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West Virginia's Peak Moments

Sunday, June 26, 2022


   I put so much stuff up on Instagram. And then that goes to Facebook. I feel like I'm posting something every day, little bits and bites. I will confess that I forget about this blog for weeks at a time, because the square hole in my dwindling brain that says, "Share wonderful things" is constantly being filled. I pound the peg in and go on my way. 

But Lord knows there are people I love who just don't do social media, who are missing out on the daily birdsong Zicktorials and evening primroses popping open that are going on over at

and when I think about them I get to feeling guilty, like I'm letting them down. Yes. This is a stealthy way of trying to get even my loved ones who don't run around with their nose in their phones to check out that Instagram feed (which you can do on your computer as well as your phone) because it's so rich, so frequently updated, such fun, and I just don't have the hours now to post to the blog like I used to. Still putting out content! Just not here so much, any more.

I wanted to share some images from my big rig that I made at the New River Birding and Nature Festival this May. Just moments that I thought you'd appreciate. West Virginia was not as stingy with her sunshine as she usually is, and we had four days of beautiful weather to chase and enjoy birds. 

The BSA camp called Summit, in Bechtel, WV, which we were lucky to explore, is an astounding place, with big grassy fields that don't get mowed too often. It's in very light to no use most of the year until the yearly Jamboree, when something like 26,000 Boy Scouts flood in to do Jamboree things. Here, horned larks are nesting in peace!! Oh how I love their tinkling songs and heavy black theatrical makeup. 

This male was using a signpost as a song perch. 

Singing along from atop a lightpost was an eastern meadowlark, always a thrilling sound. Any grassland bird in heavily forested WV is kind of a big deal. Summit also hosts grasshopper sparrows and their earthy buzz.

And it was at Summit that I finally saw my first eastern black bears! a mama and three cubbies.
A lousy shot of a cub shinnying up a tree. Oh, was I thrilled to see this!
And glad it wasn't in my backyard. Y'all can keep 'em in WV.

Blue-winged warblers in WV often have a yellow tinge to their white wingbars, which tells of genetic mixing with golden-winged warblers. This figures: there are still golden-winged warblers breeding in WV, which is more than I can say for Ohio. Golden-wings need clearcuts, believe it or not, with young saplings springing up. 

See those yellow-tipped wingbars? Somebody's been doing some interspecies marrying. 

A confiding yellow-throated vireo held us in thrall.

His song: Three-eight...Cheerio! is so distinctive, burry and cheery. 

Summit Camp also yielded a beautiful Virginia rail, who called repeatedly as he slipped between the cattails and sedges.

Oink oink oink oink oink oink oink!!

Again--seeing any rail in foresty WV is kind of a big deal. How lucky and grateful we were to benefit from birding the extensive habitat at BSA's Summit Camp. It made me itch to get out there and canvas those breeding birds!

These gobblers were trying very hard to add their names to the list of successful breeders at Summit. Don't miss the lyre-leaved sage painting the field a misty blue.

Don't let her get into the woods--you'll lose her!

Cranberry Glades way up on the mountaintop produced for us a surprise mourning warbler who seemed to think he'd been hired as a greeter for festival participants, so lustily did he sing and display near the entrance to its fabled boardwalk. Grateful. I have worked this festival for 20 years, and I've never seen a mourning warbler do that anywhere. Having waited for long periods and chased this famously skulky species through thick raspberry tangles, getting only glimpses of leg or tail, this bold little feller was particularly sweet to watch.

I'd have loved to see him down futzing about amidst the Viola cucullata (Swamp blue violet or Cuckoopint).

Northern waterthrushes sang everywhere! They like fens and bogs, as opposed to fast running streams preferred by their Louisiana cousins. 

We were way out the end of the boardwalk when a little squall blew in. Nothing else to do but bundle the camera under the coat. But then the sun came out again over the bog.

The visitor's center had rose-breasted grosbeaks at the feeders. 

Inside, a quilt map that charmed me almost to death.

If there's anything more quintessentially American and particularly West Virginian than a quilt map, I haven't seen it. 

