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© 2015 by KMF

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During his career with the National Park Service and US Fish and Wildlife Service, he advanced bird conservation in the Caribbean, Appalachian Mountains, Southeast Coastal Plain, and the Piedmont regions of the U.S. After leaving federal service, Keith established the Southern Appalachian Bird Conservancy, a small business to assist local and regional conservationists with bird conservation needs. He has assisted the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with Peregrine Falcon monitoring, Breeding Bird Surveys, Christmas Bird Counts, and special wetland surveys and developed an Avian Conservation Implementation Plan for the US Fish and Wildlife Service for the Piedmont Bird Conservation Region. Keith currently lists 646 life birds from North America and includes short forays into Mexico and the Caribbean. His North American list is 594 species, 209 of which have been seen in Sevier County, TN and over 110 in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Together with fellow birders, he has documented birds never before reported for Sevier County, TN.

 

Keith’s family is one of the “First Families” of Tennessee, his maternal ancestors having settled in the Waldens Creek and Pigeon Forge area before Tennessee gained statehood in 1796. His father’s family was the first permanent settlers in what is now Gatlinburg, TN. Much of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park east of Elkmont was home to many of his ancestors.

 

Keith obtained his Bachelor of Science in Forestry and Master of Science in Entomology from the University of Tennessee. His studies and hobbies have led him to explore the Great Smoky Mountain for over four decades, giving him familiarity with the rich and diverse cultural and natural resources of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Contact Greg for availability

(865)661-3474

Tour Pricing

Easy level (2 hours) - $50 (1 or 2 people)

($25 each additional client and hour)

Moderate level (3-4 hours) - $75 (1 or 2 people)

($37.50 each additional client and hour)

Difficult level trips (4-5 hours) - $100 (1 or 2 people)

($50 each additional client and hour)

Tour Difficulty Rating

Easy Walks for Beginning Birders and Kids! We will spend either 2 or 4 hours at local areas such as Sevierville Memorial River Greenway, Pigeon Forge Riverwalk Greenway, Sugarlands Nature Trail, Gatlinburg Trail, Douglas Dam, or Emerts Cove. We will see or hear most of the permanent residents common to each area and summer residents that have migrated to the area. There will be plenty of fun and colorful birds!

 

Moderate Walks for Birders with Intermediate Skills. We will spend 2 or 4 hours at various locations throughout the Great Smoky Mountains National Park including Cades Cove, Cove Hardwood Nature Trail, Newfound Gap, Clingman’s Dome, Schoolhouse Gap and Seven Islands State Birding Park. Longer walks can be arranged to spend more time birding. During spring, the warbler and songbird migration is fantastic.

 

Difficult Walks for Advanced Birders. We will spend 2 or 4 hours looking for those highly desired Great Smoky Mountain specialties such as Common Raven, Black-capped Chickadee, Winter Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Red Crossbill and Red-breasted Nuthatch. Locations available are Alum Cave Trail, Andrews Bald, Charlie’s Bunion, Cove Hardwood Nature Trail. Longer walks can be arranged to spend more time birding.

Contact Greg for availability

(865)661-3474

 

Tour Description

Cades Cove (winter)

Trip Description: Join Keith as you search for wintering resident songbirds, raptors, woodpeckers and wintering sparrows in the fields, hedgerows, and forest edges along Sparks Lane, Hyatt Lane, and Burchfield Cemetery. As dusk approaches we'll search the fields of Hyatt Lane for Northern Harrier almost always present and in some winters, Short-eared Owls. A snack will be useful as we will be birding past dusk.

What to bring: Water, light snack, all-weather gear, hiking boots, binoculars, camera.

 

Cades Cove (spring/summer/fall; 1/2 day)

Trip Description: We will search the road edges, fields, woodlots, forest edges for Neotropical spring migrants, summer and permanent residents of Cades Cove. Over 190 species have been documented in the Cove and spring and summer will yield a very rich assortment of grassland birds, songbirds including warblers, thrushes, tanagers, and sparrows, and raptors. We plan to exit the Cove between 11:30 and 12 noon, so be prepared to have a lunch or dine at the Campground Diner. In fall, we will conduct the same tour searching for fall migrants, especially Neotropical songbirds. Permanent residents will be seen all year long.

What to bring: Water, light snack, all-weather gear, hiking boots, binoculars, camera.

 

Cades Cove (spring/summer/fall; 2/3 day)

Trip Description: We will search the road edges, fields, woodlots, forest edges for Neotropical spring migrants, summer and permanent residents of Cades Cove. Over 190 species have been documented in the Cove and spring and summer will yield a very rich assortment of grassland birds, songbirds including warblers, thrushes, tanagers, and sparrows, and raptors. We will meet at 7:00 am at the information kiosk at the cove entrance and car pool through the Cove stopping at various habitats to see and hear as many species as possible. We’ll also plan to visit the Sphagnum bog on the west side of the cove for unusual birds. Near the cove exit, we will stop at the sewage ponds to look for migrant waterfowl. We plan to exit the Cove between 1:30 and 2:00 pm, so be prepared to bring lunch.

