[TN-Bird] Big Sandy to Paris Landing (10/13/03) long

Big Sandy & vicinity, Britton Ford Unit TNWR, Paris Landing area
Henry/Benton Counties
10/13/03

Highlights:

American White Pelicans
American Avocets
Lesser Black-backed Gulls
Laughing Gull


With another somewhat unexpected day off, I decided to make my usual
rounds in Henry and Benton Counties as opposed to a trip northwest to
the Reelfoot area (I feel that trip coming on though).

I began the morning in Big Sandy, at a secluded and now mostly dry flat
just west of town. This did produce my 1st Solitary Sandpiper in the
last couple of weeks. From here I went to the old ferry run at Danville.
I was turned on to this area by Jeff Wilson, and it can be very
productive. This area is obvious on the DeLorme (page 50), as it is the
levee that extends about 3/4 of the way across the river, and can be a
nice magnet for migrating passerines. Today was the best day I've had
hear this fall. In the 1.5 hours I was in the area this morning, I
counted over 500 Blue Jays passing overhead, all traveling southwest.
It's a neat feeling to be in a quiet area, to all of a sudden hear a
sudden "whoosh" of wings, and have 15-20 Blue Jays drop in literally
right on top of you. They were typically traveling in groups this size.
Several times I looked up and had Jays dropping in on me, and also had
groups higher overhead that weren't coming down yet. In this same
timeframe I had over 30 Flickers making the same movement.

My time spent in this area made it clear that the winter birds are in
bigtime from the last time I was in the area less than 2 weeks ago. I
got my FOS (1st of season) White-throated, Savannah, and Song Sparrows,
and Yellow-rumped was by far the most common warbler. I had over 30
Myrtle's in this area, along with a sprinkling of Tennessee,
Black-throated Green, Palm, Common Yellowthroat, Pine, Maggie, and a
Nashville. A gorgeous Philly Vireo kept me company for a while as well.

On the south side of the levee, back towards Bass Bay, was a massive
flock of Double-crested Cormorants, easily over 1000 birds, with 30+
AMERICAN WHITE PELICANS. Pelicans are regular along the TN River, but
not near as easy for me to come by as along the Mississippi.

From hear I checked out the flats at Lick Creek. Not much happening
here, but I did finally dig out 3 Wilson's Snipe in stealth mode. This
is usually a good place for Dunlin, but no luck today, nothing else
around but Killdeer. There were 5 Wild Turkey's working the woods along
the edge of the flat.

Big Sandy Unit and Pace Point were next on my list. Chipping Sparrows
and Indigo Buntings seemed to be everywhere in the refuge. Pace Point is
firmly connected to the mainland now, and has been largely deserted by
the gulls, only a few Ring-billed Gulls on around the Point. I had hoped
for a Loon or a few diving ducks, but no luck with either. There are a
lot of Pied-billed Grebes and dabbling ducks working the area of the
point though. Warblers were encountered several locations in nice
flocks, but Yellow-rumped were by far most common. I did get my FOS
Orange-crowned Warbler, and several Bay-breasted Warblers were a nice
change of pace. Ruby-crowned Kinglets are in good numbers now, and
several Blue-headed Vireos were seen as well.

I spent a good bit of time walking fields for sparrows, the big field
below the maintenance area looks very interesting. No luck with "good"
sparrows except for a nice Lincoln's, but I did kick up multiples of
both Sedge and Marsh Wrens, along with good numbers of Swamp, Song, and
Savannah Sparrows, and a couple of House Wrens. A lingering Blue
Grosbeak was a surprise, other holdouts were singing White-eyed Vireo
and Gray Catbird. I do think a little time spent here could pay off with
a Sharp-tailed Sparrow.

After backtracking through Big Sandy, I went to the boat launch that
overlooks the mouth of the Big Sandy. This is a massive area of flats,
and can be very productive. Lots of Cormorants, dabblers (all regular
species except Widgeon and Black Duck) Ring-billed Gulls, and finally a
few shorebirds. Among the Killdeer were a single Pectoral, a few Least
and 10 Dunlin. While going through the distant Gulls, I noticed a group
with a black and white pattern, 4 AMERICAN AVOCETS were feeding among
the gulls and ducks. Also with them was another big bird, a Greater
Yellowlegs. I got very poor, but ID'able shots of the Avocets, from 1/4
to 1/2 mile away (but it's a good thing Avocets are so distinctive!).
The trees here were alive with warblers as well, but mostly
Yellow-rumped.

Britton Ford was next on my list, very few ducks here as well. I spent
more time walking sparrow fields, with about the same results. I did get
my FOS Vesper Sparrow, which obligingly perched in the open in a tree so
I could enjoy it's subtle marks. The flats here held mostly Killdeer,
with a single Least Sandpiper tagging along. I did flush 2 Snipe, which
called repeatedly and then joined up with a nice flock of 30+ Snipe that
came overhead. I think this is the largest group of Snipe I remember
seeing traveling in a while.

Paris Landing would be the final stop on my day, with the Sun dropping
rapidly. The island was covered with gulls, with one adult LESSER
BLACK-BACKED immediately seen resting on the water near the island. An
adult Eagle kept making passes at the gulls and spooking them, but they
finally settled down long enough for me to figure out there were two
Lesser Black-backed Gulls there, the 2nd either a 3rd-winter or adult, I
didn't get a good enough look to be sure. Right as I was leaving, my
final scan picked up an adult-type LAUGHING GULL come in and set on the
water. This could have been the 2nd-winter Don Manning and I saw a
couple of weeks ago at Pace Point, but I couldn't be sure of the age of
this bird from the look I got.

All in all, not a bad day. Total for the day was 96 species, with only 8
species of waterfowl, 8 species of shorebird, 4 gulls (only a single
Caspian in the way of Terns), all 7 Woopeckers, NO swallows, 4 wrens, 9
warblers (well over 100 Yellow-rumped Warblers), and 8 sparrow species.

Good birding!!

Mike Todd
McKenzie, TN
Carroll Co.
birder1@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
http://home.bellsouth.net/p/s/community.dll?ep=330&groupID=116215&folder
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