Just a note: I'm writing a LOT for BWD Magazine, and eagerly anticipating the first issue (July/August 2022) that will be mailed (squeeeee) July 1! And magazines being magazines, we are closing up content on the September/October issue now. Gonna be frank: the need to be putting together the next issue before the current one even mails is a bit frightening, and I'm going to be adjusting to the increased pressure for some time. If you'd like to see what we're up to and subscribe, please go to 

Purvis Update

Saturday, June 4, 2022


 So, this cat. It's been awhile since I've seen one animal impact so many lives. I knew he was no ordinary cat the moment I swept him up into my arms. Painfully skinny, discarded like yesterday's newspaper, he was nonetheless made of pure love. By the evening of my first post, he was spoken for, twice over, and the first person--my friend Elise--had first dibs. You might think it was easy. But the process of finding a home and adopting an animal out is not easy. It's a lot of work to take in a waif, then package it to be appealing, to make the plea, to field the inquiries, to provide updates to people who can't wait for a blogpost...people care, and you have to honor that caring. 


Besides his starpower and uber-affectionate nature, there was something else about Purvis. While he was with me, he was coughing. That evening, Shila got him home and set up in a big cat condo in her living room (to keep him apart from her pets). And Purvis began to sneeze--great wracking sneezes. It was almost as if before we took him in, he was too weak to sneeze, to manifest his illness. Shila had to wait over Sunday until our wonderful veterinarian could take a look at him on Monday. (I found him on a Saturday). So to the cat hospital he went, first thing Monday morning.


We thought he'd get out of the hospital that Wednesday. We arranged a get together on Thursday. I missed him. Shila was going to bring him out to Indigo Hill to see me. Well, he didn't get out. Antibiotics and nebulizer treatments weren't working as expected. Dr. Lutz suspected he had a virus, probably one against which he would have been vaccinated, had he ever received veterinary care. 

Elise was set to meet him on Friday, and pick him up on Sunday, on her way back from a college reunion. As the week wore on, it became clear to me and Shila that this cat wasn't going to make the date. Shila waited patiently for a very busy veterinarian to return her calls. When they finally spoke, the news wasn't good. 


Dr. Lutz suspects that the virus Purvis has may turn out to be chronic. That he may live his life experiencing symptoms, or more likely occasional outbreaks. Well, Elise has a beloved orange and white cat, and Purvis' virus might endanger that cat. This wasn't turning out to be easy at all. With each day that passed by, I thought about the bills this little gift from the Universe was racking up. Finally, Shila had a chance to speak with Dr. Lutz face to face. And the news was better this time. It seems that a veterinarian who is working at the practice on Wednesdays had met and fallen under Purvis' spell. She wanted to give him a home, with lifetime care. Dr. Lutz would charge us for medications, but not boarding (whewwwww, because it's going on three weeks now!)  She referred to him as "Little Purvis," which made us think she was kinda fond of him, too. Apparently he had been riding around the office on people's shoulders. That was something he did with me, too, in the short time he worked his magic in my life. Believe me, I understood why someone would want to take the leap with this kitten. 

So I messaged Elise, who was anxiously awaiting some word from Whipple, and told her I would call her, and her heart crashed. When I delivered the news, she was actually relieved, because she'd feared the worst. She couldn't have been more gracious and understanding--grateful, even--that this kitten would go to someone who could really care for him, whatever his future holds. For that and her open, loving acceptance of what is, I am grateful  

Purvis may have been dumped because he couldn't get well. It's clear to me he was loved by someone, loved very much. He's socialized and highly social. I have a picture in my head of a child somewhere who is missing him, and a parent who didn't need any vet bills, who made the decision to dump the kitten. I don't know if that's accurate, but he didn't get way out here on his own, that much I know.

On June 1, I took Curtis in for his bordatella vaccine, and to arrange for the removal of a couple benign bumps and lumps. Dr. Lutz brought Purvis into the exam room when we were finished, and I thought she had switched cats on me. This cat with the smooth fur and bright eyes and flesh on his bone was...Purvis??

But his personality shone through and once he'd eyeballed Curtis he started pressing his forehead against me and purring. Yup. It was Purvis, blossoming. He's gained a pound and a half since he was taken in. His purr sounds a little rough at times but he wasn't coughing or sneezing. Dr. Lutz explained that he's got a feline respiratory herpes virus that will likely stay in him for life. He will be asymptomatic at times, but with stress or illness, it will show back up. So it's good that he will be under the care of a loving veterinarian who will know how to handle it. I just couldn't believe how much better he looked--his eyes bright and wide open, his fur taking on new tones of ivory and cream. Wow. What a change

In a completely uncharacteristic move, I forgot my phone at home, so Dr. Lutz sent me a photo.  We can definitely do a "before and after" on Purvis!

Purvis is one lucky kitten. He picked the right yard to walk into, the right birdbath to drink from. A whole row of good women fell into a receiving line, to hoist him up and carry him along. 


After. He’s so beautiful now! And he acts like a cat who has found his place in the world. Thank you so much for caring and following his journey.


