Stephanie and Richard Briggs document the life of the cove

Betty BeanFarragut, Feature

Richard Briggs, heart surgeon, decorated veteran, state senator and sailor of the seven seas, has one of the most interesting resumes of any elected official in Nashville, but there came a time a couple of years ago when he noticed that the first thing his senate colleagues wanted to talk about when he’d report for duty every Monday was Rodney and Dexter and Magnus.

Gov. Bill Haslam with Stephanie and state Sen. Richard Briggs

“Rick said people were coming to Nashville and didn’t want to talk about politics or legislation. They wanted to talk about Rodney. I had no idea of how many people were on there looking,” Stephanie Briggs said.

“There” is her husband’s Facebook page that the two of them share. Stephanie is a ballerina and an avid animal lover and they are both gifted photographers. At first, she said they mostly posted standard political stuff. They picked up more viewers when Richard went off on a sailing trip to the Arctic Circle and Stephanie posted his reports and pictures.

Around that time, a neighbor alerted them to the drama unfolding in the cove outside their lakeside home, and they began to post pictures of birds. Soon Stephanie decided to get a better camera to capture the action, and now she takes as many as a thousand shots a day, which she spends hours inspecting and cropping.

Rodney coughs up a fishbone

They decided she needed to name her feathered neighbors, starting with the big blue heron Stephanie initially thought was a beautiful blue swan swimming in the cove. She wanted to differentiate him from the green and crowned herons who were more transient visitors but found herself a little bit stumped.

“Then one day my painter showed up – his name was Rodney – and it just fit. I said ‘I’ll call the blue heron Rodney.’ The little kingfisher (another year-round neighbor) is such a spitfire, so he became Dexter.”

Simon the cormorant makes a landing.

Magnus means ‘great’ in Latin, and since the osprey is the biggest thing in the cove except when a couple of eagles drop by, he became Magnus. The cormorant, a fulltime fisherman, she named Simon.

Soon their friends knew the stars of the show by name and were also treated to shots of the supporting cast, which includes a pesky crow named Jake, a beautiful purple finch, a green heron, the eagles and a crew of hummingbirds whom Stephanie talks to on her balcony.

Unnamed purple finch

The Briggs Facebook page continues to pick up followers, including Stephanie’s niece, a graphic artist and Academy Award-nominated animator who works for Disney in Los Angeles. The two have been talking about collaborating on a book about the birds of the cove.

Richard is running for re-election this summer and spending a lot of time campaigning door-to-door. Meanwhile, Stephanie will keep the long-lensed Nikon focused on an unseen world.

A snack for Dexter

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