Steve Stedman's 2011 UCR Blog

Items relating to the natural history of the Upper Cumberland Region are the focus of this quasi-blog.  Birds and butterflies are the main focus, but other matters natural occasionally intrude.


31 December 2011

The 16th consecutive and 22nd overall CBC in Somerset, KY, took place today with 78 species being recorded.  Weather for this count was almost ideal, and it was a pleasure to drive 100 miles to Somerset, to bird for 10 hours in clear, warm, nearly windless conditions, and to return 100 miles to Cookeville, basking in the glory of a fine day afield.


23 December 2011

The 9th annual DeKalb County, TN,  CBC took place today with about 82 species being recorded on a chilly day.


21 December 2011

The 6th Crossville, Cumberland County, TN, CBC took place on this date with about 88 species being recorded despite morning rain and afternoon wind.


17 December 2011

The Cookeville Christmas Bird Count (CBC) was conducted on this date; this Cookeville CBC was the 25th consecutively and the 50th overall to be conducted at this site. The species total (84) was well below the species total (96) accumulated last year but a fairly good one for this site.  The most noteworthy birds of the count were 10 Greater White-fronted Geese found by the Hawkins party at Lexus Pond during the count; these geese remained to be photographed the next day. Many flocks of Sandhill Cranes totaling over 1800 individuals were also reported during the count.

The following party leaders, participants, and feeder watchers took part in this event: Wally and Sharon Brines (feeder watchers), Dan Combs (and participant Doug Downs), Ginger Ensor (and participants Janie Finch, Nancy Layzer, and Linda Henderson), Michael Hawkins (and participants Judy Fuson and Peggy Huffstetler), Ed LeGrand (and participant Brad Beatty), Richard Simmers, Jr. (feeder watcher), Barb Stedman, and myself (and participant Sue Pirolo).

You may review the results of the 50th Cookeville CBC at this page of the website:

If you find any errors, please draw my attention to them.


15 December 2011

The 13th Clay County CBC was conducted on this date; about 82 species were counted. Noteworthy species included an adult Black-crowned Night-Heron and a Barn Owl, the latter representing the first record to be documented in the county, as well as on this CBC.


14 December 2011

The 6th Russell-Adair CBC was conducted on this date with 82 species being recorded by eight field observers in four parties.  Noteworthy species included two adult Black-crowned Night-Herons and a Loggerhead Shrike.  The species total tied last year's highest total for this count.


1 December 2011
  • The Winter Season (1 December 2011–29 February 2012) Begins Today

The winter season begins on this date for the purpose of keeping tabs on the birdlife of the Region, an endless task that is, sadly, difficult for many birders to perform on a lifelong basis.


28 November 2011
  • Book of the Season

A segment recently shown on the Nature program portrayed an imprinting study conducted on Wild Turkeys by a wildlife ecologist from Florida named Joe Hutto.  This study as depicted on the program is rather impressive, and I recommend it to anyone interested in birds (and the rejection of stereotypes about birds).

Long before the filming of this imprinting study, Hutto published a book about it—Illumination in the Flatwoods (The Lyons Press 1995; ISBN 1-55821-694-4), which it turned out that Barb had a copy of, so I read it over the Thanksgiving holiday and thoroughly enjoyed it, too.

Both the segment on Nature and the book focus on a number of fascinating insights that Hutto gained by becoming the parent of a couple of dozen turkey chicks.  For instance, the ability of turkeys to detect other living beings in their environment was far greater than that of their human parent, who occasionally walked right by rattlesnakes that the turkeys immediately saw.  Indeed, Hutto was often amazed at how many rattlesnakes inhabited his property; he counted far more rattlers in a few months with the aid of his young turkeys than he had been able to count during many years of living in the same area.

Being with his brood of turkeys allowed Hutto to gain very close access to many wild creatures.  It seems that a human among a flock of turkeys is a much less frightening figure than a human walking alone.

His turkeys taught Hutto how to live in the moment, rather than to be constantly planning for the future as humans, when left to their own devices, so often do (wasting the now in order to be ready for the soon to be now).

Besides having an inherited perceptivity that greatly exceeds that of the most perceptive of human, turkeys also possess some features that are all too sadly human, as Hutto explains when narrating his relationship with one member of his brood—Turkey Boy.  For a time Turkey Boy was the last of the brood with whom ("which" seems like the  wrong pronoun to use here) Hutto maintained connection, until Turkey Boy was well into his second year.  For a time, Turkey Boy and Hutto wandered the woods, with the young gobbler affording Hutto the same greatly expanded access to the natural world that the author had enjoyed with the whole brood.  However, the day came when Turkey Boy suddenly viewed Hutto as a rival male turkey who needed to be vanquished and driven away.  Hutto endured many a violent onslaught from Turkey Boy during this time.  Hutto was finally forced to return violence with violence in order to stop the attacks, but the day he failed to turn the other turkey cheek was also the last day that he ever saw Turkey Boy. How often in our lives have we witnessed the same among our supposed birding friends, whom we have helped along the birding path from initial interest in birds (being hatched as it were) to basic birding proficiency (passing from chicks to juveniles) and then to intermediate proficiency (passing from juveniles to early adults, a most dangerous stage in development) when they believe they have earned far more respect than they actually deserve and when they will turn on you with a terrible ferocity that is hard to deflect in a friendly way.


25 November 2011

A canoe trip down the section of Clear Creek (in the Obed Wild and Scenic River, Morgan County, Tennessee) between the Barnett and Jett access points brought little of an avian nature to light, a turkey flying across the river about 4 miles down from Barnett being about the most interesting bird of the trip.  However, the day was beautiful (clear, little wind, temperature in upper 40s to low 50s F) and the water level was good (2.5 ft at the Jett gage). A good way to work off some of yesterday's caloric intake.


