[TN-Bird] Ring-biled Gulls and Bald Eagles

  • From: "Ron and Dollyann" <aves7000@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "TN-Bird" <TN-Bird@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 8 Feb 2010 21:29:25 -0500

Yesterday Dollyann and I wanted to kill some time before the commercial-laden 
Super Bowl, so we went birding east of Knoxville to see if I could get some 
photos of Bonaparte's Gulls around Cherokee Dam, on the border of Jefferson and 
Grainger counties. We were out there a week or so ago and saw about 2000 
Bonaparte's just below the dam and in the general area. It was raining that day 
so photography wasn't in the cards. True to form yesterday, we saw virtually no 
Bonaparte's Gulls anywhere around the dam area, either below it or on the lake. 
We saw a huge concentration of gulls sitting on the far shore across the lake, 
so there may have been some there. 

Not wanting to give up so soon, we then decided to drive north on highway 375 
(look at page 60 of the DeLorme Gazetteer) to see if we could find other areas 
to view the lake and maybe find some photo-able gulls. We came upon a place 
called the May Springs campground. We drove in a ways and found a large group 
of about 150-200 Ring-billed Gulls working a narrow slough beside the road. I 
think the slough was pretty shallow, as the group of gulls would all fly back 
out towards the lake and a nearby marina, then, en mass, turn around and fly 
back up the slough. Once they got about half way up the slough they started 
plunge-diving and catching what I assume were shad minnows. I thought this was 
pretty interesting for two reasons. First, they were working as a group, like 
pelicans or dolphins, herding the minnows up the slough into shallower waters. 
Secondly, they were plunge-diving into the water to catch the fish. I don't 
know that I've ever seen a gull do this. They would plunge head-first into the 
water all the way to the tips of their wings and then bob back to the surface, 
sometimes with a fish and sometimes not. 

We then drove over to the Douglas Dam area, in Sevier County. Not much was 
happening up on the lake itself, so we went to the camground area below the 
dam. The dam was releasing lots of water and the river was moving swiftly. 
Dollyann noticed what appeared to be about a 4th year Bald Eagle (mostly white 
head but still some black streaking on the crown) sitting in the trees on the 
opposite bank. Before long we saw a second eagle, and then shortly some more. 
In all, we counted 6 Bald Eagles along the trees on the opposite bank from the 
campground. This was the most Bald Eagles I've ever seen at one time in this 
part of the state. Not much else around but there were also about 30 Great Blue 
Herons in the vicinity.

You just never know what you're going to find when you go birding! Ain't life 

Great birding,

Ron Hoff and Dollyann Myers
Clinton, TN

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