Wednesday, February 29, 2012

2/29/12 Wildflower Season Begins this Weekend

White Trout Lilies Peak Early March 2012
With the remarkable change in the weather, the wildflower bloom is beginning in earnest. This coming weekend will be the first peak of the early species.  Stars of this early show are the white trout lily, harbinger of spring, the sharp-lobed hepatica and cutleaf toothwort. My visit to Lost Valley this morning confirmed the acceleration of the pace of the bloom.

If you are a wildflower fan, you will want to catalog the early species. If you don't visit within the next couple of weeks, you will probably not see either the harbinger of spring or the white trout lilies. To see the whole wildflower show I recommend at least 3 visits over the length of the season.

Species do vary in terms of the blooming date, and importantly the duration of their bloom. If getting great pictures of any specie is your goal, you need to photograph fresh blooms. Basically this means getting here toward the beginning of the blooming period. This weekend is probably that ideal period for the white trout lily. Lost Valley has an outstanding bloom of white trout lilies this year. You will find them just over the bridge to the hiking trail on the left. I got some nice pictures this morning.

Elk Watching
This morning I saw two herds in the valley. The most reliable herd is near the Ponca Access. It has frequented these fields for a while and is usually there at least 2 out of 3 visits for me. The second herd is on private land. I don't identify private land locations, but I believe this herd will rotate to one of the south ends fields down by Smith Creek in a day or two.

The updated map is below. It lists the beginning dates for wildflowers that are in bloom in Lost Valley as well.

Elk Locations and Wildflower Bloom Dates in Boxley Valley 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

2/23/12 Updated Elk Viewing Map

There are 3 elk herds in Boxley Valley now, 2 all cow herds, and 1 all bull herd. This is a normal post-rut pattern.

Remember the antler drop is not until around April 1. If you want to see bull elk up close you need to arrive at Boxley Valley early. Bulls are more timid than cows and calves and leave the fields earlier.

Note the first wildflower blooming dates by species in the map below. Lost Valley is ready to explode, probably within the next week. The wildflower season is long so we are talking about the early species. A nice hike in Lost Valley complements the elk viewing perfectly. The current crop of white trout lilies bloom when the day warms up. Elk head for the woods about that same time. The weather is now perfect for wildflowers to take off strong any day now.

See map with elk herd locations below.

2/23/12 White Trout Lilies Blooming in Lost Valley

White Trout Lily in Lost Valley
This warm weather has started the White Trout Lilly bloom in Lost Valley. The hot spot for this species is just past the bridge to the trail and to the left. Be careful, it is a fragile area. They should be blooming great guns by the weekend.

Monday, February 20, 2012

2/19/12 Elk Herd Locations

Pretty good elk viewing now. There are now 3 herds in the valley. One small bull herd in the field behind the mill pond. 2 other herds including one that is pretty stable around the Ponca Access at the north end of the valley, and the second that has been moving all around the south end. This second herd is now just south of Moore Creek, south of the 43/21 intersection.

Wildflowers will be blasting off anytime now. We just need to string together a few days of warm weather with no frost. Harbinger of Spring is in bloom now, we can expect the White Trout Lilies to be coming along in a couple of weeks. This will be early.

February 2012 updated elk herd location map is below:

Saturday, February 18, 2012

2/18/12 Elk Locations Update

Today there were 2 herds in the valley. The herd near the Ponca Access has been there now at least 3 days running.

The herd in the south end of Boxley Valley re-appeared just north of the Buffalo River at the south end. There is a nice bull with this herd, I think it is Junk Yard Dog, or JYD, He has a distinctive kind of hoop shaped rack.

The updated maps is below:

Friday, February 17, 2012

2/17/12 One Elk Herd in Valley

Harbinger of Spring
This morning there was only one elk herd in Boxley Valley. It is located up by the Ponca Access. The herd that was at the south end has moved off to a back field.  I think it is still in the same zone so it could show up any day.

Perfect wildflower weather is really stimulating the growth of foliage. The Harbinger of Spring flowers are in bloom. These tiny flowers are always early in the lineup. A good bloom of them is located at the Ponca Elk Education Center's wildlife trail. You will also find them near creeks and the river.

The latest elk herd map is below:

Outstanding Elk Viewing, Wildflowers Picking Up

Yesterday was a perfect spring day. The daffodils were blooming, spring frogs were screaming, and two elk herds were in Boxley Valley, each with a very nice bull. 50+ degree temperatures topped it off.

After the first of the year, elk viewing is often at its very best. I have written about that a lot. Yesterday the elk herds were bookends. One herd was near the Ponca Access, and a second all the way down to the south end of the valley near the south trail head to the Upper Wilderness. The viewing conditions could not have been better. Each herd had a big bull present, something kind of unusual after the rut.

Daffodils are blooming. That means the wildflowers are blooming. First a few will bloom, then many will come on as we move into the warm temperatures of next week. My look at the weather map indicates 50+ degree high temperatures for the next week. This is the front end of wildflower prime time.

The 2/16/12 elk viewing map is below:

Monday, February 13, 2012

Wildflower Destinations for Everyone

Spring Beauties Near Kyle's Landing
Surely we are in winter's death rattle. Wild flower season could not seem further away, but it is just a few weeks off now. Time to start planning for your 2012 campaign.

