Canaan Valley Master Naturalist programs, Saturday, June 25, 2022

The website of the Master Naturalists of West Virginia (mnofwv.org) says the following: “The mission of the West Virginia Master Naturalist Program is to train interested people in the fundamentals of natural history, nature interpretation and teaching, and to instill in them an appreciation of the importance of responsible environmental stewardship.” They haven’t mentioned how much fun it is for people who love Nature to learn more and to spend time with others who share that passion! There are Master Naturalist chapters all over the state (https://mnofwv.org/index.php/local-chapters/). On Saturday, June 25, 2022, Jan and I will be teaching 3 core and elective classes for the Master Naturalists of Canaan Valley (https://mnofwv.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Canaan-Valley.pdf).

On Saturday morning I will lead a a bird walk as the introduction to Jan’s program, Birds and Birding for Master Naturalists. This program is only open to registered Master Naturalist students. Birding is one of those special activities that can be enjoyed by anyone at any skill level.  Whether you are an experienced birder or a beginner, this class will help you expand and improve your birding abilities.  Jan will explore birds in depth, including appearance, behavior, location, sound, and adaptations, as well as discussing birding equipment and other topics.  These insights, knowledge and techniques will help you expand your birding skills and enjoyment. The great assortment of photos of many of the numerous birds we band and work with makes this program a real treat! Bring a pair of binoculars, and a bird field guide if you have one.

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

In the afternoon I will lead an Edible, Medicinal, and Poisonous Plants exploration along beautiful Idleman’s Run Trail in the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge. This program is only open to registered Master Naturalist students. This amazing area is chock full of interesting and diverse plants to talk about.

Clockwise from top – Broad-leaved Cattail, Common Dandelion, Great Chickweed, and Wood Nettle… all are edible, 2 are medicinal, and 1 is potentially dangerous. (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

In the evening I will be presenting a program that is free and open to the public, Mushroom Madness. I have a multitude of mushroom experiences and have eaten 57 different species of wild fungi. Many people are becoming interested in foraging for and eating wild mushrooms. This program promises to be informative as well as entertaining.

Left to right – Crowded Parchment, Chicken of the Woods and Artist’s Conk (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

Those who love learning about Nature will truly enjoy the whole weekend which also includes classes about fish and geology.

For more information, see the website: https://mnofwv.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Canaan-Valley.pdf; and contact Andrea Dalton: AndreaDalton64@gmail.com; or 304-704-2476.

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.

Photos (c) Bill Beatty

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!

Birding Programs Led by Bill and Jan at the Biggest Week in American Birding near Magee Marsh, Ohio — May 14, 2022

Photo (c) Lee Miller

These programs are free and open to the public.

Jan and I regularly meet up with other West Virginia birders while we are birding at Magee Marsh in the spring. If you are at the Biggest Week in American Birding, you are welcome to attend one or both programs. We welcome you!

On Saturday, May 14 Jan and I will be presenting the following programs at Camp Sabroske, 2.5 miles from Magee Marsh.

Birding Incredible Camp Sabroske – 3-4:30pm Camp Sabroske has excellent managed wetlands and ponds as well as woodlands and meadows which attract an exciting variety of migrating and nesting birds. We will identify birds by sight and sound as we walk through some of these habitats. Both beginning and experienced birders will enjoy exploring the wide variety of birding habitats found at Camp Sabroske. In case of rain, an indoor program, Learning Bird Songs, will be presented.

Top to bottom – Northern Parula, Common Nighthawk and Blackburnian Warbler – All 3 photos taken at Camp Sabroske (c) Jan Runyan

Northern Saw-whet Owl Research and Stories – 5pm Northern Saw-whet Owls migrate through all areas of Ohio in the fall and spring, sometimes in large numbers, but are rarely seen or heard. Ornithologists are just beginning to learn about this very secretive bird through research like Project Owlnet. Bird-banders Bill Beatty and Jan Runyan share highlights of their Project Owlnet research banding this mysterious owl, including many photos of the tiny owl with the big personality. The presentation is in the air-conditioned lodge at Camp Sabroske, 4405 N. Toussaint North Rd., Oak Harbor, Ohio.

Photos (c) Bill Beatty

For more information and directions to these free events visit http://www.MyCampSabroske.org

Mountain Nature Camp for Adults – June 19-26, 2022

The tradition of excellent mountain nature studies for adults continues! 

This marks the 92nd year of Oglebay Institute’s Mountain Camp.

Come discover why West Virginia’s Nature is truly “Almost Heaven”!

