Tag Archives: Friends of Roan Mountain

Rally to offer sneak peek at bird migration, other nature activities


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 56th Roan Mountain Fall Naturalists Rally will draw nature enthusiasts from far and wide to this jewel of the Southern Appalachians on the first weekend after Labor Day with programs, nature walks, catered meals, and much more.

The annual Fall Naturalists Rally is always a great opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and, for birders, get a sneak peek at fall migration with any of the walks and programs focusing on our fine feathered friends. The best naturalists in the region volunteer their time and energy to make this a landmark event for people of all ages.

This year’s rally, which is scheduled for Friday-Sunday, Sept. 7-9, will feature guest speakers, Gabrielle Zeiger and Dr. Joey Shaw, for the main programs on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Zeiger’s Friday program, “Zen and the Art of Mushroom Hunting,” will get underway at 7:30 p.m. following a catered dinner at 6:30. Zeiger has been studying mushrooms in the region for 23 years. She considers herself more of a mushroom enthusiast than an expert. She is a member of the North American Mycological Association, and attends their national forays. She is involved in the association’s annual Wildacres foray in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Mount Mitchell in North Carolina.


Photos by Bryan Stevens • Mushrooms will feature in one of this year’s evening programs at the Fall Naturalists Rally.


Her program will focus on the two basic approaches — looking for good edibles and scientific study — to mushroom hunting. Her talk will touch on both approaches and include basic information on common mushrooms found in the area, species diversity and poisonous versus edible mushrooms. The program will include various types of fungi from gilled mushrooms, boletes, corals, stinkhorns and polypores, as well as the roles that they play in the environment such as decomposition and forest ecology. She will also talk about what mycologists do at forays. Findings will be included regarding 20 years of record keeping at Roan Mountain and scientific information on studies at Mount Mitchell regarding amount of rainfall and diversity of fruiting.

Photos Contributed • From left: Gabrielle Zeiger and Joey Shaw are this year’s featured speakers.


Saturday’s program on “Digitizing Tennessee’s One Million Herbarium Specimens,” will also start at 7:30 p.m. followed by a catered meal at 6:30. Dr. Joey Shaw received a bachelor’s of science in biology from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 1998, and that same year began his graduate education in the Department of Botany at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. In 2001, he received his master’s in botany for a floristic investigation of the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area in Tennessee and Kentucky. In 2005 he received his Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, for his work on the phylogeny and phylogeography of the North American plums and molecular evolution of different genetic regions of the chloroplast genome.

Shaw is currently serving the Association of Southeastern Biologists as Past President and will rotate off this Executive Committee in April 2019, after having served for over ten years and in all ranks of that committee. He is also serving as Chair of the Wildflower Pilgrimage Organizing Committee, and in this capacity he organizes this annual event that brings together more than 120 professional biologists with 850 members of the public to participate in more than 150 different events over four days every spring in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


Photo by Bryan Stevens • Blue-headed vireos, such as this bird, are high-elevation summer residents in the region. In the fall, they are also common migrants.

Evening and lunch programs will take place in Roan Mountain State Park’s Conference Center and unless other noted, field trips will leave from the field on the left before the cabins in the park.

In addition to the programs, morning and afternoon walks will be held Saturday and Sunday on a vast array of subjects, including birds, salamanders, butterflies, spiders, snakes, geology, mosses and liverworts. A “moth party” will be held after the Friday and Saturday programs. Larry McDaniel will host this party taking a look at these winged nocturnal insects outside the Conference Center.

Consider joining the Friends of Roan Mountain, if you are not a member. Members get free admission to all Naturalists Rally events and the newsletter, “Friends of Roan Mountain.”

The rally offers catered evening meals by City Market of Elizabethton, as well as brown bag lunches on Saturday. All meals must be pre-paid in advance.

Registration and payment for meals and other activities can be made at the website for Friends of Roan Mountain at friendsofroanmtn.org. The website can also provide a brochure for download that offers a complete schedule and details all the available activities at this year’s rally. Whatever your interest, the Roan Mountain Fall Naturalists Rally is sure to have an activity available. For local birders, it’s often the kick-off to the fall migration season as warblers, vireos, thrushes, tanagers, birds of prey and many other species pass through the region on their way to their wintering grounds.


