Friday, February 28, 2014

Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration

Spring male Rusty Blackbird.
Have you seen a flash of rust-tipped feathers under a bright yellow eye? Or perhaps you’ve enjoyed the dubiously melodious sound of a squeaky-hinge song? Previously a common sight in mixed-blackbird flocks and flooded forests, Rusty Blackbirds now face an unfortunate and remarkable notoriety; this species has endured a decline more severe than any other once-common landbird, with population decreases of 85-95% over the past half-century. Understanding the ecology of this vulnerable species is critical for developing strategies to reverse these declines and protect this species. The Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz encourages you to bird for conservation- support an initiative to identify conservation challenges and develop strategies to conserve a vulnerable songbird.

Be on the lookout and post your sightings to eBird. It will not hurt you one little bit.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

eBird & Citizen Science


New eBird publication highlights a novel approach to citizen science

Screen Shot 2014-02-26 at 6.28.42 AM
Birders are the engine behind what we now think of as the “eBird Enterprise”, a global project with high conservation significance that currently provides more than 1/3 of the world’s biodiversity data to higher level data clearinghouses (e.g., the Global Biodiversity Information Facility). A new publication in the journal Biological Conservation highlights how eBird has evolved from a basic citizen-science project into a collective enterprise, taking a novel approach to citizen science by developing cooperative partnerships among experts in a wide range of fields: population and distributions, conservation biologists, quantitative ecologists, statisticians, computer scientists, GIS and informatics specialists, application developers, and data administrators. The paper is featured as “Editor’s Choice” on the Biological Conservation web site, and has been set to “open access”. Please visit the link above to download the paper, and learn more about how your contributions are impacting our ability to document, understand, and conserve birds and biodiversity. Thanks again eBirders. None of this would be possible without you!

Please Begin Participating It Will Not Hurt You One Little Bit AND You'll Like It !!

Sunday, February 16, 2014


Mute Swan (c) 2014 HVI
Not very many people have ventured outside over the past four days; especially in this area. Everyday you don't look is a day you missed out on. You cannot get back wasted days. I have said it time and time again; you will never find anything worthwhile if you don't look.
I was riding through the Elkins snow piles on Friday morning and thought I saw the top of a swan head sticking up. I made several attempts to get another glimpse, but that turned out to be impossible due to the string of snow-plows and some other inept drivers. Just normal stuff for Elkins on a Friday. I finally found a spot where I could pull off the road. I got out with 4 inch high shoes in 20 inches of snow and made it to the edge of the Tygart River Backwaters. There were 3 Mute Swans present and I was able to get some decent photos. I have never seen Mute swans in this area before; except for the Valley Bend pair.
Chipping Sparrow (2014) HVI

I know that Chipping Sparrows are very common; from April until October. Everyone has them but they are a rarity in February, here. This Chipping Sparrow surprised me this afternoon. I definitely wasn't expecting to see one today; as the snow poured down. A good February bird for the WV Highlands. There is still one day left in the Great Backyard Bird Count. Please participate, if you haven't already done so. It will not hurt you one little bit. I promise.

(c) High Virginia Outdoors  Photos (c) 2014 High Virginia Images All Rights Reserved

Friday, February 14, 2014


White-crowned Sparrow (c) HVI
Launched in 1998 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, the Great Backyard Bird Count was the first online citizen-science project to collect data on wild birds and to display results in near real-time.
Since then, more than 100,000 people of all ages and walks of life have joined the four-day count each February to create an annual snapshot of the distribution and abundance of birds.
We invite you to participate! Simply tally the numbers and kinds of birds you see for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count, February 14-17, 2014. You can count from any location, anywhere in the world!
If you’re new to the count, first register online then enter your checklist. If you have already participated in another Cornell Lab citizen-science project, you can use your existing login.
Click here for more info on how to get started.
In 2013, Great Backyard Bird Count participants in 111 countries counted 33,464,616 birds on 137,998 checklists, documenting 4,258 species—more than one-third of the world’s bird species!
Read a summary of the 2013 count.
During the count, you can explore what others are seeing in your area or around the world. Share your bird photos by entering the photo contest, or enjoy images pouring in from across the globe.
Help make the most successful count ever by participating this year!
Then keep counting throughout the year with eBird, which uses the same system as the Great Backyard Bird Count to collect, store, and display data any time, all the time.