At this year’s Mountain Nature Camp (Nature studies for adults) in Terra Alta, WV, I will be the botanist/naturalist.  I will be identifying and teaching about the wildflowers and other plants at the camp and on most field trips.   I will discuss identification, edibility, medicinal uses and other natural history information.  I will also lead an optional hike in the Dolly Sods Wilderness area.

To see the kinds of activities you might expect at camp, visit: https://wvbirder.wordpress.com/2018/08/21/mountain-nature-camp-for-adults-june-2018-what-we-did/

Top left clockwise… Scarlet Tanager, Velvet-foot Mushroom, Wild Columbine and Forest Log Millipede (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)
Typical Friday supper at Mountain Nature Camp… vegetarian menu is available (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

The camp is designed for people with a variety of interests and all levels of experience/ability in Nature.

Our field trips to a wide variety of habitats and elevations in the beautiful WV mountains will focus on many aspects of Nature Study.

Campers who chose the wilderness hike option are eating lunch at the Rohrbaugh Plains Trail Overlook in the Dolly Sods Wilderness (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

Facilities: Koehnline Lodge has a meeting room, a dining room and a professional kitchen. It is surrounded by meadows, Lake Terra Alta, and woods with trails. Our shower-house has flush toilets and private showers.

Lodging: Most campers sleep in their own tent in the camp’s woods or meadows (cots available). Some campers choose to make their own arrangements at nearby Alpine Lake Resort.

Meals: Home-cooked meals are made by experienced cooks, using many fresh, local ingredients. For full-day field trips, lunch is brought with us. Most special dietary needs can be accommodated.

Staff: Our staff includes experts in their fields, well-known naturalists, and professional nature interpreters who are distinguished for their knowledge and their ability to teach students at any level in Botany, Ornithology, Ecology, Natural History and other topics.

For more information: Call: 304-242-6855

Additional information and registration: https://oionline.com/camps/mountaincamp/

West Virginia Bird Discovery Weekend at Blackwater Falls State Park, June 3-5, 2022

A wonderful way to experience and learn about WV’s mountain birds in late spring!

Jan and I will be the leaders at this birding weekend.

Friday afternoon – Beginning Birding and Beyond — newer birders will get many helpful ideas and more experienced birders will refresh and renew their birding skillset.

Friday evening – Thrushes of West Virginia We will learn the identification, by sight and sound, of this sometimes-difficult bird group.  The thrushes are among the most amazing songsters of all the North American birds.  Fortunately, West Virginia has the highest average elevation of any state east of the Mississippi River allowing us to be the nesting home of several of these special birds.

Hermit Thrush

The Hermit Thrush is my favorite bird to listen to.

Saturday Field TripOlsen Fire Tower/Fernow Experimental Forest Field Trip – a host of warblers can be expected at the two outstanding areas we will visit on this field trip, including:  Northern Parula, Black-throated Green, Black-and-white, Black-throated Blue, Magnolia, Yellow-rumped, Canada, Chestnut-sided, American Redstart, Common Yellowthroat, Louisiana Waterthrush and Ovenbird.  Also possible are Northern Waterthrush, Mourning Warbler and several others.  Expect to hear the beautiful songs of the Wood Thrush, Hermit Thrush and Veery as well as many other birds.

Mourning Warbler singing in Fernow Experimental Forest (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

Saturday EveningRaptor Program with the Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia — visit their website to see all they do –https://www.accawv.org/

Sunday MorningCanaan Loop Road – Canaan Loop Road is a high elevation road atop Canaan Mountain.  We will be stopping along the road and taking short walks as we explore many interesting habitats the road travels through.  Several trails transect the road and we will explore short sections of these trails.  Many interesting high elevation plants and some that are unique to wetlands can be seen.  A wide variety of birds can be expected along this road.  In past trips we have seen or heard Swainson’s Thrush, Northern Waterthrush, Red Crossbill, Winter Wren, Mourning Warbler and many other warblers and other species.

I’m holding a Winter Wren recently banded at the Allegheny Front Migration Observatory at Dolly Sods, West Virginia (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

My 2nd most favorite bird to listen to, but the most fun, is the Winter Wren. It can sing 107 notes in 7 seconds.

Join us for this great birding weekend!

For additional information and to register:

Wildflowers and Weeds Class for the Master Naturalist Program – April 30, 2022, 1-5 PM

I will be teaching this class for the Ohio Valley Chapter of the West Virginia Master Naturalists.

Pre-registration is required for this class. 

The class will meet at the Schrader Environmental Education Center in Oglebay Park (after Jan’s Birds and Birding class), then travel to the woods surrounding nearby West Liberty University. Participants must provide their own transportation to West Liberty.

