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

There were 14 eager participants from Hyattsville, MD, Johnstown and North Wales, PA, Sterling, VA, Lakewood, OH and Wilmington, NC. They had heard about the Bird Discovery Weekend in a variety of ways. Some were very new birders and some were very knowledgeable, but everyone had something to offer.

The weekend began on Friday afternoon with Jan’s, “Birding Essentials” program.

Nice hat, Jan! (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

After dinner that evening I presented a program called “Sparrows of West Virginia.” Sparrows can be confusing for lots of birders, but by the end of the evening, everyone seemed to have a better grasp on identifying them.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

Early on Saturday morning we left for an all-day field trip along Stuart Memorial Drive near Elkins, WV. With its variety of elevations and habitats, we expected to encounter a wide variety of birds and we weren’t disappointed.

First stop…where to look first? (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

At our first stop, there were nesting Gray Catbirds and American Robins almost everywhere we looked. The males were singing their territorial songs from both sides of the road.

Photos (c) Bill Beatty

Although everyone was interested in birding, some were also quite interested in the botany of the area. As they say, “Look down, listen up!”

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

One plant they were particularly interested in was Wingstem (Verbesina alternifolia). The winged stems were obvious and unusual.

Wingstem (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

Throughout the day I taught about and identified bird songs. We discussed what birds were singing and what those songs and calls represent.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

We stopped at many places along Stuart Memorial Drive, but one, in particular, was perhaps the highlight of the day.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

Blackwater Falls State Park Naturalist, Paulita Cousin, spotted an American Redstart who was building her nest. For a long time we watched the Redstart bring in nesting materials, fit them into the half-built nest, and then sit down to try out what she had built so far.

American Redstart on her nest (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

At another spot some of us climbed a hill through a grassy meadow to see the Field Sparrows and Indigo Buntings that we heard singing. The scenic view at the top of the hill was beautiful no matter which way we looked.

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

At the top of the ridge we heard a White-eyed Vireo singing and before long this usually difficult-to-find bird flew up into a dead tree and serenaded us for a long time.

White-eyed Vireo (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)

Some of the group had stayed along the road and they were rewarded with great views of several warblers – Common Yellowthroat, Chestnut-sided and Hooded. They also found and were fascinated by a Gold-backed Snipe Fly.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan
Gold-backed Snipe Fly (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

At the Bickle Knob Observation Tower (elevation 4,003 ft.) there were two pairs of nesting Mourning Warblers, each male singing to protect his territory. They sang often, but we weren’t able to get a really good view of them. With all the birds we had already heard and seen, no one seemed too disappointed by not being able to see this warbler.

Mourning Warbler from a previous trip (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

Some of us even took up the challenge to climb the Observation Tower and, with the wonderfully clear weather, we were rewarded with an amazing view.

At Bickle Knob Obversation Tower (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

After lunch we made several more stops in the more coniferous woods at the highest elevations of Stuart Memorial Drive. At our last stop everyone was able to get a great view of a male Scarlet Tanager. This brilliantly-colored bird is so good at hiding among the leaves at the tops of trees that we considered ourselves very lucky to have gotten such a good look at him.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan

After a long day of birding, Jan and I relaxed and had a delicious supper on the patio of the Smokehouse BBQ Restaurant at the Blackwater Falls State Park Lodge.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

On Saturday evening I presented the program, “Eastern Screech-Owls”, based on my 28 years of research with this bird. Our group was fascinated by the scientific knowledge I had gained and the amazing photos I had taken of this owl that very few people know about.

Photos (c) Bill Beatty

On Sunday morning we were at it again – chasing birds and enjoying the beauty of West Virginia with the wonderful group of people. Our field trip was just a short drive away in Canaan Valley — our first stop was at the Freeland Trail boardwalk in the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge. At the parking lot we were greeted by a field full of nesting Bobolinks. Many were hidden in the grass singing their bubbly songs, while others were easy to observe as they flew and landed on small bushes, fence posts and strands of barbed wire fence.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty
Bobolinks (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Bobolink song

Another bird we heard at this stop was the Savannah Sparrow, but only one of us was actually able to catch a glimpse of it.

Savannah Sparrow (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

We also had good opportunities to see and hear Eastern Meadowlarks.

Eastern Meadowlark (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

Across from the Bobolink field is the Freeland Trail boardwalk. We were able to watch and hear Willow and Alder Flycatchers at the same time. Since they look so similar, it is important to hear them for identification. The Willow and Alder Flycatchers really gave us a great opportunity to memorize their two songs.

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

Swamp Sparrows were singing in several areas of the wetland and Jan was able to make a video of one singing.

Swamp Sparrow (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)
Swamp Sparrow video (c) Jan Runyan

After we finished enjoying the boardwalk, we walked the lower part (elevation 3,100 ft) of Forest Service Road 80 looking and listening for birds.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

From there, back in the cars, we stopped several times to listen and look for birds on our way to the top of the mountain (elevation 3,980 ft) where Forest Service Road 80 ends at the edge of the Dolly Sods Wilderness plateau.

The birds we found there were quite different than those we had encountered down in Canaan Valley. Where the road ended we were surrounded by high mountain trees and other more boreal plants. We enjoyed the birds, but also discovered some other interesting things.

I showed Nancy how to differentiate between Cinnamon and Interrupted ferns even if the fertile fronds were not present.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

There was water in the low areas along both sides of the road and several people noticed the Predaceous Diving Beetle larvae swimming in many places.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan

Although half of our group had departed after we had finished the lower section of Forest Service Road 80, we did take a group photo of those remaining at the top. None of us wanted to leave — we wanted to keep exploring the road into Dolly Sods and the fields around it, but check-out times and other commitments were calling us.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

My last official duty of the Mountain Bird Discovery Weekend was to save a snapping turtle from potential disaster. She was crossing the road on her way to find a suitable place to lay her eggs. As gently as possible, I moved the turtle off the road in the direction she had been traveling. I don’t think she really appreciated my help, but she didn’t know about car tires, and, hopefully, she never will.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

Magee Marsh– the Warbler Capital — 2019

Jan and I took a recent trip to Magee Marsh, a mecca for migrating birds (and birders) located along Lake Erie about 20 miles east of Toledo, OH. Magee Marsh is known as the Warbler Capital of the World because so many migrating birds, especially warblers, either make this area their home or just stop there to feed and get ready for the trip across Lake Erie on their way north to their breeding grounds.

Our campsite (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

The Magee Marsh area used to be a state park where people came to escape the summer heat and to enjoy the Lake Erie beach. Few of the throngs of people coming to cool off in the lake breezes and water noticed the marshy area behind the huge parking lot. Slowly birders began to discover the migration phenomenon happening just yards from the beach. A boardwalk was constructed to contain the birders and now the beach is closed to swimming and the large parking lot is filled with hundreds of binocular-toting-birders’ cars.

About 15 years ago, when I saw the crowded parking lot for the first time, I said to Jan, “I don’t think I’m going to like this. There are just too many people.” But since we had driven so far to see the fabled marsh, I decided to see what it was all about. Wonderfully, I discovered I was wrong…I loved it! The variety and closeness of all the different kinds of birds and the politeness of all the birders make this place sheer birding joy. It is mesmerizing.

Over the years we have been collecting photos of bird-oriented license plates. These are a few new ones we found this year.

Photos (c) Jan runyan and Bill Beatty

Occasionally I have been asked, “You have been a professional nature photographer for much of your life, so why don’t you take bird photos when you are at Magee?” The main reason is that I wouldn’t be any fun to be with since all of my time would be focused on the photos. My attention would just be on the few birds I would be trying to capture with the camera. I have decided I would rather absorb the beauty and wonder of ALL the fantastic birds at Magee through my binoculars and spend time with friends we see on our trip – there are many of both. Jan and I often joke that if we only wanted to watch the birds at Magee Marsh and not see our friends, too, we would have to wear glasses with a big nose and mustache. I think the number of people we know there and the number of species we see are about the same. Jan and I do take pictures while we are there, but they are to document our trip.

I’m not sure it would work.

Although western Lake Erie has quite a few excellent birding spots in the area, the Magee boardwalk is always the highlight of our week-long visit. We spend time on the boardwalk every day. Each day brings different birds to the marshy boardwalk area.††

Photo (c) Lee Miller

The drive into Magee Marsh from Route 2 goes through a number of different habitats and it always gives us the chance to do some 15 mile-per-hour birding. This time as we entered the first parking area, we saw that one pair of Bald Eagles was using their nest in the same location as last year.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan

After enjoying that regal sight, we parked and headed for the west end of the boardwalk. Right away Jan found subjects for photos with her point-and-shoot camera. This House Wren did manage to get the long stick inside the small hole to its nest. Everywhere Tree Swallows patrolled the skies. Jan found these 2 guarding their nest cavity.

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

We met up with Julie Gee, the Naturalist at Burr Oak State Park in Athens, OH. She credits me with sparking her interest in birds while she was an intern at the Brooks Nature Center where I was the Naturalist. She and her husband, Michael, are good friends and we have been birding together at Magee for several years.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

Lee Miller, our frequent birding companion, is always learning — about plants, geology, ecology and, of course, birds. If he isn’t looking at birds through binoculars, his nose is in a bird guide or on an app learning more about them.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

Jan is interested in just about every wild creature she sees and takes photos of all of the interesting things she finds.

Little brown mushrooms, Bullfrog and the endangered Blanding’s Turtle (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)

Even snakes…and there seemed to be a lot of them this year.

Northern Water Snake and Eastern Garter Snakes (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)

We made arrangements most evenings to meet friends for supper. On the first night, some of us had just arrived and some were just about to leave the area. We all met at the Oregon Inn, arguably some of the best food in the Magee area.

Photos (c) Bill Beatty

Jan had shrimp and rice pilaf and I had the “dusted” Lake Erie Perch with garlic mashed potatoes…yummy!

Photos (c) Bill Beatty

The next morning we were back on the Magee Marsh Boardwalk looking at more amazing birds and greeting other friends.

Prothonotary Warbler (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)
Northern Parula, a warbler (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

At one point Julie got our attention and said, “John just texted me. There’s a Connecticut Warbler near the east entrance to the boardwalk! He says ‘Hurry! Run!'” We didn’t run, but we did hurry. I had only seen two others in the wild. Together with a small crowd, we searched the brushy edge of the marsh. We were finally rewarded with a couple of good looks at the bird. After seeing the Connecticut, as we were leaving for nearby Howard Marsh, we noticed that the crowd had grown considerably and people were in such a hurry that they were parking creatively as they tried to get a chance to see this rare and difficult-to-see bird..

