Date: 9/18/18 5:37 pm From: Joseph C. Neal <joeneal...> Subject: Upper Buffalo, Cave Mountain
For the past decade or so, Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society has sponsored an early June field trip into the upper Buffalo National River area. It starts at Boxley Bridge over the Buffalo River and ends at top of Cave Mountain. Elevation of the road is 1100 feet at the bridge. The travel is around 2-miles to top of the mountain, elevation almost 2000 feet. This morning David Oakley and I made this trip. First stop at the bluff line, around 1900 feet and a bird I was looking for, Worm-eating Warbler, a late record for northwest Arkansas. On the slope below, Hooded Warbler. From there we went on to the top, parked, checked out a couple of singing Yellow-throated Vireos, and walked a short trail down to a very high bluffline that looks off into Upper Buffalo Wilderness. Interesting native plants grow in the sun here, including a species of Ladies’-Tresses orchid. A long-legged fly was busy among puffy Hawkweed seeds.
Ashe’s Juniper grows along this bluff, wild contortions of stout limbs that stand up to the heat and wind, forming a sort of canopy over the edge of the bluff. Look over the edge – a shear drop of 100 feet into the forest below through which flows the upper Buffalo. A little springfed creek flows from the mountain top to the edge and drops off here. The moist dense cover today was full of birds: Black-throated Green Warbler, Northern Parula, Black-and-white Warbler, Nashville Warbler, both Summer and Scarlet Tanagers, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and one of Peterson’s famous “confusing fall warblers.” The Scarlet Tanager was another of my targets today. They now wear the rich yellow with black wings. Pretty fantastic sight as we peered through the Ashe’s Junipers.
I started my trips to the Buffalo River long before there was a controversy about a hog factory farm polluting the river and also at a time when very few people drove as fast as possible over Cave Mountain in a hurry to Hawksbill Crag. I understand why they go; aren’t we after all so hungry to experience something of real nature? David and I made one stop on the way down, walked another short trail, and spotted a few, tiny, Autumn Coralroot orchids. These miracles contain essence of Cave Mountain and Buffalo River country. And nearby, I heard soft chips of what I think was probably an Acadian Flycatcher, but I never could get my bins of it.