out natcornI wrote about wood storks, Mycteria americana, back in August of this year after a trip to Isle of Palms in South Carolina (www.smokymountainnews.com/archives/item/8361-stoked-for-storks). It was really cool to see these large prehistoric-looking birds cruising over the marsh in undulating lines. And it seems that more stork lines must be undulating over more marsh and/or wetlands across the Southeast because the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service just announced that they planned to upgrade the wood stork’s status from endangered to threatened.

mtn voicesWhen I was a boy my favorite sport was baseball. I was a pitcher. I didn’t have any idea where the ball was going … or care … but I could throw hard. I liked the game and I liked the language associated with the game: “high hard one” … “powder river” … “chin music” … “circus catch” … “ rhubarb” … “dying quail” … “frozen rope” … “blue darter.”

mtn voicesBecause they seem so delicate and vulnerable, we go out of our way to feed birds that overwinter here in the southern mountains. This no doubt helps maintain bird populations at a higher level than would otherwise be the case, but our feathered friends long ago devised basic strategies for withstanding wind and cold, which are both effective and ingenious.

Don’t know why, but the last two birding trips to Tessentee Bottomland Preserve in Macon County — one last Sunday and one in November a year ago — have been rushed affairs, allowing about two-and-a-half hours of birding from 9:30 a.m. to noon. Now, of course, two-and-a-half hours of birding at Tessentee is much better than no birding at Tessentee, but I would love to have more time to chase more LBJs (little brown jobs) from thicket to thicket and more time to hit more of the trails.

out natcornBack in spring of 2011 I wrote about a wetlands restoration project at Lake Junaluska - www.smokymountain news.com/archives/item/3686-a-perfect-fit. Candace Stimson, in order to fulfill her Low Impact Development degree at Haywood Community College, unearthed Suzy’s Branch behind Jones Cafeteria and created about 100 feet of free-flowing stream and wetlands.

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.

mtnvoicesMigrating rose-breasted grosbeaks have been appearing at feeders throughout the Smokies region in recent weeks.

Those birds that migrate hundreds of miles across the Gulf of Mexico from Central and South America to nest in the United States and Canada are known as the neotropical migrants. Each spring a number of these migrants breed here in the mountains of Western North Carolina. No other bird in our avifauna is more striking in appearance.

It’s bird-tember!

out natcornThose quiet mornings are starting to set in. Yesterday, the only morning chorister in full song, in my yard was a Carolina wren. My summer-hooded warbler could be heard occasionally, but it was like he was humming to himself. Immature towhees were shouting out “drink!” from the tangles and there was an assortment of humming bird squeaks and chickadee and titmouse grousing but the rousing morning chorus that has been with us since early May is gone.

Stoked for storks

out natcornAs we started over the bridge on the Isle of Palms Connector, I noticed a line of large black and white birds through the pine trees. “Gourd heads,” I must have said out loud, because my wife said, “What?”

“Wood storks,” I said, pointing to the undulating line of five or six wood storks, alternately flapping and gliding across the marsh at low tide.

out natcornNew York City is big, bustling and in July – hot, but there are always entertaining and even educational ways to escape the heat. The planets aligned just right giving both Denise and me the entire July Fourth week off.

We donned our tourist attitudes and headed north for a visit with Denise’s sister in Eastampton, New Jersey and a short train ride and a day in the Big Apple with Izzy (10) and Maddie (6).

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