Thursday, January 08, 2015

First of the (New) Year

First of the Year Count!

We use a term “first of the year” (or first of season) for those species seen for the first time in a year any time during the year. Obviously enough, everything on January 1 is first of year.

Fellow club member, Mary Anna Wheat, and I set out on an early field trip to get us started on this year’s list for the upper northeast counties of Tennessee. The day was bright and nice and chilly at first but ended up only being chilly when we finished about 5:00 or so in the afternoon.

We had some noticeable misses. No turkey. No robin. No raven. No grebe or teal all of which had been seen the day before.The top picture is a screech owl who is basically a resident show-off at Osceola. We wondered how he got in and out against the vines. You think, at first glance, someone has put a stuffed animal there but the owl is for real.

We hit the shore of Boone Lake at Winged Deer park, the pasture at Austin Springs, White Oak Creek Park near BMS, and Osceola Island in the shadow of the South Holston Lake Dam. We missed the next spot on the list but caught Musick’s Campground on South Holston Lake within sight of the Virginia state line and finished up at Steele Creek Park in Bristol, Tennessee. Only about 70 miles driving, including a stop for late lunch. For our effort we counted nearly forty species. At Steele Creek is a wonderful wildlife display next to the lake. Be ready to count several species. One species not included on the TWRA check list is the snapping turtle. Compared to my hand you can see the shell is probably 7-9 inches across and his face suggests he is not to be pampered. We have come across several snappers on the years and this last fall had one a solid 12-inches across! He hissed at our attempts to get him out of the middle of the road. To run over him would have felt running over a parking curb.

Of note, we saw: immature bald eagle, pileated woodpecker, white-crowned sparrow, widgeon, bufflehead, screech owl, house finch, towhee, carolina wren, red-shouldered hawk, white-breasted nuthatch, ring-billed gull, kestrel, coot, and a Ross’s goose at Steele Creek Park.

My partner for the day Mary Anna Wheat took lots of pictures. We just narrowed it down to two!


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