over. We stopped in Mt Ida. A little crystal shop on the SE corner of 27+270. "Atlantis found" was its name- though it was not displayed on the building. Larry manned the shop and suggested the redoak inn for our nights stay. I told him we were interested in finding the crystals for ourselves- He was very friendly and enthusiastic when he shared his secrets about the local spots and techniques.
Look for the "Darkest Greasiest red clay" he told us- He said that the particles that composed this dirt were the smallest and they were able to seep into the crevasses and cracks in the bedrock that the crystals formed in hundreds of millions of years ago. If we found a patch of this dark, greasy mud, we would likely find the remains of whatever crevasse the clay seeped into- quartz.
He told us about Crystal Vista- A trail in the Natl Forest that led to an abandon pit mine- and suggested that we search the roadsides.

set off - south on 27 and E on Owley to a dirt road. "Go until you've driven too far- then drive another mile"
We found the Natl forest trail that Larry had suggested and turned back- the sun was getting low. My mother and I searched the Dark red, Greasy Clay on the side of the road and found a handful of points and a big polished red rock with a beautiful vein running through it. Peepers and other frogs were singin to the sky on the side of the little dirt road.

Subway was the only thing opened when we got back into town- about 7:40. It took me a few extra minutes to fall asleep- I was very excited about the crystals that I had found and about what we'd find when I woke up.

There was a heavy frost on the windows immediately after sunrise. A thick cloud rolled through the river valley on the other side of town. The sun peaked over the mountain that shadowed us for most of the ride to Crystal Vista. A fine mist sat on the creek just under our trail. A shaggy Pyrenees blocked the road. Each individual stem and blade and leaf was decorated with a million tiny pearls and droplets that reflected a million sunrises. We hiked up the steep trail. It was muddy and "up hill both ways"(Larry)- about a mile. We stayed to the right- I found some smaller points- and a large clear one- on the trail. We came to a bit of trail that was particularly thick with the smallest, clearest points in the world and I sat to collect some. I crawled along the trail lifting handfuls of the points from the sand. My mother disappeared up the trail and the second I was able to separate my eyes from the sparkly red ground I followed her.

Female 5-lined; also saw a small tan one with orange face at rock mine.

The Ouachita's are very steep and are very different from the Ozark Mnts most of us know. They host a 50-50 mix of hardwoods and pines/cedars. There are several different types of gigantic green pines- they whisper and sway with every gust of wind. The ground is dry and there are scattered glades throughout the Natl forest. Houses and farms are far between and everything is based on the unique natural environment. The main economy is certainly tourism, though the obnoxious tours and B&Bs are focused near the two main cities in the area- Hot Springs and the area between Mt Ida and Crystal Springs. The trees are still bald, but there are a few pears and service berry that are blooming.

Everything was red-rocks, dirt, crystals, lizards and toads... this Anole

About a hundred yards and the trail flattened and there was a landscape. IT was the top of the mountain and the mine. I still could not see my mother and became distracted- pulled to a mound of the darkest greasiest red clay to my left at the entrance of the pit. I stuffed my plastic bag with points and clusters and what most would call junk quartz- simple hunks of the clearest broken quartz crystals.

Some of the nicer points made it into every one of my many pockets- a sat my stuff on a rock, grabbed the subway cup and began shifting through the surface of the mound. Most of the crystals I found were on the surface- exposed by the recent rain. I set a large cluster of quartz points next to my bag. About 30 min went by before my mother showed. She had found the main pit mine- I was only at the entrance. I went through the pit- scooted along the edge in a huge circle. On the far end were some crevasses about 20 ft up on a small bluff. I climbed the bluff, but found nothing but a plastic jar painted in cameo- full of little pins and cards and beads.

N. Fence Lizard

I returned to the original pile to find ~ 8 lbs of rough material. My mother returned once more with an anole she found on the rocks.

