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Roan Mountain Fall Naturalist Rally set for Aug30-Sept. 1

Contributed • Aug 18, 2019 at 12:00 AM

ROAN MOUNTAIN — The 57th Annual Roan Mountain Fall Naturalist Rally will be held a little before Labor Day this year, from Aug. 30 to Sept. 1 at the state park and surrounding grounds. Reservations are now being accepted.

Registration fees for nonmembers of the Friends of Roan Mountain is $15 for the entire weekend. The buffet dinners for adults its $10 on Friday night and $10 for Saturday night. Children are $5 each night. Bag lunches are $6.

The weekend gets started with registration on Friday at 5:30 p.m. at the Roan Mountain State Park Conference Center. Buffet dinners each night begin at 6:30 p.m. and programs begin at 7:30 p.m.

Featured speakers this fall will be Ross Spears on Friday night and Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman on Saturday night.

Spears is an award-winning filmmaker from Johnson City, who has been making documentaries since 1975. His film, “Agee”, was nominated for an Academy Award in 1981. His film, “The Electric Valley”, was nominated for an Emmy in 1984. His film, “To Render a Life”, won a Blue Ribbon at the American Film Festival in 1992. His film series, “Tell About the South”, was nominated Best Series of the year by the Independent Documentary Association in 1997. His film series “Appalachia” (with Jamie Ross) was selected Best Video of the Year 2010 by the American Library Association. In addition to ‘The Truth About Trees’, he is hard at work now on two 3D films based on old stereo cards entitled “Matilda's Dream” and “Charlie's Dream”, as well as a feature documentary entitled ‘American Pilgrimages: The Story of Religion in America.”

Spears program on Friday evening will be based on his film series “The Truth About Trees” It is the first full-length documentary film series to explore the indispensable role of trees for all life on Earth. The film shows that natural history and human history are connected — that they are part of the same story. Part One begins with the interconnection between humans and trees, from the oxygen we breathe and water we drink, to foods and medicines, tools and building materials, and even ceremonies and symbols. The very words "tree" and "truth," we learn, both have roots in an ancient word for “endure.”

With the fall migration going on, it is appropriate that the Kaufmans’ program on Saturday evening will be based on their studies of the migration.

Kenn Kaufman burst onto the birding scene as a teenager in the 1970s, hitch-hiking all over North America in pursuit of birds, an adventure later chronicled in his book, “Kingbird Highway”. After several years as a professional tour leader, he transitioned to a career as a writer and illustrator. He has written a dozen books, including his own “Kaufman Field Guide” series, which now includes volumes on North American birds, butterflies, mammals, insects, advanced birding, nature of New England, and nature of the Midwest. His latest book is “A Season on the Wind: Inside the World of Spring Migration”, published in April 2019. Kenn is a field editor for “Audubon” magazine and a Fellow of the American Ornithological Society.

Kimberly Kaufman is the executive director of Black Swamp Bird Observatory in Ohio, a position she has held since 2009. Previously, as the observatory’s education director, Kimberly played a key role in starting the Ohio Young Birders Club, a highly successful group for teenagers that has served as a model for youth birding programs. Kimberly is also the co-founder of The Biggest Week In American Birding, the largest birding festival in the country. She is a contributing editor to “Birds & Blooms Magazine,” and coauthor of the “Kaufman Field Guides” to Nature of New England and Nature of the Midwest. In 2015 she received the Chandler Robbins Award from the American Birding Association for significant contributions to education and conservation.

Saturday’s program will be about the annual migrations of birds. That migration is a massive phenomenon involving billions of individual birds, some of which travel thousands of miles; but sometimes this vast parade passes almost unnoticed. When we do see migratory birds during stopovers in their travels, we may imagine that they’re simply flying north in spring and south in fall. The truth is more complicated, and more interesting. In eastern North America, some migration is taking place for more than ten months of the year, and the birds are traveling in many different directions, not just north and south. The Kaufmans have both studied bird migration for many years, and in this program they will talk about the routes, timing, and survival strategies of these amazing travelers, with a special focus on the Great Lakes region and on the southern Appalachians.