What to bring: Water, light snack, all-weather gear, hiking boots, binoculars, camera.

 

Alum Cave Trail (May through June)

Trip Description: Rise early and greet the spring as we ascend Alum Cave Trail to Alum Cave, where we hope to hear and see Peregrine Falcon. Along the way, we’ll hear and see a wide assortment of singing and nesting Neotropical migrants, especially Canada, Black-throated Blue, and Black-throated Green Warblers, Blue-headed Vireos, Veery and other thrushes, Scarlet Tanager, flycatchers, plus the areas permanent residents, Common Raven, Black-capped Chickadee, Winter Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet and Red-breasted Nuthatch. Over 75 species have been recorded on this trail in early May! We will begin at 7:30 am and return to the parking area early afternoon, so lunch will be needed. Meet at the Alum Cave Trail main parking area. Degree is difficulty is considered moderate to strenuous.

What to bring: Water, light snack, all-weather gear, hiking boots, binoculars, camera.

 

Newfound Gap (mid-April through July)

Trip Description: Ah, summertime in the upper elevations of the Smokies! What better place to spend a cool summer day and look for summer nesting wood warblers, thrushes, vireos, flycatchers and other Neotropical and permanent residents songbirds. We’ll begin at Newfound Gap, move on to the Spruce Fir Nature Trail, and Clingman's Dome while searching for birds, and especially those high elevation specialties of the Great Smoky Mountains; Common Raven, Red Crossbill, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Black-capped Chickadee, and Winter

Wren. It’s like spending a day in Canada! Over 150 species have been observed along this route We will meet at 7:30 am and end at Clingman’s Dome around noon, so lunch will be needed. Meet in front of the Rockefeller Memorial. Degree of difficulty is easy.

What to bring: Water, light snack, all-weather gear, hiking boots, binoculars, camera.

 

Andrews Bald (May through June)

Trip Description: Join Keith as you hike from Clingman’s Dome to Andrew’s Bald, a grassy bald with azaleas and rhododendrons, in North Carolina. We’ll begin at 8:00 am and walk downslope through Spruce-Fir forest to one of the most picturesque vistas in the Great Smokies, looking and listening for summer nesting wood warblers, thrushes, vireos, flycatchers and other Neotropical and other permanent residents specialties of the Smokies high elevations: Common Raven, Red Crossbill, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Black-capped Chickadee, Golden-crowned Kinglet and Winter Wren. If you join Keith in mid-June, you’ll be witness to one of the most spectacular azalea and rhododendron blooms in the Great Smoky Mountains. Bring a lunch to enjoy afterward or at Andrews Bald. Degree of difficulty is easy. Meet at the Forney Ridge Trail trailhead.

What to bring: Water, light snack, all-weather gear, hiking boots, binoculars, camera.

 

Clingman’s Dome (May through June)

Trip Description: We will explore the area around Clingmans’ Dome for summer nesting Neotropical migrants such as warblers, vireos, thrushes, and flycatchers (Least Flycatcher nests along the paved pathway to the Dome) and those special high elevation Smokies residents: Common Raven, Red Crossbill, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Black-capped Chickadee, Golden-crowned Kinglet and Winter Wren. We will begin at 8:00 and finish about noon, so bring a lunch for after the walk. Meet at the Forney Ridge Trail trailhead. Degree of difficulty is easy.

What to bring: Water, light snack, all-weather gear, hiking boots, binoculars, camera.

 

Charlie’s Bunion (May through October)

Trip Description: This destination hike offers great birding during the warmer months year. We will begin this hike at Newfound Gap and end at Charlie’s Bunion on the Appalachian Trail. All of the usual summer breeders, high elevation specialties of the Great Smoky Mountains (Common Raven, Red Crossbill, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Black-capped Chickadee, and Winter Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet and Peregrine Falcon) are possibilities. Late summer hikes will produce an abundance of offspring several high elevation breeders such as Red-breasted Nuthatch, Blue-headed Vireo, and Black-throated Green Warbler. And of course, fall hike, especially in October will yield southbound Neotropical migrants and splendid fall color and vistas. Meet at the Rockefeller Memorial at Newfound Gap at 7:30 am. Degree of difficulty is moderate.

What to bring: Water, light snack, all-weather gear, hiking boots, binoculars, camera.

 

Cove Hardwood Nature Trail (May and June)

Trip Description: Originating from the Chimney Tops Picnic Area, this short hike is good for a morning of outstanding birding during spring migration and late spring. At least 75 species have been recorded here, including 15 wood warblers. This area boasts one of the Smokies highest abundance of Black-throated Blue Warbler. In spring, this trial offers a wide variety of spring wildflowers as well. Meet at 7:30 am at the Cove Hardwood Nature Trail exhibit in Chimney Tops Picnic Area on Hwy 441 five miles from Sugarlands Visitor Center. Degree of difficulty is easy.