14 November 2011

An Osprey was sighted at City Lake, Putnam County, Tennessee, on this date by Barbara H. Stedman, providing the latest fall departure date for the county. Probably the same Osprey had been noted at this site on 6 and 12 November 2011 as well, so it was clearly lingering.


11 November 2011

I birded in Barren County, Kentucky, with David L. Roemer and David R. Brown today, finding 80 species (1 species only in Allen County). The most intriguing birds of the day were 330 Common Loons counted near the gull roost near Mason's Island on Barren River Reservoir at the end of the day.  We had scoped the same part of the lake earlier in the day, finding only 2 loons at that time, so the influx arrived during the day, an event that Dave recognized as occurring when he sighted loons overhead on two occasions during the day.


7 November 2011

An adult male Ruby-throated Hummingbird present in Monterey, Putnam County, Tennessee,  for about two weeks was banded today by Mark Armstrong of Knoxville; this bird remained until 17 November 2011, setting a new late departure date for the county and the Region.


5 November 2011
  • Rufous Hummingbirds Banded in Barren and Pulaski Counties, Kentucky

The first Rufous Hummingbirds to be reported in Barren or Pulaski counties, Kentucky, showed up in late October (Pulaski) and early November (Barren).  Each of these birds was banded on this date, confirming its first-ever appearance in one of these counties.


14 October 2011

David L. Roemer and I birded Barren Co. (and small parts of Allen Co.), KY, again today, finding 80 species all told (with just one of those in Allen Co.).  Birds of the day were 8 Surf Scoters that flew by as we checked the gull roost late in the day (1730–1830 CDT, putting me home at 2045 CDT), after a day of driving c. 350 miles (96 miles up to Barren, c. 150 miles driving around the lake during the day with Dave, and 96 miles back home).


12 October 2011
  • Le Conte's Sparrow in Warren County, Tennessee

Susan and Mac McWhirter found a Le Conte's Sparrow in Warren Co., TN, on this date, the first of its species to be recorded in that county and just the second ever to be recorded Regionally, the first record having taken place in Smith Co., TN, in 1934.


3 October 2011

David L. Roemer and I birded Barren Co. (and small parts of Allen Co.), KY, today, finding 93 species all told (including 2 species found only in the land part of Allen Co.).

I had to get up at 0400 CDT and drive nearly 100 miles to make it to our meeting place (near the dam at Barren River Reservoir) at the meeting time (0700), but it is always worth such an effort to bird with the Region's premier birder (also Kentucky's premier birder).  No birders can improve as birders if they don't spend time in the field with birders whose field skills are better than their own, so I make a point of getting out with Dave as often as my time limitations and various obligations allow.


28 September 2011

A Fall BirdBlitz was conducted in Wayne County, Kentucky, with 104 species being recorded, including 7 species not previously listed for this county.  These species increase the bird list for Wayne County to 216 species.

The predawn flight of Catharus thrushes was less pronounced this morning than it was four days earlier in Bledsoe County, TN.


26 September 2011
  • Preliminary Maps of Breeding Bird Foray Results Available

Today I completed the last of about 250 preliminary maps displaying results of foray work conducted in the Region as of 2011.  About half of these maps display foray data for 9 of the 16 Tennessee counties in the Region, while the other half display foray data for 3 of the 10 Kentucky counties in the Region. You may access these composite maps via links at this page of the website:

If you are a serious birder, please review these maps and suggest how they might be improved.  The maps are a work in progress and will not be complete until the results of 15 more Regional forays are available, a consequence now anticipated to occur during 2014.

Alert to Winston Walden: the storage fee for the three booklets of foray results that I am holding for you continues to go up each day; please contact me to arrange transfer of these booklets to you and to make restitution for storage.


24 September 2011

A Fall BirdBlitz was conducted in Bledsoe County, Tennessee, today, leading to the recording of 103 species, including 11 species not heretofore listed for this scenic county.  These species bring the county bird list up to 201.  A latish Scissor-tailed Flycatcher was among the species listed.

Flight calls of Catharus thrushes during the pre-dawn hours (c. 0530–0600 CDT) indicated a good influx of these species.  Birders who do not survey the populations of these species are missing one of the more arresting of the vocal spectacles provided by migrant birds in the Region.  And there is always a good chance of finding owls at the same time.  Both the thrush and the owl populations need attention from those who would be considered serious birders, alas, an all too small percentage of the birding population.


17 September 2011
  • Common Tern in White County

While counting birds during the White County Fall Bird Count, Barb Stedman, Janie Finch, and Brenda Curtis found a juvenile Common Tern (replete with carpal bar) at the Randolph Pond in the northeastern part of the county; this record was the first for White County, bringing the county bird list up to 229 species. The species total (108) for this FBC was well below the highest species total (125) for a FBC conducted in the county (during 2010), as well as below all but one of the other FBCs previously conducted there.


9 September 2011
  • Long-tailed and Parasitic Jaegers in Barren County

Juvenile Long-tailed and Parasitic jaegers were found in Barren County, KY, today by Dave Roemer, who later photographed these first Regional record species, which became the 310th and 311th species to be recorded in the UCR. More products of TS Lee.


6 September 2011
  • Red-necked Phalarope in Pulaski County
  • Sabine's Gull in Barren County

A juvenile Red-necked Phalarope was found and photographed in Pulaski County, KY, today by Roseanna Denton; this is the 308th species to be recorded Regionally and the 272nd for Pulaski County. This bird was a product of the passage of the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee through the Region.  Another RNPH was found at the same site the next day.

A juvenile Sabine's Gull was discovered in Barren County, KY, today by Dave and Joanie Roemer; it became the 309th species to be recorded in the UCR. Another product of TS Lee.


5 September 2011
  • Black-bellied Plovers in Pulaski County

Roseanna Denton found and photographed 2 alternate-plumaged Black-bellied Plovers in Pulaski County today, the 271st species to be recorded in that county.


