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Groundhog, Go Home

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Groundhog, Go Home

Male Hooded Merganser



Ah, warmer weather at last. I don't do cold good any more, and now I am in hopes that the groundhog didn't see his shadow this past Sunday. It really doesn't matter because looking at the calendar, it is six weeks until spring, but there is no guarantee that the temperatures will not get any better.

I told you earlier that I had purchased a birdbath heater and would let you know how things went with it. Back in January when the temperatures plummeted to around zero, there was still an ice free zone where the birds could get a drink of water. By having an available source of water, it didn't take too long for all of the major species to find this out. Now instead of having my normal count of eight or ten Goldfinch, there is more like fifty or sixty that feed off and on all day long. The Housefinch are not as numerous as them, but they are making a good showing at my feeders. One day I came in and found that my birdbath was completely dry from all the thirsty visitors that came by that day. With it being so cold, I had to carry water from inside the house to refill it, as my outside faucet was frozen.

Anthony Gray mentioned to me today that he was glad that my stories about Reelfoot Lake was finished and that he wanted me to write about something new. He needs to write me a story where I can share it with my readers and then he will see how hard it can be to come up with something different each week without getting writers block. It's not as easy as it seems. My good friend and Native American, Sara (Bc) Yahola, said that she enjoyed my Reelfoot Lake Trilogy and that she felt almost like she was on the trip with us. It's hard to please everyone all the time, but I am happy to please some of the readers some of the time.

Back on the weekend after our Reelfoot Lake Trip, Anthony and myself took another trip back out to the Long Hunter State Park, hoping to spot some of our native ducks or other assorted water birds. Our first stop at one pf the picnic areas produced no more than a pair of Pied-billed Grebes. The Grebe family in a group of diving ducks that will feed on small fish. I don't believe that duck hunters will actually consume this species because they will probably have a fishy flavor to them. You know the old saying, " You are what you eat". That makes me wonder what point of view a cannibal might have. There was another bird that Anthony was trying to locate, but it would stay just out of sight. After calling for me to come and help him with identifying the bird in the shadows, it finally came out on a limb and just sat there. With light conditions near perfect as the clouds parted, we were able to tell that it was a Hermit Thrush, spotted breast, with a bright rufous tail.

Back over to the Couchville Lake area, we could see that there were several gulls and a small flock of ducks milling about the open water. The seagulls were Ring-billed Gulls, the same kind that you will spot at the K-mart parking lot.

 The ducks were Hooded Mergansers, a beautiful species and one of the first that I learned to identify. The flock was made up of more males than females. Back on their breeding grounds, that ratio will really make the males be on their best behavior to impress the females. Like I have mentioned before, most females will be dressed in duller colors than what the males sport. When trying to impress a female, the male has a feathered crest that he can lower and extend to impress the girls. These ducks are divers and will forage on underwater insects and small fish. Hunters will often call him and other Mergansers, "fish ducks".

It was good to hear from my friend, Barbara Manners, telling me about a hawk that was visiting her feeder area. Listening to Barbara's description, it was a Coopers Hawk. She was not pleased that it would stake out her birds trying to make a meal out of them. Barbara also mentioned that if her feeders got empty, some of the birds would stare into the windows, almost asking that she refill the feeders.

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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