Today is Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Birding at Cedars

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Red-Headed Woodpecker

If April showers bring May flowers, what did the Mayflower bring? The Pilgrims, of course. All of this rain here lately really have the yard mowers busy, and me included. We should be thankful that we are getting rain. Just look at some of the drought stricken area around the world, including California, where much of our produce is grown.

Anthony Gray and myself did a total 180 this week by starting our birding early in the morning and then finishing up at Peking at 11 O'clock. Most species are more active at this time. After a tiring day and then sleeping all through the night, what is the first thing you do in the morning? Have breakfast, at least most people do. Birds are the same. My feeders are very busy early and then right before dark. The first birds at my feeders and the last to feed are my Northern Cardinals.

My Eastern Bluebirds have been very busy with egg laying in one of my nesting boxes. I believe it was about eight days ago when I found the first blue egg. After laying one each day, she stopped at six, and will now set the clutch, see photo. Fertilized eggs will remain dormant until the female maintains a constant temperature, thus "setting" the eggs, so that they will hatch out at the same time. If all six hatch, mom and pop Bluebirds will really be busy until all of the hatchlings are fledged. Then they will have to be taught how to feed themselves.

Bluebirds are a close knit family the first year of existence with some of the younger birds helping to feed the newborn hatchlings of the second or even third broods. Mortality rates keep the birds in balance. When the next breeding season rolls around, they will become aggressive and not let others of the same species, even their own offspring's nest within their territories.

With the spring migration starting up, we head back out to Cedars of Lebanon State Park to start our morning of bird watching. Cedars is one of the most perfect type of habitat, as just about the only thing that's not there is a large body of surface water. There is plenty water, but it is in an underground networks of caves and sinkholes. The very first water source came from a pump that pulled water from the large lake inside Jackson Cave.

Riding through campground #3, I could see a lot of excitement in the trees and hear fussing from up above. I had Anthony stop and we backed into the nearest camp site. I was familiar with the racket in the tree tops, so we got out with binoculars in hand to watch the two pair of Red-headed Woodpecker fighting amongst themselves. It was most likely a problem about territorial disputes. Probably from former family members. In reality there is more than ample room, but even birds are set in their ways as to who owns what. Some people tell me that I am set in my ways. Over my 63 years of existence, I have been able to learn what is best, in my own eyes.

Driving out to where the Sue Warren Trail intersects Cedar Forest Road, we walk back over to the cedar glade area, finding White-eyed Vireo, Prairie Warblers, still there from last weeks story. This week, we also heard the call of the Eastern Towhee. My favorite name for this bird is the Rufous-sided Towhee. An Indigo Bunting, was perched in one of the upper reaches of a still bare tree, with his blue feathers, so bright, he seemed to be on fire with a bright blue flame, see photo. He is definitely one of my favorite birds of summer.

We ran into a couple of old birding friends just past the bridge on Cedar Forest road. Roy and Melissa Turrentine, along with their daughter, Josellen, were taking advantage of the beautiful spring morning. Melissa will join me for the 38th Annual Elsie Quarterman Cedar Glade Wildflower Festival coming up this May 1st and 2nd, with a bird walk beginning at 7am that Saturday morning.

Headed a little farther up the road, we stop at my favorite deciduous woods in the area. The Red-eyed Vireo is back, with his almost never ending song. I don't see when he has time to eat. Also in the woods are two of his distant cousins. A Yellow-throated Vireo is also singing in the tree tops, while a little deeper in the woods, sings a Warbling Vireo.

Have you already placed out your Hummingbird feeders? They are here and I have heard from many of my friends that they are a regular visitor at their feeders. Here, once again is the formula to make your own Hummer juice. Take one part granulated sugar and four parts hot water, so the sugar will dissolve, stir and let it cool before putting your feeder out. Please, "DO NOT" add red food coloring to this mixture, as it is harmful to the birds.

This coming Friday, April the 24th, I will be leading a bird walk for the Lebanon Senior Citizens Center at 1:00pm in campground #3 at Cedars of Lebanon State Park. You don't have to be a member to be able to join us for this program.

I would love to hear from you as to what's lurking about in your neighborhood or 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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Anthony Gray, Ray Pope
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