Steve Stedman's 2013 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.

To report items of interest, send an email to this address:


14 December 20135 January 2014
  • Christmas Bird Counts in the UCR this Season

At least eight and possibly as many as ten CBCs will be conducted in the Region during the coming CBC season. The schedule of Regional CBCs may be consulted at the page accessible via this link:


October and November 2013

  • American White Pelicans in the UCR this Fall

American White Pelicans remain a somewhat unusual species within the UCR, so the appearance of some in one of the Kentucky counties during October and in one of the Tennessee counties during early November was noteworthy; thanks to Danny Stone for finding, and Terry Campbell for reporting, the pelicans in the latter section of the Region.

2125 September 2013

  • Fall Bird-Counting Events during 2013

The White County Fall Bird Count (FBC), scheduled for 21 September, was conducted for the 10th consecutive year in that county. Early rain depressed this FBC somewhat, with 95 species being noted.

The Morgan County Fall BirdBlitz took place 25 September with 84 species being counted by two observers; this event will help to prepare for the Morgan County Foray, scheduled for June 2014.

August 2013

  • Bird Study during the Early Fall

During late summer and early fall, Purple Martins muster at favored roost sites around the Region with the roost at Lilydale, Clay County, being the largest known. It has been estimated to include 40,000 birds in the past. If you visit that site this season, please share the number of martins you count; radar imagery has failed to reveal the presence of this roost on at least on occasion this season.

Chuck-will's-widows depart the Region much earlier than do Eastern Whip-poor-wills, never before having been recorded later than 30 August. If you hear any August singers, please share.

Common Nighthawks migrate through the Region in late August and early September, sometimes in flocks of hundreds (and formerly in flocks of thousands). Please share any counts of 50 or more if you encounter flocks of that size or larger.

Louisiana Waterthrush, Yellow-breasted Chat, and Orchard Oriole often depart the Region before the end of August. Please report sightings from late in that month or later.

7 August 2013

  • Some Extremely Interesting Images of Chuck-will's-widow Breeding Activity

Janie C. Finch is fortunate to have chucks breeding on her property in Putnam County and even more fortunate to have had the opportunity to photograph adults and young of this species, both during June 2012 and May-June 2013. She has shared with me some of her images, including a photograph of an egg set, photographs of young, photographs of adults brooding young, and, most interesting of all, a video of an adult performing a behavior described in the Birds of North America species account for Chuck-will's-widow; this behavior is related to distraction displays but is referred to as a response to a predator. I have placed this video at my website; it takes some time to load it to be able to view it in its entirety, but I encourage you take a look.

Here is a link to the species account for the chuck at another page of this website


1 August 2013

  • The Fall 2013 Season Begins Today

The fall season starts on this day for the purpose of recording the birdlife of the UCR and every other region on the continent and probably in the northern hemisphere of the planet.

22–28 June 2013

The Fentress County Foray took place during this period. Thanks to Ed LeGrand for willingness to complete coverage of 25 of the 55 blocks within that county. Fentress County is the 11th Tennessee county to have a completed recent foray.

Morgan County (and possibly one other Tennessee county) is slated for a foray during 2014.

You may access very basic preliminary results of this foray and others undertaken during 2013 via links accessible at the Central Node for UCR Forays:


14–22 June 2013

The Macon County Foray took place during six days within this period. Macon County is the 10th Tennessee county to have a recent (2008-2013) completed foray.


8–12 June 2013

The Metcalfe County Foray took place during this period. Thanks to Roseanna Denton for willingness to complete coverage of 16 of the 32 blocks within that county. Metcalfe is the 7th Kentucky county be have a completed foray. Adair and Cumberland counties, KY, are to be given the foray treatment during June 2014.

Adair and Cumberland counties in Kentucky are the counties in which 2014 forays will be conducted.

15 June 2013

The Barren County Foray took place during this period. With its completion, six of the ten counties in the Kentucky portion of the UCR have a completed foray. Thanks to Dave Roemer, who covered 18 blocks within this county, and Roseanna Denton, who also covered 18 blocks, for taking part in this event. The weather was mostly excellent (cool and calm); the birds were active and abundant; and the results were exhilarating. Especially fine were the numbers and diversity of grassland sparrows; Warbling Vireos (recorded in at least 22 of the 54 blocks in the county), Dickcissels (in at least 39 [!] blocks), and Baltimore Orioles (most blocks with part of the lakeshore of Barren Reservoir) were present in greater density than is true for any UCR county in which a foray has thus far been conducted

1 June 2013
  • The Summer 2013 Season Begins Today

The summer season starts on this day for the purpose of recording the birdlife of the UCR and every other region on the continent and probably in the northern hemisphere of the planet.