31 August 2011

Barb and I spent half a day in Fall Creek Falls State Resort Park, mainly looking for a Green Comma that was found and photographed there a few days before. We found no comma, but we did run into Julius Basham and friend, enjoying some field time with those two folks.


26 August 2011

I birded many sites in Barren County, Kentucky, today with Dave Roemer; we tallied 78 species.


19 August 2011
  • White Ibis Observed in Pulaski County, KY

Roseanna Denton observed an adult White Ibis in Pulaski County, KY, today; this species became the 270th to be recorded in that county, making Pulaski the county with the longest bird list in the UCR.  Congrats to Roseanna on this and many other nice records from this birdy county.


12 August 2011

I visited Bledsoe County today, searching for the Swallow-tailed Kite that was first sighted 20 July 2011 and for the Mississippi Kites that were first sighted 9 August 2011.  I was able to observe two of the latter species and at least one of the former.  Also saw a juvenile Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.


9 August 2011

Damien Simbeck reported 3 Mississippi Kites in Bledsoe County, TN, today; during the following 10 days or so, other observers viewed up to 10 MIKIs in this county; these were the first fall reports of this aerial insectivore in the Region and the first-ever report for Bledsoe County.


1 August 2011
  • The Fall 2011 Season (1 August–30 November) Begins Today
  • Western Kingbird Added to Scott County Bird Check-List

For the purposes of chronicling the birdlife, the fall season begins today.  As you collect bird data from this season within the UCR, please send it along.

BettySue Dunn—a native of Scott County now working in Austin, TX, where Western Kingbirds are fairly common—recently reported via eBird a sighting of Western Kingbird from her family property in Scott County.  This sighting took place 10 August 2008. It provides just the third UCR record of this rare flycatcher within the Region and first from Scott County. The bird list for that county is now 190 species long. 


31 July 2011
  • The Summer 2011 Season (1 June–31 July) Ends Today

For the purposes of chronicling the birdlife, the summer season ends today.  If you have data from the UCR for this season that you have not already sent along, now is the time.


29 July 2011

Many of the more paranoid members of society in America today live in fear of what they refer to as the "New World Order."  No doubt these folks will see the recent decision of the American Ornithologists' Union (AOU), published in the 52nd Supplement to the AOU Check-List, to change the order, and some of the genus names, of the wood warblers as a further bit of proof that the New World (Wood Warbler) Order is taking shape, and they will run for their lives from this new encroachment on their freedom.  For those whose umvelts (see blog for 1 March 2011 below) allow for flexibility in the names and sequence of the birds, the new order for warblers and the new scientific names for some of them follow:

Seiurus aurocapilla Ovenbird

Helmitheros vermivorum Worm-eating Warbler

Parkesia motacilla Louisiana Waterthrush

Parkesia noveboracensis Northern Waterthrush

Vermivora chrysoptera Golden-winged Warbler

Vermivora cyanoptera Blue-winged Warbler

Mniotilta varia Black-and-white Warbler

Protonotaria citrea Prothonotary Warbler

Limnothlypis swainsonii Swainson's Warbler

Oreothlypis peregrina Tennessee Warbler

Oreothlypis celata Orange-crowned Warbler

Oreothlypis ruficapilla Nashville Warbler

Oporornis agilis Connecticut Warbler

Geothlypis philadelphia Mourning Warbler

Geothlypis formosa Kentucky Warbler

Geothlypis trichas Common Yellowthroat

Setophaga citrina Hooded Warbler

Setophaga ruticilla American Redstart

Setophaga tigrina Cape May Warbler

Setophaga cerulea Cerulean Warbler

Setophaga americana Northern Parula

Setophaga magnolia Magnolia Warbler

Setophaga castanea Bay-breasted Warbler

Setophaga fusca Blackburnian Warbler

Setophaga petechia Yellow Warbler

Setophaga pensylvanica Chestnut-sided Warbler

Setophaga striata Blackpoll Warbler

Setophaga caerulescens Black-throated Blue Warbler

Setophaga palmarum Palm Warbler

Setophaga pinus Pine Warbler

Setophaga coronata Yellow-rumped Warbler

Setophaga dominica Yellow-throated Warbler

Setophaga discolor Prairie Warbler

Setophaga virens Black-throated Green Warbler

Cardellina canadensis Canada Warbler

Cardellina pusilla Wilson's Warbler

Icteria virens Yellow-breasted Chat

And the common and scientific names of the Common Moorhen were changed to, or changed back to in the case of the common name, the following:

Gallinula galeata Common Gallinule


26 July 2011

During the 10th Putnam County East NABA Butterfly Count, I heard a singing Henslow's Sparrow on Green Mountain Rd., providing one of very few records for that county.


25 July 2011

Needing to add Dickcissel to the bird checklist for Morgan County, TN, I predicted that I could hear one singing on Brodio Rd. in the western part of that county, so I made a quick trip on this date and after arriving at that road, drove down it; I was unable to hear a Dickcissel, but I did hear a singing Henslow's Sparrow, which provided the first record for that county.


22 July 2011
  • Tricolored Heron Photographed in Pulaski County, KY

Roseanna Denton found and photographed an adult Tricolored Heron in the Pulaski County Park today, providing the first record of that heron in that county and just the third Regional record.  This species brings the Pulaski County bird list up to 269 species.


20 July 2011

I made a trip to Florida to attend to some family matters and saw a Swallow-tailed Kite about 50 miles north of Tampa along I-75.  Little did I know that the first UCR record of this same species was being made on this date by Katherine Boyles and Louis Bean in Bledsoe County, Tennessee.  This bird remained for several days and was seen by many birders, becoming the 307th species to be documented in the UCR. Ed LeGrand photographed this bird on 22 July 2011.


16 July 2011

Needing to add Dickcissel to the bird checklist for Smith County, TN, I predicted that I could hear one singing on Lover's Lane near Dixon Springs in that county, so I made a quick trip on this date and after arriving at that road, drove down it; within one mile a Dickcissel was heard singing, and two others were found that day on nearby roads, providing the first records for that county.


