Tag Archives: Dragonflies

Birds are not the only fall migrants sharing the skies

Photo by Bryan Stevens • Experts have documented long-distance migration flights by the Wandering Glider, a species of dragonfly.

Rhonda Eller of Chilhowie, Virginia, posted a question on my Facebook page about some dragonflies that appeared in her yard on Sept. 10.

“We have had a sudden breakout of dragonflies in our yard,” Rhonda explained. “We seldom see more than one or two at a time.”

Rhonda wondered if the dragonflies might have been drawn to her yard in pursuit of some sort of favorite insect prey. She also speculated that the recent dry conditions might have attracted the dragonflies.

I responded to her query by explaining that birds are not the only migrant in the skies at this time of year. Some dragonflies, just like birds, migrate. A species known as green darner is one that migrates. These darners are rather large, for a dragonfly, and travel in swarms. A couple of years ago I observed thousands of these dragonflies swarming over a municipal swimming pool and a nearby fish pond at a park in Erwin, Tennessee.

The WSLS Channel 10 television station out of Roanoke, Virginia, reported on swarms of dragonflies so large that they got picked up by local radar. Rhonda shared a link to the station’s story on my Facebook page.

Photo by Jean Potter • A common nighthawk rests on a metal railing.

Of course, swarms of migrating insects are bound to get the attention of predatory birds. The same day that Rhonda experienced the influx of migrating dragonflies, I witnessed dozens of common nighthawks and chimney swifts swooping through the skies over my home. With a little more attention to detail, I also noticed the dragonflies sharing the skies with these birds.

I suspect that the nighthawks were feeding on the large darners while the swifts, which are much smaller birds, focused their foraging efforts on smaller winged insects. Tom McNeil, a neighbor and fellow member of the Elizabethton Bird Club, reported seeing nighthawks and swifts, too. Tom lives on the other side of a mountain ridge that separates our homes.

Tim Morris, a Facebook friend from Australia, noted in a comment on my post about the nighthawks that his country is home a bird known as the tawny frogmouth, a relative of the common nighthawk. Tim noted that frogmouths are big birds with camouflage markings that allow them to pretend to be dead tree boughs by day. “They feed not only on insects but mice and lizards, too,” he added.

Evidence of fall migration continued the next day when I detected a small wave of warblers foraging in trees at the edge of my yard. I saw five different species — American redstart, worm-eating warbler, Cape May warbler, Blackburnian warbler and Tennessee warbler — in the space of half an hour. Of the warblers in the flock, the Blackburnian and Cape May are some of the more vibrant ones.

Photo by Bryan Stevens • While the Cape May warbler doesn’t breed locally, these warblers are fairly common spring and fall migrants in the region.

The Blackburnian warbler’s common name commemorates Anna Blackburne, an English naturalist who lived from 1726 to 1793. Her brother, Ashton, had immigrated to the United States, which made it possible for him to send his sister many specimens, especially birds. Their father, a salt merchant by trade, was also a well-respected amateur naturalist. In addition to the warbler that bears her name, Anna Blackburne also had a species of beetle named in her honor.

Both the Cape May and Tennessee warblers are named for the locations from which they were first collected. Neither of these small songbirds are closely affiliated with Cape May, New Jersey, or the Volunteer State. The Cape May warbler is also known as the “tiger warbler” for the dramatic black striping across its bright yellow breast. A green back and chestnut cheek patch make the Cape May warbler quite unlike any of its close kin. Even its scientific name — Setophaga tigrina — pays homage to the striped big cat. The term “setophaga” translates to “moth eater” and is a reference to this warbler’s intense fondness for the caterpillars known as spruce budworms that occasionally produce outbreaks in the northern spruce forests that serve as the nesting range for the Cape May warbler.

 

Photo by insitedesigns/Pixabay • A Cape May warbler peers from its perch on a tree branch.

According to the website, “All About Birds,” Cape May warblers have unusually shaped tongues that allow them to sip nectar from tropical flowers during the winter months spent in Central America and the Caribbean. Their unique tongues also make it possible for them to enjoy sips of sugar water from hummingbird feeders.

Whether its dragonflies, nighthawks, warblers or hummingbirds, plenty of birds and other flying creatures will be moving through the region for the next few weeks. Now’s the time to get outdoors and look for some of these migrants.

