Today is Thursday, August 24, 2017

Winter Birds Have Returned

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Dark-eyed Junco



The weatherman, or woman is once again talking about a "polar vortex" getting ready to kick us in the seat of our pants. When they come upon something new in their vocabulary, they seem to beat a dead horse. Cold front, yes, but will the temperatures get as cold as last January? Certain words can put fear in people who are not versed in the language of the day. Fall is in the air and it is supposed to get colder until the spring equinox tilts the earth toward the sun in our latitude.

Colder weather, especially up north signals the return of certain birds here to middle Tennessee in what we call the fall migration. We are a little east of the Mississippi flyway, but in a great location to find migrating birds in the spring and fall. Last Wednesday as I returned home from the Lebanon Senior Citizens Center, I was greeted by a White-throated Sparrow in my back yard. They are not very vocal at this time of the year, but when the weather starts warming up a little and their hormones get activated, they will be singing their little hearts out. Some people call them the "Peabody" bird because of their singing, " poor Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody". I love to hear them sing, especially when there are several joining in the chorus. It kind of reminds me of an orchestra tuning up just before they start playing.

Anthony Gray picked me up for our usual Saturday morning ritual. It's funny how you can sit in a booth with three inches to spare and then when you start to get up, your belly is rubbing the table. With full bellies, we head out south on the Old Murfreesboro Road, turning left on Hobbs Lane. Several small Sparrow type birds were flitting on the left side of the road in the tall weeds that grew there. As soon as we got to where we might see them, they were gone in a flash.

Another bird was on the right side of the road hopping about in the tree limbs, just above the small branch that flows by the road. This was another winter visitor, just down from the northern states. It was a Yellow-rumped Warbler, once known as a Myrtle Warbler. They will be here all winter until they head back north to breed and raise their families.

Crossing highway 231 we head the back way toward Rocky Valley Road hoping to catch a glimpse of some of our feathered friends where small creeks meander back and forth underneath the road. Most seen birds were several families of Eastern Bluebirds. Many of the people out that way place out Bluebird houses for them and it shows, by the large number of family members we saw there. Most of the time, the youngens of the first brood will help their parents care and feed for their younger siblings. My Bluebirds, here at home have started coming around again, maybe looking for a place to spend the winter.

We then ran most of the distance out Bluebird Road then took a left by the interstate headed north on Big Springs Road till we got to Goshen Road. I mentioned to Anthony about another road that we used to birdwatch on when I was learning from the Rev. William Senter and John W. Sellars, back in the early 70's. We finally located the road called Centerhill Lane, where I Remembered an old hay field where I saw my first Grasshopper Sparrow. There used to be an old log house that was rumored to be haunted sitting down a ways from an old family cemetery, underneath a tall, some kind of an evergreen tree. During the spring this yard would take on a yellow color from the buttercups planted there many years ago.

On down the road we found an immature Northern Flicker walking around like he didn't have a care in the world. The notion that he might be injured crossed our mind, until he finally took to the air, showing the huge white rump spot that helps to identify him. We will definitely come back this way when spring gets here.

This past Sunday morning as I was cooking my breakfast, I spotted another bird just down from the north. My first Dark-eyed Junco of the season was scratching beneath my blackoil sunflower feeders. Keep your eyes open for these beautiful birds.

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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