Tennessee & Kentucky: Winter 2022–2023

Winter 2022–2023: 1 Dec–28 Feb

Graham Gerdeman

Recommended citation:

Gerdeman, G. 2023. Winter 2022–2023: Tennessee & Kentucky. <https://wp.me/p8iY2g-gEI> North American Birds.

Weather conditions throughout the region fluctuated widely. Average monthly December temperatures were in the normal range for Kentucky and above average throughout most of Tennessee, despite the region being rocked by a winter storm that sent temperatures plummeting into negative digits. Some locations in middle Tennessee briefly saw temperatures below 0˚F for the first time in more than two decades. January and February temperatures were much above average for the season. Precipitation was above average at most reporting stations, particularly in January.

A cold snap in December preceded higher than usual numbers of Lapland Longspurs and American Pipits in parts of middle Tennessee. Both species are rare in all but small numbers outside of west Tennessee. Irruptive winter finches were mixed. Pine Siskins were extremely scarce in both states. Purple Finches, however, were reported to eBird across the region in average or even above average numbers. A predicted irruption of Evening Grosbeaks stopped shy of this region; only one was reported in Kentucky and the only reports from Tennessee came from three feeder locations in higher elevations of east Tennessee.

Rarities for Kentucky included a first state record of Limpkin and a continuing Pink-footed Goose, as well as Western Grebe, Neotropical Cormorant, Prairie Falcon, and Western Tanager. Tennessee had quite a few notable rarities including Western Grebe, Red-necked Grebe (several), Black-Legged Kittiwake, California Gull, Ferruginous Hawk, Limpkin, Smith’s Longspur, Black-headed Grosbeak, Townsend’s Solitaire, and Spotted Towhee. Please note that inclusion in this report does not imply that a record has been reviewed or accepted by the relevant state’s records committee. Special thanks goes to Chris Sloan, previous longtime compiler of this report, for his thoughtful review and edits.

Sub-regional Compilers
Ronan O’Carra (Kentucky).

Abbreviations Duck River (Duck River Unit, Tennessee N. W. R., Humphreys Co, TN); Ensley (Ensley Bottoms, including the EARTH Complex and TVA Lake, in southwest Shelby Co, TN).


Eight Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks were reported in Ballard Co, KY 12 Dec (Michael Autin, Asher Higgins) with sightings continuing in the area until a single bird was last reported 7 Jan (Scott Record). High counts of Snow Geese in TN were an estimated 42,000 at Tumbleweed WMA, Lake Co 26 Jan (Ruben Stoll) and 40,000 in Obion Co 12 Jan (Mark Greene). A high count for KY of 20,000 was reported at Sauerheber Unit Sloughs WMA, Henderson Co 7 Dec (ph. Jeanatte Frazier). A high count of 39 Ross’s Geese for the region was reported at the Duck River, Humphreys Co 31 Jan (Ruben Stoll). The Pink-footed Goose first found in Shelby Co, KY in the Fall was relocated in nearby Jessamine Co 17 Dec (Sydney Penner, ph. Kyle Bixler, m.ob.). This first state record bird persisted in the area and was last reported on 1 Jan (ph. Nancy Braun). It was a good year for Cackling Geese in the region with a KY state record high number of 50 reported west of Paducah, McCracken Co 15 Jan (Scott Record). The highest count in TN was 270 at Duck River, Humphreys Co 9 Feb (Alan Troyer). This location consistently appears to be by far the most important wintering area for Cackling Goose in the southeast. Analysis of historical eBird data reveals no other location east of the Mississippi River with similarly high wintering populations. Two were also found on Ft. Patrick Henry Lake, Sullivan Co, TN 27 Dec (Bambi Fincher, Sherrie Quillen, m.ob.), the first in several years for east Tennessee.