Photo by insitedesigns/Pixabay.com • The Cape May warbler migrates out of North America every fall to spend the winter in Central America and the Caribbean.

Birds, dragonflies have more than wings in common

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The plastic yellow guards are meant to exclude bees and other insects from your sugar water feeders for hummingbirds.

I’ve had some Facebook queries recently from fellow hummingbird enthusiasts hoping I can offer a solution to the problem of bees overwhelming their feeders.

Bees, as well as other insects, are attracted to sugar water. To complicate the problem, bees far outnumber hummingbirds and can quickly make themselves a nuisance. Although hummingbirds are brave enough to challenge one or two bees to a duel, these tiny birds usually shy away from feeders that have attracted swarms of these stinging insects.

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Honeybees can cause problems at feeders; however, methods for dealing with these important pollinators should always be non-lethal.

The most effective solution is to buy a feeder with bee guards, which are simply little plastic shields that allow access for hummingbird bills and tongues but ban bees from squeezing their bodies into a position to reach the nectar solution. Most hummingbird feeders are red, which is supposed to capitalize on the hummingbird attraction to that color, and the bee guards are usually fashioned from yellow plastic. Some of the guards are fashioned to look like tiny yellow flowers to make them more aesthetically pleasing.

Online research also offered a solution that could make everyone (people, hummers and bees) happy. Provide a bowl of sugar water for the bees. They will find it quickly. Gradually move the bowl away from your hummingbird feeders. If this works, both bees and birds can co-exist.

Remember that honeybees are an extremely valuable insect, so any solution to bees invading your hummingbird feeders should definitely be non-lethal.

••••••

DoubleDragon

A couple of different dragonflies share a perch at water’s edge.

Since I am already discussing insects, I am taking a hiatus from the birds for one week to introduce readers to some “other things with wings.”

Specifically, I would discuss dragonflies and damselflies, otherwise known as “odes,” or members of the insect order of Odonata. Surprisingly, other than their wings, the odes and birds have a lot in common.

When birds are scarce during the heat of the day, I find that other winged creatures get active and can provide some fun observations. In late summer I spend a great deal of time focused on the dragonflies and damselflies that live along the creek and at the fish pond at my home. The “odonates” are insects with long brightly colored bodies, two pairs of membranous wings and large compound eyes.

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Blue Dasher chooses a prominent perch at a fish pond.

Some of the more prevalent dragonflies in the region include widow skimmer, common whitetail, Eastern pondhawk, Eastern amberwing and slaty skimmer. I also often find the ebony jewelwing, a species of damselfly, fluttering along the creek. These delicate-looking insects like to find a sunny perch near flowing water. I’ve noticed the ebony jewelwings for many years because they are particularly difficult to miss. They have dark wings and a tapering body that glistens with a metallic blue-green sheen.

Damselflies, which are closely related to dragonflies, are usually smaller and less swift. A dragonfly at rest keeps its wings extended horizontally like an airplane’s wings, but damselflies fold their wings over their backs.

All odes are predators, feeding on other insects, but they are harmless to humans. Despite an enduring myth, they cannot sting. They are capable of biting, but will not do so unless they are handled in a careless manner.

If you observe dragonflies long enough, you will start to notice they share one trait with hummingbirds: they are intolerant of any intrusion into their personal space. In the same manner that hummers constantly chase rivals away from a favorite perch or feeder, dragonflies along the edge of a pond are unceasing in chasing and harassing rivals.

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Blue Dasher striking a pose. Despite superstitions about them, dragonflies are harmless. They can’t sting and don’t bite unless provoked.

Some cultures consider a dragonfly landing on a person a sign of good fortune. My sister-in-law would disagree. She has an intense, if irrational, fear of dragonflies. Perhaps she learned too much of the misinformation handed down in various human cultures about dragonflies.

Europeans have long linked dragonflies with sinister forces. Some common names for dragonflies, such as darners, come down from older names such as “devil’s darning needle.” Swedes call dragonflies “troll spindles” and Norwegians refer to them as “eye pokers.” Some cultures in South America call dragonflies “horse killers” and others refer to them as caballito del diablo, or the “devil’s little horse.” Some residents of the Southern United States refer to dragonflies as “snake doctors,” believing these insects can stitch and repair any injuries that a serpent suffers. It’s no wonder some people fear a harmless and rather beneficial insect.

