Critter and bird report

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I belong the Alabama Ornithological Society, which publishes “Alabama Birdlife,” that includes counts of birds by knowledgable Individuals in differing seasons and differing areas of the state. A bird count conducted in June, 2013, in Winston County. Winston County is situated in northwestern Alabama south of the Tennessee Valley. Much of the Bankhead National Forest is n the county, but open areas of farmland also occur in the county.
I found several of the counts in the aforementioned interesting. Twenty-four Bobwhite Quail were seen or heard, as were 90 Eastern Meadowlarks, 39 Field Sparrows, and 152 Eastern Towhees. Thirty five Kentucky Warblers were reported as was one American Kestrel (Sparrow Hawk or Killy Hawk).
In Lee County, at least in the western portion, Bobwhite Quail apparently no longer exist, and breeding populations of Meadowlarks have disappeared. Field Sparrows are not as common as they used to be. I attribute the declines of these species to be the result of imported fire ant predation. State wildlife biologist, Mark Sasser, agrees with me that fire ants caused the disappearance of Bobwhites and Meadowlarks, and for the virtual extirpation of Nighthawks. Fire ants undoubtedly occur in parts of Winston County, but their arrival there was much later than the Lee County invasion. Eastern Towhees still inhabit Lee County, but considerably fewer than in former years. I suspect that insecticidal treatment of foundation plantings around residences may have taken a toll on Towhees. It’s possible that the decline in large grasshoppers may have caused the decline in Kestrels and in another, bird, the Loggerhead Shrike, that relied heavily on large grasshoppers for food food shortage. I once had a pet Kestrel. Each day upon my arrival from school, he would fly down and perch on my shoulder. Together we would walk across a weedy field and the Kestrel  would catch and eat large grasshoppers. Another bird experiencing survival problems is the Loggerhead Shrike. Shrikes rely heavily on grasshoppers for food. My observations lead me to believe these insects are not as numerous as they once were. Observers may recall that large brown hoppers with orange and black wings that would, when approached, take flight and light on bare ground a short distance away. They were among the formerly abundant large large grasshoppers I never see anymore.
Now for a tale that’s hard to believe. I wouldn’t have believed it had it not been relayed to me by a young man, Cole Baker, who lives on our property and whose credibility is beyond reproach. A few weeks ago, Cole told me he heard a ruckus outside his trailer. Il was dark, so he turned on an outside light. The noise was made by two wild animals fighting. No, they weren’t two raccoons or two bobcats, but an armadillo and a possum, and according to Cole, the armadillo was getting the best of the possum. This was surprising because a possum has a mouthful of sharp teeth, whereas the armadillo’s teeth are peg-like and not sharp at all. Cole soon tired of watching the fight, turned off the light and went to bed. That fight may be the only one ever recorded featuring a possum vs. an armadillo.

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