I couldn't wait for last Thursday to get here so I could go birding with Karen Franklin and her children, Anna and Nick. First off, we had lunch at Demos Steak House to whet our appetites before going on our planned journey, to visit the Old Hickory Lake area. It's much better birding on a full stomach, especially when it was lasagna and a salad.
We headed out to the Spencer Creek boat ramp in hopes of locating some wading birds. There were no fishing tournement going on to hinder access to the waters edge, this week, but there was hardly anything stiring in the air either. At Tyree's access we found a small raft of Mallards out toward the middle of the lake, and a couple of Common Loons. Vultures had made quick work of an expired dog which left little but dried skin and bones. Karen had a hard time trying to keep Anna from performing an autopsy on the remains of the deceased animal. It looks like that is a favorite dumping ground for someones dead animals, that are too lazy to use a shovel in their own yard.
Wilson Post Blogs
Ray Pope, an avid birder since 1972, has been writing "Our Feathered Friends" for The Wilson Post since 2009.
More than 200 columns written in that time, "Our Feathered Friends" has become one of the most popular articles in both the print edition and online.
He served as president of the John W. Sellars Chapter of the Tennessee Ornothological Society for two terms.
Ray often leads birding seminars and tours. He has been leading bird walks at Cedars of Lebanon State Park since 1975.
Ray would love to hear what's lurking about in your neighborhood.
He can be reached by mail at 606 Fairview Ave, Lebanon, TN 37087 and by email at email@example.com
Hope you all got out and enjoyed this beautiful weekend, which seemed to be a preview of weather to come. There will be a chance of rain during the week, but the temperatures will remain in the 70's. Remember that we have to go through what us old timers call the spring winters. First off is Red bud winter, followed by Dogwood winter, then Locust winter, and finally Blackberry winter. Sometimes a cool spell after all that is called Cotton Britches winter. Some of these old sayings may die off if not for us older ones remembering the past. Good fishing ties in with some of those seasons, just ask John Sloan, our resident hunting and fishing expert.
I would like you to mark your calenders for May 3rd and 4th, which will be my bird and owl programs at the Cedars of Lebanon State Park. Friday night is a time to get together with many of the people who will be doing programs and chewing the fat. Saturday morning will kick off with Birds and more Birds, I hope at 7:00am which should have many of our migratory birds coming through on their way to their breeding grounds up north. The Owls will begin just before dark and I am in hopes of being able to call at least two species of owls like we did last year, the Screech and Barred Owls. It seems that Wayne "Buddy" Ingram is under the weather and not feeling his best, but I'm praying that he gets on his feet soon and pulls off another successful annual program like in the past.
My alarm was set for 7:00 this Good Friday morning and when my feet hit the floor, it was time to take a peak out the window to watch the rising sun. Where was the sun? I thought it was playing a bad trick on me because I had not watched the weather on television last night before climbing under the sheets. My birding trip with Karen Franklin and her children, Anna and Nick, was in serious jeopardy. A few minutes later Karen called with the dreaded news that I should pull up the radar image from News Channel 5 online. I know for a fact that Anna was not going to be a happy camper, especially since there was no school today and she was looking forward to learning a few more bird calls. She is really into birds, while her brother Nick would rather go fishing or something more "worth while" for a young lad to do.
Later in the day, I received a phone call from Bob Archer telling me that the White Pelicans were swimming around in Spencer Creek at the boat launching area and were headed north from there. After a few minutes, my old car was headed in that direction down Coles Ferry Pike hoping to see what everybody and their cousin was telling me about. Of course when I arrived there, there were no Pelicans, but plenty of Ring-billed Gulls, a couple of Great Blue Herons, and even farther out a pair of Common Loons taking were a swim in the cold water.
Sitting outside just watching the birds after filling all my feeders, the Carolina Chickadee was going in and out of it's nesting box, then all at once it give out it's alarm call. I thought he might be fussing at me until a Coopers Hark came in at full throttle and disappeared behind my small out building. Curiosity got the best of me and I walked around the corner to see what he had grabbed, fearing for my little ones safety. There was a dead Common Grackle that had been dead for a few days after flying into a window at the house to the north, which the Hawk, probably with a head cold and couldn't smell the dead bird, pounced upon his prize and flew off with it in tow. There have been times that I have watched Hawks eat road kill before it got too ripe, so any meal must be a good meal.
