This last cold snap was Blackberry winter, perhaps the last. Everywhere I've been, I have seen more blackberry plants in bloom. Just maybe, we'll have a bumper crop of the sweet black fruit off the plant. Also along with picking blackberries comes the severe onrush of chiggars, and (no-seeums.) When my mother, Margie Pope would take us blackberry picking, she would place rags soaked in coaloil around our ankels to keep them away. Sometimes it worked, other time resulted in a bath with a little bit of bleach added to the water. This is the second Mother's Day without her and I sure do miss her.
Anthony Gray, you remember Anthony, he picked me up and we headed out towards the used to be small town of Gladeville. We winded up going to visit, Stephanie Hyatt, along with her husband Eric and son, Logan. In the rear of the house sits an old red barn. We had gone to see if a Red-tailed Hawk had set up a nest in the old barn.
As we approached the barn, we were greeted by an armada of Barn Swallows. These were proving their name correctly by nesting in the old barn. There were probably around twenty of the Swallows involved in the raising of their species. Some of the nest were round, sitting atop of the many rafters inside. The nest that were mudded on the side of the rafters were half round. The Swallows build their nest by gathering beak fulls of mud and even bits of straw for strength. Kind of like the Israelites building the bricks for pharaoh.
We climbed the steps into the loft, but we found no nest of the Hawk. There was an opening up under the eve of the barn that was well white washed. I am not refering to the painting of a fence like Tom Sawyer did in the book, but it is where birds sit in an area for extended periods of time and use the bathroom. It looked like nesting material had been brought into the barn though. We will keep up a constant vigil here and just maybe we will get a few pictures of the babies.
Up behind the barn, we could hear a fuss going on, made up mostly by Common Grackles. During nesting season anything large in stature draws attention from nesting birds. Even though they are smaller, they will attack the Hawks and even the soaring Vultures if they venture too close to their territories. We believe that the hawk was maybe sitting in the large Hackberry tree back on the property line. Leaves were too dense to see anything. Soon the fussing stopped.
Wild stwawberries were in profusion underneath the thickness of the trees. This place would make a country boy drool, because of all of the Polk Sallad that was growing there. We saw a couple of small birds flitting around on the ground, then flying back up into the tree. I finally got a good look at them, enough to see that they were Carolina Wrens. Soon after that, they started singing their trademark song, "Teakettle, teakettle, teakettle."
Several Purple Martins were flying about, enjoying themselves, feasting on the flying insects above the tree line. I told Stephanie that they should put up a Martin house in the front yard. There was plenty of fly in room there and some utility wires for roosting. Since my good friend, Roy Garr closed up shop, I don't know where you can find a decent Martin house locally. Roy, we miss you something terribly.
Over toward the west, we found the remains on a snake that stuck it's head up while they were bushhoging. Only skeletal remains were left after a couple of Black Vultures got through with it. They said it was a King Snake, a most helpful snake to have around. It will even kill and eat most venomous snakes that cross it's path.
On the front porch we find a bell made out of black oil sunflower seed. I suggested that they hang a bird feeder there, either under the front porch or on a shepherds hook in the front yard. It wouldn't take too long before the country birds located the feeder.
Heading back toward Lebanon, we take Franklin Road because of the scenery and the hopes of spotting a Logerhead Shrike. Shrikes have been spotted here in this area before. We keep a good watch on the barbed wire fences in the hopes of spotting ones larder. Shrikes are also known as butcher birds because of their habit of killing something small and impaling it on thorns or barbed wire. This could be small birds, rodents, or even snakes. Then they can come back and eat it at their leisure.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org