Birding by Bus - Foothills Parkway West

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Friday May 3

8:00 AM  –  2:30 PM

Guide: Keith Watson

Meeting Location: Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center - Townsend, TN.

This birding adventure will be a memory that lasts a lifetime! A great trip for beginning to advance level of birders. 

We'll begin our group journey with a quick meet & greet and then promptly board a comfortable transit bus provided by Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center operating from Townsend, TN. As the bus takes us along the recently opened Foothills Parkway West section of road, our driver will stop along the way so we can spend time birding at scenic overlooks, forest edges and grassy slopes. These locations can attract a wide variety of migrants and we should be able to see and hear plenty of our permanent resident species such as Carolina Wren, Carolina Chickadee, Northern Cardinal, Eastern Towhee and Song Sparrow.

At this time of year, migrants will be coming from the south moving north to breed, so we should see plenty of warblers, vireos, tanagers, and flycatchers such as Northern Parula, Ovenbird, Black-and-white-Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, Red-eyed Vireo, Blue-headed Vireo, Eastern Wood-Pewee, and Broad-winged Hawks as well.

Birding this location will be spectacular and exploring this newly accessible region should prove to be a delight for our eyes and ears. If we time permits, we will explore the parkway toward Look Rock.

If you record your bird sightings, bring a notebook or use the free mobile app eBird on your mobile device. This will be an easy day no extended walks. Please bring extra water and snacks and watch the weather! We go rain or shine!

Other highlights may include the potential for spotting wildlife, wildflowers and mountain scenes.

Mileage: 3 miles maximum

Activity Rating: Easy. This is not a hike but we will be exiting and entering the bus regularly for short walks. We may also be walking on uneven surfaces with trip hazards such as exposed roots and rocks. 

What to bring: In addition to plenty of water, an appropriate amount of food for your comfort, sturdy walking shoes, your favorite field guide, binoculars and notebook, we also recommend you bring along all-weather gear, sunscreen and a backpack to make getting on and off the bus easier. 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, Annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage in GRSM. Together with fellow birders, he has documented birds never before reported for Sevier County, TN.

Special message for members: Your Great Smoky Mountains Association membership entitles you to a $25 discount on Branch Out and Hiking 101 programs! Already registered your email and need to sign in to join an event? Click HERE. Haven't registered your email, yet? Click HERE

Questions about joining this event? Call 865.436.7318 extension 349 or email Dana Murphy.