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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Palling Around with Red Wolves

Skulker in the hillside shrubbery
This week, we are getting the room & room at the YMCA, which we weren't getting as the Blue Ridge Assembly YMCA was still gearing up for the summer season. So this morning we treked down to breakfast in the giant dining hall. We dined with three sisters from Alabama who are a hoot. They are long time volunteers here. After a breakfast of French toast, eggs & grits - yes you heard me... grits! When in Rome, you know? I skipped off to my stint as Barista at the Eureka Cafe (Proudly Serving Starbucks).  After my shift it was back up to the cabin. 

There was a sudden burst of song, that was so loud it seemed to come from the kitchen. Ran outside to spy a little Carolina Wren in the shrubbery a bit uphill. I played one calling on my iPhone and the wren responded a bit. Then, when I gave up and went back inside, the little devil flew into the Rhododendron just out side the front door and sang up a storm.

Oh, dem golden slippers...!♪

Wish I'd recorded that little guy on a camcorder. I heard more birds this morning than I saw, because the day is a bit overcast and the birds seem more secretive, though I don't know if the weather is the cause of it. After my first day or so, it dawned on me the chickadees here are kind of dinky. Just a bit tinier than the Black-capped Chickadees of northern states I'm more familiar with. That means I'm definitely seeing a species I've only seen once before - drum roll please - Carolina Chickadees.

A wee CAROLINA Chickadee!
At noon, we went to lunch in the cafeteria. Afterwards Ila worked her first shift this afternoon, I went for a slow drive around the campus, starting at the very tippy top of the hill behind the Younts Hall.

Diving Broad-winged Hawk

I heard and saw all the usual birds I see from the cabin, including a soaring Broad-winged Hawk.












Though I had my ears set on 'Warbler' mode, I only heard Black-throated Green Warblers calling. Exploring one corner of the Y grounds I found an acre pond, on which floated one drake Blue-winged Teal, a Mallard Drake & a couple of Canada Geese. That adds one new bird - the Teal - to my North Carolina state bird list.

Blue-winged Teal Drake

After Ila worked her shift, I picked her up and we had five hours before her next shift. I pushed for us to visit the Nature Center in Ashville. I took my binocs and big lens camera so I could stroll the grounds and bird.

Ila headed for the Asheville Nature Center entrance

When we got there, it turned out I was, um... mistaken about the 'nature' of the Nature Center'. It is not a botanical gardens of native trees and walkways where Northern Cardinals sing and Magnolias bloom - it is a tiny, zoo. I haven't been to any zoo in about a decade and wouldn't have gone to the Nature Center, had I know its true identity.

cute walkway on the way to the animal exhibits

Eventually I decided to stop whining about the dearth of birdies and go to see the rare Red Wolves on display. I saw the rangy, not-as-red-as-one-might-think beasts. I thought back to when I got to traverse the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge a couple of years ago, where I hoped to spot  wild Red Wolves, but of course, no dice; that is one rare beastie.

One of several Red Wolves on display

Gray/Timber Wolf in another exhibit

There were also nice Gray Wolves, Red and Gray Foxes to admire. Particularly loved the Red Fox - always loved those little buggers - used to draw red foxes exclusively in kindergarten, and my teacher complained to my mother about it; thought I ought to be drawing boring things like humans, houses and trees. Ha!
 
There were many Appalachian reptiles & amphibians on display at the center. I thought this one, an Eastern Mud Turtle was particularly creepy looking. Can't get past the fleshy chin whiskers.

Eastern Mud Turtle

After our short visit to the Nature Center we headed back to the Y. You know we only have one more day left of volunteering here before we'll  be off north for two mystery stops before we return to California. Neither Ila nor myself can wait to be on the road again.

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