Tag Archives: 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 Roan Mountain Spring Naturalists Rally will offer chances to enjoy migrating birds and much more


Photo by Bryan Stevens • A tree swallow checks out a nesting box soon after returning for the nesting season on Friday, April 13 to Hampton, Tennessee.

Spring has certainly sprung. In the past week, several birds have made their return after a long absence, including broad-winged hawk, brown thrasher, blue-gray gnatcatcher, tree swallow and black-and-white warbler. It’s a good time to get outside and see what birds one can see without even really trying.

One long-running annual event will help interested people see birds and experience other aspects of the natural world. The upcoming 60th annual Roan Mountain Spring Naturalists Rally promises three days of nature-packed activities and events for people of all ages. This year’s rally will be held Friday-Sunday, April 27-29.

As always, in addition to bird walks and other nature hikes, the rally will offer evening programs by guest speakers on Friday and Saturday after a catered dinner.


Photo Courtesy of Friends of Roan Mountain • Kris Light is shown during a nature walk while on a trip to Germany.

Kris Light will speak on Friday at 7:30 p.m. on “The Birds and Bees of Wildflowers: Pollination Strategies of Flowers.” Light is a lifetime Tennessean who grew up in Nashville and graduated from University of Tennessee-Knoxville. She has experience teaching classroom science for elementary school students and is an outreach educator for the American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge. She is a lifelong student of nature and a favorite leader of wildflower walks for various parks around the state.

Light described her program as focusing on the fascinating interaction between flowers and their pollinators and how colors, odors, shape, and even the presence of stripes or spots on the petals can greatly influence the type of pollinators that will be attracted to them.


Photo Courtesy of Friends of Roan Mountain • Kevin Hamed is shown holding a salamander. These amphibians will be the focus of his upcoming presentation at the Roan Mountain Springs Naturalists Rally.

Dr. Kevin Hamed will discuss the diversity of salamanders on Roan and other neighboring mountains during his Saturday program at 7:30 p.m. His presentation is titled “The Future of Appalachian Salamanders: What the Past Tells Us.”

Hamed is a professor of biology at Virginia Highlands Community College where he is dedicated to getting his students out of the classroom and into nature, where they gain experience collecting specimens and recording data. This field data has been useful to various local, state, and federal organizations in making important land management decisions.

Hamed is recognized as an expert on salamanders of the southern Appalachians. For his program Saturday night he will discuss the unique environment of the area’s mountains which makes this area “holy ground” for salamander study, present his research on the nesting behavior of salamanders, and discuss the importance of salamanders as indicators of environmental change.


Photo by Bryan Stevens • Spring’s ephemeral wildflowers, like these bloodroots, are a major attraction during the Roan Mountain Spring Naturalists Rallies.

All activities and programs are free to members of the Friends of Roan Mountain. There is a charge, however, for the Friday and Saturday evening meals, which are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Visit friendsofroanmtn.org to register and pay online to reserve meals for Friday and Saturday. Deadline to reserve a meal is April 24. The website also offers a complete listing of morning and afternoon hikes, as well as other programs and activities. Charges do apply for attendees who are not members of FORM.


Ruby-throated hummingbirds are back. My first ruby-throated hummingbird, a feisty male, zipped into the yard while I was on the front porch grading papers. He sipped at four different feeders before he zoomed off. He arrived at 5:40 p.m. on April 14. I’ve heard from other people who have already seen one of these tiny flying gems. I’ll provide more details on their arrival in next week’s blog post. Keep those reports coming to me by sending an email to ahoodedwarbler@aol.com. Please list the date and time when you saw your first spring hummer.


Photo by Bryan Stevens • Ruby-throated hummingbirds such as this male are returning to the region.


Even during winter season, activity on the Roan doesn’t slow much


Photo by Bryan Stevens • The setting sun casts a pink glow to the winter sky near the village of Roan Mountain. The 11th annual Roan Mountain Winter Naturalists Rally is set for Saturday, Feb. 11, at the Roan Mountain State Park Conference Center.

