There are a lot of schools celebrating Spring Break right now, but Spring has also broken in the woods of Tennessee. Louisiana Waterthrush call from streamside, Yellow-rumped Warblers flit through the trees by the dozen, and a Barred Owl’s haunting cry echoes across Radnor Lake.
Kinglets are among the most active of woodland birds, which translates into being difficult to photograph! I have been trying to capture one of the Golden-crowned Kinglets at Radnor Lake for quite some time. Last week, a cold, drizzly day found me out on the trail with minimal company. The first kinglet was a tease, but finally, a mile or so later, I got my shot from a more amenable bird!
It’s been a balmy, damp Fall here in Tennessee. And even if the wildlife isn’t forthcoming during a hike, there is always something beautiful to revel in, like these mushrooms that almost seem to glow in the dimmed light.
But there is usually a Barred Owl to make the day even more special. Happy Solstice!
The summer brings an oppressive, torrid hush over the wooded areas of Tennessee. Almost jungle-like, the only creatures present seem to be the incessantly droning cicadas and languidly flapping butterflies. Gone are the dueling, bright warblers and exciting glimpses of migratory species.
But the species that call Tennessee home all year can be found by someone determined (and daft) enough to brave the heat, humidity, and myriad biting insects.
The Ghost of the Woods: The Barred Owl, unlike most of the members of its order, can often be seen during the day.
A young Pileated Woodpecker learns to fend for itself in the forest canopy.
And a mother Wood Duck keeps her ducklings close.
Despite the frustration of the onset of Spring migration and the confusion of trying to identify warbler songs not heard in a year – and the self-inflicted malady of “warbler neck”… there is still peace in the woods.
A Barred Owl diligently peruses the creek, and scoops up a crayfish lunch.
A female Northern Cardinal believes herself unseen in her not-so-hidden nest.
A Great Blue Heron balances on one leg, perhaps resting after a successful morning hunt.
And, even if the warblers don’t cooperate for pictures, the wildflowers are there, ever lovely.
As a lifelong birder and raptor fan, it seemed I was always frustrated in my quest to see a Barred Owl. When I lived in South Florida, I frequented the Everglades, where I saw many incredible birds. But despite hearing the haunting “Who-cooks-for-you?” call drift across the swamps, I never had a sighting.
That bad luck seemed to follow me to Tennessee, where multiple unseen owls screamed daily across the tree-filled Hollow where I lived. I even made a couple of trips to Radnor Lake, a place where, aside from its many other charms, Barred Owls are almost guaranteed.
Well, the third time was truly a charm! Since my first magical sighting of an apparently unconcerned owl sitting next to the path, I have been blessed with an owl almost every visit. This past weekend, another wish was fulfilled – to see one hunting! I watched this owl stalking the streams, coming up with a staple of the Barred Owl diet – crayfish! It may not be as spectacular as watching a Peregrine Falcon’s plunge or a Golden Eagle’s swoop, but I enjoyed every minute.
The roller coaster ride that is Autumn has officially started here. Last Monday we sweated on a hike in 80 F weather. And in less than a week, I was hauling the houseplants in for the hard frost that came as predicted.