Some Birding Sites in East Tennessee

(mostly north and east of Knoxville)

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North Shore Boone Lake, Sullivan County
Kinser Park, Greeneville, Greene County
Roan Mountain
Musick Campground Sullivan County, TN, and Washington County, VA
South Holston Dam, Sullivan County
North Shore Boone Lake, Sullivan County
DeLorme coordinates page 63, A-5, 6. From Interstate 81, take exit 59 onto S.R. 36 southbound. After 4 or 5 miles, turn left at the traffic light onto S.R. 75. In about a mile you will cross the Watauga River. Then turn right onto Boone Dam Rd. From the first pulloff to the right there is a path down to the river, with good woodland birding along the way. Take the first paved road to the right, which is posted for official business only. As you approach the dam you will see several parking places on the left side of the road. If you park here and walk over to the road leading down to the power house and bird from behind the guardrail, you should have no difficulty. On weekends during warm weather it is a good idea to drive all the way to the last parking place. Straight ahead is an office with a telephone beside the door. Pick up the phone, ask when they will next be generating and request permission to bird from behind the guardrail. In winter there will be about 200 Ring-billed Gulls during generation. Black Vultures roost nearby and Wild Turkey is in the woods. An immature Black-legged Kittiwake was spotted here during the 1995 Christmas Count. In summer a colony of 10-24 Black-crowned Night-Herons fish during generation and hang out waiting the rest of the time. Return to Boone Dam Road, turn right and follow the road to an overlook above the dam, where there may be ducks or roosting gulls. Continue to the Visitor's Center, where there are warm rest rooms and a heated viewing area. Fall and winter is best. White-winged and Surf Scoter have been seen here, as well as Red-throated Loon. During migration there may be dozens of loons or diving ducks. Return on Boone Dam Road, turning right on Minga Road as you pass the gate. You will pass a boat ramp and an inlet, which are dry in winter, but can be good for spring migration ducks in early April. Turn right onto Lakeside Dock Road and turn into the marina (winter) for another overlook. Return to Minga and follow it to a T-intersection with Hamilton Road. Park beside the road at the cemetery entrance and bird the marsh behind you. Swamp Sparrows are here most of the year. In spring and summer there may be rails. Eastern Bluebird, Savannah Sparrow and Palm Warbler are often on the fence around the cemetery. Follow Hamilton around the airport to a stop sign and turn right onto Center Drive at Misty Waters, then turn left when you come to another Hamilton Drive. Turn right onto Lake Breeze Drive and park where it dead ends before running into the lake. Rarities such as Common Merganser have been seen from here. Return to Hamilton Drive and continue around the airport. When the lake is up the boat ramp is worth checking. Turn left onto Muddy Creek Road, checking the area around the dairy farm for mixed winter blackbird flocks. All blackbird species found in Tennessee have been recorded here, including Rusty and Brewer's Blackbird. At next stop sign turn onto Holston Drive, passing Northeast State Technical College, and return to S.R. 75, completing this loop.

Copyright 1995 by James Brooks

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Kinser Park, Greeneville, Greene County
DeLorme Map coordinates: page 62, D2

 How to get there: from the Greene County Courthouse in downtown Greeneville, follow Main Street south out of town. It curves west at bottom of hill. At outskirts of town take S.R. 70 south several miles, turn left at small blue sign for Kinser Park (a large barn is being dismantled on left [east] side of this corner. Follow the small blue signs several miles, through several turns until you enter the park. A yellow sign announces the boat ramp and lake to right are not part of the park, but this is the best birding area. Also, continue past this sign to large blue water slide, turn left onto a gravel track and scan through the trees at the ponds on either side of the road.

 Kinser Park is a family park that is crowded on weekends. Best way to bird here is from a canoe, launched from the boat ramp. It is all still water (don't get too close to the dam) and you can explore up creeks and all the tree-stump backwaters at your liesure with little interference from other people.

 Best birding season: late summer as this is a wonderful area for finding post-breeding dispersal waders. Local contact: Larry and Jo Anne Routledge (BirdRout@AOL.com).

 In the summer of 1995 in August and September the following birds of interest were seen at Kinser Park: immature Little Blue Heron, immature White Ibis, Great Egret, Solitary Sandpiper, Green Heron.

Copyright 1995 by James Brooks

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Roan Mountain
DeLorme coordinates p. 63, D-7 and p. 46, C-1

 Rising to over 6,000 feet, Roan Mountain is a remarkable mix of habitats, ranging from Canadian life zones to Cove hardwood forest. The summit is actually a series of knobs, with the Appalachian Trail marking the state line between Tennessee and North Carolina, and passing along the spine of the mountain.

 From the village of Roan Mountain, turn from U.S. Highway 19E onto S.R. 143, and follow it to the top of the mountain. Carver's Gap is at the state line. To your left, as you approach the gap from Tennessee, the AT winds its way to the top of the balds of the Roan: Round, Jane and Engine Bald. To the right there is a parking lot and primitive toilet and picnic facilities, in a spruce-fir forest. There is also a road on the North Carolina side (gated in winter) that goes up to a massive rhododendron garden. This area is heavily trafficked from mid to late June, as several parking lots at the top testify.

 At the far end of the parking lots, take the AT to the overlook, through fir and hemlock forest, with spongy mossy banks beside the path. This is the easiest place to find Winter Wren on its nesting ground in Tennessee. Flocks of Red-breasted Nuthatch and Golden-crowned Kinglet are common. Dark-eyed Juncos are often abundant.