Left to right – Bloodroot, Sharplobe Hepatica, and Blue-eyed Mary  (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

We will see a wonderful variety of wildflowers and other plants. Emphasis will be on identification, major plant families, and basic and scientific terms for describing wildflowers. Use of wildflower field guides and using keys will be shown and demonstrated. Edible, medicinal, and poisonous plants will be discussed.

For additional information and registration: Contact Molly Check at the Schrader Center — 304-242-6855.

Birds and Birding Class for the Master Naturalist Program — April 30, 2022, 8 am to noon

Jan and I will be teaching this class for the Ohio Valley Chapter of the West Virginia Master Naturalists.

Pre-registration is required for this class. 

The class will meet at the Schrader Environmental Education Center in Oglebay Park.

Left to right — Wood Thrush, Scarlet Tanager, and Ovenbird (Photos (c) Bill Beatty and Jan Runyan)

This class will begin with Bill leading a morning bird walk, demonstrating sight and song identification and sharing the natural history of birds we encounter.

After the walk, Jan will present the program, Birds and Birding for Master Naturalists. Birding is one of those special activities that can be enjoyed by anyone at any skill level.  Whether you are an experienced birder or a beginner, this class will help you expand and improve your birding abilities.  Jan will explore birds in depth, including appearance, behavior, location, sound, and adaptations, as well as discussing birding equipment and other topics.  These insights, knowledge and techniques will help you expand your birding skills and enjoyment. The great assortment of photos of many of the numerous birds we have worked with makes this program a real treat!

Jan teaching her Birding Essentials class (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

Bring a pair of binoculars, and a bird field guide if you have one.

For additional information and registration: Contact Molly Check at the Schrader Center — 304-242-6855.

60th Annual West Virginia Wildflower Pilgrimage – May 5-8, 2022, at Blackwater Falls State Park!

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!

Each day starts with a bird walk. On both Friday and Saturday participants have a choice of a dozen or more day-long field trips to a wide variety of habitats and elevations. Both Thursday and Friday end with interesting programs.

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 Thursday afternoon, Jan will be teaching the Essentials of Birding for Everyone workshop.

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

On Thursday evening Jan will be presenting the program, The Allegheny Front Migration Observatory:  Over 50 years of Bird Migration and Sunrises. Bird banding has been used for over 100 years to protect bird populations by studying migration and range, survival and productivity, life-span and much more.  Decades of data show historical developments, track results of human intervention, and suggest future trends.  Close to Blackwater Falls State Park, in the Dolly Sods Wilderness, the Allegheny Front Migration Observatory banding station has been tracking birds’ fall migration through the Appalachians since the 1950s.  In this program we will get “up close and personal” with many of the scores of bird species, big and small, who have visited the AFMO.  Jan Runyan will share the history of the station and the breath-taking beauty of the sunrises that she and Bill Beatty have experienced in their 15 years of volunteering at the station.

Allegheny Front Migration Observatory (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

On Friday, I will lead a Dolly Sods Wilderness Hike.  The hike begins at Red Creek Campground on Blackbird Knob Trail. We cross Alder Run, travel across some open and scenic areas, then cross Red Creek just downstream from several active beaver dams, and continue to the north-east side of Blackbird Knob (elev. 3,950) where we will eat lunch. On the return trip, we follow Red Creek downstream to the junction of Alder Run and follow Alder Run Trail to the junction of the Beatty Labyrinth. This part of the hike is mostly open and quite scenic. The hike then follows Alder Run Bog Run upstream through spruce woods and eventually joins Blackbird Knob Trail near where we began at Red Creek Campground. This “Beatty Labyrinth” section has 15 small stream crossings, one long rock field to cross, and is casually uphill most of the time. There will be opportunities for scenic views, wildflower and bird identification, and experiencing the spectacular beauty of Dolly Sods. Hiking shoes/boots are required; Red Creek may have to be waded if water is high; appropriate rain gear is required. Restroom facilities are available before and after the hike.

Wading Red Creek (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

On Friday, Jan will lead a tour to Cranesville Swamp, a National Natural Landmark.   It is one of the few remaining boreal bogs in the southern United States, unusual because it harbors many plants and animals that are normally only seen in more northern climates.  Eastern hemlock, red spruce and American larch are some of the few trees in this acidic boreal bog.  The northern relict wetland complex also supports a wide variety of smaller plants such as goldthread, trailing arbutus, gay wings, two species of sundews, cranberry and a variety of ferns and 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 northern saw-whet owl. Restrooms will be available in Oakland, MD, before and after the tour.

