Cocke County; TN
September 8, 2019
This year’s installation of the Ventures Rankin Bottom’s trip was a great success. We started out meeting near Waynesville, NC and carpooled to Rankin Bottoms from there. You know it is going to be a good day when you see a BALD EAGLE and two RAVENS on
I-40 driving up to Tennessee.
Kevin Burke, Simon Thompson, and Keith Watson all shared the spotting and guiding responsibilities for the day. We fist parked at the entrance to Rankin Bottoms by the railroad tracks. This proved to be a good choice. There were several flycatchers including EASTERN PHEOBE, GREAT CRESTED FLYCATCHER, EASTERN KINGBIRD, and EASTERN WOOD-PEWEE. A locally rare WARBLING VIREO gave us all great looks, and a preening PROTHONOTARY WARBLER put on a show. A few other passerines were in the area including MAGNOLIA WARBLER, SUMMER TANAGER, and several INDIGO BUNTINGS. We had been birding for forty-five minutes or so and had forty-seven species at the first stop!
We moved down the road a bit and took the poison ivy trail to the water. Many GREAT EGRETS were in the slough. Our first looks at shorebirds included KILDEER, LESSER YELLOWLEGS, and LEAST SANDPIPER. Our first DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS of the day flushed into the water from a dead snag and the resident CANADA GEESE were lazing on the far shore. We moved down a bit to the main parking area to look over the majority of the slough and the big pond on the left side to the road. Several WOOD DUCKS were swimming in the pond. We spotted a single immature BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON, and then an adult. While scanning the far shore of the pond Keith yelled IBIS! We had four WHITE IBIS that would eventually give us great perched views. The slough side of the bottoms had a decent amount of mud, but it was a little far for binocular viewing. Scope views were needed to pull out some of the shore birds. We eventually found AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER, WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER, and PECTORAL SANDPIPER.
Lunch was a wonderful picnic under some shady Willows overlooking the pond. Our Blue Ridge Bites consist of mostly local foods, homemade pickles and jellies, and my personal favorite cookies! Rankin Bottoms tends to warm up in the afternoon and the bird activity slows a bit, but the lighting improves over the slough. We checked a couple spots after lunch including the poison ivy trail. We had much better looks at LESSER YELLOWLEGS, SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER, OSPREY, and BAIRD’S SANDPIPER. By this time the day was getting hot and we decided to head home. On the way out we saw two PEREGRINE FALCONS chasing each other and then a flock of FERAL PIGEONS.
We ended the day with a total of seventy-eight species between Rankin Bottoms and the commute there and back. The birding was awesome, the company was fantastic, and I can’t wait to go back next year. If you have not been please think about joining us next time. This is truly a hidden gem of a place close to the Asheville area.