Thursday, April 28, 2016

Around the Armory

Birding in Johnson City and Washington county

April 26 we birded a place in Johnson City that I would never have thought to visit. And it is just down the street from where I live. On west Market Street (aka “new” Jonesborough highway) is the empty lot where the Tennessee National Guard Armory stood for years. It has been 10 years since the property was sold off (or traded, we couldn’t remember which) and the building demolished. Now it is a huge empty lot that beckons trash and homeless. The property is surrounded by developed property and the C&O tracks and is up for sale. It is hard to imagine such a large lot still available within city limits.

But, also, at the back of the property is a cemetery dated 1792.

There was plenty of great bird habitat throughout. I didn’t keep really exact records but some of what we saw: robin, flicker, cardinal, starling, dove, red-tailed hawk, bluejay, indigo bunting, field sparrow, towhee, kingbird. We caught glimpses here and there of more and heard a lot bits and pieces but much of the birdlife kept well undercover.

That isn’t much of a record and we did hope to find much more as the habitat of mowed grass, cedar, pine, and scrubby underbrush ought to have yielded more. This might be a place worth visiting more often. Until it gets sold.

We then drove out to Bush Hog on the far side of Jonesborough, Bowmantown Marsh, and West View Ponds near Limestone. Between these two we got shore birds, both oriole, green-winged teal, green heron, the last remaining white-breasted nuthatch, a few swallows, both tanager, red-wing black birds in their glorious spring plumage, and a warbler’s nest but never could get a good look at the parent.

On this particular trip were Roy Knispel, Jim Anderson, Gil Derouen, and myself. 

Do birds sing all night?
I have heard mockingbird singing as late as one o’clock in the morning. I have heard stories of birds (usually mockingbirds) singing well into the dark but not usually long before sunrise. The early bird still seems to be the robin. Last night (or was it this morning?) I stirred and could hear a clear two-noter more like a bluejay calling endlessly, monotonously, forever! It is one of the curses of having the windows open. I couldn’t be so lucky to catch a screech owl. I did hear the raccoons raiding the garbage can next door. I did hear the coyotes yipping around. And, of course, the Clinchfield & Ohio rumbled through the night a couple of times.

But, I kind of like the sound of a bird calling in the night. Nothing terribly romantic or anything like that. it is just a gentle reminder about nature and what nature does.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

April 2 at Fort Patrick Henry Dam

Last Saturday, April 2, Mary Anna Wheat and I ventured up to Fort Patrick Henry Dam in Kingsport to catch a view of the Great egret reported by Glen Eller a couple of days before. No luck on the egret. (In my tongue-tied way I kept saying “greet eggrit.”) We did get lucky in other ways. Mary Anna added three to her count: cormorant, tree swallows, and wood duck. We’d been to Pickens Bridge two weeks before and added cliff swallows for both our lists.

As nice as it was see woodies (and they are very magnificent indeed) we spied a couple of Bald eagles come sailing over the dam and over the lake. Saturday was a bright day and the white of the Bald eagle really stood out. Saturday was also a very windy day and standing on the earthen part of the dam was like standing in front of a wind tunnel at hurricane speeds.

We also had dozens of tree swallows feeding between the bridge and the face of the dam. This spot is a favorite for Great blue heron who have a rookery on the far bank from the parking lot.

The lake is a good spot for cormorant, mallard, heron, grebe, and such. Down stream is catch-as-catch can. Maybe goose and mallard. Maybe woodies. Maybe kingfisher. Maybe night heron. You can search about three-fourths of a mile along the river where there is a landing and then farther on a parking area.

To get to Fort Patrick Henry Dam, take Roan Street north out of Johnson City. Go left at the Y towards Kingsport (versus the right to Bristol). Keep on Hwy 36 until well after crossing I-81 and you’ll cross over the bridge with the dam to your right. There are signs. Not far from here and really a pretty nice place to bird.