I took some photos and the lizard disappeared with my mother. I found a huge dark toad in some leaf litter. I found hundreds of smaller points-from a few mm to an inch long and wide, a handful of larger ones- a couple of inches long- and two big ones buried in the dirt- one is almost 4.5 x 2 in and "crystal" clear!!!!!I collected until about 3 when we set North on 27 for petit jean SP. A Road-runner was in the middle of owley rd and ran to the side as we passed. The bird was a first for me and was much larger that I expected. It looked like a huge thrush with a long neck and crest- lite-colored with brown streaks all over and a darker back. As we cut through the tiny family-owned towns and civilizations on E Hwy10, we entered Yell Co.,-.. From centerville to pontoon. Many towns were not even on the map and others were misplaced- shown further down the road than they actually were. We passed a small blue sign that read "YELL CO. SANITARY LANDFILL" - the car was quiet and the sun shown warm on through the windows. A few hundred feet later was the same sign with an arrow pointed to the right-- pointed at a 30' high pile of scrap metal, trash and an RV on the side of the Hwy... It was a landfill, but I'm not so sure how sanitary!?
When we got there it was packed. RVs, Canoes, grills, generators- Like a lake of the Ozarks crowd! We stood in line to get one of the last available camp sites. The park it never this crowded and the host said it had all come in today.
I fished for a while and the sun fell quickly. We had a fire, but My mother and I were both pooped and fell asleep quickly. The moon was getting very full and I watched it through the night travel from one side of my tent to the other.

Petit Jean Waterfall-looked cooler in blk &W

We woke with the sun and the birds and bypassed the ridiculous line of cars at the bathhouse. We hiked the mile down to Petit Jeans' Waterfall and back up the switchbacks. The lake is flooded and the falls are rushing-It was nice to be the only ones on the trail. I experimented with a long exposure setting to try to capture the movement of the gushing water. Some trout lilies were blooming and carpeted the forest floor. A few mayapples rose from the carpet and many different types of ferns spilled from the bases of rocks and trees. The moist ground hosts a great variety of little pink and white spring flowers- no more than 6" tall.

With the past few days being the warmest of the season things have greened fast- Only a day ago the trees were bald- now there are tiny red and green leaves shooting from every twig.

Usually just a trickle, the stream from the waterfall at the SP was rushing and flooded. Last time I saw this area, it was no more than a dry rock bed.

On our way back up the switchbacks the crowd showed up- Many families and couples were headed for the trails.

North on Scenic Hwy 7 to flee the masses of people... to a *secret* Natl forest campsite on the Buffalo river suggested by Larry Rizzo. I'd never seen the river and was very excited to finally get to fish the river I'd heard so much about! We passed many Fields on our way N and W- they seemed to become more flooded as we advanced on our destination. A country road lead in a strait line from the Hwy- strait into the mucky water of a flooded agriculture stream. It was a sight to see! The road was consumed by the water- which went until it met the sky on the blue horizon. We crossed over the Arkansas River on Hwy 7- It was thick, muddy and red.. It swallowed the parks and businesses on each shore and was larger (wider) than I have ever seen the Missouri or even the Mississippi! I have seen the river in Western KS, in OK and even here, but this was a whole new river!! !

We stopped in one of my favorite towns in the world- one which we seem to find on many of our trips south. Jasper, AR. . We ate ate the Ozark cafe before visiting Emma's museum of Junk. I bought some old marbles for only a few cents and my mother picked a souvenir for my father. We eaves-dropped on the only conversation in the small shop- a heated one between a 90yr old woman and a few younger locals. Most of the conversations Ive heard on the trip were about people getting struck by lightning or torn apart by a boar or bitten by the biggest rattler in the the state- The seniors of the little towns have stories to share about the past hundred years of the county area- many have lived here all their lives.

Some kind of large orchid found under a patch of cedars at Lost valley- big, waxy flowers more purple than pic shows- Not anything I recognized! Any Idea?

