Toad in the Hole

May 18, 2004

Boyle Park in May

Boyle Park is within the Little Rock, Arkansas city limits. It's long and narrow and basically follows the course of a creek and a road, mostly mixed oak-and-friends forest. It's right over the hill from where Joe's folks used to live, and we'd retreat there for some um not quite solitude... duotude? and strolling and birding, when we were visiting. This means we've been in and out of the place sporadically since 1980.

Back in the '80s, there were more woodpeckers, redheaded and pileated both. Those seem harder to find now, though there are still plenty of red-bellies and downies and yellow-shafted flickers. We didn't see northern waterthrush on either of our days there this time but we had yellowthroats mostly by ear, along with the usual cardinals, bluejays, robins, vireos, wrens, common grackles, fish crows, kingfishers, green heron... I'll have to dig up Joe's list, as it's late and I've misplaced my nouns again.

The Mississippi kites were still there -- incredible (to me) to be seeing this hawk within city limits, but there they were, evidently courting, dancing around way up in the blue, dashing down to treetop level. They eat bugs, of all things; it's like having a hypercrafted Japanese sword to slice radishes -- forget all that Nature-has-to-be-perfectly-efficient stuff. And I'm not knocking the result. I've heard of naturalists tossing cicadas for them to catch on the wing, and maybe in 17 years I'll get to try that myself.

The stream was full of fish -- shiners, minnows, suckers, sunfish (maybe those were stocked), bass and trout (certainly stocked). And red-eared and some other sliders, a softshell turtle, bullfrogs -- nice to see this stuff where it belongs. And snakes! We saw two species of water snake: yellow-bellied (four or six, in different locations) and a diamondback water snake. All nonvenomous, a couple of feet long, very active and very elegant swimming along with their heads raised out of the water, evidently sight-hunters. We saw the diamondback and a yellow-belly encounter each other, stop and flick tongues inquisitively (not quite face-to-face, more like amidships) and then move on in opposite directions. The diamondback was a bit bigger.

All this snake stuff was on a day with brief squalls of rain and a few thunderclaps. Maybe the activity was weather-related; neither of us had ever seen either of these species before, in all the trips we'd made to the park over 24 years.

Flowers were blooming all over too: blue tradescantia, red buckeye saplings, a different blue-eyed grass from ours here, Queen Anne's lace, some elegant tiny white thing I still haven't figured out, just for example.

And, pace the local warnings, we didn't get mugged. Neither, as far as I know, did the little fambly groups or the art class or the napping schoolbus drivers or the folks fishing in the pond.

Posted at May 18, 2004 05:38 AM


Ron: so glad to see you're back and blogging again....

I love your description of the water snakes and the flicking tongues amidships. It's been years since I've seen a snake swimming in water.

Posted by: Pica at May 18, 2004 02:56 PM