10 July 2011

Needing to add Dickcissel to the bird checklist for Fentress County, TN, I predicted that I could  turn up a singing Dickcissel on Clear Fork Rd. north of Clarkrange, so I made a trip to that site and heard one male singing and then saw it about a quarter mile down that road, providing the first record for that county.


29 June 2011

I conducted the Sulfur Lick BBS in Monroe and Metcalfe counties, KY, this morning.  Despite the late date, I counted 68 species, most I have counted on this route in the 14 years I have conducted it. 

In all, I completed 7 BBSs (3 in TN and 4 in KY) this season, bringing the total number of BBSs I have conducted since 1975 to 230 (3 in WV, 4 in FL, 85 in KY, and 138 in TN).


24 June 2011

Spent the morning in the Sequatchie Valley section of Bledsoe County with Ed LeGrand searching for Scissor-tailed Flycatchers.  Found one or more individuals at each of four sites where this species has been confirmed to nest in past years, including the original breeding site on Ninemile Crossroad (1 individual, probably a juvenile), the site at Brushy Cemetery (1 adult male, 1 adult female, and 1 probable juvenile), the site near the intersection of Rt. 127 and  Slaughterhouse Rd. (1 adult female and 1 fledgling), and the site at the intersection of Upper East Valley Rd. and Akins Rd. near Swafford Pond (1 adult female refurbishing or building a nest). An immature Double-crested Cormorant was present at the Swafford Pond.


20 June 2011

Robbie C. Hassler, grand dame of the UCR birding community, died today following a period of declining health.  Robbie lived her entire life in Pickett County and with her late husband, David, accumulated a wealth of information about the birdlife of that county.  I will miss her and her many contributions to our knowledge of the birds of the UCR.


15 June 2011—Day 29 of 29-Day Bird-Counting Marathon

Worked in Sampson 3, Smartt Mountain 4, and Spencer 6 blocks of Van Buren County, Tennessee, today.  Nesting Cliff Swallows at the lake in Fall Creek Falls State Park were probably the best find of the day, though a Chestnut-sided Warbler was also nice.

The three observers who conducted this UCR Foray found 107 breeding species, including single Northern Harriers in each of two blocks and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher in one block, and 1 probable migrant (Least Flycatcher).


14 June 2011—Day 28 of 29-Day Bird-Counting Marathon

Worked in Curtistown 1, 4, and 5, and in Welchland 6 blocks today.


13 June 2011—Day 27 of 29-Day Bird-Counting Marathon

The UCR Foray in Van Buren County, Tennessee, began today. I covered four blocks, including Spencer 3, Smartt Mountain 1 and 2, and Welchland 3.  A female Northern Harrier in the Smartt Mountain 2 block was my best bird of the day.


12 June 2011—Day 26 of 29-Day Bird-Counting Marathon

The Monticello BBS in Wayne and McCreary counties, Kentucky, needed attention today.  I recorded 72 species, near the high end of the range of total species that I have recorded on this route, which is rich in warblers.


11 June 2011—Day 25 of 29-Day Bird-Counting Marathon

The Sunnybrook BBS in Clinton and Wayne counties, Kentucky held my attention for 50 stops over 4 hours this morning.  I had my best run on this route since I started it about 20 years ago.  A small flock of 5 Double-crested Cormorants was a nice find, as was a Eurasian Collared-Dove, Tree Swallow, House Wren, Grasshopper Sparrow, Dickcissel, and Baltimore Oriole.  In all 75 species came my way during this route.


10 June 2011—Day 24 of 29-Day Bird-Counting Marathon

Covered Baxter 3 and 2 blocks today, finding 16 Ceruleans in the latter block along with 78 additional species, my best foray effort to date for one block.

In all, 110 breeding species and 4 migrant species (Double-crested Cormorant, Spotted Sandpiper, Least Flycatcher, and Black-throated Blue Warbler) were detected during the course of the foray in Putnam County. A new site for Barn Owl was discovered by Ed LeGrand.  Dickcissels were found at several sites where they had not heretofore been recorded in the county.


9 June 2011—Day 23 of 29-Day Bird-Counting Marathon

Back in the western blocks of Putnam County today, I found many Cerulean Warblers, including 10 in the Baxter 2 block; I also worked in Baxter 1 and 3.


8 June 2011—Day 22 of 29-Day Bird-Counting Marathon

With Janie Finch, I covered the Cookeville East 2 block, finding a couple of Brown-headed Nuthatches at the Cookeville Golf Course. Later I worked the Cookeville West 1 and 3 blocks.


7 June 2011—Day 21 of 29-Day Bird-Counting Marathon

Today I worked in the far western blocks of Putnam County, including Buffalo Valley 4, 5 and 6; and Center Hill Dam 4.  Baltimore Orioles were in the first of these blocks, while Cerulean Warblers were in the second and fourth of these.


6 June 2011—Day 20 of 29-Day Bird-Counting Marathon

The UCR Foray in Putnam County, Tennessee, began today. I covered the following blocks: Cookeville East 1 and 4; and Cookeville West 2 and 5.  A Loggerhead Shrike and several Eurasian Collared-Doves were among the nicer finds of the day.


5 June 2011—Day 19 of 29-Day Bird-Counting Marathon

The Oliver Springs BBS in Morgan County, Tennessee, was my target for bird-counting today.  I was able to record 68 species, about average for this route.  Both Great Horned and Barred owl were heard early during the route. More Tree Swallows were also recorded.


4 June 2011—Day 18 of 29-Day Bird-Counting Marathon

Today I conducted the Hegira BBS in Cumberland and Monroe counties, Kentucky.  I recorded an average number of species (67) for this route with no really noteworthy species being detected; Tree Swallow was probably the most interesting species found.


3 June 2011—Day 17 of 29-Day Bird-Counting Marathon

I arose early enough to conduct 3 night counting periods today and then headed home.