27–30 May 2013

  • Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) Season Commences

Eight BBS routes are located within the Upper Cumberland Region. Four of these were conducted beginning 27 May 2013, the 27th of May being the earliest date on which one of these surveys may be conducted. The Sunnybrook BBS resulted in a total of 76 species being recorded, the highest total in the last 22 years.


27 May 2013

  • Crossville's Crossbills' Last Hurrah

Red Crossbills in Crossville made their final appearance of this flight season today; Janet Dowlen obtained a photo documenting the terminal sighting of known crossbills in the UCR on this date. Scott Somershoe reported four in Van Buren County on the 24th, the penultimate sighting for the season.

From 1880, when the first Regional record of Red Crossbill was made, to November 2012 a total of eight records of this distinctive finch were accumulated in the Region; from December 2012 to May 2013 a minimum total of nine records of Red Crossbill were obtained (this figure will probably go a bit higher as other records make their appearance). The crossbill incursion during this period was rather memorable (and perhaps not to be repeated during the lifetimes of many birders now active in the Region), especially since the first White-winged Crossbill record for the Regional also took place.


22 May 2013

  • Getting to the Next Level as a Birder

Many signs point to the skill level of a birder and whether or not that birder's level of skill is changing over time. One of these signs is a birder's willingness, or lack thereof, to get out with birders of a higher skill level. Probably the fastest way to get better as a birder is to spend time in the field with birders who live in more rarified air than you do. In my own case, I spend as much time as I can with Dave Roemer, probably the most pre-eminent birder in Kentucky. Since Dave likes to bird in Barren County, KY, one of the UCR counties, I am able to spend time with a truly gifted birder who pushes me to be better and to learn a little each trip about one of the finer birding counties in the Region. I've been birding with Dave since 2001, and I expect that I will continue to do so for many years to come.


20 May 2013
  • Cerulean Warbler Driving Survey in Western Putnam County

For the tenth consecutive year, a 50-mile driving survey for Cerulean Warbler was conducted in the western, escarpment section of Putnam County today. Fifty-six Ceruleans were counted in 8 hours and 17 minutes, along with 82 other species.

Results of this decade-long survey are available at the following page of this website:


18 May 2013

  • Crossville's Crossbills' Continued Billing

The four female Red Crossbills that turned up in Crossville last month have apparently remained and were seen today along with four males. Nan Beesley obtained a photo depicting one of each sex at her bird feeder today. These are the latest crossbills to be reported around the UCR so far this spring. Crossbills sometimes breed in areas where they have wintered, so stay tuned for more on the Crossville crossbill situation.


11 May 2013

  • Putnam County, TN, SBC

The 22nd consecutive and 40th overall SBC in Putnam County was conducted on this date; 136 species were recorded. A Merlin found by Ed LeGrand was the best bird of the count; it was the first of its species to be recorded during the 40-years that SBCs have been conducted in Putnam County.

The SBC in Putnam Count was the last of the spring bird-counting events to be conducted this year. View results of all six Regional counts via this link:


9 May 2013

  • Pulaski County, KY, SBC
  • DeKalb County, TN, SBB

On this date a SBC was conducted in Pulaski County, KY, and a SBB was conducted in DeKalb County, TN. About 132 species were recorded in the latter county, a very respectable total. Two Red Crossbills were tallied on the Pulaski SBC by Granville Cox.

7 May 2013

  • Russell County, KY, SBB

The first spring bird count ever conducted in Russell County, KY, took place on this date with 115 species being recorded, including two species for which no previous county record was available. Thanks to Roseanna M. Denton for joining me for this birding event.

20 April 2013

  • Cumberland County, TN, SBC

The 8th consecutive and 12th overall SBC in Cumberland County, TN, was conducted on this date with 132 species being recorded. Conducted earlier than the seven most recent SBCs in the county, this year's count saw a number of lingering winter species recorded that have not shown up on SBCs conducted in the county later in the season; however, many migrant breeders were not yet present in their usual numbers at this date. Some of the more unusual species observed were Snow Goose (photo), Great Egret, Brown Creeper, and Vesper Sparrow.


20 April11 May 2013
  • Spring Bird Counting Events in the UCR

Several Spring Bird Counts (SBC), annually repeated bird surveys of counties, and Spring BirdBlitzes (SBB), one-time or intermittently repeated bird surveys of counties, will be conducted in the UCR this spring.  You may access information about where and when these surveys will take place via a link at the page of this website that deals with the Calendar of Birding Events in the Region:

19 April 2013

  • Crossville's Crossbills

Following one of the best winters in at last three decades for crossbills in the UCR, some of these finches have lingered into spring. Nan Beesley reported three Red Crossbills at her feeders on this date, and later she saw three on 27 April and four on 28 April. Ed LeGrand photographed the birds present on 19 April.