Activities last month and planned events for February are just some of the evidence that, no matter the season, things are always happening on Roan Mountain.

For instance, the 65th Roan Mountain Christmas Bird Count was held Sunday, Dec. 17, with nine observers in two parties. Up to four inches of snow blanketed most of the area, but the roads were clear. These weather conditions highlight the fact that over the years a couple of Roan Mountain CBCs had to be cancelled due to weather conditions.

Participants included Fred Alsop, Jim Anderson, Rick Blanton, Kevin Brooks, compiler Rick Knight, Roy Knispel, Guy McGrane, Amber Stanley, and Charles Warden. A total of 44 species were tallied, near the 30 year average of 46. The all-time high of 55 species was established back in 1987.


Photo by Bryan Stevens • A total of 50 Dark-eyed Juncos made the tally during the Roan Mountain Christmas Bird Count held Dec. 17, 2017.

A list of the species follows:

Canada Goose, 24; Pied-billed Grebe, 1; Great Blue Heron, 3; Cooper’s Hawk, 1; Red-shouldered Hawk, 1; and Red-tailed Hawk, 6.

Rock Pigeon, 19; Mourning Dove, 58; Eastern Screech-Owl, 2; Barred Owl, 1; Red-bellied Woodpecker, 3; Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, 2; Downy Woodpecker, 10; Hairy Woodpecker, 2; Northern Flicker, 1; and Pileated Woodpecker, 7.

American Kestrel, 1; Eastern Phoebe, 6; Blue Jay, 23; American Crow, 82; and Common Raven, 11.

Carolina Chickadee, 25; Tufted Titmouse, 20; Red-breasted Nuthatch, 5; White-breasted Nuthatch, 15; Brown Creeper, 2; Winter Wren, 2; Carolina Wren, 15; Golden-crowned Kinglet, 13; Eastern Bluebird, 30; American Robin, 12; Northern Mockingbird, 6; European Starling, 65; and Cedar Waxwing, 2.


Photo by Bryan Stevens • A total of 15 Northern Cardinals were found the day of the Roan Mountain Christmas Bird Count last month.

Eastern Towhee, 9; Field Sparrow, 11; Song Sparrow, 80; Swamp Sparrow, 2; White-throated Sparrow, 11; Dark-eyed Junco, 50; Northern Cardinal, 15; House Finch, 3; American Goldfinch, 46; and House Sparrow, 41.

Some interesting incidents on this count included finding an Eastern Phoebe at an elevation of 4,450 feet surrounded by snow. The most abundant birds included Common Crow with 83 individuals found and European Starling with 65 individuals counted.


The focus will be on botany for the upcoming Roan Mountain Winter Naturalists Rally, scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 11.


Lisa Huff

According to Richard Broadwell, director for the winter rally, the event has drawn hardy nature enthusiasts from far and wide to Roan Mountain for the past 11 winter seasons. Top naturalists volunteer their time and energy to make the event both enjoyable and educational for people of all ages. Parents are encouraged to bring the kids.

Broadwell noted that the 2018 Winter Rally continues this celebration of the natural world by providing top speakers on topics concerning the environs of the Roan Highlands. Speakers for morning programs will be Ben Jarrett, Southern Regional Science Coordinator, for The American Chestnut Foundation; Lisa Huff, Stewardship Ecologist with the Tennessee State Natural Areas Program; and Dwayne Estes, professor of biology at Austin Peay State University.

Jarrett will speak about the historical significance of the American chestnut in a program tilted “Restoration of American Chestnut: A Marriage of Breeding and Biotechnology.” He will take a look at the American chestnut and its economic, ecological and social importance). He will also educate about the chestnut blight and subsequent downfall of the species, as well as the ongoing restoration efforts through backcross breeding and genetic engineering.


