The eagles’ neighbors have known for months, observant birders and other Lake Junaluska regulars have either known or suspected, and I have sat on the news for a while as I consulted with North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) and U.S. Fish & Wildlife, but those two beautiful, large brown raptors with the white heads and tails that have been patrolling the lake regularly for the past few months are, indeed, Lake Junaluska residents.
A pair of mature bald eagles has been hanging out at Lake Junaluska for a few months now. I have heard two separate reports of these birds carrying nesting material. In the dark musty cobweb covered labyrinth that serves as my memory, I seem to remember reading about bald eagles nesting on Waterville (Walters) Lake, along the Pigeon River in northwest Haywood County near the Tennessee border back in the late 1970s. However, I recently did a Google search and could find no reference, so? Maybe some reader(s) could clear that up for me?
At 8 a.m. on a December morning, the newly risen sun had barely warmed the air over Franklin from the previous night’s low of 18 degrees when knots of bundled-up birders began gathering across the county to partake in a chilly winter tradition — the Christmas Bird Count.
One of those knots formed at the Big Bear entrance to the Little Tennessee River Greenway, a crew of four birders — plus one Smoky Mountain News reporter — waiting in frosty low-30s weather to receive their marching orders.
Some time around mid-September I added tic number 207 to my 2017 bird list. It was a merlin I saw one afternoon along the Blue Ridge Parkway while I was watching migrating broad-winged hawks. Then — nothing; nothing for a long time.
Everyone knows what a blue jay looks and sounds like in a general sort of way. Their incandescent blue plumage and raucous “thief! thief! thief!” calls are a vibrant part of everyday life. It is a stunningly beautiful bird with a bag full of attitudes and postures.
Regrettably a wall through desert and riparian lowlands along the Mexico-U.S. border will have terrible effects on terrestrial fauna whose home range includes both sides of an imaginary line in the sand. However other migrants will, likely, never notice a wall unless, of course, it is lit up like an airport landing strip.
Another spring, another season of bird points in the can. Each spring brings its own unique set of adventures, dilemmas and logistical challenges.
On one level, the natural history of a region consists of its terrain, habitats, plants, animals and how they interrelate. I also believe that no full understanding of the natural history of a region can be realized without coming to terms with its spiritual landscape. And when we consider the spiritual landscape of the Smokies region, we enter the realm of the ancient Cherokees.
This past weekend, May 6-7, was the 34th annual installment of the Great Smoky Mountains Birding Expedition (GSMBE.) The expedition began in 1984 as the brainchild of author, naturalist George Ellison of Bryson City, master birder Rick Pyeritz of Asheville and East Tennessee State University ornithologist and field guide author Fred Alsop.
I was reconnoitering the Buck Creek Serpentine Barrens on Monday March 27, with Brent Martin, Southern Appalachian regional director at The Wilderness Society, for an upcoming field trip with the Franklin Bird club on April 24. The Serpentine Barrens is located along Buck Creek in Clay County, off U.S. 64 about 17 miles west of Franklin. The barrens is a botanically distinct area created by the dominant serpentinized rock types — dunite and olivine. The area is home to many rare and/or endemic plants because of the rare soils created by the serpentinized rock and two decades of prescribed burning by the Forest Service.