Birds and Buds: It’s Springtime in Kentucky

by Ken Brooks, Kentucky River Palisades Preserve Steward

The Nature Conservancy celebrates as if it is Arbor Day and Earth Day all year long. However April seems represent a time for being called to appreciate the planet’s magnificence. This is especially true during springtime in the Kentucky River Palisades and a reason why I recently served as a guide to two different groups eager to take in the area’s beauty.

Just last Saturday several visitors, including some of our members and Trustees, participated in the Conservancy’s annual wildflower hike at the Sally Brown Nature Preserve. During the course of the morning they saw more than 20 different flowers in bloom. While all the flowers were wonderful, some were particularly noteworthy this year, including the blue-eyed marys, blue and purple phacelia, larkspur and phlox.

Red Cup Fungus at the Sally Brown Nature Preserve © TNC Staff
Red Cup Fungus at the Sally Brown Nature Preserve © TNC Staff

Our guides that day, volunteer preserve stewards Bill Edwards and Vicki Brooks, also noted a flower never before witnessed at the nature preserve – a green violet. We often see white, yellow and blue violets, but this was the first time for green. There were also a number of trees in bloom including redbuds, dogwoods and buckeyes.

Wildflowers at the Sally Brown Nature Preserve © Erika Nortemann
Wildflowers at the Sally Brown Nature Preserve © Erika Nortemann

For those who couldn’t make it on Saturday, we also placed markers indicating where particularly spectacular wildflowers can be found along the trail, and a flower list at the sign-in station. We encourage people to embark on this self-guided hike until about May 2 when the blooms begin to fade.

Violet at the Sally Brown Nature Preserve © TNC Staff
Violet at the Sally Brown Nature Preserve © TNC Staff

Earlier in the month I also led twelve Audubon Society of Kentucky members on a bird hike at the Sally Brown Nature Preserve. Below is a listing of the species they noted either by sighting or identifying them from their calls.

Birders on Spring Audubon Hike © TNC Staff
Birders on Spring Audubon Hike © TNC Staff

It is interesting to note that the numbers associated with each bird refer to how many of that species were identified during the hike. On that day, participants identified a total of 51 different species. In a hike earlier the same week, we noted 43 species – mostly the same ones. The vast majority of these birds are likely residents rather than migratory. Many reside in the area year-round.

2   Canada Goose
5   Wild Turkey
2   Great Blue Heron
8   Turkey Vulture
2   Red-tailed Hawk
4   Mourning Dove
1   Belted Kingfisher
6   Red-bellied Woodpecker
1   Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
4   Downy Woodpecker
1   Hairy Woodpecker
2   Northern Flicker
1   Pileated Woodpecker
3   Eastern Phoebe
8   Blue Jay
9   American Crow
17 Purple Martin
6   Tree Swallow
7   Carolina Chickadee
13 Tufted Titmouse
1   White-breasted Nuthatch
2   Carolina Wren
4   Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
2   Ruby-crowned Kinglet
2   Eastern Bluebird
4   American Robin
2   Brown Thrasher
2   Northern Mockingbird
2   European Starling
1   Worm-eating Warbler
2   Louisiana Waterthursh
1   Common Yellowthroat
5   Northern Parula
1   Yellow-rumped Warbler
1   Yellow-throated Warbler
2   Black-throated Green Warbler
6   Eastern Towhee
4   Chipping Sparrow
6   Field Sparrow
1   Song Sparrow
4   White-throated Sparrow
1   White-crowned Sparrow
1   Scarlet Tanager
6   Northern Cardinal
2   Red-winged Blackbird
3   Eastern Meadowlark
20 Common Grackle
10 Brown-headed Cowbird
8   Purple Finch
4   American Goldfinch
1   House Sparrow