CarolinaSaddlebags

The Carolina Saddlebags, pictured, is one of the species of dragonflies known to migrate.

Native Americans as well as some Asian cultures have a more positive outlook on dragonflies. In Japan, dragonflies represent such concepts as strength, courage and joy. Dragonflies are often depicted in Zuni pottery, and the Navajo use the dragonfly as a symbol to represent “pure water,” which was an important resource for people living in very arid conditions. For both birds and dragonflies, water is also a crucial resource if they are to thrive.

The Hopi and Pueblo tribes also incorporate dragonflies into their art. Many Native Americans consider dragonflies a symbol of renewal. Many others see them as a symbol representing illusion and seeing through deception. I wonder if the use of the dragonfly as a renewal symbol evolved because of the life cycle of dragonflies.

Odes spend the first stage of life as aquatic larvae living below the surface of the water. Later, they emerge as adult dragonflies. During their time spent as larvae, or nymphs, they are voracious predators, tackling other aquatic organisms, including small fish. At the same time, these nymphs are important food sources for some larger fish. Nymphs may spend as long as three years living beneath the water, but adult dragonflies usually live only a few weeks or months.

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Blue Dasher surveys its territory at a fish pond.

Adult dragonflies continue to consume prey, which is mostly other insects. Among the odes, there are no vegetarians. “Mosquito hawk” is another common name for them because they catch and eat mosquitoes. They also consume gnats, flies and other insects. So, along with birds such as swallows and nighthawks, the dragonflies help keep in check the numbers of many nuisance insects.

Some of the larger dragonflies are also reputed to attack and eat hummingbirds. I tried to find conclusive evidence, but the jury’s still out in my opinion. However, some of the larger species of praying mantis have been documented capturing and consuming hummingbirds, so it is not too far-fetched to believe some dragonflies might be capable of preying on hummers.

Like many birds, some dragonflies migrate. Species such as Carolina saddlebags, green darners and wandering gliders are known to migrate hundreds of miles.

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Painted Skimmer clasps a cattail.

In recent years, dragonfly-watching has emerged as a nature pastime to rival the watching of birds and butterflies. Why watch dragonflies? Well, in many ways, they are just as fascinating as birds and other wildlife.
Here’s some fun trivia about dragonflies:

• Odes have excellent eyesight. Their compound eyes have up to 30,000 facets, each of which is a separate light-sensing organ arranged to give nearly a 360 degree field of vision. Their vision also makes it difficult to sneak up on a dragonfly. I have learned this during my attempts to photograph them.

• Dragonflies are built for speed. Many experts credit dragonflies with the ability to fly at speeds between 19 to 38 miles per hour. They have also been documented traveling as much as 85 miles in a single day.

• Dragonflies can hover and fly backwards, a feat achieved by only hummingbirds among our winged friends with feathers.

• Dragonflies are ancient. They appeared 100 million years before dinosaurs and 150 million years before birds.

Pondhawk-Impatiens

Eastern Pondhawk perches on an impatiens bloom.

• The largest dragonfly to ever live was Meganeura monyi, which lived during the Carboniferous period about 300 million years ago. It resembled and was related to present-day dragonflies. With a wingspan of almost 26 inches, it is one of the largest known flying insect species.

• Worldwide, there are about 5,000 species of dragonflies, but only about 400 are found in North America.

Amazing dragonflies share skies with birds, other winged things

I am on vacation in Atlanta, Georgia, this weekend, so here are some recent photos of dragonflies that I have taken so far this spring.

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Slaty Skimmer selects a delicate perch at the water’s edge.

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This Painted Skimmer was a new visitor to the fish pond.

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Lily pads are popular resting spots and excellent for basking in the sun.

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Eastern Pond Hawk chooses a perch just above the water’s surface.

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Widow Skimmers are one of the more vibrant dragonflies at the pond. They will often perch a good distance away from the water.

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Mating Eastern Pondhawks at the fish pond.

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Spangled Skimmer is an attractive dragonfly.