We arrived at the Lost Valley campground to find that it was absolutely packed. At first, all there is to see of the area is a large gravel parking lot, a beautiful white bedrock stream to the left, a house to the right and a bathroom and shelter in a mowed lawn. We got out and I was overwhelmed by the radios and shrieking children. We ventured into the campground area- a spacious wooded area dotted with tables and fire pits. I immediately found a campsite- relieved that there was one left. We nabbed it, set up, and drove back to the ponca river access. We saw a small heard of elk in the field to the right. A bull, a young buck and a handful of females. bunches of decaying leaves and sticks- suspended about 4 ft up on every standing object- marked the flood that had occurred only 48 hours ago. the line of cars backed out of the parking lot and had us park on the entrance road. It was busy.
I could not believe how clear the FLOODED river was. It was a milky colour, but you could see the bottom many feet down. The water touched the bottom of the low bridge that we crossed by foot to find a trail. I fished with a small silver jerk-bait --I did not catch anything.

Arkansas Elk-not very bright-looking with it's tongue hangin' out!!! Many of them had large radio-collars on them

There were many individual paddlers loading and unloading-as well as a circus of canoe outfitters sending the inexperienced down the flooded river. Several boats flipped in the process of gaining passengers from shore.
The water was warm- only a few degrees shy of the air. We walked down a trail on the opposite side of the trail. About a third of a mile downstream I found a small dear trail leading to a gravel bar on the river.I weaved through the forest and then a thicket of bamboo before I reached the gravel bar. There was a small stream between the steep bank and the island that was the gravel bar. Th water was swift and about 5ft wide. I took a running leap-landed a few inches short of where I wanted- landing myself in wet shoes. I fished and paced the shore. The ground was gravel and then sand. A bluff shaped the river on the far side- It rose almost 80 ft! !

Dutchmans Breeches at Lost Valley- found several others like: Bloodroot, Spring beauty, Liverleaf, Toothwort, trout-lily, anemones, Spring cress and both kinds of trilliums (only the smaller white ones were blooming)

I found a large rock on the gravel bar- It was white and polished- looked like marble or limestone- and had been sculpted into a balance of natural curves. I picked it up-maybe 10 or 12 lbs., and decided I didn't want to haul it back to the car.
We returned to the campsite and found ourselves on the trail that lead away from camp into the woods. It took us along the stream up the mountain to a wide section of the stream that resembled a shut-in. A little further the creek spewed from a large hole in a rock wall. It emptied into a wide, shallow pool. The pool sat atop the white bedrock and the water appeared to be an emerald colour. A few people crawled out of the hole from which the water came and crawled down into the pool.

We continued up the trail until we found a large waterfall- It threw the water from about 30'.
I took a photo and we followed the path strait up (yes, it was just about vertical!) to a cave above a waterfall that was above the waterfall that we had visited. I slipped into the cave- realized pretty quick that the rock was slippery. There was only a few feet from where my small, slick platform ended to where the creek that flowed through the cave fell in a waterfall. I held my camera firmly on my chest and jumped from rock to rock until I reached a safer part - deep in the cave. Everything was sealed with calcium and when I turned off my wimpy flashlight I was blind. I turned from the wet, black wall that I had been inspecting to find the only source of light- the entrance of the cave. It seemed like it was a far ways off- though it was only about 50ft the walls and floor of the cave, though light and wet, did not reflect any light from the entrance of the cave. I took a few pics and stumbled my way back to the blinding forest above the falls. My mother was waiting there- her bad knees did not allow her to enter the cave with me. We took a different trail back to the campground.

My mother returned to our spot and finished setting up the camp. The sun was setting and the growing chorus of frogs was far too much of a temptation. I grabbed my camera and set down the gravel road toward Hwy 43. .. I was able to locate the epicenter of the froggy phenomenon- It was on private property and I chose not to trespass. There was just enough sunlight left to ID the silhouettes of cows and cedar trees throughout the nearby fields. I searched the wet ditches on the side of the road for the source of the deafening "Pprrrreeeeeeeeep Peep"s that seemed to come from everywhere. The call was the most common, but not the only one. -turned out to be some subspecies of the Spring Peeper.
I found a frog; I walked to a side of where I thought I heard its repeating call and flushed him onto the white gravel. The little guy made it several feet into the road with only a single leap. I snatched him up an set 'em on the mud nest to a puddle. He hopped into the puddle and I took only one photo. The sunlight- though from the opposite horizon- was equal to the light of the very full moon that had yet to rise over our overshadowing mountain.

