July Jubilee Fundraiser to benefit local museums

The group, The Brothers Plus One, will perform during the July Jubilee Fundraiser on July 27. (Contributed photo)

By Richard Rourk

An eventful summer will continue for the Unicoi County Heritage Museum and Clinchfield Railroad Museum.

According to Curator Martha Erwin, a unique fundraiser called the “July Jubilee Fundraiser” is scheduled for Saturday, July 27. Sponsored by Farm Bureau, the event will be a day of food and live music.

“It’s going to be a good time,” Erwin said.

Erwin also said that food will be provided by Whistle Stop Deli of Unicoi. The music will be provided by Greenville alderman and former vice mayor Keith Paxton.  Paxton is up for reelection and has served on the Greenville BMA since 2009.

“I am aldermen first ward Greeneville and I serve on many boards,” Paxton said. “I currently serve on the Historic Zoning, EMS, and many other boards.”

Paxton, was an interim music leader for a local church when he met Erwin and her family. “Martha and others are the heart and soul of the two museums and she is very active in tourism and cares so much for Unicoi County and Clinchfield Railroad history,” Paxton said.

According to Paxton, the museums needed help with emergency funding, A/C, and other major buildings items that weren’t covered by any funds.

“I was asked if I could sing at the fundraiser and gave a huge yes,” Paxton said. “We began the singing and a meal fundraiser event at the museums and achieved a huge turnout of contributions.”

Paxton performed at the 2015 season opening of the Clinchfield Railroad and Unicoi County Heritage Museums.

Paxton has kept up with friends in Unicoi County since then.

“When Martha asked me to sing at the July Jubilee, I once again gave a huge yes; it truly is an honor,” Paxton said.

Paxton performs with his brother, Charles, and Neil Holt.

“We are the sons of a family of nine children,” Paxton said. “Our father (the late Sonny Lee Paxton) sang and witnessed weekly in homes and churches for years. He, and our mom Charlotte Paxton, were the owners of The Little Top Drive Thru on Main Street in Greeneville.” According to Paxton, besides witnessing, his family has been selling food for 100 years, and this year marks the 70th anniversary of the families trademarked “Chipburger.”

According to Paxton, he and Charles have sung in choirs and groups since birth. Holt was an original member of “One Accord.” Paxton said that the trio has performed at churches, nursing homes, jails and just about any other event.

Paxton and his bandmates are excited to perform in Unicoi County again.

“We are so excited to visit the city of Erwin and spend time at the museums and to fellowship with all the great folks there,” Paxton said. “Unicoi County is so blessed to have the Unicoi County Heritage and Clinchfield Railroad Museums and such events like the Apple Festival.”

According to Paxton, his band, “The Brothers Plus One,” are thankful to be a part of the July Jubilee Fundraiser.

“We want to thank Martha Erwin and all the ones working to bring this event together,” Paxton said. “We want to give a special mention to all the ones involved with the history of Unicoi County who recently passed.”

Paxton also said that anyone planning to attend the July Jubilee Fundraiser, is in for a good time.

“Our music is lots of times church songs with a message,” Paxton said. “This event we are asked to bring out railroad songs and even a few political songs such as, ‘The Long Black Train,’ ‘’You Are My Sunshine,’ along with a mix of some gospel and country music and if the crowd likes a song we might even play it again.”

The July Jubilee Fundraiser will take place Saturday, July 27, from 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. at Erwin Town Hall. Tickets are $10 dollars per person and can be bought at the Unicoi County Heritage Museum during normal business hours. The museums’ normal business hours are Monday through Friday from 1-5 p.m.

• • •

The Clinchfield Railroad Museum recent added a large elephant statue named “Mary” to the collection. The statue is roughly 5 feet tall and around 4 feet long and is on display to visitors.

Feathered Friends – Area bird club records 107 species

Birds that nest at some high elevations, such as this red-breasted nuthatch, thrive at different locations in Unicoi County. (Photo by JudaM/Pixabay.com)

By Bryan Stevens

The Elizabethton Bird Club holds two summer bird counts to supplement other population monitoring efforts on the birdlife of Tennessee. Six years ago, the club launched an annual survey of summer bird populations in Unicoi County.

The sixth annual Unicoi County Summer Count was held Saturday, June 15, with 16 observers in five parties. A total of 107 species was found, which is slightly below the average of 109 species. Unicoi County offers several high elevation species of birds not easily found in the region, according to long-time count compiler Rick Knight.

Knight noted that highlights for the count include sharp-shinned hawk, bald eagle, yellow-bellied sapsucker, least flycatcher, warbling vireo, common raven, red-breasted nuthatch, brown creeper, golden-crowned kinglet and hermit thrush. The count also found 18 species of warblers, including Swainson’s, Kentucky, magnolia and prairie.

The most common birds found in the count included American robin (241), European starling (224) indigo bunting (147) and song sparrow (146).

Some expected birds could not be found on the day of the count, including ruffed grouse, great horned owl, winter wren, Blackburnian warbler and pine warbler.

I counted with Dave and Connie Irick, Brookie and Jean Potter and Brenda Richards in the Limestone Cove community of Unicoi County. Some of our best birds included yellow-breasted chat, yellow-bellied sapsucker, rose-breasted grosbeak and Swainson’s warbler.

The total for this year’s Unicoi Bird Count follows:

Canada goose, 90; wood duck, 27; mallard, 33; wild turkey, 5; great blue heron, 2; and green heron, 3.

Black vulture, 7; turkey vulture, 33; sharp-shinned hawk, 1; Cooper’s hawk, 1; bald eagle, 1; broad-winged hawk, 9; red-tailed hawk, 7; and American kestrel, 3.

Killdeer, 9; rock pigeon, 78; mourning dove, 70; yellow-billed cuckoo, 7; Eastern screech-owl, 1; and barred owl, 3.

Chuck-will’s widow, 3; Eastern whip-poor-will, 9; chimney swift, 37; ruby-throated hummingbird, 14; and belted kingfisher, 2.

Red-bellied woodpecker, 8; yellow-bellied sapsucker, 8; downy woodpecker, 17; hairy woodpecker, 1; Northern flicker, 8; and pileated woodpecker, 11.

Eastern wood-pewee, 4; Acadian flycatcher, 26; least flycatcher, 1; Eastern phoebe, 41; great crested flycatcher, 2; and Eastern kingbird, 8.

White-eyed vireo, 3; yellow-throated vireo, 1; blue-headed vireo, 23; warbling vireo, 2; and red-eyed vireo, 105.

Blue jay, 66; American crow, 84; common raven, 8; Northern rough-winged swallow, 53; purple martin, 40; tree swallow, 106; barn swallow, 152; and cliff swallow, 128.

Carolina chickadee, 69; tufted titmouse, 55; red-breasted nuthatch, 6; white-breasted nuthatch, 15; brown creeper, 3; house wren, 22; and Carolina wren, 60.

Blue-gray gnatcatcher, 20; golden-crowned kinglet, 4; Eastern bluebird, 62, veery, 11; hermit thrush, 3; wood thrush, 41; and American robin, 241.

Gray catbird, 25; brown thrasher, 11; Northern mockingbird, 27; European starling, 224; and cedar waxwing, 34.

Ovenbird, 36; worm-eating warbler, 17; Louisiana waterthrush, 10, black-and-white warbler, 15; Swainson’s warbler, 8; Kentucky warbler, 1; common yellowthroat, 10; hooded warbler, 75; American redstart, 2; Northern parula, 20; magnolia warbler, 1; yellow warbler, 6; chestnut-sided warbler, 9; black-throated blue warbler, 19; yellow-throated warbler, 15; prairie warbler, 1; black-throated green warbler, 17; Canada warbler, 8; and yellow-breasted chat, 2.

Eastern towhee, 46; chipping sparrow, 55; field sparrow, 7; song sparrow, 146; and dark-eyed junco, 17.

