After this stop we made a pit stop at Al's Foodland due to the call of nature from my daughter. On our way out to the Blown-out Bridge we made a quick pull-off in a driveway and caught sight of a Great Blue Heron and a Green Heron in a small pond. Great Blue Herons are my daughter’s favorite, and luckily we saw several on our birding trip. While driving we also saw Eastern Phoebes, Goldfinches, Black Vultures, Bluebirds, Wild Turkeys and Ray's favorite, starlings, (he always made a gunshot noise when he saw one).
Back at the Blown-out Bridge, we caught sight of a few special jewels! We found a Baltimore Oriole, Orchard Oriole, Red-Winged Blackbird, Double Crested Cormorant, Kingbird, Prothonotary Warbler, Bank Swallows and Tree Swallows, two Canada Geese, a few Great Blue Herons, Spotted Sandpipers and we heard an Indigo Bunting.
We were here for quite some time and really lucked out with such a wide variety of birds. I've never seen a Baltimore Oriole or Orchard Oriole, and they were beautiful. The Baltimore was so bright orange it looked like he could glow in the dark! The Orchard Oriole was beautiful as well, but has a more dark burnt orange color. We were blessed to have the Baltimore Oriole stick around for some time possibly collecting grasses for his nest, which Ray says is a hanging basket masterpiece.
The Bank and Tree Swallows were flying over the water collecting bugs and making Ray and I dizzy. Trying to keep track of them with binoculars while they are flying is enough to make you a little queasy. My daughter collected a huge bag of trash from this location and pretended to fish with my son. Anna claimed the Canada Geese sounded like barking dogs, not birds. It was also nice to see the Prothonotary Warbler again. He was sitting up in the top of a tree, but was so bright yellow it was hard to miss him. My first time seeing a Prothonotary was at Gail Morris' house off Old Hickory Lake about a year or so ago. They are very beautiful little birds! After this we made a stop for lunch, but due to my children's addiction to McDonalds we went through the drive through and got them Happy Meals while Ray and I enjoyed a wonderful lunch at Peking Chinese Restaurant.
After lunch we headed out to the Cedars of Lebanon State Park, but made a quick stop to say "Hi" to Dotty and to inquire if she had seen any Dark-eyed Juncos recently. Also known as Snowbirds, these cute little grey birds are only here for the winter season, and mine had recently disappeared so I wanted to know if Dotty still had hers. She too had not seen hers in several days so I guess they have gone back north for the summer.
Cedars of Lebanon State Park held a big treasure for us this day and will forever be marked in my memory. We started out at the Dixon Merritt Nature Center where my kids got to enjoy the many animal exhibits and even see a very nice exhibit on how caves are created. It even included a small section that would rise to show them what is underneath the park.
After this we headed out to the campground area where we temporarily claimed an unused campsite. Ray had brought his CD player so we could try some bird calls and see what type of response we would get. First he tried the Red-bellied Woodpecker call and within a minute there were two Red-bellied woodpeckers trying to figure out what was going on in their territory. Next he tried the Red-headed woodpecker, because he knew this was one of my all-time favorite birds that I had never seen in the wild (only in pictures). I guess being a red-head myself I have a special association with this bird, and even as a child had always wanted to see one. Well, today was my LUCKY day because sure enough, guess who shows up...A RED-HEADED WOODPECKER!!! He was just beautiful, but a little smaller than I expected (I think I had built him up in my head to be this gigantic, mythical creature). His head was a beautiful deep burgundy color. His body was solid black with a thick white band across the lower half of his wings. I can't tell you how exciting it was to finally see this beautiful bird!! I think Ray was even tickled to know that they are still in the park.
Next he tried a few owl calls, and my son Nick asked him to play the call of a Barn Owl. It was one of the scariest sounds I've ever heard and I'm pretty sure if my son had been in the woods and heard that call he may likely have peed himself! Just as Ray warned us several Bluejays, a wren, some Chickadees and Titmice appeared. Apparently, when a Barn Owl makes that type of noise, it makes the others interested in what is going on! Ray then played the calls of the Titmouse and Chickadee, and to my kids’ enjoyment they came in right next to us and began singing or echoing the CD. Several calls we tried did not give us any results, but we did get lucky again with the White-breasted Nuthatch. It was my second time seeing this cute bird in Cedars of Lebanon State Park. I love how they circle down a tree trunk. He would win the award for best singing that day because as soon as the CD would play his call he would repeat it and it was hard to tell them apart.
It was a good day to be at the Cedars of Lebanon State Park and another good day to be there will be this coming Saturday, April 30 because Ray will be giving two bird walks during the "Annual Elsie Quarterman Cedar Glad Wildflower Festival."
His first walk will be that morning at 7:30 a.m. and begin at the Huddleston Cedar Forest Lodge. His second walk is a night "Owl Prowl" and it will take place at 7 p.m. in the same location.
This is an excellent time to meet Ray if you have never had the opportunity, and it is also a great time to see the park in all its beauty! I have been on an Owl Prowl before and although we didn't have much luck with owls it was still fun and educational.
So far this year the park has been extra special to us and I hope it will reveal even more treasures during this special day! Come out and join us, and don’t forget to bring your binoculars and bird book!