Fall into winter

What a difference a few weeks can make. The top photo was taken the week before Thanksgiving. The bottom photo was taken around lunchtime today — the snow and sleet courtesy winter storm Cleon.

Fall landscape.
The Arkansas Ouachitas glow in the pink morning light of Nov. 11, 2013.
12-06-WinterLandscape2WEB
Except for a few ragged flags left in the black jack oaks, the same Ouachita ridge is stripped bare, nearly a monotone, thanks to a Dec. 6, 2013, winter storm.

Autumn suite

Fall’s vivid colors have spanned several months here on the mountain. Most of these photos were taken in early November, a couple of them were taken within the last week. Even here on the penultimate day of November, the oaks, hickories and sweet and black gums still retain their color, even if the canopy is thinning day to day.

Autumn birds

With the Ouachita’s trees rapidly becoming more bare with each autumn rainstorm, the only decoration to their branches is the feathery array provided by the local bird population.

Weekly photo challenge: Renewal 1

This week’s photo challenge theme is “renewal.” It’s a hard theme in autumn when Nature is preparing for her winter’s sleep. She did leave some reminders of spring — that great time of renewal. ¬†Today, vibrant violets dotted the shaley, leaf-strewn slopes.

ULTRAVIOLET — Normally a signature of spring, violet blooms popped into fullness near the middle of November.
OUT OF TIME — Wild violet blooms out of time.

Far more interesting takes on the theme can be found here:

And of course, the BIG photo challenge page:
http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/11/08/weekly-photo-challenge-renewal/

2012 fall colors in the Ouachitas

What a beautiful autumn here in Arkansas’ Ouachita Mountains. We’ll let the forest speak for itself.

Post No. 500

We’re surrounded — in a good way — by tens of thousands of acres of trees. However, two years of drought put the woods of the Ouachitas* under stress, the kind of stress that can leave trees vulnerable to disease, insects, death and wildfires. As trees went dormant to cope with the lack of water, summer’s leaves tumbled to the ground en masse, looking like fall, but with triple-digit temperatures. So there was plenty of speculation about whether there would be any leaves left for the state’s forests to give its annual foliage show. The trees prevailed.

*”Ouachita” is pronounced “WASH’-it-tah.”

In the pink

The late summer, early fall flush of wildflowers included these tiny, dark pink blossoms hanging from slender stalks rising no more than a foot from the ground.

PAIRED — These tiny flowers are hardly noticeable from the road.

Late summer color 2012

A wave of late summer cold fronts and the remnants of a hurricane provided enough water to power a last pre-autumn burst of native color here in the Ouachita Mountains.

NECTAR DANCE — Hummingbirds maneuver for a spot at the feeder in a cloudless late summer sky.
SUNRISE — Sometimes a sunrise is worth abandoning the morning java and running out of the house into the street to get a better shot. This taken Sept. 14.
IN THE PURPLE — French mulberries in their full late summer livery.
IN THE GARDEN — The white blooms and green foliage are a nice background for a gulf fritillery butterfly.
PERSIMMONS — Persimmon tree manages to produce its pale orange bounty despite a summer of drought.
SUNFLOWER — The return of rain has allowed some summer wildflowers to produce another flush of blooms.
GROUND HUGGER — A cluster of tiny pink flowers, maybe a type of vetch, stick close to the ground.
BLUES — A spike of blue flowers reaches toward the blue sky.
SIPPING STOP — Fiery skipper sips nectar from the garden.

*Not being insect or flower experts, if anything here is misidentified please let us know!

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 …