Scarlet tanager, 30; Northern cardinal, 64; rose-breasted grosbeak, 5; blue grosbeak, 3; and indigo bunting, 147.

Red-winged blackbird, 70; Eastern meadowlark, 9; common grackle, 71; brown-headed cowbird, 14; orchard oriole, 3; Baltimore oriole, 1; house finch, 19; American goldfinch, 92; and house sparrow, 18.

Unicoi County offers some great habitat for finding birds. In addition to the new state park, the county also offers Erwin Fishery Park and adjacent walking trails, as well as Unaka Mountain. The diversity of birds found on the summer count is a testament to the value of these habitats for birds and other wildlife.

Cause for Paws – Foster homes needed for kittens

By Linda Mathes

The Unicoi County Animal Shelter is reaching out to the community for volunteers to join our foster program. Due to the large number of kittens in our shelter, we are asking for volunteers to foster kittens between six and nine weeks old.

Kittens this young have not built up a strong immune system and are susceptible to contracting various illnesses, the most common is an upper respiratory infection. By living in a foster home for several weeks they can remain healthy and build up their immunity. When the kittens come back to the shelter at approximately 12 weeks of age they will be spayed or neutered and ready for adoption.

If you are interested in this foster program please call the shelter for further information. If you can’t join the foster program but want to help we are in need of cat litter. Due to the high volume of cats and kittens in our shelter, we are using more than 200 pounds of litter a week, donations of both clumping and non-clumping litter will be greatly appreciated.

And don’t forget the low-cost spay-neuter program sponsored by the shelter. This month’s clinic is scheduled for Thursday, July 25, and you must register your animal at the shelter by Saturday, July 20. 

The cost for all dogs is $55; male cats – $35; and female cats – $50. Fees include surgery, rabies vaccination and supplemental pain medications. Just spaying/neutering one animal can make a difference.

For more information, please call the shelter at 743-3071 or come by the shelter during open hours Tuesday-Saturday from 1-5:30 p.m. The shelter is located at 185 N. Industrial Drive in Erwin.

Blue Ridge Pottery Club gathers for July meeting

Lou Thornberry and Hazel Darby gave a presentation about pottery houses during the July meeting of the Blue Ridge Pottery Club. (Contributed photo)

By Carol Riggs

The Blue Ridge Pottery Club meeting was held at the Clinchfield Senior Center on July 1 at 6 p.m. in Erwin with 30 members and guests attending.

Tina, Hannah, and Danielle Jones served as our hostesses for the meeting with Neal Jones cooking the hamburgers and hot dogs.

Their theme was Red, White, and Blue for July 4th celebration.

The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America started the meeting and then Richard Riggs asked the blessing. Gina Clark, our president, announced that it was time to get in line for the buffet table.

In addition to Neal’s burgers and dogs the members brought:  cowboy baked beans, chili, slaw, and broccoli slaw, mac and cheese, pasta salad, chips, cupcakes, lemon chess pie, red velvet cake, lemon cake, chocolate covered pretzels, cookies, and topping for the burgers and dogs like pickles, mayo, mustard, onions, relish, tomatoes and lettuce. We had one special Red, White and Blue delicious cake made by Larna Smith. What a wonderful holiday picnic. During our meal, we were entertained by Greg Forbes who sang several beautiful songs.

Clark opened the meeting after distributing today’s agenda. She introduced our speakers Lou Thornberry and Hazel Darby – they discussed the Pottery Houses that still exist today on Ohio, Holston Place and Love streets. They each gave us a brochure with the history of the pottery houses. Thornberry carefully went over all of the details in his brochure so we could understand the history of these homes. They had plenty of photos of the existing houses today. The homes and community were designed by Grosvenor Atterbury from New York who was a leader in the new field of community planning. The gems are located on Holston Place that looks like a horseshoe street off of Ohio and include a green area park in the middle.

Clark went over our agenda which included the show in October, catering the vendor dinner, same venue as last year, rack cards prepared by Jay Parker, our 40th Annual Show and Sale.  Bill Smith provided all members with the 2019 budget and discussed several parts of it. The door prize was won by Phil Edney.

The hosts and hostesses in August will be the Duncans and the Edneys. It will be a NASCAR theme. Our program will be presented by the Unicoi County Hospital Junior Board Members. They will be sharing information about the time capsule which included Blue Ridge Pottery. Don’t forget to check out our website at BlueRidgePotteryClub.com.

Feathered Friends – Titmouse drawn to kitchen window

The tufted titmouse is one of our few crested birds, along with such species as cedar waxwing, blue jay and Northern cardinal. (Photo by Skeeze/Pixabay.com)

By Bryan Stevens

I received a recent email from Mary Jackson about a troublesome titmouse that has taken a liking to one of her kitchen windows.

“For the past week or so, I have had a tufted titmouse fly up to my kitchen window several times a day,” Mary wrote. She said the titmouse then proceeds to peck, flap its wings and make a three-syllable call that sounds like “chee, chee, chee.”

The bird’s behavior has understandably left Mary baffled. “Do you have any clues as to why it keeps doing this, and how I can stop it?” Mary inquired. “I thought it might be telling me to refill my feeder, so I did that, but the pecking and flapping continues.”

I replied to Mary’s email and informed her that her titmouse is exhibiting classic behavior of a bird that has discovered its reflection. It’s nesting season, and the bird is seeing its reflection but perceiving what it is seeing to be an intruding titmouse into its jealously guarded territory.

The fact that it is making the “chee chee chee” call means it is a male titmouse, so he thinks he is guarding both his territory and his mate from a dangerous intruder. The behavior is hardwired into the titmouse brain, so it is difficult to divert the bird’s attention from the window. I suggested that Mary cover that section of the window to banish the reflection. Otherwise, the behavior should clear up in a few weeks once the nesting season has ended.

The tufted titmouse is a mousy-gray bird with a dingy white belly and some rusty flanking on its sides. A coal-black eye and a crest completes the bird’s overall appearance. While not particularly showy birds, tufted titmice possess outsized personalities and provide great entertainment at our feeders. Their usual habit is to fly to a feeder, grab a single seed and carry the seed to a nearby perch where it is hulled and consumed before the bird repeats the process.

The United States is home to four other species of titmice, including the bridled titmouse, oak titmouse, juniper titmouse and black-crested titmouse.

The problem of birds fighting with their reflections isn’t confined to the occasional tufted titmouse. American robins are often reported as getting involved in kerfuffles with their reflections. I’ve experienced a similar situation myself with a female Northern cardinal. In her case, she had located her nest near a window at the back of my house. When she would catch sight of her reflection, she assumed another female had encroached into her nesting territory.

I’ve also seen Eastern bluebirds and dark-eyed juncos attack the exterior mirrors on parked vehicles. The junco was attacking the mirrors of several cars parked in a lot at Roan Mountain State Park in Tennessee. No sooner would the bird grow weary of attacking one mirror than it would catch sight of its reflection in another mirror. The small bird seemed quite tireless in its determination to rid the vicinity of all rival juncos.

The case with the bluebird involved cars in a workplace parking lot. The cars’ mirrors were getting quite messy, but the cause remained a mystery until a co-worker caught a male bluebird in the act of vandalizing the mirrors on one of the parked cars. The male bluebird and his mate were actually raising young in a nearby nest box. 

In these cases, the birds are responding exactly as their brains are wired to respond. They don’t have the means to differentiate their own reflections from actual rival birds. So, their behavior is likely to continue until their hormones begin to wane near the conclusion of the nesting season.

So, in some respects, the term “bird brain” truly applies to some of our feathered friends. Their instincts and hardwired programming, however, allow them to function perfectly well until an unexpected reflection complicates matters.

(Readers with questions are welcome to email me at ahoodedwarbler@aol.com. I also love to receive comments and hear about bird observations.)

