Birding and BBQ, Perfect

Bates Birding hobby Jan 2015

Birding has been a hobby I have enjoyed since my late teens.  I thought that leaving our countryside home in 2007 to move into a dense city neighborhood would mean leaving frequent bird sightings behind, but I’m happy to say there are many birds here and I have even seen new varieties to add to my life list.  For instance, this winter I have seen a Golden Crowned Kinglet two different times near my bird feeder. I’m still waiting for a Rose-breasted Grosbeak to visit our yard, however.

For those wanting to see many bird varieties including the migratory 4’ tall Sandhill Cranes, and other birds whose habitat is in or near the water, I recommend going to Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. Just an hour and forty five minutes down I-65, in Decatur, AL,  I’ve been told it has better viewing than the Soddy Daisy, TN site, and it’s a half hour closer.  I went to Wheeler on January 10th of this year and was thrilled to also see a pair of Whooping Cranes.  Most cranes are gone by mid-March, but with so many other birds to see, I think it would be a good place to visit at any time.  There is a good visitor center and an indoor viewing room where you can be out of the elements when needed.  It has walls of glass, a microphone mounted outside bringing the bird sounds in, and bleachers to sit on to enjoy the view.  We had a special treat as we watched a pair of bobcats on the far shore through a scope, soaking up the winter sun, playing and grooming.  Wheeler has walking trails and if you like to check out the local flavor, go into town about 3 miles and visit Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Restaurant.  BBQ is my favorite food group and they did not disappoint with an extensive menu of sides as well.  For dessert they have delicious lemon meringue pie, among other sweets.

I’d love to hear what you are seeing at your feeder.

About Renee Bates

Renee is an artist focused on growing a newfound ability to express herself through oil painting, recently leaving her role as executive director of the non-profit Greenways for Nashville to pursue art and product development. Renee likes being in nature, hiking, birding, and working in the garden. Married to David Bates of Bates Nursery and Garden Center, she appreciates that the legacy of the 3rd generation business was begun in 1932 at the height of the depression by a savvy woman, Bessie Bates.

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Photo:  Sandhill Cranes,

US Fish and Wildlife Service

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