I walked down the hwy about a mile to the Ponca river access and turned around. I found one more frog- same kind as the other. It turned darker as the sun disappeared completely and I watched the stars for several minutes. I witnessed a handful of shooting stars- one was very bright and moved slowly through the atmosphere. Its tail turned colours- green and orange being the most noticeable- and left a reflective trail of white smoke when it disappeared. The moon finally came over the mountain and cast a bright light on the eastern side of everything. I mounted the camera to the tripod and set the Tv on 8 seconds. I took a few pics and continued up the gravel road towards the campground. I found an ancient wood house in a field to the right of the gravel road. It was kinda creepy in the moon light- kinda beautiful. I set my tripod about 50ft from the house and took an 8sec exposure. It was black. I turned it to 30sec and the photo came out alright. I heard some scuffling from the house- I assumed it was a rodent until there was a louder thud. My heart beat fast for 2 second that seemed like a minute and I listened for what was next from the creepy black windows. nothing. I regrouped and had found a good exposure setting- now I focused the camera as best I could. I took a photo and the bumps and creeks from the old home or barn resumed. They could not scare me anymore- I dismissed them as a critter- though I still held a suspicion that the old building was alive- it still LOOKED haunted.
The photo came out slightly blurred and I spent several minutes focusing it before I walked to the house and set my flashlight on the window of the haunted barn-house. I focused on the flashlight and retrieved it.
I heard another bang as I walked back to my camera. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up and was immediately taken by an overwhelming curiosity of the dark building. My shadow cast upon the side as I got closer. It passed over a window and I questioned if the residence-human or critter - alive or dead- had seen me. I entered the building- There was only a black hole framed by the homes skeleton. There were two rooms inside- no animals. A rusted stove and a boot. There was a set of rotten steps that led to another blackness in the attic- I did not visit this area. I exited with a new confidence of the home- set the camera on B and started an exposure. a minute went by and I decided to leave the camera. I wanted to get a brighter exposure of the house and the moon-lit landscape that surrounded it and I was curious to see if I could capture any supernatural occurrences by leaving the open shutter and the ghosts together for a few.
I returned to camp and told my mother about the beautiful, creepy old house. I got my 35mm from the car and she followed me to the barn. The shadows of every tree decorated the white gravel road which reflected the moonlight very well. We got to the house and I shut the shutter about 8min after it had been opened. The photo appeared to have been taken in the middle of the day! I mounted the minolta on the tripod and set it on B at 5.6. . . I asked my mother to hold her light to the building and I focused the camera. She returned to the tripod and noticed the thick sheet of fog rolling toward us from across the field. It looked like the blob when it was in the light and seemed to absorb or consume the trees it flowed over. I started the exposure and we admired the scene and the stars for a second. I stopped the exposure about 1.5min after I had started it... hope it came out!! !
We went back and had a very hot fire for a while before we went to sleep. A small stream trickled into the larger one through our campsite.
We woke with the sun. My mother was in a bad mood- said she hadn't slept well. we made coffee and hot chocolate on my tiny stove- it was very cold. I grabbed both cameras and a flashlight and as the rest of the campsites were becoming active we set off for the waterfalls again. It was a beautiful hike and I cannot wait to see how the pics came out!
After the day crowds moved into the area and onto the river we packed and left. Several church groups and many zillions of families lined and crowded the trails. I dont think Ive ever seen a similar area so busy!!