Searching for the Connecticut Warbler (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

Jan and Lee were eager to get to Howard Marsh with its shore birds so they could try out their new spotting scopes. At our first stop they immediately set up their scopes and began looking at a multitude of “water” birds.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

We had heard from several people that there were Yellow-headed Blackbirds at Howard Marsh. While Jan and Lee were checking out the wading birds to the east, I walked across the road and asked a lady scoping the wetland to the west if she knew where the Yellow-headed Blackbirds were being seen. “Right here!” she said. I looked up and saw one walking the shoreline about 20 feet away. It was a “life” bird for me and very soon for Jan and Lee, too.

We usually began each day at the Magee boardwalk and there was always something special to see or hear. One day, quite unexpectedly, a flock of White Pelicans flew overhead.

White Pelicans (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

When our bodies called for lunch, we either snacked as we birded on the boardwalk, or took a real lunch break and rested back at the truck in the parking lot. After walking the boardwalk and birding hard one day Lee was exhausted.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

That reminded me of last year when I was the one who was absolutely exhausted.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

As we were leaving Magee one day we encountered a baby raccoon that needed some help in the middle of the road. I played crossing-guard and escorted him safely across the road.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan

On several days when we were done at Magee Marsh, we decided to take the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge driving tour. This road is only open for a few weeks in the spring. It winds its way around many square miles of marshes and wetlands. This is a great place to see a variety of water birds.†

Pied Billed Grebe (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Trumpeter Swan (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Great Egret (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

One cold, windy morning, we decided to walk the east beach near Magee Marsh to see what we could find. This location has yielded some interesting surprises in the past. The surprises we found that day were not interesting or wonderful. It is sad that some people celebrate special occasions with things that are harmful to wildlife … helium balloons, or any balloon, or plastic can kill all kinds of animals.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan and Bill Beatty

Later that day we decided to go to Maumee State Park where their boardwalk is a bit more protected from the wind. Besides seeing a Sora and hearing several Virginia Rails, we saw many other wonderful creatures.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

These Eastern Screech-owls were using a nesting box right by the boardwalk. During the day, the female will not allow the male to enter the box, but at night, both parents are busy full-time feeding the chicks.

Female gray phase Eastern Screech-owl peering from nest box. (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Male red phase Eastern Screech-owl sleeping nearby. (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

Our last trip to Howard Marsh yielded more fascinating waders and other water birds. After a full week, you would think that we had seen all there was to see — but birding always has surprises. This trip gave us another life bird for Jan, Lee and me.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan
King Rail, my second life bird of the trip.

Our last day at Magee had intermittent rain. Jan and I spent the day together, casually birding. Since it was rainy we decided to take the time to drive to the Tin Goose Restaurant at the Port Clinton airport for a late lunch. It’s my favorite eatery in the area because of the atmosphere. The entire place is a blast-from-the-past with the menu, artwork, decor and music reminiscent of the late ’40s, ’50s, and early ’60s.

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

After our meal we drove to the Magee Boardwalk for one last, late afternoon look at the birds. The rain had stopped but the parking lot was deserted since most of the people had left earlier due to the rain. We had most of the boardwalk to ourselves.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan

On the Estuary Trail adjacent to Magee we found this baby Great Horned Owl with his wooly-looking feathers staring at us.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

On our final morning, after we hooked up the trailer and were ready to travel, we took a short walk on one of the campground’s trails. At one spot we found a Midland Painted Turtle trapped in a deep hole. We rescued him, took some photos and released him nearby.

Photos (c) Jan Runyan

Jan’s last photo before we began our trip back home was of a beautiful Horse Chestnut tree in full bloom.

Horse Chestnut Tree flowers (Left photo (c) Bill Beatty, right photo (c) Jan Runyan)

At final tally, Jan and I had seen 149 species of birds in our 7 days during late migration along Lake Erie. The memories, smiles and laughs were too numerous to count.

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

Jan and I got an early start to the West Virginia Wildflower Pilgrimage and so we decided to stop at the Hemlock Trail near Cooper’s Rock State Forest (near Morgantown, WV) for a short hike in a beautiful forest. Even before entering the forest we were serenaded by a nice variety of birds – American Reststart, Indigo Bunting and Hooded, Black-throated Green and Black-throated Blue Warblers.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

The first almost-ready-to-bloom wildflower we saw was Squawroot/Cancer root.

Squawroot (Conopholis americana) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

Even on the sunniest, hottest days, this trail is shaded and cool.

Photos (c) Bill Beatty

Some people find plants of the Buttercup Family (Ranunculaceae) difficult to identify. One we found on our hike was a bit challenging. The key to knowing the Buttercups is to use a hand lens and look at the achenes (a small, dry one-seeded fruit that does not open to release the seed) located in the center of the flower. The styles (the stalks above the ovaries) of the achenes are important for the identification. Note the styles in the photo below are “bent backwards”, hence the species epithet “recurvatus“.

Hooked Crowfoot (Ranunculus recurvatus) (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

The upper part of the Hemlock Trail is lined with many large deciduous trees, while the lower section travels along Laurel Run Creek through an impressive hemlock woods.

Left photo (c) Bill Beatty, Right photo (c) Jan Runyan

Short spurs from the trail lead to the creek.

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

Jan found a very attractive clump of Wild geraniums and we decided to take some photos.

Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum) (Top left photo (c) Jan Runyan, other two photos (c) Bill Beatty)

We found my favorite trillium, the Painted Trillium, in several places along the trail.

Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum) (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

We found a few Clintonia Lilies. Most were forming flower buds deep down inside the leaf cluster, but one was in full bloom.

White Clintonia Lily (Clintonia umbellulata) (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

We had a great time!

Photos (c) Bill Beatty

Unfortunately, there was a sad downside to our hike. In many places along the trail we found that someone had defaced of the beauty and peacefulness of nature. Some well-meaning but grossly out-of-touch person wanted everyone to know what they were feeling.

Photos (c) Bill Beatty

Jan said it was as if someone were standing in the trail in front of us, whining and yelling. The vandalism certainly did take away from the beauty and serenity usually found on this trail. Jan did her best to scratch out, rub away, or cover the ecogarbage, but some had to remain for Mother Nature to take care of in her own time.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

In the end, in spite of the vandalism, the beauty and the sounds of birds and water in the Hemlock Woods worked their magic on us and we continued our journey refreshed.

Master Naturalist Convention at Pipestem Resort State Park – June 7-9, 2019

On Saturday 9 am-noon Jan will be teaching the class, “Birding Skills.”

Whether you are an experienced birder or a rank beginner, this class will help you expand and improve your birding abilities. We will explore bird appearance, behavior, location, and sounds. Part of the class will include an outdoor bird walk so dress for the weather.

Left to right – White-breasted Nuthatch, Eastern Bluebird and Gray Catbird (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

On Saturday 1-4 pm I will be teaching the class, “You Are What You Eat.”

Stores offer countless food choices, but there are many wild plants that are just as edible and in some cases far more nutritious than their supermarket counterparts. Best of all, edible wild plants are free and fun to find. This class will look at the variety, identification, natural history, and nutrition of many wild edible plants. We will also share some insights into the taste and preparation of these common healthy foods. In the outdoor portion of this program we will look for and discuss edible, medicinal, and poisonous plants.

Clockwise from top left – Broad-leaved Cattail, Common Dandelion, Great Chickweed and Wood Nettle (Photos (c) Bill Beatty

On Sunday 9 am-noon I will be teaching the class, “Yours For a Song.”

The sounds that birds make can be learned and used for identification. Some birders do 95% of their birding by ear. This class will start with an indoor program discussing bird songs and calls, including strategies for learning them. An outdoor walk will demonstrate how to apply these skills. Bird songs are fun and students will discover they can interpret bird sounds without visually identifying the birds.

Clockwise from top left – Scarlet Tanager, Kentucky Warbler, Ovenbird and Blue Jay (top left photo (c) Jan Runyan, other three photos (c) Bill Beatty)

Additional information and registration:

Directions to Pipestem Resort State Park:,-81.0504442,13.25z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x884e64b6952d8fa5:0x54813f39f1d56660!8m2!3d37.533853!4d-80.9947527

Mountain Nature Camp for Adults – June 16-22, 2019

This tradition of excellent mountain nature studies for adults continues!  This marks the 90th 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 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.

And this year Mountain Nature Camp ends with a very special celebration!!

Current campers, past campers and friends are all invited to celebrate the 90th Anniversary of Mountain Nature Camp!

On Saturday, June 22, 2019, from 2 – 9 PM all are welcome to be part of the festivities: nature programs and walks, displays, music, campfire activities, plenty of time to connect with friends old and new, and delicious food catered by Russ’ Ribs of Kingwood, WV. And it’s all free! All you have to do is RSVP online at or by calling 304-242-6855. Contributions are greatly appreciated, and donors giving $25 or more will receive a free TA 90th Anniversary t-shirt.

Top left clockwise… Scarlet Tanager, Velvet-foot Mushroom, Wild Columbine and Forest Log Millipede  (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

The best way to enjoy the 90th Anniversary Celebration is to come to camp for the whole week. Here’s more info about Mountain Nature Camp:

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:

Birds & Bugs (The Foods Birds Eat) presented for the Ohio County Master Gardeners – 7 pm, April 22, 2019

In addition to their physical and musical beauty, birds provide amazing value to every environment they occupy because of the foods they eat. I will show and discuss many kinds of birds as I explain about these unsung heroes of the ecosystem. The program will be at the Schrader Environmental Education Center in Oglebay Park, Wheeling, WV.

Left to right – American Robin, Gray Catbird and Wood Thrush (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

The Eastern Bluebird will be highlighted and I will give strategies for how to attract these beautiful and valuable birds to your property.

Photos (c) Bill Beatty

The public garden lecture series is free and open to the public, but they do appreciate a $5 free-will donation.

Refreshments will be provided.

Door prize will be provided.

Directions to the Schrader Environmental Education Center:,-80.6639009,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x8835d0766f5f3fc9:0xf025f9c1966a2b82!8m2!3d40.096657!4d-80.6617122

Northern Saw-whet Owl program – for the Ralph K. Bell Bird Club – April 15, 2019

Jan and I operate a Northern Saw-whet Owl banding station in cooperation with Project Owlnet. This program at the April meeting of the Ralph K. Bell Bird Club will cover the natural history of the smallest eastern North American owl and the development of our banding program involving trapping, release and tracking these owls. The bird club meeting will begin at 7:15 pm followed by my presentation.

This program is free and open to the public. All are welcome!

Photos (c) Bill Beatty

The program will be at the Ralph K. Bell farm. Driving directions:,+Jefferson,+PA+15344/@39.9413651,-80.0616905,16.5z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x88350a4a18c4aa79:0xb07067e2ebe6aa24!8m2!3d39.9417472!4d-80.0585752

“Mountain State Bird Discovery Weekend” at Blackwater Falls State Park – May 31-June 2, 2019

Whether you are a novice or an experienced birder, this weekend will have something for everyone!