9 April 2013

A new species, Anhinga, was added to the UCR checklist today. A female was photographed in Long Lakes Estates, Van Buren Co., TN; Scott Somershoe, TWRA Ornithologist, reported this species.

29 March 2013
  • Taxonomic Issues

The American Ornithologists' Union (AOU) formerly published supplements itemizing any changes made to the names of species and/or to their order in the AOU Check-List of North American Birds.  In recent years these supplements have come annually, usually in August; during August 2012 the most recent supplement was published, but the online checklist was not brought up to date until recently. The title of the check-list was changed recently also, it being now known as the AOU Checklist of North and Middle American Birds.

I have updated some of the tables in Birds of the Upper Cumberland Region of Kentucky and Tennessee to bring them into conformance with changes made in the most recent supplement (# 53) to the AOU Checklist. These changes include, but are not limited to, the following:

1. The cormorants have been moved to precede the pelicans.
2. The falcons have been moved to follow the woodpeckers.
3. The parrots have been moved to follow the falcons in the new position of the latter.
4. The Calliope Hummingbird has been moved to a position right after the Allen's Hummingbird.
5. The Carolina and Bewick's wrens have been moved to follow the Marsh Wren.


8 March 2013

I spent a very enjoyable day monitoring the NINE known Osprey nests in Jackson County, Tennessee, with Nancy Layzer today.  We were able to observe a total of six adult Ospreys at five of the nine nest sites.

It is always a pleasure to see a birder take on a useful birding project in the way that Nancy has embraced the project of monitoring the Osprey nests in Jackson County; all too few birders ever make such a commitment, even though such commitments can be quite easy and enjoyable to engage in, as well as providing extremely valuable data and insight about the species being monitored. Hats off to Nancy Layzer and others like her. These data can be made even more valuable if they are archived in a database such as eBird. Indeed, birders who do not use eBird are frittering away both their time and effort.


27 May 2013

  • Crossville's Crossbills' Last Hurrah

Red Crossbills in Crossville made their final appearance of this flight season today; Janet Dowel obtained a photo documenting the termination of known crossbills in the UCR on this date. Scott Somershoe reported four in Van Buren County on the 24th, the penultimate sighting for the season.


1 March 2013
  • The Spring 2013 Birding Season Begins Today

The winter birding season ended yesterday and the spring birding season started today for the purpose of monitoring the birdlife of the UCR and of every other region on the continent and probably in the northern hemisphere of the planet.


15 February 2013

While taking part in the Great Backyard Bird Count in Fentress County today, in preparation for the Fentress County Foray to be conducted during June 2013, Ed LeGrand recorded a Red Crossbill on Glenobey Rd., the first record for Fentress County.


19 January 2013

For the first time ever, a Golden Eagle was documented in Cumberland County, TN, when one was photographed at a carcass on this date. Thanks to TWRA Ornithologist Scott Somershoe for this nformation.


18 January 2013

For many years I have searched through flocks of migrating Sandhill Cranes passing over my yard in the hope of adding Whooping Crane to my yard list.  On this date, that long-awaited occurrence took place.  At 1302 CST I heard the fifth crane flock of the day coming overhead, so I stepped out onto the driveway and began counting the cranes in this flock. When I reached crane #110, I was somewhat startled to note that this crane was slightly larger than the nearby Sandhill Cranes, in addition to which it was pure white with black primaries.  Thus, yard bird # 193 became a reality.  Now I am hoping that I can find 7 more species before my own migration from life to death takes place.


1518 February 2013

The most recent Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) took place during this period.  A change in the way that data for the GBBC are archived was put in place.  For this year and for future years, GBBC data were entered in the same manner as for eBird data.

Here is a link to the main GBBC page at this website:

Thanks for taking part in the GBBC Pooled Data Event (PDE) in the Upper Cumberland Region (UCR) in the following six counties are extended to the following folks: Cumberland (Ed LeGrand), DeKalb (Judy C. Fuson, Michael J. Hawkins, Peggy Huffstetler, and Carol Williams), Fentress (Ed LeGrand, SJS), Jackson (Winston Walden, Tom Saya, Nancy S. Layzer, SJS), Putnam (Janie Finch, Ginger Ensor, SJS), and White (Doug Downs, Wally Brines).

Best bird of the 2013 GBBC PDE in the UCR was Ed LeGrand's Long-tailed Duck, the first for Cumberland County, TN.


1 January 2013
  • Somerset CBC Begins the New Birding Year

The 23rd Somerset CBC was conducted on this date with 76 species being recorded in celebration of the new year.




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