We headed S on 43 to 21N to 62W through Eureka Springs. It was cool to see some familiar landmarks from when we knew the area several years ago. We drove over the Beaver Lake dam and visited the white river.
There is alot of brand new construction around the lake, but it doesnt look too bad-yet. THe White was well over her banks and flooded parkinglots, boat ramps and forest. It was crystal clear-much more so than the Buffalo- and you could see the bottom as if there was no water at all. I threw a small rooster tail (fishing lure) in and watched a small trout emerge from the bottom. He darted towards the small silver lure and aborted his ambush at the last second- turned around and repeated his attack once more in a split second.
I saw no more fish. Things were incredibly green- a huge change from only 3 days earlier when it was all bald.

We passed an old rock quarry that we used to find collard lizards, turanchulas, giant centipededes and other glade animals on. It was closed down and locked up with a new fence and sign that read US PROPERTY NO TRESPASSING
... no fun.

We stopped at a few local places- for food, antiques and an old crystal shop we used to visit- before we split on 37N to hwy 71. Made one more last-second stop as it clouded up and threatened to rain: Prairie SP near Nevada, MO.
We got there and the neighbors were burning. I got out of the car and unconsiously scratched a large tick-the first of the season- from my waist. I watched him crawl over the tip of my finger with a speck of my skin still in his mouth- if you call it a mouth.
-Put him on the interpretive sign at the trailhead we intended to hike and smooshed him. A sign read that the trails were closed from 4am 'til 9pm until May15 due to the P Chickens.
We admired the vast grassland from the trailhead. The sun peaked through the dark stormclouds and made an incredible landscape. I hear a meadowlark, a kestral and some doves- no traffic . Just the birds, the wind on the grass, and a pig? Lots of pigs?
No; they are crawfish frogs.

After a few minutes of basking in it's beauty we left.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008


It was 7o'clock and time to meet larry for the annual woodcock hike on Jsmith Prairie. The warm weather and some extra advertising had summoned a small mob to see the birds. Larry made his small talk about the birds and we proceeded onto the prairie. I noticed some clouds coming in from the west- dulling the sunset and diming sunlight. Those same small ducks flew over head as they had done last night. I asked larry what they were- "I dont know," he told me.."I didnt see them.... Probably ducks"- Thanks, Larry.
We got to the end of the gravel pathway that will soon lead to a viewing deck. Larry gave a last few comments about the displays of the male bog-sucker and the crowd hushed. For a long few minutes the only thing to hear was the shuffle of feet in the grass.

I took a single exposure this evening. Didnt come out too bad.
It wasnt long before the first "Peeent" of the evening was let out of the woods to the SW. It was faint and distant, but was followed my another confirming Peeent
A few minutes of the nasal call led to the whistle of the birds wings as it shot toward the moon. Its tiny silhouette circled the stars once and came down singing an almost song-bird like sound. The song was repeated faster and faster until it came to an abrupt stop.
A woodcock flew above us- out of nowhere and only a few feet above our heads. I couldnt believe its wingspan. I'd seen the birds before and remember having the same reaction every time.
I stood in the massive group for about 20 minutes. We listened and watched. Every person held motionless by the fear of spoiling the experience.
The sky grew very dark, though a hint of light stood in the west and the moon was bright enough to cast a shadow of anything that interrupted the rolling hills. Traffic and city lights were heard and seen as if we were in the middle of the city... can you imagine!?

A plane overwhelmed all other sound for only a few seconds. Larry shown the spotlight on a bird who came in for a landing about 80ft to our left.
The wind picked up rather quickly. With no warning at all we found our peace among the woodcocks blown away by a Strong gust of wind that lay the dead stalks of sunflowers and grasses in a more horizontal position. another drowned out all sounds and songs from the timberdoodles, the city and even the whispered conversation within the group.
The bird was close and had caught larry's attention. Larry blinded the dead and burnt vegetation in an attempt to spot the bird on the gound. Those in the air were becoming very hard to see!
He waved his light back and forth over the bare-ish ground. Stopping now and then to confirm the presence or -lack there of- of the bird.

