Hot summer songsters

No, it’s not another reality TV series, and there’s no need to call in and vote for your favorite. But if you pause a moment with that first cup of coffee, you’ll notice that the mornings are becoming quieter. It’s hard for us sedentary humans, slogging through 90-degree heat and afternoon thunderstorms to realize, but autumn is just around the corner. Nature, however, runs on a more intuitive clock.

The honest little bird

On one level, the natural history of a region consists of its terrain, habitats, plants, animals and how they interrelate. I also believe that no full understanding of the natural history of a region can be realized without coming to terms with its spiritual landscape. And when we consider the spiritual landscape of the Smokies region, we enter the realm of the ancient Cherokees.

Gus the gruffy grouse gets territorial

Jerry Smathers is public enemy number one for a ruffed grouse named Gus that lives on the forest bordering Smathers’ pasture in Dutch Cove of Haywood County.

Whenever Smathers boards his all-terrain vehicle to ride from his house to his pasture, he keeps one eye on the edge of the forest for wayward attacks from Gus the Grouse. Gus confuses the idle of Smathers’ ATV with a show of dominance by another male grouse, namely a thumping sound made by beating wings.

Spring is on the wing

Step out on the deck with your morning coffee or pause in the yard for a moment after you strap the kids in the car for the ride to school and listen.

Yep, those are birds singing. Chickadees, tufted titmouses, cardinals, towhees, song sparrows, mourning doves and robins are all in full voice in my yard.

Conservation groups file lawsuit to protect endangered warbler

Concerned by continuing decline of the cerulean warbler, five conservation groups, including some based in Western North Carolina, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Interior Secretary Gale Norton calling for the bird’s protection.

Bird nerds unite

I learned, when I worked full-time for the Smoky Mountain News, that it helps if newspaper writers are thick-skinned. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing an op-ed piece, a feature or a news story. There will be someone somewhere who disagrees or doesn’t like it and may resort to calling you names.

Holiday Bird Nerd Diary: Yellow-headed blackbird highlights Balsam bird count

The Carolina Field birders, friends and volunteers conducted their fourth annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count on Thursday, Dec. 29.


Brock Hutchins slid out of the front seat of his four-wheel drive and walked a few yards down a snow-crusted gravel road, casting about with the focus of a shaman leading a hunt. Placing a knuckle between his lips, Hutchins lifted his head and mimicked a bird call as if conjuring life out of the overcast sky.

The Naturalist's Corner

The front that passed through the week before Thanksgiving brought the first waterfowl fallout of the season to Lake Junaluska. I passed by on Thursday afternoon (11/17) and observed one snow goose with a small group of Canadian geese. Friday afternoon I returned for a longer look and found one gadwall in the back of the lake near the newly designed wetlands; a number of hooded mergansers in the same area; numerous American coots there and all around the lake; a double-crested cormorant sunning itself on the little island beneath the osprey platform; and a wood duck near the entrance road off US 19. There were a couple of pied-billed grebes around the lake. A small raft in the middle of the lake contained American wigeon, ring-billed ducks and lesser scaup. A group of bufflehead were also out in the middle of the lake along with one horned grebe.

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