Cerulean Homemaker

Monday, May 30, 2022


It seems I've just returned from a week in West Virginia, and yet I look at the calendar and it's been almost a month. Such is my life during Vegetation Time, when all that free time I fritter away doing things like editing, blogging, writing and painting gets sucked up in Vegetation Management. Oh, there's plenty of that all winter long, but it's more like upper body workouts, and not as horribly pressing. In southeast Ohio in May, you manage your vegetation or smother under it.

People have been asking me about No Mow May. "Is it bad to mow my lawn during No Mow May?"  The whole concept makes me laugh in a snorty way. Whoever came up with that doesn't live in southeast Ohio. Maybe doesn't even have a yard to maintain at all. I've thrown a belt and broken a pulley mowing my paths this spring. Yesterday I mowed a path that I had inadvertently skipped--it went about three weeks without mowing. Aaaack. I barely got through it; the rider mower was gagging and growling and burping on grass.  Then, just as I was finishing up three hours of path mowing, I threw a belt again. What fun. It takes my beloved neighbors Bill and Kathy and me to get the damn deck off, belt replaced, and back on the mower. Every time.  I'm all for not mowing. But around here, you'd better have a tractor and a brush hog ready if you quit for the month of May. Honestly, what could those No Mow May folks have been thinking? 

Kathy and Bill, saving my bacon again, and again, and again.
I am in the market for a new rider lawnmower. I need one that doesn't throw
belts like a Chippendale dancer, and doesn't give me PTSD
every dang time I climb on it.

Anyway, I'm not here primarily to kvetch about having to mow. I'm here to celebrate West Virginia, ancestral home of the Zickefooses, West Virginia University, ramps, and kick a-s birds. I celebrated my 20th year of involvement with the New River Birding and Nature Festival this spring by committing to an entire week of guiding. It wasn't nothing, getting up at 5 every morning, leading a 7-hour field trip, then getting up and doing it again the next morning, and the next...

But oh, the places we went, and the things we saw! 

I will now share some glorious things in a random way. 

One of the things I love about our field trips is that they are entirely bird-driven. If we find a bird, or birds, we stop dead and hang out for an hour or more, just taking in what the birds give us. Such was this moment with a female cerulean warbler we found visiting a junky-looking pile of winter stems on a Fayetteville road bank. 

You'll want to click on the photos to see her.

Birds are natural botanists and artisans. Like me in an art store, they know what materials they're looking for, and when they find the right stuff, they'll keep coming back. This little beauty was stripping papery fibers, perhaps from a winter milkweed or goldenrod stem.

It took some effort, and she'd throw a wing out and flutter as she pulled, which is what drew our attention.

It didn't take her long to get a billful, and she'd bear that off into a tall maple where, unseen, she was weaving a masterpiece.

We were charmed beyond delirium.

The female cerulean warbler has a dusty aqua/cornsilk yellow/dove gray color combination you just don't see on any other bird. She owns that muted color scheme, wears it beautifully. Please see her crown. Heavenly blue!

Seeing this little miracle taking place before our astonished eyes was such a full-circle moment for me. Years ago, I received a commission to paint nesting cerulean warblers in a West Virginia mountain setting for the WV Breeding Bird Atlas. I watched cerulean warblers and shot some landscapes for reference on this very same road, with my same WV friends. And the great big beautiful vastly informative and carefully researched book is out, and it's SO good, and I'm so proud to have decorated the cover. You can find out more at

It almost always rains for part of the festival, and I really wanted to convey a sense of West Virginia's mist-shrouded mountains. 

Taken from the New River Gorge bridge early one morning during this year's festival...wonder where I got the inspiration for the painting?

The little cerulean warbler didn't know any of this stuff that was swirling around through my head. She had work to do. And so she kept tugging and pulling and gathering, and we kept smiling. 


All this on a trashy-looking mountain road bank, that just happened to have the right kind of bark for the nest of one of our most beautiful and imperiled warblers. 

Liam's Blog Takeover!

Sunday, May 22, 2022


Hey all! This is Liam, and I'm doing a blog takeover for the day.

I just graduated from West Virginia University in Morgantown, West Virginia, and I have been looking for jobs for months as I prepare to launch into the workforce. I am looking for work in graphic design or any other creative field, as I received my Bachelors in graphic design with a minor in painting, and I would love to make my living doing something creative. I have four years of experience using Adobe InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere, Audition, and XD. My proficiency in these programs earned me my diploma, and I am confident in my skills as a graphic designer. I do artistic commission work as well, and I am currently looking for work in New York City, Pittsburgh, PA, or Columbus, OH. If anybody has recommendations or job openings in these areas, please let me know. Thank you!