Photo by Bryan Stevens • A female scarlet tanager is a study in contrast from her mate with her dull greenish-yellow plumage being much less vibrant than the male’s bright red and black feathers.

Upcoming programs offer insight into birds and birding

Fall migration has begun. The pace may be a trickle at present, but the floodgates will open in September and October as a multitude of neotropical migrants — birds that spend the summer nesting season in North America — make their way back to warmer territory in Central and South America.


Photo by Bryan Stevens • Upcoming programs in the region will focus on topics such as songbirds, raptors and the basics of beginning birdwatching. Plan to attend one or more of the programs to learn more about birds, such as this green heron.

A few of the “early birds” are already well on their way. At home, I am already seeing evidence of the increasing pace of migration as hummingbird numbers increase daily at my feeders and thrushes and warblers make stopovers in the surrounding woodlands. In the coming weeks, I fully expect to see even more of these migrating birds. It’s one of the major reasons that autumn’s my favorite season. The birds that were in such a rush to get to nesting grounds back in April and May take a more leisurely pace as they journey back south in September and October.

September will also offer some opportunities to learn more about our feathered friends at some upcoming programs that aim to provide some unique insights into the birds that share the world with us. Consider attending some or all of these events, and then be sure to get outdoors in the next couple of months to discover the diversity of the birds that pass through the region every fall.

I will be presenting a free program titled “Bold Birding in the Backyard and Beyond” at the Elizabethton/Carter County Public Library at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 6. The program, which is part of the library’s Adult Services program, is designed as an introduction for beginners to the pastimes of birding and birdwatching.

My presentation will feature photographs taken around my home, as well as from some of my birding adventures during my travels. I took many of the photographs that will be presented in Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina, but I will also show some photos from trips to Utah, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida.

I will offer some basic steps people can take to increase their enjoyment of the experience of birdwatching. I will also highlight the opportunities and advantages that membership in a local birding organization can bring.

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Photo by Bryan Stevens • Tufted titmouse checks out a feeder.


The library will provide light refreshments and a display of books on birds and birding that are available through the library’s collection. The library is located at 201 N. Sycamore St., Elizabethton. For more information, call 547-6360.

The annual Roan Mountain Fall Naturalists Rally brings together nature enthusiasts from throughout the region and beyond for a weekend of nature programs, walks and other activities. This year’s rally — the 55th consecutive one in the event’s history — will be held Friday-Sunday, Sept. 8-10. Most activities will be based at the Roan Mountain State Park Conference Center in Roan Mountain, Tennessee.

While the focus of the annual rally is always on a wide range of topics in the natural world, this year’s two evening programs on Friday and Saturday will put the spotlight on birds.

Dr. Andy Jones has worked at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History for more than a decade. He was hired in 2006 as the William A. and Nancy R. Klamm Endowed Chair of Ornithology, thanks to a donation from the Klamms to the museum. In 2011, he was also named Director of Science, overseeing all activities in the Collections and Research Division. A native of Kingsport, Tennessee, he has ties to several members in area birding organizations, including the Bristol Bird Club. His program, titled, “Using Sequences, Songs, and Serendipity to Understand Eastern North American Birds,” will explore birds and their songs, which are more complicated than anyone expected.

Andy Jones - Friday evening speaker

Photo Courtesy of FORM • Dr. Andy Jones holds a Northern saw-whet owl.

Ranger Marty Silver has worked as an environmental educator and conservation officer for Tennessee State Parks for more than 38 years, most of that time at Warriors Path State Park in Kingsport. He is responsible for the park’s interpretive programming, resource protection, trail maintenance, habitat management and outdoor education. Silver works with people of all ages, especially school children, and shares nature discovery and conservation awareness with more than 30,000 students each year. In addition, he has presented numerous teacher training workshops and has received a number of state-wide and national environmental education awards.

