Today is Wednesday, March 22, 2017

'A Wonderful Bird is the Pelican'

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This weekend started out with overcast skies, but before night fell, it started clearing off. Sunday brought clear skies and, as I am writing this, it is a tad warmer. It is hard to imagine temperatures at 70-plus degrees here in the middle of February. This beautiful weather will give me some outside time to prepare my flower beds for spring planting.

Anthony Gray pecked at my front door sometime around eight'ish. We loaded all of my birding gear and headed out Coles Ferry Pike. We thought we might have better luck out at Old Hickory Lake. Anthony told me that he had a double plethora of Red-winged blackbirds at his feeders that morning - I guess that might be like a double dose of avian delight.

Just before we made our stop at the Bartons Creek boat ramp, we found several black vultures feeding on a flattened skunk off to the side of the road. It must have smelled like perfume to the dark sentinels that were gathered around for the feast. I have been through a vulture's roost before, and the stink from them eating a skunk passes through their digestive system and passes out in their droppings.

At the boat ramp, there was a large flock of American robins feasting on the remaining hackberries still attached to the tree. It's a wonder that the stinking old starlings hadn't already found them. Off in the distance, we heard the call of the Rufous-sided towhee's "drink your tea." Then came another boat that had to wait for the one that was already putting in. I believed it would get even more crowded before the day was over.

It was starting to rain, and the bird activity would soon slow down for the day. We heard a blue jay off across the creek, fussing at some imaginary threat. Closer up, a Tufted titmouse flew in the treetops hunting its breakfast.

Headed west on Coles Ferry, we headed to the end where it runs into the lake, across from the Gallatin Steam Plant. There was not too much stirring out on the water, but on the way we spotted a pair of Northern flickers. They are easy to spot because of the white patch above their tail. Off to the left, we spotted a mixture of Black and Turkey vultures catching thermals to lift them higher and higher.

Sitting on an overhead telephone line, we found a Red-tailed hawk watching for some movement in an overgrown hayfield. With his telescopic vision, he will notice even the slightest movement of some prey. Off in the distance, we could hear the call of a Carolina chickadee.

Driving over to the Tyree's Access, I had a thought that we might be able to find a few White pelicans somewhere in the area. As soon as we pulled up, we could see large white birds over on the other side of Spencer Creek. We knew how to get to the other side, and Anthony didn't waste any time doing so. Before we left, there were two Black vultures feasting on what remained of a deer carcass. The stench was unbearable.

We headed down Burton Road, past the empty slew and on down to Riverview Road, which ran into Braid Drive. Here, we took a right and wound up across from the Tyree's Access. Getting out of the car, we found the pelicans just to our north, along with a large following of Double-crested cormorants. Retrieving my video camera from the car, I attempted to get a decent shot of the feeding birds. I should have gotten my tripod out, but I was too excited to see the White pelicans that close. If you are Facebook friends of mine, you can see the video on my personal page, "Ray's Our Feathered Friends."

Back on Braid Drive, we found a Coopers hawk flying over. We headed toward the Lone Branch Recreation Area where we were greeted by a large flock of American goldfinch. Most people I talk to think the goldfinch has gone south for the winter, but they are just a duller color and remain here all year long.

Out on the water, we found a pair of Canada geese and a small raft of American coots. Heron Island was full of Double-crested cormorants waiting for nesting season to begin. They must be sitting on the big nest there to be able to save one for themselves. Also out on the water we saw Pied-bill grebes.

Driving around to the Cedar Creek Recreation Area, we found another Red-tailed hawk looking for lunch. I still have thought to bring my spotting scope, so we couldn't tell if it was on the nest. Maybe next time. Here we found more coots, cormorants and several feeding Ring-billed gulls. Headed west on Saundersville Road, we found a few more White pelicans close to the Shutes Branch Recreation Area.

Our stomachs were starting to grow, so we headed back to Lebanon in a roundabout way so we could eat a cheeseburger, fries, onion rings and sweet tea. Snow White's restaurant is the best place for burgers, and the waitress is also sweet.

I received an e-mail from my good friend Jim Gilchrist telling me that he left a picture disc for me at The Wilson Post with our sports guy, Tommy Bryan. Jim places out cracked corn from the Lebanon Farmers Co-op for the wild animals on his property. Anyway, several deer were eating there when a flock of 15 Wild turkeys decided that the deer were getting too much of the corn. The turkeys rushed and bullied the deer away so they could eat. I would love to hear more of your stories.

I would also 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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