Sunday, September 10, 2017

WHEN ASTERS BLOOM

WHEN ASTERS BLOOM
I really enjoy the period starting, now. The waning days of summer are some of the best days. Not too hot and not too cold; days and nights feel about right. The hints of fall are more frequent. Summers’ bounty is put away and cover crops are sown. It just feels good when leaves on the mountain begin to glow. I know what is in store; but that is two and a half months away. I don’t look forward to that. We will most likely pay for the previous mild winter. We will not get lucky two years in a row.
New England Asters are one of my favorite wildflowers; they tend to brighten your day when not much else is going on. These late bloomers are a sure sign that autumn is near. Flowers of purple or pink blowing in the breeze; often side by side. Pick a favorite color, it’s a hard choice; but both are prettier than goldenrods. Yes, they brighten the roadsides and fields as most other flowers fade away. We used to have a beautiful stand about a half of a mile away from my house. They were always a stunning sight against a cut stone wall. Purple and pink flowering plants were nicely intermixed. The state road cut them down a few years ago; just as they were beginning to bloom. They never came back, nothing there now but the cut stone wall. Yep, like I always say; can’t have nothing good around here. Oh, well; there are more out there. Just like everything else; you just have to go find them. Nothing stays the same; especially in these parts.
I have been getting that sick, deep in the gut feeling more and more. Every day I see more open space where trees once stood and critters actually lived. I am referring to the beginnings of the construction of Route 48 in Tucker County. Yes, it makes me nauseous to see the destruction in one of the few undeveloped regions we have left. I really don’t like to think about where I believe it may go once it crosses Rte. 72. Yep, every time I find an area to my liking; something happens to it. That something is never good. I’m really glad that I’m getting old enough to not let this stuff really bother me. I am also glad that I was able to enjoy the things the mountains had to offer; decades ago. I guess I’ve been there and done it. I’m grateful I did. I really do not see good things ahead. I only see a wind-swept road that will never be able to be maintained. That is it.
Truthfully, in the grand scheme of things ahead I do not worry much about what is going to happen. I just hate the destruction of reasonably pristine areas in the name of progress. I just ask who the progress will benefit. I still cannot see who benefitted from all of the windmill projects. I imagine if someone actually did; they live far, far away. They sure do not have to stare at the cluttered skyline every day.
Oh well, enough is enough. The way I figure it now; no matter if you are looking at a season in the year or a place in your life: When The Asters Bloom; is not a bad place to be.


This is my September 2017 article for Two-lane Livin (c)2017 High Virginia Outdoors All Rights Reserved Photo (c) High Virginia Images All Rights reserved

Friday, April 7, 2017

What Critter Are You?

What Critter Are You?
Have you ever messed around with one of those silly sites on Facebook? You know; the ones that tell you who your soulmate is and what your friends will do when you die, stuff like that. Yes you have. Don’t lie. You know you can find out all kinds of important stuff on those sites. I fiddled around one not long ago. It was something like what animal are you. I got a tiger or a grizzly bear or something; I don’t really remember. It doesn’t make any difference; but it got me thinking. I do that one occasion actually I’ve been doing it quite often. I started contemplating what organism out there in the real world is closest to my feelings.
I came up with a Brook Trout (Salvelinus fontinalis). Now I want you to know right now that we aren’t talking about those flabby, mushy, yellow fleshed things that come off the fish trucks. You know the ones that regurgitate corn or spit out a gob of play dough when you catch them. Nope, definitely not those. I hate those slimy things. I’m talking about real brook trout; the ones that were here before the forests were first ravaged, before numerous streams could no longer support any aquatic life. Yes, the real natives of Appalachia. The hardy survivors. Sadly, not the thrivers. Sometimes all we can do is just hold on.
The species has weathered a lot of turmoil. Just think back to what they have endured over a very short time in the grand scheme of things. Let’s just go back 200 years. Just think about it thousands and thousands of acres devoid of trees so humans could build cities. The trees were all gone; so what shaded the cold waters that they needed to survive? Nothing. But, they managed to hold on. Can you imagine what they thought (if fish can think) when dams full of logs were sent downstream to the mills? Imagine the impact to the streambed with millions of board feet of timber crashing downstream. Just think after they made it through that and things calmed down for a little while; the rains came. Yes, nothing on the mountain to hold anything back. Imagine the sediment clogging your gills for days and days. But, still some survived. Many did not.
They had to leave the larger waters and head into smaller, cooler tributaries when the larger, now scoured streams became too warm for survival. They could no longer grow to their normal size since they were now isolated in smaller, less fertile waters. The food was no longer available in these nearly sterile environments. It was now just a struggle to be lucky enough for a morsel of food to drift by. But, they managed to hold on. Then the orange water comes isolating them even more. They move farther and farther up the tributaries just to survive; often confined to just several hundred yards of stream. They have no choice and there is no way out. There’s nowhere for them to go.

