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Our Feathered Friends- Oct. 16

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Believe it or not, my last Hummingbird left town sometime on Oct. 9. I will bid them a final farewell but will still leave a couple of feeders out just to be on the safe side. There is always next year to enjoy them once again.

This is the time of the year where most everything green takes on a new color. Thank goodness that also means not having to mow the lawn till next spring. Keep your eyes open for returning fall Warblers. While sitting out in the backyard, a small flock of Warblers decided to make a pit stop right in the trees located on the back property line. Of course my binoculars were not anywhere close enough to grab them. Even when viewing them as a silhouette, there is enough evidence to say for sure, "that is a Warbler."

I learned this back in the 1970s, along with Bill Sellars, son of the late John W. Sellars, when we were at a spring meeting of the Tennessee Ornithological Society at Pickwick Landing State Park. Bill and I were almost positive that we found a very rare Warbler in the tree tops outside of the inn there. A super knowledgeable lady there asked us a simple question. Was it sitting up like an Eastern Bluebird, or was it sitting in a horizontal position? To make a long story short, it was an immature male Orchard Oriole which sits upright on a limb. We were so sure that we had found a Lawrence's Warbler. These are the things that always stand out in our memories, and that is why I ask so many questions when somebody tells me that they saw a such-and-such bird.

Last night, Saturday, I was invited to go out with Anthony and Linda Gray, Eddie and Sherry Fitzpatrick, along with several of their friends to eat at a Mexican restaurant and then go on the Cedar Grove Cemetery Walk. This was my first time to go on the tour and I really enjoyed the evening. While waiting in line for the tour to start, there was a beautiful bright shooting star making its way across the heavens.

The first person we were to meet was Dixon Lanier Merritt, played by actor Jeff McCann. I didn't know Mr. Merritt personally, but I knew him as one of the founders of the T.O.S., mentioned in the third paragraph of this article. It seemed so cool that the bird club of which I was soon to become president, actually had his widow, Ruth Merritt, as one of our members.

    

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher                                                     Blue-gray Gnatcatcher's Nest

If you go out to the Cedars of Lebanon State Park, you will find that the nature center there was named after Mr. Merritt. One of my first projects there was to blaze the trail now named after him.

With colder weather approaching, leaves will begin to fall from the trees, revealing some of the birdnests that were built earlier in the spring. Most of them were just sticks placed in the fork of a tree, but some were intricate works that have braved the elements to remain in great shape, waiting to be discovered.     

A good friend of mine, Stella Johnson, who is also a member of the Lebanon Senior Citizens Center, brought me a nest, hoping that I might be able to identify what species had built it. It was very small, but not as small as a Hummers nest. As soon as I saw it, I was positive that it was built by a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. This is not the first time that I have seen one up close. It was built with plant fiber and had lichens glued to it by spiderwebs. Many years ago, while taking a group of birdwatchers out on the Dixon Merritt trail, I just happened to find a pair of Gnatcatchers constructing a nest on a tree also covered in lichens. If you turned away for an instance, you would have trouble locating the nest again because it blended in so well with the rest of the tree. The Gnatcatcher reminds me of a Northern Mockingbird in miniature.

I would love to hear from you as to what's lurking about in your neighborhood and at your feeders. You can write me at 606 Fairview Ave., Lebanon, TN, 37087, or e-mail me at rpope15@bellsouth.net.

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