Local Birding News

Winter bird activity

We hope everyone had a great holiday season and many thanks to all of you who shopped with us and brought us baked goods. We greatly appreciate all of you. During the holidays we get so busy running the store our weekly blog takes a vacation. Many of you give us favorable feedback on our blogs, which is nice to hear, but if there is a subject you think we should touch on please let us know.

So far this has been a fairly uninteresting winter for bird feeding enthusiasts. Although people have seen Red-breasted Nuthatches at feeders sightings have slowed. If you live where there is a presence of pine or cedar trees keep a close eye on your feeders this cold weekend. Red-breasted Nuthatches show a preference for areas with pine and/or cedar. Since I have no pine trees I recently ventured out to Montgomery Bell State Park and only had to step out of my truck in the visitor parking area to see a group of 5 or 6 in the cedar tree I had parked near. By the way if you really want to see Red-headed Woodpeckers you will see them at Montgomery Bell. They, too, seem to prefer open areas adjacent to forest along with lots of pine trees. I enjoy golfing and birding at MB and marvel at the great numbers of “Red-heads “present.

Red-breasted Nuthatch.

Red-breasted Nuthatch.

Red-headed Woodpecker.

Red-headed Woodpecker.

With the fluctuations in temperature come fluctuations in feeder consistency. On warm days, anything in the 50’s or more, insects become active and your feeder birds may gravitate to the sudden availability of protein. Birds do not live on seed and suet alone and never will. Customers sometimes make the comment “the birds must be confused”. Not likely. They simply adapt to changing weather patterns and take advantage of whatever food sources become available. Although, on Tuesday when it reached nearly 70 degrees I heard some birds singing which is usually reserved for spring and summer. So maybe they are a little confused, or perhaps eager.

Some notable sightings around Nashville include numerous reports of Sandhill Crane flocks flying over, a Bald Eagle regularly seen around Hillwood Golf Course, and a Snow Goose at Radnor Lake. One sighting of an Evening Grosbeak in east TN got me a bit excited because it’s been 30 years since notable numbers of them have been seen in this area. And they like to visit bird feeders. But more sightings were not reported and the chance to see them here fizzled.

Sandhill Crane.

Sandhill Crane.

Evening Grosbeak.

Evening Grosbeak.

Fall Migration Notes

Fall Migration is underway and while your birdfeeders will slow down as we approach October birdwatching will only get more interesting.  Have your binoculars with you and ready because warblers are pouring through middle Tennessee stopping to feed in the early mornings on insects and berries.  Mornings are the best time to see lots of different species of warblers.  And mornings after a storm tend to be even better.  Make time to visit one of the many great local birdwatching areas this fall to see some of them.  For information about great places to birdwatch click on the links below…

  • Tennessee Birding Trails is a great website for locating trails for specific types of birding.

  • Tennessee Birding Facebook group has an active community of birders who post often.

  • Tennessee Ornithological Society (TOS) Nashville Chapter is having their Radnor Lake Wed morning bird walks September 19th and continue each Wednesday through October 10th. Please meet in the west Parking lot outside the Visitor’s Center at 7:30am. Come rain or shine. With the exception of ongoing downpours or thunderstorms.

  • TN-BIRD email list is a free list that allows you to get updates of bird sighting from other birders in the area. to receive emails simply click on “find and join” at the top right of the tn-bird page, search for list name tn-bird, and follow the instructions on signing up your email.

One of the more interesting, easy, and fun things to see in the fall is the migration of Chimney Swifts and Common Nighthawks. In the evenings, particularly in areas where there is outdoor lighting, like high school football games and shopping malls, Common Nighthawks gather and feed on insects. Downtown areas tend to be very productive areas to see both.

The Common Nighthawk, a member of the Goatsuckers family, measures around 9 1/2 “in length. They are gray-brown with slim, long wings that have a distinctive white bar near the tips. They are most active at night but can be seen midday as well. They fly with long easy strokes but can quickly change direction and appear erratic as they catch flying insects. Male Nighthawks have a white throat and white band across a notched tail. Listen for the unusual “peent” call of the Nighthawk.

The Chimney Swift is a short swallowlike bird with long, slightly curved wings. Peterson’s field guide to Eastern Birds describes it as a “cigar with wings”. Always in motion, Swifts appear to continually fly never landing to rest and constantly “twitter”. They measure about 5 ½” in length and are uniformly grayish to brown. During migration Swifts have been known to roost together by the thousands in a single chimney. On more than a few occasions I have witnessed a “funnel” of swifts descending into the chimney of a downtown building while on my way to a Predators game. It is a fascinating sight.

And About Hummingbirds

We may see Ruby-throated hummingbirds well into October so keep your feeders out with fresh nectar as there may be several waves of hummingbirds still coming through TN on their return to Central and South America. The belief that feeders should be taken down to cause the birds to migrate is incorrect.  They will leave when they are ready whether there is a feeder present or not.  

Differences in Ruby-throated Hummingbirds

The differences in male, female, and juvenile Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are subtle but if you know what to look for you can identify between the three fairly easily. Keep in mind that from the beginning to the middle of the hummingbird season (mid April to mid July) you won’t be seeing any juvenile birds. After the young leave the nest in July they will be considered an adult bird but with juvenile plumage.

