I walked the grounds at the Chattanooga Nature Center and Reflection Riding. The day began with a sighting of two barred owls circling in the woods just above the boardwalk wetland. Another participant commented that they had nested here. Over the years, I have been well aware of territorial and nesting activities in these woods. We saw no activity at the Red-shouldered Hawk nest.
I also got good looks at a Red-tailed Hawk and a Palm Warbler, and brief looks at several species of Warblers and a Goldfinch. We got a nice view of a Blue-gray Gnatchatcher carrying a caterpillar. Both species of vultures and a Broad-winged Hawk circled overhead.
Virginia Bluebells were in full bloom. Shooting Star, Blue Star (dog bane), and at least three species of trillium, including the Yellow Trillium (T. luteum) bloomed. Jack in the Pulpit still bloomed at Freeman’s hollow.
Later that day, I visited the heronry off Amnicola Highway. Three adults stood near nests, and two sat on nests. They should have laid eggs by mid-March, according to the Tennessee Watchable Wildlife web page. With a short incubation period (less than a month), there should be young in the nest by mid-April. Those currently sitting may be late breeders, possibly disrupted by the storms that knocked down the nests in February. If I am still here at this time next year, I will have to pay more attention to this heronry in February and March.
I found very little happening at Amnicola Marsh. A few coots paddled about in the shallows, black bodies with white beaks. Two male Red-winged Blackbirds flew past, very agitated and very vocal. One returned, possibly having resolved a territorial dispute.
At the heronry nearly all nests were occupied, perhaps a sign of my early arrival (about 8:00 AM). Three herons appear to be sitting on eggs, and some nests have two birds present.
One heron launched off and flew in a circle with his neck extended. This is known as the nuptial flight, He landed back on the nest and began a courtship display. He stretched his neck and pointed his beak first skyward and then over his back. He performed several of these stretches , accompanied by shakes of his chest and neck plumes, which are quite wispy looking when a bird is in breeding condition. His head plumes were as long and dark as any I have seen.
A female bird attempted to land on a branch near the nest where he displayed, but another, which had been watching from a lower branch, squawked and chased her off. This second female then also flew off, perhaps to hunt. Several others began to disperse for morning hunting.
Late in the evening, nearly sunset, two Bald Eagles circled low over the meadow and forests near my home. They were quite vocal. Hope they come back this evening.
The blackberries are in full bloom in the meadow above my house. I thought we might loose them with the frost earlier this week, but both they and the dogwoods came through unscathed.