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The aptly named 12-Spotted Skimmer is an unmistakable dragonfly.

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Some dragonflies prefer a more vertical perch.

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Female Common Whitetail Skimmer warms herself on the gravels heated by the sunshine.

 

 

Blue Dasher photographed during a recent trip to South Carolina.

Blue Dasher photographed during a recent trip to South Carolina.

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The Fragile Forktail is a common damselfly at the fish pond.

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Common Whitetail Skimmer perched on a branch at the fish pond.

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Probably a Needham’s Skimmer photographed during a recent visit to Pawleys Island, South Carolina.

 

Other things with wings

Photo by Bryan Stevens

Photo by Bryan Stevens                             Don’t believe all you hear. Dragonflies and damselflies are harmless to humans. They can’t sting. They can’t sew your lips shut. People have invented many scary names for these winged insects, including “snake killer,” “water witch” and “devil’s darning needle.” Don’t be fooled by the bad press and all the myths. Dragonflies and their kin are some of the world’s most beneficial insects. Pictured, a decorative and illuminating dragonfly owned by a fan of these valuable insects.

I’m taking a hiatus from the birds for one week to bring you some other things with wings in the form of a pictorial essay of dragonflies and damselflies, otherwise known as “odes,” or members of the insect order of Odonata.

I hope you enjoy this diversion. I know I’ve had much fun this spring photographing the odes at the fish pond at my home on Simerly Creek Road in Hampton. I’ve also visited some other locations to find and photograph them, including Erwin Fishery Park in Unicoi County.

 

Photo by Bryan Stevens An Eastern Amberwing casts an amber shadow on this rock at the edge of a pond in Erwin, Tennessee.

Photo by Bryan Stevens
An Eastern Amberwing casts an amber shadow on this rock at the edge of a pond in Erwin, Tennessee. This is one of the smaller dragonflies in the Southern Appalachians. The largest dragonfly to ever live was Meganeura monyi, which lived during the Carboniferous period about 300 million years ago. It resembled and was related to present-day dragonflies. With a wingspan of almost 26 inches, it is one of the largest known flying insect species. Like modern dragonflies, Meganeura monyi was predatory and fed on other insects.

Photo by Bryan Stevens The Aurora Damselfly is a study in simple elegance.

Photo by Bryan Stevens
The Aurora Damselfly is a study in simple elegance. Damselflies are typically weaker flyers than dragonflies.

Photo by Bryan Stevens A glimpse through the vegetation at one of the pond's most voracious predators. Dragonflies consume many other species of insects, including some that are considered pests. Pictured is a female Blue Dasher.

Photo by Bryan Stevens
A glimpse through the vegetation at one of the pond’s most voracious predators. Dragonflies consume many other species of insects, including some that are considered pests. Pictured is a female Blue Dasher.

Photo by Bryan Stevens

Photo by Bryan Stevens                                                                                                              Dragonflies and damselflies have been around longer than birds. Scientists estimate that these insects have been flying our skies for 300 million years.

Photo by Bryan Stevens

Photo by Bryan Stevens                                                                                                         Pictured, a male Ebony Jewelwing displays along the edge of Simerly Creek. Most, but not all, damselflies are fairly small. Megaloprepus caerulatus, which belongs to the Forest Giant family of damselflies, is the world’s largest damselfly. This damselfly inhabits rain forests in Central and South America. It has the greatest wingspan — 7.5 inches for large males — of any living damselfly or dragonfly.

Photo by Bryan Stevens

Photo by Bryan Stevens                                                                                                              What big eyes they have! Not surprisingly, it’s the better to see you with that has pushed the evolution of the dragonfly eye. A dragonfly’s head is comprised almost entirely of two large, compound eyes. Pictured, a Blue Dasher.

Photo by Bryan Stevens

Photo by Bryan Stevens                                                                                                        Common Green Darners photographed in early May on Holston Mountain in Elizabethton. At least 5,000 species of dragonflies and damselflies have been documented by scientists. There are probably more yet to be discovered.