Trumpeter Swan was reported in three KY locations: a long staying juvenile bird in Oldham Co 24 Dec, which persisted into the spring season (Mack Williams, m.ob.); one in Larue Co 31 Dec (Rosemary Meredith); and one in Henderson Co 12 Jan (David Stone). A count of 97 Tundra Swans at Waterworks Rd. Slough, Henderson Co, KY 12 Jan was the highest for the region; seven at the traditional flock in Sauerheber remained until 21 Feb (Teresa Graham). In TN, higher than expected numbers were reported, with reports from seven locations: four birds stayed all winter from 1 Dec–26 Feb in Rhea Co (Bob & Anne Watson, m.ob.); one other long-staying bird was at Chester Frost Park in Hamilton Co from 28 Dec–24 Feb (Stefanie & Kristin Whitson, m.ob.); one was at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge, Meigs Co from 6 Jan–26 Feb (Barrie Davenport, m.ob.); and up to six were at Duck River 29 Dec (Jeremy Teague). Other reports included one in Franklin Co 9 Jan (Daniel Redwine), one in Bedford Co 26 Jan of uncertain provenance (Ron D. Hoff, Dollyann Myers), and three in Shelby Co 26 Dec (Cliff VanNostrand).

Surf Scoters were reported in higher than average numbers this winter. Up to five were reported on the Ohio River in Jefferson Co, KY 9 and 14–15 Dec (Brainard Palmer-Ball, Jr.); one above Newburgh Dam in Henderson Co, KY 11 Jan (Robert Rold, David Stone, Julia Farmer), one on South Holston Lake, Sullivan Co, TN 10 Dec (Rob Biller, Larry McDaniel, m.ob.); two at Gray’s Landing, Land Between the Lakes, Stewart Co, TN 14 Dec (Daniel Redwine); and one at Paris Landing SP, Henry Co, TN 2 Feb (Alan Troyer). White-winged Scoters also showed well with five reports. One was reported on the Ohio River in Jefferson Co, KY 1 Dec (Brainard Palmer-Ball, Jr.); one at Sander’s Ferry Park, Sumner Co, TN 2 Dec (Tim Loyd); one at Reformatory Lake, Oldham Co, KY 5–6 Feb (m.ob.); one on Lexington Reservoirs 1 and 2 in Fayette Co, KY 18–26 Feb (David Lang, Fred Fahmy, m.ob.), and one at Ft. Patrick Henry Lake, Sullivan Co, TN 18 Feb (Bambi Fincher, Sherri Quillen, m.ob.). Five Black Scoters were reported at Fort Patrick Henry Lake, Sullivan Co, TN 10 Dec, and one was reported there 27 Dec (Richard L. Knight).  A tie for the high count of five for the region was reported at Booker T. Washington SP, Hamilton Co, TN 2 Dec (Tim Lenz); one was also reported on Percy Priest Lake, Davidson Co 3 Dec (Avery Fish). In KY, a continuing bird from the fall season was reported all winter and into the spring season on the Ohio River in Jefferson Co (m.ob.); one was also observed on a reservoir in north Clark Co 5–10 Dec (David J. Svetich, Lisa Combs, Nancy Braun, ph.). Three Long-tailed Ducks were seen by many at Radnor Lake SP, Davidson Co, TN 3 Feb (M. Brown, m.ob.). Two were observed on South Holston Lake, Sullivan Co, TN  26 Dec (Mike Sanders); one report of a single bird at Boone Ridge, Bell Co 21 Dec was the only report for KY.  Rounding out notable waterfowl in the region were 200 Common Mergansers on Dewey Lake, Floyd Co, KY in mid-January (Randy Wilcox, ph.); one was also found at Long Hunter SP, Davidson Co, TN  9 Jan–17 Feb (Bubba Singleton, m.ob.), which is not an annual occurrence for middle Tennessee. Eight were reported in Cherokee National Forest, Polk Co, TN 1–2 Jan (Rusty Ramsey).

Grebes through Gulls

It was a good winter for sightings of less common grebe species in TN. Lone individual Red-necked Grebes were seen on South Holston Lake, Sullivan Co 26 Dec (Mike Sanders) and again 22 Jan–14 Feb (Cade Campbell, m.ob.)—these were thought to be different birds. One was found at Duck River 19 Dec (Alan Troyer), and a bird discovered at Radnor Lake in Nashville 28 Feb (Paul Edelman) was the first record in Davidson Co since 1975. At least three Eared Grebes overwintered on Percy Priest Lake, Davidson Co TN, continuing from the fall (m.ob.), with one bird lingering through 25 Feb (Daniel Redwine); one was also found on nearby Old Hickory Lake, Sumner Co 4 Dec (Tim Loyd). One or two birds continued from fall at Wolf Creek Dam, Russell Co, KY, and were last reported 10 Feb (Asher Higgins). A single Western Grebe was found and photographed at Duck R, Humphreys Co, TN 6–10 Dec (ph. Alan Troyer, m.ob.); another bird was reported 28 Jan on Barren River Lake, KY by a lone observer (John David Brubaker fide Asher Higgins, KBRC review required).

