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Our Feathered Friends - July 11

{phocagallery view=category|categoryid=20|imageid=374|displayname=0|float=left}By RAY POPE

We should be catching a break this week on these extreme high temperatures. It seems that every day for the past week has been in the 100s, and now the humidity is so high you can chew it. I am in hopes that this year at the Wilson County Fair it will not get as hot as it did several years ago

I took a side trip out to the blown out bridge on South Dickerson Chapel Road this past Friday, and every few yards had an Indigo Bunting singing its little heart out. They must be one of the most prolific birds in the county. I wanted to get some pictures from there to go on my facebook to share with my friends that subscribe to "If you grew up in Lebanon, you remember" page. An old friend, BC Yahola, is on there and we try to share photos and our memories with all the others. Check it out.

Of all the birds here on my side of the road, there is one who stands out with his singing. It lives across the street where Holly Boyd resides with her husband, David, and two children, Ayla and Atticus. Their back yard is fenced in with lots of plants growing there. That makes her back yard a paradise for a Song Sparrow. Sometimes it will visit me to feed on the ground where I toss out mixed seed for my ground scratchers.

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Our Feathered Friends - July 4

{phocagallery view=category|categoryid=20|imageid=368|displayname=0|float=left}By RAY POPE

Last Sunday, our church family hung around talking about this and that after a great service. My old bowling partner, Anthony Walker, started asking about how the birds in my life were doing and when will I write about the Belted Kingfisher. Its strange that almost everyone that has anything to say to me always gets around to asking me something about birds.

Many years ago an old friend, Neal Blackburn, photographer for The Lebanon Democrat, pinned the name "Birdman" on me as I was taking pictures for the articles in the "About Birds" featured each week in their newspaper. I'm not sure if he knew my real name, but he taught me quite a bit about taking pictures and developing my own negatives and prints. Barbara Manners also started calling me her Bird Guru which Karen Franklin picked up real quickly. That is quite a reputation for me to live up to.

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Our Feathered Friends - June 27

{phocagallery view=category|categoryid=20|imageid=360|displayname=0|float=left}By RAY POPE

Where have all the Hummers gone? Almost sounds like some old-style song. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds seem to be as scarce as hen's teeth, at least in my yard. I have seen only one at my feeder in front of the kitchen window. Right after the feeder was placed, it didn't take two days before the ants found it. Thank goodness for ant moats, purchased last year from my friend in Mt. Juliet, Roy Garr. In about three days the ants had returned with a vengence, so why was the water disappearing so quickly? It didn't take too long to discover the reason. My large family of Carolina Chickadees had been using it as their personal water fountain and bird bath along with natural evaporation with all this hot weather. Now all I have to do is keep my eye on the moat and keep water all the way to the top. My other family of Tufted Titmouse and House Finch must have been watching the Chickadees and now they have joined in the antics and started using the ant moat as well.

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Our Feathered Friends - June 20

{phocagallery view=category|categoryid=20|imageid=332|displayname=0|float=left}By KAREN FRANKLIN

My family recently went on a two day camping trip to Fall Creek Falls, in Pikeville, with some friends. One of the first things I noticed when we arrived at the wooded campsite was the sound of birds all around us. After a few hours and a little patience I discovered we had quite a variety, which included Tufted Titmouse, Chickadee, Cardinal, Blackbird, Chipping Sparrow, Downey and Red-Bellied Woodpecker. However, there was one call in particular that was close, frequent and unfamiliar to me. I soon discovered there was a large family of Northern Flickers near our camp site.

I believe this is the first time I have seen a Flicker, but they were easy to identify. They are 13-14 inches in length and very unique. They have a beautiful red V on the back of their head, a spotted chest and a black crescent on their front lower neck and black cheek patches. Their sound is a very distinct wicka-wicka-wicka. I tried to count how many there were but of course they would not hold still long enough for me to get an accurate count. Im assuming there were 6-8 and most likely parents with their first set of fledglings. Flickers are a type of woodpecker but are primarily ground feeders who prefer ants (which make up almost half of their diet). They also eat other insects, fruit, berries and seeds and will visit bird feeders.