Yes, I can definitely relate to the poor old Brook Trout.; except for the lack of food situation. I can always produce food unlike them. But, here we both are; making the best out of a bad situation and holding on. For how long? Who knows?

This is my April 2017 article for Two-Lane Livin (c)2017 High Virginia Outdoors ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Friday, March 10, 2017

SOON

It will not be long; not as long as it has been. Yes, the famous spring equinox that everyone talks about and anticipates. Everyone but me; I guess. March 20 would be a good starting point if we were in Georgia or another similar environment. It just doesn’t seem to amount to much in these parts. Spring will make it sooner or later but not quite yet. I don’t tend to think much about it until I see a hummingbird or eat some new asparagus. Then, it will be spring. Not quite yet; but soon.
Yes, there are some early signs of life. Wood Frogs quack, coltsfoot and pussy willows bloom and the poor old crocus gets smashed down by snow. It happens every time. Hey, it’s March. No need to get too excited. I never could figure out it out. I’ve never heard anyone say that they couldn’t wait for March to get here. Once it gets over with we still have to endure a few teaser days during the first half of April. We may be blessed with some good days; maybe even a week. But, it will not last. It never does.
Wood Ducks will trickle in giving us a glimpse of color and make us forget about brown, white and grey. Mourning Doves are already incubating in their rickety fragile nests. I never could figure out why they are so numerous. I guess it is because they start nesting early and finish late with numerous attempts. They can’t seem to wait for spring; either. But, it will come; soon.
The fish trucks will begin racking up some major miles and the rivers will once again be full of people and trout. Campgrounds will fill with hardy campers and everyone will be happy once again. Elbow to elbow fishing for fish that weren’t there yesterday. It’s fun for some but not for all. The only good thing I see from this is that the few remaining country stores get busy if they are near one of the stocked areas. The trout stocking program is good for the local economy for a short period of time. Personally, I don’t get any pleasure out of attempting to fish in a crowd. I usually manage to make myself go a few times during the peak stocking period. More often than not I get there; turn around and go home. Life is too good and too short to get irritated at things like that.
Sometime; about mid-month I will plant some radish and lettuce seed in an old bathtub add some onion sets and cover it with glass. The cycle will begin. Digging around in the dirt makes me start thinking of the good things to come. Yes, it will get cold again. I will start worrying and cover the glass over the bathtub with straw and worry about it some more until it warms up. I will carefully uncover it and peer inside. There they are, all of the pretty green sprouts. They are fine. They always are.

Yes, spring will come. It always does. Wood Thrushes will sing Robins will be running around pulling up worms and my Catbird will show up; telling me it is time to plant the potatoes. Not yet; but soon.

This is my March 2017 article for Two-lane Livin (c) 2017 All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable Applauds Confirmation of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke  

Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable Applauds Confirmation of
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke

 
Washington, D.C. – March 1, 2017 – The United States Senate today confirmed U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke (R-MT) as the nation’s 52nd Secretary of the Interior by a 68-31 vote of bipartisan support. His confirmation drew praise from the Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable (ORIR), which strongly backed his nomination.

Rep. Zinke called himself “an unapologetic admirer of Teddy Roosevelt” during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee January 17.  He said that the former president “had it right” when he placed millions of acres of federal lands under federal protection. And he directly linked the availability of those federal lands to the enjoyment of outdoor recreation. “Today, much of those lands provide Americans the opportunity to hike, fish, camp, recreate and enjoy the great outdoors,” he said. The committee approved Rep. Zinke’s nomination January 31 with bipartisan support by a vote of 16-6.

Secretary Zinke, as a lifelong outdoor enthusiast, hunter and angler, understands the importance of access to and funding for America’s public lands and waters, and the outdoor industry’s critical economic impact. He was a co-sponsor of the recently enacted Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact (REC) Act of 2016, which requires measurement of the economic impact of outdoor recreation and its role in the U.S. economy.

