Monthly Archives: January 2016

Winter storms can’t ruffle feathers of the downy woodpecker


Winter Storm Jonas was one for the history books, but the birds at my home weathered the wintry conditions without ruffling their feathers all that much.WinterStormJonas_Top-620x380

The storm reminded me of a major blizzard back in 1993 that set me on the path to becoming the enthusiast about birds that I am today. The Blizzard of ’93 — which was dubbed “a storm of the century” — killed more than 300 people and dumped more than 20 inches of snow across a vast swath of the Appalachians and the Northeastern United States. Fierce winds blew snow around into massive drifts. That storm developed on March 12, 1993, and dissipated by March 15, 1993.


Photo by Bryan Stevens                                  Snow doesn’t deter a determined downy woodpecker.

Winter Storm Jonas dumped almost 11 inches of snow at my home, which was considerably less than back in 1993 when about three feet of snow accumulated. I remember the winds being more fierce with the ’93 storm, as well. Fortunately, my electric power never faltered through either of the storm, but my family was quite stranded for several days in 1993. With very little else to do, I watched my feeders. I remember observing birds like cardinals and juncos endured buffeting winds as they flocked to feeders that I had just placed in the yard earlier that winter. It was the beginning of my desire to learn more about birds, including training myself to identify the various species I encounter at home and afield.

More than 20 years later, the recent Winter Storm Jonas sent a variety of birds flocking to my feeders after what has been a lackluster start to the winter bird-feeding season. Some unexpected visitors — a male red-winged blackbird, two European starlings and a few purple finches — made their first appearance for the winter.


Photo by Bryan Stevens                                    Only the male downy woodpecker sports the red patch of feathers on the back of its head.

The most common visitors at the feeders were the dark-eyed juncos. I estimated that about two dozen of these “snow birds” spent most of the storm perched on my feeders or foraging on the ground beneath them. I also observed numerous Northern cardinals, Eastern towhees, American goldfinches, white-breasted nuthatches, Carolina chickadees, white-throated sparrows, song sparrows and more.


Photo by Bryan Stevens                                        A tufted titmouse and downy woodpecker share space at a suet feeder.

One bird that visited frequently also did so with amazing discretion. The downy woodpecker is a small black-and-white bird that often infiltrates a mixed flock of birds to nab a sunflower seed or grab a bit of suet before the other members of the flock are even aware of its presence. Perhaps because of its status as the smallest of the North American woodpeckers, the downy woodpecker is quite good at not drawing attention to itself.

Not only is the downy woodpecker the smallest of the woodpeckers in the United States, it’s also the most common. It’s the woodpecker that most bird lovers encounter in the yards and at their feeders. However, the downy is not the smallest woodpecker in the world. That distinction goes to species known as “piculets” that reside in Asia and South America. Worldwide, more than 180 species of woodpeckers thrive almost worldwide, only absent from the continents of Australia and Antarctica.


Photo by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service The hairy woodpecker is a larger look-alike relative of the downy woodpecker.

The dainty downy woodpecker has a larger lookalike relative. The hairy woodpecker not only bears a strong resemblance to the downy, but shares similar habitat, as well. Despite almost identical plumages, the two species are quite different in size. The downy, at six inches in length, is the size of a sparrow. The larger hairy woodpecker almost 10 inches in length, making it closer in size to a robin.

As most birders know, size is often difficult to determine, especially if you don’t have a downy and hairy woodpecker in close proximity. The deciding factor is usually a good look at the beak of these two birds. A downy woodpecker has a short, stubby, almost un-woodpecker-like bill. The hairy woodpecker, on the other hand, has a large bill like those of such relatives as red-bellied woodpecker and Northern flicker.


Photo by Bryan Stevens                                                    A downy woodpecker visits a feeder for a shelled peanut.

The downy woodpecker is a cavity-nesting bird, but the species does not usually accept man-made nesting boxes although they often utilize them for roosting purposes. Downy woodpeckers endure frigid nights not only by finding a cozy roosting spot but by also lowering their body temperature. This action is a form of controlled hypothermia that is also practiced by such small birds as chickadees, kinglets and hummingbirds.

