Friday, December 13, 2013

Bird With us at the Annual Breaks Park Christmas Bird Count!

Cedar Waxwing (Photo courtesy of Dr. Thomas G. Barnes at University of KY)
I am very fortunate to live and work in an area that is an Ornithologist's (fancy word for bird watcher) Heaven. Every Spring and Autumn produces a migration of birds from all over and they visit the park as a stop over when heading North or South depending on the time of the year. However, many fail to realize that the dead of Winter can produce great sightings of birds here at the park as well.

Join us on Saturday, December 21st for our annual National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count. It is a service we provide to the Audubon Society as a way to help them monitor bird migrations and populations. Things will kick off at the park's Visitor Center at 8 o'clock where we will review the map and decide on locations to bird. We will bird all day and wrap up around 8 o'clock PM where we will join for a chili dinner (provided the park) and will compile our information of the number and species of birds counted from the day. Don't consider yourself an expert at bird identification? There will be some of the best birders in the area will be there, and are more than happy to pair up with you beginners to help make your birding adventure an enjoyable and educational one.

For additional information, feel free to contact me by emailing me HERE or by calling my office at (276) 865- 4413 ext. 3213.

We hope to see you there!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Fall Color Update 10/22/2013

View From Lover's Leap
Well, with a camera on the fritz and a lot of rainy, ugly weather, it has been a little longer then I would have liked to get another color report out to everyone. Well, here it is!

Colors here at the park are roughly at 90%. I am seeing more reds in the leaves than I have seen in many years and this, combined with the typical yellows and oranges, are making for a great show! Every tree species is showing color with some of the most brilliant being Maples, Oaks, Dogwoods, Beech and Birch.

The nicer days that we have had in the low 70's combined with the extremely cool nights are what is helping the most to help the colors change. I am afraid, however that things won't last too long. Night time temps dropping into the 30's and even the 20's on Friday night will cause things to diminish rather quickly. I would guess peak color to happen in the next two days. I will be sure to post a report as soon as it happens.

On another note, this weekend promises to be a fun weekend as it is Breaks Park's Halloween Spectacular! Events will be going on Friday and Saturday ranging from Costume Contests and Night Hikes to Campsite Decorating Contests and Hayrides. Be sure to stop by and spend some time with us!

For more information about Fall color and the Halloween Spectacular, visit this LINK

I can be reached by contacting me HERE

Monday, September 16, 2013

Breaks Interstate Park to host the Second Annual Nature Weekend- Sept. 20th-21st

Breaks Park Naturalist Jayd Raines
 introducing a group of onlookers
 to an Eastern Hognose Snake.
 Have you ever wanted the opportunity to meet a snake face to face? How about a chance to have a close encounter with a bird of prey? Get the chance to experience these things and more at Breaks Interstate's Second Annual Nature Weekend! This event will kick off on Friday the 20th at 6:00 PM and will continue all day Saturday, concluding Saturday evening.

The event will kick off at 6 o'clock Friday evening with "Things My Grandma Taught Me" a program from retired KY Park Naturalist John Tierney. This program will teach you about things in nature that old timers used to treat various ailments, why they used them and how. At 7, you will get the chance to meet Breaks Park Naturalist Jayd Raines, as well as some of his slithery friends from around the Southeastern United States in his program "The Wonderful World of Snakes". At 8:30 PM, journey out to Nature Drive to meet biologist Jason Butler as he sets up a mist net for bats. This is a trapping technique used to catch bats for biological research. This will also give you the chance to get an up close look at one of the most misunderstood animals around.

Saturday will be full of events and activities that range from geocaching, medicinal plant hikes and birding to a geology hike, stream ecology field trip and a chance to meet Tony Scales, a geologist and book author who will be at the Visitor Center, selling and signing copies of his wonderful book about the park entitled "The Breaks".

Saturday evening will be full of excitement starting at 6 o'clock as Mitch Whitaker (Letcher County Extension Agency) presents "Raptors Alive" where we will learn about and get to see real live hawks and owls. Following this program will be VA Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries biologist Johnny Wills, who is presenting on the recent Elk release program in SW Virginia.

There is will fun and excitement for all ages. The only admission fee is the Park's standard parking fee of $2.00 per car and $10.00 per 11 passenger van/bus.

For a detailed schedule of activities for the weekend, visit this LINK. Activities are subject to change.

I can be reached by emailing me HERE or by phone at 276-865-4413 ext. 3213

Friday, August 2, 2013

Second Annual Settler's Weekend at Breaks Interstate Park- August 9th- 11th

Settler's Weekend at Breaks Interstate Park is a great way to live American history first hand. Taking place on August 9th- 11th, visitors will have the opportunity to step back in history to a time when this area was first being explored, hunted and settled.

A variety of activities and programs will be offered including pioneer cooking, flintlock rifle demonstrations, tomahawk throwing, flint and steel fire starting, along with many other activities.

The Pioneer Camp will be open from 10 AM- 6 PM on Friday and Saturday, and from 10 AM- 1 PM on Sunday. During those hours you are welcome to walk through the encampment, and talk to any of the re-enactors.