The McCreary foray resulted in 106 species of breeding birds being detected.  Two species of migrants, Double-crested Cormorant and Mississippi Kite, were also found during this bird-monitoring event.

During the Kentucky Breeding Bird Atlas project about 94 species were detected in McCreary County.


2 June 2011—Day 16 of 29-Day Bird-Counting Marathon

I covered more blocks in McCreary County today, including Barthell 2 and 3, counting 6 Swainson's Warblers in the former block.  I also went back into Barthell 5 and 6 and counted 7 Swainson's in those blocks, making 13 for the day.  Other foray workers found 3 additional Swainson's in the county on this same day, making for a total of 16, a Regional daily high count for this rarish breeder.


1 June 2011
  • The Summer 2011 Season (1 June–31 July) Begins Today
  • Day 15 of 29-Day Bird-Counting Marathon

I covered more blocks in McCreary County today, including Barthell 5 and 6, Oneida 4, and Winfield 1.


31 May 2011
  • The Spring 2011 Season (1 March–31 May) Ends Today
  • Day 14 of 29-Day Bird-Counting Marathon

I continued work on the McCreary County foray, covering the following blocks, several of which are partial blocks: Bell Farm 2, 3, 5, and 6, and Barthell Southwest 1 and 4. This county possesses a rich warbler fauna, as exemplified by my counting 5 Swainson's Warblers in Bell Farm 3, 1 in Bell Farm 5, and 5 more in Bell Farm 6. I started early enough to conduct night counting periods in several of these blocks.  In all I ended up conducting a night counting period in about a dozen of the blocks I covered in McCreary County, recording Eastern Whip-poor-will in all of them. No whips were recorded in McCreary County during the Breeding Bird Atlas project, a result of little or no night effort.


30 May 2011—Day 13 of 29-Day Bird-Counting Marathon

The UCR Foray in McCreary County, Kentucky, started today.  I worked four blocks, Barthell 1 and 4, Bell Farm 4, and Coopersville 6.  Tom Mills worked with me on the first two of these.  We had 2 Swainson's Warblers in the Barthell 4 block. 


29 May 2011—Day 12 of 29-Day Bird-Counting Marathon

I conducted the Union Hill BBS today; this BBS starts in Clay County and ends in Macon County.  I counted 68 species, about average for this route, the 137th I have conducted in Tennessee. A Cerulean Warbler on the last stop was a surprise; some other species on the route included Eastern Whip-poor-will, Tree Swallow, and Dickcissel.


28 May 2011—Day 11 of 29-Day Bird-Counting Marathon

I conducted the Silver Point Breeding Bird Survey today; this was my 22nd running of this particular BBS, which begins in Putnam County, runs through DeKalb County, and ends up in Smith County.  Besides a Cerulean Warbler, a singing male Baltimore Oriole was one of my most memorable species from this BBS, the 224th that I have conducted since 1975.  The species total (66) was on the low side for this route.


27 May 2011—Day 10 of 29-Day Bird-Counting Marathon

I worked in Windle 6 and in Okalona 3 blocks today.  The Overton Foray ended up with 107 breeding species being recorded, as well as 10 migrant species.

In all, 107 breeding species and 10 migrant species were detected during this foray; the total of breeding species exceeds the total detected during the 1986 TOS Foray in Overton County when about 96 species were detected as part of the Tennessee Breeding Bird Atlas project.


26 May 2011—Day 9 of 29-Day Bird-Counting Marathon

I worked in Windle 4 and in Okalona 1 and 2 blocks today.


25 May 2011—Day 8 of 29-Day Bird-Counting Marathon

I completed three blocks (1, 2, and 5) of the Windle quadrangle today.


24 May 2011—Day 7 of 29-Day Bird-Counting Marathon

I completed the last block (6) in the Hilham quadrangle and two blocks (1 and 2) of the Livingston Quadrangle today.


23 May 2011—Day 6 of 29-Day Bird-Counting Marathon

Today was the first day of the UCR Foray in Overton County, Tennessee.  This foray was conducted in part to repeat a foray conducted as part of the Tennessee Breeding Bird Atlas project during late May 1986 and in part to add to the foray data that have been collected in the UCR since 2007.  Besides many breeding species detected in five blocks (1, 2, 3, 4, and 5) of the Hilham quadrangle, I also heard a Mourning Warbler and found and photographed an adult Little Blue Heron, the latter at the lake in Standing Stone State Park.


22 May 2011—Day 5 of 29-Day Bird-Counting Marathon

I conducted 14 point counts of 10 minutes each in western Putnam County today, counting 6 Cerulean Warblers along with a host of other species including still another lingering Swainson's Thrush. Fourteen species of warblers were among the species counted at these points.


21 May 2011—Day 4 of 29-Day Bird-Counting Marathon

I conducted 11 point counts of 10 minutes each in western Putnam County today, counting 7 Cerulean Warblers along with a host of other species including another lingering Swainson's Thrush.


20 May 2011—Day 3 of 29-Day Bird-Counting Marathon

I conducted a driving survey to count Cerulean Warblers along a 51-mile transect in Western Putnam County today.  I counted 49 Ceruleans, slightly down from the 53 that were counted along the same transect on the same date during 2010.  Some nice numbers of other species were counted, including 89 Acadian Flycatchers, 64 White-eyed Vireos, 378 Red-eyed Vireos, 1 Gray-cheeked and 3 Swainson's thrush, 18 Blue-winged Warblers, 88 Northern Parulas, 81 American Redstarts, and 234 Indigo Buntings.

You may view the complete results of this driving transect for 2011 and many previous years, as well as results of point counts in this same part of the county, at this page of the website:


19 May 2011—Day 2 of 29-Day Bird-Counting Marathon

I conducted 12 point counts of 10 minutes each in western Putnam County today, counting 5 Cerulean Warblers along with a host of other species including a lingering Swainson's Thrush.