Photo by Bryan Stevens

Photo by Bryan Stevens                                                                                     There are no vegetarian dragonflies. Adult dragonflies feed on other insects that they catch in flight. Larval dragonflies, called nymphs, are aggressive underwater predators that feed on almost anything they can catch, including tadpoles, small fish, other aquatic insects and even each other. If mosquitoes are a nuisance, be sure to welcome dragonflies. They’re a major predator of mosquitoes. Pictured, a Widow Skimmer perches at the edge of a pond, resting until her next flight to prey on other insects.

Like birds, some species of dragonflies migrate. They may also form swarms — the equivalent of a flock of birds — as they stage their migratory flights.

Photo by Bryan Stevens

Photo by Bryan Stevens                                                                                                        This empty shell once housed a voracious dragonfly nymph until it emerged as an adult dragonfly.

Photo by Bryan Stevens

Photo by Bryan Stevens                                                                                                                     A Common Whitetail perches by a pond’s edge.

For more information on dragonflies in the Volunteer State, please visit http://www.pbase.com/rconnorsnaturephoto/tennessee_odonata to learn more.

 

Annual spring rally on the Roan will offer chance to celebrate birds and other aspects of natural world

For the past 56 springs, nature enthusiasts from throughout the region have gathered on the verdant slopes of Roan Mountain for the annual Naturalists Rally.

 James Neves, who with Jennifer Bauer serves as co-director of the Roan Mountain Spring Naturalists Rally, said that one change for this year’s rally is the date the event is being held. Instead of being held in May, this year’s rally will be held the last weekend of April.

Photo by Bryan Stevens Daisy Fleabane will be among the many blooming wildflowers to welcome rally attendees.

Photo by Bryan Stevens
Daisy Fleabane will be among the many blooming wildflowers to welcome rally attendees.

 This year’s Roan Mountain Spring Naturalists Rally will be held Friday, April 25, through Sunday, April 27.

 “The spring rally is being held a week earlier than its traditional date, but I don’t really see it as a big change,” Neves said. “If you think about it, it’s really an effort to keep things the same. During the last several years, there has been a shift in the timing of the bloom of many of the spring wildflowers, and so I hope that the change will allow for the Naturalists Rally to occur when these wildflowers are blooming.”

 Neves said this year’s speakers for the annual event are Daniel C. Dourson and Bob Hale.

 The Friday evening program by Dourson is titled “Of Ice Thorns, Tree Crotches and Love Darts: Shelled Creatures of the Southern Appalachians.”

Daniel C. Dourson

Daniel C. Dourson

 Dourson will be providing a treasury of little-known facts about snails that inhabit mountains like the Roan.

For instance, did you know that some snails are covered in long “hair-like” structures or that the slime of some snails will fluoresce under ultra-violet light? Or were you aware that slime from some snails is used to treat skin disorders?

Join Dourson, a wildlife biologist, naturalist and natural history author, as he shares his passion for the shelled creatures known as “land snails.” Dourson, who has been studying land snails in the Southern Appalachians for nearly 20 years, recently described four new species of land snails from the area, including the globally endangered Roan Mountain endemic, Roan Covert, or Fumonelix roanensis.

 His program will also let his audience learn of the intricate delicate features that separate these creatures and find out what love darts, ice thorns and tree crotches have to do with these organisms.

Attendees can also join him in the field on Saturday afternoon for an exciting field trip to search for these jewels of the forest leaf litter.

Bob Hale will present the Saturday evening program on “Spring Wildflowers and Native Orchids.” Hale’s interest in wildflowers began with making slides of spring wildflowers in the late 1960s. This interest expanded to photographing wildflowers throughout the growing season. While working as a chemist at Eastman Chemical Company for 33 years, he was a member of the Eastman Camera Club for more than 25 years. He served as president, held several other offices with the club and taught numerous photography classes during that time.

Bob Hale

Bob Hale

Hale has used SLR cameras for many years, taking both slides and negatives for prints. With the coming of the digital age, he switched to that technology in 2004. His program will feature a sampling of his images of wildflowers including a special focus on numerous native orchids. This collection of images was taken from many nearby locations in the Southern Appalachians including Grayson Highlands, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Unaka Mountain, Buffalo Mountain, Cherokee National Forest, the Appalachian Trail, middle Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Hale is also an avid gardener, growing a wide variety of annuals, perennials, spring bulbs and shrubs. He has developed a strong interest in daylilies and has been growing, hybridizing and selling them for more than 40 years.

