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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Mississippi birds

We just returned from our annual trip to Mississippi to participate in the homecoming at the church where my parents are buried and to visit my family and lifelong friends there. It was a good trip - lots of friendly people and nice weather. Not unbearably hot as it is in some years.

The roadside wildflowers were at their peak and the bird life was plentiful. I didn't see any unusual birds. Indeed, most of the birds we encountered were ones that I might easily see in my own backyard, although a few of them would be considered unusual.

Notable examples were the Yellow-billed Cuckoos and Great Crested Flycatchers that seemed to be calling from every second tree. Both of them might be seen in my yard but haven't been in 2013. (I did hear one Yellow-billed Cuckoo calling here a few weeks ago.)

Another bird that was very common in north Mississippi where we were was the lovely little Indigo Bunting. In most years those birds do pass through my yard in April, but I didn't see a single one this year. They were busily nesting in the Mississippi woods and their musical songs were heard everywhere.

One bird which I missed during our visit - and I did sorely miss it because it is one of my favorite birds in the area - was the Eastern Towhee, a bird which I still remember by its more descriptive former name, Rufous-sided Towhee.

Eastern Towhee picture courtesy of Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

In most years, I see a number of these lovely sparrow-like birds scrabbling around in the leaf litter on the ground or sometimes singing loudly from the tops of trees, but not this year. I didn't hear or see a single one.

One bird that I was delighted to discover there was the Osprey.

One day on the trip, we went out to Bay Springs Lake Recreational Area on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway and there we encountered a pair of nesting Ospreys. These birds never used to be found in this area when I was growing up. They are flourishing now and that is all credit due to the Endangered Species Act.

The Ospreys and their nest were far out in the lake - really too far for the lens I had on my camera, but, of course, I had to try.

The nest of twigs and limbs was on a structure where barges tie up when they are waiting to pass through the lock on the river. One of the birds was on the nest, while the other circled overhead.

He was keeping a sharp eye on things below and probably looking for a big unwary fish in the amazingly clear water of the lake.

These are very large raptors with long and wide wings which give them great maneuverability in the skies and when they dive into the water after fish.

We watched the birds for quite some time. I saw one make a couple of dives but he came up empty. There are plenty of fish in the lake, so I'm sure they make a good living here.

Another bird which we saw and heard on the lake, one that never used to be in the area, was the Fish Crow. The calls of these birds, a distinctive and more nasal variation on the voice of the American Crow, sounded throughout the woods around the lake. The corvid population seemed about evenly divided between American Crows and Fish Crows.

I enjoyed my visit with the birds of Mississippi, even as I enjoyed my visit with its people. The avian world seems to be healthy and flourishing there and that is always good to see.


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  2. I'm glad you enjoyed a nice trip, Dorothy! Welcome, home! I love your photos of the ospreys. Do you ever see them near your home? Every once in a while, we enjoy them around here.

    1. I wish I could have been closer to the birds - or had a bigger lens - so that the pictures would have more details, but I'm glad I was able to get some usable ones anyway.

      No, there's really no suitable habitat for ospreys right around our home, although I often see them when we visit wildlife refuges in the area where such habitat does exist.