Silver will bring some rehabilitated captive raptors that he employs in educational programs. These birds suffered injuries in the past that made it impossible to return them to the wild, but they now serve as feathered ambassadors to help people learn about a family of birds that is often misunderstood. These raptors (with a little help from Ranger Silver) share new insights into how everyone can play a role in resource protection through nature education.

Marty Silver - Saturday evening speaker

Photo Courtesy of FORM • Marty Silver and a great horned owl present an educational program on birds.

Both evening programs begin at 7:30 p.m. and follow buffet meals that will be held at 6:30 p.m. There is an additional cost to attend the meals, and reservations are necessary. There are registration fees to attend any of the activities, including the evening programs, at the Roan Mountain Fall Naturalists Rally. Membership in the organization will result in fees being waived. For information on joining Friends of Roan Mountain or a complete schedule for this year’s Rally, please visit http://www.friendsofroanmtn.org for a downloadable brochure, registration form and contact information. In addition to the evening programs, the three-day rally will feature bird walks, as well as hikes featuring a variety of topics, including butterflies, mushrooms, wildflowers, salamanders and spiders.


Attending these programs could offer some helpful information to prepare for this year’s fall migration. However, even if you’re unable to fit any of the programs into your schedule, plan on getting outdoors this fall. Birds are going to be much easier to find and observe as they migrate, so keep your eyes open.

If you have a question, wish to make a comment or share a sighting, email ahoodedwarbler@aol.com.

New bird arrivals signal spring’s imminent approach


Photo by Bryan Stevens                                        A Ring-necked Duck visits a pond at Erwin Fishery Park.

The recent extremely warm weather — well, warm for the month of March — may have finally broken the back of winter. Signs of spring are becoming easier to detect, especially among our feathered friends. The pond at Erwin Fishery Park had been a great location to view migrating waterfowl for the past few weeks, but most of the visiting ducks — redheads, ring-necked ducks and American wigeon — appear to have concluded their late-winter visit.


Photo by Bryan Stevens                                        A raft of Redheads floats on the surface of the pond at Erwin Fishery Park in Unicoi County, Tennessee.

Signs of spring are becoming easier to detect, especially among our feathered friends. I’ve heard from numerous readers about flocks of American robins making welcome visits. While not the only harbinger of spring among our birds, robins are probably foremost among the birds we like to associate with the arrival of spring weather. The numerous large flocks of robins I observed during the last couple of weeks of February and early March, however, consisted mostly of birds coping with heavy snowfalls.


Photo by Bryan Stevens                                American robins are a familiar sight on lawns in spring. While the robin is widely believed to be a harbinger of spring, many other birds can also lay claim to this distinction.

The month of March is usually a time of transition, with many winter birds making ready to depart as some of our summer favorites return from their more southern wintering grounds. At home, I have noted the spring arrivals of Eastern phoebes and belted kingfishers. On March 6, a wary pair of wood ducks made a brief visit to the fish pond on my property. A couple of other bird species will probably make their appearance at some point in March. At my home, brown thrashers, tree swallows and red-winged blackbirds have returned and are already making themselves comfortable. These species and a handful of others are usually in the vanguard of spring arrivals. Let me know what you’re seeing as spring advances. I always enjoy hearing from readers.

Among the readers who have written to me recently was Shelly Jones, a resident of north Abingdon, Virginia.


Photo by Bryan Stevens                                    Song Sparrows are already making efforts to attract mates for the first spring nesting attempts.

“I have many bird feeders, with all kinds of seeds and suet cakes to attract as many different bird species that I can,” Shelly wrote in an email. “Like you, I have had all the common woodpeckers come to my feeders.”

Shelly commiserated with my never having been fortunate enough to get a visit from a red-headed woodpeckers at my home. She added that not only has she never been visited by a red-headed woodpecker at home, she has never seen one of these woodpeckers at all.

“I have seen the great pileated woodpecker flying through the tree tops,” she noted.


Photo by Bryan Stevens                                   Tree Swallows perch on a wire over a pond in Hampton, Tennessee.