Ben Jarrett

Huff will present a history of the shortleaf pine and bluestem vegetation community in Tennessee in a program titled “The Mystery of the Missing Shortleaf Pine.” She started working for the Tennessee State Natural Areas Program in 2000. She is tasked with the daily operations and management of over 42,000 acres in 21 natural areas in East Tennessee.

Estes will speak about southeastern United States grasslands, such as savannas, prairies, glades, barrens, bald, bogs, fens, and meadows, all of which are imminently threatened. He will also educate about the work of the Southeastern Grasslands Initiative in Clarksville, which aims to focus grassland conservation efforts across a 21-state region. SGI will use a multi-faceted approach combining restoration, preservation, recreation, research, rescue, seed banking, education and market-driven strategies. SGI is currently working with and seeking support from private philanthropic foundations, corporations, non-profit conservation organizations and government agencies. His program is titled “The Southeastern Grasslands Initiative: Charting a New Course for Conservation in the 21st Century.”


Dwayne Estes

All programs will be held at the Roan Mountain State Park Conference Center. Jarrett will speak at 9:30 a.m. followed by Huff at 10:30 a.m. The program by Estes at 11:40 a.m. will conclude the slate of presentations. Lunch, which requires a pre-paid reservation, will be served at 12:30 p.m. Sarah Sanford, candidate for Master’s of Environmental Management at Duke University, will present a lunchtime program on “Grassy Balds Management in the Roan Highlands.”

Four different hikes are planned for the afternoon, starting at 1:30 p.m. Hike options include:

• Lisa Huff will lead a hike in the Hampton Creek Cove Natural Area. Binoculars are recommended. The moderately strenuous hike should not take more than three hours.

• Jamey Donaldson, ETSU John C. Warden Herbarium Adjunct Curator, will lead a hike to the alder balds on the ridgeline of Roan Mountain. Dress warmly for this strenuous hike.


Photo by Bryan Stevens • A Pine Siskin in a spruce at Carver’s Gap on Roan Mountain.

• Marty Silver, Ranger with Warriors Path State Park, will lead a wildlife tracking and animal signs hike down near the Doe River in Roan Mountain State Park. This is a moderately strenuous and kid-friendly activity.

• Dr. Frosty Levy, Professor Emeritus of Biology at East Tennessee State University, will lead an easy winter tree identification hike in Roan Mountain State Park.

For more information and a downloadable brochure, visit http://friendsofroanmtn.org/2018%20Winter%20Rally%20Brochure.pdf or email Broadwell at rbroadwell@gmail.com. The event is free to members of Friends of Roan Mountain and children. Adults who are not members of FORM can register for all activities for $10.

Annual spring rally returns to Roan Mountain April 28-30

Larry McDaniel and James Neves, the co-directors one of the region’s longest-running nature events, are excited about the activities they have to offer for the 59th annual Roan Mountain Spring Naturalists Rally. Continuing the tradition of the 58 preceding rallies, this year’s rally will offer a great assortment of programs, hikes and activities which celebrate the unique beauty and natural diversity of this environmental treasure that is Roan Mountain.


Photo by Bryan Stevens • Flowers and pollinating insects just go together.

Scheduled for Friday-Sunday, April 28-30, this year’s event is open to nature enthusiasts of all skill levels from casual interest to advanced study. There is something for everyone. Bring friends and family and invite the neighbors to take part. The headquarters and hub of activities for the rally is the Conference Center at Roan Mountain State Park. Registration, meals, programs, and exhibits will be centered there. Most of the field trips will meet at the field adjacent to the cabin area entrance. Participants will see signs in the field for the various field trips. Onsite registration is available at the field. For most of the field trips participants will carpool from the field to nearby trailheads. Organizers strongly encourage carpooling, which will help participants make new friends and lower fossil fuel emissions.

This year’s evening programs will focus on native bees, as well as mountains sports and recreation.