A rare winter Ruby-throated Hummingbird was caught in Williamson Co, TN 11 Dec (Cyndi Routledge, banded). Rufous Hummingbirds were recorded in Davidson Co, TN 11 Dec (Cyndi Routledge, banded), and 12–14 Dec in Hamilton Co, TN (Ginny Cummings, Mark Myers, banded). In Kentucky, a continuing immature female in Mclean Co was last reported 22 Dec (Tonya Logsdon fide Brainard Palmer-Ball, Jr.); another continuing immature female south of Junction City, Lincoln Co was last reported 1 Dec (Jeff Sole); and there was an immature female in Kenton Co 13 Dec (Brainard Palmer-Ball, Jr., banded). It was last reported 22 Dec (Kathy Caminiti fide Brainard Palmer-Ball, Jr.).

Virginia Rails occur regularly in TN over the winter in appropriate habitat. This season, there were reports from eight locations, including 13 birds reported in Greene Co 5 Jan (Ruben Stoll, Warren Massey), which ties the second highest winter count on record for the region. In Kentucky, there was one report of a single bird at Peabody WMA, Muhlenberg Co 1 Jan (Brainard Palmer-Ball, Jr., Teresa Graham). Soras were reported in at least four locations in TN: two at South Mouse Creek, Bradley Co 1 Dec (Tim Lenz); Standifer Gap Marsh in Hamilton Co had multiple reports from 20 Dec–19 Jan with a high count of two on 19 Jan (Peter Robinson, m.ob.); three was the highest count this season for the region at the Walmart Distribution Center marsh area, Greene Co 5 Jan (Ruben Stoll, Warren Massey); and one bird was reported in Middle TN at Walker Branch SNA 18 Feb (Ruben Stoll, Victor Stoll, Alan Troyer). Kentucky finally joined neighboring states with a first state record Limpkin on a pond northeast of Sharon Grove, Todd Co 4–12 Dec (ph. Kervin Newswanger fide Ray Bontrager, m.ob.). Hamilton Co, TN’s first Limpkin continued from fall and was seen from 21 Dec–9 Jan (m.ob.).

The highest number of wintering Sandhill Cranes reported in KY this season was 2,000 in Barren Co, west of Glasgow 23 Jan (Sandra Moss, Linda Craiger). The important wintering ground for this species at Hiwassee Refuge in Meigs Co, TN reported 6,341 on their annual CBC (fide Kevin Calhoun), which was about average for recent years. Two Whooping Cranes present at Hiwassee 1 Feb and again 4–9 Feb (Donna Bourdon, m.ob.) were the only ones reported.

As many as six Least Sandpipers spent much of the winter at Chester Frost Park, Hamilton Co, TN, where they were reported consistently from 17 Dec–16 Jan (Gary Brunvoll, ph. Sean Walters, m.ob.); two were reported in the same location 11 Feb (Daniel R. Jacobson). There were two reports of Pectoral Sandpiper in KY: one continuing at Crappie Hollow in Calloway Co 3 Dec (Hap Chambers); 12 at Curry Pike Marsh, Mercer Co 24 Feb (Asher Higgins) were early spring arrivals. A single bird on Swamp Rd in Rutherford Co, TN 27 Feb (Hugh Barger) was also a notably early arrival.

A single late Greater Yellowlegs was reported at Lake Linville, Rockcastle Co, KY 4 Dec (David J. Svetich, Lisa Combs); a lone New Year’s bird at Duck R, Humphreys Co, TN 1 Jan (Ruben Stoll, Victor Stoll, Daniel Redwine) was a rare winter record. A single Lesser Yellowlegs appeared early on Swamp Rd, Rutherford Co, TN 27 Feb (Hugh Barger); and there was one Greater/Lesser Yellowlegs reported on the Collway Co, KY CBC 21 Dec (ph. Aviva Yasgur, Darrin Samborski fide James Wheat) that could not be identified to species.

A Black-legged Kittiwake at White’s Landing, Lake Co, TN 17 Dec (Ruben Stoll, Victor Stoll) was a rare find and the only one reported. It was found the day after a Little Gull was found in the very same location 16 Dec (Michael C. Todd). There were two reports of Iceland Gull (Thayer’s) from the KY Dam, Marshall/Livingston Cos: an adult on 6 Jan (Brainard Palmer-Ball, Jr., ph. Jamie Baker) and a first-year bird on 19 Feb (ph. David Bailey). This species was also reported in TN at three locations: a Thayer’s at Pickwick Dam, Hardin Co 29 Dec (ph. Alan Troyer, Ruben Stoll); a bird unidentified to subspecies on Kentucky Lake at New Hope Landing, Benton Co 28 Jan (Daniel Redwine); and a Thayer’s type at the Benton Co Landfill 31 Jan (ph. Ruben Stoll, Daniel Redwine). An adult California Gull was found at the Benton Co Landfill two days later on 2 Jan (ph. Ruben Stoll, Victor Stoll, Alan Troyer), representing approximately the 15th record for the state. This same location also hosted a new state record high count of 44 Lesser Black-backed Gulls 31 Jan (Ruben Stoll, Daniel Redwine). At least 15 were reported at the Calvert City landfill in Marshall Co, KY 16 Dec (Brainard Palmer-Ball, Jr.), which was the highest number for KY.  The landfill mentioned above in Benton Co, TN is a relatively newly discovered and accessible birding location in TN. Birders have only been visiting the site since 2019, but it has quickly become an important gulling location in the region, with potential for additional significant rarities.

Loons through Falcons

Red-throated Loons were reported in at least eight locations in TN. High counts of four were recorded at Paris Landing SP, Henry Co 2 Feb (Alan Troyer) and at Percy Priest Lake, Davidson Co 4 Dec (Daniel Redwine, m.ob.). Pacific Loons were less abundant than usual with regular reports of single birds in Hamilton Co from 1 Dec (ph. Tim Lenz) and continuing until a final report 11 Feb (Bruce Dralle, m.ob.); as many as two on Cherokee Lake, Grainger Co 8–16 Jan (K. Dean Edwards, m.ob.); one on Old Hickory Lake, Sumner Co 22 Dec (Michael Smith, ph. Tim Loyd); and at least two all season on J. Percy Priest Lake, Davidson Co through 4 Feb (Lucas Liu, m.ob.).

A single Anhinga was reported as continuing from fall 12–21 Dec from the Duck River Bottoms Overlook, Benton Co, TN (Ruben Stoll, m.ob.), marking only the second winter record in the state.

An over-wintering Neotropic Cormorant was reported off and on 8 Dec–11 Feb at Duck River (ph. Ruben Stoll, Daniel Redwine, m.ob.); another reported up the river at the New Johnsonville State Historic Park, Humpreys Co, TN 18 Feb (Alan Troyer, Ruben Stoll, Daniel Redwine) may represent a different bird. One at Barkley Dam, Lyon/Livingston Cos, KY 21/26–28 Feb (David Roemer, Tom Durbin, ph. Hap Chambers, m.ob.) and one at Drake’s Creek, Old Hickory Lake, Sumner Co, TN 20 Feb (ph. Tim Loyd) were early spring arrivals of this species, which appears to be rapidly increasing in the region.

American White Pelicans are now locally common winter residents all along the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers in east and middle TN, Reelfoot Lake in west TN, and southwestern KY, as well as on multiple smaller bodies of water. A report of 761 soaring birds painstakingly counted from a photograph at the Percy Priest Field Trials Area, Rutherford Co, TN 19 Jan (ph. Melissa Turrentine, Carole Swann) appears to be the high count for the season; 350 at Jonathan Creek Embayment, Marshall Co, KY 14 Jan (ph. Hap Chambers) was the high count for KY.

There was one winter report of an American Bittern at the WalMart Distribution Center in Greene Co, TN 5 Jan (ph. Ruben Stoll, Warren Massey). A single Green Heron was reported 4 Dec, 1 Jan, and 5 Feb on Chickamauga Lake, Rhea Co (Jonah Snead, m.ob.). Both are rare in the region in winter. A single Great Egret was reported in KY in Hopkins Co 10 Dec (Beverly Carrico). Once a rarity in winter, Great Egrets are now a regularly wintering bird in double digit numbers in multiple locations in Tennessee.

Golden Eagles were reported from three locations in Kentucky and seven in Tennessee. Two were at Duck River on 29 Dec (Jeremy Teague); a juvenile bird first reported 30 Dec (ph. Barrie Davenport) at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge, Meigs Co, TN was very dependable and provided looks for many birders until last reported 26 Feb (Kevin Calhoun, m.ob.). Other records in the region were individual birds seen once or twice.

Rough-legged Hawks were reported in three locations. One east of Trenton in Todd Co, KY was first reported 18–20 Dec (ph. Brainard Palmer-Ball, Jr., Sharon Arnold, Rickey Shive) but had apparently been in the area for about a month (Keith Yoder fide Brainard Palmer-Ball, Jr.); two birds (not seen together) were reported in Oldham Co, KY 27–30 Dec (Andrew Melnykovych, ph. David Bailey, m.ob.); and one bird was seen and well photographed in Lake Co, TN 4 Dec (ph. Dave Hawkins, Laurie Hawkins). A spectacular, long-staying juvenile Ferruginous Hawk continuing from fall was reported from the same fields in Gibson Co, TN until last seen 30 Dec (Mark Greene). This was the fifth TN record and by far the most chaseable. It was enjoyed by many from across the state.

While not regularly reported publicly, the mega-rare single returning Burrowing Owl continued all winter for the third year in a row at the highly restricted New Johnsonville TVA plant in Humphreys Co, TN (Liz Hamrick, Tammy Ross fide Graham Gerdeman).

Long-eared Owls, always a rare find, were particularly scarce this winter. The only observations were at a roost in Lake Co, TN with a high count of five birds 1 Jan (Ruben Stoll, Victor Stoll, Alan Troyer). Reporting was delayed to prevent harassment of this sensitive species. EBird reports of Long-eared Owl are now hidden nationwide for the same reason.

Fourteen Short-eared Owls at a known roost in Logan Co, KY 20 Dec (Rickey Shive) represented the highest count for the region this season; eight were reported 31 Dec (Mark Greene) at Tumbleweed WMA, Lake Co, TN; five were reported from a survey of Ft. Campbell, Montgomery Co, TN 3 Feb (Rick Shipkowski, Daniel Moss). Northern Saw-whet Owls were reported by intrepid nocturnal birders on Joe Milian Rd, Henry Co 15 Dec (Daniel Redwine) and again 21 Jan (Ruben Stoll, Daniel Redwine); in Humphreys Co, TN 21 Dec (Alan Troyer); and in Perry Co, TN 28 Dec (Alan Troyer, Baker) and 8 Jan (Ruben Stoll). Though rarely documented during migration, the author could find only one other winter record of this species in Middle TN (Henry E. Parmer’s Birds of the Nashville Area, 4th Edition, (1985) lists one bird from the winter of 1952–53 in Williamson Co (Amelia Laskey, Katherine A. Goodpasture).

A count of 106 Red-bellied Woodpeckers in Hamilton Co, TN 17 Dec (fide Kevin Calhoun) was a noteworthy number and the highest ever for the Chattanooga area CBC.

A single Prairie Falcon was an extremely rare find northwest of Monticello, Wayne Co, KY 15 Dec (ph. Lyle Bontrager). There are fewer than 20 records in KY.

Vireos through Sparrows

Blue-headed Vireo has historically been considered an accidental winter visitor in the region. There were two reports of Blue-headed Vireo in KY this season: one at Sloughs WMA, Henderson Co 9 Dec (Keith Michalski); one at Rockcastle River WMA, Pulaski Co 14 Jan (Roseanna Denton). In Tennessee, however, 19 were reported in seven different counties!

Begin S.A.

At the time of Somershoe and Sloan’s Birds of Tennessee – a New Annotated Checklist (2015), there had been “only a handful” of winter reports of Blue-headed Vireo in the region. Since the very winter after that book’s release, that frequency has jumped impressively to roughly 10–12 reports annually in TN. They are not alone. House Wrens and Vesper Sparrows were both considered rare in winter only a few years ago. They have wintered annually in ever increasing numbers in the past eight years in Tennessee. House Wrens wintered across the state in more than 40 locations this season and are essentially locally expected winter residents now. Perhaps most surprisingly, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, an obligate insectivore with only five winter records for the region in 2015, has had around 25 records in Tennessee in the eight years since. While not over-wintering, the earliest arrival for Tree Swallows by 2015 was in February. In the eight years since, there have been more than a dozen January records. These trends would seem to be indicators of a warming climate in just under the past decade.

End S.A.

American Crows gather in very large roosts in the non-breeding season. A count of 22,000 at a roost in Laurel Co, KY 27 Dec (Nathan Farnau) was the highest reported.

The spring arrival of Tree Swallows has markedly shifted in just the past few years. An observation at Amnicola Marsh, Hamilton Co, TN on 9 Jan (Tim Russel fide Bruce Dralle) was an early record this season; a report of 16 in the same location 31 Jan (Bruce Dralle) was a high count for the season; three at Gentry Lake in Metcalfe Co, KY 8 Feb (Sandra Moss) was the earliest report for Kentucky. Very rarely seen in winter, a single Northern Rough-winged Swallow was reported in Shelby Farms, Shelby Co, TN 18 Dec (ph. Emily Conant). An observed and photographed Purple Martin in Shelby Co 16 Jan (ph. Cameron Rutt) set a new early arrival date for TN by a full two weeks.

Brown-headed Nuthatch has expanded greatly up the Tennessee River in east Tennessee and is now present year-round in multiple areas, yet the species remains rare elsewhere in the state and is very localized in KY. They were only reported in that state at a known nesting location in Laurel Co throughout the season (Karol Wilson, m.ob.).

Rare in winter, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher was reported in three locations in TN. A single bird at Norris Dam SP, Anderson Co 10 Dec (ph. Jacob Wessels) may have been a continuing individual from that location in Nov; another was in Monroe Co on the same day (Beth Schilling); and one was seen in Perry Co 1 Jan (Ruben Stoll, Victor Stoll, Alan Troyer).

There were two reports of House Wren in KY: one southwest of Somerset, Wayne Co 15 Dec (ph. Roseanna Denton); and one on the Allen Co East CBC 27 Dec (Jamin Beachy). This species has become increasingly more common as a winter resident in TN, and there were many reports across that state. Marsh Wrens were reported in several locales: one was at Pfeiffer Fish Hatchery, Franklin Co, KY 3 Dec (Joyce Fry, Joyce Bender); one was in Muhlenberg Co, KY 1 Jan (Brainard Palmer-Ball, Jr., Robert Rold); and as many as five (22 Jan by Cameron Rutt) were reported throughout the winter at Ensley, Shelby Co, TN. There were also multiple records at Walker Branch SNA, Hardin Co, TN with a seasonal high count of four on 18 Feb (Ruben Stoll, Alan Troyer, Daniel Redwine). Elsewhere in Tennessee, Single birds were reported at White Oak WMA, Hardin Co 16 Jan (Daniel Redwine); in Perry Co 20 Dec (Victor Stoll); and in Kyker Bottoms Refuge, Blount Co on both 15 Dec and 3 Feb (Kelly Fox).

One of the standout rarities of the season was a Townsend’s Solitaire found in Perry Co, TN 19 Dec (ph. Alan Troyer) and continuing until 14 Jan (Kent Pennington, Kent Dubois, m.ob.), during which time it was seen by many birders. This represents the seventh record for Tennessee.

American Pipits were seen in quite high numbers in middle Tennessee during the extremely cold December “bomb cyclone” event. An observation of 140 around J. Percy Priest Lake, Davidson Co 24 Dec (Graham Gerdeman) was a record high number for that county. The highest number reported in KY was 72 in Wayne Co 15 Dec (Asher Higgins). A TN Ornithological Society field trip reported a noteworthy 80 birds in Robertson Co, TN 18 Feb (Michael Smith, m.ob.).

Purple Finches were reported across both states. A count of 26 at Peabody WMA, Ohio Co, KY 1 Jan (Robert Rold) appears to be the highest number reported. As noted in the introduction, Pine Siskins were in far lower than average numbers this season. They were reported in numbers of between 1–5 individuals from only slightly more than a dozen locations across KY over the entire season; a high count of 26 was reported in TN in the Great Smoky Mountains NP 18 Dec (Jacob Wessels).

Red Crossbill is very rare in KY, and is a review species; one was reported at Boone Forestlands WMA 10 Dec (ph. Lyle Bontrager). Two in Bays Mountain Park, Sullivan Co, TN 17 Dec (Bambi Fincher, Sherrie Quillen) were unusual for the location, which is much lower elevation than their expected range.

The highest number of reported Lapland Longspurs was 255 on the Elkton CBC in Todd Co, KY 4 Jan (Ruben Stoll); 152 were counted on the Metro Nashville soccer fields on Dell Rd, Davidson Co, TN 27 Dec (ph. Grant Winter) marking a new county record, as many of these birds came into the area with the strong winter storm. Thirty-one were recorded at Hickerson Rd Sod Farm, Coffee Co, TN 31 Dec (ph. Justin Nation, Robin Nation). Two very rare for the region Smith’s Longspurs were reported among a flock of as many as 32 Laplands in Shelby Farms, Shelby Co, TN 24 Dec (ph. PJ Pulliam, Jim Varner). This interspecific association is also quite notable as Smith’s Longspurs reportedly do not associate with other species on the wintering grounds (Briskie, J. V. (2020). Smith’s Longspur (Calcarius pictus), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (A. F. Poole, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.)

There are fewer than a dozen winter records for Lark Sparrow in the region. One was reported this season in Hamilton Co, TN 3–25 Feb (Bruce Dralle, ph. Tommie Rodgers, m.ob.). Far more regular in KY, American Tree Sparrows were reported in only three TN locations: five at Tumbleweed WMA, Lake Co 11 Jan (Daniel Redwine) was a high count; individual birds were reported at Shelby Farms, Shelby Co 16 Jan (Tommy Edwards) and at Thorny Cypress WMA, Lake Co 5 Feb (Alan Troyer). A vagrant Harris’s Sparrow was continuing at Petersburg Cemetery, Boone Co, KY until last reported 17 Dec (Tonya Logsdon). Vesper Sparrows were reported in more than 20 locations across TN; none were reported in KY. Similarly, Lincoln’s Sparrows occurred in more than a dozen TN locations; there were only two reported in KY: one at Garvin Brown Nature Preserve, Jefferson Co 19 Dec and again 1 Jan (Major Waltman, ph. David Bailey); and another at Kentucky Bend, Fulton Co 18 Feb (Brainard Palmer-Ball, Jr., David Bailey). A report of 500+ Swamp Sparrows at Kentucky Bend, Fulton Co 18 Feb (Brainard Palmer-Ball Jr., David Bailey) represented a new record high for KY and one of the highest ever for the region. A continuing Spotted Towhee was reported off and on in blackberry brambles at a location in Paris, Henry Co, TN from 7 Dec–28 Feb (ph. Robert Wheat). This represented only around the 25th or 26th record for the state, yet it was oddly not chased or observed by others despite being regularly reported by the original observer for many months.

Blackbirds through Dickcissel

There were two reports of Yellow-headed Blackbird: one at Western KY University Agricultural Center, Warren Co, KY 15–16 & 18 Dec (David Roemer, Randall Sale, Blaine Ferrell); and one in farmland northeast of Elliston Park, Henderson Co, KY 11 Jan (David Stone). Though Western Meadowlarks are typically found in small numbers in far west TN, two reports further east along the TN river were exceptional: one at Duck River, Humphreys Co 31 Dec–1 Jan (ph. Ruben Stoll, Victor Stoll, Alan Troyer); and one at Savannah Bottoms, Hardin Co 18 Feb (Ruben Stoll, Alan Troyer, Daniel Redwine). There was one report of at least two in McCracken Co, KY 19 and 28 Dec (ph. Pam Spaulding, Brainard Palmer-Ball, Teresa Graham, David Stone), representing the only record this season in KY. A seasonal high count for the region of 32 Brewer’s Blackbirds was reported from Savannah Bottoms, Hardin Co, TN 29 Jan (Ruben Stoll).

