Autumn is my favorite time for hiking.
Today came close to being absolutely heavenly! Magnificent weather. Muted yet soft leaf color giving the hills an amber-rust overall appearance. Just enough gentle gusts of wind to send waves of colorful leaves across my path.
At the Azalea Cascades path in Desoto State Park the brittle brigades paraded across the boardwalk before me. I caught a white oak leaf in flight, then a chestnut oak leaf and later a red maple leaf and picked up a sweet gum leaf with its vibrant red sheen.
You might think I had forgotten to absorb the cascades and birds along the way. But no. Because of all the recent rains the water level was high at all of the waterfalls.
I was blessed with some up close and personal visits from several of my favorite confusing fall warblers! I heard and then saw hairy woodpeckers, a yellow-shafted flicker and a yellow-bellied sapsucker all right along the trail as I simply stood still. I think the warblers came close to investigate me.
It was the first time I hiked in this area, I wore my hearing aids and it was refreshing and rewarding. My ability to locate the bird sounds was skewed by the location of my microphones. However, without the aids I heard neither the birds nor the waterfalls.
The crisp clear blue sky coupled with the intensely varied forest reminded me how much the mixed mesophytic forest of the Appalachian Mountains speaks the language of home to me.
Just as I realized that, I turned toward a nearby chirp sound and saw a Yellow-throated Vireo (Vireo flavifrons) too close to use my compact Bushnell binoculars! I could almost touch it. It perched on the branch of a blooming witch hazel shrub.
Of course! Insects were coming in to feed or drink at these tiny spidery yellow flowers and this saavy little bird was just perched and waiting for them. I froze in place for several minutes and established eye contact with the warbler once or twice before it flittered away to a different feeding area. I felt privileged to be there at its buffet table. This little charmer is often mistaken for a warbler and the “hanging around” behavior is typical for this species.