Birding - Alum Cave Spring Migrants and High Elevation Specialties

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Wednesday May 15

8:00 AM  –  2:30 PM

Guide: Keith Watson

Meeting location: Sugarlands Visitor Center

Alum Cave Bluff Trail is one of the most exciting trails for spring birding in all of the Great Smoky Mountains.

The trailhead is already high enough in elevation to harbor the usual high elevation specialties such as Winter Wren, Brown Creeper, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Black-capped Chickadee and Common Raven, but at this time of year, migration of songbirds wintering in more southerly climates will be passing through or re-establishing traditional breeding territories along this trail. Blue-headed Vireos will be singing, and the warblers we'll encounter are dazzling: Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green, Blackburnian, Canada, Chestnut-sided Warblers and Louisiana Waterthrush. And with some good fortune, we'll hear or perhaps see Swainson's Warbler and Peregrine Falcon as we near Alum Cave Bluffs!

Over 75 species have been observed on this trail section in the month of May! Almost immediately we should begin hearing birds and as we travel along the trail along the creek, more and more will become evident as we ascend toward the bluffs. At Inspiration Point we should have our best chance at hearing or seeing the breeding Peregrine Falcons that have bred in the area for decades!

Don't forget to bring your camera and weather gear; the views are spectacular and the weather can change quickly. This is considered a moderately strenuous hike and participants need to be able to negotiate rocks and roots and uneven ground surfaces.

Mileage: 5 miles maximum

Activity Rating: Moderate. A medium-impact outdoor experience for someone that is comfortable with physical exertion in spurts or for longer periods of time. This is a hike on mountainous terrain with steep elevation gain and loss. Participants should expect to hike along uneven surfaces and encounter hazards such as exposed roots, rocks, snakes and insects.

What to bring: In addition to plenty of water, an appropriate amount of food for your comfort, comfortable walking shoes and your favorite field guide, we recommend that you bring binoculars, something to take notes with, and bring along a backpack and rain gear. A personal first-aid kit and trekking poles may be helpful as well.

About our guide: Keith Watson, a native to Sevier County, has over 35 years of national (coast to coast) birding experience, including East Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountains. He began birding as a conservationist in the mid-1970’s in Knoxville, TN as a student at the University of Tennessee. While working in several national park units such as Shenandoah National Park, Virgin Islands National Park and more. During that time, Keith had the support of National Park Service management to promote and coordinate bird conservation and partnerships and developed an Avian Conservation Implementation Plan for each national park unit in the southeastern region of the NPS (57). Currently, Keith is leading bird tours for local organizations including, the Great Smoky Mountains Association, Smoky Mountain Outdoors, Buckhorn Inn, the City of Gatlinburg and Wilderness Wildlife Week. Together with fellow birders, he has documented birds never before reported for Sevier County, TN.

Questions about joining this event? Call 436.7318 extension 349 or email Dana Murphy.

Program proceeds are used to support GSMA's mission to support the perpetual preservation of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the National Park System by promoting greater public understanding and appreciation through education, interpretation and research. Thank YOU!