Left to right: American Larch… Trailing Arbutus… and Gay Wings and Goldthread (All photos (c) Bill Beatty)

On Friday evening I will be presenting the program, Northern Saw-whet Owl Studies. Northern Saw-whet Owls migrate through all areas of the state in the fall and spring, sometimes in large numbers. They nest at the highest elevations in West Virginia. Ornithologists are just beginning to learn about this very secretive bird through research like Project Owlnet. This program includes many photos of NSWOs and highlights the research involving the trapping and banding of this mysterious owl as done by Bill Beatty and Jan Runyan at their home in West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle.

Jan with a Northern Saw-whet Owl (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

On Saturday Jan and I together will be leading two hikes in 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 hike 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. Hiking boots/shoes and rain gear are recommended. “Facili-trees” are the only restrooms available.

The Beall North Trail (Top photo (c) Jan Runyan; bottom photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Hermit Thrush

Listen to the beautiful song of the Hermit Thrush.

Join us for this amazing event.

For additional information and registration, a fillable form is available on the West Virginia Wildflower Pilgrimage facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/241296625986654/permalink/5008737025909233

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: https://wvbirder.wordpress.com/2020/02/19/bills-bark-butter-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 ( https://feederwatch.org/ ) 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 ( https://wvbirder.wordpress.com/2015/05/26/banding-a-dinosaur/ )! 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: https://wvbirder.wordpress.com/2022/01/11/the-story-behind-bills-photo-credits/ .

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:   http://www.agpix.com/photographer/prime/A0089650.html 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.

Magazines

American Forests

American Homestyle & Gardening

Audubon

Backpacker

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

Click

Cottage Life

Details

Defenders

Discover

Discover – Jimsonweed

Disney

Equus

Family Fun

Flower and Garden

Healthy Kids

Horticulture

Jakes

Jakes – cover

Kids Discover

Kids Clubhouse (Focus On the Family)

Kind News

Luxury Lifestyles

Maxim

Minnesota Conservation Volunteer

Montana Mag.

Muse

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

Nickelodeon

North American Fisherman

Organic Gardening

Outdoor America

Outdoor America

Outdoor Traveler

Parade

Puddler

Ranger Rick

Ranger Rick

Science Spin

Scientific

Spider

Stuff

The Mother Earth News

Watchtower

Wonderful West Virginia

Wonderful West Virginia – cover

West Virginia Wildlife

West Virginia Wildlife – covers

The World & I

Your Big Backyard

Zoogoer

Book Publishers

ABDO & Daughters

Addison-Wesley

American Guidance Service, Inc.

Andrews-McMeel

Andrew Stewart

AWL

BC Editions

Bearport Publishing

Beka Books

Benchmark

Blackbirch Graphics

Black Dog & Leventhal

Blackwell

Breakthrough

Brooks/Cole

Brown

BSCS

Capstone

Carolrhoda

Center Pointe Learning

Chanticleer Press

Children’s Press

Child’s World

Christian Schools International

Cobblestone

Compass International

Compass Point

Cowles Creative

Crabtree

Creative Company

Darby Creek Press

D.C. Heath

Delta Education

Denver Museum of Nature & Science

Discovery Communications

Editorial Directions, Inc.

Encyclopedia Britannica

Everyday Learning

Ferguson

Firefly Books LTD

Franklin Watts

Gage Educational Publishing

Garth Stevens

Glencoe

Globe Fearon

Great Outdoor

Great Smoky Mountains Assoc.

Greystone

Grolier

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

Kendall/Hunt

Key Porter

Kidhaven Press

Kidsbooks

Kircof/Wohlberg

Leisure Arts

Lerner

MacMillan/McGraw-Hill

Marshall Cavendish

McDougal Littell

McGraw-Hill

Meredith

Michael Friedman

Millbrook Press

Morgan Cain & Associates

National Geographic

Nelson (Canada)

NelsonThompson

Newbridge Communications

North American Membership Group, Inc.

North American Outdoors

Ortho

Oxford University Press

Pearson

Pensacola Christian

Peoples Education

Prentice Hall

Pronk & Associates

Publications International

Quarto (London)

Random House

Rodale

Rosen

Roundtable Press

Saunders

Sayer

Scholastic

Scott Foresman

Seymour Simon

Seymour Simon – cover
Seymour Simon – cover

SFAW

Simon & Schuster

Sinauer

SRA/McGraw-Hill

St. Remy

Stackpole

Standard Education Corp.

Steck-Vaughn

Stokes Nature Co.

Sundace Publications

Sunset

The Creative Spark

Time For Kids

Time Life

Todtri

University of VA Press

Wadsworth

Weigl

West

Western

W.H. Freeman Co.