What to bring: Water, light snack, all-weather gear, hiking boots, binoculars, camera.

 

Schoolhouse Gap (May and June)

Trip Description: This easy hike through a rich variety of forest habitats is good for spring Neotropical migrants, permanent resident breeders, plenty of wildflowers and one of the park’s most elusive birds, the Swainson’s Warbler. This traditional nesting place is one of the most reliable areas for Swainson’s Warbler. Approximately 90 bird species have been recorded along this trail which follows Spence Branch for a short time. This hike will begin at 7:30 am and return to the parking area at 12 noon, so bring a snack. Meet at the Schoolhouse Gap Trail trailhead on Laurel Creek Road before entering Cades Cove. Degree of difficulty is easy.

What to bring: Water, light snack, all-weather gear, hiking boots, binoculars, camera.

 

Sugarlands Visitor Center Nature Trail and Vicinity (mid-April through June)

Trip Description: This low elevation hardwood forest site is one of the first areas in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to host early spring migrants. Funneling down Sugarland Mountain and the West Prong Gorge, migrants show here sometimes in late March. The variety of habitats and geographical location of Sugarlands Visitor Center has attracted over 130 bird species and a gentle stroll through the area will yield plenty of birds. Often birding here produces close up views of many species, particularly the Louisiana Waterthrush, a streamside nesting warbler. Meet at 7:30 am at the flagpole at Sugarlands Visitor Center. Degree of difficulty is easy.

What to bring: Water, light snack, all-weather gear, hiking boots, binoculars, camera.

 

Seven Islands State Birding Park (January, May, June, September, October) 1/2 to 2/3 day

Trip Description: This is one of the premier destinations for birders in the Knoxville and surrounding areas. The first and only State Birding Park, Seven Islands is located in Knox and adjacent to Sevier Counties along the French Broad River. A wide range of natural and managed aquatic, grassland, and woodland habitats attracts birds in all seasons. Over 190 species have been documented at the park and on active spring days during migration, up to 80 or more species can be observed and or heard. We will meet at the gated entrance at 7:30 am on all dates except January when we will meet at 8:30 am. We will walk the extensive trail system throughout the 416 acre park. Bring a snack or lunch. Degree of difficulty is easy.

What to bring: Water, light snack, all-weather gear, hiking boots, binoculars, camera.

 

Douglas Dam Headwaters and Tailwaters (January, March, May, June, September, October, December) all day

Trip Description: We will meet at the boat launch near the RV Campground to scope the waters for waterfowl including terns, ducks, grebes, loons, gulls, Double-crested Cormorants, all the while watching for Bald Eagle, Osprey, and other raptors. In May and June, we will walk the Trotter Bluff Trail to see and hear the areas permanent residents, and Neotropical Migrants that may be passing through or breeding here as summer residents. We will then travel to the Tailwater section of Douglas Dam where we will observe Great Blue Heron and Double-crested Cormorant rookeries, Black-crowned Night Heron, hundreds of Cliff Swallows and search Prothonotary Warblers in spring. We will then move up to the Douglas Dam Overlook to search for the resident Red-headed Woodpeckers nesting near the picnic area. This is also a good place for spring Neotropical migrants and summer residents.

What to bring: Water, light snack, all-weather gear, hiking boots, binoculars, camera.

 

Douglas Lake by Boat (November through March) 1/2 day

Trip Description: We will board our vessel ?? and search for wintering waterfowl, grebes, loons, gulls and other wintering birds. We’ll gently travel the shorelines from the boat launch and travel into Flat and Silva Creek and return to cover the area of Douglas Lake in Jefferson County east toward Dandridge. Bring plenty of warm gear for cold temperatures, rain gear, food, and water. We will leave the boat launch at 8:30 am and return around 12 noon.

What to bring: Water, light snack, all-weather gear, hiking boots, binoculars, camera.

 

 

 

 

Any Specialty Desired – Keith is available to guide at other locations as well depending on availability and desire of client. For example, if a group or family wanted to see Ramsey Falls and learn about birds, Keith could lead and guide this hike to along the Ramsey Falls Trail to the falls.

A native to Sevier County, Keith has almost 40 years of national birding experience, including East Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountains. He began his birding experience as a conservationist and birder in the mid-1970’s in Knoxville, TN as a student at the University of Tennessee. He often traveled to and experienced the magnificent and now historic “waves” of warblers on Sharp’s Ridge (Knoxville), known regionally for its attraction to migrating songbirds.

(865)661-3474

Guided Bird Tours by Keith Watson of

Southern Appalachian Bird Conservancy

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