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Mother Nature is unfurling spring in new leaves and flower blossoms throughout the Valley. Birds are not just making territorial calls now, they are auditioning for the avian choir.

Monarch Butterflies made an impressive comeback on their Mexico wintering grounds. Mexico reports that the survival rate is three and half times greater than the winter of 2014.

Survival numbers are impressive, but Monarchs still face serious problems, and their survival as a species continues to be high risk. Mexico, the United States and Canada have joined forces to increase Monarch conservation efforts to protect and restore their habitat, especially along the migration routes.

There is a nationwide move in the United States (and in Black Mountain) to restore milkweed, a key plant for Monarchs, within the next five years along the butterfly’s 1,160 square miles of migratory routes. Milkweed is being planted along the migratory routes from southern Canada through central United States. The central migratory route passes through Texas and then into Mexico to the winter breeding grounds. Some areas along the routes are being designated pesticide-free.

The Monarch Butterflies breed in Mexico as they wake from winter dormancy. There are then three more generations produced as they travel the long route from Mexico to Canada. Monarch lovers can help the Monarch by planting milkweed along with other native flowers. Also the elimination of the use of insecticides is essential to the insects’ survival.

Purchase milkweed plants grown as close to where you will plant them as possible. Mellie Mac’s Garden Shack (669-5727) at 304 W. State St. in Black Mountain will stock the Common and Swamp Milkweed grown by Van Burnette at Hop’N-Blueberry-Farm by mid-April. Painters Green House (668-7225) at 734 Roy Moore Road in Old Fort has a wide variety of milkweed.

A new year stirs in nature at the roots and bulbs. The newest season of the year is about to start. Everything knows this is the most important time of the year and responds with the newness of life. Nature’s new year is waking and pushing through the earth to perform the magic of regeneration that is eons old.

James Poling, a local bird enthusiast, spotted the Brown-headed Nuthatch at Beaver Dam Lake on March 6. It is a special treat to see a rare, tiny bird flitting around in shrubs and underbrush. Usually the bird is found only in the southeastern United States (the Western North Carolina mountains are its northern range).

A few of the tiny birds breed in our area. The bird behaves similarly to the White-breasted Nuthatch, which is common throughout WNC. Its natural habitat is the pine forests of the Southeast which have been cut so severely the bird has been forced into other forests. It eats insects and pine seeds. Although small, it is a tool user that uses a piece of bark to lift the bark on trees to look for insects. It is common for the bird to carry the piece of bark from tree to tree as it forages. It may also use the piece of bark to cover a seed find.

The Brown-headed Nuthatch is not found above 2,000 feet elevation. It is important to help them wherever we find them. The little bird, along with bluebirds, enjoys meal worms and seeds. They live in family groups with their grown babies.

The Brown-headed Nuthatch’s population has decreased to the point that it is listed on the Audubon Watch list. Not only does it depend on pine forest for pine seeds, but cavities for nesting sites as well. It will accept a bird house, and a bluebird nest box suits it. During migration is a good time to spot this rare bird. You never know who will visit your yard to enjoy a handout of food.

Spring hawk migration is underway. They are on their way to northern breeding grounds.

Make sure Purple Martin boxes are up and ready. Some early scouts will be arriving any day.

Tent caterpillars are spinning webs.

Canada geese are beginning to nest.

Keep an eye on your bird feeders. Black bears will be prowling for food any day.

Keep out plenty of fresh water for bathing and drinking.

May you always hear the whisper of wings.

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