William Sadlier

Willow Creek

Workman

World

World Book Publishing

Wm. C. Brown

W.W. Norton

Zaner Bloser Education

Other

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)

Discovery.com (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: ( https://wordpress.com/post/wvbirder.wordpress.com/5327 ), and ( https://wordpress.com/post/wvbirder.wordpress.com/337 ).

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 http://mnofwv.org/index.php/what-is-a-master-naturalist/ 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!

West Virginia Master Naturalist Conference at Canaan Valley State Park – August 20-22, 2021 – Open to the Public!

This conference is open to the public.

The conference is filled to the brim with field trips and presentations by some of the best, most knowledgeable, most interesting presenters from this part of the country! There are activities for every Nature interest and ability!

Below I have listed the field trips and classes Jan and I will be leading at this event.

Friday All Day Pre-Conference Activities:

• 8:45 am to 4:15 pm “5 Mile Dolly Sods Bog to Bog Wilderness Hike” – Bill Beatty
This trail traverses a wide variety of habitats highlighting the scenic beauty of the Dolly Sods Wilderness. Beginning at the Red Creek Campground the hike follows the last quarter of the Beatty Labyrinth, continues along the edge of Alder Run Bog, through a thick Red Spruce forest, and then into an 85-year-old Red Pine forest to the High Mountain Meadow Trail. Heading south through an open meadow, we follow deer trails and old railroad grades to the southwestern edge of the Fisher Spring Run Bog. After crossing the bog, we continue through mixed forest, meadow and red spruce habitats. After crossing the east end of the High Mountain Meadow Trail (near the road), we again follow deer trails through red spruce woods and meadows eventually entering and crossing the south side of Alder Run Bog. We connect again with the last quarter of the Beatty Labyrinth to return to the Red Creek Campground. Sturdy hiking boots/shoes are mandatory. Instructor will not allow you to go on field trip if you wear other kinds of shoes. Bring a backpack to carry lunch, a water container, camera and binoculars. A tray of Subway meats, veggies, cookies with chips, apple and jugs of water to fill your container will be available before departure for $10. High level of physical exertion required including a 5-mile hike with difficult terrain. Maximum class size 20 (divided into 2 groups of 10).

Group at Fisher Spring Run Bog (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

Friday Evening – Conference Begins

Dolly Sods sunrises (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)

8:15 pm – 9:15 pm “The Making of Dolly Sods” (PowerPoint presentation) – Jan Runyan
A little bit of Canada in the temperate mid-Atlantic region. The Dolly Sods area is a fascinating anomaly. If you know what to look for, you can see many hints about the frigid natural history of the region. You will learn how three physical processes have interacted to create this unique place and will learn to recognize some Dolly Sods plants and animals who usually frequent more northern climates.

9:00 am to 4:00 pm “A Walk Through Big Run Bog” – Bill Beatty & Jan Runyan
We will carpool to one of the richest bogs in West Virginia based on the flora and fauna it contains: thousands of pitcher plants and sundews, some of the rarest plants in the state and nesting birds (thrushes wrens and warblers) in the habitats surrounding the bog. We will walk through the bog to examine the plant diversity and will make a quick stop at Olson Fire Tower on the way back. Moderately Difficult to Difficult Walk, High physical exertion required. The area is fairly flat, but the terrain is difficult due to boggy conditions. Wear sandals that strap securely or shoes that tie securely to feet; no loose/muck boots. Bring a water container, backpack to carry lunch, a camera, binoculars and sunscreen. A tray of Subway meats, veggies, cookies with chips, apple and jugs of water to fill your container will be available before departure for $10. Maximum class size 20.

Round-leaved Sundew (𝘋𝘳𝘰𝘴𝘦𝘳𝘢 𝘳𝘰𝘵𝘶𝘯𝘥𝘪𝘧𝘰𝘭𝘪𝘢) in Big Run Bog (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

Conference agenda/schedule here: http://mnofwv.org/index.php/full-agenda/

Registration details here: http://mnofwv.org/index.php/registration/

There is so much to see and do, we wish it were spread out over a week so we could attend lots of the classes and trips. HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE!

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

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

This was the 91st year of Mountain Nature Camp! The camp is located on an 18-acre peninsula on Terra Alta Lake in Preston County, West Virginia.

For the first to arrive, the Program/dining hall looked like a bare and lonely setting. But soon it became a place to greet new campers, rekindle old friendships, and, of course, look for the Purple Finches, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Northern Parulas, and Blackburnian Warblers that nest in the spruces adjacent to the building.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan
The chairs help eliminate “warbler neck”. Photo (c) Bill Beatty

Following a long-standing tradition, the first activity after supper on the day we arrived was a campfire. It was a time to meet new campers and to introduce those who have been attending for many years.

