Three Rivers Land Trust is excited to announce the recent conservation of 250 acres in Randolph County, North Carolina. This property boasts a mature hardwood forest and several rare species of plant and animal life. This property’s permanent conservation helps to build upon and maintain an important wildlife corridor, thanks to its close proximity to the Uwharrie National Forest. “This property also possesses over a half-mile of frontage on Poison Fork Creek, considered an outstanding resource water. This is the highest water quality designation the State of North Carolina bestows,” states Crystal Cockman, Director of Conservation, Three Rivers Land Trust.
Fred and Alice Stanback, the Open Space Institute (OSI), and Three Rivers Land Trust members provided funding for this conservation easement.
“We are so grateful to all of our funding partners for helping Three Rivers Land Trust continue our mission to conserve these important properties,” states Travis Morehead, Executive Director, Three Rivers Land Trust.
OSI partners with conservation organizations in the Southeast to assemble networks of protected lands to preserve plant and animal diversity in a changing climate. Their Southeast Resilient Landscapes Fund, capitalized with a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, provides capital grants and loans to qualified non-profits for the acquisition of land or conservation easements on climate-resilient lands.
“OSI is proud to have supported the protection of this outstanding project, which provides a critical buffer to Uwharrie National Forest and demonstrates the importance of protecting land for wildlife facing an uncertain future,” said Peter Howell, Executive Vice President at OSI. “We applaud Three Rivers Land Trust for their work on this project and for their continued commitment to protection across this landscape.”
Three Rivers Land Trust has completed other conservation projects in this area of Randolph County, including expanding the Uwharrie National Recreational Trail by a length of eight additional miles, adding two new trailheads, and expanding access on gamelands for hiking and hunting.
”We have also applied to the Clean Water Management Trust Fund for the protection of 250 additional acres adjoining this tract and will find out about that funding in September of this year,” states Crystal Cockman. A special thank you to the conservation-minded landowner of this tract, who wishes to remain anonymous.
To learn more about how you can support Three Rivers Land Trust or how to conserve property in our region, contact Crystal Cockman at 704-647-0302 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Three Rivers Land Trust (TRLT) is excited to announce that it has officially merged with the Sandhills Area Land Trust (SALT), effective July 1. As a result, TRLT’s previous 10-county footprint now includes five new counties, bringing the Piedmont-based organization into the Sandhills and Coastal Plain. TRLT and SALT board members worked on this merger for several years, and are proud to see the two organizations officially become one.
Founded in 1991, SALT has protected an estimated 15,000 acres in the Sandhills through conservation efforts in Moore, Cumberland, Hoke, Scotland, Richmond and Harnett counties, as well as longleaf pine ecosystem areas in Lee and Robeson counties.
TRLT, formerly the LandTrust for Central North Carolina, was established in 1995. The organization has protected over 26,000 acres through projects in Anson, Cabarrus, Davidson, Davie, Iredell, Montgomery, Randolph, Richmond, Rowan and Stanly counties.
“Three Rivers Land Trust is excited to have a conservation presence in the Sandhills,” states Travis Morehead, Executive Director of TRLT. “Having been stationed at Fort Bragg, and working as a planner for The Town of Angier, the Sandhills are an important place to me, personally. I appreciate all of the new conservation opportunities and partnerships our organization will be afforded working in this unique part of the state.”
Two other current TRLT staff members also have a connection to the expanded footprint. Associate Director Michael “Mikey” Nye Fulk is originally from nearby Robeson County, and Crystal Cockman, Director of Conservation grew up in Robbins in Northern Moore County. “The Sandhills and Coastal Plain counties provide new and diverse habitats for TRLT staff to work to protect,” states Crystal Cockman. “These areas are near and dear to SALT’s supporters, and TRLT looks forward to championing these special areas as conservation priorities.”
TRLT will remain headquartered in Salisbury, but will retain the Southern Pines field office to provide a presence in the eastern part of the region. Seven of SALT’s eight current board members will now join the existing TRLT Board of Directors.
One of TRLT’s strongest programs is the county chapter program, which enables the Land Trust to expand its’ conservation mission into the region. “Volunteer and member based support is the driving force behind local conservation,” states Mikey Fulk. “Currently, our organization provides volunteer opportunities through local chapters and we are excited to expand these programs to the Sandhills and Coastal regions.”
