In my youth, never did a B-western movie make it to the end without the bad guy being cornered and denounced for the “yellow-bellied sapsucker” he was. Yellow-belly and/or yellow-bellied has, for various etymological reasons, been associated with cowardice. Sapsucker, I don’t know, maybe it just sounds kinda lowlife.
The annual Balsam Christmas Bird Count (CBC) took place Saturday, Jan. 4. In the weeks prior to the count many regular Balsam CBC participants, like me, had been crying in our eggnog. Bob Olthoff, long-time compiler for the count, was calling Lake Junaluska a “liquid desert” due to the lack of waterfowl.
I believe Lake Junaluska has spoiled local birders like me. I spent about an hour and a half poking around the lake and nearby areas last Sunday morning. I ran into a few other birders and we were all of the same opinion — the lake was dead, not much going on. But then I got home and looked at my list. Twenty-seven species for an hour and a half of birding in mid-December is not a terrible showing.
I can be standing five feet from my girls and say something simple like, “wash your hands,” “brush your teeth” or “clean your room,” and not even an eyebrow will twitch in acknowledgement. But put those same girls down in the basement with TV or ipad/pod blaring at decibels that would make NASCAR jealous and the tiniest thump at a window anywhere in the house will bring them flying upstairs clamoring, “Dad, did you hear that? Sounded like a bird hit the window.”
Traveling from east to west, the Mississippi River Bridge is a time portal for me.
I drive for hours squarely focused on the here and now, then I reach the bridge and in a breath I’m suspended above the Big Muddy, the river stretches for as far as I can see to my right and my left. When I slide off the span onto terra firma I’m in ‘Loosiana,’ a strange world of memories, nostalgia and anticipation.
The rains came Saturday. It was a good day for a soaker, from my perspective. I had writing I needed to catch up on and it’s not as hard being stuck away down in the dungeon when it’s pouring. We had seen the forecast for Sunday, and I remember remarking to Denise — on one of my trips upstairs to the world of the living — that I bet Sunday was going to be a big day for migrating hawks.
Like the breathing in and out of newborns; like the ebb and flow of the tide, and like the cycle of day and night, the spring and fall migration is part of the pulse of the planet.
Purple martin “scouts” are some of the earliest harbingers of spring. I recorded one in February at Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana during last year’s Great Backyard Bird Count, and it’s not uncommon for them to show up in Florida in January.
The steady decline of the Golden-winged Warbler on the Southern Appalachian landscape is a trend that not only threatens the future of the bird in Western North Carolina but also puts in peril the species as whole.
During the past century, it has experienced one of the most precipitous population falls of nearly any other songbird species. Brought on by habitat loss and interbreeding with a more dominant species of warbler, less than 500,000 exist in the United States.
Carolina birder Matt Daw from Raleigh was videoing a least bittern last week as it foraged at Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. In an interview, Daw said he was looking through the viewfinder at the bittern when suddenly an interloper sauntered by behind the bittern.