“Bees for Birders: Discovering Native Bee Watching Through Binoculars” will be presented by Sam Droege at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 28. Droege, a native of Hyattsville, Maryland, received an undergraduate degree at the University of Maryland and a master’s degree at the State University of New York – Syracuse. Most of his career has been spent at the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. He has coordinated the North American Breeding Bird Survey Program, developed the North American Amphibian Monitoring Program, the Bioblitz, Cricket Crawl, and Frogwatch USA programs and works on the design and evaluation of monitoring programs. Currently he is developing an inventory and monitoring program for native bees along with online identification guides for North American bees at http://www.discoverlife.org, and reviving the North American Bird Phenology Program (https://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bpp/).


Sam Droege

Diversity is a hallmark of the natural world. For instance, Droege points out that east of the Mississippi there are about 800 species of native bees. This is more species than the total species of birds and butterflies combined. Bees are also more abundant and easier to find. Flowers are their habitat and different species favor different types and groups of plants. So, why aren’t we watching them? Lack of information on how to watch them is the answer. With a pair of butterfly binoculars and a new free identification guide, anyone can begin to be a bee watcher, “beeder”, bee head, or simply a broader naturalist.

David Ramsey will present the evening program at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aprilm 29. He will speak about “Wild Times: Conservation Through Mountain Sports and Recreation.” Ramsey is an outdoor photographer, writer and conservationist born and raised in Unicoi County. He has spent most of the past 30 years exploring and photographing these southern Appalachian Mountains and sharing his photography and passion for the mountains with thousands of people. During that time, his photography has been published extensively — locally, regionally and nationally. Throughout his life, Ramsey has been in


David Ramsey

spired by other photographer-conservationists, from Elliot Porter, Galen Rowell and Robert Glenn Ketchum to the region’s own Edward Schell. In 2011, he was selected as National Hero of Conservation by Field and Stream Magazine for his leadership in the effort to save the 10,000-acre Rocky Fork Watershed, part of which is now a Tennessee State Park. In 2012 he was chosen as a National Conservationist of the Year finalist by Budweiser and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Ramsey is also a former Stanley A. Murray Volunteer of the Year for Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy. Ramsey is at work on finishing a book about the fight to preserve Rocky Fork and working to have the northeast Tennessee region recognized as a major outdoor recreation destination.

The Friends of Roan Mountain organization was created by people who cherish the natural beauty and cultural history of Roan Mountain. Members of the group sponsor interpretive and educational activities including Spring, Fall, and Winter Naturalists Rallies and a summer Xtreme Roan  Adventures Kid’s Nature Rally. Members also support the environmental mission of Roan Mountain State Park including environmental studies, conservation, and restoration. Membership supports these worthy projects and entitles members to free participation in all activities of the Spring, Fall, and Winter Rallies for that year, as well as the group’s newsletters.


Photo by Bryan Stevens • Wildflowers, like trout lilies, are abundant during the spring rally.

In addition to the evening programs, a variety of hikes, workshops and other events are planned for all three days of the rally. There is an extra cost for meals, which require advance registration. For more information or a brochure of the specific events, including a reservation form for all activities, including the Friday and Saturday evening meals, visit http://www.friendsofroanmtn.org/Spring%20Rally%20Brochure%20web%202017%20.pdf

Information is also available by contacting the co-directors for the Rally. Call Larry McDaniel at 423-773-9234 or email him at larrycmcd@hotmail.com. Call James Neves at 706-224-3355 or email him at jamesneves@gmail.com.


Photo by Bryan Stevens • Newly-arrived migrant birds, like indigo buntings, should be present during the rally.

Hummingbirds receive warm welcome upon their return


Photo by Bryan Stevens                                    The last Ruby-throated Hummingbird to visit my feeders in 2015.

My last ruby-throated hummingbird in 2015 visited my sugar water feeder close to dusk on Oct. 10. I never saw any hummingbirds after that date.

I’m always a little wistful when the last hummingbirds depart in the autumn, but I know they’ll return in the spring. This year, a male ruby-throated hummingbird returned on April 12, 180 days after the last hummingbird departed last fall.

What do the hummingbirds that make their homes in our yards from April to October do during the five months they are absent from the region?


