Friday, June 30, 2017

Birding on Roan Mountain, Carter County, Tennessee

Tennessee is lucky in geography for birding. Being 400 miles from one end to the other we form a long fence for bird life to fly over whether migrating north or south or just deciding to stay for the winter or summer.

At the west end, at the lowest elevation is Memphis and the birding areas along the river from below Memphis, in the back water of the Mississippi, to Reelfoot Lake in the northwest corner. At our end is the Roan Mountain massif. It is a fair day’s drive from here to Memphis. At the Rhododendron Gardens you have vista to the east that is as good as any.

In between is “middle” Tennessee with plateau, mountains, rivers, small farms, rolling hills, and lovely scenery. Tennessee is noted for it’s river systems that feed the French Broad, the Tennessee, and eventually the Ohio. The Cumberland Plateau is halfway between Knoxville and Nashville extends from the Kentucky to Georgia.

We usually bird from Carver’s Gap, where you can park and access the Appalachian Trail. Southbound on the AT takes you to Roan High Knob through fir and balsam forests that are aromatic, dark, and lovely. Northbound takes you out onto the balds, the clearings that afford a view to either side and up and down the trail. It is nothing short of magnificent. As someone said the other day, “This is the most beautiful place to bird.” Amen.

In this picture, we’re northbound on the trail from Carver’s Gap, looking northerly for Vesper sparrow. It rained that day just as we got back to the car. Still, be sure to take your sunscreen.

You might note that we are standing on the trail. The deck is large gravel through this part, easy walking, a day hiker’s delight.

Take a lunch. Walk out to the overlook. All that forest land is pretty much out of production so that which we enjoy needs our protection. The view is not free. Enjoy the gardens but be sure to pay your fee.

Individual birders in Carter County annually report over 200 species. There are 70 years of consistent sightings. The most recent count (Twenty-fourth Annual Carter County Count) caught 123 species. Not just on the Roan, of course, but Holston Mountain, the Blue Hole, Stoney Creek, TVA Watauga Lake, Wilbur Lake, the Doe River Gorge, Twin Spring, Hampton Creek Cove, and Sycamore Shoals State Park. From 6,200 feet to 1,400 feet. That’s as good as the Smokies and that has some of the best birding in the world.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Accipiter cooperii at the Mall

I got lucky the other day. In the morning about ten o’clock or so I was headed someplace apparently that took me by the Johnson City Mall, on North Roan Street. Where ever I was going required that I turn down Mountcastle, past Bojangles, past Bowman’s Jewelry new outlet. There on the right, where Bowman’s iron fence separates their property was a Cooper’s hawk enjoying the sunshine.

To get the picture, I had to keep an eye on him, turn right into the mall, go twenty yards to turn right again to get to the entrance into the parking lot in front of Dick’s Sporting Goods, and then another into the parking lot itself and then aimed towards where the Cooper’s was sitting on the fence, all the while, not causing an accident and keeping my eye on the hawk.

I had to get out of the car and open the trunk and fumble to get camera bag out and the camera out out of the camera bag (danged zippers!) and turned on and zoomed and aimed and all that while he sat tapping his talon in exasperation that I couldn’t get my act together. He was patient.

This shot is from under the trees of a parking island and about as lucky as I’ll ever get. We have regular sightings of Cooper’s and Sharp-shin accipiters as well as many of the other hawks. At Winged Deer Park is a Bald eagle’s nest which is also viewable via the webcam sponsored by ETSU.

This one was just not expected.