The Appalachian mountains of West Virginia, containing ecological niches similar to all the latitudes from here to northern Canada, are acclaimed as a place to see an incredible variety of birds. This weekend celebrates that diversity with programs and trips highlighting the wide variety of birds in our Mountain State.

On Friday at 3 pm Jan will be teaching, “The Essentials of Birding.”

This class is designed to help both experienced birders and beginners expand and improve their birding abilities. Together we will explore bird appearance, behavior, location, sounds and more.

Left to right – Blackburnian Warbler, Pileated Woodpecker and Northern Saw-whet Owl (Left photo (c) Jan Runyan, 2 right photos (c) Bill Beatty)

On Friday evening at 7 pm Bill will present the program, “Sparrows of West Virginia.”

This program emphasizes identification and highlights the natural history of what some birders consider a difficult group to accurately identify.

From top left clockwise – American Tree Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Song Sparrow and White-throated Sparrow (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

On Saturday, we will leave the Blackwater Falls Lodge at 6 am and travel to the Stuart Memorial area for an all-day field trip.

With elevations ranging from 2,500 to 4,000 feet, this wonderful 10-mile drive through mixed hardwood and Red Spruce forests highlights West Virginia’s high elevation specialties. There will be many stops and some short walks in this bird-rich area. Typically, 15-18 species of warblers are seen/heard including the possibility of Golden-winged Warblers and Mourning Warblers. Species we should see/hear at the highest elevations include Brown Creepers, Winter Wrens, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Hermit Thrushes, Swainson’s Thrushes and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. At lower elevations, species can include Least Flycatchers, Blue-headed Vireos, Red-breasted Nuthatches and Purple Finches. We will eat lunch near/on the observation deck at Bickle Knob which offers a stunning 360-degree panorama of the West Virginia mountains.

Mourning Warbler at Bickle Knob (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

On Saturday evening at 7 pm Bill will present the program, “Eastern Screech-owl Studies.”

Bill studied this owl species for 28 years and is considered to be one of the leading experts on the Eastern Screech-owl. Part of his research included midnight to sunrise surveys in conjunction with Wheeling, WV, Christmas Bird Counts. During those years, Wheeling, WV, consistently had the highest Eastern Screech-owl numbers in North America. Highlights of the program include trapping and breeding biology studies as well as spectacular photos of these secretive owls.

Top left clockwise – Eastern Screech-owl hatching from egg, one day-old, two weeks old and adult (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

On Saturday evening, following the Eastern Screech-owl program, Park Naturalist, Paulita Cousin will lead an “Owl Prowl” in the park.

Great Horned Owl (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

On Sunday, leaving the Blackwater Falls Lodge at 6:30 am, we will travel to the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

We will visit several areas in the Refuge including the wetlands of the Freeland Boardwalk Trail, the open meadows, wood-edges and deciduous forests of Forest Service Road 80, and the Red Spruce woods where the road ends on Dolly Sods. Through the elevation changes, many bird species will be heard and seen, possibly including Bobolinks, several sparrow species, Northern Harriers and American Kestrels in the lowlands; forest interior breeders such as Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Ovenbirds and Hooded Warblers in the middle elevations; and mountaintop species such as Blackburnian Warblers and Golden-crowned Kinglets at the top. Along the way we will listen for niche birds such as Canada Warblers, Winter Wrens and several thrush species including the Swainson’s Thrush.

Alder Flycatcher (L) and Willow Flycatcher (R) along Freeland Trail (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)

Join us for this celebration of West Virginia’s wonderful mountain bird diversity!

Registration form and additional information:

Directions to Blackwater Falls State Park:,-79.4972965,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x884ac93ea954f8ad:0xa67bfe42ac7e9843!8m2!3d39.1076563!4d-79.4951078

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

The AFMO has been operating each fall (mid August to early October) since 1958 and is the oldest continuously operating bird banding station in North America.  The AFMO is located along the Allegheny Front (eastern continental divide) near the Red Creek Campground on Dolly Sods in WV.  Most of Dolly Sods is a federally designated Wilderness Area comprising 32,000 acres.  The banding station is in the Dolly Sods Scenic Area, next to the Wilderness. 

I have been visiting this bird banding station since 1972 and volunteering since 2004.  Jan has volunteered since 2007, the year she retired. We are both federally-licensed bird banders, but at the AFMO instead of banding, we work as net-tenders removing the birds from the 30 mist nets used for trapping the migratory birds that cross the Allegheny Front in this area.

(Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Shortly after we started our trip to the AFMO in 2018, our adventure was augmented by a fallen tree blocking Rt. 42 just south of Friendsville, MD.  It had just happened and we were the first south-bound car to be stopped by the tree.  Fortunately I had a pruning saw.  Three other gentlemen joined Jan and me and we had the tree off the road in a short time.   People in West Virginia and western Maryland are like that — we take care of things.

(Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Saffitickers is always a welcome stop on our way to the Blackwater Falls/Canaan Valley area.   Ice cream is a great reward for a tree-moving job well-done.  Despite my reputation, I really am a vanilla kind of guy.
We arrived at the Red Creek Campground without further interruption and set up our trailer for our 2-week stay.


DS sunrise 1
(Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

The sunrises at the eastern-facing AFMO are spectacular, and, since we open the banding station well before sunrise, we are always there to see them.  Thrushes like to get an early start, often getting into the nets before the sun rises.  Later, all kinds of warblers and other species of birds grace us with their presence. 

Some mornings when the banding station is open we can be quite busy.  Most of the birds we capture are warblers.

Hooded Warbler males — adult on left and a hatch-year on right. (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)

The two birds above are Hooded Warblers.  Hooded Warbler males who were born before this year usually show an obvious hood like the one on the left.  An older female will usually have a lighter, less-pronounced hood.  Hatch-year Hooded Warbler males and females sometimes show no hood whatsoever so we have to use other means to identify the species.  The hatch-year Hooded Warbler on the right is being identified by looking at the under-tail coverts and retricies (tail feathers).

mourning redstart
Mourning Warbler on left and male American Redstart (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)

In the fall, a Mourning Warbler can be differentiated from a Connecticut Warbler by the Mourning’s broken eye-ring.  On an American Redstart, an older male will show deep orange to salmon colored patches on the tail and wings, while younger males look more like females with pale yellow to yellow-orange patches.  After examining the throat, breast, head and coverts of this bird, it was determined to be a young male.

We regularly capture many different species of warblers.  Some look very different in the fall than they do in the spring when they are in their breeding plumage.

btbl and babr
Black-throated Blue Warbler on left and Bay-breasted Warbler (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)
The white wing patch of the Black-throated Blue Warbler stands out vividly from the intense blue and black of the rest of the feathers.  Very little of the bay-colored breast shows up on Bay-breasted Warblers in the fall.  It can be a tough fall bird to identify as it sits in a tree. 

mawa and blbr
Magnolia Warbler on left and Blackburnian Warbler (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)
The Magnolia Warbler on the left has a distinctive pattern on the underside of its tail.   The Blackburnian Warbler’s brilliant orange springtime throat is much more muted in the fall.

cmwa and bwwa
Cape May Warbler on left and Black-and-White Warbler (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)
The Cape May Warbler on the left shows much less of the chestnut-colored cheek patch than he had in the spring and summer, but his distinct white wing patch tells us he is a male.   Black-and-White Warblers look fairly similar all through the year, but this bird’s darker cheeks indicate that it’s a male. 

palm (western)
Palm Warbler (western race) (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)
It is very difficult to tell the age and gender of the nondescript Palm Warbler (western race — Dendroica palmarum).

net tending
(Photos (c) Bill Beatty)
On the left, Jan is removing a Black-throated Blue Warbler from a mist net.  Between net-tending at the AFMO and our own banding at home, she has worked with many thousands of birds.  On the right, Jan is teaching Lee about ways to carefully and safely extricate a bird from a net.  Lee has been working at several banding stations learning the intricacies of net-tending.  

btgn warbler
(Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
Jan is removing Black-throated Green Warbler from a mist net.  Net-tenders know how to hold a bird so it is safe and doesn’t hurt itself.  A band on the leg of a bird doesn’t harm the bird or cause it problems.  At our home banding station we have had many local banded birds who have stayed around for years and other migratory banded bird who have returned to our nets for several years, sometimes even beyond their “expected” life span. 

When we’re on Dolly Sods working at the Allegheny Front Migration Observatory (AFMO) we do more than just work with birds.  On some days the banding station doesn’t open due to high winds, dense fog and/or rain.  And since most days we are finished banding by noon, we have plenty of time for other nature/Dolly Sods adventures. 

monarch life cycle
Monarch Butterfly life-cycle (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

This year we noticed a lot more Monarch Butterflies than in the past several years.  Our friend, a young man named Finn, being considerably shorter than the adults, was a master at finding Monarch caterpillars on the undersides of leaves. 

wet banding station
(Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
There were many wet and foggy days during the two weeks that Jan and I were on Dolly Sods this year.  The trail from the road to the AFMO became a stream (left 2 photos) and one of the streams flowing through the north net lanes was gushing over the rocks instead of trickling below them.  Of course we had to explore it all.

flooding and fog
(Photos (c) Bill Beatty)
On the left, Jan is walking through the water flowing across the entrance road to the Red Creek Campground.  She was pleased she had remembered to bring her tall boots.  The photo on the right shows the foggy, limited scenery observed by some of the visitors to the AFMO overlook. 

Although I did some solo hiking on “the sods”, there was one day I led a hike for a group of friends.  It rained the entire day, and the water was high everywhere — in the streams, in the bogs and in other usually-dry places.  We still had fun.  A bad day on Dolly Sods is better than a good day anywhere else.

hikers 1
(Photos (c) Bill Beatty)
Five of us hiked the wilderness edges of Alder Run Bog.  Some of us stayed dryer than others, who ended up in the hidden channels of deep streams. 

hikers 2
(Left photo (c) Bill Beatty, right photo (c) Lee Miller)
At the halfway point of the hike, three hikers opted for the road back to dry vehicles and homes.  Only Lee and I finished the hike by taking the Edge of the World Trail along the Allegheny Front. 

wild raisin and
Wild Raisin (Viburnum nudum) and Virgin’s Bower (Clematis virginiana) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

On some afternoons Jan and I hiked along the road looking for wildflowers and other interesting plants.

Left to right – Nodding Ladies’ Tresses Orchid (Spiranthes cernua), Canadian St. John’s-wort (Hypericum canadense) and Arrowleaf Tearthumb (Persicaria sagittata) (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)
(Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
While we are there in September, Jan and I always visit out favorite Dolly Sods wetlands to pick and eat fresh cranberries.  We often pick a bagful to make into cranberry relish, a fruity treat during the winter.

