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Our Feathered Friends - January 11, 2012

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The Northern Goshawk

With winter officially here, we can expect to find a few more birds here in the beautiful southern parts of the United States that are escaping the frigid temperatures of our northern neighbors. It takes me back to the mid 1970s when I was first getting my feet wet in trying to be a bird watcher. The best part of gaining knowledge on this subject is to get with someone who doesn't mind answering questions and will take the time to teach. My mentor was the Reverend William (Bill) Senter. We would look for an excuse to hit the road and find something that most people will never see, and if they do see, would have a problem identifying what they are looking at.

A good bird book is a must, hopefully one that has a map next to the bird picture and description. Like I said before, there is a big difference in the winter birds and the summer breeding ones here at an appointed time for nesting. Learn to read the maps which will give you the knowledge to know where the bird in question will be at the time for breeding and it's winter roosting area. Not all birds will migrate as Karen Franklin was writing about her favorite small bird, the Carolina Wren. They are year round residents, as like many more species around here.

Back in the older days, Bill and I were doing a Christmas Bird Count when his sharp eyesight spotted a very rare member of the Hawk family. To me it just looked like a "Hawk," but Bill saw the subtle differences. The Hawk was a Northern Goshawk which lives up in the far north. He is the largest member of the Accipiter family. Very bad weather will sometimes force a species to travel south for a better food source. Anyhow, after all descriptions were turned into the Christmas Bird Count, we were credited with locating a very rare bird here in the south.

The Red-Necked Grebe

Having learned from Bill, after he moved away, I would not take anything for granted and would take a better look. In the early 1980s, my bird count partner was the late Mr. Fred Detlefsen. We would find more species than most because we would get out on foot and walk the woods. One of our best finds was a Red-necked Grebe out at Old Hickory Lake on the Boxwell Reservation during one of our Spring Bird Counts. One year we spent some time on a Christmas Count flying over the lakes hoping to get a glance at a Bald Eagle. Mr. Ira Leffel used to be my wings when it came to flying. I really miss those days.

Now, I want to pass that knowledge on to Karen Franklin. She was my first contact after I started writing my article and has a keen sense of learning her birds. When I'm gone she will be able to take over.

I received a telephone call from Alice Deffendall this past week. She had a flock of about 15 to 20 Bluebirds in her back yard. Here in Wilson County, Bluebirds usually raise three broods and some of the first brood will help with the feeding of the later young ones. When nesting time comes around the next year, they will be more aggressive toward each other not wanting other Bluebirds around their territory.

I would love to hear from you as to whats 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

by Ray Pope

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