Trees near the hotel in Oak Grove, KY 3-15-10
The sun shone brightly as we left the hotel in Texarkana, AR and headed east to Oak Grove, KY. I watch for birds out the windows as Gus drives. The landscape before me amazes me. I had expected to hate Arkansas and instead I am delighted! This place is beautiful! I watch as creeks flow through woodlands, and green fields roll to the horizon. So much of what I see reminds me of New England where I grew up. Even as the clouds gather and the light dims, I enjoy the drive across Arkansas.
We get off the interstate highway in Tennessee and travel the back roads through small towns to Oak Grove. The hotel we booked is a dive with holes in the walls and the sheets and dusty old pillows. It is late at night when I finally see the place and I am so tired that I just fell into bed. I was thinking of asking Gus to switch hotels in the morning no matter how much it cost. However, I awaken early this to the sounds of birds outside my window. Dressing quickly and warmly I exit my room on the second floor to a vacant lot before me and agricultural fields rolling away towards the road.
The vacant lot and the agricultural field are separated by a hedgerow with tall trees and brush. In the vacant lot the weeds and grasses have grown wild and untamed, the fields are mowed short and turning green. A large puddle has formed at the edge of the dirt in the vacant lot, and all the trees and bushes and grass are full of birds. At that monument I decide I will stay in this room. I want to see the birds!
Of course, my primary reason for being here is to see Alex, Diane and the new baby, but I did my research on eBird before arriving here and I know that NO ONE has counted birds in Christian county KY so far this year. Every bird I count matters. It may be the only data that eBird gets for this county this year! I already have my bins on with my pen and notebook in hand. Though the day is gray and drippy and cold, I stand on the second floor balcony and count birds. I quickly discover that this set-up is perfect. The balcony acts as a blind. The birds are used to people walking by under the rooftop, and so do not flee when they see me.
I hear field sparrows calling from the weeded field. I see cardinals, robins, starlings and house sparrows. I count a song sparrow, a killdeer and an eastern meadowlark. Then, in the midst of all the other sounds I think I hear a bob white call! I scan the agricultural fields looking for movement. I listen to hear it call again, but it never does. Was it my imagination? I do not have Bob White on my life list, though I grew up hearing and seeing that species as a child in Connecticut. How I would love to see that bird. But though I wait and wait, I do not see that bird today, or any other day while I am here.
When Gus gets up we drive onto Main Street looking for someplace to eat breakfast. Gus notices a large flock of turkeys in the field. He turns the car around for me and parks on the side of the road and I count birds.
We find a local restaurant called G’s Pancake house. We decide to eat there because we call our oldest son “G.” I count the birds in the parking lot on our way into and out of the diner. Since we sit near a window, I count the birds from there. I see mourning doves, a mockingbird, a blue jay, 2 crows, 4 starlings, 10 common crackles and 3 house sparrows.
We stop at Wal-mart on the way to Alex’s house. I count 1 ring-billed gull, 2 killdeer, 1 robin, 1 mockingbird, 3 red-winged blackbirds, 5 starlings, 10 house sparrows and 30 rock pigeons there. All day long, where ever I am, I count birds in Oak Grove, Kentucky. Over the course of our 3 days I see blue birds, turkey and black vultures. I see mourning doves and blackbirds everywhere. Monday is our last morning here. Alex had to go back to work this morning but he will be home for 1 ½ hours at lunchtime. So, while he is at work and Gus is sleeping in, I finally decide to get down off the balcony and take a walk in the fields.
The sky is gray as it has been every day that we have been here. Though my pictures won’t be great, I take my camera with me anyways and walk quietly along the hedgerow. Cardinals and sparrows fill the foliage. Blackbirds line the utility wires or feed in the field. I still hope to find a Bob White, but no luck. The earth is damp and soft beneath my feet. The misty air makes me feels as if I am moving in a dream. All my senses are on alert and I watch and listen for birds. I find white-crowned sparrows and song sparrows. I see and hear field sparrows. A killdeer calls and then flies by. Eastern meadowlarks sing from a weed and an eastern towhee appears briefly in the brush before me. I find Carolina wrens singing in the trees, and then a hawk flies over my head and lands in the tall trees near the hotel.
At first I think it is a Cooper’s Hawk with its long and banded tail, but after I see the photographs I am doubtful. Is it a red-shouldered hawk? I haven’t decided yet. If you think you know, please tell me! Whichever species it is, I believe it is a juvenile due to the vertical streaking on the breast. At the far end of the field I near a marshy area I find a fox sparrow, and then a swamp sparrow! I have been gone quite awhile and I sense it is time to head back. My journey across the field was slow, but now I walk briskly back to our room. I know it is time to go and say good-bye.
We savor the last hours with our son and his wife and our new little grand-daughter. I carry her outside with my bins hoping to infuse her with this love of nature and birds. Then we gather on the front porch for family photos and hug and say good-bye. I will not cry. Not now. Alex will be going to war soon. I do not know when I will see him again. But for his sake, I do not cry. I choke, but I do not cry.
Gus stops at the gas station near the highway to fill the tank for our trip to Alabama. It will only take us 3 hours to get there. While he gets gas, I count birds. I will not cry. 1 turkey vulture, 2 killdeer, 1 red-winged blackbird, 2 starlings, 2 rock pigeons, 2 house sparrows, my last count in Kentucky. I will not cry.
In the end I added counted 29 species in several locations in Oak Grove Kentucky. For the moment they are the only birds counted in Christian county, KY. I do hope that some one out there will add to this information. You may not think your one little birding list will matter, but it does!
Birds seen in Christian County, KY March 12-15, 2010:
- American Robin
- Mourning dove
- European Starling
- Field sparrow
- Song sparrow
- Northern Cardinal
- red-winged blackbird
- Eastern meadowlark
- House sparrow
- Wild turkey
- Turkey vulture
- Blue Jay
- American Crow
- Northern Mockingbird
- common Grackle
- Ring-billed gull
- rock Pigeon
- Eastern bluebird
- House finch
- Red-tailed hawk
- Black vulture
- Cooper’s hawk*
- tufted titmouse
- Carolina Wren
- Eastern Towhee
- Fox Sparrow
- Swamp Sparrow
- White-crowned sparrow
*This data will change if it is determined this is a red-shouldered hawk or some other species.