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Our Feathered Friends- June 13

{phocagallery view=category|categoryid=20|imageid=329|displayname=0|float=left}Last Thursday there were several birds underneath the feeder in the backyard scratching and filling themselves with the bits and pieces of sunflower seeds dropped by the House Finches. Here came the beautiful male and female Cardinal getting beaks full of seed, then stuffing them into the gapping maw of a Cowbird. Was I seeing this correctly? Afraid so, another had been fooled into raising the other Cowbird offspring as if it was their baby. Most likely, since the Cowbird chick hatched first, it pushed its competition, the baby Cardinals, out of the nest to perish below, as there was only one youngster present.

I never thought that I would enjoy the antics of a starling till this past Sunday Afternoon. There was a juvenile starling and a young cowbird feeding together in my back yard as if they might be brothers and sisters. Myself, I've never seen a cowbird compromise a starlings nest. Why would they want to? You remember the old saying, like "Mutt and Jeff," these birds were inseparable. I will look for them tomorrow and will try to get a photo of them.

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Our Feathered Friends - June 6

{phocagallery view=category|categoryid=20|imageid=318|displayname=0|float=left}Anthony Gray called me the other night just to chew the fat about some of our old adventures. Later, I received a message from him on Facebook telling me some things that he had forgotton to mention when we were on the phone.

One of his home birds, a Robin caught a hugh grasshopper and the hopper decided that he was not going to lay down and give up. He struggled and fought back several minutes then Anthony said that the Robin got fed up and flew to the birdbath where he kept dunking the grasshopper in the water untill it ceased to struggle. That was one smart bird.

Anthony also told me that he had never paid any attention to the way birds drink. They get water in their beak and hold their head back so the water will run down into their stomach. He said that it looked like the birds are giving thanks to God for the cool drink of water.

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Our Feathered Friends - May 30

{phocagallery view=category|categoryid=20|imageid=284|displayname=0|float=left}By RAY POPE

Thursday night just happened to be one of those special times that makes sitting outside worth while. There were no mosquitoes to interrupt my train of thought. With all the lightning bugs coming up out of the grass, it took me back a few years ago to one of my Owl Prowls at the Cedars of Lebanon State Park.

It was a little before dark and my crowd of campers were already chomping at the bit to have a little nocturnal fun. We took the road up to the Group Lodge, took a right turn over to the edge of the woods where I was preparing to work some emotional magic to pull a Screech Owl out of the woods and hope that everyone could catch a look at it. Most of our birds live in territories where the sound of an interloper will justify a response. We saw about three or four Owls before returning back to the camp store.

On the road back to civilization, there were probably over a million lightning bugs all over the place. It was so bright that we all turned off our flashlights and walked back just using the light from their tails. I have only seen that one time, and it was way cool.

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Our Feathered Friends - May 23

While doing my Owl Prowl at Cedars of Lebanon State Park, Buddy Ingram asked me if I could come back the following Wednesday morning and take a group of kids from Trousdale County out to see some birds. Of course, I answered. Not everyone has an interest in just one subject. Thats why Our Feathered Friends has certain readers, as well as Telling Tales and our resident fisherman and hunter, John Sloan.

{phocagallery view=category|categoryid=20|imageid=250|displayname=0|float=left}Bright and fairly early, I made my way to Cedars, looking forward to hiking up the concrete walkway past Hermit Cave in hopes of locating a few birds. The school buses had taken a wrong turn and were waiting up by the swimming pool when we discovered that they would be late. Buddy had planned on breaking the school bunch into groups of 17 which made four groups. The best time to find birds, especially during migration is first light in the early morning. It was almost 10:15 a.m. before we could get started, and the first thing they wanted to do was drink from the hose pipe down on the corner by the Nature Center. The birds were too quiet and there was nothing stirring except a Red-bellied Woodpecker. We looked all over the Jackson Cave area and then went out toward the Dixon Merritt -mile trail. Everything there was also muted till we took a short cut off the trail into the field next to where the Ranger's horses are stabled.

