‘Shorebirds & More II’
Rankin Bottoms WMA, Tennessee
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Our 2nd and final shorebird workshop of the year was held at Rankin Bottoms, arguably the best shorebirding spot within 2 hours of Asheville. We began at a boat ramp on the French Broad River, where we had several Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons. A small, mixed flock of assorted migrants including White-eyed Vireo, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, actively foraged in the patch of trees on the bank. We also managed to spot a group of about 20 Tree Swallows passing by high overhead. After encountering a few more commonalities (like Eastern Bluebird and Red-bellied Woodpecker) we headed into Rankin Bottoms Wildlife Management Area.
At the old coal tipple we had only one proper shorebird (a Greater Yellowlegs) but we got great looks through the scope as it foraged. The morning was growing hot and songbird activity was getting slow, though we managed to get close-up views of a beautiful Prothonotary Warbler, a species which breeds here as well as a few flycatching Eastern Kingbirds and Eastern Phoebes.
The best stop of the day by far was the viewing spot from the Ivy Trail, where we got great looks at 9 species of shorebird. Pectoral Sandpipers were the most numerous and there were quite a few Killdeer around as well. Both Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs foraged right next to each other and a single American Avocet in winter plumage stuck out like a sore thumb - certainly one of the highlights of the day! On the other end of the size spectrum were a few Least and Semipalmated Sandpipers, both visible in the same scope view and providing a great comparison in size and leg color. The cherry on top of this excellent shorebird selection was a Red Phalarope – a fantastic bird for this time of year and location. After such a great bird and with the very warm weather, we decided to end on a high note and call it a day.