Get Out & Play: Birding

Carol EvansFeature

Did you know that birdwatching is one of the fastest-growing outdoor activities in the country, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service? About 50 million Americans plan an outing to observe wild birds every year. Lucky for us, we live in one of the best places for this free hobby. Due to the diverse ecosystems, mild temperatures and heavy rainfall, spring in East Tennessee offers a variety of bird activity from migrating birds to birds looking for a safe place for their young to develop.

This Saturday, you can join a free, family-friendly birding at Seven Islands State Birding Park. Ranked as one of East Tennessee’s birding hotspots by the Audubon Society, the refuge features miles of mowed trails that welcome hikers, trail runners, photographers and bird-watchers to take in the breathtaking mountain vistas, colorful wildflower displays and over 190 species of birds that reside here.

Enjoy the mid-morning, easy two-mile jaunt along Kelly Greenway and Seclusion Bend Trail as guides highlight the park’s cultural history, wildflowers, and of course identifying the whistling songbirds along the way. Watch for Indigo Buntings, Eastern Meadowlarks, Eastern Bluebirds, Eastern Towhee, Bobwhite Quail and Wild Turkey, among others. To sign up, register here or call 865-660-0282.

After the hike, stick around for the launch party of the new Tennessee Brew Works State Park Blonde Ale – this free event will feature samples of the beer, a live Bluegrass band and the Tootsie food truck.

If you can’t join the fun at Seven Islands, there are plenty of other birding opportunities taking place around town:

  • The early bird gets the worm with the Knoxville TN Ornithological Society (KTOS) bird walks at Sharp’s Ridge Memorial Park taking place every Thursday in April. For many years, Sharp’s Ridge has been a favorite sport for local birders to enjoy the excitement of spring migration. The 8 a.m. walks will be held along the road and will focus on these migrants including orioles, grosbeaks, warblers and others. If you are new to birding, this is a great way to get started! For more information, visit the KTOS calendar of events.
  • Also taking place this weekend, the Obed Wild and Scenic River will be featuring a birding walkthrough various habitats along the Point Trail and Lilly Overlook with Dr. Charles P. Nicholson. Nicholson is the author of the definitive book about Tennessee’s bird species, Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Tennessee, and taught bird watching at the University of Tennessee. With over 160 bird species documented, birdwatchers can view small birds like robins, sparrows, black-capped chickadees, and cardinals on any given day. You can also observe larger birds like turkey vultures, red-shouldered hawks, barred owls, and quite possibly, even a bald eagle!

The great thing about birdwatching is that virtually anyone can do it – just don’t forget your binoculars!

Keep up-to-date on outdoor activities and scheduled birding walks on the event calendar.

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