Missouri’s Greer Spring—Sublime Consolation

June 4, 2014

The title of this post is misleading because I would never really consider Oregon County’s Greer Spring to be a consolation prize. My visit to the spring just happened to be a secondary goal for the day, the primary goal being to find, and hopefully photograph, the magnificent, hooded warbler, a species I’d never observed.

Last year, during a Bird Ecology Workshop I attended through the Missouri Department of Conservation, I asked the instructor, Brad Jacobs, where I might find a hooded warbler to photograph. Brad responded that my best bet would be the forests surrounding the Eleven Point River, perhaps near Greer Spring. I was pleased at Brad’s response because I love Greer Spring and I knew that the day wouldn’t be wasted, even if I didn’t find the stunning yellow bird with the black balaclava. I made a note to head down to the Greer area during the following warbler migration in May of 2014.

Fast forward almost a year to last Friday evening when I set my iPhone alarm for 1:45 a.m. I made sure to use the “Twinkle” setting for the alarm sound as it is the sweetest sound my phone provides to ensure a gentle wake-up. When my head hit the pillow at 10:00 p.m., it seemed like only seconds later when I heard said twinkles ringing softly across the bedroom. Joyce woke up as well and I could tell from the tone in her voice that she was a little concerned about my condition as I prepared to hit the highway. I languidly assured her that I would be careful and headed out the door.

I was well past St. Clair, heading west on I-44, before I felt 100% awake and began to get excited again about finding a hooded warbler. The hooded warbler is so exotic looking, it was hard to imagine seeing one in Missouri. If I ran across one in the tropics, I wouldn’t be so shocked, but to see one in the Ozarks, now that would be a treat!

My plan was to first head to Greer Spring for some sunrise photographs of my favorite place in Missouri. I wasn’t worried about searching for the “hoodie” until later in the morning, around 7 a.m. when the gnats started flying. I usually have my best warbler sightings when the gnats are busy setting up housekeeping under the flaps of my eyelids.

I finally arrived at Greer Spring trailhead and began my trek down the pitch dark trail. I had about 45 minutes to make it to the spring and set up for some images at first light. As always, when I closed in on the spring, Missouri’s second largest, it was still dark but the sounds and smells made me a little emotional. Missouri’s natural wonders have that effect on me; I can’t help it!

DJB_GSP_2014_0899Greer Spring-Looking Downstream; 17 mm; 30 second exposure; f/18; ISO 100

For the next hour or so, I photographed the spring with urgency because the back of my mind was filled with visions of a little bird, yellow with a black hood. At around 7:00 a.m. I packed up my landscape gear and began walking, no jogging, up the trail so I could begin my search for the hooded warbler. When I arrived at my car, I changed into a fresh t-shirt and began phase two of my trip.

I took a short drive to the U.S. Forest Service Campground at McCormack Lake and hopped on to the Greer section of the Ozark Trail, big lens and camera over my shoulder. After walking a mile, I wasn’t hearing much of anything, let alone the distinct call of a hooded warbler, which I’d memorized on my computer over the previous several days. As I closed in on a mile and a half, I was becoming concerned that I would have to turn around soon because I usually limit my walks with the 18-pound telephoto rig to four miles. About that time, I heard the familiar sound, which I describe as as a series of tweets with a sneeze at the end—something like, tweeka, tweeka, tweek-echew. The voice wasn’t the high-pitched, almost inaudible squeak of  many other warblers. This was a bold call, every bit as powerful as that of a Carolina wren, and with the beginning pitch of an Acadian flycatcher. Yes, this was the sound of a hooded warbler!

I stopped dead in my tracks and pulled my tripod and camera down, just before the beautiful bird landed at eye level behind me. I quickly spun a 180, rig in hand, only to scare the brilliantly colored male off. After that, the cycle continued several more times, the male approaching my location but shunning any thoughts I had about taking its picture. Finally, I just switched to “birder mode” and began finding and watching the gorgeous specimen with my Vortex 8 x 42’s. At one point, as I focused on the hooded warbler, only 30 feet away, I could feel the hair stand up on my neck. It was that awesome!

So, if you haven’t already ascertained from the images in this post, I never captured an image of the beautiful hooded warbler but I came home happy with an indelible impress of the bold and beautiful warbler in my mind’s eye. I’ll remember the morning as an experience of a lifetime, which officially makes me a “bird nerd” I suppose.

If you are one of the few who have read this far, now you know why I call these images from Greer Spring a consolation prize. If only all consolation prizes could be so wonderful!

DJB_GSP_2014_0911Greer Spring Riffle; 17 mm; 25 second exposure; f/18; ISO 100

I truly believe that Missouri’s Greer Spring, holds its own with any place on Earth for lush, verdant beauty. It is a natural cathedral, replete with rich vegetation, velvety curtains of moss and an a bold chorus of rushing water—my kind of spiritual inspiration.

Thanks for looking,

Danny

Featured Image:  Greer Spring at Dawn; 25 mm; 30 second exposure; f/22; ISO 100

 

 

 

10 comments on “Missouri’s Greer Spring—Sublime Consolation”

  1. Hi Danny Loved this post–made me want to take a drive to Greer Spring. And you turned a disappointment into an opportunity to share. Always enjoy Nature Frames. Best,

    Chris

  2. Greer Spring looks absolutely breathtaking. I wish so badly that I could have gone with you last weekend. Congratulations on seeing the Hooded warbler, another breathtaking experience this would be! Beautiful images, Danny!

  3. BEAUTIFUL!!!!!! I love that pursuing a tiny little bird lead to such an moving experience.

  4. Thank you for sharing! Sounds like Greer Spring is on our road trip list for this summer, absolutely beautiful!!

    • Definitely worth a visit and it is near Alley Spring, Falling Spring, Rocky Falls, Hughes Mountain and other sites.

  5. Simply Beautiful shots of Greer Springs Danny. What a wonderful place to air out your head. That’s the best medicine for what ever illness you may have. I kept looking to see if Yoda was there, but I didn’t see him. Thanks for sharing.

    Art


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