While doing my bird seminar a couple of weeks ago at Garrs, I was presented a bird painting from Roy Garr of the Barred Owl on an old piece of barn wood. I already have this hanging on my living room wall. These wildlife works of art were painted by Mr. Bob Sullivan, who has several for sale at Garrs Rental and Feed.
What a beautiful morning to wake up to, sun shining and the birds singing so loud that you can almost touch them. After a JD's sausage, egg and biscuit, freshly prepared from the microwave, it's time for a little exercise. I left the kitchen window open so that a fresh warm breeze could flow through. The next 20 minutes was spent trying to corner my pair of Carolina Wrens that wanted to check out the inside of my home. Birds seldom notice a pane of glass, which to them doesn't look like anything at all. After several futile attempts of bouncing off the glass, they decide to go exploring in each and every room of the house. With me hot on their heels (I'm not sure that birds have heels) the Wrens finally completed their circumnavigation of the house and zipped out the now wide open kitchen window. As soon as they reached freedom, I could hear them singing their "Teakettle, teakettle, teakettle" song, probably in defiance of me not being able to catch them. You just have to love these little clowns. I could kick myself for not grabbing my camera as one of them actually landed on a model airplane sitting on top of my upright freezer.
Anthony Gray came over this past Saturday morning in response to my pleas on his Facebook page. I needed help pouring a concrete base for my newest adventure, another Purple Martin house, from Garr's that I bought when I was doing my seminar last week. There was no way that I could have done this by myself. Digging the hole was accomplished with the help of my little friend from next door, Andrew Boyd. His mother Ashley lets him come over so he loves to help me.
It's just around the corner. Spring, can't you feel just a touch of fever, the kind that makes you want to get a little dirt underneath your fingernails? This is my favorite time of the year. Time for planting flowers, tomatoes, or if you have a true touch of southern in you, "’maters." Whatever you want to call them is alright with me.
We had a grand old time at Garr's in Mt.Julietthis past Saturday at my Bluebird seminar with a large crowd of people in attendance eager to start attracting these beautiful birds to their backyards. My good friend Carole Young marked her 3rd time to hear my talks, and of course, Karen Franklin came by for my first program. Many thanks to Karen's daughter Anna for sending me two boxes of Thin Mints Girl Scout Cookies.
Spring is close by, and Cumberland Baseball has begun even though it is still cold. During last Friday’s game, there was a flyover of sorts out over the outfield. No, it wasn't precision flying aircraft from Fort Campbell's Screaming Eagles out of Clarksville, even though they had stealth qualities. A flock of three Sandhill Cranes flew across the field in precise formation, which to me was even better than some jet roaring through. I just happened to have my camera at the ready.
A couple of articles ago, I was debating the possibilities of whether we had some large white Whooping Cranes or maybe White Pelicans flying through here.
This time of the year is pretty exciting to us bird lovers as there is always the possibility that some rare species will show up at our bird feeders. Several offerings of different seeds keep my little lunch counter overflowing. Goldfinch, Housefinch, three different species of Woodpeckers, along with the more common birds share my backyard habitat. There were more than 25 Morning Doves looking like miniature vacuum cleaners moving back and forth sucking up every morsel of seed from off the ground. My other ground scratchers were Song Sparrows and a pair of Carolina Wrens. I take a biscuit, cut it in half and lay it on the window sill where the Wrens wear it out. I can be in the kitchen and all of a sudden "whap-whap-whap" draws my attention to one or both of them pounding on the hard, dried-out biscuit.
Bird feeding has become a lucrative business for many seed companies. Millions of dollars in sales mark this as much more than a simple hobby. There is one thing you should take care to check: dates. I have a bag of Nyher seed that the Goldfinch will not touch, and most of you know how expensive some of the seed has become. I put it aside and purchased a new bag which the Goldfinch absolutely love. I tried to trick them and put the other seed back in the feeders. There must be a certain smell to it because they turned their noses, or beaks, up and refused to partake of it. I guess that I will scatter it on the ground for my doves, as they'll eat most anything if it doesn't move too quick.
I am so ready for this cold weather to move on and warm up a bit. While watching out the kitchen window, there was a streak of blue out in the backyard. My Bluebirds have returned and have been checking out their old haunts. Before you start your spring cleaning on your birdhouses, please protect yourselves from breathing in old dried bird droppings. Remember what it did to my health back in 2011. At the least, put on some kind of protection to prevent ingesting some kind of spores or other nasty bacteria. When I was in a coma for two weeks, it affected me with pneumonia, and other nerve damage, plus, I had to learn how to walk again.