Birds aren’t the only ones attracted to the AFMO.  We have groups that visit to observe the research and see the birds up close.

visitors 1
(Photos (c) Jan Runyan)
On the left, Shelia, one of the AFMO station managers, is showing a bird to a group of young boys.  On the right, station banders and net-tenders talk with visitors about birds and bird banding as we wait for the fog to lift so the birds will fly.  

woodpecker tongue
(Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Visitors are always excited to see woodpeckers up close, especially when I show them something they never expected.  Woodpeckers’ tongues are about as long as the bird’s body (not including tail feathers).   After woodpeckers peck holes into insect trails in the tree and under the bark, the tongue allows them to “fish” for the insects they eat.  Here I am showing the special tongue of a Northern Flicker, a kind of woodpecker.

visitors 2
(Photo (c) Bill Beatty)
On the left Jan is showing a warbler to some budding photographers.  They knew how to use their equipment and got some great photos.  On the right a boy is ready to release a Northern Flicker.  This group of home-schooled students represents several nearby states and they visit the AFMO each year.  They are all very accomplished birders and hopefully future bird banders. 

(Photos (c) Jan Runyan)
Jackie showed our friend Andy a Black-throated Blue Warbler, taught her how to hold the bird and then Andy got to release the bird.

demo net
(Photos (c) Jan Runyan)
Here I am at the demonstration mist net showing a group of students how the birds are captured. 

Although warblers are what we capture most often, we also catch other kinds of interesting birds.

(Photos (c) Jan Runyan)
On the left is a Wood Thrush and on the right is a Grey-cheeked Thrush.  If you look carefully on the Grey-cheeked Thrush, you can see that bird’s legs are not uniformly round, but much thicker from front to back than from side to side. 

(Photos (c) Jan Runyan)
We could tell that this bird was obviously a flycatcher, but which one?  Each bander brings a library of books and notebooks to help with dilemmas like this.  The closest we could determine was that it was an Alder or Willow Flycatcher, which are so similar that usually only the song can tell them apart, so it was recorded as a Traill’s type of Flycatcher.

(Photos (c) Jan Runyan)
On the left is a beautiful little Red-breasted Nuthatch.  On the right, bander Zig is showing a Lincoln’s Sparrow.

Apart from the avian data collected at the station, another great value inherent in the AFMO is exposing people to the love of nature.

(Photos (c) Jan Runyan)
Our friend, Finn is holding two different Smooth Green Snakes he found nearby.

(Photo (c) Jan Runyan)
Here Finn and I are exploring a Dolly Sods road edge together.   He is becoming a great young scientist and a certified Nature nut, like me. 

(Left photo (c) Bill Beatty and right photo (c) Jan Runyan)
After a morning of banding birds at the AFMO, Jan is walking back to our campsite at the campground.   I am getting ready to eat lunch with Jan before I take off for some alone time in the Dolly Sods Wilderness.

(Photos (c) Bill Beatty)
Time with special friends at the campground!  Every now and then, the banders, net-tenders and other AFMO people get together to share potluck food, stories, laughter and fun.  Such wonderful friends!

For Jan and me, Dolly Sods represents so many different kinds of opportunities: helping to protect the earth through scientific avian research; alone time to better understand who we are as individuals and to find clues to age-old questions like “Why am I here?”; alone time together, just Jan and me, in a spectacular place; and group time with some of the best people on the planet, our friends, who also love Dolly Sods and all of nature.

Dolly Sods sunrise (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

A bad day on Dolly Sods is better than a good day anywhere else.

West Virginia Wildflower Pilgrimage May 10-13, 2018

The WV Wildflower Pilgrimage is a tradition for people who love the wildflowers and birds of West Virginia!

Each day starts with a bird walk hosted by members of the Brooks Bird Club.  On both Friday and Saturday participants choose from a dozen field trips with a wide variety of habitats, elevations and difficulty. Each trip includes a knowledgeable plant leader, one of the BBC’s best bird teachers, and, occasionally, another expert in areas such as geology, mosses or ferns. Thursday and Friday both end with an interesting program.

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

Jan and I will be leading bird walks, field trips and giving a class during the Thursday afternoon to Sunday noon event. See below for what we are offering at this year’s Wildflower Pilgrimage.

Thursday late afternoon — Jan will be teaching a Birding Essentials workshop at the Blackwater Falls State Park Lodge.

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 which flourish 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, several species of sundews, cranberry and a variety of ferns and mosses.  The nineteen diverse wetland communities of Cranesville are home to such birds as Blackburnian, Magnolia and Chestnut-sided Warblers, Alder Flycatcher, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Indigo Bunting and Northern Saw-whet Owl. Pilgrims will walk less than 1 1/2 miles on mostly flat forest and meadow trails and on a boardwalk into the wetland. Restrooms will be available in nearby Oakland, MD, before and after the tour.

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

Friday — I will lead a Dolly Sods Wilderness Hike. We will start at the Rohrbaugh Plains trailhead on top of Dolly Sods. The hike begins through a mixed red spruce/deciduous woodland where we will be greeted with a variety of bird songs — mostly warblers… Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green, Blackburnian, Ovenbird, Yellow-rumped and Magnolia. This trail is rocky at times and eventually traverses a mixed hardwood/evergreen forest. Lunch will be at the Rohrbaugh Plains vista looking south through the Red Creek Valley and west toward Rocky Point (Lion’s Head). The vista is one of the best scenic overlooks in WV. After lunch we will continue on the Wildlife Trail, traveling through several meadows and some deciduous woodlands. There will be opportunities for wildflower and bird identification, however, this tour’s primary focus is the spectacular beauty of Dolly Sods. Hiking shoes/boots are required. Appropriate rain gear is required. There will be restroom facilities available at the Dolly Sods Picnic Area before the hike.

Lunch at the Rorhbaugh Plains vista (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

Saturday — Together Jan and I will lead hikes in the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge. The Beall North and South Trails traverse a mix of open meadows and deciduous woodlands allowing for a large variety of plants. Parts of both trails border the Blackwater River. These are not rugged trails — they are mostly level with moderate or shorter steep elevation changes and few rocks on the trails. The entire hike will be scenic in varying ways. The birding should be excellent with the beautiful song of Hermit Thrushes possible along the entire 3 1/2 miles. A nice variety of warblers are expected. If time permits we will then travel to the nearby Idleman’s Run Trail off Forest Service Rd. 80 for a more botanical/wildflower walk. Idleman’s Trail is just 4/10 mile. It gently slopes uphill the entire way and is quite notable for all the interesting plants we can encounter. Hiking boots/shoes and rain gear are recommended. “Facili-trees” are the only restrooms available on these hikes.

The Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge Beall Trails (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)
Idleman’s Run in the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

The Wildflower Pilgrimage is one of the best ways to learn and have fun in some of the most biologically outstanding and scenic areas in WV’s mountains!

For additional information and to register go to:

Directions to Blackwater Falls State Park:,-79.4972965,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x884ac93ea954f8ad:0xa67bfe42ac7e9843!8m2!3d39.1076563!4d-79.4951078

North Bend State Park’s Winter Wonder Weekend… January 18-20, 2019

Monarchs and More!

Monarch Butterfly nectaring on Wingstem wildflower (photo (c) Bill Beatty)

Monarchs, migration and Mexico – not sure what those things have in common?  Join Jan and me at  Winter Wonder Weekend 2019 at North Bend State Park to find out.  Not only will you learn more about the importance and conservation of Monarch Butterflies and other pollinators, you will enjoy outdoor and indoor winter activities like sleigh riding (weather permitting), winter hikes, tours of the local area, programs, contests, puzzles, crafts, door prizes and entertainment.

North Bend State Park’s Winter Wonder Weekend is a wonder-ful tradition and a great way to have fun. There are loads of activities for all ages to choose from or you can just enjoy sitting with friends around their beautiful fireplace.  The staff at North Bend always shows amazing creativity with decorations and activities related to their theme–I’m sure this year will be just as wonder-ful.

I will be presenting the Friday evening program, Creating a Backyard Habitat for Butterflies, Birds and other pollinators.

Black-eyed Susan flowers and Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies (photo (c) Bill Beatty)

Following my program there will be an Ice Cream Social.


After the ice cream, Jan and I will lead a Night Walk along nearby roadways.  We will gaze at the dazzling stars and, hopefully, call in an Eastern Screech-owl or Barred Owl.

Eastern Screech-owl  (photo (c) Bill Beatty)

After a Breakfast Buffet on Saturday, Jan and I will lead an easy 4-5 mile Winter Hike along part of the North Bend Rail Trail.  For those not wanting to hike, there will be field trips to Berdine’s Five and Dime (one of Jan’s favorite places) and Cliff’s Museum of Car Memorabilia (one of Bill’s favorite places) or craft classes at the park Lodge.  In the afternoon the choices include craft classes, the same field trips and the ever-popular Bingo!

Saturday evening will start with Magnificent Monarchs, presented by Sue Olcott of the WV Division of Natural Resources.  Sue is currently project leader of the WV Butterfly Atlas, project leader for the WV monarch butterfly conservation plan, and serves on a regional technical steering committee and a national species status assessment team for the monarch butterfly.

Monarch Butterflies  (photo (c) Veronique)

After Sue’s program there will be refreshments and a live performance by Stepping Stone Band, incredibly talented Bridgeport, WV, musicians who play so many songs Jan knows the words to.  You can just sit back and enjoy the music, but watch out … they make you feel like dancin’!

Stepping Stone Band

On Sunday, after another Breakfast Buffet,  we will enjoy a program about the natural history and conservation of pollinators. 

You can make the weekend as busy or relaxed as you want in the beautiful hills surrounding North Bend Lake on the Hughes River, east of Parkersburg, WV.   Multiple packages are available for accommodation in the North Bend Lodge or cabins and include all activities, crafts, and five full meals in North Bend Dining room plus an ice cream social and snacks. Double occupancy at North Bend Lodge is $150 per person for the total weekend.  Other lodging preferences are available.

Register before January 11, 2019, by calling Wendy Greene at 304-558-2754.

The 2018 Brooks Bird Club Fall Retreat – Tygart Lake State Park

The Brooks Bird Club had their fall reunion and membership meeting at Tygart Lake State Park near Grafton, WV.   Since the trees are late to change this year, the view was not typical of WV in the fall, but the weather was good for hiking.


Photo (c) Bill Beatty


Our accommodations – Top to bottom – Tygart Lake Lodge, lodge lobby, and our room.

The Tygart Lake SP staff was wonderful.  All the BBCers at the get-together took full advantage of the comfortable lobby and great view between activities and before and after meals.

Jan and I arrived early enough to get settled in and take a walk behind the lodge, along the lake.   One plant I noticed right away was poison ivy.  Poison ivy vines were climbing many of the trees.  For birders that’s a plus since so many kinds of birds like to feed on poison ivy berries.


