What a beautiful Saturday we had right in the midst of Winter and it should hang on for a few more days. It was great to get outside and not have to wear heavy coats
With all of the excitement about Bald Eagles taking up winter residence here in Wilson County, Anthony Gray and myself made plans to visit the Cumberland River to the north, and was hoping to see them for ourselves. We drove out Gilmore Hill Road, trying to find a spot where we could have access to the trees next to the river. Only the backyards of some of the houses there would provide a better view of the river, and I wasn't going door to door asking if we could walk down there to get a better look. People would probably think that I was crazy or something. We finally drove down to where the "blown out bridge" is, but couldn't get past the gate there as it is blocked off until March the first.
Coming back out to highway 231, we drove north across the bridge, slowly since there was not much traffic at that time, hoping to find them in that area there. Just about all we could see were a few unidentified ducks swimming over in the refuge area to the right side of the road. Making a "U" turn we headed to the Hunters Point boat ramp to give that place a good look at, but were disappointed that we couldn't find the Eagles there. Heading out Canoe Branch Road, we would drive down to where the Ramsey's boat dock used to be. There was nothing there as well, not even a small bird in sight. Coming back out, we headed back down Canoe Branch Road toward what was at one time referred to as the "Game farm". This is run by the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, "TWRA" for short and is situated at the end of the road where it meets the Cumberland River.
The gate leading down toward the river was open and since the sign said that no motor vehicles were allowed past that spot, we took off on foot. A small flock of Red-winged Blackbirds greeted us and flew up and over the gravel road which leads down to the waters edge. Watching them in a huge Osage Orange tree, we also saw a few Cedar waxwings in the next tree feeding on Hackberries. So as not to confuse you, an Osage Orange tree is also known as a Burdock Tree in this part of the country.
Several small birds were flitting about to the left in some underbrush near where stalks of corn still stood where they were planted for the wildlife that lives there. We found several Northern Cardinals flying out from where the corn was planted. We paused for a moment as a Great Blue Heron took wing and flew over us, fussing as he left his favorite fishing hole behind.
This is not the best time of the year to hear birds singing and it was pretty quiet. One trick that I learned from the late, Reverend William (Bill) Senter, was what I call "shushing". I can make a scolding sound like a Wren in distress which gets the attention of every bird within earshot. I was able to call up several White-crowned Sparrows by using that method.
Over another gate and down the lane, Anthony spotted something up in the trees to the right where we found a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, a member of the Woodpecker family tapping on the trunk of a tree. Also a few trees away we found a Red-bellied Woodpecker, who seemed curious about us invading his territory. To the left on the river we spotted an American Coot moving away from us at a fast clip.
After a little more fussing from me, a Carolina Wren showed up, trying to figure out what was going on. My good friend Liz Franklin sent me a picture of a Carolina Wren that was in her back yard the other day, (see Photo). Liz spent a day at home taking pictures of some of her birds that take advantage of the feeders there. She is becoming quite a photographer and has won awards at the Wilson County Fair with some of her photos. I am happy that she lets me use her photos for my bird articles.
Back to my main story. There was a flooded field that was mostly frozen over with weeds sticking up through the ice, where we found an immature White-crowned Sparrow. It was walking on the ice, looking for fallen seeds between the stalks, hardly paying any attention to us.
Headed back to the van, something else caught our eye in the tree tops next to the river. After finally getting it to come out into the open, my jaw dropped after I got a good look at it. I haven't seen one in about twenty years, but I was excited to be seeing a Hairy Woodpecker. They are a little larger than a Downy Woodpecker, but with a longer, thicker bill. While on this trip, I could probably write a half page article, but I don't want to bore you too much.
I received an e-mail from Robin Nation with a couple of pictures she took at her bird feeder and also from the bridge at Hunters Point. Robin along with her husband, Tommy Nation, found the Bald Eagles that had eluded me that same day. They are planning to take their pontoon boat out and try to get some close-up photos of the Eagles.
I just received another e-mail from Robin Nation. They found the Bald Eagles, (see photo). How lucky can you be.
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