This is a great event for the whole family. Boyscouts, Girlscouts and church groups are also welcome to visit. There will be fun for all ages!

For a detailed schedule of events for the weekend, visit this LINK.

You can contact me by emailing me HERE or by calling me at 276-865-4413 ext. 3213.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

July's Animal Profile- The Bald Eagle

Adult Bald Eagle (photo courtesy of Dr. Thomas Barnes)
Long revered as the symbol of the United States, freedom and Liberty, the Bald Eagle has been engrained into the mind of almost every American. Making its appearance on flags, banners and currency, the very image of the Bald Eagle goes hand in hand with the United States of America. It first appeared on the National Seal in 1782. It wasn't until 1787 ( after much debate from Ben Franklin, who wanted the National Bird to be the Wild Turkey) that the Bald Eagle was officially named the National Bird.

Bald Eagles are truly a magnificent animal to behold. Their large size makes them truly impressive. Despite their large size, they are very agile and able to dive for fish and other prey in the blink of an eye. An expert at using natural air currents, Eagles are able to stay aloft without flapping a wing and can hover in one spot for quite some time.

Until recently, Bald Eagles have been a rarity. For many years, Bald Eagles were on the brink of extinction as a result of DDT (an insecticide that worked its way into the food chain which caused birds of prey to lay eggs with shells too thin to support the weight of adults trying to incubate the eggs.) Although they have been removed from the Endangered Species List (which happened in 2007) seeing a Bald Eagle in many places is still not a common occurrence. They prefer living and nesting in areas near water with large trees to support the weight of their huge nests. Areas like this are in decline, making it difficult find suitable nesting areas.
Transient Bald Eagle here at the Breaks (photo courtesy of Roger Mayhorn)
There are several places that now hold stable populations of these birds and one now has be better chance of seeing these birds as they ever have. Viewable populations immediately coming to mind are in locations like Kentucky Lake, Lake Barkley, Cave Run Lake and Dewey Lake (all in Kentucky). Populations are also seen at South Holston and Flannigan in southwest Virginia. One also now has the opportunity to see transient birds (birds that are traveling and migrating) in many different places. Just last week, we were fortunate enough to see a traveling Bald Eagle right here at the Breaks!

Bald Eagles remain a symbol of the United States still to this day. The very sight of a Bald Eagle is inspiring and reminds us of where we came from many years ago. Protection and conservation to help these birds are paramount to ensure that generations to come can see and appreciate the very symbol of freedom that was set by our Founding Fathers in 1787. Help conserve these animals so that they may enjoy the same freedom that we are privileged to enjoy. Happy 4th of July!

I can be reached by contacting me HERE

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Baby Wildlife. Are you helping or hurting?

Many examples exist of people driving along down the road or working on their property and encountering a baby deer, Raccoon, Opossum, etc. Often, individuals are quick to swoop the animal up into their arms, and begin to worry about the care of these small, infant animals. Baby wildlife naturally looks very helpless when encountered. Newly born deer slip, trip and fall to the ground and stand with unsteady legs, just learning how to stand and walk. These animals' mothers are generally in close proximity to the babies, but may be just out of sight. More times then not, most people pick up these animals in an attempt to help, but are actually hurting the well being of these infant animals.

Baby Raccoons in their den.
Animals are great parents. They raise and nurture their infants much like people and excel at being parents. They tend to the every need of their babies and will put their lives on the line in order to raise their young. This sometimes includes leaving their babies to search for food, or staying a distance from their young as much as possible to prevent attracting attention to an area where their young may be hiding. So even if you see a baby animal seemingly alone, more often than not, its mother will be close by. Sometimes there are special circumstances, where a baby's mother is hit by a vehicle, or the baby is somehow injured to the point that without human intervention it will not survive. But even in these cases, one must be careful. Injured wildlife will fight for their lives and will make every attempt to defend themselves. Some animals may be sick, and a bite from one of these animals could pass diseases like rabies on to the well meaning person trying to help. One must also bear in mind that in many cases it is illegal to transport wildlife.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Breaks Interstate Park Wildflower Report 6/2/2013

Mountain Laurel in bloom next to the Visitor Center
My goodness! It seems that Spring has sprung and quickly given way to Summer. It seems like we go from one extreme to the other, with one day hot and sunny giving way to temperatures barely in the 70s. I am sure that things will soon even out and we will find ourselves in the midst of Summer.
The Spring wildflowers have all but finished up, however there are still some early Summer species to view. Catawba Rhododendron are shooting forth their large, vibrant purple flowers. Mountain Laurel is at its peak and its clusters of small, white flowers are abounding on the Ridge Trail, Overlook Trail and in front of our Visitor Center. Galax is now in flower and can be seen on the upper sections of the Geological Trail. The same location will offer
Galax in flower on the Geological Trail
opportunities to see Rattlesnake Weed in flower as well. May Apples are on their way out, and the stem where the flower was once visible is now producing its fruit (which is how the May Apple derives its name). Cardinal Flower should be up shortly as should be Rattlesnake Plantain, a very interesting looking orchid.

There are many special events still scheduled at the park, and you can learn more about these by visiting this LINK. Come by and see us!

 I can be reached by contacting me HERE