Downy woodpeckers have a way of hitching themselves along trunks and branches in a jerky fashion. Although not silent by any means, the downy woodpecker limits its utterances to a range of “peents,” as well as a high-pitched jumble of descending notes often described as a “whinny.” Of course, they also make themselves heard by pounding against tree trunks and branches like their larger relatives.


Photo by Bryan Stevens                                Downy woodpeckers are quite comfortable climbing along tree trunks and branches.

A pair of downy woodpeckers makes a great addition to the diversity of birds in any yard. Don’t fret too much about them when the weather turns nasty. Despite their small sizes, they have a huge arsenal of adaptations to deal with the cold. Whether its a modest flurry or the “storm of a century,” the downy woodpecker’s not likely to ruffle many feathers in coping.


To learn more about birds and other topics from the natural world, friend Stevens on Facebook at He is always posting about local birds, wildlife, flowers, insects and much more. If you have a question, wish to make a comment or share a sighting, email

Other regional Christmas Bird Counts post some good finds, including Say’s phoebe


Photo by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service                                         A Say’s phoebe, such as the individual pictured, was a remarkable find for the Blackford CBC in Virginia.

The Blackford Christmas Bird Count took place Jan. 2, 2016, with 65 species found. The highlight of the count was a Say’s Phoebe found by Laverne Hunter, Peggy Herbert, and Jane and Jerry Thornhill.

The Say’s phoebe, a member of the tyrant flycatcher family, is related to the Eastern phoebe. A common bird in the western United States, the Say’s phoebe typically resides in dry, desolate areas. This bird was named for early American naturalist Thomas Say. Several crustaceans and mollusks are also named in Say’s honor. Say was a descendant of other early American naturalists William Bartram and John Bartram.

One other phoebe — the black phoebe — nests in the United States, primarily in California and Oregon. The black phoebe also ranges throughout Central and South America.

Say’s phoebe is an exceptional find in the eastern United States and is definitely a stand-out bird for a Christmas Bird Count conducted in Virginia.

The Bristol Christmas Bird Count held Dec. 27, 2015, set a new record, but it wasn’t for the number of birds found.
A high temperature of 76 degrees represented the highest temperature ever recorded for a CBC. In fact, the count yielded fewer species than degrees on the thermometer. The 74 species found represented the lowest species total since 1991, according to count compiler Richard Lewis of Bristol, Tennessee. Lewis speculated that the high temperature is likely linked to the low number of species found on the recent CBC.


Photo by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service    Nine individual Northern harriers, such as the one pictured here, were good finds for the Bristol CBC.

The Bristol CBC has been conducted continuously since 1956. Lewis noted that the count was also conducted one other year, back in 1931. This year’s CBC marked his 35th year as the compiler.

Members and friends of the Bristol Bird Club conduct the annual Bristol CBC, which is the only seasonal bird population survey conducted by the club. Several other locations in southwest Virginia and northeast Tennessee also conduct their own CBCs.

According to Lewis, notable finds for the 2015 Bristol CBC included a common gallinule, Northern saw-whet owl, nine Northern harriers, and seven bald eagles. Other good species included gray catbird, red-headed woodpecker, eared grebe and pine warbler.


Photo by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service            Canada Geese were a common bird for the Bristol CBC.


The most numerous bird on the count was the European starling with 8,982 individuals counted. Other common birds included American crow (857), Canada goose (612) and American robin (520). A total of 14,642 individual birds were counted.

The very first Christmas Bird Count, organized by ornithologist Frank Chapman, was held in December of 1900. For that first count, 27 observers looked for birds in 25 locations across the United States.

This annual survey of bird populations has evolved into a global undertaking. During the 113th count conducted in December-January of 2012–2013, 71,531 people participated in 2,369 locations in the United States, Canada and several other countries. This annual census provides valuable insights into trends in bird populations.


As counters participating in the recent Bristol CBC discovered, it hasn’t been a particularly exciting winter season for bird enthusiasts. Based on some communication with readers, I’m not alone in finding activity is down at my feeders.


Photo Courtesy of Sarah Smith                          The unseasonable mild December weather in the region produced unusual photo opportunities, such as this photo of a frog at an ornamental home at the Smith home in Abingdon, Virginia.

I received a recent email from Randy Smith of Abingdon, Virginia. I met Smith at last year’s birding festival at Hungry Mother State Park.

