Today is Monday, August 21, 2017

Switched at birth

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American Cliff Swallow
Red-eyed Vireo feeding Cowbird baby
Cowbird egg in a Robin's nest

It was so good to have a little spell of rain this past weekend. It seems that the rain that falls is so much better for our gardens than what comes out of our hosepipes. People from other areas have trouble understanding the concept of a hosepipe. I have always called it that.

Anthony Gray picked me up and he must have gotten a bit of "white line fever" on this trip. We first headed out Hwy. 231 North and took a right on Gillmore Hill Road to check out the blown-out bridge area for birds. Bird traffic was light, with only one Great Blue Heron standing at the end of the bridge. Rumor has it that large parties are starting to be the weekend fare at this old favorite place. It looks like Sheriff Robert Bryan needs to schedule a few drive-bys there, just to keep trouble from happening.

Leaving the lake behind, we turned north on Beasleys Bend Road and then turned right onto Ford Road. With all of this light drizzle falling, I believe that the birds had taken cover. We headed back north on the new section of Old Hartsville Pike over into Trousdale County. The construction there has provided extra nesting holes for our Rough-winged Swallows, evidenced by their many numbers as they wheel and turn right in front of our vehicle, catching the many bugs there. Last week, we traveled to Watertown's Three Fork Park to watch the Bank Swallows.

Headed over the Cumberland River at Hartsville, we cut over to Hwy. 25 on the way to Carthage, past the large cooling tower of the old Hartsville, "Boondoggle," well the correct word is nuclear plant. It is a beautiful trip on the old roads back in the country. Carthage has changed a bit, and we took the new bypass over to the old Hwy. 70 and then headed east.

The climb up toward Chestnut Mound is most breathtaking, especially without someone riding your back bumper. Taking a left on Hwy. 53, it seems to be an easy coast down to the river where the town of Granville finally came into sight. Pulling into the large marina, we were greeted by a large assortment of Swallows and other small birds.

Song Sparrows were seemingly under every bush there and flit back and forth as they sang their signature songs. The last time that I was there, some man found a medium-sized Garter Snake trying to eat a very large Toad Frog. The snake made the mistake of trying to eat the frog, from the bottom part first. The frog looked like he had on a very long pair of trousers, with his forearms keeping the rest from becoming food. Someone finally picked them up and tossed them into the water, dislodging the snake from his dinner, in which the frog made his getaway.

A couple of Martin houses seemed to be full and they were flying all around our heads. The Purple Martins are our largest Swallows. Barn Swallows seemed to be everywhere, most likely nesting underneath the rafters of the boat houses.

The bridge on Hwy. 53 at the marina separates Smith County from Jackson County and has Cliff Swallows living underneath. The Cliff Swallows were busy catching flying insects in the same area as the Purple Martins and the Barn Swallows. Must have plenty to go around for dinner.

My son, Jason Pope, spotted my name on his Facebook, with a mention of Teresa Botts, asking me about bird eggs. After reading the input and looking at the picture myself, I was convienced that it was a Cowbird egg in the nest. The person who spotted the nest and took pictures was Valerie Pyles. She seems to think that it was some kind of a Warbler's nest and eggs. Other comments that came down her feed suggested that it might be a Cuckoo.

We do have two different species of Cuckoos that live here, but they are not a parasitic bird such as lives over in Europe. Our Cuckoos are the Yellow-billed and the Black-billed, also known to some of our farmers as "Rain Crows."

Here in the good old USA, we have Cowbirds that do the same thing. Brown-headed Cowbirds will watch a nest and if the coast is clear, the female will remove an egg and then lay her own in the host nest. Every so often, she will return to the nest and check on her egg. After the clutch of eggs have been set, the Cowbird egg will hatch a day or two earlier than the host bird. The newly hatched Cowbird will push the other eggs out of the nest where ants will consume the remnants of the unhatched eggs. I took pictures a couple of years ago of a pair of Northern Cardinals feeding a huge Cowbird baby. I guess you can say that they were switched at birth.

Several of us told Valerie to toss out the odd egg and keep an eye on the nest, just in case the female returned to check on her egg. I wouldn't recommend everyone doing this, unless you were absolutely positive that you have a Cowbird egg in the nest. They don't need any help.

All six of my Bluebird eggs hatched last week. Four of them left the box on Wednesday and the remaining two left the morning after. The parents will definitely be busy keeping those little ones fed.

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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