Red-throated Loon in winter garb
Did we dodge a bullet this past weekend in the weather department or what? Waking up on Sunday morning, I beat a path to the window, half expecting to see a couple of inches of snow on the ground. Sorry, kids, there will be school tomorrow. When my head hit the pillow last night, the temperature was reading 32 degrees with an ice coating on my garbage can.
Heading out for our Saturday afternoon pilgrimage, Anthony Gray and myself though that we might head back out to the Couchville Pike area, just hoping to see something different from the last trip there. We were right, the last time, there was nothing flying around. This time, things hopefully would be different.
Our first stop was in the Bryant Grove area of the Long Hunter State Park, where my old friend Jeremy Blackwell patrols the area as a park ranger. There was no sign of Jeremy, but we did find one lone Great Blue Heron, knee deep in the frigid waters close to the shore there. If it were up to me, I would have to call in an order from Captain D's if fish was what I wanted to eat.
We decided to drive over to the main area of the park, just off of Hobson Pike, where the possibilities were even better to locate some of our feathered friends. Heading out to one of the picnic area where steep bluffs overlook the lake, we found three American Coots swimming around. A sign there said "No jumping off the bluffs", I wasn't even going to try something like that, maybe it would be better in the summer. Farther out toward the middle of the lake, we found three Red-throated Loons swimming, and then diving for dinner. You can tell a Loon at a distance by its low profile in the water.
These beautiful birds take on a more dull plumage when winter arrives to send them to more hospitable areas down south, including the many lakes here in Tennessee. Gone is the red throat patch which is triggered by a hormone during the breeding season in the spring. The erie cries are almost nonexistant here in the winter. Just listen to one of the Friday the 13th movies set at Camp Crystal Lake up north to hear this birds mournful vocals.
Other birds seen in this area included a small flock of Dark-eyed Junco. When these birds take off, you will see a couple of white feathers in the tail, which makes them easy to identify. There was a small area ponded beside the road, where they were feeding back and forth.
Thanks to Anthony's car having a sun roof, we were able to watch several Cedar Waxwings making an easy meal of hackberries. All that was needed was to put the seats in an reclining position and look straight up at the flock overhead. After a few minutes of "shushing", the alarm note that I make, we were treated to the upside-down antics of a beautiful White-breasted Nuthatch, that seemed to be as curious about us as we were interested in watching him. His very nasal, "nuk nuk nuk", was the only sounds there in the deep woods.
Before leaving the park, we headed over to the Couchville Lake impoundment, where it looked like a white cloud swirling just above the water. There must have been several hundred Ring-billed Gulls, taking advantage of the lack of a cold wind hitting the secluded area.
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 you can e-mail me at, firstname.lastname@example.org