Busy weekend, this last. Nevertheless, we found time to enjoy a four-mile walk in the county park downstream of my natural area on Saturday and, on Sunday, we attended the natural area preserve's biannual President's Circle Gala event on an absolutely perfect afternoon on the highest hill in the natural area.
We often take long walks on the weekend--rambles of four to six miles--but Kali's Lyme disease has re-surged and the accompanying aches, pains, and weakness have limited our strolls to four miles or less for the last few weeks. During this Saturday's walk, a Red-tailed Hawk swooped low over the trail and then perched in a tree fifty feet away. There, despite being pestered by a Blue Jay, it sat calmly preening and allowing me to take multiple photographs with my point-and-shoot Nikon S10.
Further down the trail, we got a tantalizing glimpse of the creek, still low from the summer's long drought despite several sizable recent rain events.
Sunday's affair, the President's Circle Gala, is held every other year to thank my natural area's most generous supporters. The event is traditionally held at the crest of a knoll at the highest point in the natural area--an area that had been a private farm but which the natural area purchased 13 years ago and whose managers have converted mostly to native, warm-season grasses to attract meadow-nesting birds like Bobolinks, Grasshopper Sparrows and Eastern Meadowlarks. With breeding season over, erecting a tent and hosting 150 folks who provide the lion's share of the preserve's support seems like a pretty good alternate use of a small portion of the fields. (The majority of the fields are left undisturbed to provide shelter and habitat for overwintering birds.)
In the past, Gala attendees were treated to aerial views of the 800-acre preserve from a helicopter, but this year, the preserve's managers opted for tethered hot-air balloon rides. Even though the day was absolutely perfect for a tented picnic (cloudless skies, low humidity, and temperatures in the low 70s), the knoll was too breezy for the balloon to ascend to more than 20 feet, limiting the views. Nevertheless, it provided a festive backdrop to an afternoon of smooth jazz, catered food, and lots of mingling and reconnecting with old friends.