Secretary Zinke takes over a department that is responsible for 25 percent of the country’s surface area and exercises great influence on outdoor activities throughout the nation.  The parks, refuges, trails, rivers and more that the Department manages attract hundreds of millions of visits each year.

The Department of the Interior has an annual budget of $13 billion and administers the Land and Water Conservation Fund, Sport Fish and Boating Trust Fund, Pittman-Robertson Program and other key programs providing more than $1 billion annually in grants to assist outdoor recreation experiences. The land and water it manages provide the foundation for much of the $646 billion outdoor recreation industry that directly supports some 6.1 million jobs.

ORIR voiced its support for Secretary-designate Zinke January 13 in letters to Senate leaders Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) explaining the importance of Zinke’s confirmation and urging swift action on his nomination.  Those letters can be read at www.funoutdoors.com/ORIRUrgesAction.

ORIR leaders expressed immediate and enthusiastic support for the Senate’s confirmation vote.

“The sportfishing industry is pleased that Secretary Ryan Zinke will be leading the Department of the Interior,” said Mike Nussman, president and CEO, American Sportfishing Association. “As a Montanan and a sportsman, Zinke understands firsthand the importance of the outdoor recreation economy and the jobs and economic growth is provides for the nation. We applaud this new member of the President’s Cabinet.”

“The RV industry congratulates Secretary Zinke on his confirmation as Secretary of Interior,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, president of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). “Secretary Zinke understands the significance of the outdoor recreation economy and RVIA is committed to working in partnership with him to expand recreational access, address infrastructure needs, embrace public private partnerships, modernize federal campgrounds and create more jobs for American workers.”

Friday, February 17, 2017

Join the 20th Great Backyard Bird Count



News Release


Join the 20th Great Backyard Bird Count

Bird watchers around the world take part, February 17-20 
For release:  February 2, 2017

Bird watchers from around the world enjoy counting their birds and entering the GBBC photo contest. Photo by Ann Foster, Florida, 2016 GBBC. Download larger image.
New York, NY, Ithaca, NY, and Port Rowan, ON—A lot has changed since the first Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) was held in 1998. Each year brings unwavering enthusiasm from the growing number of participants in this now-global event. The 20th annual GBBC is taking place February 17-20 in backyards, parks, nature centers, on hiking trails, school grounds, balconies, and beaches—anywhere you find birds.
Bird watchers count the birds they see for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count, then enter their checklists at birdcount.org. All the data contribute to a snapshot of bird distribution and help scientists see changes over the past 20 years.
“The very first GBBC was an experiment,” says the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Marshall Iliff, a leader of the eBird program. “We wanted to see if people would use the Internet to send us their bird sightings. Clearly the experiment was a success!” eBird collects bird observations globally every day of the year and is the online platform used by the GBBC.
That first year, bird watchers submitted about 13,500 checklists from the United States and Canada. Fast-forward to the most recent event in 2016. Over the four days of the count, an estimated 163,763 bird watchers from more than 100 countries submitted 162,052 bird checklists reporting 5,689 species–more than half the known bird species in the world.
“The Great Backyard Bird Count is a great way to introduce people to participation in citizen science,” says Audubon vice president and chief scientist Gary Langham. “No other program allows volunteers to take an instantaneous snapshot of global bird populations that can contribute to our understanding of how a changing climate is affecting birds.”
Varying weather conditions so far this winter are producing a few trends that GBBC participants can watch for during the count. eBird reports show many more waterfowl and kingfishers remaining further north than usual because they are finding open water. If that changes, these birds could move southward.

Bohemian Waxwing by A. Blomquist, 2016 GBBC. Download larger image.
Also noted are higher than usual numbers of Bohemian Waxwings in the Pacific Northwest and northern Rocky Mountains. And while some winter finches have been spotted in the East, such as Red Crossbills, Common Redpolls, Evening Grosbeaks, and a few Pine Grosbeaks, there seem to be no big irruptions so far. A few eye-catching Snowy Owls have been reported in the northern half of the United States.
Jon McCracken, Bird Studies Canada’s National Program Director, reminds participants in Canada and the U.S. to keep watch for snowies. He says, “The GBBC has done a terrific job of tracking irruptions of Snowy Owls southward over the past several years. We can’t predict what winter 2017 will bring, because Snowy Owl populations are so closely tied to unpredictable ‘cycles’ of lemmings in the Arctic. These cycles occur at intervals between two and six years.  Nevertheless, there are already reports of Snowy Owls as far south as Virginia.”
In addition to counting birds, the GBBC photo contest has also been a hit with participants since it was introduced in 2006. Since then, tens of thousands of stunning images have been submitted. For the 20th anniversary of the GBBC, the public is invited to vote for their favorite top photo from each of the past 11 years in a special album they will find on the GBBC website home page. Voting takes place during the four days of the GBBC.
Learn more about how to take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count at birdcount.org where downloadable instructions and an explanatory PowerPoint are available. The GBBC is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with partner Bird Studies Canada and is made possible in part by sponsor Wild Birds Unlimited.
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Saturday, February 4, 2017