To learn more about how you can support TRLT or how to volunteer with the organization, contact Michael Fulk at 704-647-0302 or email@example.com.
Three Rivers Land Trust is excited to announce the conservation of a beautiful 95-acre family farm located in northern Cabarrus County. Alex Rankin, the landowner, worked with Three Rivers Land Trust to place a permanent a conservation easement on his family farm. Conservation easements are flexible tools that allow for continued farming practices, while restricting the future development and subdivision of this important parcel.
“The conservation of this farm is great both from an agricultural perspective and a water quality perspective. Keeping this land undeveloped will provide for future farming opportunities as well as helping to protect the water quality in the Coddle Creek Reservoir. We are grateful to have worked with Alex to help conserve such a remarkable property,” states Executive Director Travis Morehead.
In such a rapidly developing portion of the Piedmont, it is important to conserve lands such as this one for their significant conservation benefits both now and in the future. Last October, Three Rivers Land Trust completed another conservation project on the Coddle Creek Reservoir, protecting an additional 41 acres of land. “In the last 9 months we have conserved over 130 acres of land that adjoin Coddle Creek Reservoir, a primary drinking water source for Cabarrus County residents”, states Crystal Cockman, Director of Conservation. “We are committed to working with property owners to conserve tracts like these, while they are still available”.
To learn more about how to protect your own property, or how to support Three Rivers Land Trust in our conservation mission, contact Crystal Cockman at 704-647-0302 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Three Rivers Land Trust is excited to announce that it has partnered with the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation to add 25 acres to Morrow Mountain State Park in Stanly County. This newly acquired property boasts mature hardwood forests and frontage along beautiful Mountain Creek.
This acquisition was made possible through funding from the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund and the Clean Water Management Trust Fund. Curt Dorsey with Rite Time Realty assisted in finalizing the transaction. The site is part of Stony Hill Church Hardwoods, which is identified as a natural heritage area by the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program due to its mature hardwood forests and rocky outcroppings. Mountain Creek is a pristine stream that is home to a variety of species of rare and endangered mussels. A large population of a rare plant known as ravine sedge (Carex impressinervia) can be found on the property, as well.
“Three Rivers Land Trust is proud of our longstanding commitment to expanding public access. While adding 25 acres to Morrow Mountain will be one of our smaller conservation projects in 2019, it is one of our most important,” states Executive Director Travis Morehead. “Including this property, the Land Trust and our partners at State Parks have added 75 acres to Morrow Mountain in the past two years.”
“I am thrilled with this addition to Morrow Mountain State Park,” said Superintendent Jeff Davidson. “Mountain Creek is one of the most special features in the park, and this acquisition will allow us to protect these natural resources, provide education to our visitors about their importance, and offer opportunities to enjoy this beautiful area with low-impact recreation.”
Thank you to Gary and Nancy Deeck, the landowners, for working with Three Rivers Land Trust and the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation to conserve this property.
The park will host a dedication of the new property on June 25th at 11:00am. The event will be held at the picnic shelter on top of Morrow Mountain. In the event of rain, we will gather in the park’s lodge adjacent to the park office. The event is free and open to the public.
To learn more about how you can support Three Rivers Land Trust, contact Crystal Cockman at 704-647-0302 or email@example.com. More information about Morrow Mountain State Park can be found at ncparks.gov/morrow-mountain.
Most people who come to the Uwharrie region to recreate probably know about spots like the Uwharrie Trail and Morrow Mountain State Park. However, there are a lot of lesser-known gems in the Uwharrie area that many tourists miss out on, and some that even locals have never been to see. Here is a list of eight such sites that you should check out next time you’re in the area.
