We’re passionate about birds and nature. That’s why we opened a Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop in our community.
7240 Kingston Pike, Ste. 164
Knoxville, TN 37919
Phone: (865) 450-8858
Fax: (865) 450-8857
Email: Send Message
Mon - Sat: 9:30 am - 5:30 pm
Sun: 12:00 pm - 4:00 pm
As I took my bird feeders down for the night, to protect them from raccoons, a White-throated sparrow belted out his song as though celebrating his roost as dusk settled in. He continued for only a few refrains, but I found the song so welcomed, as much a part of autumn and the coming of winter as the leaves that have been tumbling off the trees today.
Though the White-throated sparrow frequents my wooded yard in the winter, I've met many of the other wintering sparrows during bird-banding sessions at Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge where they rely on the grassland habitat at the refuge to sustain them through the winter.
A Swamp Sparrow's wing is being examined by the banding team for aging.
Among these birds are the Savannah Sparrow, the Fox Sparrow, the White-crowned sparrow and the Swamp Sparrow. Members of each of these species have arrived for this wintering season, showing up at the banding station, and helping the banding team record valuable information about their site fidelity and the relative age and health of the individual, and ultimately telling us more about the species population in general.
Always, as I watch the birds being processed, I marvel at the beauty of the feathers on their backs and wings. This is the part of the sparrow that gives them the tag "little brown job". At a distance, sparrows often do look brown or gray, a non-descript blend of neutrals except for a few distinctive black or white markings on the head or throat of some species. And this is a good thing. It enables the bird to blend into its habitat practically unnoticed by predators.
A banded Savannah Sparrow, ready for release, shows the rich shades of rust,
brown and black in its back and wing patterns.
But what appears to be muted and dull from a distance is anything but that at a closer range. The feathers on the back and wings of a sparrow are rich with color and contrast, intricately woven into a tapestry in shades of brown, gray, tan, black, cream, white and rust.
Bird banding continues at SIWR throughout the year under the leadership of Mark Armstrong, Master Bander and president of the Knoxville Chapter of the TN Ornithological Society. Banding site locations at the refuge vary during the winter months in order to gain information about birds that prefer different habitats.
As November progresses, early morning banding session can be uncomfortably cold, but that doesn't dampen the enthusiasm of the bird-banding team. In addition to the camaraderie of team effort, the desire to spend intimate time with birds and the knowledge that information gathered can contribute to helping a species, is enough to energize this hardy group of volunteers.
The November/December issue of the Tennessee Conservationist magazine includes my article entitled, Tracking the Birds of Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge. In this article, you will find more details about the conservation efforts at the refuge and how bird-banding gives us information about our state's birds.
If you aren't a subscriber to this award-winning magazine, you should be. Published six times a year, the magazine focuses on natural and cultural conservation throughout the state of Tennessee, as well as, featuring great places to visit in Tennessee's outdoors.
A glimpse of the article as it appears in the magazine can be viewed in my blog post, Tracking the Birds of Seven Islands. To see more about my experiences at the refuge visit Hiking Seven Islands on this website and my posts on bird banding at Vickie Henderson Art.
For the latest on my discoveries in nature, both in my backyard and in other favorite places join me at Vickie Henderson Art where I share bird lifestyles through my camera's lens and my art, and Vickie's Sketchbook, where I share more about sketching and painting and what makes this intimate interaction with nature so gratifying.
Remember to tell the teachers you know that Operation Migration's Whooping Crane Activity Book is distributed free to educators for their classrooms. Visit the link to look inside and learn how the come-back story of Whooping cranes can not only encourage children to use their imaginations, but teach them how imagination can help save an endangered species.