In the evening, however, news of danger in the woods smacked us in the face. A grad student talked about invasive slugs. We learned about the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, an invasive aphid like creature which leaves white eggs on the hemlock branches, and will eventually kill the hemlock trees. American Chestnut, American Elm, Dogwood have all faced disease and lost or still struggle in the battle. Now the Hemlock joins them. Another speaker told us about White Nose Syndrome in bats, which causes infected bats to awake during hibernation, and eventually to starve to death. This was only discovered in 2006, yet some caves in New England have lost 90% of their bat populations in this short time. The biologists are getting desperate because they cannot determine which this is, how it started or how to combat it. Forest fragmentation was the final address.
You get the picture. The days were wonderful, and the nightly presentations so very depressing. Was it a good weekend? Well, that depends on what time of day you ask. My stomach still hurts when I think about it. I suffered a severe attack of White Knuckle Syndrome myself when we left the conference, because our Google driving directions took us over the top of Pine Mountain on a one lane road with no guard rails, and a two-lane road across Black Mountain, all within about an hour. It took almost 7 hours to drive across the mountains and work our way to an interstate highway to reach Fayetteville, WV.
Now we are in West Virginia at the New River Birding Fest and had great success with our warblers this morning. We also found many of the Blogger Flock and enjoy getting to know each other. Birders representing many states made the trip. Jim McCormac not only knows his birds and birdsong, but flowers and things that live under rocks.