Sunday, April 19, 2015

On the Lookout, April 14, 2015

Roy Knispel, Gil Derouen, and myself birded a selected few sights the other day in the rain. Unlike last week, on Tuesday, this was not those drenching downpours but that good, light, steady rain that the land loves. At least my yard is still growing at a speed faster than I can feel the desire to mow.

Roy registered 52 species for us. That is a lot but of course includes many common yard birds and all the not-so-common species but not necessarily new ones for the year. I added seven new for the year which brings my total to 82. We might be seeing more shorebirds in the next month. We had spotted sandpiper and solitary sandpiper today. Gulls are not nearly as prolific as two weeks ago. They probably have sensed the change in the climate and returned to home. Seeing flocks in the hundreds are not uncommon in these parts over the winter. But, at least a small batch of ring-billed were still at Musick’s Campground along with I think our first Bonaparte’s gulls for the season. Why the Bonaparte’s show up now and not earlier is a question I’d have to ask, too.

One rule of thumb is to always check out the flock of anything. Cowbirds like to congregate with starlings. All geese seem to like each other. Certainly ducks gather in bunches of each other. Gulls, too, collect. The Bonaparte’s are easily seen as smaller than ring-billed and have a black head which is very evident. With 8-10 power binoculars most of the time you can tell what you are seeing isn’t quite the same as the bird next to it but you might not have enough power to clearly define what you are looking at. Jumping up to a low-power range scope might be a good investment. The zoom/high power spotting scopes are out of my budget.

South Holston Lake level is coming up nicely. The lake has several feet to go but at least the lake is filling. Shoreline changes daily and with our hilly countryside sometimes wading shoreline disappears altogether. For this summer and probably until next spring, however, Boone Lake, which borders Johnson City and cuts through Piney Flats, will remain non-existent. When we take the spring count in a few weeks, we’ll find out just how the shoreline has changed and what it means for spring or early summer shorebirds.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Winged Deer bluebells, Easter 2015

This beautiful spring morning is now a beautiful spring afternoon. The Bradford pear trees are really starting to show their white. My quince is a gorgeous red. And the redbud trees are trying hard to be pink. My neighbor’s pussy willow is in its best color before settling down to the standard green of summer. In my yard, however, only the forsythia is in bloom and it looks pathetic.

I drove from Piney Flats, Tenn., to Watauga, Tenn., this morning. The route is rather uneventful but I did spy a common raven mixed in with the Turkey vulture at the Watauga Quarry. It soared and then folded in its wings to drop and call. The quarry has been home to nesting raven for years.

A few days ago I saw the cliff swallows at Pickens Bridge on Boone Lake. The lake is miserably down since a leak was discovered at Boone Dam and TVA has been forced to keep the lake levels at minimum. This will really hamper the spring bird count along the lake. But the shoreline and the pylons of the bridge all look so naked. This is a problem that TVA says will be around for a while. The leak is at the earthen part of the dam. I suppose after 50 years the dam would become saturated enough to finally spring a leak. To say the least, the homeowners on the shore are really mad.

I stopped by Winged Deer Park which is on Boone Lake just north of Johnson City. Winged Deer is a great place for bird watching. Second growth forest, landscaped lawns, shoreline, and lake. Today was a good morning for a walk and I ended up at the bluebell patches. If ever there was a sign of spring it is the Virginia bluebells. They have spread far from their little patch of 15 years ago. I keep thinking some day I would plant bluebells in my yard.

This picture is a year old. I’ve been to the bluebells in the fog, cold late evenings, too early, and too late!