Photo by Bryan Stevens                                       The first male Ruby-throated Hummingbird to visit my feeders in 2016 was a bit camera shy.

Most ruby-throated hummingbirds retreat to southern Mexico and Central America, some winging their way as far south as extreme western Panama, as well as the West Indies and southern Florida. They utilize a variety of habitats, ranging from citrus groves and forest edges to tropical deciduous forests and the edges of rivers and wetlands.

Those ruby-throated hummingbirds that make it as far south as Panama may find that they must compete with 59 other species of hummingbirds that call the Central America country home. Panamanian species that a ruby-throated hummingbird might possibly come into contract with include violet sabrewing, purple-throated mountain gem and white-necked jacobin.

In this region, we can only expect with any confidence to enjoy a single species — the aforementioned ruby-throated hummingbird — for half the year. It’s always great to welcome them home. Here are some of the other hummingbird enthusiasts who shared their “first arrivals” with me.


Doris Cochran in Marion, North Carolina, saw her first hummingbird on April 6.

“I was having my morning coffee … looking out at the frost we got in Marion last night,” she wrote. Then, from inside her home, she happened to notice something. Giving her sugar water feeder a closer look, she was surprised to see a hummingbird perched on it.


Beverly Puerckhauer sent me an email on April 5. She informed me that she has house finches visiting at her home, but she hasn’t yet seen a hummingbird.


Jimmie Daniels, Newland, North Carolina, reported her first hummingbird on April 8.

“I just saw a hummingbird at my house and my feeder was inside,” she informed me by email. “The feeder is out now, but he had already left. I sure hope he comes back.”


Glen Eller, a resident of Kingsport, Tennessee, saw his first ruby-throated hummingbird of the season on Sunday, April 10, at 6:35 p.m. He shared his observation through a post to the list-serve bristol-birds.


Pat Stakely Cook notified me of a first hummingbird sighting by Facebook post. “We had our first one here in Marion, North Carolina, on Sunday, April 10,” Pat reported, adding that there had been lots of activity around the feeders once that first hummer showed up.


Philip Laws, a resident of the Limestone Cove community in Unicoi County, Tennessee, reported his first hummingbird on Monday, April 11.

“I just saw my first hummingbird in Limestone Cove, a male of course, about noon,” he reported in a Facebook message. He added that he hadn’t had time to check his feeder on the previous day, but that the sugar water level was down enough to suggest that the hummingbird had probably been feeding on Sunday, too.


Susie Condrey of Marion, North Carolina, welcomed back a hummingbird on April 11 at 4:15 p.m.


Janice Denton of Bristol, Tennessee, reported her first spring hummer arrived on April 11.

“I was sitting on my front porch about 7 on Monday evening when a hummingbird went flying by,” she wrote in an email. “I have my feeders in front of three different windows, so when I went inside, I saw the ruby-throated hummingbird feeding at each of my feeders.”

Janice added that she loves watching the hummingbirds feed. “They are such amazing creatures of God,” she wrote.


Debbie Oliver, also of Bristol, Tennessee, also reported that her first hummer arrived on April 11.

“I just saw my first hummingbird this spring,” she wrote in her email. She noticed the bird flying around the hummingbird feeder at 7:35 p.m.


Lorraine Hale posted on bristol-birds that she saw two hummingbirds on Monday, April 11, at her home in Bluff City, Tennessee.


Karen Andis saw her first hummingbird at her shop on Smith Creek Road in Washington County, Virginia.

“I wanted to let you know we saw our first hummingbird on April 12 at 12:25 p.m.,” she wrote. She added that she has only one feeder out, which still managed to attract this hummingbird.


Joan Moffitt posted on my Facebook page that she saw her first hummingbird of spring on Tuesday, April 12, around 2:45 p.m. She put out her feeder on Saturday, April 9.


Harold and Elizabeth Willis saw their first hummingbird at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, April 13. The couple resides in Marion, North Carolina, in the Hankins community near Lake James.



