Thursday, September 6, 2012

Herding Off the Balds

Todd with Bean and Baxter
The 5th Annual Herding of the Goats off the Balds is set for Wednesday September 12, meeting at Carvers Gap about 8am.  Todd Eastin will meet the volunteers, have a short herding instructions and safety meeting, then hike out to the goats who should be positioned on the lower edge of Jane Bald at Engine Gap.  Should take about 2 hours if things go smoothly.  If you would like to volunteer please email Todd ( in advance so that we can put you on the Volunteers in Forests list.  Thanks a bunch and hope to see you Wednesday.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Herding of the Goats

The 5th(!) Annual Herding of the Goats onto the Balds took place Wednesday June 20.  #610's 3-day old kid (born on Father's Day) got special treatment and was carried by 2 grandkids out to Jane Bald where the first paddock is located.  

The day went well with 1 exception:  2 goats (#215 & #709) turned left / north on the Jane Bald ascent and didn't make it to the top.  I suspect the volunteers spooked them when they tried to get them back on the trail.  Luckily, they found their way back to their friends and are now safely back with the herd.  Thanks to Bill Barksdale for capturing the special day on camera! 

Friday, June 15, 2012

2012 Update

We are gearing up for the 5th(!) Annual Herding of the Goats onto the Balds which is set for Wed June 20, meeting at Carvers Gap at 8-8:30a.m.  If you would like to join us then please bring some water, snacks, and be prepared for weather, sun, and uneven terrain (wear closed-toe shoes or boots with ankle support).

The goats spent what little winter we had in Shady Valley, TN.  We lost some of the goats due to accident (#810), old age (#’s 99, 216, 226, & 1002), and even a bear attack (#1609).  Bears are an occasional problem due to the goats’ winter home being located in an official bear reserve.  With previous losses, this leaves us with perhaps half to two-thirds of the goats that have been on the balds still with us.  We were excited about kidding season but few survived, likely due in part to the bear problem and nervousness, but we still hope to have 2 young goats up top that have never been on the balds.

Also this winter, we did data analysis on the four-year “goat browse vs. no goat browse” vegetation study plots and started a manuscript for publication.  The results are very encouraging.  There are a few loose ends to sort out this summer including the identity of a native bent-grass that may be undescribed.  If it turns out to be new to science then I hope to propose the name Agrostis roanensis (Roan Bent-grass) which would make it the 4th plant named for Roan in its scientific species name.  The others are Carex roanensis (Roan Sedge), Solidago roanensis (Roan Goldenrod), and Prenanthes roanensis (Roan Rattlesnake Root – currently being studied by Melissa, a Ph.D. candidate at University of Virginia - Charlottesville).

Russell Ingram, an ETSU Biology graduate student under the direction of Dr. Frosty Levy, continues to investigate the rare Gray’s Lily and a fungal disease that is causing it significant problems at least on Roan.  Two ETSU undergraduate honors students, Adam McCullough and Stephen Lay, are doing complementary investigations with various aspects including field work and examining lily herbarium specimens looking for historic evidence of the fungus to determine whether or not it has been around for a long time compared to the possibility of it having been introduced from Europe in more recent times.  Among these lily specimens is at least 1 collected by Asa Gray himself on Roan more than a 100 years ago.  Gray’s Lily already has serious problems without adding a fungal pest to the list… 

Katie Quillin, another ETSU biology graduate student under the direction of Dr. Fred Alsop, is doing a breeding distribution and abundance survey for the rare Alder Flycatcher on Roan’s western balds (Carvers Gap out to Grassy Ridge).  While we know this bird likes thickets, including blackberry thickets, she hopes to better describe its preferred nesting habitat including its association with Roan’s unique Southern Appalachian Alder Bald which occurs nowhere else in the world.  The Green Alder that forms the Alder Bald is a long range disjunct:  Roan’s Green Alder is more than 300 miles south of the nearest Green Alder in Pennsylvania.

ETSU Geosciences folks got interested in Roan’s balds last year when Zachary Dinkins, under the direction of Dr. Arpita Nandi, sampled the grassy, rhododendron, and alder bald soils.  Significant differences were found (alders are nitrogen fixers) and a manuscript is being prepared for publication.  We hope another student will continue the investigation this summer.

Most weekend goatherding dates are now taken but other volunteer opportunities remain including herding the goats on and off the balds, toting lots of equipment and water, and maybe some weekday goatherding shifts late in the summer.

Happy Trails to you, jamey  

Monday, February 13, 2012

2011 Report Summary - Thank you for a great year!

The 34 goats and 2 Great Pyrenees guard dogs were on the mountain for 85 days (June 22 – September 14, 2011) following the 5 day seed-free food quarantine that began on June 17.  The 9 permanent transects (54 of the 55m2 plots – 1 plot not monitored due to yellow jacket nest) and the 12 Gray’s Lily Macro-plots (5m radius circular plots) were remonitored and the multiple photo points were again used (ca. 174 photos have been submitted with this report).  Someone checked on the goats every day and someone camped 70 of the 84 nights (Jamey spent 49 nights and missed 2 days).  6 new paddocks (= 3.60 acres) were installed in 2011.  A total of 13.016 separate acres were browsed including all 2009 paddocks and all but 0.873 of the original 2008 paddock acres.  Within the browse plots, graminoids have increased from 40.91% absolute % cover in 2008 to 96.8% cover in 2011.  There was a 40.8% funding shortfall in 2011.  Data analysis is ongoing. 

Thanks to all the volunteers, partners and goat adopters that made 2011's season such a success! We hope you will continue to support this important program in 2012 - and we look forward to working with you.