Memorial Day Mountains (Great Smoky Mountains) — Treat Yourself to Travel

Thinking about the upcoming Memorial Day weekend during quarantine, I figured I would reminisce on our road trip from last year. We made our way through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park from the Asheville side (NC) by Cherokee to the Gatlinburg side (TN). It was a perfect long weekend getaway from the DC area. We were able to do some hiking, see some beautiful scenery and explore downtown Asheville.

The Smokies | TeamTravelsBaby

via Memorial Day Mountains (Great Smoky Mountains) — Treat Yourself to Travel

 

Just released last month by Scott Stillman…Nature’s Silent Message

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Nature’s Silent Message 

The Best Hiking Quotes to Inspire Your Next Outdoor Adventure

Hiking is an activity that everyone can do, so next time you are thinking about an outdoor adventure, read these words to get even more excited about it.

Earl Shaffer

“Carry as little as possible, but choose that little with care.”

Cindy Ross

“Returning home is the most difficult part of long-distance hiking. You have grown outside the puzzle and your piece no longer fits.”

Sir Edmund Hillary

“It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”

G.M. Trevelyan

“After a day’s walk, everything has twice its usual value.”

Beverly Sills

“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.”

Mary Davis

“A walk in nature walks the soul back home.”

Andy Rooney

via The Best Hiking Quotes to Inspire Your Next Outdoor Adventure — Adventee

 

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A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson                         Wild: From Lost to Found

 

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Whispers in the Wilderness                                Lost 

Spring Migration in a Pandemic

This morning was the first day that Fort Harrison State Park was charging for admission again after a period of nearly 2 months when the park was open with no fee to help park employees social distance. It demonstrated an example of the combination of good and bad factors for wildlife that I have observed since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

There has been much discussion on the Internet of how Covid-19 might be benefiting wildlife. People have posted photos of animals in places that they would never be seen because they are typically crowded with humans and vehicles. People have also posted some hilarious memes making fun of those photos. One of my favorites comes from Reddit, where someone posted that dolphins are returning to the Indianapolis canal:

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Nature is healing! 😀

I have a hypothesis that migrating birds are being positively affected by the decrease in air traffic, cruise ships, and lights in tall office buildings. It is far too early to tell if this is true, but we may eventually have enough data to test it

via Spring Migration in a Pandemic — The Prothonotary Birder

 

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Birds of North America 

 

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Midwest Birds

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Beautiful Birds of the Midwest 

The every popular Western Meadowlark.  The western meadowlark has distinctive calls described as watery or flute-like, which distinguish it from the closely related eastern meadowlark. The western meadowlark is the state bird of six states: Montana, Kansas, NebraskaNorth Dakota, Oregon, and Wyoming.

 

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The Hooded and Common Merganser.  In most places, the common merganser is as much a frequenter of salt water as fresh water. In larger streams and rivers, they float down with the stream for a few miles, and either fly back again or more commonly fish their way back, diving incessantly the whole way. In smaller streams, they are present in pairs or smaller groups, and they float down, twisting round and round in the rapids, or fishing vigorously in a deep pool near the foot of a waterfall or rapid. When floating leisurely, they position themselves in water similar to ducks, but they also swim deep in water like cormorants, especially when swimming upstream. They often sit on a rock in the middle of the water, similar to cormorants, often half-opening their wings to the sun. To rise from water, they flap along the surface for many yards. Once they are airborne, the flight is strong and rapid. They often fish in a group forming a semicircle and driving the fish into shallow water, where they are captured easily. Their ordinary voice is a low, harsh croak, but during the breeding season, they (including the young) make a plaintive, soft whistle. Generally, they are wary, and one or more birds stay on sentry duty to warn the flock of approaching danger. When disturbed, they often disgorge food before moving. Though they move clumsily on land, they resort to running when pressed, assuming a very upright position similar to penguins, and falling and stumbling frequently.

 

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The Ruffed Grouse.  Ruffed grouse have two distinct morphs: grey and brown. In the grey morph, the head, neck and back are grey-brown; the breast is light with barring. There is much white on the underside and flanks, and overall the birds have a variegated appearance; the throat is often distinctly lighter. The tail is essentially the same brownish grey, with regular barring and a broad black band near the end (“subterminal”). Brown-morph birds have tails of the same color and pattern, but the rest of the plumage is much more brown, giving the appearance of a more uniform bird with less light plumage below and a conspicuously grey tail. There are all sorts of intergrades between the most typical morphs; warmer and more humid conditions favor browner birds in general.

Displaying male

The ruffs are on the sides of the neck in both sexes. They also have a crest on top of their head, which sometimes lies flat. Both genders are similarly marked and sized, making them difficult to tell apart, even in hand. The female often has a broken subterminal tail band, while males tend to have unbroken tail bands, though the opposite of either can occur. Females may also do a display similar to the male. Another fairly accurate sign is that rump feathers with a single white dot indicate a female; rump feathers with more than one white dot indicate a male.

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The red-necked grebe is a migratory aquatic bird found in the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. Its wintering habitat is largely restricted to calm waters just beyond the waves around ocean coasts, although some birds may winter on large lakes. Grebes prefer shallow bodies of fresh water such as lakes, marshes or fish-ponds as breeding sites.

The red-necked grebe is a nondescript dusky-grey bird in winter. During the breeding season, it acquires the distinctive red neck plumage, black cap and contrasting pale grey face from which its name was derived. It also has an elaborate courtship display and a variety of loud mating calls. Once paired, it builds a nest from water plants on top of floating vegetation in a shallow lake or bog.

 

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   National Geographic Birds               Birds of the Midwest

 

The barred owl, also known as northern barred owl or hoot owl, is a true owl native to eastern North America. Adults are large, and are brown to grey with barring on the chest. Barred owls have expanded their range to the west coast of North America, where they are considered invasive.

The common loon or great northern diver is a large member of the loon, or diver, family of birds. Breeding adults have a plumage that includes a broad black head and neck with a greenish, purplish, or bluish sheen, blackish or blackish-grey upperparts, and pure white underparts except some black on the undertail coverts and vent. Non-breeding adults are brownish with a dark neck and head marked with dark grey-brown. Their upperparts are dark brownish-grey with an unclear pattern of squares on the shoulders, and the underparts, lower face, chin, and throat are whitish. The sexes look alike, though males are significantly heavier than females.