Today is Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Snowbirds of a feather

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I awoke too early this past Saturday morning and peeked out the window, expecting to see rain. It was dry, and I decided to go back to bed because it would be another couple of hours of sleep I could get before Anthony Gray showed up for our birdwatching excursion. When I woke up later, the ground was almost white with snow. Looking out my kitchen window, I could see that I must have been the only one feeding the birds in my neighborhood.

We headed out Highway 70 toward Watertown, planning to run one of our favorite routes in reverse. Crows were very plentiful in the Shop Springs community as we passed through. Right as we approached the railroad tracks on East Main Street, we found a small flock of House finch. With all of the snow covering the ground, streets and roads remained clear, and the birds had found a little something to eat alongside of it.

Turning left put us on Holmes Gap Road, where we had a tornado touch down a couple of Wednesdays ago. A good friend of mine, Kimberly Underwood, owns and operates a produce truck farm along with her husband, Eddie, and son, Ethan. The tornado touched down and destroyed quite a bit of their property. When vegetables are in season, you can find them almost daily at our farmers market on South Maple Street in Lebanon. Please keep them in your prayers.

We saw American robins everywhere out on the road. Rounding the corner where the railroad tracks run parallel with the road, we found a flock of Dark-eyed juncos. These birds are known by another name that Anne Murray made famous in a song, "Snowbird." They were feeding next to the road, which was clear from the snow. Other birds found there included Northern cardinals, Eastern bluebirds and Field sparrows.

Coming out close to Alexandria, we headed back to Watertown and took a left onto Beech Log Road. Snow was still falling, and the temperature was 30 degrees outside. In some places, the snow was falling so fast that it created a whiteout condition. We took a left onto Sherrilltown Road and headed up Porterfield Hill. There are spots in the road that don't get any sun, and the snow stuck to the road in this area. Off to the right is a small ravine leading down to a small creek.

We eventually came out in Norene and crossed over to Cedar Forest Road. The snow had let up a little, and we halfway expected to see some sunshine. Up ahead we found a Fox sparrow, our largest sparrow, feeding next to a small flock of juncos and cardinals.

At the Cedars of Lebanon State Park, we found one lonesome Hermit thrush and a Brown thrasher. The Hermit thrush is the only spotted thrush we have here in the winter. American robins and Eastern bluebirds are also members of the thrush family and only show the speckled breast while they are juveniles. Back around the campground, we found a Brown thrasher.

Coming back toward Lebanon, the temperature had risen to 35 degrees, and most of the snow had disappeared. Running Rocky Valley Road in reverse, we found American crows, bluebirds and American kestrels. We even found an early blooming redbud tree alongside of the road.

We needed to kill about 30 minutes before the Snow White opened, so we decided to head out Coles Ferry Pike. A quick stop at the Barton's Creek Boat Ramp found a pair of Great blue herons feeding around the slew. There was another Brown thrasher feeding in the underbrush next to the water's edge. The call of the Pileated woodpecker was coming to us from across the water, while a Red-bellied woodpecker moved around on this side.

A Pied-billed grebe was swimming out in the middle of the creek but dove under as soon as he spotted us. Other birds of interest were the Carolina wren, Blue jays and Mourning doves. As we were leaving, hawk-eye Anthony said that he saw a white-looking bird up in the tree on his side of the car. With binoculars in hand, I got a great look at a partial Albino cardinal. It was mostly white but had a few red feathers in it. We will have to go back and see if we can shoot some video of it.

A quick stop in front of the Lebanon Senior Citizen's Center's gazebo gave us a great backdrop for our weekly video. Catch our weekly videos on my Facebook page.

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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