Library Happenings – Phase two of Summer Reading Programs in works

By Angie Georgeff

The first half of our Summer Reading Programs for kids and teens has ended, but summer is far from over and so too are our programs. For the next three weeks, our staff will be recuperating from phase one and resetting for phase two.

Meanwhile, the adult program continues unabated.  Remember to fill out an entry form and deposit it in the tote near the front door for each book you read, audiobook you listen to, DVD you watch or activity sheet you complete. Entries will be accepted until close of business on Saturday, July 27. Winners will be notified beginning Monday, July 29. Good luck!

Author Emilie Buchwald said, “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” Reading is the foundation on which all education is built, and when parents and children share the love of books, wonderful things can happen.

The examples of grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins play a role, as well. So far this year, we have offered separate Summer Reading Programs for children, teens and adults. We hope that phase two will bring together the entire family for activities that everyone in the community will enjoy.

The back-to-school phase of our Summer Reading Programs will be inspired by the “Harry Potter” books of J. K. Rowling. Weekly programs will encourage families to read together, beginning with a celebration of Harry’s birthday on July 31. This year the month of August will be special for more than just new shoes and school supplies. Several libraries and library systems in the OWL consortium will be participating and the complete schedule of events will be announced later this month.

Board Meeting

The Board of Trustees of the Unicoi County Public Library will meet in the library lobby at 6 p.m. on Thursday, July 18.

The public is welcome to attend. If you should require any special accommodations in order to attend the meeting, please call the library at 743-6533 and ask for Angie.

Spotlight Book

Danielle Steel’s “Lost and Found” begins with an accident and an argument. Hobbled by a broken ankle and self-doubt, photographer Madison Allen takes stock of her life and wonders what might have happened if she had put her own happiness before that of her children. 

Forced to put her work on hold while she recuperates, Maddie sets out on a cross-country road trip to reconnect with the three men with whom she contemplated marriage during her long widowhood. 

Was her painful decision to leave each relationship ever the wrong choice? She travels from New York to Boston to Chicago to Wyoming in search of the answers.

UCHS students win national SADD video contest

SRO Kjell Michelsen, center, is pictured with UCHS students, pictured from left, Nick Farnor, Aaron Fregoso, Emalee Benard and Bridget Michelsen. (Contributed photo)

From Staff Reports

Students from the Unicoi County High School SADD chapter in Erwin have won the $2,500 top prize in #DrivingSkills101 – Pass on Passengers, a nationwide contest sponsored by Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) and The National Road Safety Foundation (NRSF).

The #DrivingSkills101 contest challenged teens in SADD chapters to create a safe driving campaign about the risks to teen drivers of having too many passengers in the car, with the goals of gaining school involvement, local media engagement and community interaction. Many states have GDL (graduated driver licensing) laws prohibiting teens from driving with other teens in the car, acknowledging the risk of distraction.

The UCHS SADD Chapter, with advisor Kjell Michelsen, proposed a video that shows a teen getting into her car, followed by several others dressed as clowns making noise, fooling with the radio and even one blowing a trumpet. The driver is obviously distracted.

The scene winds back to show the safe way teens should behave by having only one passenger in the car.

Students in the winning SADD chapter worked with an Emmy Award-winning TV director who came to their school to help them produce their video, which will debut at the SADD National Conference in Phoenix. It will also be featured on the syndicated show “Teen Kids News,” which airs on more than 160 TV stations nationwide.

According to Michelsen, students participating in the video created at UCHS were Mariana Graybeal, Nick Farnor, Emma Jones, Katie Gardner, Aaron Fregoso, Bridget Michelsen and Emalee Benard. Jones and Brandolyn Thomas attended the conference.

“Young drivers are involved in fatal crashes at three times the rate of more experienced drivers, and because of their inexperience, driving with other teens adds the risk of distraction,” said Rick Birt, President and CEO of SADD. “With support and encouragement from our partners at The National Road Safety Foundation, the contest helps motivate our student leaders to spread the safety message to their peers and their communities.”

“Traffic crashes continue to be a leading killer of teens,” said Michelle Anderson of The National Road Safety Foundation. “Distraction caused by other teens in the car is a factor in many crashes, and we think the message created by the students in Tennessee helps address this issue in a memorable way.”

The following nine SADD chapters were selected as finalists and will each receive $250: Dothan High School, Dothan, Alabama; McClellan High School, Antelope, California; Alameda High School, Alameda, California; Montrose School, Medfield, Massachusetts; Farmingdale Senior High School, Farmingdale, New York; Conestoga Valley High School, Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Berkeley Springs High School, Berkeley Springs, West Virginia; and Wheeling Park High School, Wheeling, West Virginia.

About SADD: For almost 40 years, SADD, the nation’s premier youth health & safety organization has worked to empower teens, engage parents, mobilize communities, and change lives around the issues of traffic safety, substance abuse, and personal health and safety. Through a national network of peer-led chapters in middle schools, high schools and colleges, SADD equips our students with the resources they need to advocate for change on their campuses and in their communities. Join the movement by visiting www.sadd.org, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

About The National Road Safety Foundation: For more than 55 years, The National Road Safety Foundation (NRSF), a non-profit organization, has created driver education programs for free distribution to teachers, police, traffic safety agencies, youth advocacy groups and others. NRSF has programs on distracted driving, speed and aggression, impaired driving, drowsy driving and other traffic safety issues. NRSF also sponsors national contests for teens in partnership with SADD, NOYS and Scholastic and regional contests partnering with auto shows in Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta and Washington, D.C. To view free programs and for more information, visit www.nrsf.org or www.teenlane.org.

Feathered Friends – Eastern phoebe member of flycatcher family

An Eastern phoebe perches on a garden shepherd’s hook. Phoebes, a member of the extensive New World flycatcher family, are adept at capturing flying insect prey by utilizing elevated perches. (Photo by leoleobobeo/Pixabay.com)

By Bryan Stevens

Jill Henderson, who resides in Saltville, Virginia, emailed me recently with a question about a bird nesting atop a column on her back porch.

Jill provided me with four photographs attached to her email that greatly assisted in identifying the nesting birds on her back porch.

“It seems to enjoy the water in my pool,” she added. Indeed, a couple of the photos showed the bird perched poolside on one of her lawn chairs.

The nesting birds turned out to be Eastern phoebes, which are a member of the extensive family of birds known as “tyrant flycatchers.” The information about the pool assisted with the identification. Phoebes show an affinity for water, whether the source is a creek, pond or even a residential swimming pool.

Considering the bright finery worn by some of the more colorful spring arrivals, it’s understandable if the return of Eastern phoebes escape immediate notice each year. In comparison with vibrant birds like rose-breasted grosbeak, ruby-throated hummingbird, scarlet tanager and yellow warbler, the Eastern phoebe is downright drab with its gray-black and dingy white plumage. Nevertheless, this member of the flycatcher clan has earned itself a favorite spot in the hearts of many a birdwatcher. It’s one of those birds that even beginning birders find surprisingly easy to recognize and identify after a bit of study. While it may not have a dramatic plumage pattern to hint at its identity, the Eastern phoebe is quite at home around human dwellings and comes into close contact with people going about their daily routines. Rather tame — or at least not too bothered by close proximity with humans — the Eastern phoebe has one behavior that sets it apart from all the other similar flycatchers. When this bird lands on a perch, it cannot resist a vigorous bobbing of its tail. Every time a phoebe lands on a perch, it will produce this easily recognized tail dip and rise. It’s a behavior that makes this bird almost instantly recognizable among birders with a knowledge of the trait.

The Eastern phoebe is also an enthusiastic springtime singer, and the song it chooses to sing is an oft-repeated two-syllable call “FEE-bee” that provides the inspiration for this bird’s common name. The Eastern phoebe, known by the scientific name of Sayornis phoebe, has two relatives in the genus Sayornis. The genus is named after Thomas Say, an American naturalist. The Eastern phoebe’s close relatives include the black phoebe and Say’s phoebe. The black phoebe ranges throughout Oregon, Washington and California and as far south as Central and South America. As its name suggests, this bird has mostly black feathers instead of the gray plumage of its relatives. The Say’s phoebe, also named for the man who gave the genus its name, is the western counterpart to the Eastern phoebe.

