By Steven Kenny
Nature is integral to my work. St Petersburg and the surrounding area has an abundance of parks, each crisscrossed with hiking trails. The flora and fauna to be found there is of a particular variety, however. So, from time to time, it’s helpful to get outside of Southern Florida and head north.
At the moment, I’m in Black Mountain, North Carolina. The photo above was taken from the porch of our rented cabin. Each morning, and sporadically throughout the day, I sit there to watch and listen. A large number of song birds provide an endless supply of theater and symphony. Spend enough time here and one notices how the activity ebbs and flows. Stretches of quiet roll into near cacophony and back again. Each round of noisy chatter is supplied by a new and different chorus of birds.
Luckily, I brought my binoculars. One needs to swiftly zero in and focus to catch a glimpse and identify the individual species. Black-capped Chickadees, Carolina Wrens, Northern Cardinals, Nuthatches, Pileated Woodpeckers, Red-eyed Vireos, and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have been the most common so far. One special treat was to get my very first glimpse of a Hooded Warbler. Exciting! Yup, I’m a bird geek.
The other things in abundance here that Florida sorely lacks are mountains. As this area is nestled in the Appalachians, the terrain here is hilly, to say the least. Driving consists of constant turning of the steering wheel while alternately braking and accelerating. Hiking isn’t much different — switchbacks, inclines, slopes. Never a dull moment and the body gets quite a workout.
So nice to see fungi and wildflowers galore. I’m not so good at identifying mushrooms but really enjoy encountering them. Many look like they’re some invasive species from another planet. Wildflowers are more my speed. Solomon’s Seal, Rattlesnake Plantain, Eastern Red Columbine, Indian Pipes, Squaw Root, Dayflower, Black Cohosh, and so many others.
Two more days in this paradise and then the 10-hour drive back home to St Pete. My head is full of inspiration.