Today is Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Our Feathered Friends

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Eastern Wood Peewee
Yellow Throated Vireo

I'm not sure what the weather is up to any more. One day it is cool and the next day hot. While we were in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a cool front came through and was felt especially up in the higher elevations. At Dollywood, when we would get under some theater to enjoy a show we would get almost chilled. Glad to be back home.

While there in the Smokies, just about all we saw was the common species that we see around here. Our motel was situated on the bank of the Little Pigeon River in Pigeon Forge. A pair of Mallard ducks swam most of the day in the water behind the dam where the old mill was located. Some child would wander too close for comfort and they would fly away then return after it became all clear.

Driving on up the mountain, we stopped at an overlook this side of Newfound Gap to enjoy the view down through a slight valley with clouds below us. While there I listened as a Yellow-throated Vireo was announcing his presence. These birds are not uncommon in the eastern United States, and it's presence here was most enjoyable.

On down the mountain we came to the town of Cherokee, North Carolina. This place has really grown up since I was here last. My main purpose here was to do a little gem mining. While digging around at the Cowee Mountain mine, I enjoyed the antics of a couple of Eastern Bluebirds. I did manage to find a few good specimens along with a good size chunk of Smokey Quartz. Time for the long ride back to home.

Anthony Gray picked me up Saturday Morning and we headed down Coles Ferry Pike. We turned into Mann Road and made the circle, stopping at some of the creeks along the way to listen for birds. This is the same stretch of road where Anthony and I placed out 33 Bluebird houses back in the late 80s. Of course none of these are still in existance, but several of the people that gave us permission to put them up have replaced the houses with new one as the old ones became unfit for habitation.

Stopping at the Bartons Creek Boat Ramp, we got out to stretch our legs and checked out the area for birds. Several people were out drowning worms and trying to catch the airborne fish. Not really, but judging by the amount of bobbers hanging from tree limbs, some of them tried.

We just happened to be in the right place at the right time to watch a Great Egret fly in and land in the shallow water on the other side of Bartons Creek. This large wading bird looks very much like a Great Blue Heron except it is solid white. Listening in the tree tops we heard the song of a Rose-breasted Grosbeak. It stayed hidden from us, and all we could do was enjoy the serenade.

We found a small bird darting from limb to limb, but not sitting anywhere still so we could get a good look at it. Finally it flew into the right spot where we could see it. It was a Prothonotary Warbler, one of the brightest yellows you have ever seen. They are a cavity-dwelling bird and like to use old Downy Woodpecker holes for their home. You will always find them around water.

Driving on out to the end of Coles Ferry Pike, we came to the Cumberland River. The water was up a tad and the wind made a few white caps over the surface. There we found several Great Blue Herons and even more Double Crested Cormorants. One lonely fishing boat dared to face the elements there, and I'm glad to be on dry land.

Crossing over Highway 109, we took a right onto Woods Ferry Road and stopped for a listen on a small stream just before we came to Tyree Access Road. Off in the distance we heard the call "Cherwink" of the Eastern Rufous-sided Towhee. This bird has entertained me for years. We had a pair that used to nest in the spreaders at the end of our sidewalk just before I was 10 years old.

With my parabolic microphone, I could hear the voice of an Eastern Wood Peewee. It actually calles it's name over and over during the warm months. It is a member of the Flycatcher family and very beneficial when it comes to eating insects. Driving on down to the lake at the end of Tyrees Access, we found a pair of Common Loons not to far from shore. We couldn't see much of anything elso on the lake.

As we headed back in the other direction, we drove out to the old blown-out bridge on South Dickerson Chapel Road. There was only one person fishing off of the old bridge there. This is one of the most popular places to fish and sometimes throw a party.

It was time to head back to Lebanon and enjoy a meal at Peking Chinese Restuarant. Driving by on North Castle Heights Avenue, we saw that the beaver dam was still holding water and that the yard sale at the Lebanon Senior Citizens Center is still going strong.

Where are the Hummingbirds? A few have advised me that they haven't seen the first one. This has been a different spring this year with strange weather patterns. Don't give up on them. Just because you don't see them doesn't mean that they are not here.

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 rpope15@bellsouth.net

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