Bill’s Books

Project Boys

Wild Plant Cookbook

Rainbows, Bluebirds and Buffleheads


Attracting and Photographing Pileated Woodpeckers

A Rufous Hummingbird in Brooke County, West Virginia and a Design for a Cold Weather Nectar Feeder

Birds-Camping-Hiking and more on Dolly Sods – 2021

How Do Birds Know?

Pine Siskin Irruption – 2020

Saga of the Green Herons

Oriole Fallout — in Rhyme (by Jan Runyan)

Bill’s Bark Butter Recipe

Dolly Sods Adventures – 2019

The Allegheny Front Migration Observatory (AFMO), Hiking, Wildflowers and More on Dolly Sods – late September, 2018

Rainbows, Bluebirds and Buffleheads

Bluebirds and Blue Birds are not Blue!

Hail, Hail the Gang’s All Here….Pine Siskins………by Jan Runyan

A Bluebird Brings Happiness… Jan

Not GOLDFINCHY . . . . . . by Jan Runyan

Banding a Dinosaur

Welcome Home My Little Chickadee — by Jan

American Goldfinch Heaven

Return of the “Gold”finches….almost — by Jan

Behold…the American Goldfinches are coming.


Owls In the Family… part two… Eastern Screech-owls

Owls In the Family…Great Horned Owls

Wildflowers, Trees, and Botany

A Secret Place

“Pickin’ up pawpaws, put ‘em in my pocket….” by Jan Runyan

Plant Friends Without Their Flowers

Friendly Faces

Kayaking the Headwaters of the Blackwater River…and Searching for Wildflowers

Shirley Temple Wildflowers… Jan Runyan

Summer Wildflowers of the Dolly Sods Wilderness

Edible and Medicinal Plants

Goldenseal a.k.a. Yellowroot

Common Chickweed — My Favorite Spring Wild Edible Green

“Pickin’ up pawpaws, put ‘em in my pocket….” by Jan Runyan

Wild Plant Cookbook

Nature Photography

Attracting and Photographing Pileated Woodpeckers

The Story Behind Bill’s photo credits

Make Your Photos Pop!

Bill’s Arboretum

A Tale of Two Winterberries

Adding Pawpaw Trees to Our Arboretum

Our Garden and Property

Bill’s Spruce Adventure — by Jan Runyan

Bill and Jan’s Observations

A Serendipity Day — Beyond Maitake Mushrooms and Pawpaws


The first day of spring …. Is a personal thing.

An Unexpected Nature Surprise

Don Pattison – A Soft-spoken Gentle Friend

The First Day of Spring – For Me

Finally — A Winter Hike

Tick—ed Off: a tick—lish situation

Ladybug Hibernation…a fortunate discovery

Contemplating Mortality

That Bird Vanished!…a shrew-d sighting — by Jan

Another sign that spring is just around the corner.

Spring Is Here…by Jan

Bill and Jan’s Celebrations and Adventures

Hiking Adventures in the West Virginia Highlands – In Celebration of Cindy

From West Virginia to Nags Head, North Carolina — the Outer Banks

Big Run Bog – An Unexpected Road Trip – Saturday, August 10, 2019

West Virginia University’s Hemlock Trail near Cooper’s Rock State Forest – May 8, 2019

A Celebration with Friends in the Mountains of West Virginia – Great Food, Laughing, Hiking, Singing and Spending Time with Each Other at Some of our Favorite Natural Places

Snaggy Mountain Area, Garrett State Forest, MD – Late June 2018

Kayaking the Headwaters of the Blackwater River…and Searching for Wildflowers

Dolly Sods

Birds-Camping-Hiking and more on Dolly Sods – 2021

Just Us – Hiking on Dolly Sods

A Different Dolly Sods Adventure — 2020-style

Listening to Creation

Dolly Sods Adventures – 2019

The Allegheny Front Migration Observatory (AFMO), Hiking, Wildflowers and More on Dolly Sods – late September, 2018

A Grandkid Discovers the Nature of Dolly Sods

Summer Wildflowers of the Dolly Sods Wilderness

Canaan Valley

Canaan Valley for Fall Color and More – October 2020

Canaan Valley State Park and Canaan Loop Road – Late June, 2018

Idleman’s Run Trail in the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge – Late June

Beall Tract – Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge – Late June, 2018

Kayaking the Headwaters of the Blackwater River…and Searching for Wildflowers

Magee Marsh

Beyond Magee Marsh — 2022 — Maumee Bay, Camp Sabroske, Howard Marsh, Metzger Marsh

Beyond Magee Marsh – 2022 – Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge

Magee Marsh Birding 2022

Brooks Bird Club

The Brooks Bird Club’s 90th Anniversary at Hawk’s Nest State Park

The Brooks Bird Club’s Fall Reunion/Meeting 2021 — Cedar Lakes Conference Center

Master Naturalist

Teaching Master Naturalists in Scenic Canaan Valley, WV – 2022

Master Naturalist Conference 2021 at Canaan Valley State Park

The Field Trip that….SUCKED!

Mountain State Bird Discovery Weekend

Mountain State Bird Discovery Weekend 2022 at Blackwater Falls State Park

What a Great Nature Workshop Weekend! (due to Covid we had to hold this weekend 2 1/2 weeks later than usual and change the emphasis to “Plants and Other Nature”)

Bird Discovery Weekend at Blackwater Falls State Park – 2019 – what we did.

Oglebay Institute’s Adult Nature Studies Camp at Terra Alta, WV (Mountain Nature Camp)

Oglebay Institute’s Mountain Nature Camp for adults – 2022 – What We Did

Oglebay Institute’s Mountain Nature Camp (for adults)-2021 – So good to be back at “Good Ol’ TA”.

Mountain Nature Camp for Adults – June 2018 – What We Did.

West Virginia Wildflower Pilgrimage

2023 West Virginia Wildflower Pilgrimage

2022 Our West Virginia Wildflower Pilgrimage Trip

2019 West Virginia Wildflower Pilgrimage – Our Trip

West Virginia Wildflower Pilgrimage – May 11-14, 2023

Lindy Point at Blackwater Falls State Park (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

This event is a tradition for people who love the wildflowers and birds of West Virginia!

Come discover why so many “pilgrims” return year after year!

On Thursday afternoon, you can attend special “get-started” programs like Jan’s “Birding Essentials for Everyone” workshop.

Jan teaching her Essentials of Birding for Everyone class. (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

Jan and I, along with leaders from the Brooks Bird Club, will be leading the early morning bird walks on Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings.

I am giving an introduction for the Friday morning bird walk. (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

On Friday and Saturday participants have a choice of a dozen or more day-long field trips to a wide variety of habitats and elevations. Trips range from “get out of the car to look at this amazing plant” to “must have hiking boots to go on the wilderness hike”. Both Thursday and Friday end with an interesting program.


DRIVING MILES :60 HIKING MILES : 4 .5 Our drive takes us south on Route 32 through Canaan Valley. Approximately two miles south of Canaan we turn left onto Laneville Rd. and continue to the Rohrbaugh Plains trailhead on top of Dolly Sods. The trail is not a loop trail and one vehicle will have to be left at the Wildlife Trail trailhead. The hike begins through a mixed Red Spruce/deciduous woodland where we will be greeted with a variety of bird songs; mostly warblers — Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green, Blackburnian, Ovenbird, Yellow-rumped, and Magnolia. This trail is rocky at times and eventually becomes a mixed hardwood/evergreen forest. Lunch will be at the Rohrbaugh Plains vista looking south through the Red Creek Valley and west toward Rocky Point (Lion’s Head). The vista is one of the best scenic overlooks in West Virginia. The return hike is on the Wildlife Trail, a mostly open trail traveling through several meadows and bordered by deciduous woodlands. There will be opportunities for wildflower and bird identification, however, this tour’s primary focus is the spectacular beauty of Dolly Sods. Hiking shoes/boots are required. Appropriate rain gear is required. There will be restroom facilities available at the Dolly Sods Picnic Area before the hike.

Rohrbaugh Plains scenic vista. (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

On Friday Jan will be leading the CRANEVILLE SWAMP FIELD TRIP

TOTAL DRIVING MILES: 90 TOTAL WALKING MILES : 3 Travel US Route 219 to Oakland, MD, and follow country roads on the WV/MD border to find the Cranesville Swamp Nature Preserve managed by The Nature Conservancy. At Cranesville Swamp wind, water, mountain geology and temperature have created a beautiful and rare “frost pocket” (low area that collects moisture and cooler temperatures) reminiscent of Canadian environments. Eastern hemlock, red spruce, and larch are some of the few trees in the acidic boreal bog. The northern relict wetland complex also supports a wide variety of smaller plants such as goldthread, trailing arbutus, gay wings, several sundews, cranberry, several ferns, and many mosses. Nineteen diverse wetland communities are home to such birds as blackburnian, magnolia, and chestnut-sided warblers, alder flycatcher, golden-crowned kinglet, indigo bunting, and saw-whet owl. We’ll explore the boardwalk trail in the bog of the northern section of the swamp, and then venture off the trail into the seldom-visited fen at the southern part of the swamp. Restrooms are available at Oakland and “Facilitrees” are available at Cranesville Swamp.

Cranesville Swamp Boardwalk (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

On Saturday Jan and I together will be leading a field trip into the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge: Beall North Trail and Idleman’s Run Trail. The Beall Trail’s parking lot is off Cortland Road in Canaan Valley. The Beall North Trail traverses a mix of open meadows and deciduous woodlands which allow for a large variety of plants. Parts of the trail borders a secluded area of the Blackwater River. This is not a rugged trail — it is mostly level with moderate or occasional short steep elevation changes and few rocks on the trail. The entire walk will be scenic in varying ways. The birding should be excellent with the beautiful songs of Hermit Thrushes possible in many places. A nice variety of warblers are expected. Then we will travel to nearby Idleman’s Run Trail off Forest Service Road 80 for a more botanical/wildflower walk. Idleman’s Run Trail is 4/10 mile, gently sloping uphill the entire way, and we should encounter many interesting plants along the way. Sturdy boots/shoes and rain gear are recommended. “Facili-trees” are the only restrooms available.

Looking at Nature along Beall North Trail. (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)
Hermit Thrush

We often hear the beautiful song of the Hermit Thrush along the Beall North Trail.

Hermit Thrush song:

For additional information and registration, a fillable form is available on the West Virginia Wildflower Pilgrimage facebook page:

Join us and discover why so many “pilgrims” return year after year!

The Brooks Bird Club’s 90th Anniversary at Hawk’s Nest State Park

Members of the Brooks Bird Club from all over the state and beyond gathered at Hawk’s Nest State Park for the club’s fall board meeting and to celebrate the club’s 90th anniversary. For Jan and me the weekend began with a social get together with some old and new friends.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

Perched on the top edge of the steep New River Gorge, the lodge at Hawk’s Nest State Park is built so that every room has a view toward the scenic valley of the New River.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

The river begins in North Carolina and cuts across much of the Appalachian Mountains, traveling 360 miles through Virginia and West Virginia on its way to join the Gauley River to form the Kanawha River. As part of the Ohio River watershed, it has been eroding through the Appalachians for between 10 and 360 million years (depending on the geological assumptions used to date it). This erosion has cut a low-level crossing into the mountains, creating a biogeographical corridor which has allowed many species of plants and animals to spread from the east coast of the U.S. into midwest areas. Later humans have used this low level crossing to help more easily transport raw materials and goods into and out of the mountainous areas and beyond (see the field trip below to a former coal-mining town along the river). The railroad line along the river, seen below from our room, is still in use.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

After supper we were entertained by storyteller, actress, and writer Karen Vuranch. She portrayed Mary Draper Ingles (1732 – February 1815), an early settler of western Virginia (near present-day Blacksburg, VA). In the summer of 1755, Mary and her two young sons were among several captives taken by Shawnee Native Americans after the Draper’s Meadow Massacre. Ingles escaped with another woman after two and a half months in captivity and trekked 500-600 miles in the winter, crossing numerous rivers, creeks, and many Appalachian Mountains to return home. Karen’s portrayal, based on her vast research, was interesting and compelling.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

On Saturday morning the group photo was taken.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

After the photo, all but one of the group gathered for a field trip to scenic and historical areas in the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. The trip was led by Jodi French-Burr, Interpretive Park Ranger in the New River Gorge. Not only did Jodi lead the BBC group on a great field trip, she also presented a Nature/History program about the New River Gorge area on Saturday evening.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

First Jodi took the group to the remains of the coal-mining town of Nuttallburg which was typical of dozens of towns that grew up along the New River in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

The town is near the bottom of the steep New River gorge, not too far above the river.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

The coal seam is about half-way up the steep gorge. In the early 1900s, to get coal down to the C&O railroad line at the bottom of the valley more easily, a long conveyor was built which brought the coal to the tipple where the coal was sorted before being loaded. Railroad coal cars were brought under the tipple and filled with the valuable “smokeless” coal being mined up the hill. There was even a smaller loading area where wagons could be loaded with coal.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

While the conveyor and tipple have been restored, all that remains of the dozens of “company” houses where the coal miners and their families lived are the stone foundations which are slowly being covered and reclaimed by Nature.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan

Then Jodi took the group to Babcock State Park to tour the Glade Creek Grist Mill which is a fully functional replica of the mill that used to be nearby. The current mill was created using parts from three other old, dismantled West Virginia mills. The miller explained a lot about the current mill and how it works. Everything in the mill was made of wood since a spark from metal parts could ignite an explosion of the highly flammable chaff and flour dust. Unfortunately, the shop had sold out of the different kinds of grain they grind there, so the only things brought home were photos.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan

Customers usually paid the miller who was grinding their grain with a portion of the finished flour/meal. The two flat “paddles” below were used to figure that amount. A paddle would be dipped into the finished flour/meal and whatever stayed on the paddle was kept by the miller as his payment for grinding the grain.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

The Glade Creek Grist Mill is one of many very picturesque places in West Virginia.

The group had lunch at a very scenic lookout in Babcock State Park. The New River Gorge Bridge was even partly visible in the distance.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan
Photo (c) Jan Runyan
Photo (c) Jan Runyan

But, I wanted to hike, soooo….I was the one who didn’t go with the rest of the group for the scheduled field trip. Instead, my first destination was the Endless Wall Trail.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

Early in the trail there were man-made steps and bridges, but soon the trail was all nature.

Photos (c) Bill Beatty

The Endless Wall Trail is 2.5 miles long with a 0.5 mile walk back to the car along a paved road. It is also a popular destination for rock climbers.

A rock climber contemplating the meaning of life, and perhaps death. (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

The Endless Wall Trail has numerous short side trails which end at overlooks along the New River. It’s very scenic.

Photos (c) Bill Beatty

The trail is well named. Even though the trail itself is away from the “endless wall” of high, sheer rock walls, some of the overlooks show the many cliffs.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

I often hike alone and enjoy it. That day, through a series of serendipitous encounters, a woman named Kim and I bumped into each other at various spots on the trail and eventually we walked together back to where our cars were parked. We parted ways sure we would never see each other again.

I had agreed to meet the rest of the group back at Hawks Nest after lunch, but they were late. I waited a while, but then just decided to go hiking. I wanted to hike the Cliffside Trail. To my surprise, I ran into Kim again. She also wanted to hike the Cliffside Trail. So off we went. The beginning of the trail is very scenic.

Photos (c) Kim Ayling
Photos (c) Kim Ayling

The “Trail to Lodge” sign might have been a foreshadowing we should have listened to.

My new friend, Kim (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

We met 2 hikers who had been on the Hawks Nest Lake and Fishermans Trails. Their comments inspired us to follow those trails.