The Friday and Saturday program will be presented at 7:30 p.m. after the 6:30 p.m. dinners that will be catered by City Market of Elizabethton.

The Friday menu includes a choice of breaded or grilled chicken, vegetable selection, salad, bread, dessert and drink. The Saturday menu includes a choice of roast pork or vegetable lasagna, vegetable selection, salad, bread, dessert and drink. Each meal costs $9 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under. Pre-paid reservations are required and must be received by Tuesday, April 22.

After the programs on Friday and Saturday, two late evening programs are scheduled at 9 .m. Local naturalist Larry McDaniel will conduct a “Moth Party” on Friday to look for these nocturnal winged wonders. Gary Henson, director of the Harry D. Powell Observatory and a professor in the Department of Physics, Astronomy and Geology at East Tennessee State University, will conduct a viewing of the summer skies from the nearby Miller Homestead on Saturday.

Neves said a range of people are crucial to the success of the annual spring rally.

“The Friends of Roan Mountain are always grateful for the rangers and staff at Roan Mountain State Park, and they continue to be very involved with the rally,” Neves said. “Park Manager Jacob Young helped us in numerous ways over the years to make the rally a success, and he also leads a reptiles and amphibians field trip, a favorite with many of our young participants.”

Neves noted that Meg Guy, another park ranger, will be leading a new hike that will highlight basic tree identification. In addition, former Park Manager Pat Gagan will lead a Wildlife Walk for Everybody. This walk will allow participants with limited mobility to enjoy the natural beauty at Roan Mountain.

Photo by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service/ David Brezinski Rose-breasted Grosbeaks will likely be among the colorful birds present for this year's rally.

Photo by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service/ David Brezinski
Rose-breasted Grosbeaks will likely be among the colorful birds present for this year’s rally.

“We always hope to provide a selection of field trips and programs with a lot of variety and that are accessible to everyone from the novice to avid naturalist,” Neves said. “We have hikes expressly for beginners, such as our Birding for Beginners or Tree Identification Basics, and many of our hikes are specially labeled as kid friendly. That said, all of our field trip leaders try to cater to young participants or people who are new to identifying plants, birds, insects and more.”

 Neves said the rally also offers some early morning field trips and longer hikes for those who are a bit more adventurous.

“Anyone very serious about nature photography should not miss joining Jerry Greer on one of his field trips,” he said. “New photographers are welcome, too, of course.”

Although the hikes have a particular focus, there’s a surprising amount of overlap.

“There will always be flowers to see on a birding field trip, and there will always be birds to hear and see on a wildflower hike,” Neves explained.  “The rally has always been an opportunity for nature lovers, naturalists, to gather together and enjoy being outside, to observe the interesting and beautiful, and to learn together. That is what is really important.”

Neves notes that the Roan Mountain State Park Campground is currently closed while updates and improvements are completed. The work is expected to be finished by mid-May.

Evening programs and the lunch-time workshops will take place in the Roan Mountain State Park’s Conference Center, while all field trips will begin at the field located left of the entrance to the park’s cabins.

Because of the continued support of the Friends of Roan Mountain, Neves said the Naturalists Rallies have the resources they need to prosper and grow. He noted that the Friends of Roan Mountain also provides support for research and restoration projects on the Roan.

He suggests that those who enjoy attending the seasonal rallies should also consider joining the Friends of Roan Mountain, if they are not a member already. Members receive free admission to all Naturalists Rally events and the group’s newsletter, “Friends of Roan Mountain.”

Rally hikes on Saturday include:

• Nature Photography with Jerry Greer. Participants will meet at 6 a.m. at Carver’s Gap.

• Early Birds at Hampton Creek Cove with members of the Lee and Lois Herndon Chapter of Tennessee Ornithological Society. Participants will meet at the RMSP Welcome Center at 6:30 a.m.

The next six hikes will begin at 8:30 a.m. and will include:

• Jones Falls Hike with Marty Silver.

• Birds of Roan Mountain with members of the Herndon Chapter of TOS.

• River and High Mountain Wildflowers with Guy Mauldin.

Photo by Bryan Stevens  Wildflowers, such as this Trout Lily, provided the original inspiration for the annual Spring Rally.

