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Old Tuesday 24th April 2012, 02:24   #1
woodpeckerwacko
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Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: East Tennessee
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My first Big Day

April 20, 2012

This is the first Big Day that I've done, so there are aspects of it that could have obviously been improved, but I had a great time doing it, and after not seriously birding for a while it did wonders to refresh my "bird brain". The entire day happened in east Tennessee, USA. As you read, (H)=heard (I identified the bird by song/call), and (S)=seen (I identified the bird by sight). I followed all ABA Big Day rules. So here's a complete record of what transpired, and if you have as good a time reading it as I had doing it, you are a happy person indeed.

5:20am, Niota
I woke up at 5:20 and started birding at 5:52. Yes, for a Big Day I should be starting at midnight, but I wasn't sure where to go so early, since alot of places (such as parks) don't open until a certain time. Conditions were good, cool, and partly cloudy, without much wind. The Robins and a few other species put on an enthusiastic dawn chorus. I birded around the house for about 50 minutes in agricultural and forest edge habitat and started off the day with the following species:

American Robin (H & S)
Great Horned Owl (H)
Canada Goose (H, then S later today)
Whip-poor-will (H)
American Crow (H, then S later)
Killdeer (H, then S later)
Northern Cardinal (H, then S later)
Field Sparrow (H, then S later)
Eastern Bluebird (H, then S later)
Chipping Sparrow (H, then S later)


6:50, Athens
Once the sun started to rise a little, I drove about 20 minutes to Athens to stop at Lowe's, a large home improvement store, but the part that interested me was the garden center, an open area where several bird species frequent. After parking I fumbled with my list for a minute while still in the van, then looked up and saw European Starlings. "Okay, there's one species I needed", I thought. I then saw a Northern Mockingbird. I needed both of these species, but they weren't what I came for, since I could see them almost any other place I went. The bird that I really came for ended up standing on the pavement, looking at me from 3 feet away: House Sparrow. "Well, I finished here in about 5 minutes, and I didn't even get out of the van". :

European Starlings (S)
House Sparrow (S)
Northern Mockingbird (H & S)


7:00, Athens
Driving a little down the road, I came to Athens Regional Park, a 100-something acre park with ball fields, walkways, woods, a pond and small river, and the like. I walked along the road that bordered forest going through the park, and along the pond, but no one event really stands out worth writing about. This was however likely my best birding location, partly because it was still morning. :

Common Grackle (S, then H later)
Brown-headed Cowbird (S & H)
Brown Thrasher (S)
Common Yellowthroat (H)
House Wren (H & S)
Great Blue Heron (S)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (H, then S later)
Carolina Chickadee (S & H)
Tufted Titmouse (H & S)
Yellow-rumped "Myrtle" Warbler (S & H)
Blue Jay (S & H)
Carolina Wren (H, then S later)
Downy Woodpecker (H & S)
Mallard (S)
Eastern Meadowlark (H & S)
Eastern Towhee (H, then S later)
American Goldfinch (H, then S later)
Black-&-white Warbler (H & S)
Belted Kingfisher (H)
Mourning Dove (S)
Barn Swallow (S)
Song Sparrow (S)


9:10, Athens
I then went to Knox Park, a very small park with a couple of pavilions, a ball field, and a small driving path. I quickly drove through for a couple minutes, and got one species by ear:

Eastern Wood-pewee (H)

9:20, Athens
Heading roughly a mile down the road, I checked out a non-privately owned natural area. I don't know its name or even exactly what it is, but it consist mostly of planted fields, a pond, a narrow road passing through it, and orange signs that forbid you from walking on the fields. All of the following species were seen at the pond in roughly 20 minutes from the vantage point of my pulled-off vehicle:

Green Heron (S)
Rock Pigeon (S)
Red-winged Blackbird (S & H)
Chimney Swift (S)


9:40, Athens to Niota
Driving back home on Highway 307, I saw a Tree Swallow flying low over a field, but the real interesting part of the drive were the two Bobwhites that I almost hit. I was coming around the corner, and they were sitting on the road right in my tire path (of course), then they flew across the front of me to the other side of the road instead of towards the side of the road that they were closest to. Crazy Bobwhites. :

Tree Swallow (S)
Bobwhites (S)


10:00-ish, Athens
After leaving the house a little after 10:00, I headed back to Athens then drove along Tn-30 towards the Meadow Branch Landfill, hoping to pick up a few species there. BUT, the manager was on break for the next hour when I got there, so I had to save the landfill for another day. But I did see these along Tn-30:

