Woods Reservoir, Franklin County, TN
3/23/14, 4:00 P.M.
Chasing another lifer...it seems like that's all I've done this year. Nashville birder Jan Shaw reported a Red-throated Loon at Woods Reservoir in Franklin County. She also mentioned that she was 99% sure she a heard a Fish Crow, a very unusual bird for middle Tennessee. Both species would be nice additions to our lists; Red-throated Loon would be a lifer, and Fish Crow a state bird.
We arrived at about 4:00 P.M., hoping there wouldn't be too many fisherman in speedboats on the lake. Coming to a gravel pull-off, we stopped to scan part of the lake and almost immediately found a handsome male Red-breasted Merganser and a couple of stunning Common Loons in full breeding plumage. Uh - WOW!!! As I strained to study distant Double-crested Cormorants (hoping for an Anhinga), I heard a strange noise behind me that sounded something like a weak, nasal yelp. Fish Crow! I started flapping my arms as I usually do when I'm excited and can't find words to express it, probably looking like an over-sized Green-winged Teal in flight with its rapid whir of wing beats. I grabbed my camera and ran to where it was perched high in a sycamore tree. I pressed the video button and began recording the calling bird, just for documentation. I stopped recording early, and just seconds later, a second Fish Crow joined the first, bringing a different variety of "caws" that certainly entertained us viewers.
The daylight hours were coming to an end, so we moved on, now focusing on our lifer Red-throated Loon. We stopped at the Gossick Leadership Center where Jan had originally seen the bird. I took the scope out of the back of our car and scanned every visible area of the lake. Swallows and martins by the hundreds zipped about. The swallows were nearly grazing the water's surface while their cousin Purple Martins preferred the higher altitudes. Coots bobbed like corks near the bank, their red eyes inspecting us curiously and nervously.
Far out on the lake, I came across a small, pale loon, undoubtedly the Red-throated Loon we had been searching for. It looked so small and ghost-white beside the large, glorious Common Loons. Unlike the Common Loons, the Red-throated Loon preferred to just float and loaf. "No diving for me - no, no thank you, " I'm sure he (or she) was saying. As my brother and I took turns looking at our most recent lifer, none other than a breeding plumaged Red-necked Grebe swam right by the Red-throated Loon. They turned and looked at each other, exchanged a brief "Can't wait to get out of here," I'm fairly certain, then continued their ways.
Moving on, we approached another viewing area. From this one you could observe a small island by the name of "Little Elder Island" where herons, egrets, and cormorants gather to breed. I stepped outside, took only a very quick scan, then hopped back into the car. The wind was bitterly cold from that side of the lake.
Finally, we came to our last stop which was just another view of Woods Reservoir, but from a different angle. Many gulls plucked fish and other creatures from the water. They were all Bonaparte's Gulls, and though I could say I was surprised that they weren't Ring-bills, I wasn't, for they were feeding in the "Bonaparte fashion." But it wasn't just the Bonies enjoying this side of the lake. Dozens more swallows and martins dashed in the air. Barn Swallows were the dominate species with Tree Swallows being a close second. One Northern Rough-winged Swallow was among the Purple Martins, these enjoying the snacks close to the water rather than above.
By then the sun had nearly set, and the frigid wind was really getting to me. A wonderful way to add lifer #294 to my list.
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