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Slippery When Wet: A Rainy Radnor Lake Hike

September 9th, 2007 · No Comments · deer, great blue herons, owls, Radnor Lake

This particular hike was long overdue. I have blown off my favorite pastime of late, having proffered the excuse that my part-time landscape maintenance work made up for it. It didn’t.

rain clouds in the afternoon did not spoil my hike at Nashville's Radnor Lake

I watched the radar closely throughout the day, thrilled by the rain and hoping for a break in the precipitation near dusk. Weather.com‘s interactive weather map has (in beta) a fantastic radar featuring a Google Maps-like zoom, which allows you to determine which neighborhoods are getting the rain. I left the house before 6pm and headed for Radnor Lake even though the rain had just started again; thanks to a radar closeup of the area, I knew it was a very small band of rain that would be gone by the time I arrived.

sunset

It seems like only yesterday when sunset occurred locally at around 7:30; it has already shifted to 7:04, which is why I was caught a little off guard at the speedy encroachment of darkness while still atop Ganier Ridge. Hiking in the dark was great! There were four other cars in the Granny White parking lot when I returned at 7:35, and one of the Radnor Lake park rangers pulled up in a white pickup just as I was getting in my car; so make a note, avid hikers: it seems the general rule for parking lot closure is 30 minutes past sunset.

There was the sound of rain throughout the first leg of my hike, falling from the leaves instead of the clouds. It was nice. Small plants that had been badly wilted before were now either healthy and green or completely dead. All living things out there are surely rejoicing for the rain in their own way.

pileated woodpecker

The first sighting of note was a large pileated woodpecker, which first I heard but did not see. I did not recognize the call. Then I briefly saw it — where the irregular canopy allowed — fly toward the trunk of an oak. I did not make an identification until I heard the pecking; I paused to look for it, and then it lighted in just the right spot to create a silhouette, after which there was no doubt as to its pileated-ness.

There were eight deer sightings by the time I finished the South Cove trail and emerged onto Otter Creek Road. I paused to observe the two or three deer that were very close to the trail, taking out my iPod earbuds to get the full effect. It’s great to be so near the deer that you can hear them breathing, snorting, crunching on acorns, chewing leaves…it just seemed wrong to be listening to a psychology podcast while in such close proximity!

whitetail deer in the woods

By hike’s end, I had counted fourteen (14) deer. One new observation for me regarding deer: as tame as they are when there is plenty of daylight, the deer seem much more skittish and wild in lower light conditions. Actually, that makes perfect sense; I am more skittish when in the woods at night.

There was a great blue heron standing in the water near the edge of the lake in the same spot as before, near the wood rail fence. Dusk was at hand and all I could see was the great blue heron’s silhouette, slender and still as it was wary of my presence. Would have made a nice photo.

barred owl with yellow eyes

There was a chorus of owls. It was great. On the South Cove side, there were two owls in the distance calling to one another, and this lasted just about the entire span of the South Cove portion of the hike, from the long uphill straightaway near the west trailhead, all the way to my emergence onto Otter Creek Road halfway through the hike.

After it was virtually dark, there were at least three owls really getting vocal on the lake side. They reminded me of a pack of wolves howling in the distance, except it was not plaintive but somehow urgent. One owl in particular sounded unlike any I can remember hearing; apparently, there is quite a range of Barred Owl vocalizations. (Or great horned owls…or whatever owls.) In fact, I had just been thinking of a Radnor Lake ghost story — the appearance of a long missing woman, presumed murdered by her husband years ago and dumped in the Radnor Lake area — so I was a little creeped out. This owl frenzy was the spooky icing on the cake.

Resources Used/Found While Writing This Post

Interesting resource for southeastern birds: www.flmnh.ufl.edu/birds/sephotos/bp29.htm

There are some beautiful nature photos at http://www.wunderground.com/blog/NorthLight/comment.html?entrynum=0&tstamp=200601

More about whitetail deer: www.nwtrek.org/page.php?id=287

and: http://fwp.mt.gov/fieldguide/detail_AMALC02020.aspx

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