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Our Feathered Friends - May 16

{phocagallery view=category|categoryid=20|imageid=234|displayname=0|float=left}By RAY POPE

One of my favorite work friends, that I worked with at Hartmann Luggage, has been at the well known super store on South Cumberland Street for several years. Gloria Denney always gives me a hug, no matter how busy she is. Gloria works with Sandra Palfreeman, whose husband Bob sent me a great photo of a Red-bellied Woodpecker that really shows the red on the belly. I hope this will print good in the Wilson Post.

After some delicious turkey burgers cooked by our friend Angie Zurawski, Maggie Whiteaker and myself took off to the meeting spot for my Owl Prowl over by theDixon Merritt Nature Center. The hay ride minus the hay, gives me an unpleasant feeling everytime we load up on the wagon. I am not afraid of too many things, but the thought of getting a splinter stuck in my backside drives me wild. It happened to me once many years ago at one of the Wrestling Matches at the Nashville Fairgrounds where some lady asked me to scoot over so she could sit down. That was the last time for scooting for me. In about two hours, and sitting side saddle in the back of a pickup truck, I had to wake my mother and get her assistance to remove what seemed to be a 2X4 plank. Come on Buddy, I'm sure the park can afford some hay bales.

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Our Feathered Friends - May 9

{phocagallery view=category|categoryid=20|imageid=197|displayname=0|float=left}By RAY POPE

I made another run out in the country to my friend Haskell Evans for some more feathers, or Swallow enticements. These were more of the downy type feathers, which will make a good lining for their nest. Now I know who rules the roost. The male sat on the top of a second nesting box while the female was sticking half way out of the main box. I took a small feather and held it aloft then let it catch a breeze right in front of the birds. The male sat and watched as the female took off and caught the feather in just a second. She returned to the hole, but the feather kept her from getting a grip. She then circled and flew straight to the hole and this time she went into the hole to place the feather in just the right place. I did this several times and she would always catch it. The male never gave chase, and sat there as if to say, yes dear, wherever you place it will work for me. You da' boss!

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Our Feathered Friends - May 2

{phocagallery view=category|categoryid=20|imageid=151|displayname=0|float=left}By RAY POPE

Its always nice to run into old friends from the Elsie Quarterman Glade Festival, formally known as the Wildflower Pilgramage. This was my 38th year of doing programs on birds and owls. Many of the people who worked on the first one are still active.

My friend Ron Zurawski, who is the State Geologist, has been to all of the geology programs but one, and that was when his wife Angie gave birth to their daughter Melody Zurawski. Melody is going to college in Utah, and I really miss her coming to my Owl Prowl. While having dinner with the Zurawski's, Melody called and asked me if I would give her an Owl hoot for old times sake, which I was happy to do.

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Our Feathered Friends-April 25

By RAY POPE

It has been a real trying weekend. Wanda Walker's dad passed away this past Wednesday night, and I have been at the funeral home most of the weekend. Please keep her and her family in your prayers.

{phocagallery view=category|categoryid=20|imageid=132|displayname=0|float=left}I finally got my paws on some chicken feathers to attract the Tree Swallows to my nesting box. I had racked my brain, trying to locate some, then it came to me as to where I could find them. I was calling my good friend, Haskell Evans, who is a farmer and also sells produce at the farmers market, to ask what his favorite tomato was. Pink Girl and Bradleys were number one and number two on his list. I also remembered that he sold fresh country eggs and put two and two together, which added up to having chickens and, of course, feathers.

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Our Feathered Friends - April 18

By RAY POPE

Another weekend has come and gone, and my little friend next door has gotten a year older. Birthday wishes goes out to Andrew Boyd, son of Ashley Boyd, who just turned 4 years old on the April 15. It is very easy to remember his birthday because it comes on tax day each year. I hope you got yours filed.