Her luck changed shortly after I ran the last installment on a series focused on the members of the woodpecker family.

“Today, when looking out at my feeders, there it was!” Shelly reported. It turned out to be a red-headed woodpecker. “My husband saw it, too,” she wrote. “I tried to get a photo, but it flew away before I could capture it. I’ll keep trying.”

Shelly and her husband live on five acres, mostly pasture for their two horses, but they are surrounded by woods on three sides, with many oak trees thriving in the woods. The habitat she described sounded imminently suitable for attracting red-headed woodpeckers.

I wrote an email back to Shelly congratulating her on the home visit from this woodpecker and joked that I was a little envious of her good fortune.




Photo Courtesy of Gayle Riddervold      This photo of an adult Bald Eagle was taken this past winter along Simerly Creek Road.

Gayle Riddervold and Rebecca Kinder recently shared a photo of an adult Bald Eagle that they had taken along Simerly Creek Road in Hampton. They had been leaving for a trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, when they saw the eagle and stopped to get a photo.  Bald Eagles are often seen along lakes and rivers in Carter County during the winter, but finding an eagle at higher elevations is somewhat unusual.


Other readers have been sharing bird sightings that, if we’re fortunate, offer a signal of the changing seasons as winter wanes and spring nears.

Adelaide Moss in Abingdon, Virginia, wrote with a question about vultures. Vultures, by the way, are considered a harbinger of spring in some sections of the country. The two species — turkey vulture and black vulture — are year-round residents in our region.

“I am very curious about the vultures that hang out in trees in winter,” Adelaide wrote. “What on earth do they all eat? There are so many of them I can’t imagine there is enough roadkill to feed them all.

She added that she never sees vultures eating except occasionally on roads where they are eating roadkill.

“I would love to know more about them,” she wrote.


Photo by Bryan Stevens                    Turkey Vultures, unlike most birds, have a well-developed sense of smell.

I’ll focus on the turkey vulture, which benefits from a sense of smell that is absent in most other birds, the related black vulture included. With its finely-tuned olfactory senses, the turkey vulture can detect roadkill and other carrion from a distance of a mile.

These birds can also use their large wings to soar for hours. Soaring is much more energy-efficient than the flapping of wings. Experts who have studied turkey vultures estimate the birds may travel 200 miles or more in a single day in foraging for a meal such as a deer’s carcass or even an opossum squashed on the side of the road. Like many a scavenger, the turkey vulture’s not finicky and will eat almost anything. Pairing excellent eyesight with a good sense of smell means very little edible roadkill goes unnoticed by these birds.


I recently received an email from Tom and Helen Stetler in Elizabethton, Tennessee.

They reported seeing several “early birds” in their yard recently, including a total of six Red-winged Blackbirds. “One even went up on the bird feeder,” they wrote.


Photo courtesy of Tom and Helen Stetler     Red-winged Blackbirds, such as this bird, began returning to the region in February.

The couple noted that Red-winged Blackbirds are usually harbingers of spring, but they arrived with some of the last of the winter weather in February.

“Oh well, better days are coming, Lord willing,” the Stetlers wrote. They also added they have seen Song Sparrows and an Eastern Towhee at their feeder in recent days.


To learn more about birds and other topics from the natural world, friend Stevens on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ahoodedwarbler. 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 ahoodedwarbler@aol.com.

Northern cardinal brightens holiday season and every other day of the year



Photos by Bryan Stevens                                        A female Northern Cardinal visits a feeder during a snowstorm.

The shopping days before Christmas are getting fewer, so I hope everyone has had time to find gifts for everyone on their lists. My own sincere wish to readers is that everyone gets to enjoy a great holiday that just might also include watching some birds.



A male cardinal investigates a feeder.

Although I hate to see the colorful birds of spring and summer — scarlet tanagers, Baltimore orioles, indigo buntings, rose-breasted grosbeaks — depart every fall, the winter season offers some compensation.
Often, when we think of the birds of the winter season, our thoughts focus on some of the less-than-colorful feeder visitors — the brown sparrows and wrens, the black and white chickadees, the drab American goldfinches so unlike their summer appearance.



