Brood XXIII

The sound of insect love songs is filling the air in central and eastern Arkansas as Brood XXIII, one of the 13-year cycle of cicadas, emerges from the ground for its short, post-dirt life looking to make another brood that will emerge in 2028.

Cicada on a branch.
Looking for love. One of the millions of Brood XXIII cicadas that emerged earlier this month on its short mating life above ground.

Equal parts water and dirt

Alternating stripes of water and dirt mark a field awaiting a crop in the Arkansas Delta along U.S. 165.

Water filled rows in the Delta.
ROWS– Frequent rain in the last few weeks has filled the rows and ditches of farmfields in the Delta. Some fields looked more like lakes. While it may mean frustration to farmers who want to plant, the local ducks, geese, frogs and the herons who eat them, aren’t minding a bit.

Delta mist-ery

Heading south and east on U.S. 165 toward Stuttgart (the rice and ducks capital), the western Delta was shrouded in mist as the Arkansas River shed vapor into the cool air, as did the ditches and dikes of the fields soon to be planted in rice, soybeans, cotton and milo.

AVALON -- The tree-topped hummock appeared as an island in a field awaiting its seed near England, Ark.
DELTA SUNRISE -- Sol peers through the vapors let by the warm Arkansas River somewhere near England, Ark.

Birds of prey

The fall-denuded trees along I-40 and U.S. 70 between Little Rock and Memphis were full of big, beefy red-tailed hawks, keen for any prey making a living below in the chaff left after the harvest of rice, soybeans and sorghum. The hawks paid little heed to traffic whizzing past at highway speeds. However, rolling slowly or coming to a halt too close made the big birds spring off in a hurry. It took us several tries to get our “lazy naturalist” photography choreographed, figuring how close we could roll the car; how long it takes to frame the shot; how to push the distance to catch the bird up close and in flight. The trial and error we practiced from St. Francis County all the way to the edge of Pulaski County produced some amusing and wonderfully imperfect shots. When we finally got the driving/shooting duet coordinated, we ran out of highway, hawks and open fields.

We were privileged, during one of our roadside stops, to have a red-tailed hawk make a successful strike just feet in front of the roadster. No photos, but an unforgettable closeup we’ll always have in our heads.

PREY DAY -- Red-tailed hawk scans the surrounding fields for a meal. Grains left in harvested fields are highly attractive to prey.
LEAVING HIS PERCH -- Wary of the people below, the hawk moves off.
IN FLIGHT -- Red-tailed hawk in flight. Beautiful, powerful birds.
ALMOST -- Another blooper.

Funny, National Geographic hasn’t called yet …

Flying saw

A couple years ago we watched as, off in the distance, a helicopter carefully followed high-voltage transmission lines, with a long object suspended from an equally long cable. The ‘copter’s back and forth flights mystified us then, but we’d forgotten about it until last weekend when, once again, we began to feel the vibration of approaching helicopter rotors beating the air. Looking south, flying along the power lines that march across and along a neighboring ridge was the Hughes helicopter, again trailing its long payload.

Our mystery was solved this weekend. On the way back from a Thanksgiving in Memphis, traffic was halted on U.S 70. Yards away was the helicopter, with its long tail, slowly moving parallel to the power lines flanking the highway. We were so close we could finally see its payload — a long string of circular saw blades. The Aerial Solutions helicopter and its skilled pilot were performing sky-based hedge trimming for Entergy, a power company that serves Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

[Movie fans may recall that an aerial saw was used for a more sinister purpose in Bond movie: “The World is Not Enough.”  Bond escapes, but the whirling blades separate his gorgeous BMW Z8 into halves.]

END OF THE DAY --Tree-trimming helicopter races the sun to finish cleaning power line rights-of-way in western Pulaski County.
MAKING THE CUT -- Shot showing the helicopter moving its saw to another location.
STAYING IN TRIM -- The flying saw plies its trade along U.S. 70 in eastern Arkansas.
FLARES -- Gratuitous shot into the sun featuring flares.

Postcards from the Delta

Age and weather has caught up with this white clapboard church with its beautiful carpenter’s gothic door.

Old church
OLD FAITHFUL -- The church's beauty remains, even in its old age.
Closeup of church
AGED --The church's simple, strong character shines through the decades.
STANDING STRONG -- Rusted, but still dignified -- the old White River bridge.

World wide webs

Along U.S. 70, silken threads covered the fields, fences and utility poles between Forrest City and Brinkley, Ark. The low-riding autumn afternoon sun back-lit what seemed to be millions of miles of webbing. In addition, long threads with parachutes  or sails of silk thread drifted across the roads and lifted from the fields.

 

Webs waft in Brinkley
Webs waft over U.S. 70 in Brinkley.

 

 

Webs cover Brinkley
Webbing covers a large swath of eastern Arkansas.