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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Bird walk and hotspot at Nashville

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January 21st - Priest Lake with Richard Connors

Meet at Percy Priest  Dam at 7:30 a.m.  Dress warmly, bring water and a scope if you have one.  Our focus will be waterfowl.  Last winter we had White Pelicans, and we may also get some of the rare loons in January.  For the last few years there a Peregrine Falcon has been located on this field trip.  Contact Tarcila Fox (littleowl48@gmail.com).  Please put NTOS Field Trip in the subject line.

February 25th - Robertson County with Tony Lance

NTOS will take a trip to Robertson County, which has thousands of acres of scenic farmland.  These fields are home to Horned Larks and Eastern Meadowlarks year 'round, and in the winter they attract American Pipits, Lapland Longspurs, White-crowned Sparrows, Savannah Sparrows, Northern Harriers, and on occasion, Vesper Sparrows, Loggerhead Shrikes, Short-eared Owls and Merlins.  We will explore several quiet, infrequently traveled farm roads by car looking for these species.  A highlight will be an optional walking excursion to Cedar Hill Swamp, one of the few remaining upland swamps in Tennessee, where we will look for Red-headed Woodpeckers and Rusty Blackbirds and the locally rare Brewer's Blackbirds.  Please note that the trip to the swamp will involve walking on and viewing from an active railroad track; appropriate footwear is a must.  We will meet at 7:00 a.m. at the Adventure Science Center and carpool to the Dunkin' Donuts at Exit 24 (Pleasant View / Springfield) on I-24 where we will join Tony Lance, who will lead the trip.  The outing should finish shortly after midday, so be sure to bring a lunch and water and dress warmly.  Contact Tarcila Fox (littleowl48@gmail.com).  Please put NTOS Field Trip in the subject line.

March 25th - Radnor Lake

Meet at 7:30 a.m. in the West Parking lot off Granny White Pike in front of the Visitor's Center.  Radnor is always a good place to find birds.  At this time of year we can have later wintering birds as well as early spring arrivals.  Because of the varied landscape we can get birds ranging from waterfowl, wading birds such as sandpipers, to warblers and other songbirds.  Birds of prey and woodpeckers are common and it is likely we will see other wildlife such as otters and deer.  March weather is unpredictable so dress for the weather, bring water and snacks.  Contact Tarcila Fox (littleowl48@gmail.com).  Please put NTOS Field Trip in the subject line.

1. Radnor Lake

Unequivocally the premier birding spot in Nashville, Radnor Lake State Natural Area provides a diversity of natural habitats ranging from the lake, to streams and sloughs. It even has some of the highest hills in the Nashville Basin.  The lake attracts thousand of ducks each winter and the surrounding woods teem with neotropical migrants during spring and fall migration. 

The 85-acre lake for which the site is named was impounded in 1914 by the Louisville and Nashville Railroad Company to furnish water for steam engines and livestock at nearby Radnor Yards.  Originally intended to provide private hunting and fishing for L & N officials and their guests, it was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1923, at the request of the Tennessee Ornithological Society.  An effort began to save the lake as a state natural area in 1962, when it was threatened by development after its purchase by a construction firm.   In 1973, the Tennessee Department of  Environment and Conservation, with the financial assistance of the Federal Government and thousands of concerned citizens, purchased 759 acres of the Radnor site as the first official state natural area. An additional 130 acres, "the Hall tract", was purchased in 1979. Other additions have been purchased or donated through the years, bringing the total acreage to over 1100 acres.

The Hall Track includes the Jeffries Environmental Center which houses the Ann T. Tarbell Library, which was established as a memorial to longtime NTOS member, Ann Tarbell, as tribute to her diligent efforts to save Radnor Lake. The library contains Ann's private birding library which was donated by her family. Her husband, Stanley Tarbell also established a trust fund for bird periodicals for the library. Everyone is encouraged to stop by and peruse this excellent collection of birding materials.

Click here for more information on Radnor Lake from Tennessee's Watchable Wildlife.

2. Shelby Park and Bottoms

Though Radnor Lake still ranks No. 1 among Nashville birders, Shelby Bottoms with its mixture of hardwood forests and open fields, is quickly establishing itself as a top birding spot. One of the true jewels of Metro’s Park and Greenway system, this 810 acre park offers 5 miles of paved multi-use trails and another 5 miles of primitive hiking trails. Along the trails, visitors can enjoy boardwalks, scenic overlooks, interpretive stations and seven rustic bridges. The area is well known as a haven for migrating birds and other wildlife. Several ponds provide shorebirds, waders and other waterfowl a resting place during migration. In the fall, the many large field produce a wide variety of sparrows and other field species, while the woods are good for neo-tropical migrants during both spring and fall. Shelby Park is also good birding. Black-crown Night Heron can frequently be seen on the lake, as well as Great Blue Heron, Phoebes (which nest under the bridge to the island), swallows and an occasional Greater White-fronted, Snow or Ross' Goose. The many large, old trees throughout the park are good for migrants. A pair of Red-tailed Hawks have nested near the ball fields for several years. 

Shelby Park, one of the oldest parks in the city, was originally operated as a private amusement park, until it went bankrupt in 1903. The park board purchased the land in 1909, and the park was opened to the public on July 4, 1912. Shelby Bottoms was opened to the public on October 25, 1997, as part of Metro's Greenway system.

Click here for more information on Shelby Park from Tennessee's Watchable Wildlife.