A male cardinal stays concealed within a thicket.

There’s one bird, however, that makes an impression in any season. The Northern cardinal, especially the brilliant red male, stands out against a winter backdrop of snow white, deep green or drab gray.
Over the years, the Northern cardinal has also become associated with the Christmas season. How many Christmas cards have you received this holiday season with a cardinal featured in the artwork? I’d wager that at least a few cards in any assortment of holiday greetings will feature the likeness of a bright red cardinal.



Early naturalist and artist John James Audubon painted the Northern Cardinal.

Cardinals, also known by such common names as redbird and Virginia nightingale, are easily recognized backyard birds. I never tire of observing these colorful birds. Cardinals are easily lured to any backyard with plentiful cover to provide a sense of security and a generous buffet of sunflower seed.
Cardinals accept a wide variety of food at feeders. Sunflower seed is probably their favorite, but they will also sample cracked corn, peanuts, millet, bakery scraps and even suet. The cardinal is also one of only a few birds that I have noticed will consistently feed on safflower seed.
While we may get the idea that cardinals feed largely on seed, that is a misconception based on our observation of the birds at our feeders. When away from our feeders, cardinals feed on insects and fruit, including the berries of mulberry, holly, pokeberry, elderberry, Russian olive, dogwood and sumac.



A flash of red signal a visit from a male Northern cardinal.

There’s no difficult in identifying a cardinal. The male boasts crimson plumage, a crest, a black face and orange bill. The female, although less colorful, is also crested. Female cardinals are soft brown in color, with varying degrees of a reddish tinge in their feathers, particularly in their wings. Immature cardinals resemble females except young cardinals have dark bills.


Cardinal-Two 2

A male Northern cardinal perches on a feeder.

Cardinals are a widespread species, ranging westward to the Dakotas and south to the Gulf Coast and Texas. The southeastern United States was once the stronghold of the cardinal population. In the past century, however, cardinals have expanded their range into New England and Canada.
At feeders, cardinals mingle with a variety of other birds. Their preference for dense, tangled habitat is one they share with such birds as brown thrashers, Eastern towhees, Carolina wrens and song sparrows. In general, however, cardinals directly associate only with their own kind. Cardinals will form loose flocks during the winter, but these flocks are never as cohesive as those of such flocking birds as American goldfinches. Cardinals are more often observed in pairs.
For such a bright bird, the male cardinal can be surprisingly difficult to detect as he hides in the thick brush that conceals his presence. Cardinals are nervous birds, however, and usually betray their presence with easily recognized chip notes.



A male Northern cardinal on a gray December day.

It’s not surprising that such a popular bird has also become associated with many trappings of the Christmas season. “You see cardinals on greeting cards, stationery, paper plates, paper napkins and tablecloths, doormats, light switch plates, candles, candle holders, coffee mugs, plates, glasses, Christmas tree ornaments and lights, bookmarks, mailboxes, Christmas jewelry,” writes June Osborne in her book The Cardinal. “And the list goes on. Cardinals have become an integral part of the way that many people celebrate the holiday season.”


Female cardinal grasps a perch on a blustery afternoon.

I can be included among such people. My Christmas decorations include an assortment of cardinal figurines and ornaments. There are other birds — doves and penguins for example — associated with the holiday season, but for me the holidays magnify the importance of one of my favorite birds. The cardinal, in its festive red plumage, appears made to order for a symbol of the holiday season.

There’s additional evidence to put forward as testimony to the popularity of the Northern cardinal. It’s the official state bird of seven states: Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky. Only the Northern mockingbird, which represents five states as official state bird, even comes close to the Northern cardinal in this respect.
Even once the holidays are past, there’s nothing like a glimpse of a Northern cardinal to add some cheer to a bleak winter day.
To learn more about birds and other topics from the natural world, friend Stevens on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ahoodedwarbler. 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 ahoodedwarbler@aol.com.