Sunday supper (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Photo (c) Bill Beatty

On Monday, after a birdwalk and breakfast, we took a field trip to the nearby “Rock Maze” in Garrett State Forest. To everyone’s amazement, right near the beginning of the trail was a Timber Rattlesnake (𝐶𝑟𝑜𝑡𝑎𝑙𝑢𝑠 ℎ𝑜𝑟𝑟𝑖𝑑𝑢𝑠),the first one most of the campers had ever seen in person.

Timber Rattlesnake (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

All along the Rock Maze Trail were a wide variety of ferns.

Cinnamon Ferns (𝑂𝑠𝑚𝑢𝑛𝑑𝑎𝑠𝑡𝑟𝑢𝑚 𝑐𝑖𝑛𝑛𝑎𝑚𝑜𝑚𝑒𝑢𝑚) along the Rock Maze Trail (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Rock Polypody Ferns (𝑃𝑜𝑙𝑦𝑝𝑜𝑑𝑖𝑢𝑚 𝑣𝑖𝑟𝑔𝑖𝑛𝑖𝑎𝑛𝑢𝑚) and close up of sori (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

Campers checked out the birch tree roots flowing over the rocks.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan
Rock Tripe foliose lichen growing on rocks. (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

After a picnic lunch, threatening thunder and lightning chased us back to our vehicles and eventually back to camp. After the storm passed, campers had time to explore the 18-acre peninsula and the variety of habitats available right at camp.

Traditionally our meals at Mountain Nature Camp are homemade from scratch with fresh ingredients from local farmers and growers. This year didn’t disappoint. What a flavorful, delicious variety we had!

Stir fry and strawberry shortcake for one of our suppers (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)

After a birdwalk and breakfast on Tuesday we had onsite classes. The 18-acre peninsula that comprises the Mountain Nature Camp property is home to a wide variety of birds, plants and other creatures. Larry taught an indoor bird class with half of the campers while I taught an outdoor botany class with the others.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan

Since 2004 (when this record-keeping started) we have found 109 plant species flowering on camp property and the surrounding road during the week (either the 2nd or 3rd week of June) of Mountain Nature Camp.

White Clintonia Lily (𝘊𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘵𝘰𝘯𝘪𝘢 𝘶𝘮𝘣𝘦𝘭𝘭𝘶𝘭𝘢𝘵𝘢) and Whorled Loosestrife (𝘓𝘺𝘴𝘪𝘮𝘢𝘤𝘩𝘪𝘢 𝘲𝘶𝘢𝘥𝘳𝘪𝘧𝘰𝘭𝘪𝘢) (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

The day ended with a campfire. We shared observations, stories and sang some of Mountain Camp’s traditional songs.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 18-campfire-2-photos.jpg
Photos (c) Jan Runyan

Wednesday was a mixed bag of nature activities. After a birdwalk and breakfast, the campers were taught about Nature Journaling, and more specifically, sketching/painting what one sees in nature.

Photos (c) Bill Beatty

It was such a beautiful day Bob prepared us a picnic lunch cooked on the grill.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

Throughout the day, between classes and other activities, there are always campers chasing after and looking at birds.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

During the week campers found a variety of bird nests including, Eastern Kingbird, Purple Finch, Blackburnian Warbler, and Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Video (c) Jan Runyan

Lisa demonstrated how her fold-able kayak snaps together.

Photos (c) Bill Beatty

Len and Hannah used Randy’s stereo-microscope to look at the Many-headed Slime Mold (𝑃ℎ𝑦𝑠𝑎𝑟𝑢𝑚 𝑝𝑜𝑙𝑦𝑐𝑒𝑝ℎ𝑎𝑙𝑢𝑚) Len was raising at home.

Photos (c) Bill Beatty

Here I am looking at and showing the pressed fern collection and other materials Mike Breiding donated to the Mountain Nature Camp.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

Shortly after that, I photographed the rare Boott’s Wood Fern (𝐷𝑟𝑦𝑜𝑝𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑖𝑠 𝑋 𝑏𝑜𝑜𝑡𝑡𝑖𝑖) that grows on the property. It is a rare hybrid between the Crested Wood Fern (𝐷𝑟𝑦𝑜𝑝𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑖𝑠 𝑐𝑟𝑖𝑠𝑡𝑎𝑡𝑎) and the Intermediate Wood Fern (𝐷𝑟𝑦𝑜𝑝𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑖𝑠 𝑖𝑛𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑚𝑒𝑑𝑖𝑎). Other than Mountain Nature Camp property, it is reported at only one other site in West Virginia.

