Dive into the interconnected world of birds and insects

Explore the love-hate relationship between birds and insects during a talk from Balsam Mountain Trust Executive Director Michael Wall at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 16, at the Jackson County Public Library in Sylva.

Up Moses Creek: Beauty and the beast

Birds were little more than nondescript flitting things to me that afternoon in January 1973, when I lay down on my bunk to sleep. It was on the second floor of a rundown WWII barracks at a Marine Corps airbase in southern California. I needed sleep because I worked nights in the base’s cavernous warehouse, Building 313, where my job was to find whatever parts the flightline mechanics needed to keep jet fighters and other military “birds” ready to bomb and strafe. But that afternoon not jet roars but soft, high-pitched, beckoning whistles came through the open door at the end of the barracks and woke me up. I walked out onto the stairway landing.

Straight up or subtle satire? You decide

Writers of fiction find themselves under several obligations. First and perhaps foremost, they must entertain their readers, enticing them to keep turning the pages. Doing so means creating believable characters who must get past some challenging hurdles, whether those involve love, war, nature, or other obstacles.

Count for Christmas: In 123rd year, annual bird count yields critical conservation data

As Christmas 1900 approached, ornithologist Frank Chapman hatched an idea. 

Up Moses Creek: Thrashers make a home on Berry Island

The sight of a fox standing in the yard would not have made my eyes open any wider that morning than the two brown thrashers did when I saw them out the window.

The birders… they are a’changing: A new generation of birders rises up

I’ve been birding in Western North Carolina since I got here in the late 1980s, in my mid-thirties (yes, I’m that old.) 

When I would show up for a birding trip or program, I would be one of the “youngsters.” I kept birding and kept attending events and the constant thing was, we all kept getting older. I have participated in the Balsam Christmas Bird Count since its inception in 2003, and trust me, to see a face under 50 years of age is a novelty. 

Scarlet tanagers spar in song

This seems to be a scarlet tanager kind of year. I’ve been seeing and hearing them at my house, along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and in the Great Smokies. No bird in our region is more striking. Jet black wings on a trim red almost luminescent body, the male is impossible to overlook. And it’s easy to recognize by both song and call.

The secretive, intelligent and prolific crow

Like most commonly observed objects, crows flit across our field of vision unheeded. Caw-caw-cawing unmusically … flap-flap-flapping over the fields … dressed as if for a funeral … iridescent pieces of black flannel waving in the breeze. We hear and see them … but we don’t really pay attention. We rarely think about them … we never ask ourselves: “What are these birds up to?”

Observing birds is a habit that never grows old

Lately, I’ve been writing a lot about birds. I guess I have them on my mind, in part, because the spring migration season is underway. I heard my first Louisiana waterthrush (a warbler) of the year this past Sunday morning. But then again, birds are always on my mind summer, fall, and winter, too. And I’m not alone. Each week that I write about birds, I receive at least 10 emails from readers who share their bird observations and insights with me. Here we go again.     

The Naturalist's Corner: Snowbirds part deaux

In a past column regarding snowbirds (“Snowbirds are here”), I wrote, “No, I’m not talking about your Uncle Bernie and Aunt Esther from New York City.” But I recently learned snowbirds (dark-eyed juncos) are kinda like your northern relatives — they like to come back to the same spot each winter. It seems many of the snowbirds at your feeders this winter were probably there last winter. And like relatives, we get used to them being around.

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