Arts + Entertainment

out natcornThe best way I know of to get a rare bird to fly the coop is to write about it. So by the time you see this article the two drake common goldeneyes that have been hanging out at Lake Junaluska for the past week or so will likely have vanished. But they have been consistently sighted along the shoreline on the “cross-side” of the lake a couple of hundred yards from the dam.

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.

Golden poster-bird

out natcornIt seems like the golden-winged warbler (GWWA) has become the non-game poster bird for everything from clearcuts to shelterwood cuts to overstory removal to seed tree harvests in our national forests. The philosophy appears to be “if you build it they will come,” see —

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 (, 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. 

Flame on!

out natcornColor is starting to spill down the mountainsides once again. I recently received an email from a reader asking about the different fall colors and directions for some good viewing so I thought I would pull that information together from some past columns for a little refresher.

out natcornI’ve been on the Blue Ridge Parkway the last couple of weekends and have made it a point to stop at Wolf Mountain Overlook (Milepost 424) to check out the Grass of Parnassus, I believe to be Parnassia asarifolia.

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Reading Room

  • Books that help bridge the political divide
    Books that help bridge the political divide Time for spring-cleaning.  The basement apartment in which I live could use a deep cleaning: dusting, washing, vacuuming. It’s tidy enough — chaos and I were never friends — but stacks of papers need sorting, bookcases beg to see their occupants removed and the shelves…
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