Hopefully a bit of additional information about conditions for the
Burrowing Owl at the New Johnsonville Power Plant in Humphreys Co. I am not
meaning to step on any toes here. All the credit for finding this viewing
area goes to Victor, Ruben, and Alan Troyer. Thanks!!!
When you get off highway 70 onto the ramp that goes to the New Johnsonville
power plant, you will circle around up and over highway 70. As soon as you
go over hwy 70, take the first left. This is Herbert road. You will go
straight for a bit until Herbert Rd. goes 90 degrees right. ON your right
is a long mound of sand/dirt, etc. that is about 25 feet high that has been
there long enough for weeds and some small trees to grow on it. On the left
of Herbert Rd. is what I call a lay-down yard that has a ton of what looks
like aluminum or concrete ingots that are stacked up awaiting shipping. Go
to the end of the dirt hill on your right, Plenty of parking here. Just
make sure you park off the road as it is very busy at times.
Dollyann and I walked around to the back of this dirt mound until you start
to see some weeds growing. We found it easiest to climb the hill here but
you can climb up it in several places. Go up to the top. Go to the right
about 10 feet and you should see where a lot of the weeds have been scraped
off the ground. We set up our scope here. From here, you look off to the
left (as you are facing the power plant). You can look between the 2
tallest trees on the other side of Herbert Rd. In the lay-down yard there
is a large sand mound that resembles an Egyptian pyramid. When we were
looking at the owl site from here, the very top of the sand pyramid was on
the left edge of our scope view. This view, for us, gave us the fewest
branches to look through and we had a pretty good view of the white rocks
that the owl seems to perch behind when it has been in view. I think Victor
was a bit further to the left for his viewing and that is fine as well.
The entire viewing area is only about 30-40 feet wide at best. There is a
gravel road just in front of the perch it has been using. About 20 yards or
so to the right is a small trailer of sorts (maybe a temporary small
office?) with a blue port-a-potty on the right. To the right of this
trailer is a very long, white tank that looks like 3x a normal propane tank.
There is a black pole with a white plastic top that is near the white
rocks. This pole has an orange, plastic safety chain attached to it and
goes left about 12 ft. to a similar pole. Both of these poles are to the
left of where the owl has been seen.
When we were there Monday afternoon and evening, a TVA security guard truck
kept passing by the area and at one point the guard got out and looked like
he tried to take a photo of the owl. So the guards are aware there is a
rare owl there, but by constantly driving by they might be worrying the
bird. Last night the guards drove past without stopping so maybe the
fascination with this rarity has passed for them. We did not see it last
night until the 11th hour, 59th minute, and 45th second (or it seems so).
Our light was nearly gone before we finally saw the owl.
Final note. When 7 birders tried for it Tuesday morning, the skies were
overcast. That means at first light, around 6 am, it was still too dark to
see anything until about 0620 or so, and maybe by then the owl had already
come back to its roosting area. If the skies are clear you should have
enough light by 0600. Also there are 7 more minutes of light with each
passing day, so it should be light enough somewhat earlier, maybe even 0545.
The original photo of the owl by the lady who found it, shows the bird in
some weeds in a ditch, so I am not sure there is a burrow as such. It may
just be roosting in the ditch like short-eared owls do in the winter.
Either way, none of the ditch can be seen from the dirt mound.
A large dose of patience and maybe multiple trips may be necessary to see
this gem, but so far it is hanging out. If anyone needs more info. you may
call me at 865-567-9679.
Good luck and great birding,