Fall color is now past peak, although there is still some autumn hues decorating the mountains along the River Gorge Explorer's route within the Tennessee River Gorge. Naturalist John Dever says birdwatching has been excellent recently with increased sightings of two native species. "Reservoir levels are low right now and with the increased bank exposure, we're seeing a lot of great blue heron and belted kingfisher activity. This duo provides an interesting contrast along the shoreline areas. Tall and angular with a five-foot wingspan and razor sharp bill, the Heron intently waits in the shallows for prey to swim into the strike zone before taking flight in slow measured transitions. The kingfisher, on the other hand, is atomic energy personified. Typically perched on a snag just a few feet above the surface and rarely flying more than twenty feet above the water, the kingfisher flies with a dipping, frantic flight path and a call which could be described as a "racket." In flight the kingfisher can change direction on a dime and hit the water with complete abandon, headfirst...smack; often taking a fish that seems a little too large to swallow. No problem.
While the heron nests in the loftiest of trees in large colonial groups on our river islands, the kingfisher actually digs a tunnel into the bank and hollows out a comfy hole filled with fish bones.
So check em out!"