Photo by Bryan Stevens
Wildflowers, such as this Trout Lily, provided the original inspiration for the annual Spring Rally.

• Nature Photography with Jerry Greer.

• Tree Identification Basics with Meg Guy.

• Birding for Beginners with Joe McGuiness.

A lunchtime workshop with Mick Whitelaw and members of the East Tennessee State University Department of Geology and Science Club on Fossil Casting for All aAges will be held from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

A lunch break will provide an interval between hikes. Marty Silver will present a program on dragonflies at 12:30 p.m.

Afternoon hikes will commence at 2 p.m. and will include:

• Land Snails and Invertebrates with Dan Dourson.

• Nature Walk for Everybody with Pat Gagan.

• Wildflowers and Trees of the Twin Springs/Hackline Cross Trail with David Hall.

• Reptiles and Amphibians of the Roan with Jacob Young.

• Baa-tany Goat Project and Roan’s Unique Alder Balds with Jamey Donaldson.

• Aquatic Insects as Water Quality Indicators with Gary Barrigar.

• Butterflies and Insects with Larry McDaniel.

Sunday will offer morning and afternoon hikes, including:

• Birds of Hampton Creek Cove at 8:30 a.m. with James Neves.

Photo by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service/Mark Musselman Black-throated Blue Warblers are among the birds than can often be found at Hampton Creek Cove during a Spring Rally.

Photo by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service/Mark Musselman
Black-throated Blue Warblers are among the birds than can often be found at Hampton Creek Cove during a Spring Rally.

• Doe River Gorge Wildflowers and Geology at 8:30 a.m. with Gabrielle Ziger and Mick Whitelaw. This is an all-day hike. Bring water, lunch and rain gear.

• Salamanders with Dale Ledford at 2 p.m.

• Butterflies and Insects with Don Holt at 2 p.m.

All hikes, unless otherwise noted, will depart from the field on the left of the cabin area entrance.

For more information on this year’s rally, visit http://www.friendsofroanmtn.org or http://www.facebook.com/FriendsOfRoanMountain.

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Barbara and Jerry Lake, Hampton, returned home from a recent trip to Vidalia, La., and Natchez, Miss., to find three nests being built.

Their bluebirds, Blossom and Max, are occupants of a box in the front yard. Carolina Chickadees are in the box at the edge of the woods beside their screened porch.

“I haven’t yet seen the birds in the nest by the driveway, but the nest itself looks like the chickadee’s nest,” Barbara wrote in an email.

They have cameras installed in several of the boxes so they can monitor the progress of their nesting birds.

“Both the porch box and driveway box are hooked to the TV on the porch so I have to switch wires to watch them,” she explained.

The Lakes are also awaiting the arrival of hummingbirds. “I put up a hummingbird feeder before we left, but so far I haven’t seen a hummer,” Barbara wrote.

The couple enjoyed a fun trip, attending the Roadtrek Rally in their Roadtrek motorhome.

“It was our first rally and we’ve owned our motorhome for seven years,” she wrote. “We had a great time and will certainly go on more.  We drove the Natchez Trace Parkway home to Hampton.”

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Brookie and Jean Potter saw a Ruby-throated Hummingbird at their feeders on Wednesday, April 9, at their home near Wilbur Lake in Carter County.

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Marlene Mountain, a Facebook friend, informed me that she saw her first Ruby-throated Hummingbird while looking out the window at her home on Sunday, April 6, at 1:28 p.m. She is also still hosting Dark-eyed Juncos at her feeders.

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Jim and Wanda Lane called me this past week to ask me if I knew about the different Great Blue Herons in various Elizabethton and Carter County locations.

I thanked them for letting my know about them, and let them know that I have visited the two Elizabethton locations on Blevins Road and behind the airport. I’ve enjoyed monitoring these nests before the leaves bud on the trees.

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Here at home on Simerly Creek Road, I saw my first Ruby-throated Hummingbird of spring on Friday, April 11. I’ve also seen a variety of other migrating birds, but I think I will leave them for next week’s post.

It’s been a great time to get outdoors this past week. I hope everyone is seeing some fantastic birds at home and at their favorite birding spots. Thanks for reading!

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