He sent me the email to share a couple of things, including photos of a real frog sitting on top of a ceramic frog at his goldfish fountain. What makes the photos remarkable is that they were taken the day after Christmas, which is usually a time of year when frogs have been absent already for a couple of months.

“Who would have imagined this much warm weather in December?” Smith wrote in his email. “I thought it was funny he was sitting on the artificial frog … perhaps seeking solace?”

Smith also had a bird-related question, which was basically an inquiry into whether I have noticed a downturn in birds at my feeders this fall/winter

He noted that he has been filling his thistle/nyger feeder only once a week or so, when in past winters he has usually re-filled it at least three to four times per week.

Even keeping the feeder stocked has produced almost no American goldfinches, one of the finch species attracted by nyger thistle seeds.

“The usual visitors are there — chickadees, nuthatches, titmice, woodpeckers,blue jays, cardinals — and a resident group of white-crowned sparrows that are fun to observe,” he wrote. “But overall, numbers and variety are way down. Any thoughts? Is it just the weather?”

I agreed completely with his assessment of bird activity.

This past December was an unusually warm winter month. I was still seeing dragonflies at my fish pond as late as the day after Christmas, which was coincidentally the same day Smith photographed the frog at his home.

I blame the warm weather on this decrease in bird-feeder activity. With such mild weather, birds don’t need to rely on our feeders to supplement their diet. The birds will probably return if and when the region ever experiences any sustained cold weather. So far, January has been slightly more typical in regard to temperatures, so perhaps some fun birds might start showing up at feeders soon.


At the time I was writing this week’s blog post, Winter Storm Jonas was making itself felt in the region. I will write about the spike in bird feeding as a result of the snowstorm in next week’s post.


To learn more about birds and other topics from the natural world, friend Stevens on Facebook at He is always posting about local birds, wildlife, flowers, insects and much more. If you have a question, wish to make a comment or share a sighting, email

Despite unsavory reputation, vultures provide important function

I’ve always believed that all birds make good neighbors, although I will admit it’s easier to welcome certain birds than it is others.


Photo by Bryan Stevens                                                                    Black vultures perch together in a tall tree.

Gene Sturgeon, a resident of Abingdon, Virginia, shared a Christmas Day bird observation he made. He wrote that a distant tree (maybe 250 yards from the Sturgeon home) held three large vultures. The birds were perched high in the tree, with their wings outstretched as if they were drying their wings.

“I thought initially they may be cormorants, but another was flying around the neighborhood and looked very much like a vulture,” he wrote. “I couldn’t tell for sure if they were turkey or black vultures, but my son said he saw turkey red heads.”

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A turkey vulture lands in a pasture.

Curious about the behavior of the vultures, Gene also had a question. “Why would several vultures be drying their wings?” He asked in his email. “I think they are not water birds, and I don’t remember ever seeing vultures in the top of a tree. Perhaps migrating?”

In my response to his email, I told Gene that he had hit on the reason the vultures are there in his neighborhood. The tall tree offer them a perfect perching spot. Sometimes they will spread their wings out in that pose to soak up sunshine. The warmth from the sun’s rays sort of helps re-charge them. By maximizing the surface area of their bodies, morning sunshine can more easily warm them and get them ready to start the day. Basically, vultures are perfect examples of “green” energy in action.


Photo by Jean Potter                                                                 A black vulture spreads its wings to bask in the warm sunshine.

The pose described by Gene is actually one I have seen from time to time in other larger raptors. I’ve seen bald eagles perched with that sort of pose. I also informed Gene that his son was right. Turkey vultures have the red heads, and black vultures have black. The heads of both vultures are bare of feathers, which would quickly become soiled from the habit of these birds of pushing their heads into the carcasses of dead animals when feeding.

Gene wasn’t the only person who has sent me an email recently on the subject of vultures. Bettie Hite emailed with some questions she and her husband, Jim, have about vultures in their neighborhood along King College Road in Bristol.


Photo by Bryan Stevens                                  Turkey vultures are one of the few birds with a well developed sense of smell.

“You’ve probably already heard about this, but we have a huge flock of vultures gathering every evening in the trees around the intersection of Middlebrook, Graystone, The Reserve and the golf course on King College Road,” Bettie wrote in her email. “They begin flying in around 4 p.m. and before dark the trees are full of them.”

