Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Visions Become Reality

Stillwell Park Fox Squirrel
Many times, most times we come up with ideas which never turn into reality. On occasions; they do. Some spin their wheels in the same old rut from year to year to year; others don't. One of the most enjoyable periods of my life was during the years of 2007 and 2008 and one place that made it so was Stillwell Park, near Marlinton, WV. My work day started in Marlinton at 1:00 pm and my mornings were free. I could be found in the mornings five days per week either on Knapps Creek, Marlin Mountain or at Stillwell Park. Life was good, but things change, companies change hands and life goes on. I have not been in Marlinton since early in 2009. But during my time there, I discovered a birdwatchers paradise. I have never seen such diversity of habitats and species as can be found in such a small area as Stillwell Park. I never saw one other person enjoying the bounty; either.

Two or three years ago, I mentioned this to a couple of the active members of the Pocahontas Nature Club. They took off on the project from there and the Stillwell Nature Trail has become reality. The grand opening will be on Saturday, September 29, 2012 at 8am. Sadly, I know that I will not be able to attend. But the resource is there for all to enjoy. You can read the article in the Pocahontas Times and be there to participate in the opening of the trail; if you can make it. I would encourage all birders and nature lovers to make this lovely little park a destination anytime you are in Pocahontas County. It is worth the trip and wildlife abounds; year-round.

I regret that I could not participate, hands on in this project. But, I am glad it has become a reality. The area is home to a numerous and diverse bird population. The records that I kept and submitted for the project do not touch the numbers of species that use the area throughout the year. All of my observation were made between about 11am and 12:30 pm. These are not exactly prime-time birding hours. Flycatchers, warblers, woodpeckers,vireos and sparrows abound. Raptors soar above and  migrating waterfowl and shorebirds stop to rest. What more could you ask for?

Some of my most memorable sightings include the day I was sitting in my truck at the sewage pond, reading the USA Today and a Virginia Rail popped up out of the ditch and stared at me. Least Bitterns used the area on a couple of occasions, I found them just above the discharge into the Greenbrier. I found White-rumped Sandpipers in the flooded field at the pavillion one May morning. One day in the fall the un-cut grasses were covered with Grasshopper Sparrows. On a Winter day, I saw the largest number of Tree Sparrows that I have ever seen. You just never know what you may find if you are just observant. You will be rewarded for your time, no matter what. For some odd reason; I never did see an eagle there. So right there is something to look for and record. Just get out there and do it. Thank you Pocahontas Nature Club !

One thing I really regret about my time in the area is that I was between cameras during this time period. I finally purchased a real camera in January of 2009. This fox squirrel photo is the only one I have from Stillwell  Park. It is one of the very first digital photos that I ever took.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Our Other Thrushes

Swainson's Thrush (c) 2012 High Virginia Images
Migration time is at its peak, right now. Each morning brings new birds for us to enjoy. The sulking thrushes are often overlooked among the colorful warblers bouncing from branch tips. But, they are here in numbers, too. The song of the Wood Thrush is known to all, Hermit Thrushes are the only thrush that we may find overwintering here. The Veery is very common and unknown to many. Most have not even heard of the other two.

The Swainson's Thrush (Catharus ustulatus) does nest here in the highest elevations of Pocahontas, Randolph, Tucker, Pendleton and Grant counties. The buffy eye-ring is themajor identification point for this species. The majority of the population nests in the North, in the middle regions of Canada and Alaska. The entire population is on its annual southward move, right now.

Gray-ckeeked Thrush (c)2012 High Virginia Images
The Gray-cheeked Thrush (Catharus minimus) is the nesting thrush of the Far North. It nests throughout Alaska and Northern Canada. It is a bird of the northern spruce forests. It is distinguished by its partial eye-ring and a duller grayish appearance. It may be found in any overgrown area near you, right now. Like I have said many times before; you never know what you may find, if you just look. Be observant and you will be rewarded.

The photo of the Swainson's Thrush was taken at Camp Garnett on the Rich Mountain Battlefield in Randolph County, WV. The Gray-cheeked Thrush was photographed in my yard in Norton, Randolph County, WV; yesterday.

(c) 2012 All Rights Reserved High Virginia Outdoors-High Virginia Images

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Oysters !

(c) 2012 High Virginia Images
I went out early this morning, hoping to find some interesting migrants in the clear-cut. The birds didn't seem to cooperate; as far as the warblers go. There were plenty of robins, cedar waxwings, catbirds and goldfinches; but little else was to be found. Therefore Ralphie and I went to plan B. Search for some Chicken of the Woods.
Well, that didn't go so well, either. But we did come up with enough Oyster mushrooms for a meal. We found several other clumps which were too old and badly insect infested.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Comb Tooth Fungi

Comb Tooth Fungi (c) 2012 High Virginia Images
I was walking the dogs on Wednesday, near the Shavers Fork River in Randolph County and noticed this white fungi on a rotted log. I had seen this species before, but didn't pay much attention to it. I thought it was one of the coral fungi. Comb Tooth (Hericium ramosum) is supposed to be a good edible. It grows on dead wood. Being a very pretty fungi, I didn't even think of it as an edible, until I looked it up. I plan on trying this one if I find some again.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

My Noxious Weed

Japanese Knot-weed (c) 2012 High Virginia Images
I was standing out in my yard last week and was in awe at the number of honey bees on the Japanese Knot-weed (Polygonum cuspidatum) in my yard. There is a solid wall of Knot-weed which is about 25 yards long bordering my front yard. This non-native invasive species sure does make a nice, summertime privacy fence. It was in full bloom and absolutely covered with life. The majority of the insect activity was comprised of several thousand honey bees, busily working on the buckwheat like flowers. I am sure that many pounds of honey will be produced from these tiny white flowers.

As I marveled at the sight and intense activity; I couldn't help but chuckle and think to myself about our silly governments' thinking and reasoning. You see, earlier this summer some federal employees were handing out information about the terrors of knot-weed at one of our local fine eating establishments. You could buy some gray, compressed chicken paste fried in grease and learn all about this nasty invasive. Sometimes you just shake your head and move on.

I started thinking at the time this program was announced; which is worse? I could come up with several good things about this invasive weed and none about the rest of the parties involved therefore; which one is the most noxious? Japanese Knot-weed blocks out noise and sights from the highway, feeds numerous insects, can be turned into honey, makes great compost and I have heard that it is edible when young and prepared like asparagus. On the other hand, I couldn't come up with any redeeming qualities for compressed chicken slime or wasteful spending by the federal government. Now you tell me which is the greatest threat to us all. Both of the latter are very hard to swallow.

(c) 2012 High Virginia Outdoors All Rights Reserved