The phoebes belong to the world’s largest family of birds, which is known collectively as the “tyrant flycatchers.” With more than 400 species, this family of birds consists of species known as tyrannulets, elaenias, pygmy tyrants, tody-flycatchers, spadebills, flatbills, attilas, kingbirds and kiskadees.

Since they belong to the vast family of New World flycatchers, it’s probably no surprise that these phoebes feed largely on insects. The birds will often perch patiently until an insect’s flight brings it within easy range. A quick flight from its perch usually allows the skillful bird to return with a morsel snatched on the wing. In the winter months, the Eastern phoebe also eats berries and other small fruit. Phoebes can even feed on poison ivy berries without risk of ill effects.

Phoebes are fond of nesting on human structures, including culverts, bridges and houses. With the latter, they were once known for their habit of placing their nests under sheltering eaves. At my home, a pair of Eastern phoebes often chooses to nest on the wooden rafters in my family’s garage.  Although the species is migratory, a few hardy individuals will usually try to tough out winters in the region. The others that depart in the autumn will migrate to the southern United States and as far south as Central America. On some rare occasions, Eastern phoebes have flown far off their usual course and ended up in western Europe. I can usually count on Eastern phoebes returning to my home in early March, making them one of the first migrants to return each year. Their arrival rarely goes unnoticed since the males tend to start singing persistently as soon as they arrive.

John James Audubon, an early naturalist and famed painter of North America’s birds, conducted an experiment with some young phoebes that represents the first-ever bird banding in the United States of America. His novel experiment, which he carried out in 1803, involved tying some silver thread to the legs of the phoebes he captured near his home in Pennsylvania. He wanted to answer a question he had about whether birds are faithful to home locations from year to year. The following year, Audubon again captured two phoebes and found the silver thread had remained attached to their legs. Today, ornithologists still conduct bird banding to gather information on birds and the mystery of their migrations. So, that pair of phoebes that returned to your backyard this spring — they just might be the same ones that have spent past summer seasons providing you with an enlightening glimpse into their lives.

Jill reminded me that she had written to me a few years back and had mentioned difficulty with hummingbird feeders and bears. “I am happy to report that so far this summer, there have been no incidents,” she wrote.

Her email also reminded me of a recent surprise. I awoke recently to the sound of a disturbance outside my bedroom window. I figured rambunctious squirrels were raiding my feeders. I raised the blind and surprised myself and a young black bear. Standing on his hind legs, the bear had managed to hook its paws on one of my feeders that hangs about four feet off the ground. The bear, probably a yearling based on its size, fled the scene, which probably spared my feeder.

If you have a question, wish to comment on a column or share an observation, email me at ahoodedwarbler@aol.com. If you want help with identification, photographs definitely help.

Library Happenings – Much-wanted culinary books donated to library

By Angie Georgeff

I know this column has some devoted readers because many of you come into the library asking for “that book you wrote about in the paper.” Since I work on the column two or even three weeks ahead of publication, I sometimes have trouble figuring out which book you mean, but keep on asking! Recently, however, I learned that it reaches a wider audience than I had realized.

The column published on June 12 that reported the results of our best book/worst book poll takes the cake—or perhaps I should say bread … 

One of the respondents had voted for “Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking” by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young and Maxime Bilet as his or her favorite. I was not familiar with the title, so I did some research and I was enchanted. It is a 2,438-page, six-volume encyclopedia of cooking filled with the most amazing photographs. If “we eat first with our eyes,” as the ancient Roman gourmand Apicius claimed, this title proves to be a potent appetizer and an incentive to get to work in the kitchen.

Unfortunately, I was not able to turn the pages in person because the price is beyond our library’s modest budget. The nearest copy I could locate was at the Knoxville Public Library.  Well, not anymore!

Stephanie Swane, the publisher, posted a comment on The Erwin Record’s website offering to donate copies of “Modernist Cuisine” and “Modernist Bread.” She and Nathan Myhrvold, the founder and co-author, support libraries and wanted to make the books available to our patrons. Of course, I promptly accepted her generous offer and within a few days, we were unpacking both sets of books.

At first, I admired the photos, but then I started to browse the content. Cookbooks provide a set of instructions. With volumes focused on History and Fundamentals, Techniques and Equipment, Animals and Plants, Ingredients and Preparations, Plated-Dish Recipes and a Kitchen Manual, “Modernist Cuisine” not only explains in detail how to prepare food, but why it should be done that way. And then there is “Modernist Bread,” by Nathan Myhrvold and Francisco Migoya. What “Modernist Cuisine” has done for plated dishes, “Modernist Bread” does for the staff of life, in six volumes and 2,642 pages.

I have not yet begun to plumb the depths of these books, but what I have seen and read so far has certainly whetted my appetite. My favorite volume to date is the first volume of “Modernist Bread.” The history of bread is fascinating and I found the homages to Carl Warner’s food landscapes and the still-life portraits of 16th century Italian painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo enormously appealing. I know our patrons will enjoy having these resources available and on behalf of all of them I want to thank Ms. Swane and Mr. Myhrvold! Thank you so much!

Feathered Friends – ‘Thin as a rail’ applies to elusive bird

The clapper rail, such as this individual, prefers concealment in dense wetland reeds and other vegetation, which makes this bird difficult for birders to observe. (Photo by Coffee/Pixabay.com)

By Bryan Stevens

During a recent stay at Pawleys Island in South Carolina, I enjoyed birding along the Grand Strand. During my stay, I enjoyed observations of such coastal specialties as wood stork, white ibis, little blue heron, painted bunting, anhinga and clapper rail. I was especially pleased to both hear and see clapper rails, which can be quite elusive and more often heard than seen.

The clapper rail is abundant in saltwater marshes and mangrove swamps from the East Coast of the United States to Central America and the Caribbean. This secretive bird lives most of its life concealed in dense vegetation. The clapper rail is one of the largest rail species. Ranging from 13 to 16 inches in length, the clapper rail can be identified by its chicken-like appearance, long unwebbed toes, long decurved bill and frequently upturned tail with white under tail covert feathers. The chattering call of the clapper rail has been described as “chuck, chuck, chuck” or “kek, kek, kek.”

Clapper rails are different from close relatives in preferring a more carnivorous diet. This bird is fond of such prey as crayfish, crabs, fish, frogs, snails, grasshoppers and aquatic insects, but clapper rails also feed on some plant material and seeds.

The clapper rail is classified as a game bird, but as best as I could determine, it is not a popular target for most hunters, who prefer waterfowl or shorebirds like the American woodcock. Due to its chicken-like appearance, the clapper rail is often also known by the common name “marsh hen.”

Rail young are precocial and can follow adults to forage for food soon after hatching. Male clapper rails are charged with nest building, but both male and female share incubation duties. The female may lay from six to 14 eggs, which require about 20 days of incubation before they hatch.

The clapper rail has evolved some interesting adaptations for living in saltwater wetlands. For instance, special glands allow the bird to drink salty ocean water without suffering any ill effects. In addition, eggs can be submerged by rising tides for a short period yet still hatch.

I made my observations of this rail during my trip from causeways and boardwalks at Huntington Beach State Park in South Carolina. I heard many more clapper rails than I saw. I spotted one clapper rail that left the cover of marsh vegetation to forage in the open on a mudflat. I watched the bird for several minutes, getting some photographs at the same time.

Toward the end of my observation of the bird, I noticed a second, somewhat smaller bird, emerge from the vegetation. Based on the size difference and some differences in plumage, I realized I was looking at an adult clapper rail and its half-grown offspring. Observing an adult clapper rail is notoriously difficult, so I felt some justifiable excitement at the opportunity to watch some interaction between an adult rail and its offspring.

