Horny hickory devil

out natcornOK, OK, you can bring the kids back into the room, we’re not talking that kinda horny here. The hickory horned devil is the largest caterpillar in North America. It is the larval stage of the regal moth, Citheronia regalis, and in its last instar or molt before pupating it can grow to between five and six inches long. That is five to six inches long and 3/8-inch in diameter of mean, green dangerous caterpillar-looking machine.

End of the bloody tetrad

out natcornAll the lunar-phobes out there, as well as many of the astronomically challenged – like me, will be praying for clear skies for the night and pre dawn hours on Sept. 27-28. The total eclipse of September’s Harvest Moon (so called in the Northern Hemisphere because it is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox) will bring an end to this latest — gasp — lunar tetrad.

Of bears and bees

out natcornI am not nearly so frustrated with my black oil sunflower seed-addicted bruin neighbor as I was after his little escapade last Friday morning around 2 a.m. I was trying to finish some writing before I left for my pre-dawn “day job” when I heard some noise on the deck. I had chased a raccoon away the night before and figured it was back. But the noise had a little more substance to it. Bear, I thought.

out natcornperseids falling
perseids burning white hot
perseids flame out

I made sure to keep an eye out for falling stars last week on my pre-dawn delivery route since it was during the peak of the annual Perseids meteor shower. One morning was pretty socked in with clouds and/or fog but most of the rest of the week was pretty good.

Company for coffee

out natcornDue to the generosity of great friends Bill and Elaine Cave of Asheville, my family has enjoyed a summer respite on Isle of Palms in South Carolina for a decade or so. We made it down around 5 p.m. on Sunday (8/2) — still enough time for the girls to hit the beach for a while.

Summer skies

out natcornMy family and I made a quick run up to Waterrock Knob on the Blue Ridge Parkway around dusk last Sunday (July 19) to get a peek at some celestial luminaries. Venus and Jupiter joined the waxing crescent moon on the western horizon. They danced and played hide and seek amidst layered clouds whose purple backs touched the night while their bellies bathed in the last yellow and orange rays of the sun falling over the western horizon. It was a beautiful, tranquil setting.

out natcornWell, it wasn’t really a voice — it was an email. I received an email from Bruce Lampright back in November 2014.

Color on high

out natcornI occasionally see The Smoky Mountain News’ Garret K. Woodward’s Facebook posts about hitting the trails around WNC for a mind-clearing run and my knees twinge with the memories of similar sorties and the sad recognition that without surgery those days are lost. 

out natcornThe other day, while chasing birdies for the Forest Service, I encountered a pretty wildflower along an abandoned logging road. The plant was small purple-fringed orchid, Platanthera psycodes. It was unusual in that the flowers were white rather than the normal lavender to reddish-purple one generally encounters.

out natcornNeotropical migrants can be flashy things — think scarlet tanager, Baltimore oriole, rose-breasted grosbeak or those tiny butterflies of the bird world like American redstart, blackburnian warbler, hooded warbler and northern parula, just to name a few. And often when we strike out in search of these colorful creatures we go to places like the Blue Ridge Parkway, where it is open and there is good light so we can see the amazing color. But sometimes beige is cool.

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