Saturday, February 8, 2014


Oyster Mushrooms (c) 2012 HVI

I became aware of a couple new words in the past few months and thought that they could be appropriately shared here. Most new words I hear a derived either from the rampant drug culture or are made up in TV land. They don’t really matter much in the real world. First up is nemophily: the love of woodland scenery. The other is nemophillist: one who is fond of the forest; a haunter of the woods. I like those words. The forest is getting harder and harder to find in this area. Thankfully we have the Monongahela National Forest, State Forests and a few WMA’s. The large tracts of private land have become barren wastelands over the last couple of decades.
Self-imposed titles often do not mean the same thing to others as they mean to you. I do believe that we should give more thought to what we call ourselves and others. What is a mushroom hunter? I don’t know how many “mushroom hunters” I have run into over the years that have turned into morel hunters. To me, if you hunt morels for a couple of weeks in the spring; you are a morel hunter. A mushroom hunter would be someone who knows various species, knows when these species can normally be found and pursues mushrooms from spring until fall. The morel hunter could easily become a mushroom hunter if they wanted to. Who knows, the person they were just talking to may have been the one who could have provided help and enlightened them to more opportunities; if they would have only known. Personally, I would be mushroom poor if I only relied on morels for my fungi fix.
I would bet that you think of your neighbor who deer hunts a couple of days every year and spends the rest of his time watching hunting shows on TV as being an outdoorsman. I would beg to differ from that opinion. To me, the title of outdoorsman, woman or person belongs to one who has pursued various outdoor interests 365 days a year and has accumulated a vast knowledge base over that time period. My definition of outdoorsman would be the requirement to have knowledge in many fields. A true outdoorsman should be able to show you the difference between a Northern Red Oak and a Scarlet Oak. They would also know that the base of a Southern Red Oak leaf is shaped like a bell; as in “southern belle”. They follow the natural world through the year; each season brings new interests in the lifelong pursuit of knowledge.

He or she can show you the difference between song and fox sparrows can dig a perfect elbow set for mink and spot a gimmick from a mile away. They know the effects of wind and sun have on game animals and can grow a really nice garden. Our outdoorsman can read the current and visualize what is happening underwater. They have a vast knowledge of many things although they are not a certified expert at anything. But, the expert could probably learn a few new things. I would also be willing to bet that our outdoorsman is one of the other new words that has recently emerged. Yep they are probably a locavore, too. 
(c) 2011 HVI

This is MY column for the February 2014 print edition of Two-Lane Livin
(c) 2014 High Virginia Outdoors ALL PHOTOS (c) High Virginia Images ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Horseshoe Run-Tucker County, WV

Horseshoe Run (c)2012 HVI
Horseshoe Run is a small trout stream in Tucker County, WV. This stream is stocked with trout on a Bi-Weekly schedule by the WVDNR. It receives trout once in February and every other week from March to the end of May. This scenic little stream is best fished early in the season; while it has ample water flow. It dries up fairly quickly. There are several feeder streams entering the main stream that help keep the water temperatures down. Horseshoe Run is stocked from the bridge above the community of Shaffer at access points downstream to below the mouth of Mike Run. About 6 miles of stream falls in the stocked section and landownership is both National Forest and private land. County Route 5 follows the stream, Landowners rights always need to be respected by anglers; less and less areas are stocked; due to blatant disregard of others.
Hendrickson Dun (c)2012 HVI

I have not fished this stream any later than mid-April. There is a pretty nice population of Hendricksons that hatch early in April and the most activity of feeding fish seemed to be sub-surface. There are a few campsites available at Horseshoe Run Recreation Area. This area is just upstream from the YMCA Camp Horseshoe.