A poison ivy vine and an Eastern Bluebird feeding on poison ivy berries.  (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

downy woodpecker (Dendrocopos pubescens) on poison ivy branch wi

Downy Woodpecker feeding on poison ivy berries.  (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

The lake had been drawn down for the winter, so part of our walk would have been under water in the summertime.  We noticed people fishing from shore as well as from boats while we were there.  Our walk wasn’t long, but we found some interesting things near the lake.


Jan looking at some Mustard Yellow Polypore Fungi (Polyporus gilvus).  (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

Jan is a Board of Trustees member for the Brooks Bird Club which, for me, translates to — I get to go exploring while she is at the board meeting.  I decided to hike the 2 mile Dogwood Trail near the lodge.


The state park offers a number of trails.

The Dogwood Trail contains a series of switch-backs that climb to the top of a ridge and follow it for a while.  Then the trail comes back down the other side.  The trail is wooded along almost all of its length.

dogwood trail

Photos (c) Bill Beatty

The most noticeable thing for me were the frequent groves of Pawpaw trees.  Most of the trees were smaller, but several were large enough to produce fruit.


Pawpaw Tree (Asimina triloba) grove and ripening pawpaws  (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

I saw a Comma Butterfly feeding on a fallen pawpaw.  I could understand that since pawpaws are one of my favorite fruits, too.


Comma Butterfly (Polygonia c-album)  (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

There were many plants and fungi that made the hike more interesting for me.  Christmas Ferns (Polystichum acrostichoides) seemed to be everywhere.

Christmas fern sori (Polystichum acrostichoides)

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) was the dominant shrub.

spicebush berries (Lindera benzoin)

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

I saw only one American Holly (Ilex opaca), but it was loaded with berries … good news for the birds.

F American holly tree (Ilex opaca) berries

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

Along the level part of the Dogwood Trail, high on the ridge, there were so many dead American Ash trees that it looked like a tornado had blown through the area.  The trees had been killed by the Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis) and had been cut down for safety reasons.


Downed American Ash trees (Fraxinus americana)  (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

On several trees where the bark had fallen off there were Emerald Ash Borer larvae trails.


Larvae trails and active larva  (Left photo (c) Bill Beatty)

One of the wildflower plants I saw was the leaf of a Cranefly Orchid (Tipularia discolor).


Cranefly Orchid (Tipularia discolor) leaf  (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

Having so much wet weather this year has been good for many kinds of fungi.  It wasn’t hard for me to find a number of different species.


Left – Turkey-tail Fungus (Trametes versicolor);  right – old Pear-shaped Puffballs (Lycoperdon pyriforme)  (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

On Saturday some of the BBC members went to Pleasant Creek Wildlife Management Area to look for birds, while others of us decided to hike in the park.  We started with seven hikers, but Jeannie and Cindy wanted a more vigorous hike so they charged ahead of the rest of us.


Photo (c) Bill Beatty

The Woodland Trail is a short hike, but even at this time of year there were lots of interesting things to see.  And the trail is definitely in the woodlands.


Photos (c) Bill Beatty

Tom and Dawn stopped frequently to inspect the ferns along the way (one of their specialties).  There were lots to see.  Most abundant were the Christmas Ferns.


Left – Black-footed Polypore (Royoporus badius) and right, Ebony Spleenwort (Asplenium   platyneuron)  (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)


Photo (c) Bill Beatty

After finishing the Woodland Trail, we started the Ridge Trail.  Soon we came upon a log covered in edible Combs-tooth/Lion’s Mane fungi (Hericium sp.).


Comb’s Tooth/Lion’s Mane fungus  (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

We collected all the fresh specimens and took them back with us.  The mushrooms were sauteed and served at supper for anyone who wanted to try this delicious wild food.


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

The Ridge Trail ended at a rustic bridge over a scenic stream.  Although we had hiked only 2 miles in all, we had seen lots of interesting things.  We were finished in time to savor the hearty lunch packed for us by the park and have the BBC Board Members back in time for their last session of the board meeting.


(Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

There is always something special and unique in each WV state park we visit.  Jan and I have talked about returning to Tygart Lake SP when the lake is full to kayak along the wooded edges of the lake and maybe try our luck at fishing, too.


Discovering Life through Birds program, October 3, for the Three Rivers Birding Club of Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Bill w PIWO

What in the world are nature’s connections from rainbows to bluebirds to Buffleheads?  We will find out in a colorful program by Bill Beatty at the 3RBC meeting on Wednesday, October 3, 2018.  Bill is a widely known consulting naturalist and outdoor education specialist from Wellsburg, West Virginia.
The program’s title is that of his new book, Rainbows, Bluebirds and Buffleheads: Discovering Life Through Birds, which chronicles his interest in birds from a young boy to the present.
Bill has a B.S. degree in biology from West Liberty University.  He founded a company named Wild & Natural in 1990, specializing in nature/environmental programs, nature writing, and nature photography with more than 2,500 published photos.  From 1993-2008 he was an instructor for the Center for Professional Development, where he taught teachers how to become better teachers with unique and innovative teaching techniques.
He was an Interpretive Naturalist for Oglebay Institute from 1972 to 1990 and is an instructor for various nature-related events in the West Virginia State Park System. Bill taught recreational camping, outdoor leisure pursuits, and outdoor activities classes for the P.E. Department 1999-2015 and guest lectures for the Biology Department at West Liberty University.

Bill holds a Federal Master Personal Bird Banding permit and for 28 years studied the breeding biology of the Eastern Screech-Owl.  He presented a program on his owl research at our club’s April, 2005 meeting.  Bill and Jan Runyan, who is also a bander, band approximately 1,000 birds each year at their home near Wellsburg, West Virginia.
Bill is the author of Bill and Bev Beatty’s Wild Plant Cookbook, which many people refer to as “the cookbook you can read,” highlighting nutritional insights and simple recipes using many commonly available edible wild plants. He will have copies of both books for sale (cash or check only) at the meeting: Rainbows, Bluebirds and Buffleheads is $18.95 and the Wild Plant Cookbook is $9.95. Read more about Bill and his work on his website and photo gallery at
Our meeting place is the Phipps Garden Center, 1059 Shady Avenue in Shadyside. Doors will open at 6:30 PM for socializing, a business meeting will begin at 7:30, and the program will start at 8:00.
We hope to see you on October 3, 2018!

Directions to Phipps Garden Center:,-117.3779296875,30.826780904779774,-78.6181640625&page=0


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

This adult nature studies camp has been operating for over 90 years!    This was the 89th year that either Oglebay Institute or the Brooks Bird Club has sponsored the camp in Preston  County, WV.  Many campers return year after year for the fun and quality Nature education.  The following photos show much of the learning and enjoyment that were packed into one week.

One of the first things each camper does when they arrive is to put up their tent.  The tent sites are as close to friends or as secluded as each person desires.  Those that don’t want to camp can stay at nearby Alpine Lake Lodge.


Photos (c) Bill Beatty

Each morning starts with a bird walk.  Sometimes we go into the woods; sometimes to  nearby fields and pastures.  Other bird walks take us through a variety of habitats along the road bordering Terra Alta Lake.


Morning bird walk, out the lane from camp to the bobolink field. (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

This year I was the camp Botanist.    On Monday I taught a class on plant identification and natural history.  Since 2006 we have found and recorded 106 species of wildflowers and shrubs flowering just on the camp’s 18 acres, just during the third week of June when Mountain Nature Camp is usually in session.

Camp flowers

Left-to-right – Spotted Wintergreen, Blue-eyed Grass and Devil’s Bit  (All photos (c) Bill Beatty)

While I was out teaching and exploring the camp habitats with half of the campers, Jan was inside presenting her “Birding Fundamentals for Everyone” program.  Jan and I usually take photos of each other teaching, but at Mountain Camp we were both teaching at the same time, so, below, I have a photo of her teaching the program at another venue.  The other program that day, “Newcombs — One More Time”, was given by Helen Wylie, camp botanist emeritus.  She has always said that many of us need a yearly reminder of how to identify plants…we were glad to have Helen teach us again!


Jan presenting her Birding Fundamentals program at the West Virginia Wildflower Pilgrimage.  (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

Greg Park, retired Oglebay Institute Naturalist, visited camp on Tuesday to present a herpetology program.  In the morning, after talking about reptiles and amphibians, Greg took us into the woods where we found and studied some “herps”.

Greg herps

Greg presented an introduction followed by an on-site field trip to search for reptiles and amphibians.  (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)

On Tuesday afternoon we visited nearby Herrington Manor State Park in Maryland.  Some campers hiked while others searched for herps, birds and interesting plants.


Left-to-right – Identifying a fern; comparing the sori of an Intermediate Shield Fern to a Lady Fern; and the fertile fronds of a Cinnamon Fern.  (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)

Besides ferns we found a wide variety of other non-flowering plants and some interesting wildflowers including Swamp Saxifrage and Dewdrop (pictured below).

misc plants

Clockwise from top left – Groundpine; Running Clubmoss; Shining Clubmoss; and Dewdrop (also called False Violet)  (All photos (c) Bill Beatty)

Campers searched high and low for herps and found a variety of salamanders.  Using plastic bags we were all able to get great looks at the different kinds before we released them in the same location.


Long-tailed Salamander (L) and  Slimy Salamander (R).  (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

Len found a log that was just loaded with tiny fungi and slime molds.  Then, surprisingly, a tiny Red-backed Salamander also appeared from a fissure in the log.  He was gone before we could get a photo!

len slime

Clockwise from left – Len holding the log; Coral Slime Mold; and Many-headed Slime Mold  (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

Mary Grey and Larry Helgerman were the bird leaders for the week and at Herrington Manor State Park there was no shortage of birds.


Left to right – Wood Thrush; Scarlet Tanager; and Ovenbird  (Scarlet Tanager photo (c) Jan Runyan, other two photos (c) Bill Beatty)

Later, Greg caught a Milk Snake and talked to us about them.

Greg snake

(Photos (c) Jan Runyan)

At the designated time we all met so we could continue to the dam and the lake.


(Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

At the breast of the dam Larry set up his scope so everyone could see the Bald Eagles and their nest at the far end of the lake.

larry eagle

On the dam; the Bald Eagle on its nest (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)

On the way back to Mountain Nature Camp, Greg moved a Snapping Turtle from the road.  Although this photo is not that same turtle from this year’s camp, the photo actually shows another Snapping Turtle from another camp trip in a previous year.  Greg and Snapping Turtles seem to have a history.


(Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

Each night at camp, when the weather permits, we have great campfires.  Again Lenny Muni  was our very capable campfire leader.  We always enjoy sharing our highlights of the day and hearing Lenny’s music (solos and sing-alongs), stories and inspirational readings.