Boott’s Wood Fern (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

Near the end of the day a group of us traveled to Chestnut Heights to watch the amazing sunset from high on the ridge and see the synchronous firefly display.

Happy campers at Chestnut Heights (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

In 2019 our camp group had been dazzled to see a great many fireflies displaying synchronously at Chestnut Heights, but unfortunately this year the weather didn’t cooperate. What we saw in 2019 was something quite amazing, and I will remember it as one of the nature highlights of my life. However, the firefly display on our Mountain Camp property had been impressive on Monday and Tuesday nights this year, similar to the display in the video below, just lacking synchronization.

On Thursday we left camp early for our long field trip day. Most of the campers went on a birding/botanizing trip, while 5 of us hiked in the Dolly Sods Wilderness. The bird/botany group stopped at a farm in Pleasant Valley, MD, to see Red-headed Woodpeckers. Red-headed Woodpeckers are listed as “common locally”, which translates to — they are uncommon in most places, but where they are found, they can be very common. And at this farm they were very common!

Photos (c) Jan Runyan

Stops in Canaan Valley provided the bird/botany group with looks at some interesting plants like the globally endangered Glade Spurge (𝘌𝘶𝘱𝘩𝘰𝘳𝘣𝘪𝘢 𝘱𝘶𝘳𝘱𝘶𝘳𝘦𝘢).

Photos (c) Jan Runyan

The group also saw several Large Purple-fringed Orchids (𝘗𝘭𝘢𝘵𝘢𝘯𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘢 𝘨𝘳𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘪𝘧𝘭𝘰𝘳𝘢).

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

Canaan Valley State Park and the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge offer many thousands of acres to hike and explore, like this trail/boardwalk in the state park.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

And, of course, there is always time to relax, chat and listen to the ethereal songs of Hermit Thrushes.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

One of the last stops was at the Freeland Boardwalk Trail in the National Wildlife Refuge for some birding.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

The Dolly Sods hiking group followed the Bog to Bog Loop Trail, encompassing both Alder Run and Fisher Spring Run Bogs.

The intrepid hikers. (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

Mountain Laurel (𝘒𝘢𝘭𝘮𝘪𝘢 𝘭𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘧𝘰𝘭𝘪𝘢) flowers were everywhere. Some were still in bud, but most were in full flower. There were all shades of pink and some of the plants had all white flowers. They were exquisite.

Photos (c) Bill Beatty

Crossing the Beatty Labyrinth rock field.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

Randy posing, adding his beauty, to that of Mountain Laurel.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

For supper both groups met at Blackwater Falls State Park for a picnic.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan

On Friday morning, after the early morning bird walk and breakfast, the Friends of Decker’s Creek presented a program on water quality. After a discussion of watersheds, sources of pollution and indicators of water quality, we went to one of the camp’s streams to conduct a survey of the macro-invertebrates in the Mountain Nature Camp’s wetlands.

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

On Friday afternoon I led a group around the Mountain Nature Camp property looking under rocks and logs surveying for more terrestrial critters. The first log I overturned revealed Hannah’s nemesis, a camel cricket.

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

We found 2 Red-backed Salamanders.

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

And there were Woodland Millipedes under everything.

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

We discovered other wonders of nature just about everywhere we looked.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

For me, the most interesting critter we found was this centipede which was in the process of molting its skin.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

Saturday came all too soon. After a birdwalk and another delicious breakfast, we packed up and slowly said our goodbyes to friends old and new. We took with us more knowledge and appreciation of Nature and our place in it, as well as memories to last a full year until many of us, and hopefully some new friends, will meet again.

The 2021 Oglebay Institute Mountain Nature Camp campers, or at least, most of them.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

Mountain Nature Camp for Adults – June 20-26, 2021

This tradition of excellent mountain nature studies for adults continues!  This marks the 91st year of Mountain Camp.

Come discover why West Virginia Nature is truly “Almost Heaven”!

At this year’s Mountain Nature Camp (Nature studies for adults) in Terra Alta, WV, I will be the botanist/naturalist.  I will be identifying and teaching about the wildflowers and other plants at the camp and on most of the field trips.   I will discuss edibility, medicinal uses and other natural history information.  I will also lead a hike in the Dolly Sods Wilderness area.

To see what one might expect at camp visit: https://wvbirder.wordpress.com/2018/08/21/mountain-nature-camp-for-adults-june-2018-what-we-did/

Top left clockwise… Scarlet Tanager, Velvet-foot Mushroom, Wild Columbine and Forest Log Millipede (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)
Typical Friday supper at Mountain Nature Camp… vegetarian menu is available (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

Camp is designed for people with a variety of interests and all levels of experience/ability in Nature.