Photo (c) Kim Ayling

Down we went. We continued down, following the zigzagging Hawks Nest Lake Trail to the Fishermans Trail along the New River. To our surprise we encountered others walking the trail and a young man at one of the Tentrr Campsites available through Hawks Nest State Park. We discovered there was a parking area not far away. For more information about the Tentrr Campsites see —

Photo (c) Kim Ayling

Near the end of the Fishermans Trail was a small, high waterfall.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

At the waterfall, we thought about the hike back to the Hawks Nest Lake Trail, and then the uphill zigzagging we faced, so we decided it was time to turn around and start back. Although I didn’t know much about Kim’s hiking abilities, I suggested, “Instead of hiking zigzag all the way back, why don’t we just bushwhack from here straight up to the trail. It’s not that far and not too steep.” FAMOUS LAST WORDS! As it turned out it was a lot farther than I had thought, and, in places, very steep. Much of our vertical hike/climb used our hands as much as our feet. It was a lot more strenuous than if we had gone back the way we had come.

Kim hiking/climbing to the next level. (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

Kim and I did make it safely back up to the Cliffside Trail and then back to the Hawks Nest Lodge…with a great story to tell.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

All too soon it was time to say goodbye to our BBC friends until the next whole-club get-together next spring. Regardless of which adventure each of us did on Saturday, we all had a great time at the Brooks Bird Club’s 90th Anniversary.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

A Tale of Two Winterberries

Four years ago I told Jan I wanted to start an arboretum. It would consist of trees and shrubs that I like because most of them would have some historical, edible or medicinal significance. Before I declared our acres an “arboretum”, I had already begun introducing a variety of plants. Some were herbaceous medicinal plants. Several of my first woody tree and shrub introductions had been Sassafras (𝑆𝑎𝑠𝑠𝑎𝑓𝑟𝑎𝑠 𝑎𝑙𝑏𝑖𝑑𝑢𝑚), Pawpaws (𝐴𝑠𝑖𝑚𝑖𝑛𝑎 𝑡𝑟𝑖𝑙𝑜𝑏𝑎) (Adding Pawpaw Trees to Our Arboretum, Franklinia trees (Franklinia alatamaha) (, Black Chokeberry (𝐴𝑟𝑜𝑛𝑖𝑎 𝑚𝑒𝑙𝑎𝑛𝑜𝑐𝑎𝑟𝑝𝑎), and Carolina Allspice (𝐶𝑎𝑙𝑦𝑐𝑎𝑛𝑡ℎ𝑢𝑠 𝑓𝑙𝑜𝑟𝑖𝑑𝑢𝑠). Other interesting trees and shrubs such as Sugar Maple (𝐴𝑐𝑒𝑟 𝑠𝑎𝑐𝑐ℎ𝑎𝑟𝑢𝑚), Slippery Elm (𝑈𝑙𝑚𝑢𝑠 𝑟𝑢𝑏𝑟𝑎), Staghorn Sumac (𝑅ℎ𝑢𝑠 𝑡𝑦𝑝ℎ𝑖𝑛𝑎), and Northern Spicebush (𝐿𝑖𝑛𝑑𝑒𝑟𝑎 𝑏𝑒𝑛𝑧𝑜𝑖𝑛) were already well established on the property.

So the arboretum already had a good start — now on to the planning, work and fun. The first problem I had to remedy was to prevent deer from browsing and rubbing their antlers against the slender, delicate tree trunks. Solution: each smaller tree now has a fence around it until it is big and tough enough to live unprotected.

Franklinia Tree (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Pawpaw grove (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

I also wanted a larger nursery area where I could protect and sprout seeds and could grow tree and shrub seedlings without “help” from the wildlife. When these plants got large enough, I would transplant them from the nursery to selected locations based on habitat requirements. Tall fencing in an area of semi-shade gave me the protected area I wanted.

Nursery (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

Three years ago during the last two weeks of September camping on Dolly Sods (wilderness area in the WV mountains), I noticed some beautiful Winterberry trees in full fruit. They were very attractive and loaded with food for birds and other wildlife.

Winterberry (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Winterberry (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

Every day I walked past 2 impressive Winterberry plants right across from site 12 at the Red Creek Campground. I began noticing that they were slightly different from one another. When I checked in the Flora of West Virginia, I learned that the best way to distinguish between the Winterberry (𝐼𝑙𝑒𝑥 𝑣𝑒𝑟𝑡𝑖𝑐𝑖𝑙𝑙𝑎𝑡𝑎) and Mountain Winterberry (𝐼𝑙𝑒𝑥 𝑚𝑜𝑛𝑡𝑎𝑛𝑎) is by looking at the seeds.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

Seeds of Winterberry are smooth.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

Seeds of Mountain Winterberry have ridges.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

Thinking about my arboretum, I decided to bring home some seeds of each plant. I planted them in my nursery and marked the row of Winterberry seeds with a red flag and the row of Mountain Winterberry seeds with a blue flag. That was in September of 2019. A year later, in late 2020, there were no signs of any seedlings. Actually, since I had never really seen a winterberry seedling, I was just checking to see if there were any plants I didn’t recognize. I checked several times in 2021, still no winterberry seedlings or unrecognized plants. I was disappointed, telling Jan, “Well, the winterberry seeds I planted didn’t germinate and probably rotted in the ground. Since they are higher-elevation plants, it just won’t work here. At least I learned something.”

In early in 2022 while I was weeding in the nursery, I was happy to see my American Mountain-ash (𝑆𝑜𝑟𝑏𝑢𝑠 𝑎𝑚𝑒𝑟𝑖𝑐𝑎𝑛𝑎) and Eastern Red Cedar (𝐽𝑢𝑛𝑖𝑝𝑒𝑟𝑢𝑠 𝑣𝑖𝑟𝑔𝑖𝑛𝑖𝑎𝑛𝑎) seedlings were doing well. As expected, there were no unusual seedlings among the common weeds (weed: “any plant in a location where you don’t want it”). In September of 2022 I was weeding the area again and noticed some plants I didn’t recognize! They were in rows, just where I had planted the winterberry seeds — the flags were still there. Three years after they had been planted, both kinds of winterberries had finally germinated. I was shocked and excited.

Winterberry Seedlings in the nursery. (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Mountain Winterberry seedlings. (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

This year 2 American Mountain-ash trees will leave the nursery to find their permanent locations in my arboretum. Next year another American Mountain-ash and at least 2 of the Eastern Red Cedars will be transplanted to their final homes. And maybe 2 years from now the winterberries will be ready to transplant. It’s fun to think about what locations might be best for them.

With the success of the several plants I have seeded or transplanted so far, I am now thinking about many other trees, shrubs, vines and grasses I’m hoping to find and transplant or to seed in the nursery or other places in my arboretum.

What I really like is when Jan and I walk our woodlands and meadows, she tells me, “I really like what you have done with our property.” This is a great hobby for me. I really enjoy it, Jan appreciates all that I’ve done, and we have seen such an increase in the abundance of birds and wildlife on our 2 acres. The germination, at last, of the 2 kinds of winterberries will just add to the beauty, variety and abundance of Nature in my arboretum.

A Secret Place

Andy worked closely with me years ago when I was beginning my Eastern Screech-owl research. After graduate school in Oregon, he spent his career in Alaska with the Alaska Department of Fish & Game. We have kept in touch over the decades. This year he returned to West Virginia for an extended stay with family and at Oglebay Institute’s Mountain Nature Camp. Then we planned to meet him and other friends at Canaan Valley for some hiking.

Jan and I had been busy teaching the previous week and were anxious to check into the cabin we shared with Andy at Canaan Valley State Park. Upon arrival we had a unique experience. It went from shock and surprise to eventually laughter. We had found perhaps the squeakiest bed in all of the United States, and it was in one of West Virginia’s premiere Resort State Parks. And Jan and I got to sleep on it! WOW, how did we get so lucky?! (Be sure your sound is “on”.)

Video (c) Jan Runyan

In the morning we were graced with a much more pleasing sound: the ethereal song of the Hermit Thrush.

We gathered our other hiking friends, packed lunches and got going. As a warmup to other wonderful things yet to come, we first hiked the Blackwater River Trail.

Photo (c) Cindy Slater
Photo (c) Jan Runyan
Twelve-spotted Skimmer Dragonfly (𝐿𝑖𝑏𝑒𝑙𝑙𝑢𝑙𝑎 𝑝𝑢𝑙𝑐ℎ𝑒𝑙𝑙𝑎) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

This is a little gem of a trail that goes through a variety of habitats from forests to wetlands and always has interesting things to see and learn about.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty
Hemlock Varnish Shelf/Reishi Mushroom (𝐺𝑎𝑛𝑜𝑑𝑒𝑟𝑚𝑎 𝑡𝑠𝑢𝑔𝑎𝑒) (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

Although we didn’t see the beavers, themselves, it was clear they had been working to re-engineer the landscape.

Beaver dam (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

A field of “patterned rocks” is evidence of the intense cold in the area during the time when glaciers were not too far away.

Patterned Rock (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

A short distance from the river trail, we stopped to listen for a Sedge Wren that had been singing there earlier in the year. We didn’t hear the wren, but we do always find something interesting — nature is like that — always interesting. Jan photographed the Bird’s-foot Trefoil (𝐿𝑜𝑡𝑢𝑠 𝑐𝑜𝑟𝑛𝑖𝑐𝑢𝑙𝑎𝑡𝑢𝑠), a very pretty introduced plant common along roadways.

Top photo (c) Bill Beatty; bottom photo (c) Jan Runyan

After lunch we took a road trip to a secret location to see some of the most interesting and rarest plants in West Virginia.

The Showy Lady’s Slipper (𝐶𝑦𝑝𝑟𝑖𝑝𝑒𝑑𝑖𝑢𝑚 𝑟𝑒𝑔𝑖𝑛𝑎𝑒) is known to be in only 2 locations in West Virginia — in Tucker and Greenbrier Counties — unlike its cousin the Pink Lady’s Slipper which is much more common.

Showy Lady’s Slipper (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Top photo (c) Bill Beatty; bottom photo (c) Jan Runyan

While the Showy Lady’s Slippers were breath-taking, there were other remarkable flowers nearby, too.

Fringed Loosestrife (𝐿𝑦𝑠𝑖𝑚𝑎𝑐ℎ𝑖𝑎 𝑐𝑖𝑙𝑖𝑎𝑡𝑎) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Greater Purple Fringed Bog Orchid (𝑃𝑙𝑎𝑡𝑎𝑛𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑎 𝑔𝑟𝑎𝑛𝑑𝑖𝑓𝑙𝑜𝑟𝑎) (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
White Fringed Bog Orchid (𝑃𝑙𝑎𝑡𝑎𝑛𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑎 𝑏𝑙𝑒𝑝ℎ𝑎𝑟𝑖𝑔𝑙𝑜𝑡𝑡𝑖𝑠) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Bog Jacob’s Ladder (𝑃𝑜𝑙𝑒𝑚𝑜𝑛𝑖𝑢𝑚 𝑣𝑎𝑛𝑏𝑟𝑢𝑛𝑡𝑖𝑎𝑒) (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Unripened fruits of Glade Spurge (𝐸𝑢𝑝ℎ𝑜𝑟𝑏𝑖𝑎 𝑝𝑢𝑟𝑝𝑢𝑟𝑒𝑎) (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Canada Lily (𝐿𝑖𝑙𝑖𝑢𝑚 𝑐𝑎𝑛𝑎𝑑𝑒𝑛𝑠𝑒) (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Happy to be in such a special place. (Left photo (c) Bill Beatty; right photo (c) Jan Runyan)

We celebrated this special day with a supper feast at Siriani’s Cafe in Davis, West Virginia.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

The next morning we gathered again, drove up Forest Service Road 19 to the Rohrbaugh Plains Trailhead, and spent most of the day hiking and exploring the Rohrbaugh Plains and Wildlife Trails in the Dolly Sods Wilderness.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

Three of the 7 of us use hiking sticks and find them very useful and comfortable when hiking.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan
Photo (c) Jan Runyan
Pinwheel Marasmius Mushrooms (𝑀𝑎𝑟𝑎𝑠𝑚𝑖𝑢𝑠 𝑟𝑜𝑡𝑢𝑙𝑎) (Left photo (c) Jan Runyan; right photo (c) Bill Beatty)

In many places along the Rohrbaugh Plains Trail, the fallen Mountain Laurel (𝐾𝑎𝑙𝑚𝑖𝑎 𝑙𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑓𝑜𝑙𝑖𝑎) flowers looked like hail stones.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

Jan said the sun-dappled rocks looked to her like dragon knuckles….luckily we didn’t awaken the dragons sleeping just below the thin layer of soil and needle duff.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

Our lunch was at the Rohrbaugh Plains Trail Overlook, one of the most scenic spots in West Virginia.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan
Photo (c) Lee Miller
Photo (c) Bill Beatty

Somehow we just didn’t seem as interested in daring the edges of the rocks as we would have when we were younger.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

The next morning we had a hearty and delicious breakfast at The Breakfast Nook ( in Canaan Valley.

The Breakfast Nook
Photos (c) Bill Beatty

Our last destination was a leisurely morning walk on the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge’s Freeland Boardwalk Trail.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

Two of the most common birds seen along the boardwalk are Cedar Waxwings and Barn Swallows.

Cedar Waxwing (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Barn Swallow (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

Swamp Sparrows are often heard along the boardwalk, but not often seen.

Swamp Sparrow video (c) Jan Runyan

There are so many wonderful, special places in the mountains of West Virginia. We had fun together visiting a few of them. But, don’t ask! I won’t tell the secret!

Photo (c) Lee Miller
Showy Lady’s Slipper (𝐶𝑦𝑝𝑟𝑖𝑝𝑒𝑑𝑖𝑢𝑚 𝑟𝑒𝑔𝑖𝑛𝑎𝑒) (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

A Serendipity Day — Beyond Maitake Mushrooms and Pawpaws

Jan and I travel a lot presenting programs, offering workshops, and leading field trips at some of West Virginia’s most beautiful and pristine natural areas. But we also love being home. We enjoy our property. Since 2010 one of our goals has been to make our property attractive to wildlife and to ourselves. To achieve that goal, there is work to be done, which we usually view as an enjoyable way to get the exercise which enables us to be fit for hiking and teaching.

One morning, my first work was to inspect the trees in my arboretum while Jan cleared the driveway.

The Franklinia Tree (𝐹𝑟𝑎𝑛𝑘𝑙𝑖𝑛𝑖𝑎 𝑎𝑙𝑎𝑡𝑎𝑚𝑎ℎ𝑎) ( in our arboretum had grown well this year. The Franklinia tree is native to North America, but is no longer found anywhere in the wild. Arboretums and growers are making sure this rare species survives.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty
Clearing plants from the driveway. (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

After our “work” was done, we talked a bit about what’s happening in nature this time of year. It’s such a bountiful and beautiful time, so we decided to explore some nearby areas in West Liberty and Oglebay Park to see if we could find some Pawpaws (𝐴𝑠𝑖𝑚𝑖𝑛𝑎 𝑡𝑟𝑖𝑙𝑜𝑏𝑎) and Hen-of-the-woods/Maitake mushrooms (𝐺𝑟𝑖𝑓𝑜𝑙𝑎 𝑓𝑟𝑜𝑛𝑑𝑜𝑠𝑎). I have lived and worked in those places most of my adult life and already knew where to look, which would make things easier.

The Hen-of-the-woods mushrooms grow at the base of oak trees, usually very old oak trees. I knew where there were dozens of giant oak trees, some of which had provided many delicious meals in the past. These mushrooms can be very large, but are often difficult to notice because they are well-camouflaged like the ones below which I had found in the past.

Past mushroom finds (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

We checked trees at West Liberty and Oglebay, but all we found was one well-rotted Hen.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

Seeing these old, giant oaks we couldn’t help but appreciate them. Anything that old and that large is very special.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

At Oglebay the oaks were often far from one another and so we took numerous short hikes between trees. We encountered and photographed many other fun creatures.

We noticed two White-tailed Deer in the grass. Jan wanted to see how close she could get to take the best photo. She got surprisingly close.

Top photo (c) Bill Beatty; bottom photo (c) Jan Runyan

Some of the native herbaceous plants we saw were in flower, some had fruit that was ripening, and some had already dropped their seeds.