- The Badin Upland Pools found on the Uwharrie
National Forest in the Badin Recreation Area. The upland pools are found on the
top of a mountain near the end of Moccasin Creek Road deep in the Badin
Recreational Area. You go to almost the end of the road and you’ll see Alcoa
posted signs on the right and a hill going up to the left. There’s just enough
room to park on the side of the road there and you hike straight up to the top of
the mountain, and listen for the frogs in springtime to direct you to the
pools. In early May thousands of atamasco lilies can be found in bloom in this
spot. These large pools, some an acre or better in size, harbor rich diversity
and are a significant spot for amphibian breeding. Not far from here also is an
area known as Nifty Rocks, with some large rock outcrops, some more than 30
- Daniels Mountain Montane Longleaf Pine Forest in the Uwharrie National Forest in the Badin Recreational Area. From the Eldorado Outpost on NC 109, head south. Take the first right onto Reservation Road. Take the first right onto Moccasin Creek (US Forest Service Road 576). Take the first left onto US Forest Service Road 555, Cotton Place Road. After about 1 mile the Cotton Place trailhead will be on your right. Starting from the Cotton Place trailhead, be sure to take the hiking trail (not the OHV trail, which is steeper) – this trail is not marked so you’ll have to look for it. Proceed up the trail approximately 0.75 miles to reach the montane longleaf pine habitat. A walking stick or trekking poles are recommended, as it is steep elevation gain to the longleaf pine forest. It’s a really unique site once you get there – longleaf pine mixed among chestnut oak and rocky outcrops with a Uwharrie Mountain backdrop.
- Arnett Branch Longleaf owned by the North Carolina Zoo. This 113-acre property is the largest old growth Piedmont longleaf pine forest in North Carolina. Some trees on the site are more than 300 years old. Many of them have been “boxed” for turpentine and still bear the “catface” scars where the tree was scraped to encourage the sap to flow. Piedmont longleaf differ from Sandhills and Coastal Plain longleaf in that they grow in clay soils instead of sand and have a suite of native grasses in the understory instead of primarily wiregrass, including big blue stem, indian grass, purple top, switch grass, and more. This site is only accessible through permission from the NC Zoo.
- Ridges Mountain owned by the North Carolina Zoo. This site is located off Highway 64 off Ridges Mountain Trail, near Asheboro. This is another mountain with upland pools that are important for salamanders and other amphibians. There’s a 1.5 mile hiking trail to the top and once you get there you will be able to see large boulders, some more than 50 feet high. This site is also accessible only by permission from the NC Zoo.
- Birkhead Property on High Pine Church Road owned by the Wildlife Resources Commission. This property was initially bought by Three Rivers Land Trust and transferred to WRC just a few years ago. The site was just weeks away from becoming a 40-home subdivision before the land trust acquired it, and a 60 foot wide road had already been cut into the property, which is now comprised of native grasses. You can hike in on a trail here and through a mature hardwood forest and by a globally rare hillside seepage bog, and connect to the Birkhead Wilderness Area and the Camp 3 loop trail. This site provides the only eastern access to the Birkhead Wilderness Area.
- Capel Property on Dennis Road owned by the Wildlife Resources Commission. This site was also bought by Three Rivers Land Trust and transferred to WRC. The property possesses frontage on the Uwharrie River and Hidden Lake, and there’s a put-in or take-out spot on the site such that you can paddle the Uwharrie River from Highway 109 without having to go all the way to Morrow Mountain State Park to take out. The property itself has over 50 acres of grasslands that are kept open by burning, and one field is lush with atamasco lilies and jack-in-the-pulpits in springtime. There’s even a small waterfall on Dutchman’s Creek. This is a great site for deer and turkey hunting.
- Suther prairie in Cabarrus County owned by the North Carolina Plant Conservation Program. This is the only known remaining natural wet weather prairie in North Carolina. Over 200 species of plants are known to the site, including the state rare Canada Lily. In springtime, the field is full of atamasco lilies and indian paintbrush. The property was bought by Cabarrus Soil and Water Conservation District with help from Three Rivers Land Trust and funded through the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, then transferred to the NC Plant Conservation Program who owns and manages the property now. This site is accessible only through guided hikes and workdays through the Friends of Plant Conservation (ncplantfriends.org).
- The Narrows or Falls Reservoir, a small lake in between Badin Lake and Lake Tillery. This is my absolute favorite place to paddle. Not well known, there’s never much traffic on this lake and there are beautiful rock outcrops and even a beautiful waterfall found on the lake. The Badin Dam and related buildings are on the northern end of the lake and they are listed on the National Historic Register. This is also one of only a couple spots where the rare Yadkin River Goldenrod exists, which can be found blooming here in October.
So next time you are in the area, consider stopping by one of these undiscovered treasured places and enjoy what makes the Uwharrie area so unique.
