Having a cool down

An northern watersnake allows the rushing water of Coleman Creek to cool and disguise him on a warm late summer afternoon in Little Rock. A small colony of these snakes inhabit part of the creek that runs through the campus of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

 

9-1-2016 Water Snake UALR.jpg

House of cards

Every so often, the lawn near the fine arts building on the University of Arkansas at Little Rock campus turns into a showcase for student projects.

Here’s hoping no ill winds will blow any time soon.

Coleman Creek

Coleman Creek is  an urban creek, encompassed in parts by the campus of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and the neighboring Cooperative Extension Service headquarters. There’s a fairly broad bit of woodlands on either side of the creek at the extension service side. The green areas support small populations of foxes, coyotes, raccoons, red-tailed hawks, kingfishers, various rodentia, stray dogs, bobcats, and at times, camps set up by the homeless.

The creek itself supports fish, turtles, freshwater mussels and crawdads. It is a welcome oasis and a tremendous natural resource right in the middle of town.

Fish in creek
SCHOOLING — Cardinal shiners swirl around in the clear water.
Open shell on stone.
REMAINS OF THE DINNER – Open freshwater mussel shell is all that remains of some raccoon’s dinner.
vertebra, crawdad shell on rock.
LEFT ON THE CREEKSIDE – A vertebra and the bleached shell of a crawfish on a rock in Coleman Creek in Little Rock.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Connected

This week’s challenge is all about being connected.  Shoes off and safely slung between two trees, a student takes advantage of a warm, sunny afternoon in a campus green belt to keep connected via cell phone.

student in hammock
HANG OUT – Student at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock takes a break between classes in the Coleman Creek greenbelt. Taken Sept. 3, 2015.

The stripper

The squirrels on the UA-Little Rock campus are used to people — hundreds of people — tromping past at any particular time of day.

Squirrel with bark shreds in mouth
SHREDS — Maybe cypress bark tastes good?

Generally, however, they will hop away to maintain a safe distance should a human make too close an approach. Not so with one squirrel, who was intent on a strange activity — stripping bark from a cypress tree. The squirrel hopped down, ripped up a mouthful of mulch, then hopped back up the tree (mouth empty) to begin ripping and stripping again.

I have a query in to our local extension wildlife and forestry specialists about this odd behavior. It’s been noted elsewhere, according to the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management. There are multiple theories for this behavior, such as the need for nutrients or water. (this spring, however, there is no shortage of either for  this scholarly squirrel). Reason 5 may be the most accurate:  “We may never have a complete understanding of why bark-stripping occurs.”

Squirrel chewing bark
STRIPPER — This gray squirrel was busy grabbing shreds of bark from a cypress tree.
Cypress with bald spots
SEEING RED — Reddish areas show where the bark-stripping squirrel has gone to town all over this tree.

Urban hawk

One of several red-tailed hawks that make the green belt along Coleman Creek in Little Rock’s University District their home. This fellow was probably looking for lunch.

Red-tailed hawk in a tree.
KEEPING WATCH — Red-tailed hawk pauses in a sweet gum tree.
Hawk in tree.
LOOKING DOWN — Hawk checks out possible lunch int he brush below.

Rising above

It’s so good to see our campus hawk cruising the thermals during a lunchtime photo safari.

SOARING SPIRIT -- The campus hawk spirals above the parking lot and green spaces on a beautiful, overcast spring day.
SOARING SPIRIT — The campus hawk spirals above the parking lot and green spaces on a beautiful, overcast spring day.

The waxwing tree

The phone rang. A colleague upstairs called to see if I’d seen the flocks of cedar waxwings sweeping and swirling from tree to tree around the office grounds and adjacent campus. The birds moved almost as one; stripping the hollies of their berries and continually finding new places to roost. Waxwings are beautiful birds with their masks and crests. Look closely and you can see accents of bright yellow and pink in tips of their wings and tails.

TREEFULL - Birds outnumber blooms on the branches of this tulip tree.
TREEFULL –  Masked birds outnumber blooms on the branches of this tulip tree.
DOWN -- Injured waxwing seeks rest in the grass.
DOWN — Injured waxwing rests in the grass. He fell in a sort of spiraling flat spin like an autumn leaf. Perhaps he was dazed after a collision? Sadly, an hour later, his head tipped forward. His beak to the ground, he expired.