The past few weeks have seen an amazing amount of rare bird activity in Tennessee, including Chattanooga.
Tennessee’s First Cassin’s Kingbird
The rare bird bonanza started with Tennessee’s first reported Cassin’s Kingbird being seen at Bell’s Bend Park in Nashville. The Cassin’s Kingbird was first observed by Mary Glynn Williamson on December 6, 2020. While the Cassin’s Kingbird hasn’t been reported in a few days, it is likely still present.
Tennessee’s First Pacific-slope Flycatcher
The bonanza continued with the Tennessee’s first reported Pacific-slope Flycatcher being observed along Maryville’s greenway. The Pacific-slope was first observed by Evan Kidd on about December 28, 2020.
Initially, there was some debate as to the identity of the bird, due to the similarities in appearance between Cordilleran and The Pacific-slope Flycatchers. However, Randy Winston was lucky enough to record a brief, single call note. A recording of the call note was forwarded to Chris Benesh, who is pretty much the top expert with western empids.
Chris Benesh concluded, “The unfiltered cut is a good PSFL male position note. You would not hear this type of vocalization from a COFL away from their hybrid contact zone.” Sadly the Pacific-slope Flycatcher hasn’t been reported present since January 12, 2021.
Tennessee’s First White-throated Swift
The bonanaza then moved to Chattanooga with Tennessee’s first reported White-throated Swift. The White-throated Swift was first observed by Wolf Jedamski, on January 10, 2021, and was being seen as late as January 16, 2021. The bird hasn’t been reported since, but we are hopeful that it will return.
Chattanooga’s winter Anhinga
Then, on January 12, 2021, Libby Wolf photographed a flyover female Anhinga while birding at Standifer Gap Marsh. She states the bird flew in the direction of the VW Marsh. A day later a birder reported that he thought he saw the Anhinga towards the back of the VW Marsh, but also stated it was out too far to be certain. On January 18, 2021, Sally Michaud reported seeing what was likely the same female Anhinga flying west over the Curtain Pole Rd Marsh. There haven’t been any reports on this bird since.
Tennessee’s First Bullock’s Oriel in 25 Years
Then, on January 13, 2021, Tennessee’s first Bullock’s Oriel in 25 years, started visiting the feeders in Diane Whitman’s backyard, located at 117 Shallowford Road. Diane is allowing visitors.
To see the Bullock’s Oriel all you have to do is go to her house. There is no need to call in advance, and visitors are allowed even when she is not there. PLEASE NOTE: The house where this bird is appearing is on a blind turn. As such please do NOT park in her driveway, as it is near impossible to back out without having someone standing in the road to make sure cars are not coming. Instead, please park down the nearest side street, which is Ridgeside Rd. This side street is across the road from her next door neighbor’s house. This bird was last observed on January 19 at 4:45 pm.
Chattanooga’s First (?) Snowy Owl
Just when we thought it was going to quiet down, a Snowy Owl was observed on the boat house of a private residence along Bel Harbor Drive, on January 17, 2021. The Snowy Owl, came to most of the local birders’ attention when they saw it had been reported on eBird earlier in the day. Dozens of observers have seen the bird in the same area. The Snowy Owl hasn’t been seen since January 20, 2021 at 6:00 pm.
Chattanooga has had two separate confirmed Redpoll sighting in the past few days. The first reports involved two Redpolls which have been intermittently observed near where the Snowy Owl was being observed. A single female Redpoll was observed on Zephyr Lane, but it flew before the observer could take a photo. Attempts to relocate it were not successful. However, two days later two Redpolls were photographed on Preserve Drive. These birds were associating with Pine Siskins. There have been no additional observation at either location, since they were initially reported, and several local birders have actively searched for them.
A much more consistent Redpoll has also been observed in the backyard of the mustard-yellow house next to the Ohio Reservation National Military Park on Missionary Ridge, which is located at 25 S Crest Rd.
The homeowner doesn’t mind people looking at his feeders from the Military Park, HOWEVER he asks that observers not enter his property. This Redpoll prefers the platform feeder on the opposite side of the yard from the park. It has been associating with a flock of House Finches. It was still visiting the feeders today, January 22, 2021.
Chattanooga’s Pacific Loon
Chickamuga Lake has also played host to a Pacific Loon. The Pacific Loon was first reported to eBird on December 6, 2020, as being seen from the Booker T. Washington State Park boatramp, by John Diener.
The Pacific Loon, assuming there is only one present, continues to be reported up-and-down the lake at various locations, including Chester Frost and the Vincent Road boat ramp. It was most recently reported yesterday (January 18, 2021) from the Vincent Road boat ramp.
Chattanooga -area Red Crossbills, Evening Grosbeaks
The Chattanooga-area has also seen a few rare birds, including Type-1 Red Crossbills, visiting the Deer Creek Subdivision, just into Collegedale, and a good size flock of Evening Grosbeaks just a couple of miles into Bledsoe County, at Debrah Shannon’s house. Both species were still being seen as of the of publishing this article, January 18, 2021.