Soggy birding

May 5 was a soggy morning. At 7:30 a.m. a light drizzle had engulfed Lake Junaluska. We sat in our cars and debated our plight. This was the date selected for the Haywood County Arts Council “Fun Party – Art of Birdwatching.” About 20 arts patrons were beginning to wonder how much fun they were going to have.

One hundred and twenty people or so took advantage of Waynesville’s first Watershed Appreciation Month to see and learn more about the town’s 8,600-acre watershed. The program ran the last three Saturdays in April and included hikes and presentations in the watershed plus programs at town hall.

In late March there was a lot of talk on the Carolina birders’ listserv about early migration as Neotropical migrants began showing up. By April 1 we had already recorded blue-headed vireo, northern rough-winged swallow, blue-grey gnatcatcher and black-throated green warbler at Balsam Mountain Preserve.

The Navy has decided that a site in Washington and Beaufort counties in eastern North Carolina, about three to five miles from Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, is the ideal spot for an Outlying Landing Field (OLF) where its pilots can practice simulated carrier landings in their new super Hornet aircraft.

You have to admire the tenacity of America’s armed forces. We can all take pride in the heroism, courage and valor exhibited by America’s finest down through the centuries. And the U.S. Navy is no exception. In fact, most every red-blooded American male from baby-boomer age and before has surely stood on the bow of his crippled war ship, waved his saber and boldly declared, “I have not yet begun to fight,” or perhaps “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.”

A federal judge in San Francisco told the Bush administration on March 30 that it didn’t have the right to bypass property owners when making decisions regarding their lands. Back in early 2005 the administration decided unilaterally to change the rules and regulations regarding the maintenance and care of more than 1.7 million acres without consulting the property owners.

First let me get this disclaimer out of the way. I am thrilled to hear that Congressman Heath Shuler has joined Sen. Lamar Alexander and others from North Carolina and Tennessee on Capitol Hill to officially ask for a cash settlement to Swain County, in lieu of a North Shore Road. I’m especially happy to see that Sen. Elizabeth Dole has finally quit waffling and signed on.

George Ellison talked about the harbingers of spring in his Feb. 28 column in The Smoky Mountain News. Well those harbingers now have lots of company.

Twelve of the world’s foremost salamander authorities converged on Balsam Mountain Preserve Sunday March 11 for an informal survey. The program was facilitated by Balsam Mountain Preserve’s senior naturalist Blair Ogburn, who seemed right at home with her most distinguished colleagues.

Did you ever wonder why this big, furry, long-eared mammal was hoping around with eggs in its basket?

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