Photo Courtesy of Linda Kessinger Rhodes Linda Kessinger Rhodes photographed her newly-arrived hummingbird and shared the photo on Facebook.

Linda Kessinger Rhodes sent me a Facebook message reporting her first hummingbird of spring on Thursday, April 14. “There he was — the first hummer I’ve seen at my waiting feeder off Volunteer Parkway in Bristol near the racetrack,” she wrote.


Marty Huber and Jo Ann Detta of Abingdon, Virginia, spotted their first spring hummer on April 14.

“Our hummingbird arrived  April 14 at 8:10 p.m. just before it got dark,” they shared in an email. “it was so exciting to see the hummer sitting and relaxing on our nectar feeder.”

This year’s hummingbird arrived two days later than last year.

“We hope this one stays around as last year it was ten days before we saw another hummer,” they added.


Bill and Judy Beckman, who reside on Spivey Mountain in Unicoi County, Tennessee, saw their first hummingbird — a male — around 2 p.m. on Thursday, April 14.


Steve Meigs saw his first hummingbird of the spring at 11:30 a.m. on April 14 at his home in Foxhound Hills in the Limestone Cove community of Unicoi. “That’s a few days earlier than the last few years,” Steve noted, adding that his home is located at an elevation of 2,800 feet.


Phyllis Moore informed me via Facebook that her hummingbirds are back in Bristol, Virginia, as of 7:30 p.m. on April 20.



Photo by Bryan Stevens                                     Now that they’re back, hummingbirds will probably stick around until early October.

James Noel Smith of Unicoi informed my via Facebook that the hummingbirds are back at his Unicoi, Tennessee, home as of April 26.


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 Spring Naturalists Rally returns to Roan Mountain April 22-24


Photo by Bryan Stevens  Spring blooms, like this Bloodroot, are still a major focus, but a variety of other topics of natural history have expanded the offerings at this annual event.

Organizers of the 58th annual Roan Mountain Spring Naturalists Rally are pleased to announce this yearly event 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 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.

Because of the continued support of the Friends of Roan Mountain, the seasonal 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.


Photo by Bryan Stevens                            Everything from salamanders and dragonflies to edible plants and geology provides a diversity of subjects for the many hikes and programs of the annual rally.


Consider joining the Friends of Roan Mountain, if you are not a member. There are plenty of perks for members, who receive free admission to all Naturalists Rally events and regular editions of the organization’s newsletter, “Friends of Roan Mountain.”

This year’s Spring Naturalists Rally will be held Friday-Sunday, April 22-24. Featured evening speakers for this year’s event are Liz Domingue and Mick Whitelaw. Their programs will feature the topics of butterflies and moths, as well as Roan Mountain’s historic association with the Tweetsie railroad.


Photo by Bryan Stevens                           Butterflies, such as this Carolina Satyr, and moths will provide the focus for Liz Domingue’s evening program at this year’s rally.

Domingue is a naturalist, educator, photographer, writer and guide. Her interest in and study of natural history has been her lifelong pursuit and passion. Through photography, observation, and research, she has studied wildlife, plants, and the natural world in the United States and abroad. She is a co-author of the field guide, Butterflies & Familiar Moths of the Smokies (soon to be in press) and a contributing writer for Smokies Life. In addition, she has served as a contributing writer, photographer and consultant for McGraw-Hill Science Textbooks. Her photos have been published in a variety of books and magazines. Domingue leads guided interpretive hikes and Naturalist Adventure Tours, and conducts environmental education programs for youth, adults, and fellow educators through her own business, “Just Get Outdoors.”

The history of Roan Mountain goes back almost two billion years and includes major mountain building events that created the biggest iron ore deposit known in the eastern United States. Much, much later, high grade magnetite ore was discovered on Roan Mountain after the War of 1812 and was later smelted by the Confederates in a local bloomery. In 1881 a train line designed to bring the ore from Roan Mountain to Johnson City for smelting was begun. The train served the iron mine until 1929 and local communities until 1950 and became known as the “Tweetsie”. This talk
will review the history of the Roan Mountain iron mines and the little train with a heart.


