Grassy Ridge mow-off volunteers on mountain bald

Roan Stewardship 2021

Volunteer Days, Bird Surveys, and Public Education

Spring and summer atop the Highlands of Roan stayed busy with active habitat management work days, biological surveys, and more. We’re grateful to all the volunteers who helped with stewardship and outing projects this year, and to all the supporters and partners who make it possible to preserve and restore rare and important ecosystems.

“We’re so glad to have been able to come back together as a group with the return of the annual Grassy Ridge Mow-off,” said Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett. “I think everyone really enjoyed the camaraderie of working together again! We’re very grateful to all the volunteers who came out. Plus, we enjoyed a pleasant surprise — everything bloomed a couple weeks later this year than usual, so we were able to see numerous Gray’s lily blooming in areas that were mowed by volunteers in previous years.. It was also the first time I’ve been on a mow-off without the rain!”

SAHC Board member Larry Pender joined in volunteering at the Mow-off again this year, reflecting on his time as “Celebrating the great outdoors with a heart healthy hike across the Roan and a momentous, meaningful mow atop the Grassy Ridge of the Roan!”

The National Forest Foundation awarded a $15,000 grant to support our grassy balds management work The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) awarded two license plate grants to SAHC, totaling $10,000 to support feral hog trapping in the Roan. SAHC staff continue to implement a previous ATC grant of $4,700 which will support the  installation of educational “peakfinder” signage on Round Bald.

Outreach and Education

youth volunteers doing trail workYouth outings and volunteer work days brought new outdoor experiences to a new generation of conservationists. Roan Naturalist Joshua Lyons led an outing for a TN Girl Scout troop to visit Round Bald and a program for the Friends of Roan Mountain Roan Extreme Adventures, and Roan Ecologist Travis Bordley led two work days with Green River Preserve campers at SAHC’s Elk Hollow Preserve.

youth volunteers at trail head“This is the second year in a row we have partnered with Green River Preserve at Elk Hollow,” says Travis. “They joined us twice this season. During the first trip, volunteers helped remove invasive Japanese knotweed, and the second group helped install stairs along the Everett Bowman Memorial Trail. Both groups enjoyed staying at the camping platform at Elk Hollow for multiple nights and exploring the Roan. We want to give a shout-out to all the volunteers and excellent staff who joined us from the Green River Preserve, and thank them for their continued support!”

Golden-winged Warblers

Close-up of Golden-winged Warbler being heldThe GWWA is found in shrubby, young forest habitats in the Great Lakes and Appalachian Mountains. The regional population in the Appalachian Mountains has fallen by 98%, due in part to loss of breeding habitat, loss of wintering habitat in South America, and hybridization with the closely related Blue-winged Warbler. GWWA nest near the ground, making them vulnerable to predation by raccoons, feral hogs, etc. or to being destroyed by mowing or trampling. The GWWA is actually a forest bird which uses shrubby openings within a landscape that is generally (about 70%) forested on a large scale. Historically, wildfires, small farms, and natural disturbances created a patchwork of this habitat across the landscape. However, with changes in land use, these open areas are rapidly disappearing as they are developed for human habitation or industrial agriculture.

Researchers tagging Golden-winged warblersSAHC is an active member of the Golden-winged Warbler Working Group, which recently released a conservation blueprint to boost the warbler’s numbers by 50 percent within the next 50 years. We have documented GWWA on many SAHC properties, especially those that have old fields or other open areas. In addition to monitoring their populations, we manage many of these properties to maintain a patchwork of habitat. We are also pleased to support researchers as they use our properties to do nesting surveys, geolocator surveys, and more.

close-up of tagging Golden-winged WarblersIn Spring 2021, SAHC staff and our partners completed Golden-winged Warbler (GWWA) surveys across the Roan. Researchers from the University of TN tagged and recorded measurements from birds on SAHC preserves near Hampton Creek Cove. Those birds, both second year males, were carefully netted, tagged with color bands, and safely released. We look forward to seeing where they are documented on their wintering grounds in South America!