One of the greatest shows on Earth is about to take center stage. Spring ephemerals will begin clawing through the gray-brown leaf litter within the month. Some of the earliest wildflowers to open will include spring beauty, various violets, hairy buttercup, hepatica, trailing arbutus, bloodroot and trout lily.
Remember the scene in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” where the Kid was asked by an old miner (I think Butch and the Kid were applying for positions as payroll guards) if he could shoot, and tosses a small object on the ground 20 or 30 feet in front of them? Kid holstered his sidearm and prepared to draw and the old miner stopped him, saying something like no, no, no, I just want to know if you can hit anything with that.
They say great minds think alike, and who am I to argue with “They?” The Franklin Bird Club and Carolina Field Birders (CFB) each schedule their annual CBC (Christmas Bird Count) for the last available weekend in Audubon’s count window. They do so for the same reason — both counts are relative newcomers to North Carolina’s organized CBCs and both groups have participants already committed to longer-running CBCs in the area.
I think Lewis Carroll could have just as easily warned of the Timberdoodle as the Jubjub bird in the “Jabberwocky,” both could appear to be nonsensical avian entities. The timberdoodle, a.k.a. American woodcock, appears to be constructed from incongruous leftover avian parts.
In a woodsy neighborhood up a winding mountain road from Franklin, late May is pretty quiet — at least from a human perspective. Many of the second-home owners who live there haven’t yet moved in for the summer, and with lots spanning as many as 40 acres, things are spread pretty far apart anyway.
But the avian summer move-ins are there in force, and if you’re a bird, you’d probably say the forested neighborhood is anything but quiet. It’s full of tweets and chirps and chirrs, pretty sounds that actually mean things are a-stirring in the bird community.
Neotropical 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.
What better way to spring into the season than chasing migrants across Western North Carolina? I was with the Franklin Bird Club at Kituwah on April 27 and we had beautiful weather and good birding. I had teased that trip by noting that Kituwah is one of the most reliable places I know of for finding bobolinks in migration.
I’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!”
I 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.
The 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.