3. Warner Parks 

Combined, Percy Warner Park and Edwin Warner Park constitute one of the largest municipally operated parks in the United States, covering 2,681 acres of of wooded hills and valleys. Warner Parks boasts many structures built in the 1930's by the Works Progress Administration (WPA).  These features include seven limestone entrances, two stone bridges, miles of dry-stacked stone retainer walls, a steeplechase course, picnic shelters, scenic drives, overlooks, hiking trails, and bridle paths. The Parks contain a short section of the historic Natchez Trace, part of a vast and ancient network of trails originally used by the early Native Americans. Europeans settling in the Southeast found this trail to lead between what are now Natchez, Mississippi, and Nashville, Tennessee. Two recent land acquisitions, the Birch Reserve and the H.G. Hill track, have added several hundred acres to the parks, including an old growth forest. 

A beautiful new Nature Center offers a wide range of  environmental education programs, educator training workshops, outdoor recreation programs and other special activities for people of all ages, all free of charge. As part of their programs, the Nature Center promotes, and serves as a resource for organic gardening and native plant landscaping. The facilities include includes the Milbrey Warner Waller Library complete with an extensive collection of natural history titles, a working organic garden, a wildflower garden, twelve miles of hiking trails, the Frist teaching pond, and grounds that are landscaped with native plants. The Nature Center also runs several bird related programs, including Feeder Watch and a MAPS project in bird banding.

Click here for more information on Warner Parks from Tennessee's Watchable Wildlife. 

4. Beaman Park 

This wild and rugged land is a unique treasure in Nashville's park system. Beaman Park lies on the Highland Rim, just outside of the Nashville Basin, in the northwest edge of Davidson County. Its terrain features steep, forested slopes, with drier ridge tops and elevations just under 1000 feet. Deep hollows contain pristine springs and streams. Most of the park is drained by Little Marrowbone Creek on the north and Bull Run Creek on the south. The vegetation is incredibly diverse. Oak/hardwood forests dominate the mid to upper slopes while mixed alluvial hardwoods lie in the creek bottoms. A rare community type, known as woodland barrens, occurs and contains post oak trees and native perennial grasses. And there are many delicate bluff communities. Wildflowers abound here, especially in spring, with such beauties as dwarf larkspur, wild geranium, shooting stars, fire pinks, and even the rare lady's slipper orchid. Beaman Park is home to countless other species of wildlife as well. Deer, bobcat, fox, coyote, raccoons, flying squirrels, and bats are some of the mammals here. Dense forests provide shelter for many birds including woodpeckers, thrushes, wrens, warblers, owls and hawks. Beaman Park is a rich, fertile, living laboratory and the potential is great for many new discoveries. For more information see the Beaman Park home page or the Friends of Beaman Park.

A beautiful new Nature Center houses natural history displays, programming space, and a library; a 300 foot accessible boardwalk; grounds landscaped with native plants; and the main trail head for five miles of hiking trails.

The area was once known as Paradise Ridge, and while the beauty of the land might inspire one to envision paradise, the name actually comes from two early settlers, the Paradise brothers.  In the 1970's the 1500-acre parcel that is now Beaman Park was purchased by a group of doctors, known as the Blueberry Hill Partners, who used the land as a hunting preserve. In 1996, the Partners graciously sold their preserve to the Metro Nashville government for roughly half of its appraised value. The land purchase was made possible by a generous gift from Mrs. Sally Beaman in honor of her husband, Alvin G. Beaman, a prominent Nashville businessman and civic leader who served on the Park Board from 1955 to 1963. This wonderful park represents the largest single gift of land in the history of the Metro Nashville Parks Department.

Click here for more information on Beaman Park from Tennessee's Watchable Wildlife.

5. Bells Bend Park

This park is also a part of the Nashville's park system and is just south of Beaman Park. The two parks offer quite different habitats. Bells Bend Park, named for a bend of the Cumberland River, consists of 880 acres of fields, reclaimed pastures and woodlands. Several miles hiking trails and old farm roads are accessible at both entrances into the Park. The Nature Center is located at the second entrance. As along as you are in the area, continue south on Old Hickory Blvd to check out the Sod Farm (Pushpin #6) and a small wet land on the opposite side of the road. Shorebirds may be seen here during migration.

Click here for more information on Bells Bend Park from Tennessee's Watchable Wildlife.

7. Old Hickory Lake 

Old Hickory Lake lies north of Nashville on the Cumberland River. Birding is best in the fall, winter, and spring. There are many access points, but most birding is done on the south side near the dam and along Drakes Creek on the north side. On the south side near the dam, is a swimming beach and  a gravel peninsula  known to birders as Snow Bunting Peninsula due to the presence of 2 Snow Bunting during the winter of 1969-70. Strangely enough, 30 years later, a Snow Bunting was present for a few days on this same peninsula, thus reinforcing the site's name.

Snow Bunting Peninsula is a graveled area which juts out into the lake. A large part of the lake can be scanned from this point, frequently yielding cormorants, grebes, ducks, herons and gulls. To get to the dam, go back to Swinging Bridge Road, turn right and go to the next street on the right (Cinder Road). Follow this back to the water. A large parking area next to the beach provides another access point for scanning the lake. The road to the left leads to the dam. Bear left and continue down to the river below the dam. Black-crowned Night Heron are frequently seen along the bank and in the trees on either side of the river. Gulls are generally present near the spillway. The Nature Trail is also located here.

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