Today is Sunday, April 30, 2017

Cold Weather Birding

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Fox Sparrow

After this past touch of polar air, I am most ready for spring. It got down to nineteen degrees, frost was thick and I could see my breath. It is time for a warm up. I hear from the old timers that it has to get super cold to kill the bugs in the ground, but they don't know that the bugs will just tunnel deeper into the soil.

Anthony Gray picked me up around eight this past Saturday morning and I asked him , where do we want to go? There are only so many roads here in Wilson County and we cover them several times a year. I know that soon, you will become bored with what I report each week. Even though we hit the same roads, it doesn't mean that we will find the same birds over and over.

We head out Hunters Point and over the bridge over the Cumberland river to check on the flooded fields there. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency plants corn and other crops in the goverment owned property next to the river and when winter comes, they flood the fields for the migrating ducks to use. The east side is protected, while the west side has a duck blind for the duck hunters. As of this day, there were no hunters in the blind.

Coming back over the bridge, we took a right and turned onto Orian Lane, which leads down to the Hunters Point boat launch area. Here we found a pair of Snow Geese at the waters edge. They were slowly moving away from us as we heard a family of Carolina Chickadees fussing about something. They were all over the tree, chasing one another. I'm not sure what was going on, but they were very active and loud.

One single Carolina Wren was feeding in the same tree as the Chickadees, completely ignoring them. A Northern Mockingbird was there, but he stayed away from the fracus and focused on his own well being.

We rode out Canoe Branch Road and took a left on Ramsey Road. We found a couple of Great Blue Herons fishing there while a lonely Pied Bill Grebe made his way away from our presence. This place was a shamble back during the summer. Someone, with the County or TWRA has completely rebuilt this boat launch. A great new parking place has been constructed and it is looking good here.

Leaving the old Ramsey Boatdock area behind, he head back down Canoe Branch Road to what I call the Game Farm. It is busy there this time of the year with duck hunters all over the place. Off to the right we hear the call of a Rufous-sided Towhee's "drink your tea." Ever since I can remember, there has always been a Towhee in this area.

Right before we were leaving, the call of a Red-shouldered Hawk comes to us in the air. There are a few birds stiring in the thicket next to the road, but they are staying tight to cover. I try a little "shushing", my version of a bird's call of distress and it works. The birds in the cover come out of hiding and we get a great look at them. They are White-crowned Sparrows, just arrived from up north. They will stay here all winter and then head back up north to breed when spring arrives and stirs up their hormones.

Another bird in the thicket was found to be a Fox Sparrow, our largest Sparrow. Sometimes I will have these birds at my bird feeders, especially when the weather is bad and snow on the ground. They stick out like sore thumbs against the smaller birds in the yard. Other birds in the area were Northern Cardinals and we could hear American Crows off in the distance.

Leaving the river behind, we are headed back into town on the Old Hunters Point Pike, where we take a right turn into Burford Road. This is a nice scenic drive which will terminate on Belotes Ferry Road. At the last field we come to, we watch an American Kestral hunting for it's dinner. They will hover like a helicopter to scan below for a field mouse or vole to eat.

Across the road we find three Red-tail Hawks chasing something on the ground. I wonder if they still have ties to one of their youngsters as they seem to tolerate the third one's presence. If they had just checked the road behind us, they would have found a road kill rabbit.

Crossing over the Spring Creek Bridge, we take a right turn onto Cedar Grove Road headed back toward Coles Ferry Pike. The wooded area up on the hill has several new houses in the works, where several years ago, it was bare and a great place to find Warblers during spring Migration. We head west and make a quick stop at the Bartons Creek boat ramp.

It is now time to get out and stretch our legs for a while and see what is about. As we turn in, we are met by several American Robins hanging around the entrance. A pair of Northern Flickers take off and head over to the other side of Bartons Creek. Yellow-rumped Warblers are feeding in the tree tops. I am not sure of what they are eating, but they are sure giving it a good going over. I do a little more "shushing" and we are inundated with a herd of Tufted Titmouse, or is that Titmice.

Anthony asks, what are those smaller birds up above the Titmice? With binoculars in hand, I find them to be Golden Crowned Kinglets, a small beautiful bird. These birds are migrants from the north also. This is what makes birding during the winter so nice, even though the temperatures stink.

Headed west, we head to the Tyree Access, hoping to get a look at what ever is on the lake there at Spencer Creek. Mostly we find Ring-billed Gulls diving in the water there catching small fish. Over next to the boat launch area is a well maintained house surrounded with a nice wood fence. Down below the house is a nice small lake or pond where a large flock of Wild Turkey were drinking. There were better than a hundred in the flock. We had not seen a single turkey since before Thanksgiving, except on the table.

A quick run to the Cherokee Steak house turns up several more Ring-billed Gulls and a large amount of Double Crested Cormorants. We head over the river bridge and make a stop at the Bulls Creek area to shoot our weekly video. The day started out cold and finally warmed up to a balmy 31 degrees.

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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