Monday, January 17, 2011

The Cherokee-Crane Days Festival (More Photos)

I arrived at the bluffs at the Cherokee Removal Memorial Park viewing area in Meigs County around noon on Saturday. A friend, Melinda Welton (an extremely knowledgeable ornithologist and long-time Tennessee Ornithological Society member, as well as, a highly regarded Tennessee conservationist), was there with her spotting scope. Melinda has been spearheading efforts to help educate the public about TWRA’s proposal to change the status of the Sandhill Crane to a “game bird” in Tennessee.
Later I drove over to the TWRA viewing area about a mile up the Hiwassee River. Much of the water visible there was frozen; as a result, there were very few ducks around to be seen. The field west of the viewing area and the field across the river did have thousands of cranes. I spotted a few Canada Geese, a Great Blue Heron, and took a photo of two Ross's Geese in flight (see previous post) with some Sandhill cranes. I saw four Bald Eagles (two of which were immature) in the distance and two immature Red-shouldered Hawks – all were too far away to take a decent photograph of them.

I then drove around and across the Hwy 58 Bridge to the other side of the Hiwassee River where I was able to walk to the edge of a field with thousands of Sandhill Cranes. On my way back I took a photo of a Northern Harrier that flew across the road nearly at eye level no more than ten yards from my car.

When I returned to the TWRA viewing area it was late in the day. After spending a couple hours there, I decided it was time to find lodging for the night.

Early the next mourning I drove to the end of old Blythe Ferry Road on the west side of the Tennessee River. I spent a couple hours there taking photos of several hundred Sandhill Cranes that had congregated along a backwater area for the night. Later I would learn from Cyndi Routledge that a Whooping Crane was spotted during that time on Hiwassee Island from the bluff viewing area at the Cherokee Removal Memorial Park. Cyndi was able to take some magnificent shots of this highly endangered bird.

Returning to the TWRA viewing area across the Tennessee and along the Hiwassee, I crossed paths with Melinda Welton again. She was there allowing visitors to view cranes and other waterfowl with her scope. Melinda informed me that she had an extra ticket for a boat tour at 1:00pm that would take us around Hiwassee Island.

She introduced me to David Trintly and Mike Nelson (both are expert birders) from Knoxville, informing me that they too would be going on the boat tour along with Cyndi and Steve Routledge from Clarksville.

At noon we headed for the boat dock at Sale Creek (Hamilton County). We boarded the Blue Moon for our river tour. I would highly recommend taking the cruise! The Blue Moon Cruise tours will continue until February 26. Click here for more information.

The boat is very large with an upper deck. You may choose to view the scenery and birds from inside or outside. There are two naturalists on board who are very familiar with the area and are able to spot and identify the numerous birds you will see.

One of the highlights of the trip was the Bald Eagle count. We saw at least 28 Bald Eagles – 7 adults and 21 immature eagles . 
After heading North up the Tennessee, we turned east and went up the Hiwassee River as far as the Hwy 58 Bridge. It was there with the aid of binoculars we were able to see the white crown of a mature Bald Eagle sitting on a nest in a tree on the north side of the Hiwassee River.

During the trip we saw thousands of Sandhill Cranes (8-10 thousand), several thousand Mallards around the island, a lot of pairs of Bufflehead, a very dark Peregrine Falcon, some Herons, Cormarants and a Mute Swan.

Here is a list of birds we saw compiled by David Trintly: 

Canada Goose
Mute Swan
American Black Duck
Green-winged Teal
Canvasback - 39
Ring-necked Duck
Hooded Merganser
Pied-billed Grebe
Horned Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle - 28 imm - 7 ad
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Peregrine Falcon
American Coot
Sandhill Crane
Ring-billed Gull
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Blue Jay
American Crow
Carolina Chickadee
Carolina Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
American Robin
Eastern Towhee
Northern Cardinal

Very Important Meeting

This Thursday (January the 20th) the Wildlife Committee of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission (TWRC) will vote on their recommendations concerning whether Tennessee should initiate a hunting season on Sandhill Cranes in the winter of 2011/12.

The Committee's recommendations will most likely determine the outcome of the full Commission vote on January  21st.

The Tennessee Ornithological Society (TOS)  believes that "the fall arrival and over-wintering of tens of thousands of Sandhill Cranes in Tennessee should be celebrated as a wildlife spectacle and a Watchable Wildlife viewing  opportunity.”

Please plan to attend the TWRC  Wildlife Committee meeting at TWRA at 1:00pm in Nashville on Thursday at the Region II Ray Bell Office Building, 5105 Edmondson Pike  37211 on the Ellington Ag Center campus.

A large number of hunters and their supporters are expected to attend this meeting. We need a large turn out to show the Commission that there is serious opposition to making the Sandhill Crane a "game bird."


From I-65 south of downtown Nashville, take the  Harding Place exit (78-A) and go east.  Just past the railroad  overpass, turn right (south) at the light onto Trousdale Drive.  Stay on  Trousdale until you come to a 4-way stop at Hogan Road.  Turn left onto Hogan  and continue to a "T" intersection at Marchant Drive.  Instead of going  through the Ellington gates here, turn right onto Marchant and follow it through  the center to a 3-way stop. Turn left and the Region II Office Building will be the first building on the right, the one with the bright green  roof.

If you're coming from Edmondson Pike on the east side of Ellington,  after coming through the gates of Ellington and getting to the 3-way stop, go straight, and the Region II office will be the first building on the  right.


Owen said...

Dee, fantastic, two monumental posts here...

The natural world seems far more profound than the political world. Far more beautiful by far.

Oh, and it just occurred to me, if you haven't been there before, there is a wonderful blog for bird pix and other fascinating things at :

Happy birding !

Stickup Artist said...

Man, you are really good at catching those majestic birds in flight! It's also heart warming to see such a nice group of people out there taking it all in and working so hard to preserve the wildlife. Looks like a great event to participate in. Very uplifting to the spirit!

mythopolis said...

What a great little 'get-away'. Wonderful pics. I used to think that the word 'game' meant to be up to the challenge. Now game is about dead meat. Sad. Outrageous that hunters need still another kind of animal to kill. Let's try to save this wonderful bird from being but a trophy on a hunter's wall! Thanks.

mythopolis said...

Shoot with a camera, not with a gun. That way, life goes on.