Field trips to a wide variety of habitats and elevations in the beautiful WV mountains will focus on many aspects of Nature Study.

Eating lunch at the Rohrbaugh Plains Trail Overlook in the Dolly Sods Wilderness (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

Facilities: Koehnline Lodge has a meeting room, a dining room and a professional kitchen. It is surrounded by meadows, Lake Terra Alta, and woods with trails. Our shower-house has flush toilets and private showers.

Lodging: Sleep in your own tent in the woods or meadows (cots available) or make your own arrangements at nearby Alpine Lake Resort.

Meals: Home-cooked meals are made by experienced cooks, using many fresh, local ingredients. For full-day field trips, lunch is brought with us. Most special dietary needs can be accommodated.

Staff: Our staff includes experts in their fields, recognized naturalists and professional nature interpreters who are distinguished for their knowledge and their ability to teach students at any level in Botany, Ornithology, Ecology, Natural History and other topics.

For more information: Call: 304-242-6855

Additional information and registration: https://oionline.com/camps/mountaincamp/

The West Virginia Wildflower Pilgrimage – May 6-9, 2021

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!

Each day starts with a bird walk.  On both Friday and Saturday participants have a choice of a dozen or more day-long field trips to a wide variety of habitats and elevations.  Thursday and Friday end with interesting programs.

Jan and I, along with other Brooks Bird Club leaders, will be leading 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 Thursday afternoon, Jan will be teaching the Essentials of Birding for Everyone workshop.

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

On Friday, Jan will be the Birder on a tour to the Fernow Experimantal Forest, a federal forest managed and used to experiment with different logging/timbering techniques.   Fernow is known for its wide variety of bird and wildflower species.

Mourning Warbler at Fernow Forest (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

On Friday, I will lead a Dolly Sods Wilderness Hike on the Edge of the World Trail. From the Red Creek Campground on Dolly Sods, the hike begins by following the last quarter of the Beatty Labyrinth, continues along the edge of Alder Run Bog, through a thick Red Spruce forest, and then into an 85+ year old Red Pine forest to the High Mountain Meadow Trail (HMMT).  We follow the HMMT from end to end, cross Forest Service Road 75 and continue on the Edge of the World Trail through expanses of heath meadows, Mt. Laurel/Rhododendron thickets, rock fields, deciduous forest, and Red Spruce stands.  The hike finishes along the Allegheny Front where some of the best scenic overlooks in WV can be found. There will be three major rock fields to traverse.  The second half of this hike is over very rugged terrain.  Hiking boots, long pants and rain gear are required!

Hiking the Edge of the World Trail (Photos (c) Lee Miller)

On Saturday Jan and I together will be leading two hikes in the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge: the Beall North Trail and then the Idleman’s Run Trail. The Beall Trails’ parking lot is off Cortland Road in Canaan Valley. The Beall North and South Trails form somewhat of a figure eight, traversing a mix of open meadows and deciduous woodlands which allow for a large variety of plants. Parts of the trail borders the Blackwater River. This is not a rugged trail — it is mostly level with moderate or shorter steep elevation changes and few rocks on the trail. The entire hike 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 the 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 is notable for all the interesting plants we can encounter. Hiking boots/shoes and rain gear are recommended. Facilitrees are the only restrooms available.

The Beall North Trail (Top photo (c) Jan Runyan; bottom photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Hermit Thrush

Listen to the beautiful song of the Hermit Thrush.

Dr. Conley McMullen showing several violet species to pilgrims along the Idleman’s Run Trail and the Confederate Violet form of the Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia). (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

For registration information, please call Emily Fleming or Wendy Greene at 304-558-2754.

Springtime

Never yet was a springtime, when the buds forgot to bloom.
~ Margaret Elizabeth Sangster

This quote reminds me of the first flower buds I look for each year. They are not what most people seek in anticipation of the advent of spring — the early spring ephemerals — Bloodroot, Hepaticas and the like. What I notice first, when it is still officially winter, are certain tree flowers. Where I live, in Brooke County, West Virginia, the first tree to flower is the American Elm soon followed by the Red Maple. Right now, in early March, those flower buds are beginning to swell.

American Elm flowers (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

Although the buds and flowers of American Elms are not noticeable from a distance, those of the Red Maples can be seen from far away.

Red Maple flower buds (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

Closeup, the flowers of Red Maples are interestingly exquisite.

Red Maple flowers (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

I’ve been watching them. The buds are already beginning to swell and flowers will soon follow. Spring begins!!