Left – Pete was that night’s “ishkatay”.  (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)

lenny fires

Right – Lenny leading a song (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)

On Wednesday we traveled to Copper’s Rock State Forest.  Part of the group chased birds on Raven’s Rock Trail while Jan and I went with a group along Rattlesnake Trail to explore parts of “Rock City”.

Rock City

Rock City  (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

All week Len was looking for and finding many kinds of slime molds.  Some he already knew the names of and others I was able to teach him.

Slime 2

Clockwise from top left – Len showing me several slime molds to identify; Yellow Fuzz Cone Slime; Chocolate Tube Slime; and Wolf’s Milk/Bubblegum Slime.  (Top left photo (c) Jan Runyan, all slime mold photos (c) Bill Beatty)

The variety of amazing rock formations we found only whetted our appetites for what we knew was coming in the afternoon.


Formations in ‘Rock City’  (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)

more rock city

More ‘Rock City’  (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)

After our picnic lunch,  Claudette Simard from Fairmont University met us for a Geology lesson.  She took us to the Cooper’s Rock overlook to describe the big picture of the whole area and then down in crevices between boulders to explain the finer points of certain rock layers and formations.  Jan wished she could take Claudette back to interpret Rock City.

geology claudette

Photos (c) Jan Runyan

While at the Cooper’s Rock overlook Jenn saw a young Five-lined Skink.


Left – Cooper’s Rock overlook; Right –  juvenile Five-lined Skinks  (Overlook photo (c) Jan Runyan – Skinks photo (c) Bill Beatty)

There were so many birds, plants, animals, fungi and slime molds to see, I’m sure Mountain Nature Campers will want to return to Cooper’s Rock again.

misc Coopers

Clockwise from top left – Flat Polydesmida Millipede; Witches Butter Fungus; Shield Bug nymph; and Pokey cooling off in the shade  (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)

When we returned to Mountain Nature Camp on Terra Alta Lake, our camp cook (and long-time friend) Bobby Hauger treated us to a special find.  While we had been on our field trip, he had seen 2 Roseate Spoonbills in an inlet bordering the 18 acre peninsula where the camp is located.  The birds were then observed by two campers who had not gone on the field trip.  When the rest of us returned and heard the news, several campers immediately went looking for the birds, but couldn’t find them.  After dinner, as the search continued, two campers decided to walk around the lake and eventually the spoonbills were spotted way across the lake in the headwaters’ shallows.  Thanks to Mary Edith, all campers were able to see the birds.

roseate spoonbill color

Roseate Spoonbills  (Photo (c) Cory Altemus)

Of course we set up scopes and took lots of photos.  This find will be a new state record for West Virginia.  The tradition of spectacular nature finds by Oglebay Institute’s Mountain Nature Camp continues!

scope spoonbill

Left – The Spoonbills were at the farthest shore we could see.  Right – Mary, looking at the spoonbills, as Larry spread the word to other birders in the state.  (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)

On Thursday, as some birders from around WV arrived to try to spot the Spoonbills, we separated into two groups for our field trip.  One group went to look at  birds and wildflowers along Canaan Loop Road and I took the other group hiking in the Dolly Sods Wilderness.  It was a beautiful day along Canaan Loop Road and at Red Run.  The orange color of the water is due to tannic acid from the decaying Red Spruce needles and sphagnum mosses in the bogs that feed the stream.

Canaan Loop 1

Canaan Loop Road;  Red Run snaking between spruce trees at the picnic area (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)


Exploring parts of Red Run  (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

Canaan Loop Road never disappoints – we always find a variety of interesting wildlife.  The following photos represent the kinds of things campers saw on Canaan Loop Road.

Canaan Loop 2

Forest Log Millipede;  Fly Amanita Mushrooms  (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

red-spotted purple butterflies (Basilarchia astyanax) puddling

Puddling Red-spotted Purple Butterflies  (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

Meanwhile, up in the Dolly Sods Wilderness, I was leading a hike on one of the little-known “off-trail” trails that I have discovered and explored during the many years I have been visiting this spectacular mountain plateau.


The intrepid hikers  (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

In the pond at the bottom of Blackbird Knob Trail, just before it crosses Alder Run, we found a beautiful Red-Spotted Newt.

red-spotted newt salamander (Notophthalmus viridescens viridesce

(Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

Randy always seems to have close encounters with wildlife.  In 2016 and 2017, it was a Common Snapping Turtle.  This year on Dolly Sods it was this curious Pearl Crescent Butterfly.

Randy butterfly

(Left photo (c) Bill Beatty and right photo (c) Pete Rykert)

There were many crossings included in our hike which is known as the “Beatty Labyrinth”.


Crossing Red Creek  (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)


Traversing a rock field   (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)


Crossing a meadow bordered by great stands of Mountain Laurel  (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

The Mountain Laurel was beautiful.  Depending on the location, some flowers were just opening and others were in full bloom.


Left – Mountain Laurel flower buds;  right – white form of the Mountain Laurel  (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) showing petals clasping stame

Single Mountain Laurel flower  (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

At supper time both groups met at the Pendleton Point Overlook picnic shelter at Blackwater Falls State Park for a cookout and to share stories about our trips.


Photos (c) Bill Beatty

On Friday, after the bird walk and breakfast, we took a morning field trip to nearby Chestnut Heights, a treasure trove of botany, ornithology and scenic beauty.


Chestnut Heights  (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

In the afternoon I presented a power point program about “The Salamanders of West Virginia”.   That evening, Bobby outdid himself, presenting us with steak and shrimp for our last supper.  It was a wonderful week of fun people, spectacular wildlife and delicious meals.


Friday’s supper (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

During the week we had several visitors including past campers, and past teachers/leaders.


Left – Helen Wylie, long time botanist and teacher for Mountain Nature Camp, with Cindy Slater, past camper and leader; Right – Pokey, owner of Pete Rykert.  (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)

Saturday was our last day.  We had a casual bird walk, ate breakfast, and relaxed with friends as our tents dried.  Then we said our goodbyes to friends, old and new, and to Mountain Nature Camp…until next year!


Photo (c) Jan Runyan


Mountain Nature Camp 2018

Post Script:  The other birders searching for the 2 Roseate Spoonbills on Thursday were not able to locate them, although they searched Terra Alta Lake and nearby locations.  Only Mountain Nature campers had the pleasure of seeing and photographing the unusual birds.  Our thanks, again, to Bobby for finding the birds and recognizing that they were very special.












The Allegheny Front Migration Observatory (AFMO), Hiking, Wildflowers and More on Dolly Sods – late September, 2017

This is a re-post of our two week stay volunteering at the AFMO in 2017.  The 2018 dates for banding at the AFMO are Sunday, August 19 until October 5 (weather permitting).  Visitors are welcome.

The AFMO has been operating each fall since 1958 and is the oldest continuously operating bird banding station in North America.  I have been visiting this bird banding station since 1972 and volunteering since 2004.  Jan has volunteered since 2007, the year she retired. We are both federally licensed bird banders, but at AFMO we volunteer as net-tenders removing birds from the 30 mist nets used for trapping migratory birds. The AFMO is located along the Allegheny Front (eastern continental divide) near the Red Creek Campground on Dolly Sods. Most of Dolly Sods is federally designated as Wilderness Area comprising 32,000 acres. The banding station is in the Dolly Sods Scenic Area.

Dolly Sods Wilderness fall scenic

Dolly Sods looking south from Castle Rock with the Allegheny Front to the left. (photo (c) Bill Beatty)


photos (c) Jan Runyan

In late September this year, we spent 15 days on Dolly Sods working at the AFMO.  We stayed at Red Creek Campground.  Our days began at 5 a.m. when it was still dark.  Before 6, we walked to the AFMO to help open the mist nets at 6:15 a.m.  The thrushes began hitting the nets while it was still dark and we usually needed headlamps to take  them from the nets.


Left – Gray-cheeked Thrush just banded;  right – Jan releasing a reluctant Swainson’s Thrush (photos (c) Bill Beatty)

Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish a Gray-cheeked Thrush from a Swainson’s Thrush.  Having them side-by-side makes the differences easier to see.

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Left – Gray-cheeked Thrush;  right – Swainson’s Thrush (photo (c) Jan Runyan)

We also caught other thrushes:  Wood Thrush, Hermit Thrush and Veery.


Veery (photos (c) Jan Runyan)

Being on the Allegheny Front, looking east toward the ridge-and-valley area and the piedmont, the views from the AFMO are spectacular. Each sunrise (or sometimes just sky-lightening) is different.

scenic 2

Dolly Sods sunrises (photos (c) Jan Runyan)

The following video is from the AFMO.  We see something similar almost every morning. (video (c) Jan Runyan)



During and after the sunrise we begin to catch other kinds of birds, especially warblers.


Black-throated Green Warbler (photos (c) Jan Runyan)

palm warbler

Palm Warbler (photos (c) Jan Runyan)


Black-and-white Warbler (photos (c) Jan Runyan)

Sometimes we catch a bird that is uncommon at the AFMO and everyone stops what they are doing to get a good look. That was the case this year with this Mourning Warbler.  It was only the 34th of its kind banded at the AFMO since 1958.


Mourning Warbler (photos (c) Bill Beatty)

Many of the warblers we band are referred to as ‘confusing’ fall warblers due to the drastic color and pattern differences from their spring plumage.  This Chestnut-sided Warbler showed no signs of the beautiful chestnut colors it had during the spring, however the golden crown is a good indicator for identifying this species in the fall.


Chestnut-sided Warbler (photos (c) Jan Runyan)

And this Hooded Warbler showed little or no indication of the black hood it will have when it wears its breeding plumage next spring.

hooded 1

Hooded Warbler (photos (c) Jan Runyan)

hooded 2

Hooded Warbler (photos (c) Jan Runyan)

Sometimes identification comes down to the color of the soles of the feet or of the lower bill.


Cape May Warbler (photo (c) Jan Runyan)

One of the things the banders record is the age of each bird that’s banded.  Among other things, they examine the wear, molt limits and colors of the feathers.

molt limits

photos (c) Jan Runyan

Occasionally there is a bird who is so young that some of his feathers are still emerging from their sheaths.  Still, he is already in the middle of his migration flight.


photo (c) Jan Runyan

After sunrise there is often fog or mist in the valleys or rising from them. (video (c) Jan Runyan)



Each day after the birds were done with their morning feeding flight, we helped furl the nets to keep them safe and out of the way until the next day when net-tenders would be back to monitor them.  The station is usually closed by noon each day which gave Jan and me time to see many of the other wonders of Dolly Sods and other nearby areas.  One of the hikes I led was on the Bog-to-Bog Loop Trail with Jan and two friends.

bog to bog 1

Left – In the Red Spruce woods adjacent to the the west side of the Alder Run Bog dog-leg;  right – eating lunch in the Red Pine plantation near the High Mountain Meadow. (left photo (c) Bill Beatty, right photo (c) Jan Runyan)

bog to bog 2

Left – Fisher Springs Run Bog in background;  right – a Christmas-in-September Red Spruce surrounded by Black Chokeberry shrubs. (left photo (c) Jan Runyan, right photo (c) Bill Beatty)

During our 15 days we were fortunate to see three species of gentian in full bloom including the rare Fringed Gentian (found only in one place in West Virginia).