On the morning of Dec. 14, Bettie informed she counted 32 vultures in a maple tree on Carmack Circle (in Graystone) and six more vultures on the rooftop next to the tree. She noted that the vultures dispersed soon after that.

“There must be dozens of them roosting in the trees at night,” she wrote in her email. “Where are they coming from? Where are they finding enough food for so many of them? Why OUR neighborhood?”


Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service              The red head of an adult turkey vulture distinguishes it from adult black vultures.

Vultures are year-round residents in the region, and they are sociable birds that tend to form flocks. They are also very efficient birds, and they can soar lazily in the sky until they find something to eat. This time of year, vultures scavenge a lot of the remains of deer dressed and left behind in the woods by hunters, but they also are quite skillful at making use of roadkill. They can fly long distances to look for food without actually depleting energy reserves.

For the most part, they’re harmless. If dozens grow to hundreds, the resulting mess at the roost could conceivably be a health concern. Why have they chosen to roost in the neighborhood where Bettie and her husband reside? That’s more difficult to answer, but I suspect that the trees in the neighborhood are extremely attractive to this particular flock of vultures.


Photo by Bryan Stevens                      A turkey vulture perches quietly on a tree branch.

Turkey vultures are probably more common than black vultures, but I have seen both turkey and black vultures around Bristol. They’re never going to win any beauty contests, but vultures do actually provide a very useful function in the environment. When it comes to finding carrion, turkey vultures also have an advantage over black vultures. Turkey vultures are one of the few birds with a highly developed sense of smell, which helps them identify the wafting scent of decaying roadkill from long distances.

As surprising as it may seem, some American towns actually stage annual vulture festivals. For instance, Wenonah, New Jersey, holds an annual East Coast Vulture Festival every March. The Kern River Nature Preserve in California hosts a Fall Turkey Vulture Festival every September. Makanda, Illinois, is also considering holding a Vulture Fest this October.



Photo by Bryan Stevens                                                                                                 A trio of turkey vultures share perches in a large tree.

Bryan Stevens lives near Roan Mountain, Tennessee. To learn more about birds and other topics from the natural world, friend Stevens on Facebook at He is always posting about local birds, wildlife, flowers, insects and much more. If you have a question, wish to make a comment or share a sighting, email

Chapter’s Roan Mountain Christmas Bird Count finds 52 species


An abundance of Pine Siskins on the slopes of Roan Mountain made this small finch the most numerous bird on the recent Roan Mountain CBC.

The 62nd Roan Mountain Christmas Bird Count was held Sunday, Dec 20, with nine observers in two parties. The yearly count is conducted by the Lee and Lois Herndon Chapter of Tennessee Ornithological Society, otherwise known as the Elizabethton Bird Club.


A total of 52 species was tallied, which is is above the recent 30-year average of 45.4 species. The all-time high was 55 species in 1987.
Highlights included: Ruffed Grouse, 1; Peregrine Falcon, 1; Red-breasted Nuthatch, 24; Gray Catbird, 1; Chipping Sparrow, 4; Purple Finch, 2; and Pine Siskin, 282.
The most numerous bird on the count was Pine Siskin, with a total of 282 individuals found, followed by Dark-eyed Junco, 172; American Crow, 93; and European Starling, 57.



Usually a summer bird in the region, a single Gray Catbird was found during the recent Roan Mountain CBC.

Compared to the mild weather for most of December, cold temperatures moved in ahead of the counts for Elizabethton and Roan Mountain were held. As a result, near normal temperatures reigned on the days the counts were conducted. There was even about an inch of snow on top of Roan Mountain.


More common at low elevations, only a single Red-bellied Woodpecker was counted during the Roan Mountain CBC.

