Today is Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Birding at Longhunter

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Hooded Merganser

This past Saturday, temperatures were up to 53 degrees and it felt wonderful. If the sun had been shining it would have probably been up in the high sixties. It was a different story when I woke up Sunday morning. I could see that some type of frozen precipitation had fallen. It was sleet, not snow.

Anthony Gray showed up Saturday morning right on time and we loaded up our gear and headed west. We drove west down highway 70 and then took a left onto Beckwith Road. Driving by Breden's orchard we noticed that most birds were sticking close to cover. Of course the starlings were out and about in force.

We might not have the millions and millions of starlings if it hadn't been for William Shakespeare. Some crazy dudes wanted to introduce all of the birds mentioned by Shakespeare in his plays and he just had to mention the starling. Why couldn't he have used a Hummingbird in his stories instead of a stinking starling.

Crossing over Interstate 40 we take a right turn onto Rutland Road where we stop at a large man made lake on the left side of the road. There are about a hundred Mallards swimming about in the water. I am not sure if these are wild birds that have migrated here from up north, or just local ducks.

Also in the mix are a large group of Canada Geese. These large birds are probably of local descent. This lake being right in the middle of a subdivision might cause the geese to become a nuisance because of their droppings. There is a walking path all around the lake and there is nothing worse than stepping onto something that will stick to the bottom of your shoe.

I'm not sure what is dead around the lake, but there are several Black Vultures taking up residence there. We also find a large flock of Ring-billed Gulls feeding in the water. That means that it has been stocked with fish at some point in time. I also wonder if the residents there are allowed to fish there.

We finally come out on Belinda Parkway in the Providence area. This place has really grown up from just a few years ago. Several of the homes there have bird feeders placed out in their yards, but we do not take the time to see what is feeding in them.

We take a left turn onto Highway 171, or South Mt. Juliet Road and then head south. Over in Davidson County, we turn into the entrance of Longhunter State Park and stop at the park office. Returning to the car, we see a large flock of birds flying overhead. Just by the way they flew, we were able to identify them as a flock of Cedar Waxwings, that breed up north in the spring. They are a most beautiful bird with red dots on their wing and their tail feathers have yellow tips.

Down by the Couchville Lake, we see more Ring-billed Gulls flying out over the water, then diving on some unsuspecting fish that has ventured too close to the surface of the water. As we leave the car we hear the call of the Pileated Woodpecker. This is our largest Woodpecker and when they are hammering on a tree, they really can make the chips fly.

Off in the distance we find a large raft of Hooded Mergansers. Every now and then, they extend the hood on their heads to show a white patch. These are diving ducks and they feed by diving down to catch small fish.

J. Percy Priest lake has been drawn down to it's winter pool and the Couchville Lake, which is landlocked also follows suite because of the cracks and fissures beneath it in the bedrock. Up ahead, we watch as a pair of Wood Ducks takes to the air. Woodies are one of the most beautiful ducks that we have.

Up next to the shoreline we find Park Ranger Leslie Ann Rawlings, looking through a spotting scope and talking to a visitor at the park. After the visitor resumes his walk, we get a chance to go down and talk to her. She has been checking each Saturday from 9-10am to see what birds are around the lake. We will shoot our weekly video here at Couchville Lake and get Leslie to be a part of it, if she can get past the giggles.

Out in the middle of the lake we spot a Common Loon swimming and diving for it's dinner. Leslie centers it in her spotting scope and we all get a good close-up look at it. On the way back to our vehicle, we find a family of Eastern Bluebirds feeding on some kind of trees. Time is running away from us and we will make our way back to Lebanon and Peking's hot and sour soup.

Mine and Anthony's family would like to wish each and everyone of you a very Merry Christmas. Keep Christ in Christmas and always remember that Jesus is the reason for the season.

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, rpope15@bellsouth.net

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Anthony Gray, Ray Pope
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