[TN-Bird] Birding across Roan Mountain with Western North Carolina Bird Club

  • From: "Robert Biller" <merlin42@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "Bristol-Birds" <bristol-birds@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>, "Tn-Bird" <tn-bird@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 29 Jun 2005 00:51:30 -0400

This is a report for Birding on Roan Mtn, Saturday June 25 with birders from
Western North Carolina and Senator Joe Sam Queen.  It is quite long, so I
thought I should put at the beginning that you can go straight to the end if
you like just to see the bird, butterfly, and plant lists.

Rob Biller
Elizabethton, TN

From the Journal of Rob Biller

Birding across Roan Mountain
with Western North Carolina Bird Club and Their Senator

June 25, 2005

The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy?s Seasonal Ecologist, Nora
Schubert, picked me up at 7:15am and with one quick stop for gas and coffee,
we were on our way to meet the Senator Joe Sam Queen and the rest of the
birders from Western North Carolina.  We arrived at the Creekside Restaurant
in Bakersville, North Carolina around 8:20am.  Thinking we must have
miscommunicated about the meeting location (because of the lack of cars) we
gingerly step inside.  A quick scan of the main dining area told us that
those scattered in the immediate dining area were not with the birding
group; most looked to be small families.  On our way out the door, Nora asks
the young girl by the cash register if there have been any bird watching
groups in the restaurant earlier that morning.  I braced myself for the
blank stare, the puzzled look, and the repetition of the word ?Bird
 Watcher,? as is usually the case.  Instead, and to my surprise, she said
that someone had just asked a similar question and they had stepped in the
back for a moment. Then, another moment later, we meet our first birder from
Western North Carolina.  We all sat down and ordered coffee and biscuits
until the rest of the group arrived led by the Senator and his wife, Kate.
After the greetings and all the introductions were made, we were ready to do
some serious birding on Roan Mountain.

Because we were on the North Carolina side of Roan Mountain, we decided to
start at Carver?s Gap.  This high elevation start to the morning had some
definite possibilities for a good start.  Nora lead us on a quick loop on
part of the Appalachian Trail from the road to the parking area restrooms
where we sample Red-breasted Nuthatch, Canada Warbler, Golden-crowned
Kinglet, Veery, Winter Wren, Pine Siskins, and a single, female Red
Crossbill. We arrive back at the parking area where we find a Chestnut-sided
Warbler singing along with an Appalachian race of the Dark-eyed Junco.  Next
we hike up Round Bald where we find more Chestnut-sided Warlbers, Juncos,
Cedar Waxwings, a houseless House Wren, and a Ruby-throated Hummingbird
checking out the purple bloom of the Catawba Rhododendrons.  At Engine Gap
we reached our hiking prize of a couple of endangered Gray?s Lillies, but
were not rewarded by their bloom.  They were in the bud stage and would need
a little more time to muster enough energy to open their beautiful
orange-red bloom.  The Flaming Azaleas were enough of a reward as they were
still in full bloom.

Next we carpooled down the Tennessee side of the mountain to a favorite stop
known as Hummingbird Hill.  While I was speaking with the people who live in
the large A-frame house, the group had a Buteo that they could not get a
handle on.  Some were going with immature Red-tail and others thought
Broad-winged, but it would officially be written down as Buteo species.
Here we were also treated with the full song of a Veery?s flute (instead of
just the ?veer? we heard at Carver?s Gap), and a Least Flycatcher.  We were
also delighted with a well concealed Dark-eyed Junco nest.  The nest was
located in the garden of the local resident and contained three babies
securely huddled together.

For lunch we stopped at the Twin Springs Recreational area of the Cherokee
National Forest.  Having the whole area to ourselves, we are able to add to
our list Ovenbird, Blue-headed Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Hairy Woodpecker, and
Downy Woodpecker.  From here we would drive to Hampton Creek Cove, a very
special place on Roan Mountain.

Hampton Creek Cove is a 693-acre Tennessee designated Natural Area on the
Roan Mountain Massif.  This large tract of land is home to the National
Historic Overmountain Victory Trail, a major restoration point for Eastern
Brook Trout, nesting area for the declining Golden-winged Warbler, and an
150-year old farmstead that is still maintained by a caretaker that keeps
with all the cultural traditions of working the land.  Hampton Creek Cove is
the largest, non-federal tract of land that belongs to the highly
significant and important Highlands of the Roan; and, because it is such an
important area, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) worked
with the previous landowners to protect the tract of land.  After acquiring
the land, the SAHC sold the land to the state of Tennessee in 1986 with
leases and agreements in place to allow SAHC to continue to monitor and
manage this naturally and historically significant land.  A large portion of
the Seasonal Ecologist?s duties for SAHC is to help manage, maintain, and
monitor the Hampton Creek Cove Natural Area.

