When I was sorting out my office files, I got somewhat delayed as I re-read long-saved nature journals and wildlife articles. Before I refiled most of them for future reference, I decided to share a few tales during this wintry week when reports have come about wildlife spotted on our lovely Greenway and elsewhere.
- The first report was about a red fox seen by a family member, who is an avid biker, on the Greenway during a cold, windy ride. What troopers foxes are.
They have no winter dens. They sleep in the open and their home range is only about 2 miles in diameter, according to experts. Their diet consists of mice, rats, rabbits, snakes, berries and other fruit.
- The second Greenway report came from another family member when she was biking. She saw what she believes was a Snowy Egret which was quite a thrill to see.
- Rather suddenly last week many red-winged blackbirds suddenly arrived at my ground feeders. Then I read an article by wildlife author Henry Collins Jr., who explained that red-winged blackbirds "are so gregarious that they are reported on Christmas censuses more than any other species."
- One year ago in December birders spotted a rare hooded crane at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge. This hooded crane is a stranger here and reportedly one of fewer than l0,000 left in the world. The Hiwassee Refuge, near Birchwood, draws hundreds of visitors to watch whooping cranes during their migration and wintering stops annually during this season.
The popular Tennessee Crane Festival is held each January.
- Every year in February the Great Backyard Bird Count, which began in 1977, is conducted across North America. Earlier this year during the four-day February event a total of 17.4 million bird observations on l04 checklists were submitted. The top l0 birds most reported on the checklists were: the northern cardinal; mourning dove; dark-eyed junco; downy woodpecker; American crow; house finch; American goldfinch; blue jay; black-capped chickadee; and tufted titmouse.
- Bees pollinate about a third of our nation's crops, say experts. Earlier this year beekeepers and environmentalists petitioned federal regulators to stop the use of pesticides suspected of being harmful to bees by causing an immune system disorder.
- Famed author Phillip Kennan, in his book, "Birding Across America," has countless fascinating bird facts. For example, larger birds "tend to live longer than smaller birds but 75 percent of birds die in their first year. If they survive that first year, things get better ... Woodpeckers have tremendous influence in the lives of other birds and animals that depend on using woodpecker cavities for nesting, roosting and escaping the elements."
Bluebirds nest in a former woodpecker cavity in a big hickory tree in my backyard.
- Tennessee's bald eagle population peaks in winter due to the birds migration from Canada and the Great Lakes to Tennessee to find their favorite meals of fish. From January to mid-February we have our best chances of viewing these majestic birds. Large numbers are most often seen along low-elevation lakes such as Watts Bar, though Reelfoot Lake is said to draw the most wintering eagles — a tourism draw for that area. Occasionally we would get to see both bald and golden eagles when we lived in the Charleston hills bordering the Hiwassee River.
- The raccoon was adopted as Tennessee's "wild animal symbol" in 1977. Raccoons have always been special to my family and me since I read the book, "Rascal, the Raccoon," to my children countless times, by request, when they were young.
- Skunks deserve much credit for getting rid of many varieties of harmful insect pests, which are a major part of their diets. Skunks are docile animals whose odiferous spray is their sole defense when threatened. Sadly, many are harmed by uninformed people and many get killed on roadways. If a skunk wanders into a garage or outdoor building, don't panic. Simply open the door before dusk and wait until the skunk exits for nightly foraging. Close the door tightly, leaving white flour at the door's opening so you can see exiting footprints. If a pet gets sprayed, the popular concoction currently calls for mixing a shampoo of: 1 quart of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide; 1/4 cup baking soda; 1 teaspoon of Dawn liquid dishwashing soap.
- Have you considered keeping a nature journal? I highly recommend recording birds and animals you are seeing, with the dates included. You may want to make sketches of the birds and wild animals you are seeing, too.
I have found my notations through the years to be good reminders of nature's wonders during every season of the year, and also fun to recall when family gatherings are held.
Paws up this week to: Arlene Faires; Sandra Hooper; Cindy Thompson; Anna Laurie Watkins; Cristi Cabrera; Tracey Wright of Cleveland State; and all who adopted a pet from the municipal Cleveland Animal Shelter with the assurance of giving a long, wonderful life in a forever home.
To reach the shelter at 360 Hill St., call 479-2122. Call me with your pet and wildlife stories, 728-5414, or write to: P.O. Box 4864, Cleveland TN 37320.