News Headlines


I was in Morganton over the Memorial Day Holiday chasing birdies in the Grandfather District of the Pisgah National Forest per my annual Forest Service point count contract. I was headed to my motel room after coming out of the woods when I began to notice trees showing dead leaves at the ends of the branches. The first two I noticed were hickories and I began to wonder if there was maybe some kind of insect pest that targeted hickories — kinda like the locust leaf-miner that turns our locust trees brown in summer. But soon I began to see oaks and other species exhibiting the same symptoms. I noticed them in town, so there weren’t a whole lot of trees and the brown tipped ones really stood out.

The weather hasn’t been too cooperative this spring with regards to my Forest Service bird point count. First weekend in May was cold and rainy, it rained half of the next weekend and after getting some points in Saturday, last Sunday (5/21) was looking bleak again.

There are bucket lists and then there are bucket lists. As parents, the bucket lists we envision for our kids do not necessarily conform to their own bucket list. But this spring break we stood our ground and imposed, gasp, D.C. and the Smithsonian for our annual trip.

Our new denier-in-chief believes “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”

I was reconnoitering the Buck Creek Serpentine Barrens on Monday March 27, with Brent Martin, Southern Appalachian regional director at The Wilderness Society, for an upcoming field trip with the Franklin Bird club on April 24. The Serpentine Barrens is located along Buck Creek in Clay County, off U.S. 64 about 17 miles west of Franklin. The barrens is a botanically distinct area created by the dominant serpentinized rock types — dunite and olivine. The area is home to many rare and/or endemic plants because of the rare soils created by the serpentinized rock and two decades of prescribed burning by the Forest Service.

A low guttural croak comes out of the fog hanging over the French Broad River. I turn and look towards the noise. A silhouette starts to form. I can see the shadowy outline of a large head and beak. Long wide wings row through the fog and long legs trail behind.

What me chase?

Regular readers of “The Naturalist’s Corner” may remember that I’ve decided to keep a 2017 year-list of birds. I noted, when I wrote about the list that I was not much of a “lister” nor “chaser.” My list would be made up of birds encountered in my backyard and during my Forest Service point counts and maybe a day of birding during our summer vacation to Isle of Palms.

Twice threatened

In the land of the noonday sun, there lives a noonday snail. The noonday globe snail, Petera clarkia Nantahala is a medium-sized snail, about three-quarters inch wide and one-half inch high. This little slimeball is known only from about 2 miles of high calcareous cliffs in the Nantahala Gorge in Western North Carolina.

The 2011 movie “The Big Year” — a comedy starring Jack Black, Steve Martin and Owen Wilson — didn’t ruffle a lot of feathers. According to Wikipedia, the movie with its $41 million budget only grossed $7.4 million.

Granddaddy of ‘em all

This year will mark the 117th annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC.) The CBC is the longest-lived and largest citizen-science project in the world. 

The count began in 1900. It was the brainchild of Frank Chapman, one of the officers of the fledgling Audubon Society. Chapman created the “bird census” as an alternative to the traditional Christmas “side-hunt,” a contest where groups would shoulder their arms and hit the fields and/or woods — the team that came back with the greatest number of corpses would be declared the winner.

Page 3 of 46
Go to top