|Our Feathered Friends|
|Wednesday, October 13, 2010|
By Ray Pope
Myself, I will keep at least one feeder out till the end of October. Most all of the Hummers have probably gone on farther south, probably to the Gulf Coast to refuel with the majority already at their winter grounds in South America. Grace told me that she is already missing her little “clowns.” Me too!
There is still plenty wild food available for our feathered friends, but now is the time to catch food on sale at most of our favorite stores. My favorite places to buy bird products is Garr’s Rental and Feed in Mt. Juliet and the Tractor Supply store here in Lebanon. Check out your feeders to ensure that they are still in good shape as all of the plastic feeders will deteriorate after exposure to the strong rays of the sun all summer long. I had to replace a couple of mine after the plastic became brittle and fell apart in my hands.
This past Saturday I got a little help filling my bird feeders from Chelsea Goolsby, age 11. Chelsea’s mother, Tina Arbogast is my next door neighbor, Peggy Carver’s sister. I always enjoy working with our future nature lovers. Tina and Chelsea live right outside of Lafayette, Tennessee, but usually come to visit Peggy a couple times a month.
Early last Thursday morning, I went by the Station Camp Creek over in Sumner County. Sitting on a wire overlooking the back waters was a Belted Kingfisher waiting on some unsuspecting fish to come along. These birds have always fascinated me when it comes to their fishing skills. I personally have observed them catching fish, first by hovering and usually dive with the sun at their backs, much like our fighter pilots did during World War II.
The Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) is a stocky, medium sized bird that is between 11 to 14 inches in length, with a 19 to 23 inch wingspan. They have a large head with a shaggy crest. Both sexes have a slate blue head, large white collar, and a large blue band on the breast and white underparts.
The wings and back are slate blue with black feather tips with small white spots. This species of Kingfisher shows reverse sexual dimorphism where the female has a rufous, or rusty, colored band across the upper belly that extends down to her flanks. Its vocals are hard to describe but sound similar to the clicking of a fishing reel when the handle is cranked.
When excavating it’s nest, both male and female dig a horizontal tunnel in a river bank which slopes uphill. This will prevent water from drowning the babies in case of a flood much like placing a glass under water where air pressure keeps the water from entering. The female lays six to eight pure white eggs on a bed of sand or regurgitated fish bones which hatch in 23 to 24 days. Both parents take turn incubating the eggs. By two weeks their pin feathers have grown, and at four weeks, when able to fly, they leave home.
I received a telephone call from Arbyth Huntsberger who moved here from Westerfield, Ohio. As a young lady, Arbyth remembers the Red-Headed Woodpecker that would always build their home in a Caltapa tree in their yard. I should be so lucky.