I’ve only gotten to go paddling a few times this spring so far, and both were on the Little River in Montgomery County. Both trips though revealed to me how much the river has changed as a result of the two hurricanes we had last year. It is really remarkable how the small trees on the edges are all pushed down, and dirt and sand have shifted around and filled in areas and opened up other areas.
The first trip, a friend and I put in at the Smitherman access off Troy-Candor Road. We met a father and son paddling shortly after we got on the water, but did not see any one else on the water the whole time we were out there. This is a flat-water section, due to the dam on the southern end by Capelsie, and we paddled all the way to where we were in sight of Capelsie Road before turning around and heading back.
Everywhere along the trip there were small trees on the banks that had been pushed over by what must have been a tremendous amount of water rushing through here during the previous year’s storms. I remembered one area from paddling there last year that a tree was almost across the river, and that must have been washed away by the flow.
The second paddle trip of this year was on Little River putting in at Pekin Road. A friend and I paddled upstream about an hour to see a large sycamore she had seen on a previous trip. My friends who are big tree hunters are coming back into town in a couple weeks and we’re looking for a place to paddle where we might spot a large tree, so I was eager to check this one out. Unfortunately, though the base of the tree was extremely large, the tree broke off into three stems shortly up from the base. My friend told me that if there are multiple stems on a tree, you can only measure the largest stem, so this one was not a contender. However, it is still a very nice tree and I was excited to get to see it.
Just like the first stretch of the Little River, the smaller trees along the banks had been pushed down and many washed away entirely. One area shortly after you leave the put-in I’m pretty sure used to have a divided area, where you could paddle either side, but that had filled up with sand. It looked like some of the two old bridge pilings before you get to that spot had washed away as well. Paddling this area in the past, I don’t remember hitting rocks so close to the put-in, but there were a few spots along the way where I ran into them with my boat. It may be that the water was just low, but it could be that the storms moved some of those around as well.
On the way back, there were a few folks near the put-in chain sawing some trees making a campsite. They were grateful there were still some trees left in that area for shade, as much of the river they had been washed away entirely. I look forward to paddling other sections of Little River and other rivers in our area this spring and summer and seeing how they may have changed from last year’s hurricanes and related flash floods. It’s amazing how much power nature has and to see the visible impacts really drives that home. I’ll report back on other findings I make while kayaking other stretches in the future.
Last Wednesday, I was fortunate to get to join a private tour of Bluff Mountain Nature Preserve. The Nature Conservancy owns this site and they host tours in spring and fall but they fill up quickly. A friend of mine attended one of these hikes the previous weekend and learned that he could arrange a private tour for 10 people for $150. Fortunately, he included me on his email invitation and I was able to join the group for a tour of this amazing place.
The Nature Conservancy’s website says that Bluff Mountain is located in the heart of the New River headwaters and is one of the most ecologically significant natural areas in the Southeast. The natural communities here are diverse, everything from Carolina hemlock forests to dwarf red oak-white oak forest to a rare southern Appalachian fen and a unique flat-rock community. The website further states that Bluff Mountain is home for over 400 species of plants.
I drove my Jeep up the steep road to where the hiking trails began, and as soon as we got parked we were greeted by pink lady slippers just off the trail. We would see about a hundred more on our hike, some of which were growing right in the path, so we had to watch our step. Our hike began and we quickly came to an open area full of bright orange Indian paintbrush. There was also the rare yellow version in bloom here too. After stopping for some pictures we continued on.
All along the side of the trail were other plants in bloom, including trillium grandiflorum with its light pink to white bloom, lily of the valley with its cream-colored bell-shaped flowers, black cohosh and blue cohosh (the latter not in bloom though), Clinton’s lily, and many others. This mountain is also home to Gray’s lily, a rare plant that blooms later in the summer. It is also the only place in the world where Bluff Mountain reindeer moss grows.
Our guide asked us if we wanted to go see the yellow lady slipper, which would add about 20 minutes to our hike, and we all eagerly agreed that we did. We found one a little past bloom, but shortly up the trail there was a huge grouping of them. Needless to say we all took a lot of pictures before continuing on. Yellow and pink lady slipper are probably my favorite wildflowers, so the trip had already been made for me.
