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Outdoors

On Saturday, Jan. 3, 29 citizen-scientists showed up in rainy weather to count birds. It was Franklin’s third annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC), sponsored by the Franklin Bird Club.

The Audubon Christmas Bird Count began 115 years ago. The count was in response to the popular holiday activity of seeing how many birds a person could shoot in one day. Beginning on Christmas in 1900, birder Frank Chapman proposed a new tradition of counting birds rather than hunting them. Today, birds are counted by thousands of birding enthusiasts throughout the Americas. According to the Audubon Society, “Audubon and other organizations use data collected in this longest-running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations - and to help guide conservation action.”

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With the new year, came new rains across Western North Carolina. Steady rainfall throughout Macon County last week added inches to the local rivers and lakes. As rainfall amounts began to stack up, the swiftness of local streams increased, providing a beautiful sight for those traveling between Franklin and Highlands.

Both Bridal Veil Falls and Dry Falls were visions with cascading waters pouring over their cliffs. Despite a few days of frigid rain, the beauty that resulted in Macon County's natural landmarks made the grey skies a little easier to brave.

 

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After an immensely rainy year in 2013, Grandfather Mountain rainfall rebounded to below-normal precipitation levels in 2014, according to weather data collected at the Mile High Swinging Bridge.

The mountain recorded 50.62 inches of precipitation in 2014, including 8.27 inches in July, the rainiest month.

That was about 20 percent below the mountain's 59-year average annual rainfall, 64.49 inches, and nearly 60 percent lower than last year's whopping 85.95 inches.

The mountain's one-day rain record still stands at 11.3 inches on Sept. 8, 2004.

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Dear EarthTalk: How is it that antibiotics are being “overused,” as I’ve read, and what are the potential consequences? — Mitchell Chase, Hartford, Conn.

The development and widespread adoption of so-called “antibiotics”— drugs that kill bacteria and thereby reduce infection—has helped billions of people live longer, healthier lives. But all this tinkering with nature hasn’t come without a cost. The more we rely on antibiotics, the more bacteria develop resistance to them, which makes treating infections that much more challenging.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), overuse of antibiotics by humans—such as for the mistreatment of viral infections—means these important drugs are less effective for all of us. Besides the toll on our health, researchers estimate that antibiotic resistance causes Americans upwards of $20 billion in additional healthcare costs every year stemming from the treatment of otherwise preventable infections.

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