Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Birds and Blooms at Natural Bridge

Birdfoot Violet
Natural Bridge is one of our favorite spots in Kentucky. Since we were in Texas over Derby Weekend, we hoped we would still be in time for late-blooming wildflowers at Natural Bridge this weekend. We did see some late bloomers, but not the ones we expected to see, such as the many trillium. That made the flowers we did find even more exciting.
Yellow Lady's Slipper
As we sloshed across the muddy trails (it stormed the night before and twice on Saturday), we practiced studying the leaf structure to identify the plant without its blossom. Turning the corner on one trail, we found the only yellow Lady's Slipper of the weekend, only 6 inches off the trail. I hope it doesn't get stepped on and crushed by anyone.
Squaw Root
Squawroot, also known as Bear Corn or Cancer Root, is actually a fungus rather than a flower. Like all members of the Broomrape family, the Squawroot contains no chlorophyll.  It must therefore obtain nutrients from a host plant as a parasite.  The Squawroot attaches to the root structure of oak trees for this purpose.  However, this parasitic activity generally does not result in the death of the host tree, as the extraction is relatively minor and the number of individual Squawroot shoots is not extensive.
Fat Man's Misery
The main trail to the bridge goes up Fat Man's Misey to reach the top of the arch. It is perhaps 18-20 inches wide, thus the name! With all the rain, it was also full of water and mud puddles. We had to turn sideways to make it through!
Once at the top, the shadows edged down into the valleys, showing the layout of the land. The area around Natural Bridge is actually a plateau which has been eroded into valleys, rather than being a mountain range.
Turkey Vulture
The Turkey Vultures love the warm air thermals around all this sandstone, and a kettle of perhaps a dozen or so glided over the bridge, their white wing feathers shining in the setting sun.  They would soon settle down to a roosting tree for the night.
Black and White Warbler
Listening to the bird call CD's on the drive to the park is always worthwhile, especially since warblers are still migrating through the area. Walking through the forest, they taunted us from high in the canopy. My bird app on my phone came into action. Some of the warblers were curious, while others just ignored us.
Hooded Warbler
This is the best (or only) photo I've gotten of a Hooded Warbler.
Some of the non-warblers were a little easier to locate such as this Goldfinch near the dining hall...
Eastern Phoebe
...and the Eastern Phoebe calling non-stop from the hillside below the lodge. Curiously, my cell phone had no signal at all from the lodge, which is tucked against a high cliff, but service returned when we climbed to the top of the Bridge! In all, it was a fun weekend. Soon, we will pack again for a two week trip to New Mexico.

1 comment:

Grampy said...

Natural Bridge is a neat area to visit. Glad you had fun and got to see a hooded and black and white warbler. The wildflowers special as well.