AIMLESSLY WANDERING

Wilson's Snipe

Well, once again we have survived January. Time for things to brighten up a bit. Before you know it; honey bees will be crawling over the Pussy willow catkins and crocus will pop from the snow. Yes, soon. Not quite yet; but soon. It will not be long before some trout will be going from near freezing water and in to the freezer. Yep, it will not be long. At least not as long as it has been.
We all know that it definitely isn’t a good idea to wander through life without any purpose. On the other hand it can be a good thing to do just a little bit every day. Our structured world doesn’t usually give us much free time. We need to take advantage of the time we are given. Wandering around a little bit every day without any worries can be very productive. We just need to allow ourselves to do it when the opportunity arises.
Have you ever taken time to notice that brown clump over there in the grass that seems to be out of place? Hmm, it seemed to move a little. Maybe you are just seeing things. The wind blows and it doesn’t move when the leaves around it does. Oh, it’s just a brown clump of something. Ever think about taking a closer look? Nah, too much trouble. Wonder why that blade of grass is moving back and forth while the ones surrounding it aren’t. Take a few aimless moments and go see. Its OK nobody will care. What is making those ripples in the water? You will never know unless you go look. It might be something good.
Some people work very hard all year so they can go to the store and buy food. Others work very hard all year long so they don’t have to go to the store and buy food. Neither are wrong; they just have different views about life. We are all in this together and we need to get along. Neither group will ever change. Nor is there any need to do so. None of us are ever going to be rich and we are all going to die. We need to take those precious aimless moments to make our lives more enjoyable. You’ll be glad you did; in the end.
Take the time to ride down that road you have never been down before. You might just find something good or you might just tear your fender off; like I did. But, you will never know unless you go. Find a quiet spot on your break and just sit and stare (not a your phone) you never know. You might just see something good. Learn to look and actually see, learn to listen and actually hear you will feel some fulfillment creeping in. You will become more aware of the real world. You will feel better and be happier, too. I can guarantee that.

The next time you have nothing to do try doing nothing but staring at your surroundings. You will see things that you didn’t know existed. You will find things that you would never have found if you take the time to do a little wandering without a purpose. I know I have.

This is my article for the February 2017 edition of Two-Lane Livin
(c) 2017 High Virginia Outdoors Photo (c) High Virginia Images ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Saturday, January 28, 2017


New U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service policy on lead fishing tackle blindsides
recreational fishing community

 
January 23, 2017 – Alexandria, VA – On the day before President Obama left office, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued an edict to phase out the use of traditional fishing tackle on the hundreds of thousands of square miles of public lands under its management.

Director’s Order No. 219 will, “require the use of nontoxic ammunition and fishing tackle to the fullest extent practicable for all activities on Service lands, waters and facilities by January 2022, except as needed for law enforcement or health and safety uses, as provided for in policy.”

Scott Gudes, vice president of Government Affairs for the American Sportfishing Association (ASA), the trade association that represents the recreational fishing industry, issued a statement of behalf of the industry.

“The sportfishing industry views this unilateral policy to ban lead fishing tackle, which was developed without any input from the industry, other angling organizations and state fish and wildlife agencies, as a complete disregard for the economic and social impact it will have on anglers and the recreational fishing industry,” said Gudes.

Gudes further said, “In the limited instances where lead fishing tackle is demonstrated to harm local wildlife populations, the sportfishing industry supports actions to minimize or eliminate these impacts. However, unnecessary and sweeping bans such as this Director’s Order will do nothing to benefit wildlife populations and instead will penalize the nation’s 46 million anglers and hurt recreational fishing-dependent jobs.”

Gudes concluded, “A sound, science-driven and durable policy could’ve been crafted with input from industry and the broader recreational fishing community. We are hopeful that new leadership at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will repeal this Director’s Order and develop public policy in a way that is open, inclusive and based on science.”