[TN-Bird] Red Crossbills & etc. (GSMNP)

  • From: <birder1@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <tn-bird@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 28 Sep 2003 21:53:58 -0500

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Coming off of a hard stretch at work, I decided to accompany my wife to
the Knoxville area very early Saturday morning. After getting her to her
destination  at 07:30, I took out for a day in the mountains. I try to
get over at least once a year, and it looks like this is it for this
year. The weather was pretty nasty, as was the migraine headache that
finally forced me back down for a LONG, miserable drive back to

The majority of the day was wet and foggy, which I did quite a bit of
hiking in anyway. I was hoping for a few year birds, and wasn't
disappointed. I got 4 birds for the year, but not necessarily the ones I
was expecting.

The Alum Cave trail is usually productive for me, but not very this
time. The only one of my expected target birds for the trip
(Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Common Raven,
Black-throated Blue Warbler) that I encountered were a couple of
Black-caps. Warblers were nowhere to be found, as I am getting
accustomed too.

Finally, about the time the weather hit in the higher elevations, I
began encountering Warblers, especially Tennessee's. I saw by far more
Tennessee's than the rest of the species combined, with 9 in one tree at
the same time. Other warblers were Black-throated Blue (only 2 though?),
Magnolia (several), Chestnut-sided (only 1), Black-throated Green (1),
Palm (1), Bay-breasted (several), Blackpoll (1), and Cape May (1).
Several feeding flocks of warblers and Black-caps were encountered in
the fog and mist, and I'm sure I missed several species. Blue-headed
Vireos were singing several locations, and my target Red-breasted
Nuthatches were easily found by following the "tooting".

Common Raven is a bird I've always been able to come across up here, but
I wasn't surprised when the weather shut me down on this species. About
mid-day a migraine started coming on, which I didn't have anything for,
and brought me down the mountain. I stopped for a brief look at Newfound
Gap, and on the way back to my car I noticed a small finch fly into the
top of a conifer. As hoped, it was a nice male Red Crossbill. Shortly
afterwards it flew, and was joined by two others that were nearby, but
silent. Upon flying they called, and called the remainder of the time I
saw them. There wound up being at least 8 Crossbills in the area,
loosely split up into 2 groups. There were 2 adult males, 1 nice orange
subadult (I assume) male, and at least one pretty fresh juvenile with
strong streaking on the underparts. These birds hung around the area for
several minutes, long enough for me to get my camera and get some
mediocre shots. At one point 3 of the birds were at eye-level in a tree
not 10 feet away from me, and a male actually flew down and briefly
landed on the stone guardrail not 5 feet from me! There were many people
within a few feet of this bird, it's ashame none of them noticed that a
neat bird was in their midst. They were still frequenting the parking
lot vicinity when I left. This is only my 2nd encounter with Red
Crossbills in TN, the 1st time being 1983 at the Alum Cave Bluffs. I'm
always looking and listening for them up there, but I guess they found
me this time. The excitement of the Crossbills momentarily lessened the
effects of my headache, but only briefly. Another memorable day in the
Smokies, one of these days I'll make it up to Roan Mountain.

I have added a couple of shots of the Crossbills to my webpage, under
the "Uncommon to rare birds (vol.3)" album, at :

Good birding!!

Mike Todd
McKenzie, TN
Carroll Co.

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