Three-seeded Mercury (𝐴𝑐𝑎𝑙𝑦𝑝ℎ𝑎 𝑟ℎ𝑜𝑚𝑏𝑜𝑖𝑑𝑒𝑎) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Clearweed (𝑃𝑖𝑙𝑒𝑎 𝑝𝑢𝑚𝑖𝑙𝑎) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Richweed (𝐶𝑜𝑙𝑙𝑖𝑛𝑠𝑜𝑛𝑖𝑎 𝑐𝑎𝑛𝑎𝑑𝑒𝑛𝑠𝑖𝑠), a mint (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)
Northern Spicebush (𝐿𝑖𝑛𝑑𝑒𝑟𝑎 𝑏𝑒𝑛𝑧𝑜𝑖𝑛) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

Although we didn’t see many birds, we did hear a few in most locations. At many of our stops we heard Red-bellied Woodpeckers.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty
Red-bellied Woodpecker song

The only butterfly we noticed was a Northern Pearly-eye (𝐸𝑛𝑜𝑑𝑖𝑎 𝑎𝑛𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑑𝑜𝑛).

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

My favorite encounter was a Great Gray Slug (𝐿𝑖𝑚𝑎𝑥 𝑚𝑎𝑥𝑖𝑚𝑢𝑠) sliding on a Black-footed Polypore (𝑃𝑜𝑙𝑦𝑝𝑜𝑟𝑢𝑠 𝑏𝑎𝑑𝑖𝑢𝑠).

Photos (c) Bill Beatty

The three Pawpaw groves I wanted to check were in Oglebay Park. As we searched the first grove, we stumbled onto the old “Children’s Grove” bronze plaque. I had regularly seen this plaque when I worked as naturalist there, but not since then. Jan and I had looked for the plaque without luck on several occasions, and I had eventually decided the plaque had been dug up and discarded as a result of new sewer lines that had been installed throughout the park. On this visit we accidentally rediscovered it! It commemorates the first national observance of National Tree Planting Day of the American Tree Association sponsored by Oglebay Institute on May 9, 1936.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

At that first Pawpaw grove, which I had planted 40 years earlier, there were no fruit this year. The second grove was taller and my careful search through binoculars found two ripe fruits high in the trees. There was one ripe fruit at the third grove. Since there were so few pawpaws this year, we decided to not take them, but to leave them for the wildlife.

Bill with Pawpaw trees (top two photos (c) Jan Runyan); Pawpaw fruit (bottom photo (c) Bill Beatty)

As we hiked from oak tree to oak tree still looking for Hens, we saw a nice variety of other mushrooms, but nothing we wanted to bring home for dinner.

Orange Mycena Mushrooms (𝑀𝑦𝑐𝑒𝑛𝑎 𝑙𝑒𝑎𝑖𝑎𝑛𝑎) old and fresh (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)
Artist’s Conk Mushroom (𝐺𝑎𝑛𝑜𝑑𝑒𝑟𝑚𝑎 𝑎𝑝𝑝𝑙𝑎𝑛𝑎𝑡𝑢𝑚) (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Chanterelle Mushrooms (𝐶𝑎𝑛𝑡ℎ𝑎𝑟𝑒𝑙𝑙𝑢𝑠 𝑐𝑖𝑏𝑎𝑟𝑖𝑢𝑠) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Turkey Tail Mushrooms (𝑇𝑟𝑎𝑚𝑒𝑡𝑒𝑠 𝑣𝑒𝑟𝑠𝑖𝑐𝑜𝑙𝑜𝑟) (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)
Bleeding Fairy Helmet Mushrooms (𝑀𝑦𝑐𝑒𝑛𝑎 ℎ𝑎𝑒𝑚𝑎𝑡𝑜𝑝𝑢𝑠) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

Near one old oak we discovered the unusual tree/grove below. American Basswood trees are noted for sending up numerous sprouts that surround the original tree. The one pictured below is a classic example.

Photos (c) Bill Beatty

We went on our exploration anticipating finding several Hen-of-the-woods Mushrooms and buckets full of Pawpaws, but found none. Our preconceived plans didn’t happen. What we did find was unexpected…. Nature’s ever-present variety of life — a wonderful SERENDIPITY that Nature is always willing to give. We came home with full hearts and well-satisfied.

Teaching Master Naturalists in Scenic Canaan Valley, WV – 2022

Jan and I had a very busy spring/summer teaching about the wonders of Nature. After a week teaching at one of our favorite venues, we packed up and went right to Canaan Valley in the WV mountains to share time with some of the very best students of Nature. On Friday night we stayed with our friends Andy and Bruce who took great care of us at Timberline Resort. On Saturday we had a full day of teaching for the Canaan Valley Chapter of Master Naturalists of WV. From our past experience with Master Naturalists, we knew we would have a great time feeding their passion for learning about Nature.

The Birding Essentials class started early in the morning. After Jan did a short introduction, I took the group outside to demonstrate birding by ear.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

Since this was the end of June, there were fewer birds singing, but that meant we could spend more time analyzing the songs of the birds we did hear. Here are a few of the birds we heard that morning. (Click on photos to enlarge, click again to make even larger. Click back button to return to blog.)

Left to right — Chipping Sparrow, Female Northern Cardinal, Gray Catbird, and House Wren (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

Then Jan taught about Birding Essentials in the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

Identifying birds becomes easier once a person trains their brain to notice the small differences in things like the shape of the head, size and shape of the bill, angle of attachment of the bill, color of the eyes, colors around the eyes, feather patterns on the head and neck, and shape and orientation of the neck.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan and Bill Beatty; PowerPoint slide (c) Jan Runyan

Birds’ tails can tell a lot about how they live, like the stiff tail feathers of woodpeckers and others that perch on the sides of tree trunks. Sometimes tails feathers help birders easily tell the difference between species which have otherwise similar sizes, shapes and colors.

Photos (c) Bill Beatty and Jan Runyan; PowerPoint slide (c) Jan Runyan

Does birding give you the Blues? Sure it does!

Photos (c) Jan Runyan; PowerPoint slide (c) Jan Runyan

In the afternoon I taught a Botany – Identification and Natural History class along Idleman’s Run Trail at one of the most beautiful locations in the Refuge. The trail follows part of Idelman’s Run gently uphill through an interesting variety of habitats which produce a wide variety of plants.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan

We had been to this same location a month and a half earlier. Now different flowers were in bloom, but the area was still a real treat with flowers both big and very, very small.

Bishop’s Cap/Miterwort (𝑀𝑖𝑡𝑒𝑙𝑙𝑎 𝑑𝑖𝑝ℎ𝑦𝑙𝑙𝑎) (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)
Canada Lily (𝐿𝑖𝑙𝑖𝑢𝑚 𝑐𝑎𝑛𝑎𝑑𝑒𝑛𝑠𝑒) (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)
Hooked Crowfoot (𝑅𝑎𝑛𝑢𝑛𝑐𝑢𝑙𝑢𝑠 𝑟𝑒𝑐𝑢𝑟𝑣𝑎𝑡𝑢𝑠) (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)
Wood Nettle (𝐿𝑎𝑝𝑜𝑟𝑡𝑒𝑎 𝑐𝑎𝑛𝑎𝑑𝑒𝑛𝑠𝑖𝑠) (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)
Meehania Mint (𝑀𝑒𝑒ℎ𝑎𝑛𝑖𝑎 𝑐𝑜𝑟𝑑𝑎𝑡𝑎) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

In the evening I presented a program about Mushrooms and Slime Molds at the Visitors Center. A long-time friend, Chip, owner and operator of the White Grass Ski Touring Center ( was at the program and we had a good time reminiscing about mushroom adventures.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan

Both mushrooms and slime molds come in a rainbow of colors and countless shapes. Here are a few of the mushrooms we discussed.

Turkey Tail Mushroom (𝑇𝑟𝑎𝑚𝑒𝑡𝑒𝑠 𝑣𝑒𝑟𝑠𝑖𝑐𝑜𝑙𝑜𝑟) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Fly Amanita Mushroom (𝐴𝑚𝑎𝑛𝑖𝑡𝑎 𝑚𝑢𝑠𝑐𝑎𝑟𝑖𝑎) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Yellow Morel Mushrooms (𝑀𝑜𝑟𝑐ℎ𝑒𝑙𝑙𝑎 𝑒𝑠𝑐𝑢𝑙𝑒𝑛𝑡𝑎) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Chicken-of-the-woods Mushroom (𝐿𝑎𝑒𝑡𝑖𝑝𝑜𝑟𝑢𝑠 𝑠𝑢𝑙𝑝ℎ𝑢𝑟𝑒𝑢𝑠) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Shellfish Brittlegill Mushroom (𝑅𝑢𝑠𝑠𝑢𝑙𝑎 𝑥𝑒𝑟𝑎𝑚𝑝𝑒𝑙𝑖𝑛𝑎) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty) This is one of my favorite wild mushrooms to eat.

A WORD OF CAUTION — before anyone considers eating wild mushrooms, they should be familiar with the identification of a wide variety of mushrooms by study and experience with experts. Some mushrooms are poisonous and a few are deadly. If you are not sure, get your mushrooms from the supermarket — many are very tasty.

The Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge is near to so many fantastic natural areas — Canaan Valley State Park, Blackwater Falls State Park, Dolly Sods Wilderness area, Otter Creek Wilderness, Canaan Loop Road, the Canyon Rim Road/Big Run Bog area, Fernow Experimental Forest, and many remote roadways, hollows and runs. Jan and I have been fortunate to be able to explore much of this area. It is a great location to see and hear Appalachian Nature at its finest. But, throughout the scores of Nature classes, tours, and workshops I have taught in this area since 1977, the best part for me has been the thousands of people we have met who share our love of Nature and passion for learning about it. They’re the best!

Beyond Magee Marsh — 2022 — Maumee Bay, Camp Sabroske, Howard Marsh, Metzger Marsh

The first time Jan and I went birding at Magee Marsh along western Lake Erie, most of our time was spent on the marsh boardwalk. People we met there would mention other places where they had seen different bird species — sometimes quite unusual birds — in places we had never heard of and didn’t know where they were. In subsequent years we have become more and more familiar with the area and have found additional places to chase birds. Now, we have so many choices it is sometimes difficult to decide where to go. Below are four of the other places where we spent time birding during this year’s trip.

Maumee Bay State Park

This Ohio State Park is about 10 miles west of Magee Marsh and, like Magee, has a boardwalk which begins at the park’s Nature Center. The boardwalk wanders through a combination of wetlands and wooded swamps. In 2018 the boardwalk was underwater (a Lake Erie high-water event), but Lee and I decided to check it out anyway.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

This year the Maumee boardwalk was more typically dry. Wet or dry the birds along the boardwalk were great. Experience has helped us know what birds we would probably see and where to expect them. After that, it was just a matter of careful scanning with binoculars.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

As usual we saw the Maumee Bay Eastern Screech-owls. One red-phase adult was watching us from a tree cavity and another was perched with one of its owlets.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan

Common Nighthawks roost frequently in the wooded swamp, but they are well camouflaged and sit perfectly still. It was a real treat to find and watch one.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

Just like all the places we visited, we also enjoyed seeing creatures other than birds.

Painted Turtle (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Eastern Garter Snake (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

Snake movements can be memorizing.

Garter Snake video (c) Jan Runyan
Butterweed (𝑃𝑎𝑐𝑘𝑒𝑟𝑎 𝑔𝑙𝑎𝑏𝑒𝑙𝑙𝑎) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

Sometimes a bird sighting was totally unexpected and I just had to take the time to get some photos, as was the case with this Blue-grey Gnatcatcher on its nest.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

Our favorite eatery when we are in western Lake Erie is close to Maumee Bay State Park — the Oregon Inn. I enjoyed my favorite meal from their large menu — lightly dusted perch dinner. We phoned friends who were birding at Magee with other friends and we all met there for a feast.

Photos (c) Bill Beatty

I’m a guy who exercises regularly — hiking, swimming and weight training, as well as lots of outdoor work — but some days Jan was still fresh at the end of a busy birding day and I was exhausted.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

Camp Sabroske

A bonus to camping at Camp Sabroske is that they have a wide variety of ecosystems and the birding is great!

Photos (c) Bill Beatty

We frequently chased birds in the early mornings at Camp Sabroske.

Photo (c) Lee Miller

Lee and I always like to explore the trails around the Camp Sabroske wetlands.

Video (c) Jan Runyan

Camp Sabroske has had two active Bald Eagle nests every year we have been there, but this year we were told that one of the nests was inactive.

Bald Eagle nest (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

When we approached the nest it did appear to be inactive — no young or adults at the nest. However, two Bald Eagles soon appeared and seemed to be concerned by our presence.

Bald Eagle video (c) Jan Runyan

It was possible the Bald Eagle pair had a different nest nearby that we didn’t know about. However, we didn’t want to stress the birds, and, instead of searching for the new nest, we left the area.

Metzger Marsh

Metzger Marsh is on the northwest side of Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. There are pull-offs along the road at Metzger Marsh so we always use them to park and carefully scan the wetlands and canal for unusual birds and to watch the behavior of all birds. We are in and out of our trucks all the time.

Photos (c) Bill Beatty
Great Blue Heron (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

We watch the birds not only to identify them and put them on our list, but also we really enjoy watching their behavior.

Great Blue Heron video (c) Jan Runyan
Great Blue Heron video (c) Jan Runyan

At the end of the Metzger Marsh road is a parking lot. There are short trails in a small woodland bordering the marsh and there is a long trail on the dike separating Lake Erie from the marsh. Sometimes there are unusual and even rare birds in the woodland. One day we were greeted with a photogenic common bird, an American Robin.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

Howard Marsh

Howard Marsh is a relatively new, man-made wetland area, opened in 2018. From the very beginning, Howard Marsh has been a birding hot-spot.

Semi-palmated Plover (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Glossy Ibis (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

The most common wading birds at all the wetland sandbars were the Dunlins.

Dunlin video (c) Jan Runyan

And, just like everywhere else we went, there were other non-bird things that caught our attention. Jan enjoys geology and one day she found this geology sandwich. Actually, it really was a rock, not a slider. Maybe Jan was hungry when she noticed it.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

As Jan was watching shorebirds, I disappeared, but she found me under a bridge watching the swallows flying. Barn Swallows were nesting in the framework of the bridge and Tree Swallows, with nests nearby, were catching insects in the shade.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan
Nesting Tree Swallows (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Photos (c) Bill Beatty

In 2019 Jan and I got a life bird at Howard Marsh, a Yellow-headed Blackbird. This year at Howard we had some excellent looks, photos, and videos of these blackbirds. Sometimes the Yellow-headed Blackbirds were well camouflaged among the dandelions.

Camouflaged Yellow-headed Blackbird (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Photos (c) Jan Runyan
Yellow-headed Blackbird video (c) Jan Runyan

This blog post is the last installment about our 2022 “Magee Marsh” trip. This is just a taste of the many amazing birding areas along and adjacent to Lake Erie. Jan and I encourage everyone who enjoys seeing and photographing birds to visit these special birding areas anytime during spring migration. You won’t be disappointed!

Beyond Magee Marsh – 2022 – Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge

Jan and I call our annual trip to western Lake Erie our “Magee Marsh” trip, even though, especially this year, we actually spent a lot of our birding time at other wetlands near Magee Marsh.

The Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge is right next door. We spent quite a bit of time there, hiking the trails in various ecosystems and taking the driving tour which traverses roads along the dikes around numerous wetlands. There were egrets, well, everywhere! We tried to look at each one for two reasons — to see exactly which egret species it was and, also, because “There is no such thing as “just a” bird.” Our birding buddy, Lee, epitomizes that with his enthusiasm for seeing and learning about everything in Nature…..even if it is the 30th Red-winged Blackbird of the day.

Great Egret on left; Snowy Egret on right (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)
Great Egret video (c) Jan Runyan

This network of wetlands covers more than 8,000 acres and, when combined with the other refuges in the area, protects more than 10,000 acres. It has been recognized as globally significant for its value to wildlife. And we got to see and explore large parts of it.

Photo (c) Dominique King

Common Gallinules are common wetland birds that we often heard calling from their hidden places in the dense wetland cattail stands. However, sometimes they braved nearby open areas and we got to see and photograph these stunning birds.

