This winter?

out natcornFinch irruptions are not that uncommon. They generally occur in some numbers, in some locations almost every year. But in some years the movements are larger and more widespread. The winter of 2012-2013 is shaping up to be one of those years. Irruptions are not necessarily caused by inclement weather. It appears to be more associated with a lack of available food.

The sounds of silence

This morning when I had coffee on my deck, I did not hear the hooded warbler that nests in the tangles in the young woods below my yard. I did not hear a northern parula singing from the tops of the tulip poplars. There was no buzzy black-throated blue song emanating from the rhododendrons along the little creek. I did not hear a single raspy “chickbuuurrrr” anywhere in the forest. There were no schizoid red-eyed vireos talking to themselves as they bounced from tree to tree, and no wood thrushes graced the early morning with their sweet flute song.

For you the bells toll

out natcornWaiting in the ubiquitous checkout line, I spied a National Geographic special publication, “50 of the World’s last great places – Destinations of a Lifetime.” Thumbing through, right between Bialowieza (remnants of ancient European forests on the border of Poland and Belarus) and Canada’s oldest national park, Banff, was our own Jocassee Gorges.

A braver, newer world

out natcornOr at least a younger one anyway — one of the ranking members of the House’s Committee on Science, Space and Technology, Rep. Paul Broun, R-Georgia, told a gathering at Liberty Baptist Church in Hartwell, Ga., on Sept. 27 that the world was about 9,000 years old.

What to bee-lieve

out natcornApparently what was apparent to many scientists and researchers back in 2008 is becoming more apparent — or not.

Honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder has been raising hackles and eyebrows for the better part of the last decade. Colony Collapse, characterized by the sudden disappearance of most of the adult bees in a colony, began making real headlines around 2006. And not long after, one particular class of pesticides — neonicotinoids — became a prime suspect.

A clear path

out natcornLast Saturday, Sept. 15, was surely a gorgeous day to be ridge running high in the Plott Balsams — clear blue skies dotted with white puff-clouds; temperatures in the low to mid 60s; a great day for a hike. Not even the weight of chainsaws, brush cutters, loppers and/or swing blades could dampen the spirit or curb the enthusiasm of the dedicated crew of trail-keepers that set out from Waterrock Knob to Yellow Face and on to Blackrock.

Last splash

out natcornEveryone who woke up to 48 degrees Fahrenheit this morning knows that the days of “butts in the creek” are quickly fading for this year. Planning for the inevitable and being parents of kids who are, if not part fish at least amphibian, we had plans for a last wet hurrah last weekend (Sept. 7-9.)

It’s bird-tember!

out natcornThose quiet mornings are starting to set in. Yesterday, the only morning chorister in full song, in my yard was a Carolina wren. My summer-hooded warbler could be heard occasionally, but it was like he was humming to himself. Immature towhees were shouting out “drink!” from the tangles and there was an assortment of humming bird squeaks and chickadee and titmouse grousing but the rousing morning chorus that has been with us since early May is gone.

A grand gorge

out naturalistSomewhere in the deep reaches of Sugar and/or Grandfather Mountains, seeps, rivulets and trickles begin to mingle and grow and slide over the hard rocks coalescing into the headwaters of the Linville River.

The river slips over the rocks and begins a 2,000-foot descent. It’s a path carved in stone over millennia resulting in one of the most dramatic, beautiful, rugged and diverse wildernesses in the country — Linville Gorge Wilderness.

It’s in the wind

out natcornI was outside with Maddie (6) the other afternoon and there was a gentle breeze. “Daddy, doesn’t it smell like autumn?” she asked.

And it did. In fact, I had just had the same sensation only didn’t mention it because what would a 6-year-old know? Obviously much more than we give them credit for.

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