Everyone has probably heard the phrase “thin as a rail,” but determining the origins of the phrase is shrouded in some confusion. There’s some interesting debate about whether the phrase comes from a comparison with birds known as rails, which have a laterally compressed body that allows them to easily run through thick marsh vegetation, or more mundane wooden rails used to construct fences or steel rails used in railroad tracks. The phrase first made it into print in 1872, when Mark Twain used it in his book “Roughing It.”

Writer Warren Clements wrote an excellent article for The Globe and Mail on Dec. 22, 2007, that explores the origin of the phrase. In his article, he makes the case that confusion over the origins of the phrase may have to do with two Latin words —regula and rascula — which are rather similar but different in meaning. “Regula” translates as “straight stick” while “rascula” is likely a description of the hoarse vocalizations these birds make. The term “rascula” stems from both Latin and Old French terms meaning “to bray” or “to mock,” respectively. Anyone who has heard the rattling calls of a clapper rail in its wetland haunts would agree that the birds sound as if they are “railing” irritably in their home of mud and reeds.

Rails belong to an extensive family of birds known as the Rallidae, which also includes coots, crakes, gallinules and moorhens. Several hundred species of rails endemic to islands around the world have become extinct in just the past few centuries. All the extinctions can be traced to actions from human beings. Other island rails remain endangered and in need of extreme protective measures. Many species of birds native to islands are vulnerable to extinction, with rails being spectacularly so.

In 2014, the species was split into three: clapper rail; Ridgway’s rail of California, Arizona and Nevada; and mangrove rail of South America. Other North American rails include Virginia rail, yellow rail, black rail, king rail and sora. Other rails found around the world, some with rather descriptive names, include pink-legged rail, slaty-breasted rail, white-striped forest rail, invisible rail, spotted rail, snoring rail and white-throated rail.

Library Happenings – Pool party planned

By Angie Georgeff

Two words: pool party! Join us at Fishery Pool on Friday, June 28, for the coolest party of the season. The pool will open for us at 6 p.m, with the swimming and splashing lasting until 8:30 p.m. Come whenever it is convenient for you during those hours. Parents must remain with their children the entire time they are there. In addition, kids under the age of 5 must have an adult in the water with them and within arm’s reach at all times.

The library will be closed on Thursday, July 4, in observance of Independence Day. We then will celebrate the conclusion of the first phase of Summer Reading 2019 with our End of Summer Reading Space Jam on Friday, July 5. Join us from 11 a.m. until noon at Erwin’s Town Hall for games, crafts, refreshments and fun.

But wait, there’s more! While our Summer Reading Programs for children and teens take a brief hiatus to reset for the Harry Potter phase of Summer Reading 2019, the adult program will continue uninterrupted through Saturday, July 27. Please continue filling out an entry form for each book you read, DVD you watch, audiobook you listen to or activity sheet you complete. A series of programs inspired by the Harry Potter books will begin with Harry’s birthday party on Wednesday, July 31. Summer fun is far from over!

Spotlight Book

We’ve come to count on a beach read from Mary Alice Monroe every summer. Her 2019 offering is “Summer Guests,” but this year the destination will be reversed. Instead of mountain residents going to the beach for a summer vacation, beach residents will go to the mountains to escape an oncoming hurricane. Early in our marriage, my husband and I learned not to go to the beach during the month of August. There is little chance of hurricanes during May, June or July, but a reservation for August or September should only be made at the last minute after checking the forecast.

Grace and Charles Phillips live in the North Carolina mountains, while their daughter Moira lives on the coast with her rescue dogs. When a massive hurricane threatens, they naturally offer to shelter Moira and her dogs.

Soon, however, they are playing host to another island resident, an equestrian, a horse breeder and her daughter and a makeup artist. Each of the six visitors has escaped the storm with only the possessions that can be carried in their vehicles.

There were, however, no such limits on their emotional baggage and the conditions they are forced to endure challenge each of them. The Phillips’s guests escaped with little and all they left behind is at risk. When they finally go home, will they find themselves richer or poorer?

Cause for Paws – Fireworks, pets don’t mix

By Linda Mathes

With the July 4th celebrations approaching the Unicoi County Animal Shelter wants to remind you that fireworks and pets don’t mix.

Many dogs and cats are terrified of the loud pops, bangs and screams that accompany fireworks. The number of “lost dogs” increase after firework displays and many of these animals end up in shelters.

The shelter has some recommendations on how to keep your pet safe this holiday:

• Do not take your pet to a firework display. They are better off at home.

• Pets will try to find somewhere in the house to hide, under a bed, in a corner of a room, someplace to stay safe. Let them find their safe place.

• Be sure your pet is wearing an identity tag or is micochipped in case they do get loose.

• Turn on the television or play music to help drown out the noise.

• If your pet has a severe reaction to the loud noises ask your veterinarian about options to relieve the anxiety.

• Outside dogs can become very fearful and dig, break or jump out of a fence trying to escape the terrifying noise. If possible move your pet to a secure building where he can’t hurt himself.

Let’s make sure both we and our pets have a happy July 4th.

As usual, our shelter can always use donations of kitty litter and cleaning supplies and don’t forget about our low-cost spay/neuter program. The next date for the clinic is July 25 and all pets must be registered by July 20.

For further information contact the shelter at 743-3071 or drop by the shelter during open hours Tuesday-Saturday from 1-5 p.m. The shelter is located at 185 N. Industrial Drive, Erwin.

Unicoi County Health Department provides dental services

Charles Parker (Contributed photo)

From Staff Reports

Dr. Charles Parker recently joined the Unicoi County Health Department as a staff dentist and has begun seeing dental patients. He sees patients on Mondays, Tuesdays and many Wednesdays each week.

Dr. Parker has practiced dentistry for 41 years and recently retired from Washington County Health Department after 31 years of public health service.

In 2017 Dr. Parker was the recipient of the R.H. Hutcheson, Sr., MD Award. This award is considered the highest award given by the Tennessee Public Health Association.

It is named in honor of Dr. R.H. Hutchinson, Sr., Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Public Health for many years. The award is presented annually to that person in the field of public health who has made outstanding contributions to public health over a period of several years.

“We are honored to have Dr. Parker on our team and to be able to provide dental care for children again, as well as emergency care for uninsured adults,” stated Unicoi County Director Michelle Ramsey. “Children can come to the health department for cleanings, sealants, fluoride varnish and extractions whether or not they have insurance. We can also treat adults age 21 and older who have severe dental pain but do not have dental insurance.”

Whether or not a child is covered by dental insurance, the health department will provide comprehensive dental care. Services are available to youth up to age 21 years.

In addition, the dentist can provide emergency care for uninsured adults age 21 and older who have severe dental pain.

For more information about dental services or to schedule an appointment, please contact the health department at 743-9103 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on weekdays.

Feathered Friends – Fatherhood runs the gamut among birds

A male satin bowerbird has collected blue objects to decorate his “bower,” which provides a stage for performing elaborate mating displays designed to attract interested female bowerbirds. (Photo by picman2/Pixabay.com)

By Bryan Stevens

Since we honored fathers this week with a special day in their honor, I thought it might be a good time to look to the bird world for some examples of what fatherhood means among our fine feathered friends.

Among many of the raptors, which includes hawks, falcons and eagles, females are significantly larger than males. Unsurprisingly, much of the job of protecting the nest and young falls to the larger and stronger females. Male raptors, for the most part, are good parents and hunt prey and deliver food to the nest. Sometimes, though, there can be trouble in paradise. For example, researchers are giving a new look at the dynamics between mated bald eagles. The prevailing theory once supposed that bald eagles mate for life.

In an article published Nov. 9, 2012, on the website of William and Mary College, researchers announced that they have begun to notice that eagles on occasion undertake the avian equivalent of “divorce.”