with every call larry was driven crazy. He could not find the bird and his light began to move quickly and cover more land in desperation. His light stopped on a particular 10sqft of dirt and brush and stayed there for several second. He advanced a few steps and then a few more. Our mob followed and Many got the opportunity to see the relatively small, awkward-looking timberdoodle go about his business in between bushes. He did not seem to disturbed by the light and went about Peeent-ing.
Cant exactly show you this in a photo, and certainly cant do it justice with words, so Ive created a sketch of the birds flight. See it, put a night scape behind it and imaging his funny and beautiful sounds to experience what we did tonight. It is only the males that display this behavior and clear, calm, warmer nights from late feb to early April are the only time to see it! The birds inhabit the woodlands edge and are fairly common in the area .

RPG burn II

Rose verbena is greening on the glades

Last fall we attempted to burn the glades with little success- I think I remember the winds being in that dreaded state of Light and Variable and a lack of fuel on the ground. Well, if it doesn't burn the first time, what do you do!!??
Burn it again!
Though I was at Blue River Glades until ~1pm, I was able to join Larry and the crew for an hour at the end. He had a big smile on his face and everything was black. He was just doing touch-ups when I arrived. I followed him around for a while.
I asked about the fire dept. and Larry replied that they had not shown. I guess I jinxed that. A fire truck rolled up within a matter of minutes- no lights or sirens. The fire dpt. is required to respond to every call, but were well aware of what we were doing. Larry edged the bluff-igniting a few patches of Wild oats along his way. The oats were deafening! He walked left a trail of fire through the largest patch of oats-this one much denser than the others. The flames were several feet high and the heat hit my face from 25 ft. I had to turn away.
Soon after, Larry dismissed the majority of the volunteers. What was left to do- a little touchup and making sure that nothing was burning that shouldn't be -he could do with the few that stayed with him. Bill, who was appointed to babysit, Brian and Larry finished it off.
I heard several comments about how this went even better than the fall burn and even Larry acknowledged that it had surpassed expectations- a rare occurrence!

BlueRiverGlades Burn- Day II

I arrived at Rocky Point with my mother. I thought we were late, but we were not the last to arrive and the group had not even assembled to review any kind of a plan. John (jackson co.) needed a coupla hands to help his crew at Blue River Glades-
We had burned the 2nd and third glades yesterday- they went smokey and slower in most wooded spots. Today we were to complete the system by burning Glade # 1- the glade you pop up onto when you take the trail from Blue river rd.
It was warm and the humidity was lower than what it was when we started yesterday.
We started to burn about 2/3 onto the glades segment -along the back fire line at the crest of the hill. We striped the back line several times before my side (the side up against the draw between 2nd and 1st glades) wrapped around to ignite a head fire. We lit the base of the wooded hill and burnt the leaf-litter before we created a second, hotter, faster head fire from the main trail. The radiant heat was intense- at times unbearable! My goggles protected most of my face. I covered my lips, chin, and as much of my cheeks as I could with my left hand when I crouched to take a few pics. It was only a split second before the tiny spots of exposed skin grew too hot to let cook. I whipped my face around and found extreme relief when my front side faced from the huge flames. The back of my legs roasted where the jeans touched me. I turned and snapped another seconds worth of photos before I again turned away and rest the lens of the camera of my chin. The metal rim of the filter scorched my chin. I cant believe what I put that camera through!
Spiders swarmed on the ground in a massive spider-migration to flee the heat and smoke. A green stink-bug or moth could be seen in the air at anytime. A small bark-beetle crawled from a decaying log.
John gave me a torch and the opportunity to sling flames during a short mop-up above the bluffs. I think I would have had more fun if I was -maybe- 10yrs? younger. I had a blast as it was and learned some new things too.
We moved below the bluffs where smoke was already billowing from. I was sent back for a bladder pack. Forgot how heavy they are!
John immediately traded me a rake for the pack upon my return and we made our way along the underside of the first glade. Spent an hour or so putting out the heavier fuels from above the creek and below the bluffs before we called it quits. Everybody looked pretty exhausted- two days of that 'll wear you out!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