As we entered the Natural Area, Senator and Overmountain Man Club member Joe
Sam Queen gave the bird group a brief history of the trail and the men who
made it historic.  It wasn?t long after that we were seeing lots of
butterflies.  The Silver Spotted Skipper must have just exploded on the
scene as they were everywhere.   Fritillary Butterflies of the family
Nymphalidae were also quite popular and abundant.  The Butterfly that got
most people?s attention though was the Painted Lady.  Everyone rushed over
to see this little beauty.   We had a nice bird list as well. A
Golden-winged Warbler was heard singing but would only give brief
appearances to tease us, other birds included Gray Catbird, Tree Swallow,
Least Flycatcher, Yellow Warbler, Eastern Wood Pewee, White-eyed Vireo, Wild
Turkey (and young), Indigo Buntings, Acadian Flycatcher, Eastern Bluebird,
Eastern Towhee, Hooded Warbler, Downy Woodpecker, Veery, Wood Thrush, Song
Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Canada Warbler, Red-eyed Vireo, Barn Swallows,
Red-winged Blackbirds, and a couple of Northern Bobwhites.

After leaving Hampton Creek Cove, we added Black and White Warbler and
White-breasted Nuthatch at a brief stop in the Roan Mountain State Park
Campgrounds.  Then at another brief stop at Jack?s Grocery in Burbank, TN we
added Chimney Swift, and House Sparrow.  Our final stop was at Golden-winged
Warbler Curve.  I named this long curve just above Burbank this because I
have gotten Golden-winged Warblers at the location many times before, but it
is also just a good birding stop in general.  While we don?t hear or see any
of the curve?s namesakes, we do add to our list Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

All that was left to do was compile our list. (See below for complete bird,
plant, and butterfly list.)  We used Carver?s Gap overflow parking to
fellowship about the bird, plant, and butterfly highlights that were spotted
that day and the good time had by all. Nora handed out SAHC brochures and
explained how individual memberships to the Conservancy and donations
greatly contribute to the protection of land on Roan Massif.  She went on to
explain how there are volunteer summer workshops that the SAHC performs on
Roan Mountain to keep the blackberry at bay over the balds or helping to
clear the Overmountain Trail in Hampton Creek Cove.  Many thanks go to Nora
Schubert, Senator Joe Sam Queen, and his wife Kate for a tremendous trip
over my favorite mountain in Tennessee.  Also thanks to Beth Brinson for
sending the trip list and for her extreme knowledge of flowering plants.

After picking up Nora?s car in Bakersville, we return to Carver?s Gap and
make the turn to check out a few specialties at the highest elevations on
Roan Massif.  We were happily surprised to discover two to three more
Endangered Gray?s Lillies budding out and the equally endangered Roan
Mountain Bluets just starting to bloom.  Other high elevation plants
included Tassel Rue, St. John?s Wort, Lesser Stichwort, Common Cinquefoil,
one of the two high elevation species of Ragwort, Canada Mayflower, Mountain
Bluet, and the endangered Spreading Avens (Geum radiatum).

Rob Biller
June 26, 2005

Authors Note: As I sat in my car at Hampton Creek Cove parking area writing
the above entry I heard/saw the following species of birds: Yellow Warbler,
Least Flycatcher, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, American Robin,
Red-winged Blackbird, Mourning Doves, Song Sparrow, Common Yellowthroat,
Gray Catbird, Indigo Bunting, Cowbirds, Eastern Towhee, Blue Jay, Wood
Thrush, and Cedar Waxwings.  After the rain quit, a brief walk into the
lower part of the cove added Northern Bobwhite and a Golden-winged Warbler.
A brief conversation with Nora would add Alder Flycatcher to the 2005
Hampton Creek Cove bird list.  She had run into Fred Alsop as he exited the
property earlier in the day and told her about a singing Alder Flycatcher
which she also heard.  Fred has had them in the cove before but not for a
couple of years or so.

Bird List:

Turkey Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk
Wild Turkey
Northern Bobwhite
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Acadian Flycatcher
Least Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
White-eyed Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
House Wren
Winter Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Gray Catbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Golden-winged Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Black-and-White Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Hooded Warbler
Canada Warbler
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Red Crossbill
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

Notable Plants:

Catawba Rhododendron
Flame Azalea
American Mountain-ash
Thyme-leaved Bluets
Purple Bluets
Three-toothed Cinquefoil
Rough Cinquefoil
Common Cinquefoil
Green Alder
Skunk Currant
Golden Ragwort
Robbins'/Schweinitz's Ragwort
King Devil
Michaux's Saxifrage
Mountain Wood Sorrel
Canada Mayflower
Gray's Lily (bud)
Mountain Cranberry
White Madder
Lesser Stitchwort
Black-eyed Susan
Ox-eye Daisy


Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Cabbage White
Clouded Sulphur
Orange Sulphur
Azure sp.
Great Spangled Fritillary
Pearl Crescent
Painted Lady
Silver-spotted Skipper

Thanks also go out to Nora Schubert and Christine Carrico(Mom) for proofing
this long entry and correcting my many errors.  Thanks!

Rob Biller
Elizabethton, TN
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