Off course: Strange species make 'accidental' appearances in the Smokies

Red-necked phalarope, Bonaparte’s gull, band-rumped storm-petrel and harlequin duck. If you are thinking these don’t sound like names that should be included in a story about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you’re right.

Notes from a plant nerd: Go, go chasing butterflies

Every year at the beginning of fall, an amazing thing happens in North America, and the Southern Appalachian Mountains.

Coming Soon: The broad-winged hawk migration

As we prepare for the arrival of fall, we can also be on the lookout for a breathtaking wildlife spectacle that is a part of life here in the Southern Appalachian Mountains: the migration of the broad-winged hawk. 

Dark skies help migrating birds

Audubon North Carolina is urging residents to help keep the skies dark this fall to help birds as they migrate south.

Mystique of the monarch: Butterfly’s migratory life inspires wonder, scientific inquiry

It was a chilly February morning in 2020 when Clemson, South Carolina, resident Heyward Douglass laid eyes on the legendary monarch butterfly wintering grounds, first discovered only 45 years before. Oyamel fir trees covered the south-facing slopes of the Neovolcanic Mountains west of Mexico City, and millions of monarch butterflies covered the fir trees, 8,000 to 10,000 feet above sea level.

The things you don't hear

Weary and sore they came upon a small copse of Loblolly pines swaying high above a sea of softly undulating golden broomsedge just as the first light of dawn faded in from the east. 

For weeks, they’d slept during the balmy spring days and walked mostly by moonlight, never by road. At times they’d take to the train tracks, ducking into the underbrush when one of them would sense the coming of the iron horse. Other times they strode along soaring tree lines edging fallow fields, damp spongy soil radiating the last of the day’s heat to their bare feet, until they found some small, safe, out-of-the way place as dark and anonymous as their faces.

Pandemic pushes people out of the city

With the real estate market in Western North Carolina booming right now, it’s clear the region is reaping the economic benefits of the urban exodus happening during the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic.

‘It feels like home’: Pandemic spurs migration to Jackson County

Patrick Cochran and Blair Smoker have lived in the Atlanta area their whole lives, but they’ve long believed that Sylva would someday be their home. 

From LA to Lake J — a pandemic relocation

Jane Pickett is originally from Atlanta, Georgia. She has lived the last 15 years of her life in Los Angeles, California, but when things began to shut down as the Coronavirus Pandemic spread across the United States, she headed east. 

You’re going the wrong way – not

When you’re out chasing fall migrants and you either have a good internal compass or you’re somewhere it’s pretty easy to orient yourself to the cardinal directions, like the Blue Ridge Parkway, it’s not unusual to find mixed flocks of migrants moving in what appears, intuitively, to be a “wrong” direction. You may find groups of birds moving north, or east, or west rather than the general southwest route we expect here in the mountains of Western North Carolina. These early morning flights — usually just after sunrise — are called “redetermined” flights.

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