Common Gallinule call
Common Gallinule (Top photo (c) Jan Runyan; bottom photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Common Gallinule video (c) Jan Runyan

With all the traveling, walking and looking, we did get hungry, and since our plan was always to be out all day, we took our lunches. Here we were along a dike road eating lunch: Lee, Janice, Scott, Jan, Kim, and Bill.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

Jan caught me off guard while I was eating a cucumber.

video (c) Jan Runyan

The most iconic bird along the Lake Erie shoreline is the Bald Eagle. Their presence is obvious and almost constant. They have several favorite nesting areas at Ottawa, and occasionally nest in the backyard of a nearby house or farm. Bald Eagle nesting areas are off-limits to traffic and hikers so the birds will not be disturbed. Signs and road blocks keep visitors away. Although some Eagles perched not too far away, many were seen far off and we needed our spotting scopes for good views.

Bald Eagle drying (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Photo (c) Jan Runyan
Bald Eagle video (c) Jan Runyan

Bald Eagle video (c) Jan Runyan

Wide areas in the roads of Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge have pull-offs beckoning birders to come explore nearby wetlands, open woodlands and dense woodlands. Because of the Bald Eagles and other sensitive nature, there were some areas we couldn’t explore. In the photo below, apparently someone had turned the sign around.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

Of course there were many turtles!

Photo (c) Jan Runyan
Painted Turtle (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

We had to look carefully. Some creatures were very far away and well camouflaged, like this adult and juvenile Sandhill Cranes.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

Below we were looking at a Great Horned Owl with juveniles, far, far, away.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan

This video shows how far away those Great Horned Owls were.

Great Horned Owl video (c) Jan Runyan

Every year it seems the last birds we see on the Ottawa NWR driving tour are the Trumpeter Swans in the last pond before leaving the refuge. Not that we don’t see them elsewhere, but there is usually an interesting group at this particular pond. They were there this year, too…snow white birds with dirty heads. And, true to form, they had built their nests on top of muskrat lodges.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty
Trumpeter Swans preening video (c) Jan Runyan

We spent part of one day hiking a few of Ottawa’s wooded trails. There we encountered Kenn Kaufman, birding alone ( As he passed us, we exchanged pleasantries as birders do. After talking with him I got the impression he was pleased to be able to have some peace and quiet away from crowds where he would be easily recognized and expected to teach.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

In the woods Jan and I saw a European Starling go into a tree cavity — usually no big deal. However, immediately a Red-bellied Woodpecker went berserk! Apparently, the cavity must have been home to the woodpecker and its family. As the Starling stayed inside the hole, the Woodpecker did not seem to know how to deal with the threat other than to make loud distress calls. I sat and listened to a Great-crested Flycatcher and other birds that were singing and calling while the woodpecker was freaking out. Jan made several videos of the event.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan
video (c) Jan Runyan

Each day ended with friends at a favorite local restaurant. On this day it was Wild Wings Restaurant … maybe it was Friday for their delicious prime rib special.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

Our goals for our “Magee Marsh” trips are always to chase birds, to have boatloads of fun, and to eat Lake Erie perch — mission accomplished!

Photos (c) Jan Runyan

Magee Marsh Birding 2022

Magee Marsh, on the shore of western Lake Erie, is often called the Warbler Capital of the World and is the location of the Biggest Week In American Birding usually held around the 2nd week in May.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

For many years Jan and I have been making a mid-May trip to Lake Erie to chase birds, especially in the Magee Marsh area of Ohio . Besides Magee, we visit other places including Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, Metzger Marsh, Howard Marsh, Maumee Bay State Park, Camp Sabroske (where we camp) and other nearby areas. This blog post is just about our experiences at Magee Marsh in 2022.

On the way to Magee, a large part of our trip is on Ohio’s Interstate 80. We usually stop at a rest stop to gas up, eat lunch and to see if, according to me, one of Ohio’s biggest blunders still exists — it does! Some of the soft drink machines promote Ohio’s state tree, the Ohio Buckeye. However, the photo doesn’t show a buckeye, it shows a Horse Chestnut, which isn’t even native to North America. Then Jan hears my diatribe about how ludicrous this is, and, finally, we are on our way again.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

The trip to Magee takes us most of the day since we are towing our trailer. By the time we arrive and set up the trailer, it is time for supper. Our suppers are at local eateries and, of course, we have our favorites. Lee and Kimberlee are our frequent companions to many nature-related activities. Our first supper together was at Blackberry Corners.

Photos (c) Bill Beatty

On the road leading into the Magee Marsh area is the Migratory Bird Center. Inside is a gift/book shop and some interesting, well done bird-related exhibits. Outside are many Barn Swallows and Purple Martins flying around.

Migratory Bird Center (Photo (c) Birding Ohio)
Purple Martins (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

In addition to birds, Magee Marsh and surrounding areas are wonderful places to discover others kinds of wildlife. On our first morning visiting Magee we found this tiny Painted Turtle on the roadway.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan
Painted Turtle Video (c) Jan Runyan

Magee is known for its iconic boardwalk that meanders through a wetland of majestic Eastern Cottonwood trees. The huge trees have always provided places for birds to feed and shade for birders on hot, sunny days. However, in August 2021 a storm ripped through the area toppling many of the largest trees and causing significant damage to the boardwalk.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan

The Ohio DNR was quick to respond and, for the 2022 birding season, most of the boardwalk was repaired. Unfortunately, much of the shade was gone making the boardwalk a much different experience for birders. Much of the leafy canopy that used to be well up above us is now down covering the ground up to 20 feet high — the open spaces where we used to see many of the birds are now closed in with leaves and branches. It will be interesting, in coming years, to see how this change in canopy height and shape affects the insect food available for birds and if birds that normally feed at higher levels will start feeding closer to the ground.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

Even though there are many other wonderful birds to see, the Magee boardwalk is most known for warblers. The best photo of the trip was one Jan took from the boardwalk. Warblers are fleeting and their behavior is difficult to capture in photos. But Jan got a great one. Part of the photo was good instincts and part serendipity.

Magnolia Warbler (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

We experienced 27 species of warblers during the week. Not all of them were willing to give us good photo opportunities.

Black-throated Blue Warbler (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Chestnut-sided Warbler (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Prothonotary Warbler (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)
Northern Parula (a warbler) (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

We did see two Kirtland’s Warblers, one of the rarest birds in North America. Jan and I have seen at least one on most of the trips we have made to Magee. (Our best photo, below, is from one we captured and banded at the Allegheny Front Migration Observatory in West Virginia.)

Kirtland’s Warbler (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

My favorite warbler is the Bay-breasted Warbler. Since they nest much farther north, mostly in Canada, I am never sure if I will see one during migration when they pass through West Virginia. However, I usually see dozens at Magee where they stop and bulk up with food for their long journey across Lake Erie.

Bay-breasted Warbler (top photo (c) Bill Beatty; bottom photo (c) Jan Runyan)

The Estuary Trail, west of the boardwalk, is part of the Magee Marsh area. In the video below I am trying to photograph a Bay-breasted Warbler hidden in the leafy branches. If you listen carefully, you can hear its light, airy, very high-pitched song. Lake Erie is behind me.

Video (c) Jan Runyan

Later, I ran ahead to get a photo of Jan and Lee walking the Lake Erie shore line from the Estuary Trail toward the Magee Marsh boardwalk.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

When I used to make my living selling photos to the publishing industry, I was always alone in wild areas and I loved it. But at Lake Erie I don’t want to spend all my time taking photos. Now I enjoy spending my time interacting with friends while we chase birds and encounter other creatures. When I do decide to take photos, however, I’m serious about it and have gear that helps me do it well. This year I bought a Cotton Camera Harness to make things easier. The harness allows me to carry my professional camera, long lens, and binoculars, keeping everything safer and convenient, without feeling heavy.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

Jan takes photos and videos with a point-and-shoot camera and gets some great results. The three photos below are the same. The bottom two have been cropped for a closer, better view of the bird.

Swainson’s Thrush (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
White-eyed Vireo (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Green Heron (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Killdeer and chick (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

Occasionally an interesting wildflower catches our eye, like this Star-flowered Solomon’s Seal (𝑀𝑎𝑖𝑎𝑛𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑚𝑢𝑚 𝑠𝑡𝑒𝑙𝑙𝑎𝑡𝑢𝑚).

Star-flowered Solomon’s Seal (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

The most-viewed birds at Magee are the Bald Eagles. There is always at least one Bald Eagle nest near the Magee parking lot and many people with binoculars and cameras regularly watch them.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan
Bald Eagle video (c) Jan Runyan

At each day’s end, after dinner, we returned to our trailer at Camp Sabroske, to go to bed and recover from an exhausting, but rewarding adventure.
Camp Sabroske sunset (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)

And each morning we began a new adventure with our friends Lee and Kimberlee and others we met along the way. 𝐋𝐈𝐅𝐄 𝐈𝐒 𝐆𝐎𝐎𝐃! More about our Lake Erie birding at other sites near Magee Marsh in future posts!

Oglebay Institute’s Mountain Nature Camp for adults – 2022 – What We Did

Campers arrived on Sunday afternoon and our first official event, other than greeting friends and getting to know new campers, was supper.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

Meals at Mountain Nature Camp are not typical camp-type food. We have our own chef and meals are made from scratch with local produce. Vegetarian options are available.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan

Each evening, weather permitting, we had a campfire where we got to know each other, shared interesting discoveries of the day, sang songs and told stories.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

Each day there was an early morning Bird Walk… usually out the camp lane and then turning left or right along Terra Alta Lake Road.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty
Photos (c) Bill Beatty
Mountain Nature Camp is on 18 acres, part peninsula, which border Terra Alta Lake.

On Monday we stayed on the camp property learning about birds and botany. Larry taught the birding classes.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

I taught the botany classes.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

Partridge Berry (𝑀𝑖𝑡𝑐ℎ𝑒𝑙𝑙𝑎 𝑟𝑒𝑝𝑒𝑛𝑠) flowers were almost everywhere we looked in the shaded woodlands of the camp property. The 2 flowers are fused at their base. The fused ovaries produce one red berry-like fruit which has two dimples from the two flower structures. The flowers have 4 petals, 4 stamens, and 4 stigmas (hard to see) on one style. The oblong fruit has 8 seeds from the two flowers.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan
Photo (c) Jan Runyan

Another common camp property plant we talked about was Indian Cucumber-root (𝑀𝑒𝑑𝑒𝑜𝑙𝑎 𝑣𝑖𝑟𝑔𝑖𝑛𝑖𝑎𝑛𝑎). The root tastes and smells like a cucumber. It was used by Native Americans for food, but due to its scarcity in some places, digging is not recommended.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

During our botany exploration, Len showed us slime molds he had discovered earlier.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan

Each spring there is a Mountain Nature Camp reunion weekend when past campers visit and get the facilities and grounds ready for that year’s camp. This year Chuck, with help, built 2 new sturdy bridges across difficult areas that connect the Forest Buchanan Trail and the Libby Bartholomew Trail. Chuck also took the “male” and “female” symbols from the old shower house and repurposed them for the new shower house. They bring back fond memories of the “old” TA (“Terra Alta”) Quonset hut and facilities.

Photos (c) Bill Beatty

On Tuesday Greg Park visited camp to lead a morning class about reptiles and amphibians. Boards and pieces of metal have been left for years at strategic places in the woods places for “herps” to live.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan

We found Slimy Salamanders and Red-backed Salamanders. After studying, the animals were returned to their original locations

Photos (c) Bill Beatty

On Tuesday afternoon the camp took a field trip to the Rock Maze at nearby Snaggy Mountain in Garrett State Forest.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty
Photo (c) Jan Runyan

There were many warblers singing from nearby trees.

Hooded Warbler (Photo (c) Stephen John Davies)

Large stands of ferns were everywhere.

Left – Cinnamon Ferns (𝑂𝑠𝑚𝑢𝑛𝑑𝑎 𝑐𝑖𝑛𝑛𝑎𝑚𝑜𝑚𝑒𝑎); right – Interrupted Ferns (𝐶𝑙𝑎𝑦𝑡𝑜𝑠𝑚𝑢𝑛𝑑𝑎 𝑐𝑙𝑎𝑦𝑡𝑜𝑛𝑖𝑎𝑛𝑎) (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)
Top – Christmas Ferns (𝑃𝑜𝑙𝑦𝑠𝑡𝑖𝑐ℎ𝑢𝑚 𝑎𝑐𝑟𝑜𝑠𝑡𝑖𝑐ℎ𝑜𝑖𝑑𝑒𝑠); bottom – Rock Polypody Ferns (𝑃𝑜𝑙𝑦𝑝𝑜𝑑𝑖𝑢𝑚 𝑣𝑖𝑟𝑔𝑖𝑛𝑖𝑎𝑛𝑢𝑚) (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

At the end of the trail are some huge, fascinating rock formations and incredible tree roots. It’s truly a-mazing in there!

Photos (c) Bill Beatty and Jan Runyan
Photos (c) Bill Beatty

Mountain Laurel (𝐾𝑎𝑙𝑚𝑖𝑎 𝑙𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑓𝑜𝑙𝑖𝑎) was flowering all along the trail.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan
Photos (c) Bill Beatty

On Wednesday we traveled to nearby Cathedral State Park a Registered National Landmark. At the parking, lot campers quickly found a wide variety of wildflowers. I sat down among the flowers and we identified and talked about them.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan

Cathedral State Park has the state’s largest old-growth forest and contains one of the largest stands of virgin hemlock trees in West Virginia.

Photos (c) Bill Beatty

Jan enjoys doing videos of “peaceful water”, for the soothing sounds.

Video (c) Jan Runyan

On some of the dead hemlock trees there was an abundance of Hemlock Varnish Fungus (𝐺𝑎𝑛𝑜𝑑𝑒𝑟𝑚𝑎 𝑡𝑠𝑢𝑔𝑎𝑒). Ganoderma tsugae is prized in the alternative medical community by virtue of its very close relationship to Lingzhi, a Ganoderma species with a 2000 year history of medicinal use in China.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

We ate lunch at and explored Chestnut Heights in the afternoon. I have visited and led field trips at Chestnut Heights numerous times. It has an abundance of wildflower and bird species not often encountered in most of West Virginia.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan

Chestnut Heights has quite a panoramic view – *note the Indigo Bunting singing.

Video (c) Jan Runyan

We returned to camp for supper and later that evening Paul Shaw from the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve presented an excellent moth program. After an indoor program we all went outside where lights and a white sheet were set up to attract moths.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan

On Thursday the campers split into two groups for two very different field trips. I led a hike into the Dolly Sods Wilderness and the other group, via car caravan, explored areas between camp and Blackwater Falls State Park. The most popular stops for the car caravan were a farm with numerous Purple Martin towers and Lindy Point Overlook, the best scenic overlook at Blackwater Falls State Park.

In Pleasant Valley outside of Oakland, MD, Mr. and Mrs. Schrock showed campers how they care for and keep records about the dozens of Purple Martins in their nesting boxes. Each set of nesting boxes was lowered and each individual box was checked. If there was a nest, the chicks were examined for blow-flies. If the flies were found, the nesting material was changed. All chicks were counted: 148 young Purple Martins plus some eggs! Some of the nestlings were so young it was hard to imagine how they could lift their heads to be fed. Some older nestlings had quite a few feathers already. The presence of the campers did not seem to bother the adult birds. It didn’t take long to lower, check, and raise each set of boxes, and the adults immediately returned once each “bird apartment building” was back in place.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan
Video (c) Jan Runyan
Video (c) Jan Runyan

My wilderness hike began on a short section of Blackbird Knob Trail, then we struck out cross-country for a long time, eventually meeting up with Blackbird Knob Trail again, and finishing on the Beatty Labyrinth. There were 19 stream crossings, but the low water made those easy. It was a beautiful day with perfect weather for enjoying the amazing scenery and Nature in Dolly Sods Wilderness.

Photos (c) Bill Beatty

Both groups met for a picnic supper at the Pendleton Point Shelter at Blackwater Falls State Park.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan

Jan and I had to leave a day early so we could teach some all-day classes for the Canaan Valley Master Naturalist program on Saturday, so on Friday we had to pack up. While we were drying and folding our tent and packing equipment, the campers were working with Jess Reger learning about Nature journaling. We did stay for dinner where we said our goodbyes since we would miss the last campfire.