Species found on the Roan Mountain CBC follow:
Bufflehead, 11; Ruffed Grouse, 1, Wild Turkey, 1; Great Blue Heron, 1; Turkey Vulture, 1; Sharp-shinned Hawk, 1; Cooper’s Hawk, 1; Red-shouldered Hawk, 2; Red-tailed Hawk, 7; American Kestrel, 1; and Peregrine Falcon, 1.
Rock Pigeon, 23; Mourning Dove, 13; Eastern Screech-Owl, 1; and Barred Owl, 1.
Belted Kingfisher, 3; Red-bellied Woodpecker, 1; Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, 1; Downy Woodpecker, 7; Hairy Woodpecker, 2; and Pileated Woodpecker, 4.
Blue Jay 13; American Crow, 93; Common Raven, 15; Carolina Chickadee, 20, Tufted Titmouse, 13; Red-breasted Nuthatch, 24; White-breasted Nuthatch, 11; and Brown Creeper, 2.
Winter Wren, 6; Carolina Wren, 8; Golden-crowned Kinglet, 16; Eastern Bluebird, 5; American Robin, 19; Gray Catbird, 1; and Northern Mockingbird, 2.
European Starling, 57; Cedar Waxwing, 22; Eastern Towhee, 2; Chipping Sparrow, 4; Field Sparrow, 1; Song Sparrow, 43; Swamp Sparrow, 1; White-throated Sparrow, 6; and Dark-eyed Junco, 172.
Northern Cardinal, 15; House Finch, 2; Purple Finch, 2; Pine Siskin, 282; American Goldfinch, 14; and House Sparrow, 55.



A Hermit Thrush along Simerly Creek was the last bird found on my personal quest for 100 birds in my yard in 2015. This individual was photographed this past March in South Carolina.

My own personal Big Yard Year ended on Dec. 31, 2015. I found my last bird species of the year — Hermit Thrush — lurking in a tangle of rhododendrons on a slope overlooking Simerly Creek. The thrush was the 90th bird I found in my yard in 2015, which brought my quest to an end still shy 10 species of reaching my goal of 100 species in a calendar year.
The Hermit Thrush is the only brown thrush likely to remain in Northeast Tennessee during the winter months. Others, like the Wood Thrush and Veery, winter in the American tropics and return to the United States and Canada each spring for the summer nesting season.
The Hermit Thrush is well known for its song, which consists of a series of clear, musical notes, each on a different pitch, consisting of a piping introductory note and a reedy tremolo. The birds don’t usually sing in winter, but they do produce a call note when disturbed or alarmed that is described as a low “chuck.”
In the summer, the Hermit Thrush feeds on a variety of insects and spiders, but this bird switches to a diet of fruit and berries during the winter months.
The well-known American poet Walt Whitman used a Hermit Thrush as a powerful symbol in his famous poem, “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d.” Whitman introduces the bird in his poem with the lines, “In the swamp in secluded recesses/A shy and hidden bird is warbling a song/Solitary the thrush/The hermit withdrawn to himself, avoiding the settlements/ Sings by himself a song.”



Many birds, such as Carolina Chickadees, are almost daily visitors to my yard.

Overall, I am quite pleased with finding the 90 species in my yard. After all, it broke my old record. I can’t help but think on those species that I missed. Winter species like Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and Brown Creeper, which have been relatively rare in my yard, simply didn’t make an appearance in 2015. House Wren was one bird that I had really expected to find. For some reason, however, no House Wrens took up residence at my home in 2015. Other birds that occasionally make migration stops but didn’t visit last year included Vesper Sparrow, Blue-winged Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, and Canada Goose.
I saw most of my birds in January, ending the first month of the year with 26 species. I also saw 14 species in both April and September, which testified to the strength of my yard to attract migrant birds.


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Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service This Peregrine Falcon is a captive bird, unlike the one found during the Roan Mountain CBC.

I haven’t decided if I am setting any birding goals for 2016. I may simply enjoy birds without any specific aims. However, the year is still young. If I decide otherwise, I will announce it on my weekly blog.

Elizabethton Christmas Bird Count tallies 73 species


A blur of red feather signals the arrival of a male Northern Cardinal at a feeder. A total of 123 cardinals were found on the recent Elizabethton CBC.

The 73rd consecutive Elizabethton Christmas Bird Count was held on Saturday, Dec. 19, with 24 observers in six parties plus one feeder watcher.  A total of 73 species was tallied, with an additional four count-week species. This is slightly above the recent 30-year average of 71.7 species. The all-time high for this CBC was 80 species in 2012.

Long-time count compiler Rick Knight noted that some of the highlights from this year’s Elizabethton CBC included: five Blue-winged Teal, which represented only the fourth time this duck has been found for this count, as well as  Northern Shoveler and Greater Scaup.


