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.

Waiting for a windfall

The leaves are long gone, but dozens of sweet juicy persimmons hang tantalizingly in the tree’s branches. Some raccoons will climb to get the lower hanging fruit. The rest will just wait for the wind to do the work for them.

mmmm
Sweet autumn treats could be a windfall for some lucky raccoon. These are the same fruits that produce the “magic” seeds that are used in folkways winter predictions. 

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.”

Naked ladies in the woods

The foliage around Little Rock is mostly green. It’s as if the drought-stressed trees that managed to retain their leaves are trying to get one last blast of photosynthesis in  before autumn leaf drop. Peering out the office window, this clump of red was like a beacon in an ocean of green. The red turned out to be a clump of lycoris,  known as naked ladies or surprise lilies, since they seem to spring out of the ground with no warning.

REACHING OUT — Naked lady lily reaches out with its anther and filaments.
IN THE WILD — Group of surprise lilies in a green belt near Coleman Creek in the University District of Little Rock.

Ladybug noir

Spotted this nearly spotless ladybug on the front door. The way the shadows fell around it reminded me of old those richly moody Humphrey Bogart movies with lots of darkness, ceiling fans and Venetian blinds.

It’s hard not to love beetles, even underexposed ones.

FOUND THE LIGHT -- This lady bug travels the path of light.
SPOTLESS -- Well, except for that beauty mark on its right shoulder.

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 …