I'm at the 18th annual meeting of the Society of Environmental Journalists in Roanoke, Virginia, this week, and today a group of about 30 of us hiked on the Appalachian Trail. We trekked up Catawby Mountain, starting at an elevation of 2,000 feet, and after 3.5 miles, we reached McAfee Knob, a federally protected rocky overlook at 3,197 feet.
The view was well worth the climb, and I was even more pleased to see birds. An Eastern Towhee hopped around in the scrubby trees. Three or four Black Vultures circled on thermals above us. And an adult Red-tailed Hawk hung in the air parallel to the overlook for at least a minute. The bird didn't flap like a hovering kestrel; it just stayed in one place for a surprisingly long time before veering left and dropping toward the trees below.
It wasn't the birdiest day ever, but I wasn't complaining. It was a warm day spent on one of the most iconic trails in the world. — M.M.
Note: A 2007 TV story about the California Condor by San Francisco's public television station KQED received first place in the Outstand Story, Television category in SEJ's 7th Annual Awards for Reporting on the Environment.