Bridle Creek Walkabout

If you weren't outside today, you were probably nailed to the floor, or duct taped to a heavy couch.  With temperatures reaching nearly 70F, my wife and I agreed to a (sadly) rare walk around our land.
We share a total of 30 acres with our neighbors, a small ridge running east/west, and bordered on the south and north by small branches flowing into Bridle Creek with runs north to south converging with the New River less than a mile from our place. 

Even at a leisurely pace, we can navigate the entire circumference in about 70 minutes.  Our house faces south, perched on the edge of the ridge overlooking a scrappy field.

We typically begin our walks by heading straight down this hill, inspecting shrubs and bushes for nests and other animal signs.  One such find, a nest, was quickly located in a Japanese Bayberry (invasive).  Look hard, and you will see it, too.

I have never yet found a hummingbird's nest, though I have put some decent effort into it.  Lichens plays a role in camouflaging the exterior of their tiny nests.  And when you know that they are hardly any bigger round than a quarter, the challenge becomes apparent.  With leaves gone I look harder, and especially in shrubs and trees covered with lichens, thinking that a hummer might prefer the extra protection provided by such cryptic surroundings.

Our segment of Bridle Creek flows over some large rocks, creating a series of pools and washes, small waterfalls and the music of water we all appreciate.  Along what passes for a trail beside the creek, we always find changes...newly fallen trees whose root systems were compromised by the latest flood...fluctuations in spring fed seeps...and the shifting of deer paths based upon these vicissitudes.  And speaking of deer, here is one that won't be eating our garden greens next spring.

Many years ago, farmers built a wagon trail along the creek, remnants of which can still be detected, not only by the flat cut into the side of the hill, but also by this obvious bit of engineering.

Just past this rock wall, we discovered a pile of feathers...more than likely those of a downy woodpecker. 

At the north end of the land, we leave the creek and assume our slow ascent.  25 years ago we had a road cut down to the creek for a variety of reasons.  It is mostly grown over now, but noting a recently downed shag bark hickory, a very large tree, I began plotting a clearing party to gain access to this bounty.  The rise from this point is quite a steep grade, and it is easy to spot deer trails due to the turned earth.  Near one of these trails were several rubbed saplings, sign of bucks scenting their territory.  Just below this sapling, was a significant scrape in the ground, another sign of territorial declaration. 

Along this road, a large bird flew into the edge border made up of mostly white pine.  As we drew closer, it took off, revealing to us a broad winged hawk incarnate.  No, I did not get a picture of that. The western border opens up into another large cattle field.  With the sun laying low, I took one more photo of the field inflamed by our late autumnal light.

So to all of us, I recommend the walk, the hike, the paying attention and discoveries there for any and all.