A closer look

out natcornOnly you can apply the brakes to slow down the Courthouse Timber Sale and get everyone to take a closer look. This sale – scheduled for nearly 500 acres in the Pisgah National Forest near the foot of Devils Courthouse – has been through the various assessment channels including NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) and is now open to public comment.

Friday, Dec. 28, was the date of the eleventh annual Balsam Christmas Bird Count (CBC) — 11 dates but 10 actual counts as the 2009 CBC was cancelled due to inclement weather. This year’s weather was much better for the Balsam count — cloudy to overcast, breezy and cool but not too bad.

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.

out natcornThe Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a great wilderness of about a half-million square acres. It has been the mission of the Park to preserve the thousands of species of plants and animals that live there and, where and when possible, reintroduce species that used to occur there but are now gone.

out natcornLadies and gentlemen, return to your seats and fasten your seatbelts. Spaceship Earth will be screeching to a stop at 6:12 a.m. EST, Dec. 21. After we’re stopped, feel free to unclick; go to the restroom; get up and stretch your legs; we will be stopped for awhile to gather supplies, refuel and prepare to blast off for our southward journey.

out natcornFirst Mate McConnell: “Cap’n the ship is headed straight for that iceberg and there’s no way we kin stop her in time!”

Captain Boehner: “Don’t worry mate. I have a plan.”

FM McConnell: “What kin we do?”

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.

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.

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