As January moves into February, I’ve been seeing more of the birds I’ve come to associate with the winter months.
During afternoon drives I’ve observed flocks of wild turkeys in fields near my home. The largest of these flocks consisted of at least two dozen birds. In addition to the turkeys, I’ve been seeing waterfowl at various ponds at local park. Some of these observations have included ducks like Redheads, Ring-necked Ducks, American Wigeons, American Black Ducks and Buffleheads, as well as Pied-billed Grebes, Common Coots and Great Blue Heron. I also found a large flock of Ring-billed Gulls at a large pond near the Elizabethton campus of Northeast Tennessee Community College.
Recent snowfall has also changed the makeup of the flocks of birds coming to my feeders. A Fox Sparrow has joined the Eastern Towhees I’ve watched foraging on the ground beneath the feeders hanging from the branches of a blue spruce outside my bedroom window.
More Purple Finches, in addition to American Goldfinches, have joined the ranks of birds crowding around my black oil sunflower-stocked feeders. Other recent visitors have included European Starlings (a winter rarity at my home) and a male Red-winged Blackbird, which linger for only one snowy day.
It’s time once again to join the fun for a winter celebration of the Roan Highlands on Saturday, Feb. 13, at the Roan Mountain State Park Conference Center. The event will celebrate Roan Mountain’s grassy balds, rare plants, birds, ancient geology and ongoing conservation efforts. The inclusive event is planned as for all ages, so be sure to bring the kids. Presentations are planned by David Ramsey and Gary Kauffman.
Ramsey is a well-known area conservationist, photographer, and tireless fighter for the protection of the 10,000-acre Rocky Fork tract — now a 2,000-acre Tennessee State Park surrounded by 7,600 acres of U.S. National Forest. Ramsey will present a program on photography being one of the most important items in the conservationist’s toolbox. A native of Unicoi, he was Field & Stream’s 2011 “National Hero of Conservation” and a Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy’s Stan Murray award winner. Ramsey, whose great-great-grandfather walked these forest paths, brings a generational love to contemporary times on Roan Mountain.
Gary Kauffman is the botanist/ecologist for the National Forests in North Carolina, which covers 1.1 million acres across four forests, the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests in the mountains, the Uwharrie National Forest in the Piedmont, and the Croatan National Forest in the Coastal Plain. He will speak on the Roan’s rare plants in the balds and forests and the threats of balsam and hemlock wooly adelgid, beech bark disease, and non-native invasive plants.
Since you’re bringing the kids along, be sure to let them know that Xtreme Roan Adventures will have a table set up for owl pellet dissection. Of course, several afternoon hikes are also on the schedule for this year’s Winter Rally.
During lunch, Amanda “AJ” Smithson, Seasonal Interpretive Ranger at Roan Mountain State Park, will present a program on forests and fields’ edible plants. Smithson is a graduate from UNC Wilmington and NC State with degrees in Natural Resource Management and GIS.
For more information, on this annual event, visit http://friendsofroanmtn.org/winter%20rally%202016%20brochure.pdf