18 May 2011—Day 1 of 29-Day Bird-Counting Marathon

I conducted 13 point counts of 10 minutes each in western Putnam County today, counting 7 Cerulean Warblers along with a host of other species.


16 May 2011
  • Black-crowned Night-Heron added to Warren County bird list

Susan McWhirter submitted a record of Black-crowned Night-Heron from her farm in Warren County; the record was made 6 July 1993.  This brings to 220 the number of species on the Warren County bird list.  Thanks to Susan and Mac for beginning the arduous task of putting into eBird all their old bird data from their farm.


14 May 2011
  • Spring Bird Count in Putnam County, Tennessee
  • Spring Bird Count in Pulaski County, Kentucky

The 38th Spring Bird Count conducted in Putnam County took place today, which is also International Migratory Bird Day.

A SBC also took place today in Pulaski County, Kentucky.

Intermittent rain throughout the day had a less than salubrious effect on each of these counts, Putnam County turning up 120 species and Pulaski County 113.  Nonetheless, many important data resulted from these efforts to monitor the birds of the two most populous counties of the UCR.


10 May 2011
  • Scissor-tailed Flycatcher in Clay County, Tennessee
  • Mourning Warbler in DeKalb County, Tennessee

Danny Stone found a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (STFL) on his farm near Celina, Clay County, Tennessee, 10 May 2011; Terry Campbell photographed this bird at that site 11 May 2011; this sighting is the first for Clay County, bringing the county bird list up to 214 species.  Here is a link to the species account for STFL in BUCR:

Pingang Wang from Santa Clara, CA, identified a Mourning Warbler (MOWA) by song, comparing the bird's song to the song on an iPod recording during his observation, at the overlook along the road to the Appalachian Center for Craft, DeKalb County, Tennessee, 10 May 2011.  This record is the first of this species in DeKalb County, increasing the county bird list to 232 species; many thanks to the observer for entering this record into eBird.  Here is a link to the species account for MOWA in BUCR:


7 May 2011
  • Spring Bird Count in Cumberland County, Tennessee

The bird gods provided a beautiful morning and an acceptable afternoon, weather-wise, allowing 140 species to be counted during the Spring Bird Count in Cumberland County.


5 May 2011
  • Swainson's Hawk Observed in McCreary County, KY

Roseanna Denton obtained good views of a Buteo that she felt was a Swainson's Hawk at Natural Arch, McCreary County, KY, on this date, but it was not until mid-fall 2011 that she decided to submit this record to the Kentucky Rare Bird Committee; the details of the observation seem to be good ones.  This hawk becomes the 312th species to be recorded in the UCR and the 273rd to be recorded in Pulaski County (these numbers are based on when the observations were submitted, in this case in early October 2011, not when it took place).


3 May 2011
  • Spring Bird Count in White County, Tennessee

Rain most of the day definitely dampened the spirits of the members of the six birding parties that took part in the Spring Bird Count in White County, but this rain also brought to earth a large number of shorebirds that swelled the number of species found during this soggy count to a record high total for a SBC conducted in the UCR: 142.


30 April 2011
  • Spring BirdBlitz in Overton County, Tennessee

Seven birders in four parties covered most of Overton County today during a birdblitz (a one-time bird count conducted like a Spring Bird Count), observing 140 species, including several that were first county records.  The results of this birdblitz compare interestingly with results of two informal counts conducted in the early 1950s by members of the TOS.  During those informal counts, 121 species were observed, including about a dozen and a half that were not found today.  A couple of dozen species were found today that were not observed back in the 1950s.

Species that became first county records included House Wren, Sedge Wren, Veery, Nashville Warbler, and Black-throated Blue Warbler, bringing the Overton County bird list up to 199 species.

Thanks to Doug Downs, Ed LeGrand, Mike O'Rourke, Tom Saya, Barb Stedman, and Winston Walden for joining me on a wonderful day to be counting birds.

Results of the birdblitz may be viewed at this page of my website:


10 April 2011
  • Two New Species for Bledsoe County
  • Brown-headed Nuthatch Continues in Van Buren County

Despite the fact that Bledsoe County gets quite a bit of birding attention, the bird checklist for that county remains somewhat full of holes, with many common or fairly common species not being documented therein.  Today I was able to locate a Greater Yellowlegs (Species # 187) and a Bufflehead (# 188) while birding through the county in the afternoon. I also found a Loggerhead Shrike at the intersection of Old Rt. 28 and Brushy Cemetery Rd.

Also during the morning hours today, Ed LeGrand and I located a calling Brown-headed Nuthatch in the Big Bottom WMA, Van Buren County, the same site where Ed (and Scott Somershoe) had found this species during the breeding season of 2010.  Nice to know this species persists in the area.


26 March 2011
  • Northern Shovelers in Monroe County, Kentucky

On the way home from a bird-related event at the Old Mulkey Meeting House State Park in Tompkinsville, KY, today, I checked out a local lake and saw 11 Northern Shovelers (species # 154 for Monroe County).


25 March 2011
  • Another Great Blue Heron Rookery in Smith County

While looking for, but not finding,  the American White Pelicans in Smith County, first reported 14 March and again 24 March, I located a medium-sized, by Regional standards, rookery of Great Blue Herons on an island or peninsula in the Cumberland River adjacent to Sullivan's Bend Rd.  This rookery contains at least 23 nests, many active today. Two Great Egrets were also present in a cove of the river along the same road.

A Cliff Swallow was present over the Cumberland River at Granville, making it the last of the six Regional swallows to be recorded this spring, perhaps the first time ever in the Region that all six swallows were first recorded before the end of March. An hour's cruise along roads adjacent to Martin Creek resulted in a count of six Louisiana Waterthrushes, my first of the year.


