Saw an unusual red bird during a lunchtime walk. A scarlet tanager? A summer tanager, or something else?  A closer look showed him to be a cardinal — a bald cardinal. One colleague suggested this poor fellow’s condition the result of an extreme case of henpecking.

HENPECKED? — A cardinal without headfeathers picks off some lunch on the campus of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Another redhead in the parking lot*

Theparking lots between the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and the Cooperative Extension  Service headquarters are ringed with a mix of old, tall hardwoods and pines that rise to somewhere in the 50-70 foot range. This thin forest is home to an abundance of life including hawks, raccoons and coyotes. There are several types of woodpeckers too; red-bellied, pileated and this fellow, the red-headed woodpecker.

ON HIGH — Red-headed woodpecker enjoys the view from atop a large, leafless pine tree.

(*The earlier redhead in the parking lot was a spectacular red maple)

The higher ed hawk

It’s not uncommon for the thrum of traffic along South University Avenue in Little Rock to pierced by the shriek of a hawk. Folks who work at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock and the adjacent extension service offices have observed a female hawk nesting in the same place for at least five years. Her landings near high office windows or railings are a delight to watch.  It’s also a relief to her fans that despite the rise of new campus buildings and the demise of some of the higher pines, she continues to make the university her home.

Below, some hawk shots taken during morning strolls around campus.

WATCHING — Hawk perches some 60 feet above campus.
WAITING — Juvenile red-tailed hawk waits out the harassment doled out by blue jays, catbirds and other smaller birds. It eventually flew back toward its nest.
HAWK’S NEST — Described as being “big as a La-Z-Boy.”

Falling to earth

Some avian treasures fell to earth, waiting to be discovered in the office parking lot before the work day began.

BROKEN — This half of a robin’s egg was sitting in office driveway. Guessing from the small peck hole at the top and the lack of yolk on the pavement that this was was the castoff from a hatching and not the leavings of a raccoon’s breakfast.
WHAT ARE THE CHANCES?– Like the rare tossed coin that falls neither heads or tails, this feather’s shaft managed to find a crack in the parking lot and land upright.

Don’t mess with mama

Killdeers are common on campus at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock and by nature are ground nesters. The local populations seem to be partial to nesting in what seem to be the most vulnerable places. This one chose to nest in mulch next to a parking lot curb.

However, don’t under estimate the fierceness of mama birds. They can quickly become mama grizzlies if you get too close.  This killdeer mother was not afraid to protect her brood of three from the Friday Ride Day group that met just feet away.

CHARGE! -- Killdeer lurches toward the photographer who ventured too close to her fuzzy little chicks.
THREE IN THE HOLE -- The heads of mama's three chicks are barely visible in her shadow.
BRAVE ONES -- Two of the chicks explore their world.



Finally! A decent bird shot! Was out shooting a work project when I heard this guy singing something that wasn’t the blues.

BRIGHTLY SINGING -- Bluebird sat singing in a tree in the parking lot at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.


Crushed and elated

A year ago tomorrow, Ferndale was covered in snow.*  Today, temps were around 63F/17.2C with the sun playing hide and seek in the wake of a lightning-filled night. Near the university, all manner of things were in bloom such as naturalized daffodils, forget-me-nots and henbit. It’s not unusual to see those things west of the city either around this time of year. So, it wasn’t unreasonable to expect to see little violets or other sweets smiling in the dormant turf.


Combing the lawn, none but a tiny white weed flower raised its head above the damp.

DOWN HERE -- Tiny white flower of a forgot-what-you-call-it weed rises above the dormant bermuda. The flowers are less than .25 inches, or 6.4 mm across.

Daunted and  with eyes to the ground, the search for floral life continued. This time, it was not the eyes, but nose, that made the discovery. In a wilder part of the yard, the sweetest perfume drew me to a small shrub. The plant would be almost anonymous among the saltbush, small pines and jasmine vines, except for this burst of glistening white clusters and pink buds. Its blossoms were abuzz with pollinating flies and at least one honeybee.

It was a good day.

OPEN FOR BUZZ-INESS -- One of the sweet smelling flowers on this little shrub.
BOTH FORMS -- Branch showing both the blooms and the buds.

*See Many faces of a Ouachita winter’s day.

24 little hours …

Arkansas has enjoyed unseasonably warm temperatures for late January and the first day of February. Highs today were in the 70s. Even the rock knockers were out this evening, singing their songs in the sunset.

Growing up in the northeast, where the first blooms were snow drops, eagerly awaited in February or March, it’s hard to get used to blooms in January and February. Here in central Arkansas, daffodils begin blooming in January and continue well into March.

The first day of February was a bright one for these blooms near the library at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Behind the office

I’m blessed to work in an office surrounded by trees, despite being in the middle of the city. Coleman Creek runs behind the building, an oasis for wildlife well adapted to urban settings such as possums and raccoons. Part of the greenbelt includes a native persimmon tree. Despite the summer’s drought, the tree produced abundant fruit. Some of the ripened fruit drops naturally; but others come down complete with leaves and twiglets — probably knocked out of the tree by raiding raccoons.

There is some grassroots weather lore that goes along with persimmons. If you open the fruit and split the seed, the white shape that appears is a predictor of the severity of the coming winter. Check out Uncle Ray’s story by nephew and columnist Robert Seay here.

TART -- These unripe fruits re a favorite of raccoons and coyotes.
ONES THAT GOT AWAY -- Persimmons the raccoons missed.

The office backyard also has a few volunteer flowers. In spring, naturalized daffodils light up the leaf litter. In fall, surprise lilies, also known as naked ladies, also crop up. I was a little late in finding these ladies, but they still had a certain photographic lure.

SURPRISE -- No one was more surprised to find these surprise lilies behind the office than I.
PAST ITS PEAK -- Even as a lady of a certain age, this naked lady lily is still beautiful.