Left to right – Narrow-leaved Gentian, Bottle Gentian and Fringed Gentian (photos (c) Bill Beatty)

Due to the dry conditions most wildflowers were in poor condition, but those associated with wetlands seemed unaffected by the lack of rain.

plants 3

Left to right – Nodding Ladies’ Tresses, Black Knapweed and Orange Hawkweed (photos (c) Bill Beatty)


plants 1

Left – Round-leaved Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia);  right – a mosquito trapped on a fleshy Sundew leaf (photos (c) Bill Beatty)

plants 2

Oblong-leaved Sundew (Drosera intermedia) (photos (c) Bill Beatty)

One afternoon we went to the beaver dam along Forest Service Road 75 just south of Bear Rocks Nature Preserve to photograph the beavers.  Fortunately on this particular day the beavers  were quite cooperative.

beaver 1

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

The following three videos show just how much fun we had watching the beavers. (all three videos (c) Jan Runyan)






The AFMO can be a busy place.  Sometimes groups from schools or other organizations visit.  Some individuals who know about the banding station stop by to see the birds, the scenery, and familiar faces.  Sometimes people just happen upon the banding operation by following the well-traveled trail east of the Blackbird Knob Trail parking lot.

groups 1

Left – LeJay talking to a group from the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy;  right – Carol showing a bird to a school group (photos (c) Jan Runyan)

groups 2

Bill showing a school group how the birds are captured at the demo mist net. (photos (c) Jan Runyan)

groups 4

Left – One of four groups from Marshall County Schools that visited the AFMO;  right – other visitors not with any organized group. (photos (c) Jan Runyan)

Giving people their first personal contact with birds is magical.  Young (and old) lives can be changed for all time.

groups 3

Jan putting a Ruby-throated Hummingbird in this young girl’s hand (photos (c) Bill Beatty)


Left – Chip about to release a tiny Ruby-crowned Kinglet;  right – Jackie holding a bird against a young lady’s ear so she can hear the heartbeat. (photos (c) Jan Runyan)

jan lauren

Left – Jan with a Black-throated Blue Warbler;  right – Lauren with a Common Yellowthroat (left photo (c) Bill Beatty, right photo (c) Jan Runyan)

april jenny

Left – Apryl releasing a Swainson’s Thrush;  right – Jenny and Bill with one of her very favorite birds, a Mourning Warbler (photos (c) Jan Runyan)

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Girl releasing a Black-throated Green Warbler (photo (c) Jan Runyan)

Birds are not the only animals visiting the AFMO.

other animals

Clockwise from top left – Red-spotted Purple Butterfly, Steve with a Smooth Green Snake, and Green Darner Dragonfly (photos (c) Jan Runyan

On our second Saturday on Dolly Sods, after banding I led a 5 mile hike on some well-known and lesser-known Dolly Sods Wilderness trails.

hike 1

In the beginning at “the Rock” and hiking cross-country between Alder Run and Red Creek (photos (c) Bill Beatty)

hike 2

Crossing Red Creek and hiking cross-country on the NE side of Blackbird Knob (photos (c) Bill Beatty)


Left – Time for lunch and rest;  right – play time at the confluence of Alder Run and Red Creek (photos (c) Bill Beatty)

hike 4

Hiking upstream along Alder Run and crossing the Beatty Labyrinth rock field (photos (c) Bill Beatty)

9 hike IMG_3968

The end…the Rock where it all began (photo (c) Jan Runyan)

For two days while we were at the AFMO a tick researcher studying the occurrence of Lyme’s disease was taking ticks from around the eyes and mouth of birds that nest on or near the ground.  She was also taking blood samples.

tick 1

Amanda explaining her tick research to Bill and removing a tick from a Swainson’s Thrush (photos (c) Jan Runyan)

tick 2

Wetting the underside of the wing to make the vein more visible and piercing the vein (photos (c) Jan Runyan)

tick 3

Taking blood and then applying an anticoagulant (photos (c) Jan Runyan)

Each and every morning the bird banding research continued.

banding 1

photos (c) Jan Runyan

banding 2

photos (c) Jan Runyan

More and more birds were caught, removed from the mist nets, and taken to the ‘gurus’ in the banding shed.


Bay-breasted Warbler (left) and Blackburnian Warbler (photos (c) Jan Runyan)

black-throated blues

Female (left) and male Black-throated Blue Warblers (photos (c) Jan Runyan)


Ovenbird (left) and American Redstart (photos (c) Jan Runyan)


Philadelphia Vireo (left) and Red-eyed Vireo (photos (c) Jan Runyan)

REVI eyes

Left – The reddish iris indicates this Red-eyed Vireo is an adult;  right – the brown iris indicates this Red-eyed Vireo was born this year. (photos (c) Jan Runyan)


From left – Savanah Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow and Lincoln’s Sparrow (photos (c) Jan Runyan)

One day after banding was done, Jan and I decided to check the out-and-back Old Growth Forest Trail to see if we could make it into a loop trail.  Anytime we are on this short trail we are mesmerized by the variety of habitats and the beauty, especially of the mosses and the mature oaks at the end of the trail.  The magic of the Morning Star (the planet Venus) early that morning had seemed to be a good omen of how wonderful the day would be.

old growth 1

Left – Venus, the Morning Star;  right – Jan beginning our hike on the little known Old Growth Forest Trail (left photo (c) Jan Runyan, right photo (c) Bill Beatty)

old growth 2

Left – the verdant Old Growth Forest Trail;  right – Jan looking closely at a Red Spruce nursery (left photo (c) Jan Runyan and right photo (c) Bill Beatty)

hen-of-the-woods mushroom

Bill found this Hen-of-the-woods fungus and took it back to the campground where our good friends and campground neighbors turned it into a delicious meal (which they shared with us). (left photo (c) Jan Runyan,  right photo (c) Bill Beatty)

We never did find a way to turn the out-and-back trail into a loop trail, but we had a great time trying.

One day we caught a bird with a bewildering difference.  A male Black-throated Blue Warbler had a red plastic band on his leg.  Researchers often use various colored plastic bands during research like nesting site studies so they can spot specific individual birds by sight.  But we were baffled because this bird did not also have a numbered metal band which would identify the bander and location.  That day’s AFMO bander put one of his numbered metal bands on the bird and made note of this anomaly in his records.

red plastic band

Left – the Black-throated Blue Warbler arrived at AFMO with just a plastic band;  right – the warbler left AFMO with the additional aluminum numbered band (photos (c) Jan Runyan)

Always special at the AFMO are the larger and unusual birds, especially raptors.  There were two hawks caught while we were there.

jeff SSHA

Station Manager Jeff with an adult Sharp-shinned Hawk.  Notice the red iris and orange-brown horizontal bars on the breast. (photos (c) Jan Runyan)

shelia SSHA

Station Manager Shelia with a young Sharp-shinned Hawk.  Notice the yellow iris and brown vertical barring on breast. (photos (c) Jan Runyan)

Each year, for many years, I have spent 1 to 3 months on Dolly Sods taking photos, leading wilderness hikes and volunteering at the AFMO.  Each time I leave I feel as if I’m leaving a wonderful dear friend…sad to leave but so glad to have been there.  What a wonderful place!

scenic 2

Two of the many moods of our friend, Dolly Sods.

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

After spending several hours early in the day hiking the Beall Tract in Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge,  Jan and I decided to drive to Forest Service Road 80 and explore Idleman’s Run Trail.   The upper end of the trail comes out on FS 80, but the lower end stops in a clearing in the woods.  From there, an overgrown access road (for some reason not officially part of the trail) leads back to FS 80.  The trail itself is  4/10 of a mile, but adding the access roadway and the hike on Forest Service Road 80 back to the car, the entire distance is close to 1 mile.

We pulled off FS 80 and parked about halfway between the lower access road and the upper end of Idleman’s Run Trail.  Then we walked down to the access road leading to the lower end of the trail.  This would give us water-level views of the Run as we walked up the trail.  That turned out to be a great choice.

In the meadow just before the beginning of Idelman’s Run Trail we noticed lots of European Skipper Butterflies visiting many Cat’s Ear flowers.

european skipper

Left photo (c) Jan Runyan and European Skipper Butterfly (Thymelicus lineola) nectaring on Cat’s Ear (Hypochaeris radicata)  photo (c) Bill Beatty

When we reached the beginning of the trail we were amazed at the beauty of the run itself.  If you look closely in the next photos, you can see Jan standing in the middle of the woodland above the falls.

Idelmans scenic 1

Idleman’s Run  (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

Idelmans scenic 3

Another part of Idleman’s Run (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

This little waterway had all you could ask of a mountain stream:  boulders, rock ledges, waterfalls, pools, mosses and other plants of moist areas, splashes, trickles, and small floodplains.  While exploring the stream edges I found an abundance of Bishop’s Cap.  Although not in flower this late in the year, I could easily picture in my mind the tiny, very fancy flowers the way they would appear in May to anyone willing to take the time to use a hand lens.

Bishop's Cap

Bishop’s Cap (Mitella diphylla) flowers in early May.  (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

There were other interesting treasures along the stream.  I found several small stands of Golden Saxifrage (Chrysosplenium americanum) and Lettuce Saxifrage (Saxifraga micranthidifolia).  Some of the Golden Saxifrage were still flowering, however the Lettuce Saxifrage had been browsed by deer and the flowers were gone.


Photos (c) Jan Runyan

The tiny flowers of the Golden Saxifrage don’t look like typical flowers … another fascinating treat for people who take the time to view them with a hand lens.


Golden Saxifrage  (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

Finding Saxifrage plants, especially in the abundance we found, is an indicator of good water quality.  The good condition of the water was verified  by a man we surprised as he came down the trail.  We had stepped off the trail to let him pass, but he hadn’t heard us, so when he looked up he was startled to see us just a few feet in front of him.  He explained that he rarely encounters anyone there as he does his frequent water quality checks of Idleman’s Run.  Actually he was the only other person we saw on the trail that day, too.

The Meehania (Meehania cordata) mints were in full flower.

meehenia photographer

Left photo (c) Jan Runyan and Meehania photo (c) Bill Beatty

American Basswood (Tilia americana) trees were common along the stream and it was exciting to see a perfect example of how the younger clones form a circle around the main tree.

basswood and bill

Left photo (c) Bill Beatty and right photo (c) Jan Runyan

Every place we explored, we kept finding interesting plants, animals and geology.