Back to our Bluebirds, make sure that the house is constructed properly for what you are hoping to have as tenants. There are a lot of do-it-yourselfers out there, just rearing to use a saw and some nails and a hammer and show off their building skills just to make the perfect home for some nasty starlings. My first birdhouse, to me, was a masterpiece a home for four different birds all rolled into one. As luck would have it, really good luck in my boat, there were a pair of House Wrens that promptly moved in, the first nesting record in Wilson County for this species according to the late William Senter. Have you ever seen a preacher dance? He did a jig right in my own backyard.
It's been a while since I have been able to write an article on Our Feathered Friends, so I am hoping you have missed me as much as I have missed you. Most of my problems have consisted of pain in my left hand, where typing has been at a premium for me. Several of you have either called me or my Mother to ask whats going on, why did he stop writing? I will try to keep you all informed of my medical problems that conflict with my being able to sit down at my computer and type an article.
I received an e-mail from my good friend Betsy Sellars Foutch about her sighting of a flock of large white birds with black wingtips. The first thing that comes to mind is the Whooping Crane, (Grus Americana), which is our tallest North American bird and also on the federal endangered species list. Hunting and loss of habatit was the reason for their decline. Bach in 1941 the population had dropped down to twentyone in the wild, and only two that was in captivity. With carefull conservation efforts, these Cranes have made a slight comeback, which by the year, 2011, the numbers have improved to 437 in the wild with 165 in captivity. They are not out of the woods yet.
By Ray Pope
Coming back home from Al's Foodtown, I drove down Cole Avenue and was well surprised to hear a House Wren singing its little heart out. Usually this late into the fall, they should be much farther south where the weather in a little warmer.
I have also made many trips to South Hartmann Drive, looking for Thelma Sorrell's mysterious Hawk. There was one that flew over my van the other day, but it still hasn't allowed me to identify it by sight. I will tell you that its flight pattern would make me think that it was a Northern Harrier, or in the old days, known as a Marsh Hawk. Different birds have different patterns of flight, such as a Woodpecker's up-and-down habit of flying. The White-breasted Nuthatch will fly to the top of a tree and work itself downward in a spiral. Many other birds can be identified by these special movements.
I don't believe that we could have ordered a more perfect Saturday as this past weekend. The weather was so nice that it was a great day to drive out to Tyree's Access on OldHickoryLake and try my hand at fishing. Fishing is an easy task unless there is no connection with my brain, telling my left hand how to hold a cricket so that I could bait my hook. Finally after dropping half of my crickets back into the wild, it became frustrating and it was time to depart for home.
This past Monday was the last day for me to see Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at my location on Fairview Avenue. Have any of you seen any later than that? In a couple more weeks, I will take my remaining feeders down and wash them and store them in a sealed container to be ready for next season.
Burr, someone forgot to turn the heat back on this past Saturday. Cold weather means not mowing the yard, good thing, but to me the cold takes a toll on my body. Without the cold weather, some aggravating insects would be more plentiful; ticks and others. Without cold weather our favorite northern bird visitors would probably stay put. There would most likely have to be some trade off. I am going to shut up because God made the seasons, and if we didn't have winter, spring might not be as special to us all.
Maggie Whiteaker stopped by on Saturday to go with me to the Cedars of Lebanon State Park for the W. P. A. program. Maggie likes the word "free" the same as I do. It makes me wonder how many of our Lebanon, Tenn. people actually takes the time to visit the park. Pinto beans, white beans, turnip greens and cornbread was plenty of an incentive to make one brave the chilly morning, all free.
My Hummers are starting to thin out a bit as the weather here has cooled and fall is in the air. There are maybe 10 to 15 that are still fighting for their place in the lunch line, which is down quite different from the 40 or 50 that were here. I have just returned from a pilgrimage through my neighborhood to retrieve all my Hummer feeders, wash them and put them up for the winter season. I will still keep out a pair on the front porch just in case of stragglers who might have missed the first boatload. I had rather err on the side of the Hummers.
What a beautiful weekend we had for the Mt. Juliet Pow Wow, held at the Mundy Memorial Park, just south of I-40. A cold front came through in the late afternoon, and dropped the temperature into the 70s. It was good to see an old friend, Hootie the Barred Owl, from the Wilson County Fair, and I truly believe that he recognized me and my hooting. Tragedy was narrowly averted when the American Kestral somehow chewed through his leg strap and flew off. I was watching the dancing from the other side of the arena, when I thought that I saw something fly from around Marty Rush's booth. Luckily the bird did not make it more than a few yards, before it landed and was captured and returned. Most likely the Kestral would not survive on her own, since it hasn't learned the fine art of catching its prey.