Bryan Watts, the director of the Center for Conservation Biology, was interviewed for the article. Watts noted that both males and female eagles will cheat. Getting away with cheating, however, favors the female. Watts explained that the male may be absent fishing when another male eagle visits the nest site and proceeds to mate with the female. Consequently, the unsuspecting mate returns and could end up raising eaglets that were fathered by the intruder instead of himself.

There are some male birds who are more steadfast once they mate. For instance, swans, cranes and albatrosses are known for sticking with a chosen mate over a lifetime. Two endangered species — the California condor and the whooping crane — are known to mate for life. Cranes typically choose a mate when they reach the age of two or three; condors, on the other hand, usually don’t mate until they are at least six to eight years old. Of course, both these birds live long lives. Whooping cranes may live to the age of 25 while condors can live for as long as six decades.

According to the Audubon website, we can look to a family of shorebirds for some examples that go against usual gender norms. Phalaropes reverse the usual sex roles in birds, with the females being larger and more colorful than males, In addition, females take the lead in courtship, while males are left to incubate the eggs and care for the young once the business of mating is done. Three species of phalaropes inhabit North America: Wilson’s phalarope, red-necked phalarope and red phalarope.

Many male birds lend a hand in building nests or raising young. There are some examples of “deadbeat dads,” however, with one of the most glaring being the beloved ruby-throated hummingbird. A male hummingbird is unlikely to ever lay eyes on his offspring. Once mating has been concluded, the female is left to build a nest on her own. She also incubates the eggs without any help from her mate, who has probably already skipped out and started to court other female hummingbirds in the vicinity. Once the two eggs hatch, the female hummingbird is solely responsible for feeding the hungry offspring. It’s the primary reason hummingbirds always lay two eggs. With her high metabolism, a female hummingbird would be hard pressed to feed herself and any more than two young.

Some male birds, like their human counterparts, approach romance by initiating courtship by bringing some shiny bling to the relationship. Bowerbirds, which are found mainly in New Guinea and Australia, are renowned for their unique courtship behavior.  A male bowerbird will build a structure — the bower — and decorate it with sticks, flowers, shells or other brightly colored objects in an attempt to attract a mate. Alas, once he has won a mate with these “bribes,” he’s no better than male hummingbirds. The females are left to build the nest and raise the young without any assistance from the males.

Satin bowerbird males often decorate with blue, yellow or shiny objects, including berries, flowers or even plastic items such as ink pens, drinking straws and clothes pegs. As the males mature they use more blue objects than other colors. The decorated bower becomes a stage from which males carry out intense behavioral displays called dances to attract their mates.

The world’s largest flightless birds – ostriches, emus, rhea, cassowaries and a few others – would make good “father of the year” candidates. For instance, male ostriches share incubation duties with females. Once the eggs hatch, male ostriches are active in leading young to suitable foraging habitat and protecting them from predators. Some male ostriches can stand nine feet tall and weigh 320 pounds, so dad is an imposing obstacle for many predators. In the event of an attack, the male will try to draw off the predator while the chicks run for cover with their mother.

Fatherhood often means a dedicated effort on the part of some birds, while other basically make their genetic contribution to ensuring the survival of the species and are done with the concept. There’s a surprising variety to behold once one starts looking at the different avian approaches to fatherhood.

Library Happenings – Bays Mountain bringing program to Erwin

By Angie Georgeff

Like most Americans, I love movies. I also adore “cinema,” the more artistic films that are not always commercially successful. Blockbusters, animation, foreign films, silent movies: I enjoy them all. Dominic Smith’s new novel “The Electric Hotel” looks back at the earliest days of motion pictures through the eyes of pioneering filmmaker Claude Ballard.

I was mesmerized by Smith’s previous novel “The Last Painting of Sara de Vos,” so when I learned about this book, I immediately preordered a copy for myself.  When I read the reviews, I promptly ordered one for the library, as well.

In 1962, Martin Embry is a doctoral candidate in the field of film history. His diplomacy and persistence finally pay off in a series of interviews with the reclusive Ballard. His masterpiece “The Electric Hotel” has long been considered lost, but Ballard has a rapidly decaying copy in his possession.

The old cellulose nitrate film is highly flammable and it can emit harmful gases.  One of Embry’s friends is working to save endangered films and he undertakes restoration of the precious masterwork.

With their relationship firmly cemented, Claude opens up to Martin. The story of how Claude, a French actress, an Australian stuntman and a Brooklyn entrepreneur created a silent masterpiece on the banks of the Hudson begins to unfold. By the way, the part of the villain is played by the inventor Thomas Edison, a brilliant but ruthless man who never hesitated to throw around his weight.

Friday Family Fun Day

Other than space itself, where can you learn more about our amazing universe than a planetarium? This Friday, Bays Mountain Planetarium will bring the universe to Unicoi County.  Join us at Erwin’s Town Hall at 11 a.m. to learn about the beauty of the night sky and the endless wonders that lie beyond the reach of the human eye. All ages are welcome at these events, so bring your entire family.

SRP 2019

Our Summer Reading Programs for children, teens and adults have gotten off to a rousing start.  Walking down the hall that leads from the library lobby to the Children’s Room is like voyaging through our solar system toward the depths of space, complete with twinkling stars. It is a treat for me to take a break from my neverending paperwork and travel through “space” to see the varied projects the kids are working on.

I just returned to my desk with my fingers spangled with paint and glitter from admiring the “galaxy jars” that some of the preteens were making. They are having fun exercising their creativity and individuality, and expanding their knowledge of the universe at the same time. Win, win!

Feathered Friends – Indigo buntings common summer bird

The coloration of a male indigo bunting originates not with pigment but with the diffraction of light around the structure of the bird’s feathers. In good lighting conditions, the bird looks bright blue. In poor light, however, they can look almost black. (Photo by Bryan Stevens)

By Bryan Stevens

The recent five-county Spring Bird Count, conducted Saturday, May 4, by the Elizabethton Bird Club, found 145 species in the five Northeast Tennessee counties of Carter, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington. The count included such cities as Bristol, Johnson City, Jonesborough, Kingsport, Erwin, and Mountain City. A total of 57 participants in 11 parties counted during the annual survey of avian populations in the region. The long-running count is the only spring census of birds conducted in the area.

Not surprisingly, some of the most abundant birds included Canada goose, European starling, American crow, red-winged blackbird and common grackle. Some of the more common songbirds included red-eyed vireo, Northern cardinal, American robin, hooded warbler, American goldfinch and Indigo bunting.

The indigo bunting is one of the reasons spring is such a wonderful time of the year to watch the visitors to feeders. This small songbird likes to reside in the boundary region where forests and woodlands meet fields and pastures. Personally, the indigo bunting has always been a bird that is suggestive of the long, hot days of summer. One of my earliest and still quite vivid birding memories is a recollection of a shockingly blue bird atop a blue spruce tree in my yard. Several decades later, the tree is no longer standing, but these beautiful birds — I now know these summer visitors were indigo buntings — still return each year to my yard and gardens.

These birds usually arrive in the region in late April, and I’ve seen them linger until late October, although most indigo buntings have left the region by late September. Upon arrival, male indigo buntings become tenacious singers, repeating their jumbled notes even during the hottest hours of summer afternoons. The preference of this small songbird is to sing from the tops of tall trees, where they are often concealed by the green leaves. When I do get a glimpse of the obscured songster, often all I see is a dark shape silhouetted against the bright sky. Sometimes, if he plunges from the upper branches into the woodland understory, I get that telltale glimpse of blue feathers.

The indigo bunting is the only solid blue bird in the eastern United States, but it’s all an illusion — literally a trick of the light. The indigo bunting’s feathers are not really blue; the male’s brilliant azure plumage is caused by the process of diffraction of light around the structure of the bird’s feathers. This process scatters all but the blue light, and the resulting color shifts from black to blue to turquoise as the angle of reflected light changes. In bright light, it can even look unnaturally vivid blue. In poor light, however, an indigo bunting male can appear black. Fortunately, indigo buntings have both a characteristic body shape and song, so even if the birds are not seen at their best, they can still be recognized.