I got there about 7pm and caught the park keeper, Charley, in the parking lot. I asked him if I could stay for a while after dark- for woodcock -he told me I needed to be out by the time he closed the door at 8. I wanted to see the birds tonight b/c the winds were supposed to be much calmer than tomorrow
I walked onto the prairie and took some photos- last years seeds, a few branchy oaks- and walked back to the truck to check on the time. 7:22
I walked back slowly- a single deer snorted and skipped up the blackened part of the park. The sun became lower and all of the sudden the park was wildly alive! Some small ducks flew over in groups of 3 to 6. The lack of wind allowed me to hear their wings swish through the cool sky and they let loose a series of quiet whistles. An army of Chorus frogs let loose in the stream below the prairie.
"Eeent"- a coarse, nasal call. And again - just a few seconds later.
It was a timberdoodle! A bogsucker! A woodcock!- A bird whose looks are as ridiculous as it's names. They are like a small, round, nocturnal snipe. My mother chooses to compare them to a basset hound.
I waited a minute and watched one rocket into the air in the far distance- somewhere behind Saeger Woods. Again I heard the cry.
I tried to locate it using the next few- no success. The "Eeent' stopped and suddenly the bird exploded into whistles and a random vertical flight. His silhouette caught my attention above the black treeline immediately after the call started- about 100 ft to the right of where I expected him to be. He came from the edge of the woods- as most of the birds did tonight.
I couldn't believe how high he got. Maybe a few hundred feet before he stopped his crazy whistles and dropped like a brick. He fell much faster than he had gone up and I couldn't believe he avoided splatting into the ground when he averted his decent about 10ft above the ground. At this point he had started to whistle again and flew in a circle around me before he dropped to the ground about where he had started. The frogs continued and within a few seconds his raspy voice sounded again.



A few other birds started up at about 7:45 and I started back. I stirred up a deer under the power lines. On my way out I spotted a few others. On my way down the driveway I spotted one near the gate. He landed in the middle of the driveway and perked his awkward little head up so that his eyes glew in my headlights. Just as soon as he landed he took off again. The chorus frogs filled the pond on the side of the road on my way out. I considered stopping to photo them, decided that I wouldn't risk an encounter with the law or an angry neighbor tonight.

Does anyone know where/how I could find mole Salamanders this month? Ive heard at night in the rain in ephemeral pools.

BlueRiverGlades Burn

The burn was sucessful! In my opinion, anyway... Jackson co. and the city teamed up to make it happen.
The trails were muddy-very slick. Early on it was cold and all of the mud was frozen. The cool, brisk wind drove me to put on a jacket, though by 1pm it was too hot. The bases of many plants are becomeing green and most trees are starting to display small, velvet buds.
At 11, the humidity had dropped below 50% and the winds were blowing from the SW at 5mph. The breeze was cold, but it was weak and became overpowered by the sunlight when it struck my face and was warm. It felt as if the sun was melting winter off of my skin and warmed my shirt so that it became hot to touch. We lit under these conditions and where the wind could reach- on the crest of each hill and in the open spaces of the area- the fire was able to burn. Dave did strips along the back fireline until about 50ft of black(ish) was had. From there, bill wraped the glade and tied in with the other group to send a head-fire over the hill. Where the grass was tall and thick enough, the flames could reach maybe 6ft, though it was only on the close corner of the 2nd glade. The fire blackened groundlitter to the edge of the bluffs ( and in a few spots, where it found a crack or hanging debris, over the bluff and below it) and up the glade and savannah until the fuel was only wet leaves. We did a quick mop up and I split. The crew was to eat lunch and return once more to make sure the area was safe.
The fire was very smokey and it just about chokes you to look at the photos. My lungs are sore and my eyes burn- what a great day!