By RAY POPE
Hummers, Hummers, and even more Hummers have taken over the neighborhood, almost makes one want to bob and weave across the yard looking for the safety of the front door. Dotty Kim called Saturday to report that all her feeders are overflowing with birds. As of last count Dotty said she has at least 30 there at her home. I told her when she gets tired to send them my way. As September comes to a close the amount of Hummingbirds will be almost nil. Personally, there will be at least two feeders out all the way through October just in case of some stragglers. Someone asked if keeping their feeders out would cause the Hummers to stay later than usual. I can safely say that when it is time for them to leave, they will go south.
My good friend Anthony Gray stopped by to see me this past Friday, and asked if I would like to eat Chinese on Saturday with him. Well, hmm, does a big brown bear live in the deep woods? It should be against the law to refuse a special friend the chance to dine with you.
The next time you spot a Bluebird, make sure of what you are getting to see. Of course our Eastern Bluebird has a blue back with a reddish breast, but what if the bird is blue all over ? Most likely you will be looking at an Indigo Bunting which is very similar in size and their territory may overlap. Just maybe, what if the "blue" bird has a thick beak like a Cardinal, and two brown wing bars to boot, you might be looking at a Blue Grosbeak. I am hoping that nobody would confuse these birds with a Bluejay as the Bluejay is a one of the first birds learned when starting to take up birdwatching.
By RAY POPE
I once mentioned, where have all the Hummers gone? I didn't know about it then, but they somehow found my feeders this past week. So far there are about 30 here in my neighborhood fighting for their own space, trying to take their turn to drink. Right now there are seven feeders out at my neighbors that form a semicircle with my house in the middle. With all this weird weather back in the spring, I believe that some of our bird's internal clocks got sidetracked.
Dotty Kim and her daughter Tammy that lives over in Trousdale County have plenty Hummingbirds at their feeders, especially since I had an extra feeder that I was not using that I gave her. With all the bird traffic at her place, it’s a wonder someone doesn't get run over or stabbed.They also have a large number of Indigo Buntings on their property.
I went over to my mother’s home Saturday hoping to find the bird that flew down to her Hummingbird feeder for a long drink of nectar. The way she described it, it could be some type of Oriole. Orioles are often found feeding from Hummer feeders or special feeders made for the species. If you just happen to have them, you can cut orange slices and nail them to a tree to attract them.
What a week we had at the Wilson County Fair, with all my friends coming through to chat and have their pictures placed in The Wilson Post on the "Seen at the Fair” page. Usually the weather will play a part in the comings and goings at the fair, but this year we had a little rain to start the fair run, and the rest was cooler weather than usual which played a large part in the crowds.
Shirley Manaley stopped by and as soon as I saw her, I knew she was a bird lover. Shirley was decked out in a beautiful blue shirt loaded with pictures of some of my favorite birds. We had a nice talk and I found out that she lived in Nashville.
Taking a trip through Fiddler's Grove brought me to the old popcorn stand that used to sit on the Lebanon square next to the old courthouse. Set up next to the popcorn was an old friend, Marty Rush, who has a passion to work with injured animals. Marty was known for starting the Wildlife Rescue and Rehab Center in Mt. Juliet. She is another that has worked with me at the old annual Wildflower Pilgrimage that took place in the spring at the Cedars of Lebanon State Park. They will bring different animals to show others what they look like in person.
Play audio file above to hear the call of the Northern Flicker
Wilson County Fair time is here and if things keep going like this past Saturday night, it could be another record breaker. I did get a booth this year and found out about it Friday night through an e-mail from Zack Owensby. Talk about cutting it close, it was more like a shave, as to getting things set up in time for yesterday's crowd to come through. If you have the time, come by and talk to me at The Wilson Post booth located in tent #1and I will put your picture in our award-winning newspaper.
My first birdfriend at the fair was W.T. Nolen who was working the Immanuel Baptist Church booth. W.T was telling me about his Bob-white Quail covey that came out of his garden in his back yard. Bob-whites are getting pushed farther and farther out with all the people moving out into the country. Old farms are being bought where they are being made into subdivisions that take the wild factor out of the area. Mr. Nolen is also an avid beekeeper with several hives at his home place and also mentoring several students at the Wilson Central High School in the field of beekeeping.