Sitting outside this morning there were a couple of Tree Swallows checking out one of my extra Bluebird houses that was put out just for that particular species. Most of the time they are flying up above the large hay field out back, soaring back and forth with the Purple Martins, as they do their thing to decrease the insect population. That sure beats the old mosquito wagon that we older kids used to chase after on our bicycles, just to ride in the fog. Maybe, just maybe, that might account for some of my brain damage and memory loss.

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Our Feathered Friends - April 11

By RAY POPE

I woke up early this past Saturday morning and peeped out the kitchen window to see what was lurking about at my bird feeding station. There were about eight or ten individuals of two different varieties of Doves feeding on the bare spot where I put out millet on the ground. The place where my old van was parked keeps the area bare and makes it easier for my ground scratchers to locate their food.

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Our Feathered Friends - April 4

By RAY POPE

Where have all these years retreated to? It seems like only yesterday that I came up with Our Feathered Friends as an article for bird lovers in The Wilson Post. This particular article marks my 200th entry, my contribution of knowledge to each of you that takes the time to read them. As for my bout with starlings, I am lucky to be here for this one.

It does my heart good when I can make a trip somewhere and have a story to bring back to share with you all. Since February of 2008, when this column began, my style of writing has improved as I don't get as nervous about what I have to say. In other words, I try to relate to you in simple words that I know that you will comprehend, without all that scientific mumbo-jumbo.

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Our Feathered Friends - March. 28

By RAY POPE

Don't you just love this weather? I now find the best seat in the house is in my backyard, where you can get lost, just listening to all the birds flirting with each other. Where are the Purple Martins? There was only one male visiting my yard today. On any given day during the spring, there are several wheeling and soaring about in the large hay field behind the house. The pair of Martins that I saw last week must live farther north, because I haven't seen them since. A few years ago, when I went to Canada to spend a few days with my grandsons, there were several places there with active Purple Martin condos. I guess as long as there are flying insects, the Martins will follow.

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Our Feathered Friends - March 21

By RAY POPE

With spring fast approaching, I finally got a Bluebird house put up at Judd Sellars' Funeral Home. While there, a song greeted me from on high. It was my first Purple Martins on the new year and I'm sure they will start filtering in all over Wilson County. I'm still waiting on my Martin house to have it's first occupants. Martins can sometimes find themselves in dire straits if while nesting has begun, extreme cold weather comes, which can stop the bug world in their tracks. Since they only partake of flying insects, its a possibility the newly hatched young might find themselves starving.

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Our Feathered Friends-March 14

By RAY POPE

I received a message from my first cousin, Traci Walker, updating me on her Mockingbird and her cat. Since last year the Mockers have tormented Oreo, her cat, dive-bombing and pecking it on its head. I believe the cat would love to turn the tables on the Mocker and invite it to lunch.

We had a very good time at Garrs this past Saturday as we talked about Bluebirds, Purple Martins and even Bats. I myself would love to get a Bat house where the winged creature of nocturnal bliss could work on eating the insects that escape my daytime favorites. That was a mouthful. It was also nice to have Sheila Smith show up with a friend, whose name I cant remember, to learn about the birds. Memory loss seems to run rampant in my life since last October's close call with death.

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Our Feathered Friends - March 7

By RAY POPE

Continued from last week.

Back in the early 1970's, young John Sellars Jr. and myself took the trail behind the Inn looking for Barred Owls. We walked several feet into the woods where I started hooting my vocal call. Several more feet into the trail, I started to hoot some more. All of a sudden there was flashlights shinning up all around the trees. John Jr. was about to burst out laughing at all the people trying to locate the "Owls". Farther and farther out we kept up the hooting till we snuck back and finally parted company for the night. The next morning at breakfast in the Inn's dinning room, everyone was excited about the Owl's hooting, but they never could find them. That was John Jr. and my little secret.