American Kestrel (S)
Black Vulture (S)
Turkey Vulture (S)

11:30-ish, I-75
I took I-75 to reach the next location, and saw one of these overhead:

Red-tailed Hawk (S)

12:20, Watts Bar Dam
I hadn't even planned on stopping at the dam, but it ended up being on the same exit as a location that I had planned on, and I figured that it would be good for a few species. And it indeed ended up being a good stop, as I did get several species that I didn't see anywhere else, but also saw three Ospreys, two of which had a nest in a large power tower and could be heard calling around the nest:

Osprey (S & H)
Double-crested Cormorant (S)
Eastern Kingbird (S, then H later)
Great Egret (S)


1:50, Fort Loudon State Historic Area
Here I spent some time walking a trail and birding around the fort, which is a full-sized replica of an 18th century frontier fort. I also got my first life-bird of the day here, a Red-breasted Merganser, which was spotted way out on the Little Tennessee River. It was so far out that it was hard to see, so I've attached a (not-high-quality) picture so you can judge for yourself if it's a Red-breasted or not, though it was definitely a Merganser. Also, on the trail I saw a Thrush that I wasn't quite able to determine if it was a Gray-cheeked Thrush, Hermit Thrush, or Swainsons Thrush. In the next post I've attached a picture of the Thrush, which I would have gotten a better picture of if my blasted camera had cooperated. :

Red-breasted Merganser (S)
Thrush sp. (S)


4:30, Cherokee National Forest
I got to the ranger station 10 minutes after they closed, so no chance of getting a trail map or knowing exactly where to go. So I drove around the forested roads for a little while while birding by ear. I've attached a brief recording of a bird song I wasn't able to identify while at a stop sign. If you know what it is, I'd like to know (this unidentified species is not included in the count). :

Black-throated Blue Warbler (H)
Red-eyed Vireo (H)


5:17, Tellico Sewage Treatment Plant
The plant wasn't much more than a building, which I didn't really have any way of knowing until I got there, but it was surrounded by some nice fields, where I found my second life-bird of the day: an adult Northern Rough-winged Swallow perching on a power line then on a fence, where I got some nice pictures:

Northern Rough-winged Swallow (S)

Evening, Niota
After getting back home, I birded the fields and forest edge habitat on the farm across the street. Along with the Great Horned Owl and Whip-poor-will, I've only been able to hear, never see, a Woodthrush. I tried to find the one I heard singing today, but just couldn't pin down the location, then it started calling from another spot several dozen meters away. If any body has any tips on tracking down these elusive birds, I'd love to hear it!

White-throated Sparrow (S & H)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (S)
Ovenbird (H)
Woodthrush (H)
Wild Turkey (S)
Pileated Woodpecker (S & H)


Later, I went back to Athens Regional Park and looked (and listened) around until about 10:40, but didn't get anything new. After getting back to the house, I listened until a little past 11:00, but nothing turned up.
So ends my first Big Day. If you think I could have done anything better, I'm always willing to improve. I'm already looking forward to my next (and hopefully bigger) birding challenge.

Total species: 61
Attached Thumbnails
Click image for larger version

Name:	N. Rough-winged Swallow.jpg
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ID:	380400  Click image for larger version

Name:	N. Mockingbird.jpg
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ID:	380401  Click image for larger version

Name:	Red-breasted Merganser 2.jpg
Views:	17
Size:	102.4 KB
ID:	380402  Click image for larger version

Name:	Eastern Kingbird (Watts Bar Dam).jpg
Views:	16
Size:	100.6 KB
ID:	380405  
Attached Files
File Type: mp3 Unidentified song.MP3 (59.9 KB, 17 views)
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Last edited by woodpeckerwacko : Tuesday 24th April 2012 at 13:03.
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Old Tuesday 24th April 2012, 13:23   #2
woodpeckerwacko
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Here's the picture of the Thrush, as well as the Osprey nest (one of the adults is just visible sitting in the nest), and another one of the Merganser, and Northern Rough-winged Swallow.
Attached Thumbnails
Click image for larger version

Name:	Thrush sp..jpg
Views:	15
Size:	99.1 KB
ID:	380452  Click image for larger version

Name:	N. Rough-winged Swallow 2.jpg
Views:	14
Size:	107.8 KB
ID:	380453  Click image for larger version

Name:	Red-breasted Merganser 1.jpg
Views:	14
Size:	129.8 KB
ID:	380454  Click image for larger version

Name:	Osprey nest (Watts Bar Dam).jpg
Views:	14
Size:	95.9 KB
ID:	380456  
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