Bald Eagle was represented by five individual birds on the recent CBC conducted by members of the Elizabethton Bird Club.

Other highlights included Bald Eagle, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Red-breasted Nuthatch, American Pipit and Palm Warbler.

The 72 Chipping Sparrows found during the CBC represented the most individuals of this species ever tallied for this count.

A few winter finches have also arrived in the area, based on the Purple Finch and Pine Siskins detected during the CBC.


A single Red-breasted Nuthatch was found, assuring that this species made it onto the annual survey of bird populations in Elizabethton, Tennessee.

The European Starling was the most common bird with a total of 1,707 individual starlings represented on the count. Other common birds included American Crow (987), Canada Goose (511) and American Robin (450).

The total for the 2015 Elizabethton CBC follows:

Canada Goose, 511; Mallard, 129; Blue-winged Teal, 5; Northern Shoveler, 12; Greater Scaup, 2; Lesser Scaup, 1; Bufflehead, 172; and Hooded Merganser, 10.

Wild Turkey, 30; Pied-billed Grebe, 15; Horned Grebe, 10; and Great Blue Heron, 13.

Black Vulture, 16; Turkey Vulture, 26; Sharp-shinned Hawk, 2; Cooper’s Hawk, 5; Bald Eagle, 5; Red-shouldered Hawk, 2; Red-tailed Hawk, 22; and American Kestrel, 18.

American Coot, 7; Killdeer, 5; Ring-billed Gull, 65; Rock Pigeon, 349; Eurasian Collared Dove, 7; and Mourning Dove, 114.

Eastern Screech-Owl, 7; Great Horned Owl, 4; Barred Owl, 1; Belted Kingfisher, 13; Red-bellied Woodpecker, 27; Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, 7; Downy Woodpecker, 23; Hairy Woodpecker, 3; Northern Flicker, 11; and Pileated Woodpecker, 10.

Eastern Phoebe, 7; Blue Jay, 76; American Crow, 987; Common Raven, 6; Carolina Chickadee, 111; and Tufted Titmouse, 110.

Red-breasted Nuthatch, 1; White-breasted Nuthatch, 31; Brown Creeper, 2; Winter Wren, 3; and Carolina Wren, 60.


Five Hermit Thrushes were among the many species found during the Elizabethton CBC.

Golden-crowned Kinglet, 32; Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 2; Eastern Bluebird, 114; Hermit Thrush, 5; American Robin, 450; and Northern Mockingbird, 27.

European Starling, 1,707; American Pipit, 40; Cedar Waxwing, 116; Palm Warbler, 3; and Yellow-rumped Warbler, 106.

Eastern Towhee, 12; Chipping Sparrow, 72; Field Sparrow, 31; Fox Sparrow, 3; Song Sparrow, 104; Swamp Sparrow, 104; White-throated Sparrow, 78; and Dark-eyed Junco, 74.

Northern Cardinal, 123; Eastern Meadowlark, 4; House Finch, 51; Purple Finch, 1; Pine Siskin, 25; American Goldfinch, 101; and House Sparrow, 41.



A Common Yellowthroat is a rare bird in Northeast Tennessee during the winter months.

It was strange to walk outside in short sleeves this past Christmas. This weird winter weather has also led to some unexpected bird sightings. I saw my first-ever winter warbler (other than Yellow-rumped Warbler) at home ton Dec. 30. The warbler was a male Common Yellowthroat lurking in the cattails near the fish pond. Several years ago, I found a female Common Yellowthroat at Wilbur Lake on a Christmas Bird Count. In addition to the yellowthroat, I found a Swamp Sparrow in the cattails. I also had a flock of Dark-eyed Juncos (as opposed to just one bird) in the backyard that same day.

I am pleased to find that the winter birds are gradually arriving. Now that it looks like more typical winter temperatures might prevail for awhile, I expect activity to increase at my feeders.


To learn more about birds and other topics from the natural world, friend Stevens on Facebook at He is always posting about local birds, wildlife, flowers, insects and much more. If you have a question, wish to make a comment or share a sighting, email


This week’s post is dedicated to Sassy, a one-of-a-kind cat that shared my life from the summer of 2002 until Dec. 26, 2015.Sassy