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Our Feathered Friends - Feb. 29

By RAY POPE

Just a little before eight o'clock this past Saturday morning, I had a visitor from Portland on a quest to see some Bald Eagles at Reelfoot Lake. This was the last state-sponsored eagle tour of the season to go out looking for our quarry, Our National Bird. Margaret Whiteaker was afraid that we had lost our chance to view the eagles until I told her that I was able to do the tours on my own. Forty years this winter as a birdwatcher have enabled me to learn most of the best nest locations to keep a bunch of birdwatchers happy. As soon as we came into the spillway area, there was a group of Eagle watchers pulled off on a graveled area where they are still building the new spillway. We ignored them for a moment so we could eat our lunch in a state park boat launch area.

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Our Feathered Friends - Feb. 22

By KAREN FRANKLIN

I have no doubt that Mother Nature is not only wreaking havoc on us but also on our feathered friends who are wondering if it is winter or spring. We have several days of mild weather only to be reminded that it is officially still winter by a few really cold, yucky days. Then we go back to rather mild days and so the cycle continues. Im personally ready for spring to kick in full-time! Im also hoping to get some birding in with Ray when the weather warms up.

Spring is a great time to catch migrating birds who are heading back to the breeding grounds for the summer months. Of course this will also mean the loss of our winter birds like Juncos, White-throated Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow and more as they too start to migrate back to their summer territories.

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Our Feathered Friends - Feb. 15

By RAY POPE

I heard from one of my good birding friends, Tammye Whitaker, this past weekend with news that her Great-Horned Owls have returned with mama sitting on eggs. She said that two Red-tailed Hawks also came and rebuilt the nest. They probably were the ones that built it in the first place. Great-Horned Owls will take a crow or hawk nest to use as a nursery.

That will come in handy as crows and hawks build the nest in the spring, and the G.H. Owl do their brooding and chick rearing during the winter months when the lack of leaves on the trees permits the silent hunter to be able to catch plenty of food for their family. The poor fowl-smelling skunk can be a special target for the Owl as the smell doesn't bother him and can be a delicacy. Yuck!
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Our Feathered Friends - Feb. 8

Well, Im sure all of you enjoyed last weeks article fromRayas much as I did. He always weaves colorful stories and memories into his writing. I guess I just dont have as much to pull from, seeing as I am a few years younger than Ray! (Dont worry, Ray, I wont give away your age!)

I mentioned in my last article about my birding trip with Ray and how we saw a beautiful flock of Cedar Waxwings. Ive decided to mention a little more about them because they are truly unique and lovely birds. They have a cinnamon colored body with a small crest on their heads (like the cardinal). They also have what I like to refer to as a raccoon mask. The outer wing feathers and tail feathers have a more prominent black tent to them and it looks as though the tips of their tails have been dipped in yellow paint.

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Our Feathered Friends - February 1

By RAY POPE

Ever since I can remember, I have always wanted to be able to fly like a bird. There was one time that found me on the roof of our house with an umbrella in one hand and my mothers prayers in the other. Another time I built a set of wings on my old bicycle, without the knowledge of weight-to-lift ratio.

My uncle, Chuck, joined the U.S. Army and was a member of the 101st Airborne Division stationed at Fort Campbell Kentucky. I admired him for this and was more impressed when I found out that he was a paratrooper. Long after his service was over, he still had the love of jumping, so my uncle, Charles Wayne Gann,decided to take up skydiving. Back when I was in the hospital, Uncle Charles came by to see how his nephew was doing. We talked for a couple of hours when I made up my mind to try skydiving. Barring any unforeseen problems, we will make the trip to Tullahoma this spring and undertake another piece of my bucket list. I will desire your prayers on this undertaking.

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Our Feathered Friends - January 25, 2012

White Crowned Sparrow Ray was waiting on his front porch for my arrival to do some birding this past week. He wanted to get out and do what he loves to do, so we were soon on the road. We spotted quite a few Cardinals, Juncos, Robins and Chickadees, but we were soon very impressed by a huge flock of about 100 or more turkeys out in a cow pasture. I see turkeys quite frequently but it usually consists of about 15-20. This group was just amazing in size and obviously in a good location.

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