Wildlife & Nature 

The following links lead to some wonderful photos of birds and a great deal of information, courtesy of the U. S. Department of the Interior, U. S. Geological Survey, and Patuxent Wildlife Research Center:

http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/
http://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/id/pictlist.html
 
http://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/id/framlst/infocenter.html

The last one provides a list; you can click on a bird and get not only a photo, but also a wealth of information about the bird and its habitat, as well as a sound clip, in some cases, of its song.

BIRDS OF FRANKLIN COUNTY - THEN AND NOW

The Smith's Longspur 
 

The Smith's Longspur regularly winters as far south as Franklin County. Its summer home ranges from the west side of Hudson Bay to the northern slopes of Alaska. The birds usually migrate in small flocks.

The Bald Eagle

The Bald Eagle can be over 3 feet long with a wing span of 8 feet. The eagle will most likely be seen near Lake Cypress Springs in the winter.

The Wild Turkey

The Wild Turkey can grow up to 4 feet long. Franklin County is the westernmost boundary of their southern habitat. Their habitat is brushy woodland edges, forested swamps and open woodlands, all of which is found in Franklin County.

The Passenger Pigeon 

Of course, there are no more Passenger Pigeons, but the Old Firestation Museum does have a display of their eggs.

The Barred Owl

The Barred Owl is also known as the "Crazy Owl" for its great variety of strange calls. Experienced birders lure them into view by imitating their simpler calls. They can be almost 2 feet long.

The Great Horned Owl 

The Great Horned Owl is common throughout North America year-round. Its call is usually 4 hoots. Squirrels, rabbits, skunks, geese, hawks, and songbirds are on its menu.

The Eastern Bluebird 

The Eastern Bluebird is fighting against starlings and house sparrow for territory. Monitored bluebird boxes are helping the brightly colored birds make a comeback. You will find them year round in Franklin County.

The Painted Bunting 

The Spanish call it the mariposa, or butterfly, for its bright colors. The Painted Bunting is a summer resident of the woods and roadsides in Franklin County. They spend the winters in Florida, Mexico and Guatemala.

The Wood Duck

Hunted almost to extinction for its colorful plumage, the Wood Ducks are rebounding. They favor swamps, ponds and marshes. Usually seen in pairs, they are year-round residents.

The Sprague's Pipit 

Sprague's Pipit is a high flyer and singer, marking its territory with song. It prefers plowed fields and shortgrass prairies.

The Indigo Bunting

Summer pastures and forest perimeters make a contrasting background for the bright blue male Indigo Buntings. Although their songs are less than melodic, they sing well into summer.

The Black and White Warbler 

The Black and White Warbler is not a shy bird. It is a summer visitor to hardwood and pine forests and is also known as The Black and White Creeping Warbler and the Black and White Nuthatch.

The Carolina Paroquet

The Carolina Paroquet was once common in the southeastern United States. The bird became increasingly scarce as deforestation reduced its habitat. Already rare by the mid-1880s, its last stand was in Florida, where, in 1920, a flock of 30 birds was the last ever seen of the only native parrot of the United States. The Old Firestation Museum has one of the bird's eggs.

ON CREATING A LANDSCAPE FRIENDLY TO BIRDS

B. F. Hicks offers these tips scanned from BirdScope, Winter 2007, published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