Annual rally returning to Roan Mountain for last weekend in April


Photo by Bryan Stevens                                                         Wildflowers, like this Trout Lily, are always a major draw for the Spring Naturalists Rally.

The 57th annual Roan Mountain Spring Naturalists Rally will continue the tradition of offering nature enthusiasts the opportunity to enjoy field trips and engaging programs that cover many aspects of the natural history of Roan Mountain and the surrounding area. The three-day event is scheduled from Friday-Sunday, April 24-April 26.

Serving as co-directors for the spring event will be Jennifer Bauer and James Neves.

Neves noted that this year’s rally promises many exciting activities.


Photo by Bryan Stevens                              Red Crossbills are among the many species of birds that call Roan home.

“Friday night we’ll be honoring the memory and many contributions that Ed Schell made to the Naturalists Rallies and Friends of Roan Mountain, as well as many other organizations that fostered the love the environment such as the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy and Tennessee Native Plant Society,” Neves said. “On Sunday, Gabrielle Zeiger and Mick Whitelaw will lead a memorial hike into the Doe River Gorge, a field trip Ed added to the naturalist rally field trip list.”

For the second consecutive year, the rally is being held on the third weekend of April. “We made the switch because the peak bloom of the early spring wildflowers has been trending to earlier dates,” Neves noted.

The Roan Mountain State Park’s Conference Center will host programs, meals, information booths and registration, while field trips will leave from the field on the left before entrance to the cabins in the park. Registration will also be available at the field prior to the field trip departures.

“A special note should be made that the hike that Marty Silver will lead to Yellow Mountain Gap is about eight miles, longer than the five miles listed in the program mailer,” Neves said. “Participants should bring a lunch and their sense of humor. Marty is not only a great Tennessee Park Ranger and naturalist, he’s also a knowledge bank of jokes and anecdotes.”

Neves said Dan Dourson will return to lead his field trip covering land snails and invertebrates on Saturday afternoon.

“Even the most curious among naturalists might raise an eyebrow wondering how exciting looking at snails can be, but Dan converted us all last year after his wonderful program and entertaining field trip,” Neves said. “We’re very happy he is returning this year.”


Photo by Bryan Stevens                     A millipede crawls over wet leaves.

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

Consider joining the Friends of Roan Mountain, if you are not a member. Members receive free admission to all Naturalists Rally events and our newsletter, “Friends of Roan Mountain.”

“We also thank the staff at Roan Mountain State Park for their time and help in making the rally possible,” Neves said.

“The Spring Naturalists Rally is fun for the whole family,” Neves said. “Our friendly group of hike leaders and volunteers look forward to seeing you.”


Randy Hedgepath

The Friday evening program will be presented by Randy Hedgepath, who will place the spotlight on the Tennessee River. Hedgepath, State Naturalist for Tennessee State Parks, will present a photographic and narrative program on the watershed of Tennessee’s namesake river. Flowing down from the highest mountains in the eastern United States, our streams make a long journey to the largest river in the country. Along the way are outstanding natural landmarks and a cross section of our history and culture. Travel with the water of the Doe and Watauga in this entertaining program.

Hedgepath is a native of West Tennessee where the family farm was just 15 miles from the Tennessee River. After graduating from UT-Martin and working seasonally for several years for the National Park Service, he has spent the last 31 years with state parks. He worked as a ranger/naturalist at South Cumberland State Park on the Cumberland Plateau and at Radnor Lake Natural Area in Nashville until 2007 when he was given the opportunity to be the statewide naturalist for the state park system.

Saturday’s evening program will be presented by Tavia Cathcart Brown, who will educate on the topic of “How Flowers Flirt and Flourish: The Tricks and Trials of Floral Reproduction.”