The 90+ year camping tradition at Oglebay Institute’s Mountain Nature Camp is always an enjoyable time for us — visiting life-long friends, meeting new people destined to become friends, learning about the mysteries and fascinations of Nature, and enjoying time in fabulous, unique places.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

Mountain State Bird Discovery Weekend 2022 at Blackwater Falls State Park

Jan and I had another great weekend with wonderful people.

The weekend began with Jan’s Friday afternoon program, Birding Essentials for Everyone.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

Following Jan’s program we went to Siriani’s for supper where we met our special friend, Cindy, who later joined us for programs and field trips.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

On Friday evening I presented my program, Thrushes of West Virginia.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

To me, the thrushes sing the most beautiful songs.

Wood Thrush

Wood Thrush song –


Veery Song –

Hermit Thrush

Hermit Thrush song (my favorite) –

With that beginning, a focus of the weekend was to hear these 3 thrushes and others. Although we heard only 1 Wood Thrush, we heard many Hermit Thrushes and many, many Veerys.

Early on Saturday morning we began our all-day field trip to Big Run Bog, Olson Fire Tower, and Fernow Forest. At Big Run Bog we saw and heard many different birds.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan

One of the target birds I was hoping to find was the Northern Waterthrush, a warbler. Some times at the bog I don’t see or hear it, but on this trip it sang, and sang, and sang from the time we arrived to the time we left.

Northern Waterthrush

Some of the most interesting plants in all of West Virginia are in Olson Bog.

Looking at and photographing insectivorous plants in the bog. (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Insect-eating Roundleaf Sundew (𝐷𝑟𝑜𝑠𝑒𝑟𝑎 𝑟𝑜𝑡𝑢𝑛𝑑𝑖𝑓𝑜𝑙𝑖𝑎) (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)
Insect-eating Pitcher Plants (𝑆𝑎𝑟𝑟𝑎𝑐𝑒𝑛𝑖𝑎 𝑝𝑢𝑟𝑝𝑢𝑟𝑒𝑎) (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

On our way to Olson Fire Tower we heard and saw some of West Virginia’s most beautiful birds, including the Indigo Bunting.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty
Male Indigo Bunting

A few brave people climbed the fire tower.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan

After lunch at Mill Race Park in Parsons, WV, we took a stroll along the river and looked for swallows under the highway bridge.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

Then we went into nearby Fernow Forest. It was late in the day (for the birds) and so there were fewer sightings and songs. One we did hear frequently was the Blue-headed Vireo, sometimes called “the spectacled bird”, because it appears to be wearing eyeglasses when viewed from the front.

Blue-headed Vireo
Male Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Male Scarlet Tanager (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

The Saturday evening program was presented by the The Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia. They brought several live raptors as part of their education and outreach program which demonstrates the ways birds are important to healthy ecosystems.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan

Our Sunday morning field trip was to Canaan Loop Road. Our first stop, about a mile along the road, was at a large stand of Red Spruce. There we heard birds expected in that habitat: Golden-crowned Kinglets, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Black-throated Green Warblers, and Brown Creepers.

Golden-crowned Kinglet
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Black-throated Green Warbler
Brown Creeper

A short distance away we found some beautiful and interesting wildflowers.

Yellow Clintonia Lily/Bluebead Lily (𝐶𝑙𝑖𝑛𝑡𝑜𝑛𝑖𝑎 𝑏𝑜𝑟𝑒𝑎𝑙𝑖𝑠) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Pink Lady’s Slipper (𝐶𝑦𝑝𝑟𝑖𝑝𝑒𝑑𝑖𝑢𝑚 𝑎𝑐𝑎𝑢𝑙𝑒) (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

As we continued along the road, we visited a variety of habitats.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan

There were Veerys singing at most of the stops we made. The most common warblers we encountered were Common Yellowthroats and Black-throated Blues.

Common Yellowthroat
Black-throated Blue Warbler

One of the last stops we made was at a large wetland.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

There we heard and saw a Swamp Sparrow. In the video below, Willow Flycatchers can be heard in the background.

Swamp Sparrow video (c) Jan Runyan

Jan and I later met some of the participants at Sirianni’s Restaurant for a delicious, fun late lunch. It was one of those weekends that we didn’t want to end. It felt like we were saying goodbye to new family members.

Jan and I hope that in our next nature adventure with a new group of people we will have as great a time as we did at this Mountain State Bird Discovery Weekend. We feel blessed to be doing what we do, and especially blessed to meet and get to know so many delightful people.

2022 Our West Virginia Wildflower Pilgrimage Trip

Most years on our way to the WV Wildflower Pilgrimage at Blackwater Falls State Park, Jan and I stop at the Hemlock Hiking Trail in Coopers Rock State Forest to warm up to our weekend of outdoor activity. This year was no different.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

When Jan chose her coat, she didn’t realize that she had stumbled onto the color of the day!

Immediately surrounded by lots of birds we hadn’t seen or heard in months, we descended the trail through a wooded hillside down to Lick Run. This beautiful stream often runs high, but a sturdy bridge makes it possible to cross without boots getting soaked.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

By the stream it was difficult to hear the spring songs of the migrating birds so we concentrated on plants for a while. Turning left, the first part of the trail is always a great place to compare several kinds of violets the West Virginia woods offer.

Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Sweet White Violet (Viola blanda) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Round-leaved Violet (Viola rotundifolia) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

Although we didn’t see the Round-leaved Violets flowering at this time, their attractive leaves were all along the trail. This photo was taken at another visit in March.

The upper part of the trail traversed deciduous woodlands filled with singing warblers. The understory of those trees offered singing thrushes, wildflowers and other nature.

Windflower/Wood Anemone (Anemonoides nemorosa) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Ill-scented Trillium (Trillium erectum) (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)
Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Wood Fern fiddleheads (Dryopteris sp.) (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Last year’s Christmas Fern fronds and this year’s new fiddleheads (Polystichum acrostichoides) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Eastern Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis) (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

The lower, return part of the Hemlock Hiking Trail loop goes along Little Laurel Run and follows a path lined with majestic and smaller Eastern Hemlock trees.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

The stream! The geology! The mosses! Everywhere there were wonderful things to see, hear, smell and touch!

Photo (c) Jan Runyan
Photo (c) Bill Beatty
Partridge Berry (Mitchella repens) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

Refreshed with memories of wonderful birdsongs and plants, we returned to our car and continued on to Blackwater Falls State Park and the WV Wildflower Pilgrimage.

Jan’s “Birding Essentials” program on Thursday afternoon was well attended and was a great start to the 4-day Wildflower Pilgrimage.

Photos (c) Bill Beatty

On Thursday night I presented a program about “Northern Saw-whet Owl Studies” to all the Wildflower Pilgrimage attendees.

Northern Saw-whet Owl (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

Friday was WET! My Dolly Sods Wilderness Hike was quite an experience. I have hiked Dolly Sods by myself when the streams were incredibly high and dangerous, but not as a leader of a group of some seasoned and not-so-seasoned hikers. I decided that, although the water was high, it wasn’t so high as to be considered life-threatening, although a few of the hikers might disagree. We had 19 stream crossings, but usually they only require stepping on one or two exposed rocks to get across. The crossing of Red Creek is usually the only one we sometimes have to wade with bare feet or sandals. But constant rain made this quite a different trip.

Crossing Red Creek (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Photo (c) Bill Beatty

Once across, we continued on our way through the wilderness to our mid-way lunch spot.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

At lunch the heavens opened and it rained, and rained, and rained, causing the streams to quickly rise a LOT! And the remaining 17 stream crossings, which are usually dry, easy steps, became increasingly more difficult.

Crossing Alder Run (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

Due to the constant rain, I couldn’t take any more photos. We had to wade the stream 16 more times. (No, there just isn’t another easier way out from that particular area.) The hike took considerably longer than usual and we knew we would be late getting back for supper, showers and the evening meeting.

Then, to add to our delay, there was a large tree across the road out of the wilderness and we had to make a significant detour.

We got back 3 hours later than we should have. However, I still believe: The worst day on Dolly Sods is better than the best day anywhere else.

Jan’s tour on Friday to Cranesville Swamp was less eventful and more Nature-oriented. Although her group didn’t experience a deluge, they did have a fairly constant light rain, preventing her from taking many photos.

Brian Streets was the botanist on the Cranesville Swamp tour. (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens) (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Photo (c) Jan Runyan

The West Virginia part of Cranesville Swamp is an acidic bog which has some very unusual plants.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

Every year Jan wonders if she will be able to find the Goldthread again, and so far the area has not disappointed. It was a little early to find the insectivorous Sundew plants at the edges of the water.

Goldthread (Coptis trifolia) (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

When the rain was lighter, birder Kathy Kern helped the pilgrims identify birds they were hearing. Part of the far end of the boardwalk was under several inches of water, which kept some of the pilgrims from going any farther. After reaching the Hemlock grove beyond the end of the boardwalk, all but 2 pilgrims turned back to avoid even worse mud. The father/daughter team that went all the way around arrived back at the beginning of the boardwalk before those who had turned around.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

The field trip ended with a short stop at the Maryland end of Cranesville Swamp to look out over the alkaline wetland fen.

On Friday night Jan presented, “Allegheny Front Migration Observatory: Over 50 Years of Bird Migration and Sunrises“, to all the Wildflower Pilgrimage attendees.

Bird banders at the Allegheny Front Migration Observatory (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Kirtland’s Warbler at the Allegheny Front Migration Observatory (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Sunrise at the Allegheny Front Migration Observatory (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

On Saturday, Jan and I led the tour called, “Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge Hike“. Like Friday, it was rainy, but the showers were more intermittent.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

Our walk on the Beall Tract of the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge was through areas of woodlands and large open wetland-meadows. Along the trail through a woodland part we encountered a mystery plant.

Mystery plant (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

We continued to see this mystery plant each time the trail traversed a woodland. After managing to find the mystery plant in different stages of growth, we determined that these plants were American Beech tree seedlings, shortly after germination.

American Beech tree seedling (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

There were many wildflowers along our route on the Beall Trail North and then after lunch along the Idleman’s Run Trail.

Dwarf Ginseng (Panax trifolius) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

We saw several kinds of violets including Long-spurred Violets (Viola rostrata).

Photos (c) Bill Beatty
Bishop’s Cap/Miterwort (Mitella diphylla) (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

The cool, wet weather didn’t dampen the interest of our National Wildlife Refuge explorers.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan
Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Two-leaved Toothwort (Cardamine diphylla) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

The last creature we found and talked about was a Red Eft, which is the juvenile, terrestrial stage of the Eastern Red-spotted Newt Salamander.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan

On Saturday night at the banquet and at Sunday morning activities, we enjoyed sharing “rain stories” with people who had gone on other trips (the trips eastward into the “rain shadow” of the mountains were the driest), and catching up with many friends from past pilgrimages and other Nature events in “Wonderful West Virginia”.

Since the beginning of the West Virginia Wildflower Pilgrimage, we have had freezing cold, stifling hot, very wet, and amazingly beautiful weekends. However, there is a constant that applies to every Pilgrimage — they are all educational and terrifically fun!

Attracting and Photographing Pileated Woodpeckers

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

Pileated Woodpeckers are breath-taking! When you see them at a distance, you know you have seen something special. But to see them up close brings a certain kind of magic — this bird is like no other! So, how can you increase your chances of such an amazing encounter?

First, let’s tackle the topic of attracting these almost crow-sized woodpeckers. Jan and I are located on two acres of mostly meadows and trees. When we moved here in 2010 EVERYTHING was mowed. Right away we decided to not mow most of the property. Instead, we wanted to make our property inviting to a wide variety of invertebrate animals — insects, spiders and others. By doing that, the birds would also find a pleasing haven with plenty of nesting areas and natural foods. Our back meadow borders a large forest with many kinds of trees and wildflowers. Our property is in a rural area with neighbors on either side and far down front, but none in back. Now, over a decade later, we have many kinds of birds nesting on our property. To my knowledge, we don’t have Pileated Woodpeckers nesting right on our acres, but during the warm weather months we hear them almost daily and see them occasionally.

Jan looking at recently excavated Pileated Woodpecker holes on a Wild Black Cherry Tree in a nearby woodland. (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

Since they were already visiting us occasionally, the next issue was to attract these exquisite birds close enough to observe and photograph. In summer there is not much more we can do beyond letting the land be more natural and leaving dead trees for food and housing. But, during the cold weather months we have more options since we usually have as many as 12 bird feeders operating much of the time. Most of our feeders have black oil sunflower seed since that’s the preferred food of most birds that stay through the winter or migrate to our area from the north. However, since Pileateds are invertebrate eaters, they aren’t interested in the seed feeders. To attract them we needed something more like their natural foods. We discovered that they will sometimes feed on suet cakes and many of our birds are especially fond of a commercially-made suet that has peanut butter as a main ingredient.

Our “store-bought” suet cakes look like this.

But even suet cakes don’t guarantee Pileateds for us, at least not right away. We start putting suet cakes out in late October, but the Pileateds aren’t usually interested in them until the snow and cold temperatures of January. What Pileateds DO seem to like best is what we call “Bill’s Bark Butter”. It is a recipe I created after we saw how birds loved something similar we had bought from a store. See this blog post for the recipe: It’s a bit more work, but worth it to be able to enjoy all sorts of birds really close and active.

On the snowiest, coldest days Pileateds visit us more often. Each year, after they discover Bill’s Bark Butter and the suet cakes, they usually don’t stop visiting until the first warm days of late winter/early spring .

Our bark butter feeder is a log approximately 18 inches long with 3/4 – 1 inch holes drilled part way into the log in various places. I use a putty knife to squish the bark butter into the holes.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan

The bark butter feeder is outside our bird window, about 12 to 15 feet from the front of my camera lens inside. I am nice and warm when I shoot photos on the coldest days.

So now that we have the food our Pileateds like, we wait and watch and hope for snow and cold. When Jan is doing her FeederWatch bird counts ( ) at the bird window and I have my tripod set up nearby for bird photos, she also has a point-and-shoot camera handy for taking videos. Not too long ago, snow covered the ground and the temperature was in the low 20s. Great conditions for our “flying dinosaurs” to arrive ( )! And they did! The female Pileated below seemed to prefer the store-bought suet. Below is a photo I shot and a video Jan took at the same time. You can hear my camera shutter clicking in the video.

Pileated Woodpecker and Blue Jay (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
(Video (c) Jan Runyan)

Woodpeckers have tongues that are almost as long as their bodies, not counting the tail. This helps them extract insects from insect tunnels inside a tree, so people don’t often get to see the tongues.

Downy Woodpecker tongue (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

Jan’s video below shows that as the Pileated Woodpecker feeds on a suet cake it often uses its long tongue as part of the process. It happens so quickly, if you blink, you can miss it.

Video (c) Jan Runyan

This video is in very slow motion, making it easier to see the tongue.

Video (c) Jan Runyan
Photo (c) Bill Beatty

The bark butter and suet do a great job of attracting Pileated Woodpeckers, but sometimes I would like a photo that has a more natural setting. To help with that, I use bark butter on two large snags I have buried upright in the ground, in front of the bird window, specifically for bird photography. The following photos show how I set up the snags.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan

The snags are large branches that fell from a big Black Locust Tree in our back meadow.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan
Photos (c) Jan Runyan

In the winter, on cold, snowy days, I spread bark butter into selected crevices in the bark of the snags. If I want a side view of a bird, I put the bark butter only on the two perpendicular sides of the snag (none facing the house or on the far side), as in this photo. Then I set my camera on a tripod in the house and shoot through our large bird picture windows.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan
Photo (c) Jan Runyan

These are some of the resulting photos using the snags.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty
Photo (c) Bill Beatty
Photo (c) Bill Beatty
Male (red mustache) and female (black mustache) Pileated Woodpeckers (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

When the Pileated Woodpeckers fly into the area which has the suet, bark butter, bird feeders and snags, they usually stop first in a large Black Locust tree in the middle of the driveway circle. Sometimes I’m also able to get some photos of them in this more natural setting.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty
Photo (c) Bill Beatty
Photo (c) Bill Beatty

After we attract the Pileated Woodpeckers with their favorite food and take sharp, clear photos of good poses, there is still another step to creating a great photo. All of my years as a professional photographer have taught me that, although I may shoot lots of photos, only a few will be really outstanding. After I am sure the focus of a photo is absolutely perfect, one of the keys to achieving a great presentation is cropping. The three photos just below are the same exact photo. They show what a difference cropping can make. If the focus is good on the original photo, it can be cropped very close as the bottom photo shows.

