The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia


May 5, 2013

Birding among outdoor passions

CAMERON — If you love the outdoors, there are probably some activities you like better than others. Maybe it’s trout fishing or deer hunting. My passion is birds. I love the spring migration when new species return almost daily.

I especially enjoy seeing species I’ve never seen before. Adding birds to my “life list” is a competition with myself. Last year I added mourning warbler to the list.

But what I love best is finding active bird nests, especially those in nest boxes that I have built and put up. When I check my nest boxes for the first time each year, I almost get giddy with anticipation. It’s difficult to describe, but I suspect the feeling is similar to the excitement anglers feel on opening day of trout season or deer hunters feel on the first day of buck season.

A few weeks ago when I checked my boxes, I approached each one slowly and quietly, just in case a female was on the nest. The first three boxes I checked contained freshly built bluebird nests, each with five eggs. The cup on the nest in the fourth box contained a dull blue form. The female was determined to not be disturbed. So I closed the box and walked away.

In other boxes I found Carolina chickadee and tufted titmouse nests. Each contained six eggs, which the female had covered with a layer of nesting material to hide the eggs from more dangerous visitors.

Over the coming weeks I’ll check these nests two or three times a week to monitor each nest’s progress. I’ll watch naked, helpless hatchlings transform into adult-sized fledglings in fewer than 21 days. And I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that if I had not put up the boxes, these birds might not have nested. I will have made a difference, and that’s worth getting excited about.

My wife also enjoys watching our nest box tenants grow and mature, but her passion is morel mushrooms. She starts getting antsy in early April.

“Think we should check for morels, yet?” she asks on the first nice day after her early April birthday. Finding morels on her birthday would be the ultimate gift.

When I found this year’s first morel right in the yard, the bug bit hard. A day later we were in the woods searching Linda’s favorite spots.

Over the last 25 years, we’ve found that predicting a morel crop is impossible. Some years we collect many dozens, and other years there are none.

As we scoured the ground beneath dead elm and apple trees on April 25, I followed Linda’s lead. “Found one!” she yelled. “Two!” “Three! “Four!” “It’s going to be a good year,” she said, beaming.

Over the next hour we visited a half dozen spots where we’ve found morels in the past. Each was fruitful, and Linda nearly filled her mesh morel bag. Linda was in morel heaven, a state I call “morel-apalooza.”

It is only fitting that Linda is a far better morel hunter than I. Her eyes are sharper, and I think she forms a search image for the fleshy yellowish mushrooms that resemble convoluted brain tissue. When our daughters were little girls, they found even more than Linda. I think it was because their eyes were closer to the ground.

I’ve always wondered how fast morels grow. They seem to pop up every night, but that seems unlikely. So when Linda found two small patches of inch-high morels, I suggested we watch them for a few days to see how fast they grow. Linda wanted to pick them, so she faced a real “morel” dilemma.

Ultimately, Linda agreed that this little experiment was a good idea. When we returned 24 hours later, each morel had grown about an inch. The next day they had grown another inch. Satisfied that morels grow rapidly, but over several days, we picked the experimental mushrooms and enjoyed a morel omelet the next morning.

By the end of April, Linda had collected 75 morels — our best harvest ever, and I expect there will be at least a few more.

— Send questions and comments to

Dr. Scott Shalaway, 2222 Fish Ridge Road, Cameron, WV 26033, or by e-mail at

Text Only
  • 071714 Coda and Callie.jpg Coda and Callie’s excellent adventure

    How is it something that you profess to love so much can cause you so much anxiety and grief? No, I’m not talking about dealing with your children (or your spouse). This is worse. This is about dogs. More specifically, hunting dogs. 

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 071314 Chris Ellis.jpg DNR’s ‘outdoor summer school’

    Attention all West Virginia hunters and trappers. It is once again time for outdoor summer school and the course materials are hot off the presses.

    July 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Meet the Eurasian collared-dove

    Back in 1974 a local pigeon fancier imported a flock of about 50 Eurasian collared-doves to the Bahamas. Ultimately he released the birds, and they took to living in the West Indies. By the late 1970s some had reached south Florida, and by the late 1980s, some had been seen in Georgia and Arkansas.

    July 13, 2014

  • July in W.Va.: Recreational opportunities abound

    It’s July in the West Virginia mountains, which brings vibrant orange tiger lilies, blooming rhododendron, and of course fireworks. Usually the heat and humidity is in full force, but so far the weather has been nice.

    July 13, 2014

  • Shotgun 101: Shoot more and live better

    “God is not on the side of big battalions, but on the side of those who shoot best.”
    — Voltaire

    July 9, 2014

  • Fireflies are living lights

    At recent Fourth of July fireworks displays, spectators squealed with delight at the annual spectacle that illuminated the night sky. And I’m sure more than a few compared the spectacular pyrotechnics to the subtler displays of fireflies that punctuate backyards, parks, and campgrounds all summer long. We call these displays “nature’s fireworks.”

    July 5, 2014

  • Get on up, or you’ll get left behind

    “Let me embrace thee, sour adversity, for wise men say it is the wisest course.” —
    William Shakespeare

    July 3, 2014

  • Catfish, it's whats for dinner

    I think for far too long the catfish has had an image problem. They seemed to be the Rodney Dangerfield of the fish world. You know, they got no respect. Fortunately though (maybe unfortunately if you are a catfish), that seems to be in the past. They are a fish whose time has come.

    June 28, 2014

  • It’s more than a boat, it’s an adventure

    Growing up on Elk River, I couldn’t help being connected to the river and its waters. It is where I caught my first fish, learned to swim, paddle a canoe, to read water and throw a buzz bait, killed my first duck, gigged frogs and spent many a Saturday night fishing for catfish. We lived in a river bank community, and the Elk provided us with everything from water for our homes to all the recreation a young boy would need to fill his youthful requirements for adventure.

    June 28, 2014

  • Old friends at the beach

    If your summer vacation plans include a trip to an east coast beach, I can’t predict everything you might see. But one bird that I guarantee you’ll encounter many times is the laughing gull.

    June 28, 2014

Web Special Sections
  • Special Web Sections

    Click HERE for stories about natural gas and Marcellus shale gas extraction.

    Click HERE for stories about the Upper Big Branch mine disaster.

    Click HERE for stories about the passing of U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd.

    Click HERE for stories from The Greenbrier Classic PGA TOUR event.

    August 6, 2010

Helium debate
AP Video
Disabled Veterans Memorial Nearing Completion Last Mass Lynching in U.S. Remains Unsolved Home-sharing Programs Help Seniors Ex-NYC Mayor: US Should Allow Flights to Israel Clinton: "AIDS-Free Generation Within Our Reach" Judge Ponders Overturning Colo. Gay Marriage Ban Airlines Halt Travel to Israel Amid Violence NYPD Chief Calls for 'use of Force' Retraining VA Nominee McDonald Goes Before Congress Bush: Don't Worry, Sugarland Isn't Breaking Up US Official: Most Migrant Children to Be Removed Police Probing Brooklyn Bridge Flag Switch CDC Head Concerned About a Post-antibiotic Era Raw: First Lady Says `Drink Up' More Water Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law Holder Urges Bipartisanship on Immigration Raw: Truck, Train Crash Leads to Fireball US Airlines Cancel Israel Flights Obama Signs Workforce Training Law Crash Victims' Remains Reach Ukraine-held City