We climbed up to a rocky outcrop, and though it was a foggy day, which obstructed the view, it didn’t matter to me – I came to see the flowers. From there it was downhill the rest of the way. We came to an old cabin with a pond in front of it. The family that sold the tract to the Nature Conservancy has lifetime rights to use that cabin. I could imagine spending an evening in that botanical paradise sitting around the fire ring taking in the splendor of my surroundings.
The hike was not over yet though. We hiked to another viewspot, with an even steeper cliff on the side of the mountain, and could hear but not see a waterfall from that vantage point. There was a bit of a break in the clouds at that point and you could see the surrounding forested landscape.
We came to a hemlock forest with some large, old hemlock trees. Some of them had died from the hemlock wooly adelgid, but others were still healthy. From there we went to a very unique glade community, where the reindeer moss grows. This area is very rocky with thin soil and a variety of unique plants grow here. The trees here were all small and stunted from growing in the difficult conditions.
Shortly after that we found ourselves at the natural fen, a unique wetland area. Our guide said this is the southernmost fen in the United States. There was more Indian paintbrush and also sundews – a carnivorous plant with sticky drops of liquid on it to attract and trap insects. Someone had laid out a small pathway of rocks that allowed us to walk around in the fen community without damaging it.
Not long after that we found ourselves back at our cars. Our guide asked if we wanted to hike just a short ways away to see a bunch of cinnamon fern, which we did. They were a vibrant green with their bright brown cinnamon stalk-like parts in the middle. Behind them was the back side of the fen we had just walked through. From there we went back to our cars and made it back down the mountain to West Jefferson in time to eat at my favorite bakery there, which just capped off a wonderful trip. If you get an opportunity to hike at Bluff Mountain don’t pass it up. I promise you’ll have a one-of-a-kind experience to see so much diversity in one place. I can’t wait for my next trip to see what else blooms at this natural wonderland.
On May 9th, Three Rivers Land Trust, formally, The LandTrust for Central North Carolina, partnered with Salisbury Academy through the Land Trust’s Leopold Society Program to bring 75 children in grades 6-8 out to the Land Trust’s Point Property in Davie County to enhance wildlife habitat.
The students, led by Shea Overcash, a middle school science teacher at Salisbury Academy, and Land Trust staff met on the property from 10:15am to noon. The students helped plant sunflowers by scattering the seed over five acres of field that had previously been disked. Planting sunflowers benefits wildlife in the form of songbirds, butterflies, and other pollinators.
The Land Trust owns approximately 1,400 acres where the Yadkin and South Yadkin Rivers confluence, and the property is managed to house a diversity of landscapes. Portions of the property contain hardwood forest, some of the property is in pine plantation that is frequently burned to enhance wildlife habitat, and other areas of the land are in agriculture. “Providing a diverse matrix of habitats on one property allows a wide variety of wildlife to use the site,” states Conservation Lands Manager, Cody Fulk. Students took a walk over the property after the sunflower planting to see the various habitats present on the landscape.
The Land Trust’s Leopold Society is designed to enlighten youth participants from grades 6 to 12 on the natural world and conservation issues. Participants learn conservation techniques, outdoor skills, and hands-on natural resource stewardship and service. They engage in outdoor recreation and skill-building activities. Many of these activities are completed independently with the intent to bring families together in the outdoors. The long-term goal of the program is to instill a lifelong love of nature in youth participants that will translate into positive action as adults.
To learn more about how you can get your school involved in the Leopold Society, or how you can support Three Rivers Land Trust, contact Michael Nye Fulk at 704-647-0302 or firstname.lastname@example.org
“The farmer is the only man in our economy who buys everything at retail, sells everything at wholesale, and pays the freight both ways.”
President John F. Kennedy
To say that agriculture is important in North Carolina would be an obvious understatement. Agriculture and agribusiness, including food, forestry, and fiber, is the number one industry in North Carolina, contributing $87 billion to the economy. North Carolina ranks first in the nation in farm cash receipts for tobacco and sweet potatoes; second for poultry and eggs; and third for pork and trout. North Carolina also has a diverse agricultural industry, with more than 80 different types of commodities being sold each year.
Unfortunately, the number of farms in North Carolina continues to decrease. As of 2018, there were 46,400 farms in North Carolina, which is 5,600 less than there were in 2012. These farms were operating on a combined total area of 8,400,000 acres in size in 2018. The average individual farm size is 181 acres, which is up from 168 acres in 2012. That translates to the fact that many of our smaller family farms are disappearing.
