Today is Thursday, August 17, 2017

Has Spring Sprung?

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Prothonotary Warbler Male

I believe this past cool spell might just have been, Locust winter. If we are lucky, we might have seen the last of the frost. I am ready to get a little dirt underneath my fingernails by planting my flower garden.

Anthony Gray picked me up Saturday morning and we decided to head out Coles Ferry Pike. Stopping at the Bartons Creek boat ramp, we found several boats scattered out in different areas, looking as if they were fishing for crappie. Shore birds were absent because of this human intrusion. Of course the usual's were up overhead in the treetops. Bluejays were fussing the whole time we were there.

Another thought ran through our minds. Is this the year for the 13 year cicada? If so, the bird population will be fatter than usual and so will the fish. Several years ago, Anthony and myself went along with Willey Taylor out fishing while the cicadas were everywhere. That was a mistake as Willey didn't want to leave because he hadn't caught anything at all, and it was his truck we were in. Finally he caught a small carp and we were headed home.

We headed out Coles Ferry Pike to where the Cumberland River stops our progress. We got out of the car to look at what was flying about. The weather was nice and the temperature had climbed to about 60 degrees at this time.

Looking across the to the other side where the Gallatin Steam Plant was, we saw a large bird hovering over the water, about sixty feet up. We could see that it was an Osprey and he was diving quickly on some fish that was near the surface of the water. With a huge splash, he went plumb under and in a flash he came up with a large fish in his talons. It must have been a heavy one as he was having a hard time getting airborne. After a few strong wing beats it was headed for the nearest tree to enjoy it's meal.

Looking over to the island we found several Great Blue Herons sitting on their nest. These nest looked like a pile of sticks placed haphazardly in the fork of the tree. Down to the right on another island were nesting Double Crested Cormorants and a couple of Great Egrets. Love must really be in the air.

On the way back, we kept seeing some smaller birds flitting on the roadside, but would hide as soon as we came into view. Its hard to stop on some of the roads because anywhere we decide to go, there is always someone on our tails. Finally, with our caution lights on, we stay long enough for these small birds to come back and find them to be Chipping Sparrows.

Headed out to the Tyree's Access, we find several families of Eastern Bluebirds in the area next to the pine trees. Some of these trees look as if they might have been infested with the Southern Pine Beetle. We do manage to find two or three bluebird nesting boxes close to the road.

At the boat launch ramp, we find several people enjoying the warmth and pleasure of drowning some worms. I will wait until my next birthday when I turn 65 and can purchase my fishing license one last time. Sitting across from them in the middle of a boat dock stands a lone Great Blue Heron. I am wondering who will catch the first fish.

Headed north on Woods Ferry Road, we stop and watch a knock down, drag out fight between a pair of Eastern Kingbirds. One has probably infringed on the others territory and now the feathers are flying. I don't know of any one bird that has such a mean streak when it comes to fighting off something even larger than itself. Even their scientific name suggest them being kind of nasty. Tyranus, Tyranus, is their Latin name that means, Terrible Terrible. They have my vote.

Stopping at the Cherokee Restaurant we find Anthony's best bird friend, the mutant goose looking bird with a big knot on it's head. I try to herd it toward Anthony, who throws a big hand full of duck food in it's direction and then heads for the car.

Over on the other side of the slew, we hear the song of the Prothonotary Warbler. This is one of my favorite birds that stays here all summer long. They are a bright yellow in color and prefer marshy places to breed and rear their young.

Last Friday, I did a bird program for the Lebanon Senior Citizens Center out to the Cedars of Lebanon State Park. Teresa Botts and I had hyped up the White Titmouse that stays at the parks office. We might as well been waiting for Elvis to make an appearance. This is the only time that he was a no-show for me. I should have known better.

We went to the campground where our first bird was a Pileated Woodpecker, our largest. Jaws dropped and the oohs and awes soon followed as this Crow sized bird flew just a few feet over our heads, from tree to tree. We also called up the Downy and Red-bellied Woodpecker.

A trip to Cedars would not be complete without a trip to the Dixon Merritt Nature Center and the Butterfly garden behind it. Dr. George Robertson was keen eyed when he found a Garter Snake trying to eat some kind of a Bullfrog from the rear. He had a mouth full. Teresa got a great picture of it, but didn't want to gross people out by showing it.

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 email me at, rpope15@bellsouth.ne

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Our Feathered Friends
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Anthony Gray, Dr. George Robertson, Ray Pope, Teresa Botts
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