Cindy and I decided to take advantage of the first sunshine in 9 days by driving up to the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge in Meigs County, TN on Friday (Jan 18.) Over the past decade this area has become a main overwintering stop for Sandhill Crane. We had gone up there in mid-November to check them out (and the excellent nearby Cherokee Removal Memorial Park,) and we did get to see a number of the cranes, but none closer than probably 1/4 mile. We were really hoping to get a closer look, and we did, but not quite what we wanted. We saw a couple dozen of these large birds, but none closer that probably 150 yards. After we watched these birds for a while with the couple of dozen other birders there, we went down to Harrison Bay State Park, and photographed some ducks and coots. Here are some photos.
The bird above had flown with others from a group of about 10 across the inlet to another group, leaving behind a compatriot and a lone Great Blue Heron.
A few of the Sandhill Cranes returned to this side of the inlet after a few minutes. Here is the wing flare as one lands.
We headed back south and stopped in at Harrison Bay State Park on Chickamauga Lake (back in Hamilton County, TN.) Of course there are always coots on the lake…
There were also quite a few ducks. Being a beginning birder (I’ve been a “beginner” for a number of years, and figure I’ll remain at that self-evalued classification for several more years) I didn’t understand domestic / wild duck identification, but I suspected that we had a mix here. Some research this morning at Cornell University Lab of Ornithology’s website turned up what I wanted to know – the white and brown ducks below are domestic mallards, probably feral since they are on a large lake. The wild mallard pictured below, mixed in among the domestic mallards and coots, may be a hybrid mix of wild mallards and feral domestic mallards, based on the mottled appearance. Or maybe it’s a juvenile – remember I’m just a beginning birder.
There was also a flock of Ring-billed Gulls on the small bay at the state park. I took a couple of quick snapshots of the flock as it lifted off. Closing out this post with one of those, cropped to eliminate distractions.