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

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:

“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

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.












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.

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