Starting off, I would like to show you all some of my work. I have a very large portfolio, and rather than post it all here, I'll just give you a taste of the things I do. 


"Grounding Forces, Fig. 1." 2022. Acrylic on canvas, 24" X 24"

This is an acrylic painting of recording artist Donald Glover, or Childish Gambino. I chose to do stylized, blocked shading rather than a smooth blend to diversify my style.

"Grounding Forces, Fig. 2." 2022. Acrylic on canvas, 24" X 24"

This is an acrylic painting of the late musician Malcolm McCormick, or Mac Miller. These two artists have been essential in my growth as a creative, and I wanted to make tributes to them. Mac Miller is even more inspirational because of the amount of work he created in his short lifetime. His life was cut short by an accidental overdose, and it taught me that life is precious, able to change at any moment. 

"America." 2021. Oil on canvas, varying dimensions

This collection of work, simply titled "America," is my take on the current political and cultural climate we live in. These paintings were done from stills of the "This Is America" music video, based on the song of the same name by Childish Gambino. Each painting has its own meaning and putting the three together tells a story.

"RUN." 2022. Acrylic on canvas, 24" X 36"

This is an acrylic painting of the recording artist George Miller, or Joji. It depicts Joji running through a limosine in one of his music videos by the name of "Run." I used his expressive face and pose to imply the struggles of mental health and the feeling of running from your own irrationalities and anxiety.


Visual Metaphor Project. 2020.

This was a class project that took a dive into what I could do with visual metaphor, and I chose to illustrate the message of staying away from junk food. The junk foods I picked were soda, pizza, and candy (lollipops to be specific). I took photos of pizza, blueberries, watermelon, and a clementine and cut them out in Photoshop. I then combined these foods to imitate the junk foods they were replacing, showing that eating healthy food can taste just as good as most junk food, while being better for you. I brought the project home by using the slogan "Health Always Tastes Better."

Smithsonian Sample Magazine Spread. 2021.

This was a particularly fun class project. I dive into this more in my portfolio, but this project was essentially my biggest launch into designing a magazine layout and really paying close attention to typesetting and image placement. We were tasked with desiging a conceptual magazine about an exhibit at the Smithsonian, and I chose the Hall of Deep Time, focusing particularly on the large dinosaur and fossil exhibitions. These are just two text-heavy pages from the magazine, the whole magazine being 40 pages long cover to cover.

"'Faces" Album Cover Poster. 2022.

This poster was done as a fun side project in between classes. I focused on making a typographically interesting poster of Mac Miller's latest release, the EP "Faces." I chose an image of the album cover, and created a poster from it.

"Wildfire Foldable." 2021.

This booklet is an informative foldable that outlines the impacts of the devastating 2021 California wildfire season, and the reach that some of the fires have had across the state. 

"Born of Rebellion" Exhibits. 2022.

These exhibit boards were made for West Virginia’s “Born of Rebellion” traveling Civil War exhibition. The exhibition details the founding of West Virginia and the impact of the events of the Civil War. My professor hosted a competition in the class to find the best designers for this exhibition, and the winners would design the actual traveling exhibition. I was on a team with three other graphic designers in my class, and out of five teams, ours was chosen to move forward. This exhibition will be traveling across the state of West Virginia, and I am honored to be a part of it. 

Along with this multi-panel exhibit, I designed an additional three-panel exhibit which provides more information about the lawmakers and Abraham Lincoln’s hand in making West Virginia a state. The first exhibit stands at 7.5' tall and 14.5' wide, and the second at 4'  tall by approximately 11' wide. This was my first foray into designing at a larger scale, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I designed the three-panel exhibit on my own, and my group members collaborated with me on parts of the larger exhibit.

So there you go! A good sample of my body of work as an artist and graphic designer. I hope this gives you a better understanding of the work I do and the aspirations I have as a creative. I always want to make something that I am really proud of, and I am eager to be able to make a living doing that. I've been told that it's tough to do. Even one of the spreakers at my graduation acknowledged this, telling us that we were "bold to choose a career in this field." I took it as her saying, "Hey, congrats on graduating with a degree in graphic design, but good luck finding a job." No ill intent obviously, but it made me realize that I have a long road ahead of me. I'm ready for it, though. Thank you all for reading, and I hope to talk with some of you soon!

To contact me directly, please email  liamht99ATgmailDOTcom  (You'll have to put in the @ and the . ---this format is to foil bots).


floating free for now, but hoping to tie up somewhere.

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