Mick Whitelaw

Dr. Mick Whitelaw received his bachelor’s of science degree in geology at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia in 1983 and a doctorate from the University of Florida in 1990. He held instructor positions at the University of Texas, El Paso and the University of Louisiana, Lafayette, before taking his current position in the Department of Geosciences at East Tennessee State University in 2003. He specializes in stratigraphy and the geology of the East Tennessee region and serves as site geologist for the Gray Fossil Site.
For more information or a brochure of the specific events, including a reservation form for all activities, including the Friday and Saturday evening meals, visit http://www.friendsofroanmtn.org/Spring%202016%20Rally%20Brochure.pdf

Caterpillar-AprilTroutLily  DwarfLarkspurCabbageWhite_Close HummerMoth-2004

Fall rally will offer chances to look for birds, explore other natural wonders

Looking for a fun way to get outdoors and see some birds? The yearly Roan Mountain Fall Naturalists Rally is always a great way to enjoy a preview of the imminent autumn bird migration. The three-day rally offers more than birding opportunities, however, and features hikes to look for everything from reptiles, wildflowers and mushrooms to butterflies, moths and other insects.

Photo by Bryan Stevens A curious Gray Catbird peeks from dense cover. Attendees at the fall rally can look for catbirds and other species at any of the offered bird hikes.

Photo by Bryan Stevens                                       A curious Gray Catbird peeks from dense cover. Attendees at the fall rally can look for catbirds and other species at any of the offered bird hikes.

This year’s Fall Naturalists Rally will be held Friday-Sunday, Sept. 5-7. For 52 years the rally has drawn nature enthusiasts from far and wide to Roan Mountain on the weekend after Labor Day. Top naturalists volunteer their time and energy to make the event both enjoyable and educational for people of all ages.

Gary Barrigar, director of the fall rally, noted that the event  continues to celebrate the natural world by providing two top speakers. This year the event will feature naturalist and ecologist Jennifer Frick and photographer Mark Peacock.

Because of the continued support of the Friends of Roan Mountain, Barrigar noted that all the seasonal rallies have the resources  they need to prosper and grow and that Friends of Roan Mountain provides support for research and restoration projects on the Roan.


Photo by Bryan Stevens                                       A Horace’s Duskywing is a late-season butterfly that could possibly be found on some of this year’s butterfly walks.

Barrigar encourages people to consider joining the Friends of Roan Mountain, if you are not already a member. Membership provides free admission to all rally events and a subscription to the newsletter, “Friends of Roan Mountain.”

He also expressed many thanks to Roan Mountain State Park for its long-time support of the rallies, as well as to the trip leaders who donate their time and expertise.

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


Photo by Bryan Stevens                                               Wildflowers and butterflies are only some of the topics for hikes and activities at the fall rally.

As always, programs are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday evenings.

This year’s rally will kick off Friday with registration at 5:30 p.m. at the Roan Mountain State Park Conference Center. Evening meals will be held at 6:30 p.m. both days. Dinner reservations are required.

On Friday evening, Jennifer Frick will present “Why Is There Such High Biodiversity in the Southern Appalachians?” It’s a question many attendees will probably have asked themselves.  A full professor of biology and environmental science at Brevard College, where she has taught since 1997, Frick will provide some answers to that question.

In January of 2014, she was promoted to Division Chair of Science and Mathematics.  She teaches courses in environmental perspectives, biodiversity and natural history and was awarded the 2003-2004 Award for Exemplary Teaching. She earned her Ph.D. in Zoology from Clemson University in 1995 and completed a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the Smithsonian Marine Station in 1996-1997.

For nearly 15 years, she and her husband, Edward Ruppert, lived in a log cabin that they built in Balsam Grove, N.C. They generated their own electricity and lived “off the grid” without a direct connection to the power grid.

