Today is Sunday, August 20, 2017

A Road Less Traveled

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Pair of Great Blue Herons, Photo by Mike Shields

If we were doing a countdown to spring, it would sound like three weeks and counting. My buttercups are really busting at the seams to rise from the dirt. I have seen many already blooming through out the county. Now all we need in to have a snow on them.

Anthony Gray felt the need to get up and started early this past Saturday morning so we could go and watch his Granddaughter Ali Walpole, compete in the fast pitch softball game against Walter J. Baird middle school. Ali plays for Tuckers Crossroads.

To start the day, we head south on Sparta Pike, where we take a left onto Poplar Hill Road. We pull into the parking area at the Sellar's Farm State Archaeological Area. I have walked all over this special piece of property and must return when the weather gets a little warmer. Today, it seems too quiet with no birds singing. Just wait a couple more weeks and there will be lots of birds preparing for nesting season.

Leaving there we head into the bright morning sun till we take a right turn on Poplar Hill Circle. As soon as we turn we see a small flock of smaller birds hiding in the bushes next to the road. They are keeping tight to cover and do not show themselves until I start my "sushing". That is a sound that I was taught by my good friend and mentor, the late Reverend William Senter. It mimics the distress sounds of several birds that live here in this area. That does the trick and they fly up where we see that they are Dark-eyed Juncos.

On around the corner from them we find a small flock of White-throated Sparrows. From our first glance, Anthony thought that they might be White-crowned Sparrows, a similar species. I have both Sparrows in my back yard during the winter months.

Down the road a piece we turn onto Shop Springs Road which leads behind the old fire tower on Jenning's Knob. A long time ago, on one of my early birding trips, the late John Sellars and I climbed the steps up to the top of the tower. What a view from there. With binoculars, you could see the other fire station out in the Cedars of Lebanon State Forest. From these two points, you could pinpoint an exact location of a small plume of smoke from a fire. To the southeast you could see Short Mountian over in Dekalb County.

On this same road we find several different families of Eastern Bluebirds. Now is the time to clean out last years nest, if you haven't done that already. It is alright to clean the house after each brood, to keep the nesting box clean and to not let the nest get too close to the opening where some larger birds can pluck out the babies. Believe it or not, some common birds will take an infant from the nest to eat it. I have witnessed this behavior before in person.

It is sometimes strange when you discover a new road that you never noticed before. We did just that as we found a new one to us. Southeast of Shop Springs, we find Turner Road going off to the east. How in the world, on our many trips did we not spot this one? It gave us a beautiful ride over to Linwood Road.

With the price of gasoline really cheap, you should get out and explore our beautiful county. When I was a child, I thank God that my parents shared this beautiful countryside with me and my brother. Some places traveled have become a distant memory to me, urging me to continue on this road of life.

Coming out on Sparta Pike again, we head through Watertown till we get to Holmes Slice Road, I mean Holmes Gap Road. This is one of our favorite roads where we find Northern Flickers and other species of Woodpeckers. Flickers nest in tree cavities, but you will find them most often on the ground where they feed.

On down the road we find a small bunch of American Goldfinch. They are still wearing their olive-drab colors, but will soon be sporting the bright yellow feathers that you are more familiar with. I have been told by some of my readers that they haven't seen Goldfinch since last fall. You just have to know what you are looking at. They will take on a whole new wardrobe when it gets a little closer to nesting season.

We come out in the outskirts of Alexander, on the old road. Back in Watertown it is time to wet our whistles and eat one pack of my snack crackers. I certainly don't need to get out and have my blood sugar drop unexpectidly. That can surly take the fun out of birdwatching.

This time we head out South Commerce Road which seems to follow the meanderings of Round Lick Creek. At each place in the road which is next to the creek, we find more birds. At one point Anthony finds a Pair of Pileated Woodpeckers, tearing into a dead tree. Time to head back to Lebanon and watch the ballgame, then on to Peking for lunch. Believe it or not, I actually ate chicken instead of beef. Unusual for me.

My good friend Mike Shields got out one morning at the Walter Hill Dam over in Rutherford County. Over behind the dam, where the boatramp is located, he found a pair of Great Blue Herons preparing to nest in a tall tree overlooking Stones River. He got to observe their mating ritual and captured it on camera and is letting me share it with you.

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,

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Our Feathered Friends
Anthony Gray, Mike Shields, Ray Pope
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