20 March 2011
  • Today is the Vernal Equinox, the Official Beginning of Spring (although the date when diurnal hours and nocturnal hours in the UCR were equal was a couple of weeks ago)

I celebrated this day of temporal wonderment by birding in the western end of Putnam County a few hours and finding a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, earlier by one day than any previously reported gnatcatcher in the county but a couple of weeks later than the early spring date in the UCR. No waterthrushes were detected.


14 March 2011
  • American White Pelicans in Two UCR Counties

American White Pelicans are very uncommon fall and spring migrants in the UCR, so the occurrence of records for two Regional counties on one day was quite a surprise.  Linda and Tim Woody photographed a small flock in Cumberland County that day, and Greg Woods reported a slightly smaller flock in Smith County, the latter sighting constituting a first record for that county (species # 178).  You will find details about these records at this page of the website:


12 March 2011
  • Early and Late Dates for Migrant Birds in the UCR still being sought

If you do much birding during spring (and who doesn't?), then you can increase the value of your records by contributing to the effort to maintain a list of the dates of arrival and departure for migrant species.  Here is a link to the page of the website that lists these dates for Spring 2011:

  • Red-necked Grebe in Russell County, Kentucky

Roseanna Denton found and photographed a Red-necked Grebe at the Wolf Creek Dam on Lake Cumberland, Russell Co., KY, today, providing the 209th species for that county.  This record was just the 4th Regionally, with all four coming from three counties in the Kentucky part of the Region.  This record was also the first for the spring season Regionally, one of the previous three records occurring during fall and two during winter. Here is a link to the species account for that grebe:


2 March 2011

  • Data from the Pooled Data Event of the GBBC are now Posted

Results of this year's GBBC Pooled Data Event (19 February 2011) are now posted to this website at the following page:

If you submitted data in the appropriate manner, please review this page to be sure that everything you sent in is in order. If you didn't submit data, why not put this event on your calendar for next year?

I am thinking of modifying the Pooled Data Event (PDE) starting in 2012 and continuing thereafter in the following manner: instead of holding the PDE only on the Saturday of the GBBC, I would expand it to all four days of the GBBC.  Data for any one county would still need to be collected on just one day of the event (to maintain comparability of the data), but participants could cover multiple counties more easily if they could conduct the PDE effort on any of the four days of the GBBC. So let me know what you think of this modification. SJS


1 March 2011

  • The Spring 2011 Season (1 March–31 May) Begins Today

  • Book of the Season

Yoon, Carol Kaesuk. 2009. Naming Nature: The Clash between Instinct and Science. W. W. Norton and Co., New York.

Residing in the temporal lobes of the human brain is the umwelt (pronounced "oom-velt"), an evolutionarily created part of the brain that has enabled humans to order the living world around them in a remarkably consistent manner, across all cultural, temporal, and geographic barriers.

Ironically, the umwelt tends to view the living world as immutable, without an evolutionary history. In most humans, the umwelt allows comfortable comprehension of about 600 living species. The umwelt tends to name these species in binomial form and to focus on "beacon" species and groups of species, many of which have been shown by science not to be "real"  groups (i.e., fish).

Many modern human children, unable to explore the natural world, use the umwelt to order dinosaurs, Pokemon creatures, and commercial logos.  Adult humans, sadly, use it to order the products of the consumer culture. Humans who have damage to this part of the brain are unable to identify living things but have no trouble identifying inanimate objects (or vice versa, depending on just where the damage has occurred); some persons whose umwelt has been damaged cannot even properly identify food to know what to eat.

Opposition to evolution may in part be driven by the umwelt, which is not comfortable with mutability but which is comfortable with the immutable view of species offered by many spiritual explanations of the living world.

I have not read a better book in at least a decade; I really, REALLY recommend it. SJS


28 February 2011
  • End of the Winter 2010–2011 Bird-Reporting Season

Today is the official end of winter in so far as reporting bird records is concerned.


20 February 2011
  • The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC)—Day Three.

I spent this day in and near Tompkinsville, Monroe County, KY, compiling data for 11 GBBC checklists about 58 species, two of which provided county records, Lesser Scaup (species # 152 documented in the county) and Gadwall (species # 153).


19 February 2011
  • The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC)—Day Two.
I spent this day in Putnam County, Tennessee, compiling data for 14 GBBC checklists about 73 species.  Managed to find one of the Brown-headed Nuthatches at the Cookeville Golf Course and a roosting Barn Owl at the traditional site in the county.  I also counted about 1700 Sandhill Cranes, a species that was found in similarly large numbers by others taking part in the Pooled Data Event of the GBBC on this date in Putnam and in other counties of the UCR.
  • Immature Tundra Swans in Clay County, Tennessee

Terry Campbell photographed 3 immature Tundra Swans in Clay County, Tennessee, today, providing the first record of this swan for that county; this species became the 213th species documented in that county.  You may access a nice photo of these immature swans at this page of the website:


18 February 2011
  • The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC)—Day One.

I spent the day in and near Carthage, Smith County, TN, compiling data for 15 GBBC checklists.  In all I was able to record 60 species, but none provided a new county record for Smith County.  I did locate what I believe to be a new rookery of Great Blue Herons on an island in the Cumberland River near the end of Beasley's Bend.

For more information on the Pooled Data Event, a special version of the GBBC conducted in the UCR, and on the continental GBBC, see this page of the website:


15 February 2011
  • Short-eared Owls in Monroe County, Kentucky

A calm, clear evening being likely, I headed for Monroe County, KY, at 1530 CST and arrived at my destination about 1700 CST.  I checked out several spots for their potential to harbor Short-ears, finally deciding on one of them about 1720.  At 1735 I spotted one of these fine raptors about 100 m from my observation site; when I went on down the road to be closer, a second owl made an appearance. These were the first SEOWs I have found on my own in the UCR in 15 years, the last one being a single present at Cane Creek Park in Putnam County, TN, during January 1996. Short-eared Owl became the 151st species to be reported in Monroe County.