Young Chanterelle mushrooms (Cantharellus cibarius)  (Photo (c) Bill Beatty

Jan rock

Jan looking at a rock formation and the variety of plants growing on and around the rocks.  (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

As we hiked in an area where the trail left the stream, Jan noticed a grouping of leafless flower stalks.  They were Ramps/Wild Leeks (Allium tricoccum).  We have large Ramp patches on our property and each spring we use them in a variety of delicious ways.  My favorites are  Cream of Ramp and Morel Mushroom Soup and Ramp Mashed Potatoes.

ramp flowers double

Ramp flowers  (Left photo (c) Bill Beatty and right photo (c) Jan Runyan)

The most exciting find of the day was a fern that was almost new to me.  In 1972 at Oglebay Institute’s Mountain Nature Studies Camp for adults, I was shown a Daisy-leaf Moonwort Fern (Botrychium matricariifolium).  Being a young naturalist at the time, I didn’t fully understand the rarity and  importance of this find.  I don’t really remember much about that fern itself, but I do remember its location.  In later years I looked for it many times at camp but haven’t been able to rediscover it.  Now, along Idleman’s Run Trail, I was able to spend more time examining, photographing, and enjoying this fern rarity.

daisy-leaf moonwort double

Daisy-leaf Moonwort Fern (Botrychium matricariifolium)  (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

There was so much to discover along this short trail.  Some of the things we saw hinted at the treasures that might be found here at other times of the year.  We decided to return and visit this trail often when we are in the area.

As during the morning along the Beall Tract trails, all along Idleman’s Run Trail we delighted in hearing the beautiful songs of Hermit Thrushes (Catharus guttatus).  It turned out to be a spectacular and rewarding day in so many ways!

hemit thrush 2

Hermit Thrush  (Photo (c) Laura Meyers)

Click to enjoy the Hermit Thrush song: 




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

Free cabin!  Canaan Valley!  June!  LET’S GO!  Jan and I decided to use a voucher for a complimentary cabin at Canaan Valley State Park as the home base for an exploratory trip into the CVNWR.  We had already been there many times, hiking some of the trails, leading birding trips and kayaking the Blackwater River and its tributaries.  This time we wanted to scout two trails we had seen, but not been on, as possible trips for the West Virginia Wildflower Pilgrimage and for other nature-related groups we lead.

Our first hike was at the Beall Tract:  Beall North Trail, Blackwater View Trail and Beall South Trail, approximately 3.8 miles.


Photo (c) Bill Beatty

After leaving the parking lot on the Beall North Trail, a short hike took us through a mixed meadow/woodland area to the first of several large meadows lined on both sides with thousands of Bracken Ferns,  Pteridium aquilinum.


Photos (c) Jan Runyan

It was a perfect day for hiking with temperatures in the low 70s and a partly cloudy sky.  In the meadows, the sun warmed us.  When we then entered the forest, the shade cooled us.


Photos (c) Bill Beatty

In the woodlands were several vernal pools where small frogs  jumped into the water as we neared.  I was actually able to catch a young green frog to examine more closely.


Young Green Frog, Lithobates clamitans  (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

We noticed a wide variety of insects and plants that are frequently found in or near wetlands.  Catching a dragonfly is not easy, but not impossible for a man who has caught birds bare-handed.


A female Common Whitetail Dragonfly, Plathemis lydia and American Water Horehound, Lycopus americanus, with flowers  (Dragonfly photo (c) Jan Runyan and Horehound photo (c) Bill Beatty)

Continuing on the Beall North Trail we hiked through more open meadows, some of which had small wetlands slowly flowing toward the Blackwater River, and beech tree woodlands finding many interesting creatures.   The wooded sections of the trail provided many ferns for Jan to identify and study.


(Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

The woodlands are populated mainly by American Beech trees, Fagus grandifolia.  Since camping and fires are not permitted in National Wildlife Refuges there was a significant amount of dead wood decomposing on the ground with a wide variety of wood-rooting fungi growing on it.

turkey-tail fungus (Trametes versicolor)

Turkeytail Fungus, Trametes versicolor  (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

The Beall North Trail ended at the Blackwater View Trail and we turned south on Blackwater View to continue our circular hike.  Most of the Blackwater View Trail was along a Refuge-use road.  Because of all the wonderful plants and animals we were finding (and also some time spent picking and eating Serviceberries) the hike took longer than we had expected, but we thoroughly enjoyed it.


Hiking the Blackwater View Trail and an Orb Weaving Spider, Araneus sp. (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)

common serviceberry tree (Amelanchier arborea) fruit

Serviceberries, Amelanchier laevis, along the Blackwater View Trail  (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)


Deptford Pinks, Dianthus armeria, were flowering in many places.  (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

Back near the parking lot we then continued onto the Beall South Trail.  At the beginning and the end we found ourselves in even more expansive meadows.  Right away we encountered a problem – there were countless Bracken Ferns, but there were also ferns, very similar to the Brackens, that had 5-7 parted fronds rather than the typical 3.  Our field research determined that they were “atypical” Brackens … overachievers, I guess.  Jan wondered if this had to do with the abundance of rain this spring.


Atypical Bracken Fern, Pteridium aquilinum, and Jan looking for grassland birds  (Left photo (c) Jan Runyan and right photo (c) Bill Beatty)

Although we didn’t find a large number of plant species in flower, those that were flowering were found in multiple locations.


Left – Northern Swamp Buttercup, Ranunculus septentrionalis, and right – Dwarf St. John’s Wort, Hypericum mutilum.  (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

In one section, the Beall South Trail traversed a large field of Spreading Dogbane which was in flower.  The Monarch Butterflies and other species were loving it.  It was impossible to get a photo of the huge extent of the dogbanes and still be able to see the butterflies.


Monarch Butterfly, Danaus plexippus, nectaring on Spreading Dogbane, Apocynum androsaemifolium  (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

We followed the trail as it turned downhill and then northward along the Blackwater River.   Sitting-rocks were convenient so we stopped along the river for lunch.  As we ate and looked around, something that caught our attention was the attractive leaves of the Mountain/Whorled Aster.


Mountain/Whorled Aster, Oclemena acuminata  (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

I decided to go down to the Blackwater River edge and see what I could find.  There were so many wonderful photo opportunities that I told Jan, “We should come back and just do photos along the river.”  I spent some time shooting interesting photos that didn’t need a tripod.  This is definitely a spot to return to!


Left – Rushes, Juncus sp., lining the shallow water along the Blackwater River and right – Sweet-scented Indian Plantain, Cacalia suaveolens (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

ripple bugs

Me taking photos and Riffle Bugs, Family – Veliidae, in the river  (Left photo (c) Jan Runyan and right photo (c) Bill Beatty)

mating ebony jewelwing damselflies (Calopteryx maculata)

Ebony Jewelwing Damselflies, Calopteryx maculata (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

Jan looked at ferns and other plants and picked blueberries (more lunch) while I explored along the river.


Photos (c) Bill Beatty

Finally we continued on the Beall South Trail as it turned uphill away from the river.  After a short distance, we were again in the meadow/grasslands where we had started, still finding more amazing wildlife.


Eastern Meadowlark, Sturnella magna (Photo (c) Jan Runyan


European Skipper Butterfly, Thymelicus lineola, nectaring on Red Clover, Trifolium pratense  (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

blue-eyed grass

Bill photographing Blue-eyed Grass, Sisyrinchium angustifolium (Left photo (c) Jan Runyan and right photo (c) Bill Beatty)


Green-legged Grasshoppers, Melanoplus viridipes (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

One of the most interesting things about this set of “Beall” Trails was the variety of habitats we traveled through, and, because of that, the variety of living things we were able to see and hear.  There were so many great “learning moments” that it would be a nice set of trails for people of diverse interests.  Most of the elevation changes on the trails were gentle and short, making it accessible to most people who love to walk in a beautiful natural setting.

Next stop:  Idleman’s Run Trail off Forest Service Road 80.    Blog post coming soon!

Mountain Nature Camp for Adults – June 10-16, 2018

The 90+ year tradition of excellent mountain nature studies for adults continues!

Come discover why West Virginia 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 the wildflowers at the camp and on most of the field trips.   I’ll also discuss edibility, medicinal uses and other natural history information.  I will also lead a hike in the Dolly Sods Wilderness area.


Top left clockwise… Scarlet Tanager, Velvet-foot Mushroom, Wild Columbine and Forest Log Millipede  (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

friday supper

Friday supper at Mountain Nature Camp 2017 (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)

** Designed for a variety of interests and all levels of experience/ability in Nature

** Field trips focus on many aspects of Nature Study in destinations which have a wide

variety of habitats and elevations.

** Hiking options available.

group at the Rohrbaugh Plains Trail overlook in the Dolly Sods W

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

Facilities: Surrounded by woods with trails, meadows and the lake, Koehnline Lodge has a meeting room, dining room and professional kitchen. Our showerhouse has flush toilets and private showers.

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

Meals: Home-cooked meals 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: Experts in their fields, recognized naturalists and professional interpreters are distinguished for their knowledge and their ability to teach both beginners and experts in Botany, Ornithology, Ecology, Natural History and other topics.

For more information: Call: 304-242-6855

Additional information and registration:


West Virginia Bird Discovery Weekend at Blackwater Falls State Park, June 1-3, 2018

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 – Wood Warblers of West Virginia — this program emphasizes identification of the group of birds that most birders find the most difficult to identify and highlights their natural history.


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

Saturday – Olsen Fire Tower/Fernow Experimental Forest Field Trip – a host of warblers can be expected 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.


Adult female American Kestrel and 2-week-old babies inside nesting cavity (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

Saturday evening – Raptors of West Virginia (except owls) – this program covers both sight and song identification. Confused by the falcons, accipiters and buteos? Well, so are the experts at times. We will study what is necessary to make a positive identification while in the field.

willow and alder

Alder Flycatcher (L) and Willow Flycatcher (R) along Freeland Trail (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)

Sunday – Canaan Valley Field Trip – areas we will visit include the wetlands of Freeland Trail, the open meadows, wood edges and deciduous forests of Forest Service Road 80, and the Red Spruce woods where the road ends on Dolly Sods.  Because of the large elevation change, many bird species could possibly be heard and seen including Bobolink, several sparrow species, Northern Harrier and American Kestrel in the lowlands; forest interior breeders such as Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Ovenbird and Hooded Warbler on the way up; and mountaintop species such as Blackburnian Warbler and Golden-crowned Kinglet at the top. Along the way we will listen for niche birds such as Canada Warbler, Winter Wren and several thrush species including the Swainson’s Thrush.

Additional information and registration: