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Habitat Restoration and Management Efforts in Tennessee

Brown-headed Nuthatch, a high priority species, was also a surprise find as they have not been previously recorded on the Centennial Wilderness or State Park; photo by Ted Tucker.
The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) has been partnering with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) and the Tennessee Division of State Natural Areas since 2007 to restore habitat for the Golden-winged Warbler and other important wildlife species in the Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area (HCCSNA). This area is an important IBA within the Highlands of Roan conservation initiative and within the AMJV’s “Southern Blue Ridge Forest Block” Bird Habitat Conservation Area. TWRA project leader Scott Dykes and his crew are enhancing habitat on the forest edge through selective bulldozer operations followed by native warm and cold season grass seeding. SAHC’s Seasonal Ecologist and ornithologist, Nora Schubert, is monitoring the Golden-winged Warbler population annually at HCCSNA since 2005, and as of 2010, she reports there appears to be a positive response to restoration activities. In 2010, SAHC also partnered with Audubon North Carolina’s Curtis Smalling and his team who banded golden-wings in HCCSNA, measured site characteristics, and collected and sent blood samples to Cornell University’s Golden-winged Warbler Atlas Project. In September, SAHC was awarded a grant from the Wildlife Conservation Society Wildlife Action Opportunities Fund that will allow them to expand their habitat management work in 2011.

TWRA also is embarking on a large scale habitat restoration project on a fairly recent addition to Bridgestone-Firestone Centennial Wilderness, a WMA on the Cumberland Plateau. The project area consists of several thousand acres of pine plantation that varies in age from seven years old to mature stands. TWRA will convert approximately 1,500 acres of primarily seven year old pine plantation to open pine savanna. A fire regime was developed and is being implemented to reduce the density of pine trees and encourage sprouting and regeneration of native grasses and forbs. In 2010, TWRA began monitoring the breeding bird community on all managed stands and on some unmanaged seven and 15 year old pine plantations on the adjacent Fall Creek Falls State Park. Approximately 100 point count locations were identified and surveyed at least once in 2010. Several target birds were on site including Blue-winged Warbler, Red-headed Woodpeckers, and Northern Bobwhite. Brown-headed Nuthatch, a high priority species, was also a surprise find as they have not been previously recorded on the area. High densities of Yellow-breasted Chat, Prairie Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, and Field Sparrows were present. Continued monitoring will occur to document changes in the breeding bird community over time.