Soon after returning to the eastern United States each spring, female buntings begin to gather materials to construct a well-crafted, cup-shaped nest. The male usually stays close to her, but he offers no assistance with nest building. She usually lays a clutch of three to four eggs, but she may nest another two times in a single season.

She will incubate the eggs for almost two weeks, but the young remain in the nest another two weeks after being hatched as featherless, blind and helpless young completely dependent on the care of attentive parents. The task of raising so many broods in the space of only a few months requires the participation of both the female and her mate, who must work hard to bring enough insects to the nest to keep the young fed.

Like many species of songbirds, the male is by far the most colorful. In this instance, the male is also responsible for the species’ name. Indigo is a blue dye that was once an important crop in the South. The drab female may boast some blue highlights in her plumage. Juvenile birds just out of the nest also resemble the female. Pay close attention to any indigo buntings you observe as summer progresses. Juvenile birds will look mostly brown with just a hint of blue in the wings and the tail. These will be the young buntings that were hatched this spring and early summer. They will often accompany their parents to feeders.

Indigo buntings are particularly fun birds to observe in late summer. Although some books indicate that males are not very active in rearing young, I have on numerous occasions witnessed male buntings feeding fledglings at feeders. Indigo bunting juveniles, like the young of many other birds, beg for tidbits from parents by “bowing,” spreading their wings and shivering. These actions usually prompt a parent to pop some morsel into an impatient youngster’s open bill. Indigo buntings are relatively easy to view. They frequent weedy fields and roadside brush. During the breeding season, males can also be seen singing from prominent perches. The song, a distinctive jumble of notes, can help observers find these dedicated singers.

The male indigo bunting is one of the most colorful birds to visit feeders in the region. This species is also extremely fond of millet seed. I like to have some feeders stocked with millet when the buntings begin to return each spring. They will also feed on thistle and sunflower seeds. Away from our feeders, they also devour plenty of seeds from various noxious weeds. Because of the indigo bunting’s appetite for the seeds of destructive weeds, it is considered a beneficial bird.

One of the most attractive summer scenes is to observe American goldfinches and indigo buntings feeding together on the nodding heads of summer sunflowers. The goldfinch males, resplendent in their bright yellow and black plumage, compete with the blue indigo bunting males for the fresh sunflower seeds. When bright red male Northern cardinals join in, observers have a complete artists’s palette for summer viewing.

The indigo bunting will usually respond to human squeaks that imitate a bird’s call. When a flock or family group of buntings are disturbed by a human observer, they usually begin a chorus of alarmed “chipping.”

As I indicated earlier, indigo buntings remain in the region until late September. Although this bird typically winters in Mexico, Panama and the Caribbean, in recent decades some indigo buntings have only gone as far south as Florida to spend the winter. There in the Sunshine State, the indigo buntings may mingle with a close relative, the splendidly multi-colored painted bunting. I usually see these vibrant songbirds whenever I visit coastal South Carolina in spring or summer. Male painted buntings are probably one of the most colorful birds in the United States with hues of red, green, purple and blue in their feathers.

Other North American buntings include the snow bunting, the lazuli bunting and the lark bunting, which is also the official state bird for Colorado. Some of the common but descriptive names for some of the world’s other buntings include rose-bellied bunting, orange-breasted bunting, cinereous bunting, white-capped bunting, lark-like bunting, ochre-rumped bunting, golden-breasted bunting, chestnut-bunting, red-headed bunting, yellow bunting, blue bunting, little bunting, brown-rumped bunting, meadow bunting, corn bunting and crested bunting.

Keep your feeders stocked with millet and sunflower seeds if you want to increase your chances of seeing indigo buntings, as well as other handsome summer songbirds such as American goldfinch, chipping sparrow and Eastern towhee.

Cause for Paws – Remember to spay, neuter pets

This graphic displays how cat and dog populations can grow exponentially. The Unicoi County Animal Shelter says spaying and neutering pets is vital to controlling the pet population. (Image contributed by the Unicoi County Animal Shelter)

By Linda Mathes

A reminder from the Unicoi County Animal Shelter on the importance of spaying or neutering your cat or kitten.

Our prolific kitty chart (pictured) details that in the first year a cat can have 12 offspring and by the fourth year could be responsible for 20,736 offspring.

Many of the offspring do not survive due to illness, neglect and abuse, but even with a minimum of offspring surviving they add to the overpopulation of kittens and cats.

The shelter encourages Unicoi County residents to take advantage of the ongoing monthly lowcost spay/neuter program in partnership with the Margaret B. Mitchell Spay & Neuter Clinic and the Unicoi County Humane Society.

Male cats are $35, female cats are $50 and all dogs are $55. These fees include surgery, rabies vaccination and supplemental pain medications.  The next date for the clinic is Thursday, June 27, and all pets must be registered at the shelter by Saturday, June 21.

Just spaying or neutering one cat can make a difference.

In addition to the spay/neuter program the shelter is sponsoring the “Katherine Save The Kitty Program” name after Katherine, a young cat brought to the shelter and within minutes of arriving gave birth to 10 kittens. Unfortunately, the kittens did not survive, but when Katherine was healthy she was spayed and later adopted into her forever home.

The save the kitten program is an opportunity to help the shelter by sponsoring the adoption of a kitten for a donation of $80.

Your donation covers the spay/neuter surgery, necessary vaccines, rabies vaccination and microchip and the sponsor is welcome to come to the shelter and choose the kitten they want to sponsor.

At the present time the shelter has approximately 40 kittens in our care, some of them were born here and others were brought to the shelter by concerned citizens.

For further information on these programs please call the shelter at 743-3071 or come by the shelter during open hours Tuesday-Saturday from 1-5:30 p.m. The shelter is located at 185 N. Industrial Drive, Erwin.

Library Happenings – Results listed for best, worst books poll

By Angie Georgeff

The votes have been tabulated in our best book/worst book poll. We asked, “Which is the best book you ever read?” The book that garnered the most votes was J. R. R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit,” which turned out to be the only book named more than once. The most votes went to books like “The Hobbit” that we tend to read as children and teens and which we continue to love. Among the other nominees were Johann David Wyss’s “The Swiss Family Robinson,” Wilson Rawls’s “Where the Red Fern Grows” and Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time.”

The other trend appeared to be novels that were written in series. Janet Evanovich’s “Stephanie Plum” series, Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” saga and J. K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series numbered among the favorites.

One vote that surprised me was “Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking” by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young and Maxime Bilet. It is a 2,438-page, six-volume encyclopedic cookbook geared toward the professional chef, “curious home cook” and art lover. The photography is spectacular. The only thing that stops me from buying a copy is the price tag. It is too steep for me, our library or (it seems) any other library in the OWL consortium, since none of them have this resource in their collection!

On the flip side of the winning book is the losing author, Stephen King. There was no second for a specific title, but the vote for “anything by Stephen King” just tipped the scales when added to one vote for “The Shining.” Ironically, Stephen King’s “Dark Tower” series received a vote for best book. Nevertheless, I think it’s safe to say horror is not Unicoi County’s favorite genre.

Generally speaking, neither horror nor science fiction fared very well. Judging from other votes, books that are “too long” or which have “sad endings” are not looked on with favor. The comment that I enjoyed most accompanied the thumbs down for James Fenimore Cooper’s “The Last of the Mohicans”: “*Mark Twain hated it, too!”

Friday Family Fun Day

One of “Mr. Bond’s Science Guys” will be appearing at Erwin’s Town Hall at 3 p.m. this Friday for the second Friday Family Fun Day of Summer Reading 2019. The demonstrations and experiments will follow 2019’s space theme so kids and parents will learn about science as they enjoy the show. All ages are welcome at these events, so bring the entire family.

