Tuesday, June 26, 2012

IN THE COMPANY OF BIRDS

click photos to enlarge


Yesterday was exceptionally hot on the lake and there weren't many fishermen on the water.  Actually, there were only two fishing boats in my area.  I still have to make the rounds through the area.  However, that situation presents opportunities to me for watching wildlife.  The habitat changes on Cherokee and Douglas Lakes due to the raising and lowering of the water annually.  Mammals are scarce on both lakes.  Passing coyotes or white tail deer can sometimes be seen but not much more.  Cherokee does have some beavers and I'm told, otters on the Holsten  River.  I've not seen anything other than a squirrel on Douglas Lake.  Birds are another story.  I believe that all the wading birds of Tennessee can be found on the upper reaches of Douglas Lake on the French Broad and Nolichucky Rivers.  Therefore, my wildlife focus since moving here has been concentrated on birds.  Its either focus on birds or get a TV set and drink beer.  I opted to watch birds.  I'm learning allot as I observe them on a daily basis and have grown to have a new respect for them and am constantly amazed while watching them carrying on their daily activities.  The different species of birds all have their specific times and places to do their routines during their lives but, the individual birds of each species carry out their daily chores and accomplishing the tasks of life in ways uniquely independent of their peers.  That fact adds to the enjoyment of bird watching.  This blog entry is nothing more than "just birds."  There's no adventure associated with it or journeys into the unknown. The entry is simply birds that I have come upon while performing my daily tasks for the agency.  I hope you enjoy.


If God could select two birds, one to sit on each of his shoulders, I believe they would be the bald eagle and the great egret.  The bald eagle would perch on his right shoulder representing power in freedom and the great egret would sit upon his left representing the beauty of nature and all things wild that he put here upon the earth.


I made some color and contrast adjustments prior taking the pictures of the great egret in order to avoid the pure white of the bird's body from being washed out.  The great egret follows:
















If you've been watching this blog you know what a double crested cormorant is.  I threw a few more shots of them into this entry.  Cormorants are becoming a bird of interest here in Tennessee it seems, especially on the lakes over toward Nashville.  Cormorants build their nests in tall trees on islands and strip the leaves from the selected nest tree to build their nests with.  Their fecal matter is full of strong uric acid and eventually the tree will be killed from the defoliation and the constant contact with the highly acidic waste material.  The cormorants have been handling themselves this way for centuries but all of a sudden it seems that the islands with dead trees and huge bird nests in them are offending some wealthy property owners who live on the lakes shoreline.  I guess their view is soiled.  So now the cormorant is becoming the center of attention for reasons other than its beauty.  I can only guess what the future holds for this gorgeous, powerful bird.
He's cooling off in the above shot.







I disturbed a large group of cormorants while passing them in the noisy boat.






What entry showing wading birds would be complete without the good ole Great Blue Heron?


The shorelines are home for many other types of birds.  The song birds, warblers and  swallows all congregate here.  There is one more heron who hangs out in these thickets and trees.  He is the green heron.  Green herons are solitary birds, usually.  I've seen them in pairs flying or following each other on the shoreline.  Today, I saw ten birds on a 600 foot distance of shore line.  That is indeed odd.  They are an interesting bird to watch when they are hunting.  They stand or move very slowly along the water's edge stopping frequently to gaze into the water with turned head.  Then he will stop dead in his tracks with head turned toward the water.   His neck then stretches out and the head slowly lowers.  The beak is plunged through the surface faster than the eye can follow.  A minnow is gulped down whole.




Tree swallows are acrobatic birds that fly over the water catching insects.  They can be found at any point on the lake or at lakes edge.  They are extremely agile and quick.  I discovered a group of swallows on a tree far back in a cove.  I shut the boat engine off and allowed glide to carry the boat closer to their tree.





Above:  They hold their wings out to the side in order to rid themselves of heat.  Its much like opening our coat when we get too warm.  The ambient temperature is 94 degrees.

The bird on the left is a youth and is begging the parent for food.  Note the yellow beak on the fledgling.










Occasionally I'll run into a bird I am not familiar with.  That was the case with the eastern king bird.  He's a handsome guy.  It is the first I've come across up here on the French Broad.


  

"I'm outa here!"

A killdeer hurriedly rushes along pausing only long enough to pluck a tiny insect from a blade of grass .  His head bobs back and forth when at rest.  I don't know what that's all about but its a trait of this bird.


Well, that's about it for this entry.  Oh - wait.  There is one more.  Good grief - I can't forget the Barney Oldfield of the lake and creek shorelines.  If you don't know who Barney Oldfield is - I'm not telling.  He's a belted kingfisher.


The speedy little fellow kept to the shadows and then hid behind a little patch of leaves.  It took me a long time to photograph him and I almost gave up.  He left as fast as he appeared.
That just about does it.  Its a privilege to be able to share their space with them and I do so with the least disturbance possible.  I respect their environment, habitat and above all each and every one of them.

The bald eagle may sit upon God's right shoulder and the great egret upon his left but, Douglas rests at his feet.