out natcornEarly mornings kind of go with the territory around here. With work, kids and the never-ending list of chores, every homeowner know the wee hours are often the only time one has to exhale. But I’m a crepuscular creature, and that suits me just fine.

Last Sunday morning (Nov. 11), I took my coffee out on the deck just as the southeastern sky was beginning to turn rosy around the peaks of the mountains. Sitting in the not dark but not light, just out of the sun’s grasp, was a crescent sliver of light clinging to the bottom of a dark round shadow moon. And beside this waning crescent moon was shimmering blue Venus. The two danced together teasingly just ahead of Sol as he lumbered over the mountains to start the day.

out natcornLast Saturday (Nov. 3) was this year’s annual fall hike in the Waynesville watershed. The hikes started back in 2007, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be invited to tag along on most. The Waynesville watershed comprises nearly 8,600 acres, most of which are protected by conservation easements. The watershed is off limits to the public except for these annual (spring and fall) town sponsored hikes. The hikes are a way for town residents and other interested parties to get a glimpse of this wonderful resource that has been protected to insure the town has an ample supply of high-quality drinking water for generations to come.

This winter?

out natcornFinch irruptions are not that uncommon. They generally occur in some numbers, in some locations almost every year. But in some years the movements are larger and more widespread. The winter of 2012-2013 is shaping up to be one of those years. Irruptions are not necessarily caused by inclement weather. It appears to be more associated with a lack of available food.

The sounds of silence

This morning when I had coffee on my deck, I did not hear the hooded warbler that nests in the tangles in the young woods below my yard. I did not hear a northern parula singing from the tops of the tulip poplars. There was no buzzy black-throated blue song emanating from the rhododendrons along the little creek. I did not hear a single raspy “chickbuuurrrr” anywhere in the forest. There were no schizoid red-eyed vireos talking to themselves as they bounced from tree to tree, and no wood thrushes graced the early morning with their sweet flute song.

For you the bells toll

out natcornWaiting in the ubiquitous checkout line, I spied a National Geographic special publication, “50 of the World’s last great places – Destinations of a Lifetime.” Thumbing through, right between Bialowieza (remnants of ancient European forests on the border of Poland and Belarus) and Canada’s oldest national park, Banff, was our own Jocassee Gorges.

A braver, newer world

out natcornOr at least a younger one anyway — one of the ranking members of the House’s Committee on Science, Space and Technology, Rep. Paul Broun, R-Georgia, told a gathering at Liberty Baptist Church in Hartwell, Ga., on Sept. 27 that the world was about 9,000 years old.

What to bee-lieve

out natcornApparently what was apparent to many scientists and researchers back in 2008 is becoming more apparent — or not.

Honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder has been raising hackles and eyebrows for the better part of the last decade. Colony Collapse, characterized by the sudden disappearance of most of the adult bees in a colony, began making real headlines around 2006. And not long after, one particular class of pesticides — neonicotinoids — became a prime suspect.

out natcornI had the pleasure of leading nine women from the Great Smoky Mountains Audubon Chapter on an outing along the Blue Ridge Parkway last Saturday (Sept. 22.) Initially hyped as a birding trip, the early fog and high wind had us focusing on many other aspects of nature. Now this isn’t to say birds weren’t there, just conditions were difficult for getting good looks.

A clear path

out natcornLast Saturday, Sept. 15, was surely a gorgeous day to be ridge running high in the Plott Balsams — clear blue skies dotted with white puff-clouds; temperatures in the low to mid 60s; a great day for a hike. Not even the weight of chainsaws, brush cutters, loppers and/or swing blades could dampen the spirit or curb the enthusiasm of the dedicated crew of trail-keepers that set out from Waterrock Knob to Yellow Face and on to Blackrock.

Last splash

out natcornEveryone who woke up to 48 degrees Fahrenheit this morning knows that the days of “butts in the creek” are quickly fading for this year. Planning for the inevitable and being parents of kids who are, if not part fish at least amphibian, we had plans for a last wet hurrah last weekend (Sept. 7-9.)

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