|Our Feathered Friends|
|Wednesday, October 20, 2010|
By RAY POPE
Karen Franklin said that she would probably be the first one to alert me when the White-throated Sparrows arrive. Their beautiful song sounds kind of sad, but in a pleasant way.
This winter would be a great time for Bald Eagle watching. There were several spotted around the Old Hickory Lake area this past early spring. Another alternative would be to go where there are lots of Eagles. That place would be Reelfoot Lake in northwestern Tennessee. I heard from Sharon Buchanan back in the spring time asking about where to go to see Eagles.
There will be Bald Eagle tours daily beginning in early January through early March at the Reelfoot Lake State Park located in Tiptonville. There are 15,000 acres of water where Bald Cypress trees dominate the margins of the lake. I have been there at all seasons of the year and find it to be one of my favorite places to bird watch.
Many times back in the 1980s, I traveled there with the late John W. Sellars, who knew every nook and cranny of the lake and the best places to eat. On one of our trips we spotted about 125 Bald Eagles.
On another trip we had such a cold spell that I was able to walk out onto the frozen surface of the lake for a couple of hundred feet before the cracking of the ice made me return to the shore. It was kind of cool to hear the ice cracking below your feet and hearing the crack creaking out away from you as it made its way for several hundred feet. It’s a good thing that I was a lot slimmer back in the good old days.
Anyone wanting to make the trip out to Reelfoot Lake needs to make reservations, which are required for the Eagle tours, by calling 731-253-9652. There are a limited number of rooms available since the Airpark Inn caught fire. It would be easy to make an extended day trip there for the Bald Eagles.
There are many different species of birds that I would like to see before my time on this earth comes to an end. One bird on my “To See” list is a Painted Bunting which may be found breeding in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Louisiana. This bird would easily take first place in the beauty contest for the most colorful bird.
The Painted Bunting, (Passerina ciris) is a species of bird in the Cardinal family. The male of the species is often described as the most beautiful bird in North America. It’s attire consist of a dark blue head, green back, red rump and underparts, which makes it easy to identify, but is difficult to find since it hides behind leaves even when it is singing. The female and juvenile Painted Buntings are green and yellow-green, which serves as camouflage.
Buntings are found in thickets, brushy areas along roadsides and woodland edges. In the old days before songbirds were protected by law, some people would keep the males as a caged bird. Populations of this Bunting are declining on the eastern part of his range where its habitat is being lost to development.
During breeding season, the female builds a compact nest of grass, leaves and weed stalks, usually in a bush or sapling about three feet off the ground where she lays 3 to 4 gray-white eggs with brown spots which are incubated for 11 to 13 days. Young birds will leave the nest around two weeks after hatching. Their food consists of seeds, especially foxtail grass and in cotton country they feast on cotton worms and boll weevils as well as other insects.