The average age of a farmer in North Carolina in 2018 is 59, and the average farm income was $57,042. Less than 13% of the principal operators of farms are female. Less than 6% identify as a race other than Caucasian. Only about half of those who identify themselves as farmers list farming as their primary occupation. Add to that the fact that only 43 percent of farms in the state recorded any net economic gains between 2007 and 2012, and it’s easy to understand why fewer and fewer young people are choosing farming as a career.
Fortunately, we do still have a lot of farming communities and successful farm families in the central Piedmont. Many of our farms have multi-generational families that all participate in the farming enterprise. Some of these farms have expanded their facilities to include nontraditional agribusinesses, such as serving as venues for weddings, and offer seasonal and school-group tours and activities.
Our state has invested more money in farmland preservation in recent years as well, through the North Carolina Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund. Providing farm families with income from sale of conservation easements allows these families to continue their operations by purchasing new equipment and additional properties whereby they can expand farming activities and become more sustainable businesses.
Three Rivers Land Trust, the organization I work for, works hard to assist local farmers to both apply for grant funds to purchase conservation easements and to take on donated conservation easements, for which farmers can receive tax benefits. In our 24-year history, we have helped conserve over 13,000 acres of local farmland here in the central Piedmont.
The loss of farmers and farmland is not only detrimental to the economy of our state, but without them we would also not have fresh, safe and local food for our families. Consider supporting farmers and farmland preservation efforts in your local community today.
Three Rivers Land Trust held our 8th annual Uwharrie Naturalist Day on May 4, 2019. We hosted a birdwatching event on our Smith Branch Longleaf Preserve. This is a property that The Land Trust bought in 2017 and is 104-acres and houses some old growth and some restored longleaf pine forest. The prior landowner had owned this tract for 25+ years and implement restoration efforts including a rigorous prescribed burning regime, which has created a utopia for wildlife and plants.
We met at the property at 7:00am and were led by Brian O’Shea, Collections Manager for Ornithology at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. Brian has a B.A. in Biology from Reed College and a Ph.D. in Biological Sciences from Louisiana State University. Brian has led a hike for us this weekend for several years in a row, and is an expert birder. He catalogued a bird list of 45 species from our morning walk, pointing out many of them to us as we hiked. We stopped and played a playback of their calls to try to lure them in close enough to see and photograph.
Most of these birds are neotropical migrants who fly thousands of miles from Central and South America and nest in our forests in the spring and summer, because we have longer hours of daylight than their tropical homes in which they can catch prey for their young. The males are quite territorial and will fly in to investigate when we play their call.
The first bird we heard and called in was an Orchard Oriole. We saw both the male and the female. The male is orange and black and the female was a pale yellowish-green color. We then spotted several field sparrows. The next bird we heard was a blue-gray gnatcatcher that came in to the call and let us get a good look at him. An indigo bunting called next but he didn’t come in close enough for me to get a picture of him. We then heard a prairie warbler and he was very attracted by his call and I got an excellent picture of him on a longleaf pine tree with the needles in the background. A scarlet tanager came in to our call next but the lighting wasn’t great for a picture.
We crossed over the railroad track that bisects this preserve and spotted a blue grosbeak atop a longleaf pine. We then found a garter snake that posed gracefully for us, flicking his tongue in and out. We then encountered a box turtle nearby and were able to get some pictures of him as well. A white-eyed vireo came in to a call and as we were looking at him a ruby-throated hummingbird stopped briefly on a branch. I was not quick enough to get a picture of him but one of our other attendees got a great shot.
We continued on to the powerline and there we found a rare plant known to be on this property in bloom, blue flag iris (Iris prismatica). Also in bloom in the powerline were Barbara’s buttons, also a showy flower this time of year. We made our loop back to the start of the property and saw a few more birds along the way, but nothing that came in very close. We called to a black and white warbler a few times but he wasn’t very interested.
It was slightly overcast and pretty humid, but still a great morning to venture outside, and we were rewarded with a huge variety of intriguing birds we spotted. This was our first year doing the event at the Smith Branch Longleaf Preserve, and we had a great time there and will likely go back again, so if you missed it this year, make plans to join us next year around this same time.