14 February 2011
  • Be My Valentine!

While driving home today, I stopped on Dry Valley Rd. to check the Great Blue Heron rookery for birds on the nest, and sure enough one of the five or so nests had an adult GTBH on it engaged in what I would call a display of some sort, probably one involving mate selection (i.e., valentine seeking). This sighting was my first this breeding season of activity at any of the Regional GTBH breeding sites.

I went back out at dusk to check a field for Short-eared Owl, but found none; on the way back home I stopped at the traditional Barn Owl site in Putnam County on the off chance that I might hear one; no luck with that, but a courting woodcock was also seeking a valentine; I heard it peenting and then heard the wing twittering of the courtship flight.


6 February 2011
  • Big Crane Migration Day

The first large-scale northward movement of migrant Sandhill Cranes in the UCR this "spring" took place today with reports of about 2000 cranes coming in from many Regional observers.  Barb and I were able to join in the observation of this mass movement, seeing 60 cranes winging northward at noon over City Lake.

All crane sightings for spring 2011 are being collected at this page of the website:


31 January 2011
  • Winter Roadside Survey (WRS) in Putnam County during January 2011 completed today.

With help from Barbara Stedman, who conducted 55 of the points that are part of this 500-point bird-monitoring effort, I completed this survey today, covering the last of 445 points I conducted during the month, despite a lot of truly inclement weather that threatened to force me to conduct points during February for the first time since the WRS began two decades ago.  This survey, which Barb and I previously conducted during January of 1991, 1996, 2001, and 2006, covers the three physiographic provinces that exist within the county, as well as the escarpments that fall between the Central Basin part of the county and the Highland Rim part of the county and between the Highland Rim part of the county and the Cumberland Plateau part of the county.

In all, we recorded data for 85 species, including four species—Snow Goose, Common Goldeneye, Eurasian Collared-Dove, and Pine Siskin—that were not recorded during any of the previous WRS efforts; these four species increased to 100 the total species for which data have been obtained during these surveys.

Cooper's Hawks were recorded on 7 of 500 points, the most since the WRS began in 1991, providing data that are consistent with most other monitoring efforts with regard to the population trend of this raptor.  However, most other common diurnal raptors were found in lower numbers during 2011 than during any of the other WRS efforts we have conducted. The generally inclement weather of December 2010 and January 2011 perhaps played a role in the lower numbers of raptors recorded during this version of the WRS.

Boreal irruptive species were variously recorded during this WRS effort.  Red-breasted Nuthatches were recorded on 6 points, the most ever, but sufficient only to say that this species experienced at best a moderate-sized irruptive event.  Purple Finches were noted in moderate numbers also, while the lone Pine Siskin recorded was indicative of an irruption of barely greater magnitude than complete absence.

As during the winter of 2005–2006, the supply of soft mast available to the birdlife in the county this winter was quite good, with the result that many species of frugivores were present in quite high numbers. American Robins were particularly prevalent, being found in greater numbers during this WRS effort than during any of the four preceding WRS efforts.

Chipping Sparrows were recorded on 8 of 500 points, after having been missed entirely during the 1991, 1996, and 2001 WRSs and after having been recorded on just 1 point out of 500 during the 2006 WRS.  These results are consistent with the trend toward greater numbers of wintering Chippies in the UCR (and in Tennessee and Kentucky) over the past decade or so.

Complete results of the WRS are available via links at the following page of this website:


17 January 2011
  • Immature Greater White-fronted Goose in Cumberland County, Tennessee

An immature Greater White-fronted Goose was observed on Lake Tansi by Joseph Mast on this date; later in the day the same individual was observed by Ed LeGrand at the nearby Grasslands Unit of the UT Experimental Farm on Ted Davis Rd.  This species was new to Cumberland County, becoming the 232nd species documented in Cumberland County.  You may access a photo of this immature goose via a link at this page of the website:


14 January 2011
  • Comments submitted to the TWRA Commissioners prior to their meeting 20 January 2011:

I oppose a hunting season on Sandhill Cranes.  Hunting is likely to change the migratory and wintering behavior of the cranes in Tennessee.  Once cranes have been subjected to gunfire, they will become more difficult to view for persons wishing to see them for the visual enjoyment they provide; these folks represent a very large fraction of the Tennessee population.  Hunted cranes may well migrate at higher altitude than non-hunted cranes, making them more difficult to see in the air.  Hunted cranes may well overwinter in smaller numbers than non-hunted cranes, making them less numerous on the ground.

A hunting season on Sandhill Cranes will carry with it the high probability that Whooping Cranes, a related and endangered species, will become the victims of some hunting efforts.

Some charismatic wild creatures simply should not be hunted, whatever the numbers that their population may reach.  The Sandhill Crane is one of these creatures.

Steve Stedman
2675 Lakeland Dr.
Cookeville, TN 38506


5 January 2011
  • CBC Season Ends

The Christmas Bird Count (CBC) season ended today.  The season witnessed completion of the standard 10 CBCs that have been conducted now for several years in the Upper Cumberland Region.  Results of the counts are being compiled, but it appears that about 120 species were found on the Regional CBCs.  Inclement weather played a role in reducing species totals and, to a lesser extent, totals of individuals on a few counts.

Two species not previously found on any previous Regional CBC were found this year, both on the Glasgow CBC, conducted 31 December 2010: Dunlin and Short-eared Owl.

Here is a link to results of the CBCs conducted Regionally during the 2010–2011 CBC season:


4 January 2011
  • Warren County CBC

I took part in the Warren County, TN, CBC today, finding 63 species including the first Merlin that I have found on a Regional CBC in a number of years. 


3 January 2011
  • Winter Roadside Survey in Putnam County

I began conducting the 2011 Winter Roadside Survey in Putnam County today, running two routes of ten stops each.  48 more routes to go!


1 January 2011
  • Somerset CBC

I took part in the Somerset, KY, CBC today, finding 46 species in very wet conditions; rain was intermittent during the first few hours after dawn and then light but continuous until c. 1530 EST.


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