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out natcornThe other day, while chasing birdies for the Forest Service, I encountered a pretty wildflower along an abandoned logging road. The plant was small purple-fringed orchid, Platanthera psycodes. It was unusual in that the flowers were white rather than the normal lavender to reddish-purple one generally encounters.

out natcornNeotropical 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.

Avian adventures

out naturalistWhat 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.

out natcornCumberland Island, which is composed of Great Cumberland Island (the national seashore) and Little Cumberland Island (private), is one of the largest barrier islands along Georgia’s coast. Cumberland Island is about 18 miles long and about 3 miles wide — around 40 square miles. The eastern edge of the island is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, while the west, north and south are bounded by sounds, rivers and marsh.

out natcornYay! Spring break! That special time to be sequestered with adolescents and/or pre-adolescents in about 50 square feet while hurtling down the highway at 70 m.p.h.

out natcornI was commiserating with a friend who works for the Forest Service just after it was announced that they were taking a step back from the plan revision process to schedule another round of public meetings. 

The FS rolled out a “draft” management plan last fall after a series of public meetings. The plan, while clearly labeled “draft”, placed around 700,000 acres of the million or so acres of the Nantahala and Pisgah national forests in management areas deemed appropriate for logging. To say the plan caught some stakeholders off guard is like saying the Grand Canyon is a ravine in Arizona.

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.

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