 Walking the road from the gate in winter, or cross-country skiing after a snow, can sometimes bring up a flock of Evening Grosbeaks or Red-Crossbills. Rare eruptions of White-winged Crossbills have been found here. More likely, you might find Ruffed Grouse.

 Birding around the Carver's Gap parking lot can always be interesting, especially in migration. Flocks of warblers pour through the gap, and nesters here include Alder Flycatcher, Brown Thrasher and Gray Catbird. Northern Saw-whet Owls nest in the fir forest below the gap, and can be heard calling evenings from February through June. It always pays to check out any nest boxes, which are put up for Southern Flying Squirrel, but which the owls find useful.

 A hike across the balds can result in almost any raptor: Red-tailed, Cooper's and Sharp-shinned Hawks commonest, but Golden Eagle has been seen. A colony of Common Raven nests on the balds and can be seen or heard at anytime of the year. Their aerial play is an amazing sight. Snow Buntings have been found on the balds, as have Water Pipit and even Sprague's Pipit (once only)

. Canada Warblers nest near the pulloffs as you start down from the gap, but between milepost 2 and 3 it begins to change from spruce to hardwood forest. Past milepost 3 there is a housing area known as Hummingbird Hill. You can park and bird the side roads here. Least Flycatcher, Ruby-throated Hummingbird and Chestnut-sided Warbler are summer nesters, and at night Barred Owls call.

 Working the pulloffs between mileposts 3 and 7 in spring and summer can bring a nice bag of warblers. Past the town of Burbank, Roan Mountain State Park begins. Louisiana Waterthrush nests in the creek near the campground and the picnic shelter is in a second growth area and former apple orchard that is rich in fall migrants and a nesting area for Golden-winged Warbler, Indigo Bunting and Chestnut-sided Warbler. Just past is the road to the Dave Miller farm where you might see an Olive-sided Flycatcher in a snag atop a tree during the fall. The visitor's center has comfortable bathrooms and vending machines. There is a restaurant in the park and cabins which must be reserved months in advance. The trails behind the cabins offer good spring birding. The Spring and Fall Roan Mountain Naturalist Rallies begin with bird walks at dawn from the grassy fields by the visitor's center, and they can be magical.

Copyright 1995 by James Brooks

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Musick Campground, Holston Lake
DeLorme coordinates: p. 70, D-1

 Sullivan County, TN, and Washington County, VA One of the best-kept secrets in birding, this site not only has excellent water birding with a high percentage or rarities, but it offers you the chance to record a bird in both Tennessee and Virginia. Rarities seen here include Great White Heron (Ardea herodius, white morph) in two separate years, Laughing Gull, Ruddy Turnstone, and in the fall of 1995 a flock of Eared Grebes.

 Follow U.S. 421 out of Bristol, TN, passing the turnoff for Holston Lake Dam, then turn north (left) onto S.R. 44. Take the first right after crossing the Virginia State Line, which takes you back into Tennessee. When the road makes a square turn to the right, go straight into Musick's Campground. The Musicks are members of the Bristol Bird Club, so be sure to say "Howdy," if they are outside (they live in the campground year 'round). Continue straight (and slowly) until you are out on a point.

To your left, Painter Creek flows into Holston Lake. Much of Painter Creek is in Virginia, the state line running diagonally from the point on the far side, to just inside the point on the near side. Almost everything you see in the water from this vantage is in Tennessee.

 On leaving the campground, turn left onto the road, and in less than a half mile there is a new gravel road leading to a boat ramp, providing you with another overlook of the lake.

 Retrace your steps to S.R. 44 and turn right, followed by two right turns on the next available paved roads. This will lead you back to an overlook of Painter Creek from the Virginia side. The road ends at a boat ramp, that also overlooks Virginia waters.

 Fall, winter and early spring are the best birding seasons here. Come late spring the campers and the Jet Skis and speeding boats will send the birds heading for somewhere else. You'll probably want to join them.

Copyright 1995 by James Brooks

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South Holston Dam, Sullivan County
DeLorme coordinates: p. 70, D-1.

 While enroute to the Musick Campground from Bristol on U.S. 421, you will see the TVA Dam sign for South Holston. Turn right onto this road, following it to the left as it forks, until you reach the base of the huge, earth and rock dam. You cross the river below the dam, then turn left and follow the road to the top of the dam. From the overlook you can see up the lake. Gulls, ducks, including Bufflehead, cormorants, loons and Bald Eagle are all possibilities. A 'scope is almost mandatory. Golden-crowned Kinglets are in the pines near the overlook.

 Follow the road across the dam to the picnic area, and bird the second growth at the far end. Winter Wrens are often here in winter. While returning from the dam, there is a small parking area and a hiking trail on the left side of the road, which is good in spring for warblers. The next parking lot going down the hill is a mixed area. Be sure to bird the second growth areas across the road. Almost anything is possible here.

 At the base of the dam, go left and stop near a small cemetery. Bird the small gully for sparrows. Le Conte's and Lark Sparrows were found here in early October, 1995. Also bird the second growth on the other side of the road, and the tree line.

 Continue down this side of the river, birding the side roads, the weir and other targets of opportunity. From Labor Day in the fall until Memorial Day in the spring, you can come to South Holston almost every week and find something different. Combined with Painter Creek you can make almost a full day of birding in this area.

Copyright 1995 by James Brooks

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