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out natcornI’ve recently been seeing lots of posts like these on Carolina Birders’ FaceBook page:

“… My pine siskins have departed, I am sad to say. I have not seen one in a week... It was such a pleasure having them in abundance, this year. I hope that they return, next winter!”

A Golden secret

out natcornThere is one winter visitor to our North Carolina Mountains that is probably happy the Blue Ridge Parkway is closed and is not burgeoning with sightseers and thrill-seekers like it is the rest of the year. That visitor would be Aquila chrysaetos canadensis, the North American golden eagle. There is certainly a mystique about this bird, North America’s largest raptor. It is fairly common out West and is thought of as a bird of wide-open areas. But there is a small – 3,000 to 5,000 – population of golden eagles that breed in northeastern Quebec and migrate throughout the Appalachians. This bird, from preliminary research, appears to be a forest dweller that eschews human contact.

Countin’ in the cold

out natcornI had originally intended to spend today (Monday, Feb. 16) doing a couple of short surveys for the annual Great Backyard Bird Count. But Sunday morning amid more and more (and more and more dire) weather forecasts warning of some pretty heavy winter weather coming our way I began to contemplate counting Sunday instead. Around 9 a.m. Sunday I peeked out the downstairs window. Well, in my yard were 17 wild turkeys. It looked like a large group of jakes and gobblers.

out natcornThe Haywood County Board of Commissioners decided that today (Feb. 2) was the day they would boldly venture into the world of Forest Plan Revision. They did this by unanimously passing a “non-binding” resolution, which had been publicly vetted — oh, wait there was no public comment unless you count the informal poll among board members where they asked each other if they had been approached by citizens regarding the Forest Service (FS) plan revision. This resolution, titled “Resolution in Opposition to Pisgah National Forest Land Management Plan Revision” miraculously manages to simultaneously oppose and support almost every stakeholder issue surrounding the current, federally mandated Nantahala/Pisgah Plan Revision process currently underway.

Double the fun

out natcornI had the pleasure of participating in two Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs) this past weekend. The first was the Balsam CBC on Friday Jan. 2. This was our 13th count — 12th official — and we had 18 participants. Our unofficial tally for this year’s count was a little on the low side: we recorded 68 species and I believe average is (or was, before this year) 73.

out natcornYogi Berra said it best — “It’s like déjà vu all over again.” When I read Holly Kays’ Nov. 12 article about the USDA Forest Service’s Plan Revision in The Smoky Mountain News (www.smokymountainnews.com/news/item/14637), I was taken back to the early 2000s, when I was a fulltime reporter at SMN covering meetings regarding President Clinton’s Roadless Initiative. People, groups and/or organizations had staked out positions either in opposition to or in support of the initiative and were pretty intractable.

Lake J is heating up

out natcornI was fortunate to be able to spend a few hours last Saturday morning (Nov. 23) with members of the Carolina Field Birders on one of their trips around Lake Junaluska. It was still a bit chilly around 9 a.m. when we were to meet at the swimming pool area. But the wind wasn’t blowing and the sun had a nice warm feeling to it. Plus we could see a few interesting birds from our vantage point. Nothing warms birders up in the wintertime like seeing birds.

out natcornThe full Hunter’s Moon is waning and the night sky will be revealing more of her secrets till we spin around and catch December’s Long Night Moon. Around the world it’s getting harder and harder to see those dark sky secrets because of the pernicious and seemingly ever-growing light pollution. 

out hollyThis region has been furnishing the eastern United States with quantities of various evergreen materials (trees, running ground cedar, mistletoe, galax, and so on) for well over a century. Of these, one of the most interesting is American holly. In many ways, the plant’s dark green leaves and scarlet berries signify the season almost as much as the Christmas tree itself.

Monarchs to Mexico

natcornMonarch butterflies, like orange autumn leaves filling the skies, have been winging it to Mexico for the last month or so. Peak migration for the mountains of Western North Carolina is from mid- to late September through early to mid-October. 

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