Horseshoe Run would be a good destination for a peaceful spring outing. You will not see many people unless you are there within a couple of days after the fish truck has been there. Just head for the town of Leadmine, you can't miss it.
Horseshoe Run Trout (c) 2012 HVI

(c) 2014 High Virginia Outdoors All Photos (c) High Virginia Images All Rights Reserved

Sunday, February 2, 2014


Ring-necked Duck (c)2013 HVI
We all enjoy or birds which are year-round residents. Each spring we anticipate the arrival of species that come here to breed. It is sad the many miss out the numerous species that briefing stop by for a visit. These feathered visitors may show up in any season. The most visible are probably the migratory waterfowl who are pushed south by storms and freezes. each winter storm changes the pieces of the puzzle. Some years are better than others in this region. So far, the 2013-14 winter season has not been good here in the mountains. It was much more interesting last year. You never know, it could change at any time. We just need to keep looking to find out whether it will happen or not.

Early spring and mid-summer through early fall are the times to pay attention to exposed mud-flats on our larger bodies of water for shorebirds. Flooded fields are also hot-spots for these migrants. You never know what may show up other than Spotted Sandpipers and Solitary Sandpipers.
Sanderling (c) HVI

Autumn brings us another round of migrants and you never know what may show up around here after a hurricane. Everyday offers new chances to view new species. But, you a guaranteed not to find anything if you are not out there looking. They don't stay around here long but the do offer us visitation rights that we need to cherish.
Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow (c) 2013 HVI

(c)2014 High Virginia Outdoors All Rights Reserved   Photo (c) High Virginia Images

Saturday, February 1, 2014


Buttonbush (c) 2013 HVI

People who choose to go through life with blinders on make me sad. I see so many who wander throughout our world like a train in a tunnel; staring straight ahead. Go, go, and go as fast as you can.  Hurry up, you have to be here and you have to be there. No time to stop, just go. You would be amazed at the things you fail to see. Slow down and just take a few moments out of your day to observe the little things that you are passing by.
I’m the one you see out there on the road trying to find someplace to turn around; so I can go back at look at something. Most of the time, it isn't anything of note. But, sometimes it is. Those are the good days. The skill of observation cannot be taught. It must be acquired over a long period of time and like anything of importance; it takes dedication. Unlike most things though; it doesn't cost you a thing. Nope, you don’t have to spend one little dime. The payoff is high and the cost is none. It makes you feel good when you find something new. What more could you ask for?
Have you ever found anything that has never been seen or recorded in your county or region? I have, quite a few times. Was I out there specifically looking for it? No, it was there at the same time I was and I saw it. Nothing has ever been in some exotic, hard to reach destination. Most of my good discoveries have been at some wide-spot in the road; while my dogs were peeing. You do not need one of those funny shirts with all of those empty pockets and a pith helmet to find stuff; as you would be lead to believe on TV. The only things you need are your eyes and the desire to learn. Learning in the outdoor world is a lifetime process. The ability to observe is the critical component in learning.
Now, you are thinking that maybe you’ll give it a try this spring. It is winter now, the landscape is barren and there is nothing out there to see. Nothing could be further from the truth. Go out to that overgrown weedy ditch-line beside your driveway and see just how many kinds of little brown birds you can identify. You will be surprised at the number of species you will encounter. Check out your local pond or lake after every winter storm, uncommon waterfowl species show up every year. Nobody ever knows they are there; unless someone sees them. It could be you.

If everyone would make the effort to give a gift that lasts a lifetime; our world will be a better place. Nature is a gift for all to enjoy. Encourage someone close to you to find the powers of observation. If not, cast the spell upon yourself and say Merry Christmas.

This is my article that first appeared in the December print edition of Two-Lane Livin 
(c) 2013 All Rights Reserved Photo (c) 2013 High Virginia Images All Rights Reserved.