The list of destinations below are for people who don't really want to walk very far.  Here are my recommended hot spots for very easy wildflower viewing and photography -- places where you can drive up and take a short walk to great displays of Ozark wildflowers:

  1. Lost Valley Hiking Trail
    It is hard to beat Lost Valley. Park your car and walk the first 1/2 mile and you will see most wildflowers when they are in bloom.  Lost Valley also has toilets.  Further up the trail are two falls and unbeatable scenery.
  2. Kyle's Landing Access Road
    Hardly anyone knows about this one. Take the road to Kyle's Landing down to the intersection with the road to Camp Orr. Park safely there and walk the road toward Kyle's. This stretch has most of the major species, and it also has Dutchman's Breeches when they are in bloom, a less common wildflower.
  3. Camp Orr Road (off Kyle's Landing Access Road)
    Not huge blooms along this road, but one rare wildflower -- Hoary Paccoon. You got to love that name. Bright yellow-orange clusters about halfway to your next destination, the Triple Falls at Camp Orr (below).
  4. Triple Falls (at the end of Camp Orr Road)
    This area is on nobody's list of wildflower destinations, but it loads up pretty well. You will find the flowers in the short hike to the Triple Falls, a pretty nice set of falls. I find different species here in greater concentration than I do in Lost Valley.

    Destinations 2,3, and 4 are all basically the same because they are so close together. The difference between them has to do with altitude, moisture and soil. This is an interesting study in micro-climate. It is easy to get many good species pictures and not walk very far at all.

  5. Road to Broadwater Falls
    Spiderwort on Road to Broadwater Falls 

    Head out of Compton to the flagpole at the Compton Fire Department, turn east toward the park and follow that road. Along this road you will find the best bloom of spiderworts I have seen anywhere. There are pull-offs where you can park and walk.  Also a great place for red buds, wild plums, and dogwoods in season. You will find less common green trillium here as well. Eye-level shots are often possible because of deep ditches next to flower beds. 

Wildflowers will bloom at different dates depending on location, so if you visit you can see a good mixture of species by visiting different locations. Some locations might be a week apart on blooming dates for the same species.  The big show starts in just a couple of weeks.

Friday, February 10, 2012

RIP Old Buddy

The Boxley Beast in 2010
I am sad to report that the Boxley Beast was killed in this year's elk hunt. This big guy furnished me with hundreds of hours of enjoyment, as he did thousands of visitors from many states. I photographed him over 5 years and have thousands of images of him. He is on my business card.

Killing him offered a fraction of a second's satisfaction to the hunter -- about the same time taken by my camera's shutter. The distinction, of course, is that I experienced thousands of those fractions of seconds across many years, and so did many others, many from other states.

The Beast was perhaps the biggest bull elk ever in Arkansas. He lost an eye guard in his famous YouTube fight with Godzilla. If he had not, his rack would have been the largest on record I am told in Arkansas. He lost that eye guard fighting the bull that ended up on the cover of the special elk issue of Arkansas Wildlife Magazine -- Godzilla. In what was probably his last real bull fight, he kicked Godzilla's tail. We have it on video.

The saddest part of the elk hunt is that in an instant it destroys wildlife watching resources that create tourism and jobs in our region. This is the elk version of killing the golden goose in an instant, depriving visitors from many states of outstanding wildlife watching for years.  It is plain wrong, poor policy, and not real hunting of wild animals.

Winter Is Back

Nothing much to report this week. Weather has been kind of poor most days and this weekend will be worse. We are experiencing a significant cold snap and it will be just plain cold.

Soo, the wildflowers have staged a retreat for now. No doubt the cold weather will abate and soon. But for this weekend, the wildflowers that had made an early show are back hiding out -- for now.

Stay tuned and I will have a report for next week.

Friday, February 3, 2012

2/2/12 February Elk Viewing Map

The elk viewing map for Boxley Valley is below. Yesterday an elk herd was located in the field at the 43/21 intersection. The herd includes a nice bull.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

2/2/12 Wildlflower Season Beginning Now

Wildflower Season Has Begun
It is quite early for the wildflowers to begin blooming, but I have to report that the season has begun and the very first species are emerging now, first a very few, and building a few more every day. Early daffodils are blooming.

Sharp-Lobed Hepatica Flowers in Lost Valley
We are having a very warm winter and it is clear that the wildflowers think it is spring. The most common wildflower now is sharp-lobed hepatica. I saw one January 29, and today I saw perhaps 10 flowers on the Lost Valley Hiking Trail.

What a beautiful day to hike. Perfect spring temperatures. If you are a wildflower fan, this is the beginning of the beginning. Each day there will be more flowers and more species.

So far it is the Hepaticas just starting. I did not see the Harbinger of Spring, but it must be there. They are tiny and not easily seen.

The weather forecast for Friday is for rain. But it clears by Saturday and this warm period continues. Nothing in the forecast indicates a hard freeze going forward.

I will be posting the first bloom dates of wildflowers that I see along with photographs. I try to visit the valley 3 times a week to survey what is happening and post my updates. At least 3 months of wildflowers season is ahead.

This morning there was good elk viewing at the 43/21 intersection. A nice herd of about 30 animals was in the field along with a big bull. I got a few pictures.

If you plan to visit, elk viewing and wildflower viewing complement one another perfectly. About the time elk viewing ends, the wildflowers open. It is easy to spend a half day between early elk viewing a leisurely woodland hike to see the wildflowers. Because there are no leaves yet, bluffs and rock formations are impressive and majestic. Many consider winter hiking the best hiking of the year. This weekend should be very good.