Tavia Cathcart Brown

Her presentation will describe how flowers use color, scent, shape, and tricks to attract pollinators. Brown is Executive Director of Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve in Goshen, Ky., where she has established a two-acre Woodland Garden that highlights native wildflowers and ferns. The Nature Preserve hosted a record number of 38,000 visitors in 2014. Brown is highly regarded as a lecturer, educator, writer, and photographer. She routinely offers lectures on wildflowers, flora-lore, creating woodland gardens, and gardening with native plants to regional and national groups that include gardeners, college students, and academic audiences. She is co-author and the lead photographer of Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, winner of a 2011 Gold Nautilus Book Award, and co-author of the 16-state field guide Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley, and Southern Appalachians, which covers 16 states, 1,250 wildflowers, and presents 800 photographs.


Photo by Bryan Stevens                Song Sparrow gets ready to sign from an open perch.

She currently is writing and taking photographs for her third book, titled How Flowers Flirt and Flourish – The Tricks and Trials of Floral Reproduction. She was selected as “Today’s Woman” in the September 2011 issue of Today’s Woman magazine, is serving her third term on the executive board of the Louisville Audubon Society, and is on the board of the Prospect Area Chamber of Commerce. She considers herself a very lucky woman to be married to Matthew H. Brown. They garden and live on a family farm in Louisville.

The rally will kick off with registration at 5:30 p.m., Friday, April 24, at the Roan Mountain State Park Conference Center. Dinner, which will be catered by City Market of Elizabethton, will be served at 6:30 p.m. Hedgepeth’s program on the Tennessee River will commence at 7:30 p.m.

Following the evening program, Larry McDaniel and Merrill Lynch will conduct a “Moth Party” to inform participants about these and other nocturnal insects.

On Saturday, April 25, a variety of morning and afternoon hikes, programs and activities will be held, focusing on a diverse selection of topics, including birds, snails, wildflowers, butterflies, dragonflies, aquatic insects, geology and much more.

On Saturday evening, dinner will once again be held at 6:30 p.m. Brown’s program on wildflower reproduction will commence at 7:30 p.m.

Following the evening program, ETSU professor Gary Henson will conduct a “Viewing of the Summer Skies” from the Dave Miller Homestead. In addition, McDaniel and Lynch will conduct another “Moth Party” at the Conference Center.


Photo by Bryan Stevens Dutchman’s Breeches are among the many wildflowers that are usually in bloom on the Roan during the annual rally.

On Sunday, April 26, field trips will depart/carpool from the field on the left of the cabin area entrance. Morning field trips will start at 8:30 and include Birds of Hampton Creek Cove by James Neves and the Ed Schell Memorial Doe River Gorge Wildflowers & Geology Hike with Gabrielle Zeiger and Mick Whitelaw. Afternoon field trips starting at 2 p.m. will include Salamanders with Dale Ledford and Butterflies and Dragonflies with Don Holt.

Pre-paid dinner reservations are necessary and must be received by Tuesday, April 21. Cost for each meal is $9 for adults and $5 for children six and under. The Friday menu consists of Grilled or Breaded Chicken, vegetable selection, salad, bread, dessert and drink. The Saturday menu consists of roast pork or veggie lasagna, vegetable selection, salad, bread, dessert and drink. Sandwich bag lunches for Saturday are available for $6.

For a downloadable reservation form, visit http://www.friendsofroanmtn.org/Spring%20Brochure%202015.pdf and mail completed reservation form to Friends of Roan Mountain, Nancy Barrigar, Treasurer, 703 Allen Avenue, Elizabethton, TN 37643.

Friends of Roan Mountain members and children can attend all other Rally events at no charge. There is a $5 charge for non-members. For a full schedule of events, visit http://www.tnstateparks.com/parks/about/roan-mountain or call 772-0190.

This year’s upcoming Fall Naturalists Rally will celebrate the event’s golden anniversary. The 50th annual Roan Mountain Fall Naturalists Rally will be held Sept. 4-6, 2015. Next year, the 58th Annual Roan Mountain Spring Naturalists Rally will be held April 22-24, 2016.

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.


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.”


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.


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.


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.


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!

It’s easy to post comments on my blog at ourfinefeatheredfriends.wordpress.com. You can also reach me on Facebook or send email to ahoodedwarbler@aol.com. Please share the link to the blog with others who might be interested in the topic of birds and birding in Northeast Tennessee.