Adult male hummingbirds of course have the ruby throat but it is not always apparently red. In certain lighting or at certain angles it can appear black. Adult and juvenile females have a white throat that is sometimes marked with faint grey or buffy streaking. Juvenile males may also have a white throat like a female, but more often it is streaked to a greater or lesser degree with black or green.

Tails are also a good way to tell birds apart. Adult males have a more forked tail with pointed outer feathers that are solid black. Females and juvenile males have a blunt rounded tail that is mostly black with white tips to the outer feathers.

Both sexes, adult and juvenile can vary slightly in size and weight depending on the time of season however it is not uncommon for birds to almost double their weight in August and September in preparation of the fall migration.

Adult male Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Notice the difference in the male and female tails. The male is forked where the female is blunt with white tipped feathers.

Adult female Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Notice the light spotted throat compared to the male on the right.

This adult female is showing off her more blunt tail with white tipped feathers. The male is more forked and lacks the white.

In some lights the throat of the adult male can appear black.

Juvenile male with his ruby throat beginning to come in.

Visit the Warner Park Nature Center Saturday August 25th for their Hummingbird Celebration.

Visit the Warner Park Nature Center Saturday August 25th for their Hummingbird Celebration.

Click here  for more info on the Warner Parks Nature Center's Hummingbird Celebration.

Click here for more info on the Warner Parks Nature Center's Hummingbird Celebration.

Celebrate Hummingbirds at the Warner Park Nature Center August 25th from 9:30 am to 2 pm.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are migrating South. Celebrate our smallest bird with local nurseries and other groups dedicated to conserving hummingbirds. Nashville Natives, Kona Ice, The Wood Thrush Shop and the Bellevue Branch of the Nashville Public Library will also join us to celebrate. All ages are welcome, and no registration is required. 

Hummingbird Happy Hour

The Warner parks have been conducting bird research since the 1930's. Today, Park staff and volunteers conduct extensive banding and bird counts, and take part in Project FeederWatch, a survey of winter bird populations across North America conducted by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada.

Join the Warner Park Nature Center for the second annual Hummingbird Happy Hour on Friday, September 7, 2018 from 6:00pm- 9:00pm. Proceeds from ticket and art sales will support the Bird Information, Research and Data (B.I.R.D) programs, keeping these programs free and available for schools, families and Park visitors.

Tickets are available for purchase at the Warner Park Nature Center or online through the Friends of Warner Parks website. Click Here to purchase tickets.

Spring migration

Cerulean Warbler

Cerulean Warbler

Spring migration is in full swing which means there will be a lot of interesting birds to see if you spend a little time looking around your yard, or at any of our wonderful parks and green ways. Get your binoculars out and your ears ready because the neo-tropical migrants are passing through or arriving in middle Tennessee everyday on the way to their summer breeding areas.  Warblers, Vireos, Tanagers, Swallows, Hummingbirds, and many other species are there for the viewing if you try.  Early in the morning, between 6 am and 10 am are best to see some of the mentioned birds because many of them migrate at night then settle down in the mornings to feed and rest.

The first Ruby-throated hummingbirds to arrive or pass through TN are just about a week away. Usually one, maybe two hummingbird feeders at this time of year is enough.  Don’t bother filling your feeder to full capacity at this time as the feeders are of little interest to them this early.  

At your feeders expect to see the always popular Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Indigo Buntings.  Of course American Goldfinches are here in abundance year round but are now beginning to put on their bright yellow spring plumage.

For daily sightings reports of migrating birds you may want to subscribe to TN bird list, or visit Tennessee Birding on Facebook.

Richard Connors spring birdsong workshop is open for enrollment.

This class is designed for those who have had a beginning class, or already have some basic knowledge of our birds, although beginners will be welcome. Emphasis will be on bird identification by song, "birding by ear", as well as by sight. Participants will be trained for finding and identifying birds by song, especially those colorful songsters the wood warblers, some of whom are seasonal migrants and only stay for a brief visit. Radnor Lake is the perfect place to find and study songbirds, and we will take advantage of this with instructor-led bird walks specifically for this class.

Class dates: TUESDAYS April 10, 17, 24, & May 1, 8, & 15  

First meeting:  TUESDAY April 10, from 10AM – 12:00 noon, in the visitor center meeting room Radnor Lake State Natural Area, 1160 Otter Creek Rd., Nashville. Subsequent Tuesdays will begin with early bird walk.

Bird walks before class starting Tuesday April 17, begins at 7:30 AM. With classroom study from 10 AM to 12 Noon. The morning walks will continue thru May 15, with the last class room session May 8th.

There is a $75 fee for this 6-week class, with a portion of the fee going to Friends of Radnor Lake S.N.A.  Class size limited to 20 participants.

CONTACT RICHARD TO REGISTER for the class, not the park.  email Rconnorsphoto@aol.com, Home/office 615 832-0521, or mobile 615 330-7142 (call or text)

See this page for more information: http://www.pbase.com/rconnorsnaturephoto/bird_class_2018