Once their son, Fritz, was born, they decided to adopt a more traditional lifestyle and built a “normal” home that does connect to the power grid, but is energy efficient and fits into the landscape.

Frick is working on a book titled “Dreams of Eden” that describes both the skills they acquired in living off the grid and the philosophy they developed in living so close to nature.91g3czbBOxL._SL1500_

Many of the skills necessary to live without modern conveniences were cultivated during a period in which she and her husband lived aboard a sailboat, cruising the Southeast.  Frick has recently published Waterways: Sailing the Southeastern Coast, which relates these experiences. Combining insights from ecology and sailing, she blends travel narrative and nature writing to inspire and educate.

Originally from South Carolina, she grew up with a love of nature and an appreciation for her surroundings.

She has written several scientific articles, most recently on the biology of the Blue Ghost Firefly and the caloric values of native fruits, in such journals as Biological Bulletin, Invertebrate Zoology, and North Carolina Academy of Science. She has also authored two websites for South Carolina Educational Television on the Natural History of the Saltmarsh and the Natural History of the Swamp. From 2001-2005, she wrote a regular column for The Transylvania Times.

As an outgrowth of those newspaper articles, she published a book called Mountain Nature: A Seasonal Natural History of the Southern Appalachians. Illustrated with both color and black-and-white images, it conveys the seasonal change in animals and plants of the region, emphasizing their interactions and unique characteristics.

Her program will focus on describing of the astounding local biodiversity and explaining why this region supports such a profusion of life. It will be illustrated with her photographs, many of which are taken from Mountain Nature.


Photo by Bryan Stevens            Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are common on the Roan during fall migration.

Born and raised in Morris, Illinois, Peacock moved to the hills of northeast Tennessee in 1995 to attend Emmanuel Christian Seminary following law school and practicing law at his family’s law firm. He was soon hired by Milligan College to teach courses in business, law and ethics. Later he added digital photography to his list of courses offered. His love for photography was instilled in him by his grandfather, who taught him lighting and composition and that, at its best, photography is storytelling. Most weekends, he is out hiking and exploring the area with friends and his dog, Blue – and sharing his discoveries on his blog, “Appalachian Treks,” which seeks to promote this region and its beauty.

His landscape photography has been featured in various local and regional publications and graces the walls of numerous homes, offices and organizations. Recently, his work was featured in photographic shows “Seasons of the Blue Ridge” and “East Meets West” at the Nelson Fine Art Center in Johnson City. He often leads workshops for organizations and individuals, teaching the art and craft of photography. In addition to landscape photography, he enjoys working in the areas of family portraiture, sports photography, and higher education photography. Please  visit his gallery and blog at www.markwpeacock.com for more information.

In his Saturday evening program, he will explore the natural beauty of the Southern Appalachians through his photography. Journey with him as  he shares his landscape photography of many of the well-known scenic attractions of our region along with images of many lesser known, but stunning destinations found in these hills. Along the way, you’ll learn about some of the colorful characters who came before us in these beautiful mountains.

Photo by Bryan Stevens Spotted Jewelweed is a common wildflower on moist, shady slopes of the Roan.

Photo by Bryan Stevens
Spotted Jewelweed is a common wildflower on moist, shady slopes of the Roan.

In addition to the evening programs, a variety of hikes and activities will be held Saturday morning and afternoon, as well as Sunday morning. Visit http://www.friendsofroanmtn.org for a brochure outlining all the available hikes and other programs.

For more information on this year’s rally or FORM, call Barrigar at (423) 543-7576.


At home on Simerly Creek Road in Hampton, I am getting glimpses of the start of fall migration. I’ve seen a few warblers along the edges of the woods and yard, including Chestnut-sided Warblers and American Redstarts. To share an observation, make a comment or ask a question, email me at ahoodedwarbler@aol.com or “friend” me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ahoodedwarbler.


Photo by Bryan Stevens                                                                                                                    The Aphrodite Fritillary is a fun discovery for butterfly enthusiasts attending the Roan rally.

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.