1. CREATE A SONGBIRD BORDER along a property edge by planting native trees and shrubs that meet the needs of birds throughout the year. Plant one species of thorny tree, such as hawthorn or raspberry, for nesting. Also include evergreens, such as spruce, holly, or juniper, for cover. Plant berry-producing shrubs that will provide fruit throughout the seasons.
2. PLANT LONG-LIVED NATIVE TREES like oaks and maples, where space permits. Such trees can provide food, shelter, and singing perches for birds for centuries.
3. CREATE A BRUSH PILE by saving those branches and tree trunks downed in storms from community wood chippers. Songbirds will find shelter from extreme weather in such cover throughout the year.
4. RAKE LEAVES UNDER SHRUBS to create mulch and natural feeding areas for ground-feeding birds. Earthworms, pill bugs, insects, and spiders will thrive in the decomposing leaf mulch, and will in turn be eaten by many songbirds.
5. REMOVE INVASIVE PLANTS from your property. Learn which species are native and which are not. Most invasive species hail from other continents. Because they have no natural predators here, they often form monocultures and crowd out native species. In contrast, native trees, shrubs, vines, and ground covers typically provide a mix of foods that ripen just in time for migrating birds, and offer better nesting sites.
6. REDUCE YOUR LAWN BY AT LEAST 25 PERCENT to favor meadow plants and taller grasses that provide seeds and nesting places for birds. Cut this meadow just once each year and let the remainder of the lawn grow 3 to 4 inches tall before cutting. Avoid lawn pesticides and wasteful sprinklers.
7. CLEAN OUT OLD BIRD AND MOUSE NESTS from nest boxes in early spring. When setting out new nest boxes consider the preferred habitat for a species, as well as the size of the entrance hole and its distance above the ground.
8. CREATE A BATHING AND DRINKING POOL FOR BIRDS by setting out a shallow birdbath or upside-down garbage can lid If there are cats in the area. Place the pool on a pedestal. Clean it frequently with a stiff brush to prevent algae growth, and replace the water every few days to eliminate mosquito larvae. For greater success, add a dripping device.
9. CLEAN TUBE FEEDERS with a bottle brush and a 10 percent solution of non-chlorine bleach solution. Rinse thoroughly and dry in the sun before refilling. Rake up soggy scent from under feeders that could grow deadly mold. Move feeders within three feet of a window to avoid window strikes. At such close distances, birds are less likely to gather lethal momentum when startled.  The birds will be safer and you'll get a better view!
10. KEEP CATS INDOORS for the safety of both birds and cats. Pet and stray cats kill hundreds of millions of birds in the United States each year, especially in the spring when young songbirds are fledging, often On or near the ground. And cats themselves are safe from cars and predators when kept indoors. 

IVORY-BILLED WOODPECKER SIGHTINGS?

You may have seen this article in The Mount Pleasant Daily Tribune:
"Search for ivory-billed woodpecker to begin anew,"
by Peggy Harris – December 2, 2008*

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Last year, Allan Mueller thinks he saw the elusive ivory-billed woodpecker. The wildlife biologist wants to make sure of it this winter. Mueller plans to head back into the swamps of eastern Arkansas with a scaled-back search team consisting of 26 volunteers and three expert field biologists. Searchers will begin their work in the Big Woods on Saturday. The campaign will run through the bird's nesting season in March and April when the ivory-bill is most active, Mueller said.

Although three previous searches involved more volunteers, more scientists and more time in the woods, Mueller feels confident he and his team will get results. "We're going to find a big black and white woodpecker," he says flatly. The huge bird was believed to be extinct until a sighting four years ago stirred national experts and federal funding to launch a full-blown campaign to verify the bird's existence and study its habitat.

For want of a clean photograph or audio recordings of the bird's distinctive sounds, searchers have been unable to convince fellow scientists that the bird has survived years of land development and loss of habitat.

Over the last four years, The Nature Conservancy in Arkansas, where Mueller is avian conservation manager, along with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and the Arkansas Audubon Society have collaborated to study the ivory-bill in Arkansas and enlist other groups to scout potential habitats in other Southern states.

Besides Arkansas, researchers say the bird has been seen and heard in the swamps of northwestern Florida. A Cornell team will soon begin looking in Florida and travel to Arkansas and elsewhere in the Southeast in hopes of spotting the bird.

Mueller reminds fishermen, hunters and the general public that they can help, too, by calling his office if they have a sighting. An anonymous donor has pledged a $50,000 reward to anyone who leads the team to a live ivory-bill, he said.

The Big Woods swallow up the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge, where kayaker Gene Sparling says he spotted the bird Feb. 11, 2004, and Cornell University experts made subsequent sightings. Since then, searches have been made in about 83,000 of the 550,000-acre woods. The latest volunteers will split up into five teams. A person from each team will search designated areas once a month so someone will be in that locale at least once a week, Mueller said. Searchers will spend at least six hours a day in the woods, including sunrise or sunset, when the bird is most active. They will look for nest holes and for signs of a fresh feeding. Once they identify these, the group will fix a remote camera on them.

Each search team will use a double-knocker to attract the woodpecker. The wooden box is strapped to a tree and hit with hinged wooden dowels to replicate the sound the bird makes with its bill. A CD player will also be used to broadcast the bird's distinctive call and attract the bird.

*Take a look at the bottom of the BOOKS TO READ page on the Nature Conservancy web site for another interesting excerpt on the ivory-billed woodpecker, a story of a sighting by a famous naturalist:

http://www.nature.org/ivorybill/about