Photos (c) Bill Beatty
Photo (c) Bill Beatty

Below are three presentations of another photo, showing how cropping can bring drama to the presentation.

Photos (c) Bill Beatty
Photo (c) Bill Beatty

The two photos below show the original photo and then what can be achieved by careful cropping.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty
Photo (c) Bill Beatty

I take many photos and choose the best to work from. Many of the photos I delete are excellent photos, but they are not quite as good as the ones I keep. Often the “best” photos you see on the internet and in magazines have been cropped and/or color-adjusted in some way with a photo software program. It takes real skill to enhance a photo without making it look overdone, pushed too far, or just plain unreal. My goal is always to take a photo that will be perfect just as it is. But, if a photo needs to be cropped (or, occasionally, have a distracting branch removed), I use a free download program called GIMP. I’ve found it does everything I need and works as well as expensive name-brand programs. I highly recommend it. See this blog post: .

The camera body I use for my photos is a Nikon N90 with a Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 lens, and I always use a tripod. For videos, Jan uses a Canon PowerShot SX720 HS which has a 40X optical (and 40-160X digital) zoom. We appreciate the recommendations of friends and colleagues in helping us find our great photo equipment.

Learning how to attract birds, especially unusual ones like the Pileated Woodpeckers, has made a big difference in the photos I am able to take. I have spent much of my life working outdoors, getting photos of Nature’s wonders in the places they occur. But on the coldest, snowy days it is nice to be able to be close to winter Nature in a cozy warm place with just a piece of glass between the wonders and me.

The Story Behind Bill’s photo credits

I have been blessed with having a career far better than anything I could ever have imagined, especially because of all the time it allowed me to spend shooting photos in the wilds .  Part of what got me thinking about a career as a nature photographer, was winning in the National Wildlife Magazine Photo Contest — twice — the only times I entered the contest.

Boy With Snakes – People In Nature winner – 1986
Half-faced Eastern Screech-owl – Wildlife winner – 1993

Without the follow-up encouragement of photo editors, John Nuhn of National Wildlife Magazine and Bob Dunne of Ranger Rick Magazine, I might never have pursued a career in nature photography.

Approximately 95% of my photography has been done in West Virginia.  Many years ago, when circumstances prevented a planned trip to the JN Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island to do bird photography, I stayed home and shot nature-related photos in my backyard and surrounding woodlands, wetlands and meadows.  The photographic results and what I was able to learn about the richness of local nature helped me find my niche as a macro-photographer. Most days I was able to shoot photos within walking distance of my home or within the borders of West Virginia.  I loved my work and fortunately the photo editors loved my photos. I have sold many thousands of images and some sold multiple times.

My photography website is designed for photo-editors.  I do not sell to the public, however, anyone can visit the site to see the kind of work I do and enjoy my photos.

Website: Click on “Images” in the blue area in the upper left and then use “Search this photographer’s images by keyword”.

Below is a partial list of my photo credits.


American Forests

American Homestyle & Gardening



Bird Watcher’s Digest

Birder’s World

Birds & Blooms

Birds and Blooms

Blue Ridge Outdoors

Boys Life

Boys Life – double page spread

Business Week

Canadian Wildlife

Canadian Wildlife – double page spread


Cottage Life




Discover – Jimsonweed



Family Fun

Flower and Garden

Healthy Kids



Jakes – cover

Kids Discover

Kids Clubhouse (Focus On the Family)

Kind News

Luxury Lifestyles


Minnesota Conservation Volunteer

Montana Mag.


National Gardening

National Geographic World

National Geographic World

National Wildlife

National Wildlife – cover
National Wildlife – 1 of 5 double page spreads

Natural History

Natural History


North American Fisherman

Organic Gardening

Outdoor America

Outdoor America

Outdoor Traveler



Ranger Rick

Ranger Rick

Science Spin




The Mother Earth News


Wonderful West Virginia

Wonderful West Virginia – cover

West Virginia Wildlife

West Virginia Wildlife – covers

The World & I

Your Big Backyard


Book Publishers

ABDO & Daughters


American Guidance Service, Inc.


Andrew Stewart


BC Editions

Bearport Publishing

Beka Books


Blackbirch Graphics

Black Dog & Leventhal








Center Pointe Learning

Chanticleer Press

Children’s Press

Child’s World

Christian Schools International


Compass International

Compass Point

Cowles Creative


Creative Company

Darby Creek Press

D.C. Heath

Delta Education

Denver Museum of Nature & Science

Discovery Communications

Editorial Directions, Inc.

Encyclopedia Britannica

Everyday Learning


Firefly Books LTD

Franklin Watts

Gage Educational Publishing

Garth Stevens


Globe Fearon

Great Outdoor

Great Smoky Mountains Assoc.



Harcourt & Brace

Harper Collins

Heinemann Library

Holt, Rinehart & Winston

Houghton Mifflin

Houghton MifflinPeterson Field Guide – cover – Eastern Screech-owl
Houghton MifflinPeterson Field Guide – cover – Spotted Ladybug

IDG Books

Jones & Bartlett


Key Porter

Kidhaven Press



Leisure Arts



Marshall Cavendish

McDougal Littell



Michael Friedman

Millbrook Press

Morgan Cain & Associates

National Geographic

Nelson (Canada)


Newbridge Communications

North American Membership Group, Inc.

North American Outdoors


Oxford University Press


Pensacola Christian

Peoples Education

Prentice Hall

Pronk & Associates

Publications International

Quarto (London)

Random House



Roundtable Press




Scott Foresman

Seymour Simon

Seymour Simon – cover
Seymour Simon – cover


Simon & Schuster



St. Remy


Standard Education Corp.


Stokes Nature Co.

Sundace Publications


The Creative Spark

Time For Kids

Time Life


University of VA Press





W.H. Freeman Co.

William Sadlier

Willow Creek



World Book Publishing

Wm. C. Brown

W.W. Norton

Zaner Bloser Education


Academy Studios (exhibit panel)

A.D. Productions (calendar)

America’s Gardening Resource, Inc. (catolag)

Aquarium of the Americas, LA (exhibit panel)

Argos Gameware (electronic)

At-A-Glance (calendar)

BE&W Agencia Fotographica (foreign)

Benelux Press (foreign)

Birdcage Press (flash cards)

Birds & Bloom (calendar)

Blass Communications (mailing labels)

CA Academy of Sciences (exhibit panel)

DIA Store (foreign) (electronic)

Discovery Communications (electronic)

Duncraft Bird Feeders (catalog)

Duncraft – cover

Euro Photo Service Co. (foreign)

Facts On File (science-news abstract)

FASEB (poster)

Field Museum of Natural History – Chicago (graphic panel)

Fort Worth TX Zoo (exhibit panel)

Friends of the Museum (graphic panel)

Fujitsu (print add)

Great Smoky Mountains Assoc. (cd)

Harlequin Naturegraphics (shirt – silk screen)

Houghton Mifflin (electronic)

H & M Systems Software, Inc. (box/packaging)

Humane Society of the U.S. (newsletter)

Impact Photo Graphics (post card)

Kane & Finkel Healthcare Communications (flash cards)

Keystone Agency (foreign)

Learning Resources (slide strip)

Magical Beginnings (brochure)

Mastervision (dvd)

Maymount Nature Center (exhibit panels)

Microsoft (electronic)

Miramax Films

National Geographic (brochure)

National Wildlife Federation (membership calendar and Christmas card)

National Wildlife Federation – Christmas card

New York Outdoor Educators (electronic)

New York Times (newspaper)

OSF Picture Library (foreign)

Penguin Putnam (stickers)

Pensacola Christian College (brochure)

PETA (brochure)

Pet Prints (calendar)

Photo Assist (USPS 1999 Stamp Yearbook)

Picture Source Northwest, Inc. (fine art in retirement home)

Planet’s Funniest Animals (TV show)

Plymouth, Inc. (school portfolio)

Project Criss (teacher resources)

Pro Quest (educational reprints)

Quiby Clune Design (brochure)

Rigby Educational (picture cards)

Rosenthal Design (brochure)

Sandler Communications (direct mail card)

Schrader Environmental Education Center (exhibit panel)

Schrader Environmental Education Center – exhibit panel

Sesame Street (TV show)

Sierra Club (calendar)

Sierra Club (calendar)

SIRS, Inc. (educational reprints)

Storey Communications (garden cards)

Sunset Photo Agency (foreign)

Teacher’s Discovery (posters)

Teacher’s Discovery – (posters)

Teldon (calendar)

Ten Cate Associates (post card)

TN Aquarium (exhibit panel)

Tracks (newsletter for kids)

Tracks – (newsletter for kids) – cover

USDA Forest Service (brochure)

U.S. National Park Service (exhibit panels)

University of California (brochure)

The Washington Post (newspaper)

Weekly Reader (kids’ newsletter)

West Liberty State College (brochure)

Wildlife Conservation Society (trail sign)

Ziga Designs (Barnes & Noble calendar)

A Rufous Hummingbird in Brooke County, West Virginia and a Design for a Cold Weather Nectar Feeder

This post is based on an article written by Jan Runyan. It was published in the Brooks Bird Club’s scientific journal, The Redstart, volume 83, No. 2, in April, 2016. For her article Jan won the Floyd Bartley Award for scientific writing in 2017.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are a large part of the summer bird life on our property in Wellsburg, West Virginia. We keep a number of hummingbird feeders out whenever Ruby-throats can be expected from late spring to early fall. Since there are sometimes some hummers still around the feeders when we leave on our mid-September trip to volunteer at the Allegheny Front Migration Observatory, we always refresh the feeders just before we depart. We have rarely seen a Ruby-throat after we return around the end of September.

Female and male Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

In 2013 Bill Beatty and I returned from the banding station around October first, but were too busy to retire the nectar feeders immediately. On October 4 we were surprised to see a hummingbird visiting a feeder in the backyard. It appeared to be somewhat “coppery” but we didn’t get a close look. Later we checked field guides and guessed that we might have seen a Rufous Hummingbird, usually a western species. The nectar feeders were immediately refreshed and we didn’t have long to wait to see the bird again. Close inspection indicated that we had a male Rufous Hummingbird coming to feed (see Figure 1). We didn’t know how long he had been coming to the feeders, but for us, our first view was October 4, 2013.

Figure 1: Male Rufous Hummingbird (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

We shared the news by phone and through Facebook with the Brooks Bird Club, Mountain State Birders, and on our own pages. The information was shared on e-Bird and list-serve by a friend who helped interested birders know where and when to see and photograph the rarity. Bill Beatty and I photographed the bird on numerous occasions.

Robert “Bob” Mulvihill of the National Aviary in Pittsburgh contacted us about coming to band the bird since neither Bill nor I have the requisite credentials to band a hummingbird. Bob arrived on November 11, 2013, and put a large mesh cage around the feeder the bird used most often. After a few fly-bys to check out the new arrangement, the hummingbird began to enter the cage and feed. Mulvihill allowed the bird several uninterrupted trips in and out of the cage. Finally, when the bird was feeding in the cage and when Bob felt the conditions were right, he pushed the remote control button that closed the door of the cage. The hummingbird was still free to fly around the 4 square feet of space in the cage (see upper right in Figure 2). To finish capturing the bird, Mulvihill opened the door slightly, reached into the cage, and grasped the bird.

Figure 2: Rufous Hummingbird inside the banding cage. (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

The bird was banded, data was recorded, and photos were taken. After its release, the hummingbird soon returned to the feeder (now with no cage around it).

Hummingbird bands on a safety pin next to a pen (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Bob putting the tiny band on the tiny hummingbird leg (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Bob weighing the Rufous Hummingbird in the bag (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Examining the primary and secondary flight feathers (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Jan with the Rufous Hummingbird (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Our beautiful coppery visitor (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

By the time the Rufous Hummingbird had been here every day for a month, nighttime temperatures were in the 30s F. By the second week of November, nighttime temperatures were predicted to be in the 20s F and we were concerned that the nectar might freeze and become unavailable to the bird for its critical early morning feeding. We researched products that are available to keep nectar feeders from freezing and read about what other birders had done in similar situations. Heated hummingbird feeders are on the market. They had two drawbacks for us: the feeders are not designed to work in temperatures as low as we were expecting and they are quite expensive. A number of birders had designed their own solutions to keep hummingbird nectar from freezing. With these in mind, we discussed possible designs and went to Lowe’s to look for parts.

After we had gathered the parts, we began to construct a hummingbird feeder-warmer. The body of our feeder-warmer was a large, heavy-duty plastic tote with two-thirds of the cover cut away. Holes were cut so that this box could hang over a “shepherd’s crook” bird-feeder pole. The tote was steadied against the wind by adding another fence post on the opposite side. The open side of the tote was oriented to the southeast to protect the feeder from the prevailing winds. The contractor’s high-output light we had purchased had appropriate handles so it could be hung inside the box. This was to be the daytime heat source that would create a warmer micro-climate inside the tote. The nectar feeder was hung below the light (see Figure 3). Fortunately we have an outdoor electric receptacle nearby to power the light.

Figure 3: Open view of cold weather feeder box. (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

To help retain warmth in the somewhat-open tote, 1-inch thick Styrofoam was added to the inside walls. An electrical extension cord completed the setup (see Figure 4) and the partial lid was replaced on the box.

Figure 4: Heated nectar feeder with insulation. (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

During this construction, the Rufous Hummingbird had been using a different feeder near the site of the new feeder-warmer, outside our bird-viewing window. Over the course of a day, we moved the familiar “open” feeder closer and closer to the similar-looking feeder in the heated box. The bird continued to use the “open” feeder as it got nearer to the boxed feeder.

Eventually we removed the “open” feeder and, after a bit of looking around, the bird transitioned to the feeder within the 3-sided box. This was completed before the significantly colder nights (and days) of November 11–14. We watched weather predictions closely. When nighttime low temperatures approached freezing, we would bring the nectar feeder inside late in the evening, long after dark. In the early morning, well before first light, the alarm clock reminded Bill to take the feeder back outside and turn on the heater light so food was ready for the hummingbird’s first daytime feeding.

During November, while the Rufous Hummingbird was here, the meteorological data for the nearby town of Wellsburg, West Virginia, show that there were 17 nights of below-freezing temperatures and three days when the daytime high temperature was at or below 32 degrees F. The lowest Wellsburg reading was 14 degrees F, and our lowest digital thermometer reading here was 17 degrees F. The bird didn’t seem to have any problems dealing with the low temperatures or difficulty flying during snow storms. The nectar in the feeder never got slushy or frozen.

The frequency of the hummingbird’s daytime visits to the feeder depended on the temperature. On warmer days we saw him less often, being gone up to an hour or more between visits. But on colder days he arrived much more frequently, often every 15 minutes or less. (See the Rufous Hummingbird in the snow-edged feeder box in Figure 5)

Rufous Hummingbird flying in to feed. (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Figure 5: Rufous Hummingbird feeding. (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

On November 29 this pattern changed. Although overnight temperatures had been below freezing and the daytime high was only 35 degrees F, the hummingbird seemed to visit the feeder more than we had come to expect even on cold days. When he was on the feeder, his behavior was also atypical. Usually he had fed in the characteristic summer hummingbird fashion — dipping into the nectar briefly and then up, seeming to get only a small sip from each of many dips. On November 29, the bird drank nectar for long periods of time. I watched as his bill was in the nectar and his throat made swallowing motions while I counted 30 or more clicks from a nearby clock. This different behavior happened numerous times all throughout the day. Bill and I joked that either he was getting ready to migrate or he was going to explode from all the nectar he was eating. The next day, and for several days afterward, we put out the feeder as usual, but we did not see the Rufous Hummingbird there again. He had stayed around our feeders for at least 57 days.

