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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.


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