For the second winter in a row, an adult male Black-and-white Warbler overwintered at Amnicola Marsh, Hamilton Co, TN, with reports throughout the winter from 1 Dec–25 Feb (Bruce Dralle, m.ob.); a separate report a few miles away 23 Dec (Tim Russell) may or may not have been a different individual, as it was not reported at the marsh in late Dec. There was also one reported in Knox Co, TN 10 Dec (Jarrett Dickey). A lone out of season Common Yellowthroat was reported at Arthur K. Draut Park, Jefferson Co, KY 19 Dec (Brad Kremer); there were three reports TN, all from Hamilton Co: one at Varner Unit WMA 30 Dec (Peter Robinson); one at Standifer Gap Marsh 2 & 19 Jan (Peter Robinson, Sean Walters); and one at Booker T. Washington SP 10 Feb (Kent Pennington). An exceptional Cape May Warbler was reported at Chester Frost Park, Hamilton Co 1 Jan (ph. Stefanie Whitson, Kristin Whitson), marking only the ninth winter record for TN. A late Northern Parula was reported at KY Dept of Fish and Wildlife Resources Headquarters, Franklin Co, KY 2 Dec (Michael Patton)—only the second December record in KY. Rounding out the Wood-warblers, a count of 20 Palm Warblers in Hamilton Co, TN 17 Dec (Kevin Calhoun) was an all time high count for the Chattanooga CBC.

An exceptional Scarlet Tanager was reported at Amnicola Marsh, Hamilton Co 19 Feb (ph. Simone Madsen). This is only the second documented winter record of the species. A vagrant male Western Tanager, Kentucky’s fifth,  was present all winter in a yard in Louisville, Jefferson Co, KY 18 Dec (ph. Rick Sullivan) and continuing into the spring season (m.ob.). A Black-headed Grosbeak coming to a feeder at a private residence in Shelby Co, TN 22 Dec (Dotty Giusti) represents approximately the 25th record for TN. There was one report of an immature Indigo Bunting in central Jefferson Co, KY 18 Dec (Michael Callan). A Dickcissel, a very rare winter resident, was reported from 21 Dec–16 Jan at Chester Frost Park, Hamilton Co, TN (ph. Stefanie Whitson, Kristin Whitson, m.ob.); one was also reported as heard calling at Duck R, Humphreys Co 21 Dec (Ruben Stoll).

eBird Basic Dataset. Version: EBD_relFeb-2023. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Feb 2023.

Report processed by Eric DeFonso, 10 Jan 2024.

Photos–Tennessee & Kentucky: Winter 2022–2023

Kentucky finally joined the Limpkin club with this first state record bird on a pond northeast of Sharon Grove, Todd Co. Photographed here on 12 Dec 2022. Photo © Katey Buster.

This perched Prairie Falcon was a very lucky find for Kentucky birder Lyle Bontrager, who managed a photo from his car on 15 Dec 2022 before the bird took off. Photo © Lyle Bontrager.

A Smith’s Longspur (foreground) is seen here foraging with a Lapland Longspur in Shelby Co, Tennessee during an unseasonably cold weather event on 24 Dec 2022. The two species do not usually associate on wintering grounds. Photo © Jim Varner.

Kentucky’s fifth Western Tanager entertained many local birders at a private Louisville residence, where it stayed throughout the winter. Photographed here on 19 Jan 2023. Photo © Steve Wilson.

This Red-necked Grebe appeared at Radnor Lake SP in Nashville, Tennessee on 28 Feb 2023 and stayed for seven days, delighting local birders with close views. It was the first one seen in the county since 1975. Photo © Grant Winter.

This striking young Ferruginous Hawk stayed through the winter, hunting along the same stretch of road in Gibson Co, Tennessee. It was an amazing opportunity for every birder in the region. Notice the very long yellow gape which is a field mark for the species. Photographed here on 29 January 2023. Photo © Mark Greene.