Today is Sunday, July 23, 2017

Spoiled birds

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Eastern Bluebird/TERESA BOTTS

As I write this article, spring is only one day away. One might expect it to start off warm, but no such luck. We will have to wait up until May before we can plant our tender vegetables such as homegrown tomatoes.

Anthony Gray picked me up 10 minutes before eight this past Saturday morning. Before we left out, we could hear a Carolina wren singing in my backyard. This particular wren will visit my dome feeder at the kitchen window, looking for the dry-roasted peanuts that I hide underneath the black oil sunflower seeds. If he has already plundered the peanuts, he will sit at my window and fuss at me for not refilling it. Do any of you readers have such spoiled birds in your backyard?

Our first stop was out South Dickerson Chapel Road, where the northern terminus is the Blowed Out Bridge. As we drove alongside the white fence there, an Eastern phoebe followed us up a couple hundred feet, probably wondering what we were up to. An old house burned to the ground there several years ago, and the only thing left was an old out building. This was most likely what the phoebe was interested in, a great place to build a nest.

Feeding on the ground next to the gate that blocks off access to the area during the winter were a few small sparrow-type birds. Upon closer inspection, we found a small mixed flock of White-crowned and White-throated sparrows. It will not be too long before these beautiful birds head back north to begin the breeding process all over again.

Off in the distance, a Great blue heron stood sentinel over his favorite fishing place. This was probably one of the pair that nests close to the bridge. We found a pair of Canada geese over to our right, and they will most likely be starting a new family pretty soon. Out of the thick brush to our left flew a Hermit thrush. He didn't hang around too long before he headed back into the trees. Other birds of interest there included the Northern cardinal, Field sparrow and the Tufted titmouse.

We made a sweep of the Hunters Point boat ramp and found a solitary Snow goose hanging around with a domestic white duck. On down Canoe Branch Road at the Misty Cove boat launch area, we found a single Mourning dove. Backtracking, we headed west to the Game Farm. I'm sure that it has a real name, but "Game Farm" is all that I have ever called it.

The gate down to the river was closed, and we had to do our birding from the turnaround. Underneath the Russian olive bushes, we found White-crowned and Field sparrows. A single Eastern meadowlark flew by the open field to our north, singing its beautiful song. Over in a thicket we found more White-throated sparrows feeding with Northern cardinals.

I put on my electronic ears and could hear the "gurgilee" song of the Red-winged blackbird down toward the Cumberland River. Other birds heard were the Carolina chickadee, Blue jays and American crows.

Leaving the Game Farm behind, we took Burford Road as a shortcut to Belotes Ferry Road. We stopped at the old humpback bridge for a quick listen. Northern cardinals and a group of Spring peepers were all that we heard. Spring Creek was really rolling because of the heavy rain showers from the previous night's storm.

Taking Cedar Grove Road over to Coles Ferry Pike soon led us to the Bartons Creek boat ramp, where we found a Great blue heron knee-deep in the water. We kept an eye out for our albino cardinal, but he must have been in hiding. Across the creek, we heard Red-winged blackbirds, plus a pair of Canada geese honking. A Carolina wren was singing right outside our car, and it sounded huge to my parabolic mic.

We took Bradshaw Road over to Bates Road, where we found a Red-tailed hawk sitting on a fencepost. A pair of Eastern bluebirds could be found along this stretch of road. Maybe they will find the bluebird box at my good friends', Willis and Liz Franklin.

Down at the Tyree Access, there were hundreds of Ring-billed gulls wheeling and diving to catch some kind of baitfish. They were everywhere, and I couldn't remember ever seeing them in such great numbers. A Great blue heron was sharing a log with about four or five turtles that were sunning themselves. We also found another Red-tailed hawk here, along with two male Mallard ducks.

We made a quick stop at the Davis Corner boat ramp, where we found several Black vultures feeding on some fish that was tossed out by some fishermen. We drove up next to them so I could take a few photos. Also in the slew were a few American coots.

Headed west on Burton Road, it soon became Davis Corner Road, which comes out across from the Lone Branch Recreation Area just north of Mt. Juliet. This place was crowded with more gulls and a pair of Common loons, Pied-billed grebes, Double-crested cormorants, Canada geese and more American coots. It was not time to head back to town for our hamburger fix at Snow White's Drive-In.

We decided to shoot our weekly video next to the pond at the Jimmy Floyd Family Center. As we sat up the camera, a pair of Soft-shelled turtles dove into the water.

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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Our Feathered Friends
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Anthony Gray, Liz Franklin, Our Feathered Friends, Ray Pope, Willis Franklin
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