Rufous Hummingbirds are showing up occasionally at feeders in the east, usually after the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have left. In the fall of 2014 another Brooks Bird Club member near Jerusalem in Monroe County, eastern Ohio, also had an extended visit from a Rufous Hummingbird.

We encourage people to leave a nectar feeder up for a while in the fall after the Ruby-throats depart. You may be as fortunate as we were to have this rare visitor.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

The Brooks Bird Club’s Fall Reunion/Meeting 2021 — Cedar Lakes Conference Center

Deciduous woodland (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Holt Lodge at Cedar Lakes Conference Center, Ripley, WV

On Friday, as we traveled to the Fall Reunion/Meeting of the Brooks Bird Club, our first stop was for an early lunch at Coleman’s Fish Market in Wheeling, WV, for “the world’s best fish sandwich” and scrumptious lobster bisque soup.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan

After we arrived at Cedar Lakes Conference Center in Ripley, WV, Jan was immediately involved in a meeting. I, of course, went hiking. One of the first things I found was a leaf rosette of Great Mullein (𝑉𝑒𝑟𝑏𝑎𝑠𝑐𝑢𝑚 𝑡ℎ𝑎𝑝𝑠𝑢𝑠).

The bottom photo shows the Great Mullein in full flower as it looked earlier in the year. (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

There were Pawpaw (𝐴𝑠𝑖𝑚𝑖𝑛𝑎 𝑡𝑟𝑖𝑙𝑜𝑏𝑎) groves in many places with lots of young trees around the older ones.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

The cones and branches of Virginia Pine (𝑃𝑖𝑛𝑢𝑠 𝑣𝑖𝑟𝑔𝑖𝑛𝑖𝑎𝑛𝑎) had fallen everywhere along the trail, possibly from a wind storm which blew through earlier in the year. There was life everywhere – trees, herbaceous plants, squirrels, and a multitude of bird chips, calls and some songs.

Photos (c) Bill Beatty

My mind must have been on up-coming Halloween since, in fallen branches and tree stumps, I saw spooky nature patterns and even imaginary faces.

Photos (c) Bill Beatty

There wasn’t a lot of fall color, but the Flowering Dogwoods (𝐶𝑜𝑟𝑛𝑢𝑠 𝑓𝑙𝑜𝑟𝑖𝑑𝑎) were beginning to change.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

In the distance an unusual shade of green caught my attention. It was a beautiful grouping of Pin Cushion Moss (𝐿𝑒𝑢𝑐𝑜𝑏𝑟𝑦𝑢𝑚 𝑔𝑙𝑎𝑢𝑐𝑢𝑚).

Photos (c) Bill Beatty

This late in the season, plants in flower were nearly impossible to find. However, I did find two nettles in bloom: Clearweed (𝑃𝑖𝑙𝑒𝑎 𝑝𝑢𝑚𝑖𝑙𝑎) and what appeared, at first, to be Wood Nettle (𝐿𝑎𝑝𝑜𝑟𝑡𝑒𝑎 𝑐𝑎𝑛𝑎𝑑𝑒𝑛𝑠𝑖𝑠) except that Wood Nettle has alternate leaves but this nettle had opposite leaves.

Left photo: Clearweed; right photo: unknown (to me) nettle (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

That evening I presented the program, “Northern Saw-whet Owl Studies.” Jan and I described our owl research and answered questions.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan
Jan with a Northern Saw-whet Owl caught in a mist net. (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Our granddaughter, Lila, releasing a Northern Saw-whet Owl we caught and banded in 2020. (Video (c) Jan Runyan)

After breakfast on Saturday a majority of the group went by car caravan in search of birds. Most of the areas they visited were wetlands, water impoundments, streams and rivers in search of waterbirds. I offered to lead a hike on the Bear Claw Trail of Cedar Lakes Conference Center.

Bear Claw Trail at Cedar Lakes Conference Center

Three friends and I headed out on a hike which was about 4 miles long. The beginning of the trail went quickly uphill and the end came back down, but most of the trail was fairly level on a beautiful ridge. To some, hiking means going from point A to point B quickly. On my hikes, we pause to look at just about everything — plants, animals, fallen branches, tree stumps, rocks and everything else. Our off-trail explorations make the distance we travel a lot father than the map shows.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

Jan is particularly fond of ferns and we saw several along the hike route.

Christmas Fern (𝑃𝑜𝑙𝑦𝑠𝑡𝑖𝑐ℎ𝑢𝑚 𝑎𝑐𝑟𝑜𝑠𝑡𝑖𝑐ℎ𝑜𝑖𝑑𝑒𝑠) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
New York Fern (𝑃𝑎𝑟𝑎𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑙𝑦𝑝𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑖𝑠 𝑛𝑜𝑣𝑒𝑏𝑜𝑟𝑎𝑐𝑒𝑛𝑠𝑖𝑠) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Maidenhair Fern (𝐴𝑑𝑖𝑎𝑛𝑡𝑢𝑚 𝑝𝑒𝑑𝑎𝑡𝑢𝑚) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Sensitive Fern (𝑂𝑛𝑜𝑐𝑙𝑒𝑎 𝑠𝑒𝑛𝑠𝑖𝑏𝑖𝑙𝑖𝑠) (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Broad Beech Fern (𝑃ℎ𝑒𝑔𝑜𝑝𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑖𝑠 ℎ𝑒𝑥𝑎𝑔𝑜𝑛𝑜𝑝𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑎) (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

We found a tiny Camel Cricket (Family: Rhaphidophoridae) nymph exploring the inside a hickory nut shell.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan

When looking at the wonders of the natural world, it takes a long time to walk a mile.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

The trail had occasional patches of Heal-all (𝑃𝑟𝑢𝑛𝑒𝑙𝑙𝑎 𝑣𝑢𝑙𝑔𝑎𝑟𝑖𝑠) growing right in the middle of the path. Each time I saw certain plants, I also visualized their flowers in my mind. Heal-all also goes by many common names: self-heal, woundwort, heart-of-the-earth, carpenter’s herb, bumblebee weed, brownwort or blue curl. Sometimes having so many common names for the same plant can cause confusion.

Left: the leaves as we saw them; Right: the flower heads as they appear in the late-spring into summer. (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

We were surprised by the variety of trees we found, including one we couldn’t identify, until we found the drooping, dried seed clusters around the base of the tree.

Sourwood (𝑂𝑥𝑦𝑑𝑒𝑛𝑑𝑟𝑢𝑚 𝑎𝑟𝑏𝑜𝑟𝑒𝑢𝑚) leaves and dried fruit clusters. (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

We were well into our hike when we noticed several small American Holly (𝐼𝑙𝑒𝑥 𝑜𝑝𝑎𝑐𝑎) trees. Near the end of the hike there were many more, forming thick holly forests on both sides of the trail. Like most of the other plants we found, they had already flowered earlier in the year and all we saw were the leaves.

American Holly tree leaves. (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

From time to time we found acorns from several kinds of oaks including Chestnut Oaks (𝑄𝑢𝑒𝑟𝑐𝑢𝑠 𝑚𝑜𝑛𝑡𝑎𝑛𝑎).

Chestnut Oak acorn (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

Spotted Wintergreen (𝐶ℎ𝑖𝑚𝑎𝑝ℎ𝑖𝑙𝑎 𝑚𝑎𝑐𝑢𝑙𝑎𝑡𝑎) leaves are quite noticeable due to their pronounced white midrib stripe.

Left: the leaves as we saw them; Right: the flower heads as they appear in the late-spring into summer. (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

Jan found a Sugar Maple (𝐴𝑐𝑒𝑟 𝑠𝑎𝑐𝑐ℎ𝑎𝑟𝑢𝑚) tree seat for a rest. The heart on the tree was not carved, but appeared to be natural.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty
Photo (c) Bill Beatty

We found a huge Sugar Maple hub tree. Hub trees are also called “mother trees”. They are the older trees in the forest. Typically, they have the most fungal connections, their roots are established deeper in the soil, and they can reach deeper sources of water to pass on to younger saplings. This was the largest maple we saw on the hike.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

Martin is very good identifying lichens and mosses. We picked his brain with many of the ones we found. Lichens growing on rocks and tree bark indicate clean air. Here he is showing a lichen on tree bark.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan

Martin identified Palm Tree Moss (𝐻𝑦𝑝𝑛𝑜𝑑𝑒𝑛𝑑𝑟𝑜𝑛 𝑐𝑜𝑚𝑜𝑠𝑢𝑚) for us, and it does look like a tiny palm tree.

Left photo (c) Jan Runyan; right 2 photos (c) Bill Beatty

“Are we still having fun?” Although, at this point, we had covered 2 trail miles, I wasn’t sure how many exploring miles we had walked. This photo makes me think it might have been too many.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

Early in the hike we didn’t notice any fungi, but in the last half we saw many kinds.

Turkey Tail Mushrom (𝑇𝑟𝑎𝑚𝑒𝑡𝑒𝑠 𝑣𝑒𝑟𝑠𝑖𝑐𝑜𝑙𝑜𝑟) (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Old Honey Mushroom (𝐴𝑟𝑚𝑖𝑙𝑙𝑎𝑟𝑖𝑎 𝑚𝑒𝑙𝑙𝑒𝑎) (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Grisette Mushroom (𝐴𝑚𝑎𝑛𝑖𝑡𝑎 𝑣𝑎𝑔𝑖𝑛𝑎𝑡𝑎) — maybe (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Black-footed Polypore (𝑅𝑜𝑦𝑜𝑝𝑜𝑟𝑢𝑠 𝑏𝑎𝑑𝑖𝑢𝑠) (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Thin-walled Maze Polypore (𝐷𝑎𝑒𝑑𝑎𝑙𝑒𝑜𝑝𝑠𝑖𝑠 𝑐𝑜𝑛𝑓𝑟𝑎𝑔𝑜𝑠𝑎) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Lion’s Head Tooth Mushroom (𝐻𝑒𝑟𝑖𝑐𝑖𝑢𝑚 𝑒𝑟𝑖𝑛𝑎𝑐𝑒𝑢𝑠) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

We can make it! One more mile to go… sort of.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

I was surprised how many interesting creatures we were finding. If we had had the time, more exploring would have yielded so many more finds.

Flat Red Bark Beetle (𝐶𝑢𝑐𝑢𝑗𝑢𝑠 𝑐𝑙𝑎𝑣𝑖𝑝𝑒𝑠) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Arrow-shaped Spider (𝑀𝑖𝑐𝑟𝑎𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑛𝑎 𝑠𝑎𝑔𝑖𝑡𝑡𝑎𝑡𝑎) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Pixie Cup Lichen (𝐶𝑙𝑎𝑑𝑜𝑛𝑖𝑎 𝑎𝑠𝑎ℎ𝑖𝑛𝑎𝑒) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

The last event of the day was Tom Pauley’s program of favorite stories about his past students and about reptiles and amphibians of West Virginia. It was excellent!

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

After the Sunday morning membership meeting and then lunch with special friends in Ripley, Jan and I treated ourselves to dessert at Kirke’s Homemade Ice Cream near home. Favorite flavor? Pumpkin, of course, to go with the beautiful fall season!

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

Birds-Camping-Hiking and more on Dolly Sods – 2021

The “mountains were calling” and so was the Allegheny Front Migration Observatory, so we “must go”! We camped at the Red Creek Campground, adjacent to the Dolly Sods Wilderness and near the AFMO, for 15 days.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty
Photo (c) Jan Runyan

After camp was set up for our extended stay, I took a short walk to take some photos.

Interrupted Ferns (𝐶𝑙𝑎𝑦𝑡𝑜𝑠𝑚𝑢𝑛𝑑𝑎 𝑐𝑙𝑎𝑦𝑡𝑜𝑛𝑖𝑎𝑛𝑎) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Stiff/Many-flowered Gentian (𝐺𝑒𝑛𝑡𝑖𝑎𝑛𝑒𝑙𝑙𝑎 𝑞𝑢𝑖𝑛𝑞𝑢𝑒𝑓𝑜𝑙𝑖𝑎) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Fall color of Red Maple (𝐴𝑐𝑒𝑟 𝑟𝑢𝑏𝑟𝑢𝑚) and Black Chokeberry (𝐴𝑟𝑜𝑛𝑖𝑎 𝑚𝑒𝑙𝑎𝑛𝑜𝑐𝑎𝑟𝑝𝑎) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

Every day we got up at 5:30 am and were at the Bird Banding Station by 6:15 am. Each morning we were greeted by one of the most scenic views on the mountain. Sometimes there was fog or rain; other times it was clear or partly cloudy. But all mornings were scenic in their unique ways.

Photos (c) Bill Beatty and Jan Runyan
Photos (c) Jan Runyan

Each morning Jan and I volunteered at the Allegheny Front Migration Observatory (AFMO)/a.k.a. Bird Banding Station. Each day the station closed at noon unless heavy fog, high winds and/or rain forced an early closure.

A group visiting the bird banding station one foggy morning. (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

This year, by the time we left, over 60 species of birds had been caught and banded. Many were a kind of bird called warblers.

Black-and-white Warblers (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Chestnut-sided Warbler (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)
Cape May Warbler (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)
Hooded Warbler (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Magnolia Warbler (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
American Redstart (also a warbler) (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Black-throated Green Warbler (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)
Wilson’s Warbler (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

The female Black-throated Blue Warbler below is a color morph we had never seen before. Normally female Black-throated Blues would be steely blue-gray, sometimes with a light wash of green, on the back, cheek and tail. The throat and belly would usually be very light gray or beige with a light wash of yellow. This one did show the white “eyebrow” line and, vaguely, the square of white on the wing. She is not an albino….just look at the eye.

Black-throated Blue Warblers… male (left) and female color morph (right) (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)

Some days when the number of birds caught was low and there were more volunteers than were needed, I would leave early to hike and explore. One day I went to Big Run Bog. We often go here in the summer months. It was fascinating to see the differences as fall approaches. See these 2 blog posts for summer trips to Big Run Bog: ( ), and ( ).

Big Run Bog (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

I have been exploring and leading field trips to Big Run Bog for over 40 years. The Purple Pitcher Plants (𝑆𝑎𝑟𝑟𝑎𝑐𝑒𝑛𝑖𝑎 𝑝𝑢𝑟𝑝𝑢𝑟𝑒𝑎) have expanded from several in the mid 1940s to many thousands today. Being insectivorous, limited in habitat, and so unusual and different from other plants, pitcher plants are of great interest to nature enthusiasts.

Purple Pitcher Plants at Big Run Bog (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

I also checked out some of the other interesting, unusual plants found in Big Run Bog.

Kidney-leaved Grass of Parnassus (𝑃𝑎𝑟𝑛𝑎𝑠𝑠𝑖𝑎 𝑎𝑠𝑎𝑟𝑖𝑓𝑜𝑙𝑖) (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

Golden Club (𝑂𝑟𝑜𝑛𝑡𝑖𝑢𝑚 𝑎𝑞𝑢𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑐𝑢𝑚) has expanded significantly from where it was first found in the bog. It is now a principal plant in most of the main waterways. It is the only known representative of the genus 𝑂𝑟𝑜𝑛𝑡𝑖𝑢𝑚. The flower in the picture below was photographed in the springtime.

Golden Club (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)
Buckbean (𝑀𝑒𝑛𝑦𝑎𝑛𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑠 𝑡𝑟𝑖𝑓𝑜𝑙𝑖𝑎𝑡𝑎) (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

Back at the campground, friends hinted that they would like me to take them on a hike on one of my special trails… sooo, we took off one morning to hike a 3.5 mile section of the Allegheny Vista Trail.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

Not long into the hike Jodi spotted and caught a Smooth Green Snake, common on Dolly Sods, but difficult to spot due to its great camouflage.