This week’s age-group programs at the library will feature “Constellations in the Stars.” Next week will be the moon! Be sure to pick up a schedule at the library or check our Unicoi County Kids and Teens Facebook page for details. We have “A Universe of Stories” to share!

Feathered Friends – Spring Bird Count finds 154 species

A female common merganser rests on a fallen log along the Watauga River in Elizabethton. (Photo by Bryan Stevens)

By Bryan Stevens

The recent five-county Spring Bird Count conducted Saturday, May 4, by the Elizabethton Bird Club found 145 species in the five Northeast Tennessee counties of Carter, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington. The count included such cities as Erwin, Bristol, Johnson City, Jonesborough, Kingsport and Mountain City. A total of 57 participants in 11 parties counted during the annual survey of avian populations in the region. The long-running count is the only spring census of birds conducted in Northeast Tennessee.

This year marked the 76th consecutive year that the Elizabethton Spring Bird Count has been conducted. The weather was mostly favorable, except for a late afternoon band of thunderstorms that passed through rather quickly.

A total of 154 species were tallied, which is slightly above the recent 30-year average of 149 species. The all-time high was 166 species found in 2016.

Long-time compiler Rick Knight noted some highlights:

• Lingering gadwall and buffleheads.

• Four common merganser hens were found at sites on the Watauga River. These birds make up part of a regional breeding population.

• An American bittern.

• Both night-heron species.

• Bald eagles.

• Three sora rails.

• Three Forster’s Terns.

• Six Black-billed cuckoos.

• Two Northern Saw-whet owls.

* Four yellow-bellied sapsuckers, which are part of a regional breeding population.

• A single willow flycatcher.

• A pair of loggerhead shrike at a new site for the species.

• A single hermit thrush singing on territory at Roan Mountain.

• A single dickcissel.

• Two purple finches lingering later than usual.

• Nine pine siskins.

• A total of 29 warbler species, including golden-winged, Swainson’s, cerulean and Canada.

Canada goose, 454; wood duck, 60; gadwall, 1; mallard, 151; bufflehead, 3; and common merganser, 4.

Ruffed grouse, 1; wild turkey, 38; pied-billed grebe, 1; double-crested cormorant, 82; American bittern, 1; great blue heron, 115; green heron, 15; black-crowned night-heron, 5; and yellow-crowned night-heron, 4.

American kestrel, 9; black vulture, 117; turkey vulture, 99; osprey, 10, sharp-shinned hawk, 1; Cooper’s hawk, 6; bald eagle, 5; red-shouldered hawk, 1; broad-winged hawk, 2; and red-tailed hawk, 18.

Sora, 3; killdeer, 29; spotted sandpiper, 27; solitary sandpiper, 16; lesser yellowlegs, 2; least sandpiper, 5; Wilson’s snipe, 1; and Forster’s tern, 3.

Rock pigeon, 179; Eurasian collared dove, 2; mourning dove, 263; Eastern screech-owl, 4; great horned owl, 1; barred owl, 7; Northern saw-whet owl, 2; common nighthawk, 1; chuck-will’s widow, 8; and Eastern whip-poor-will, 28.

Chimney swift, 112; ruby-throated hummingbird, 25; belted kingfisher, 13; red-headed woodpecker, 2; red-bellied woodpecker, 92; yellow-bellied sapsucker, 4; downy woodpecker, 21; hairy woodpecker, 1; and pileated woodpecker, 41.

Eastern wood-pewee, 18; Acadian flycatcher, 8; willow flycatcher, 1; least flycatcher, 5; Eastern phoebe, 103; great crested flycatcher, 21; and Eastern kingbird, 77.

Loggerhead shrike, 2; white-eyed vireo, 16; yellow-throated vireo, 2; blue-headed vireo, 60; warbling vireo, 5; red-eyed vireo, 261; blue jay, 194; American crow, 246; and common raven, 14.

Northern rough-winged swallow, 134; purple martin, 33; tree swallow, 240; barn swallow, 188; and cliff swallow, 584.

Carolina chickadee, 106; tufted titmouse, 142; red-breasted nuthatch, 10; white-breasted nuthatch, 17; brown creeper, 3; house wren, 63; winter wren, 7; and Carolina wren, 153.

Blue-gray gnatcatcher, 66; golden-crowned kinglet, 10; Eastern bluebird, 129; veery, 27; Swainson’s thrush, 3; hermit thrush, 1; wood thrush, 91; American robin, 581; gray catbird, 76; brown thrasher, 65; Northern mockingbird, 88; European starling, 654; and cedar waxwing, 39.

Ovenbird, 127; worm-eating warbler, 28; Louisiana waterthrush, 27; Northern waterthrush, 1; golden-winged warbler, 3; black-and-white warbler, 96; Swainson’s warbler, 8; Tennessee warbler, 1; Nashville warbler, 1; common yellowthroat, 23; hooded warbler, 157; American redstart, 14; Cape May warbler, 6; cerulean warbler, 1; Northern parula, 44; magnolia warbler, 4; bay-breasted warbler, 2; Blackburnian warbler, 10; yellow warbler, 11; chestnut-sided warbler, 30; blackpoll warbler, 1; black-throated blue warbler, 71; palm warbler, 1; pine warbler, 8; yellow-rumped warbler, 5; yellow-throated warbler, 20; prairie warbler, 5; black-throated green warbler, 75; Canada warbler, 40; and yellow-breasted warbler, 8.

Eastern towhee, 153; chipping sparrow, 128; field sparrow, 68; Savannah sparrow, 3; grasshopper sparrow, 5; song sparrow, 303; white-throated sparrow, 2; white-crowned sparrow, 1; dark-eyed junco; 54; summer tanager, 2; scarlet tanager, 86; Northern cardinal, 248; rose-breasted grosbeak, 15; blue grosbeak, 7; indigo bunting, 145; and dickcissel, 1.

Red-winged blackbird, 381; Eastern meadowlark, 95; common grackle, 371; brown-headed cowbird, 110; orchard oriole, 34; Baltimore oriole, 46; house finch, 68; purple finch, 2; pine siskin, 9; American goldfinch, 166; and house sparrow, 59.

Cause for Paws – Vaccines vital for pet health

By Linda Mathes

A recent parvovirus outbreak in this area has resulted in the closure of one shelter and several cases of parvo in other shelters.

This is a reminder of how important it is to vaccinate your pets. Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious and deadly disease that usually spreads in warm weather so spring is a prime time for parvo. Dogs who are not vaccinated, and contact the disease, have a 5-10 percent survival rate.

The Unicoi County Animal Shelter encourages all pet owners to follow a vaccination schedule to ensure their pets do not contact a preventable disease. Puppies need vaccinations early, as the antibodies they receive from their mother start to decrease around 6-8 weeks of age. It is during this time puppies start building their own immunity through vaccinations.

Recommended vaccinations are:

• 6-8 weeks – Distemper, Parainfluenza;

• 10-12 weeks – DHPP (vaccines for distemper, adenovirus, parainfluenza and parvovirus);

• 12-24 weeks – Rabies (as required by law);

• 14-16 weeks – DHPP booster;

• 12-16 months – Rabies, DHPP booster;

• 1-2 years – DHPP booster;

• 1-3 years – Rabies.

Following this recommended schedule will help ensure that your pet has a healthy and long life.

As always, the shelter needs donations of clumping and non-clumping cat litter, laundry detergent and cleaning supplies and, if anyone has a pet carrier they are not using please, think about donating it to the shelter.

Don’t forget about our low-cost spay/neuter program through the shelter. The next date for the clinic is June 27.

For further information contact the shelter at 743-3071 or come by the shelter during open hours Tuesday-Saturday from 1-5:30 p.m. The shelter is located at 185 N. Industrial Drive, Erwin.