Photos (c) Bill Beatty

One of the most interesting plants we saw was Pinesap (𝑀𝑜𝑛𝑜𝑡𝑟𝑜𝑝𝑎 ℎ𝑦𝑝𝑜𝑝𝑖𝑡𝑦𝑠), a close relative of the more common Indian Pipe (𝑀𝑜𝑛𝑜𝑡𝑟𝑜𝑝𝑎 𝑢𝑛𝑖𝑓𝑙𝑜𝑟𝑎). Unlike most plants, neither contain chlorophyll. Instead of generating food using the energy from sunlight, they are parasitic, and more specifically mycoheterotrophic. The hosts of Pinesap are certain fungi which, themselves, are mycorrhizal with trees. So Pinesap ultimately gets its food, by way of the fungi, from photosynthetic trees.

Pinesap on left; Indian Pipe right. (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

It was a beautiful day for a hike.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty
Photos (c) Bill Beatty

While following a deer trail along the Allegheny Front we encountered another well camouflaged snake, but this one we were a bit more apprehensive to pick up — a Timber Rattlesnake.

Timber Rattlesnake (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

There was a wide variety of mushrooms along our hiking route.

Left — the Grisette (Amanita vaginata); Right — a Red Brittlegill (𝑅𝑢𝑠𝑠𝑢𝑙𝑎 𝑠𝑝.) (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

Photo opportunities were everywhere.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

One scenic spot I wanted everyone to see was this rock wall with an adjacent American Mountain-ash (𝑆𝑜𝑟𝑏𝑢𝑠 𝑎𝑚𝑒𝑟𝑖𝑐𝑎𝑛𝑎) and a row of Black Gum trees (𝑁𝑦𝑠𝑠𝑎 𝑠𝑦𝑙𝑣𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑐𝑎) in their fall color.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty
American Mountain-ash (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Bear/Scrub Oak (𝑄𝑢𝑒𝑟𝑐𝑢𝑠 𝑖𝑙𝑖𝑐𝑖𝑓𝑜𝑙𝑖𝑎) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

The end of our hike was through a Red Spruce woods and then along a series of vistas on the Allegheny Front.

Photos (c) Bill Beatty

Each year the bird banding station volunteers gather for a couple of meals together. This year we got together on more than a few nights for group meals. Maybe it’s because we were outdoors, sitting near a campfire (more likely because our friends are great cooks), but the food everyone brought and made was amazingly delicious!

Photos (c) Bill Beatty and Jan Runyan

And, at times, there were just the two of us eating inside or outside, depending on the weather. The only time we went off the mountain to buy things was a trip to Petersburg, WV. Our delicious dinner at Alfredo’s Pizza and Italian Restaurant had left us each with another full dinner of yummy leftovers. The rest of our food, other than shared meals, we had brought with us, designed to be healthy and easy to prepare.

Leftovers from Alfredo’s Italian Restaurant in Petersburg, WV; BLT wraps (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

From the 1970s until the 2000s, I studied Eastern Screech Owls and have a special fondness for them. Our friend Jodie, an artist, gifted me a painting of a screech owl she did on an oyster shell.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan

This year the AFMO opened 28 mist nets for catching the birds they band. Ten were north of the banding station and 18 were south of the station.

Bill at a north net, Lee by a south net (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)

One day I decided to hide so I could watch just how the birds were being caught and which north nets were catching the most birds. It was really quite relaxing. I could tell that my presence did not change the birds’ behavior — they were coming uphill so I was hidden behind a big rock as they flew up and many birds were caught in the nets I was close to.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

Besides an abundance of warblers, we also caught and banded some other exciting and interesting birds. Flycatcher identification by sight can be difficult, even if the bird is in-hand. With the Eastern Wood Peewee we caught, the definitive identification came down to the bi-colored mandible.

Eastern Wood Peewee (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)

Some of the other interesting birds were bigger than warblers.

Veery (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Sharp-shinned Hawk (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)
Blue-headed Vireo (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

And some of our favorites were smaller than warblers.

Left — Male Golden-crowned Kinglet; Right — male Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)

The Winter Wren is one of my favorite birds. It is so tiny, yet has such an explosive, loud song and sings approximately 107 notes in 7 seconds.

Winter Wren (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

Winter Wren song – turn your sound up.

It seems that every time we have an extended stay on Dolly Sods we are surprised by visits from some of the friends. Chris, who I hadn’t seen for years, and his friend Brad took a break from their motorcycle trip to visit the banding station hoping I was there. We did a short hike that went past the 1953 Mercury along the High Mountain Meadow Trail.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan and Bill Beatty

And Cindy visited. Although she is now a volunteer at the AFMO, she wasn’t working while we were there. Hopefully now we will see her there on a regular basis.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan

And it was nice to see John and Jodi who have become regular hikers with me on my annual September Dolly Sods hike.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

Later in our stay, Jan and I walked Northland Loop Trail to the boardwalk and then explored the roadsides and wetland areas on the way back. The weather was cool, windy and, later, wet.

Photos (c) Bill Beatty and Jan Runyan
Photographing a Pussytoes (𝐴𝑛𝑡𝑒𝑛𝑛𝑎𝑟𝑖𝑎 𝑠𝑝.) (Top photo (c) Jan Runyan; Bottom photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Sunny day with dark weather heading our way at Alder Run Bog (Video (c) Jan Runyan)
Top photo (c) Bill Beatty; Bottom photo (c) Jan Runyan
Spatulate-leaved Sundew (𝐷𝑟𝑜𝑠𝑒𝑟𝑎 𝑖𝑛𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑚𝑒𝑑𝑖𝑎) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

During our stay we had some beautifully clear days and some rainy, foggy, windy days….sometimes all in the same day!

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

One rainy day in particular I was very glad we weren’t in a tent. The rain was so heavy it sounded like continuous thunder.

I’m glad we weren’t in a tent! (Video (c) Jan Runyan)

After our 15 days, it was hard to leave the incredible birds, beautiful plants and scenery, and our wonderful friends at AFMO.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

Even when it rains, I agree with others who say, “The worst day on Dolly Sods is better than the best day anywhere else!”

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

Master Naturalist Conference 2021 at Canaan Valley State Park

There are 7 (soon to be 8) local chapters of Master Naturalists around West Virginia. (See for more information.) Once a year they get together for a statewide conference. Jan and I have had the pleasure of being asked to teach and lead hikes at previous conferences. We were excited to be invited to this year’s conference in Canaan Valley.

On Friday I led an all day hike exploring Alder Run Bog and the surrounding Red Spruce and Red Pine forests in the Dolly Sods Wilderness. The day was overcast with intermittent rain and temperatures in the low 70s, a perfect day for hiking.

Right away we encountered some interesting plants: Oceanorus, Flat-topped White Aster and Heartleaf Tearthumb. Although the Oceanorus wasn’t flowering as this photo shows, it was fruiting and was an obvious part of the flora.

Oceanorus (𝑂𝑐𝑒𝑎𝑛𝑜𝑟𝑢𝑠 𝑙𝑒𝑖𝑚𝑎𝑛𝑡ℎ𝑜𝑖𝑑𝑒𝑠) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Flat-topped White Aster (𝐷𝑜𝑒𝑙𝑙𝑖𝑛𝑔𝑒𝑟𝑖𝑎 𝑢𝑚𝑏𝑒𝑙𝑙𝑎𝑡𝑎) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

For those wearing shorts the Arrowleaf Tearthumb (𝑃𝑒𝑟𝑠𝑖𝑐𝑎𝑟𝑖𝑎 𝑠𝑎𝑔𝑖𝑡𝑡𝑎𝑡𝑎) became quite apparent. The small, sharp spines along the stems can “tear” at one’s skin and leaves somewhat irritating scratches. Fortunately, we didn’t hike in it for very long.

Arrowleaf Tearthumb (𝑃𝑒𝑟𝑠𝑖𝑐𝑎𝑟𝑖𝑎 𝑠𝑎𝑔𝑖𝑡𝑡𝑎𝑡𝑎) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Crossing a section of Alder Run Bog (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

There seemed to be interesting wetland plants everywhere we hiked.

Cottongrass (𝐸𝑟𝑖𝑜𝑝ℎ𝑜𝑟𝑢𝑚 𝑠𝑝𝑝.), a sedge, in Alder Run Bog. (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Young blueberry plants and clubmosses growing among sphagnum moss. (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Wild Raisin (𝑉𝑖𝑏𝑢𝑟𝑛𝑢𝑚 𝑛𝑢𝑑𝑢𝑚 𝑣𝑎𝑟 𝑐𝑎𝑠𝑠𝑖𝑛𝑜𝑖𝑑𝑒𝑠) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

The Red Spruce forest we traversed was dark and dank, reminiscent of Mirkwood Forest in the book, The Hobbit. The ecosystem was very different from the bog.

Red Spruce Forest (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

Still, there were wonderful things to see.

Pin Cushion Moss (𝐿𝑒𝑢𝑐𝑜𝑏𝑟𝑦𝑢𝑚 𝑔𝑙𝑎𝑢𝑐𝑢𝑚) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Mosses and lichens blended to form beautiful patterns (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

There were numerous Red Spruce nurseries among the larger seed bearing trees.

Red Spruce Tree (𝑃𝑖𝑐𝑒𝑎 𝑟𝑢𝑏𝑒𝑛𝑠) nursery (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Hair Cap Moss (𝑃𝑜𝑙𝑦𝑡𝑟𝑖𝑐ℎ𝑢𝑚 𝑐𝑜𝑚𝑚𝑢𝑛𝑒) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

There were 3 clubmosses we saw in many locations.

Clubmosses, from top to bottom, Tree Clubmoss (𝐷𝑒𝑛𝑑𝑟𝑜𝑙𝑦𝑐𝑜𝑝𝑜𝑑𝑖𝑢𝑚 𝑑𝑒𝑛𝑑𝑟𝑜𝑖𝑑𝑒𝑢𝑚), Running Clubmoss (𝐿𝑦𝑐𝑜𝑝𝑜𝑑𝑖𝑢𝑚 𝑐𝑙𝑎𝑣𝑎𝑡𝑢𝑚) and Shining Clubmoss (𝐻𝑢𝑝𝑒𝑟𝑧𝑖𝑎 𝑙𝑢𝑐𝑖𝑑𝑢𝑙𝑎) (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

Hiking up the High Mountain Meadow Trail to the cars, we stopped to take a group photo at the “Dolly Sods car”, a 1953 Mercury.

Photos (c) Bill Beatty

On Friday night Jan presented the program, The Making of Dolly Sods. She showed how geology, geography and glaciers, with some destructive help from humans, formed the wonders of the wilderness plateau we call Dolly Sods. One of the topics Jan talked about was patterned ground.

Patterned ground (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

Another topic was weathering.

Weathered pot hole rock formations (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

On Thursday before the conference, Jan and I had visited Big Run Bog to determine the best way to share the wonders of the bog with 20 people with the least impact. Some habitats there are very delicate.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan
Photo (c) Bill Beatty

The Narrowleaf Gentian (𝐺𝑒𝑛𝑡𝑖𝑎𝑛𝑎 𝑙𝑖𝑛𝑒𝑎𝑟𝑖𝑠) were as abundant, bright and beautiful as I have ever seen them.

Narrowleaf Gentian (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

On Saturday Jan and I took 20 Master Naturalists to Big Run Bog, which contains some of the most interesting and rarest plants in West Virginia. The group saw many obvious Purple Pitcher Plants (𝑆𝑎𝑟𝑟𝑎𝑐𝑒𝑛𝑖𝑎 𝑝𝑢𝑟𝑝𝑢𝑟𝑒𝑎) and many not so obvious Roundleaf Sundew (𝐷𝑟𝑜𝑠𝑒𝑟𝑎 𝑟𝑜𝑡𝑢𝑛𝑑𝑖𝑓𝑜𝑙𝑖𝑎) plants. Both of these are insectivorous, and looking closely we could see their insect-eating activities.

Purple Pitcher Plant (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)
Roundleaf Sundew (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)
Photos (c) Jan Runyan

The tops of Gentian flowers are tightly closed, making it difficult, if not impossible, for most insects to get inside for the pollen and nectar. The only pollinator I have seen get inside is the bumblebee, and they were continually working on the gentian flowers as we walked by.

Narrowleaf Gentian flowers (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Bumblebee pollinating Narrowleaf Gentian flower (Video (c) Jan Runyan)

Our destination was the long beaver dam that is right in the middle of the bog and keeps us from going any farther upstream.

Walking toward the beaver dam. (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

We gathered at the beaver dam and noticed some recent repair work by the beavers.

Top photo (c) Jan Runyan, Bottom photo (c) Bill Beatty

Pondweed (𝑃𝑜𝑡𝑎𝑚𝑜𝑔𝑒𝑡𝑜𝑛 𝑒𝑝𝑖ℎ𝑦𝑑𝑟𝑢𝑠) was floating in many areas of the beaver pond.

Pondweed (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

The only ferns we saw were Cinnamon Ferns (𝑂𝑠𝑚𝑢𝑛𝑑𝑎𝑠𝑡𝑟𝑢𝑚 𝑐𝑖𝑛𝑛𝑎𝑚𝑜𝑚𝑒𝑢𝑚), and they were quite common.

Cinnamon Ferns (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

A most common bog flower that seemed to be everywhere was Glade St. John’s-wort (𝐻𝑦𝑝𝑒𝑟𝑖𝑐𝑢𝑚 𝑑𝑜𝑙𝑎𝑏𝑟𝑖𝑓𝑜𝑟𝑚𝑒).

Glade St. John’s-wort (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

The only goldenrod in the bog was the Bog Goldenrod (𝑆𝑜𝑙𝑖𝑑𝑎𝑔𝑜 𝑢𝑙𝑖𝑔𝑖𝑛𝑜𝑠𝑎). It is common in other habitats where different kinds of goldenrods can be found, but it is the only goldenrod that can tolerate the highly acidic areas in these kinds of wetlands.

Bog Goldenrod (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

Leaving the lower part of Big Run Bog I decided to take a different and somewhat wetter, then drier path. Not everyone followed me.

Photos (c) Bill Beatty
Leaving the Bog video (c) Jan Runyan

After lunch I showed everyone a special part of the bog where the rarest plants are. While I took half the group into that part of the bog, the half with Jan began a thoughtful discussion with facts about “Snowball Earth” and other dramatic changes and extinctions of life on Earth. Then we switched groups. The group with me didn’t wander and explore due to the delicate nature of this part of the wetland, but we were able to see some very rare plants.

Buckbean (𝑀𝑒𝑛𝑦𝑎𝑛𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑠 𝑡𝑟𝑖𝑓𝑜𝑙𝑖𝑎𝑡𝑎) (Photo (c) Arthur Haines)
Golden Club (𝑂𝑟𝑜𝑛𝑡𝑖𝑢𝑚 𝑎𝑞𝑢𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑐𝑢𝑚) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Bog Clubmoss (𝐿𝑦𝑐𝑜𝑝𝑜𝑑𝑖𝑒𝑙𝑙𝑎 𝑖𝑛𝑢𝑛𝑑𝑎𝑡𝑎) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Kidney Leaf Grass of Parnassus (𝑃𝑎𝑟𝑛𝑎𝑠𝑠𝑖𝑎 𝑎𝑠𝑎𝑟𝑖𝑓𝑜𝑙𝑖𝑎) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Canadian Yew (𝑇𝑎𝑥𝑢𝑠 𝑐𝑎𝑛𝑎𝑑𝑒𝑛𝑠𝑖𝑠) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

On Sunday Jan and I didn’t have any field trips to lead or classes to teach, so we attended Sue Olcott’s class, WV Pollinators: An Introduction to Them and Their Conservation. After an excellent indoor class about pollinators and the importance of conservation, we went out to meet some pollinators in person.

Insect/sweep/butterfly nets and clear vials were available and participants traversed a meadow catching insects and other invertebrates. Sue taught us about what we caught.

Jan looking at a Monarch Butterfly caterpillar on a Common Milkweed plant. (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Photo (c) Bill Beatty
Photos (c) Jan Runyan

We were honored to be asked to present to the West Virginia Master Naturalists. They are always some of the most avid, passionate learners about nature, as well as being interesting, sparky people. That made for a great weekend!

And, yes, John Denver had it right…

West Virginia is, Almost Heaven!