Nashville area tips

I spent the last few days in Nashville, Tennessee. It was not a mammal-watching expedition, but I checked out a few nice places.

  1. Centennial Park in downtown Nashville has a colony of big brown bats under the roof of open-air theater about 200 m ESE of the Parthenon. Some eastern grey squirrels in the park belong to a color morph I haven’t seen before, with golden-yellow tails.
  1. Warner Parks on the SW outskirts of Nashville had a lot of woodland voles, particularly in a private section called Cheekwood Estate and Gardens (entrance $20 pp). That section has a large patch of juniper forest on limestone (locally known as “cedar glades”) where the voles were incredibly abundant during our visit: we saw a few running across trails in broad daylight, and burrows were everywhere.
  1. Cedars of Lebanon State Park is a much larger area of cedar glades where woodland vole burrows were also common, although not to the same extent. We checked out a few caves and didn’t see any mammals, but found a golden mouse while spotlighting just outside one small cave (directions provided upon request).
  1. Long Hunter State Park, yet another area of cedar glades, used to have white-morph eastern grey squirrel, but they’ve gone extinct by 2010, according to park rangers. We saw a northern short-tailed shrew crossing the trail around Couchville Lake.
  1. Cheatham Wildlife Management Area is a large forest W of Nashville with a network of gravel and dirt roads, good for spotlighting. Eastern coyote and eastern red bat seemed to be particularly common; to see the latter, just drive around very slowly and sooner or later one will start catching moths in front of your car. I also saw a female opossum carrying a bunch of babies on the back there.
  1. Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area is also good for night drives. In one night I saw two bobcats, four grey foxes, and one eastern harvest mouse. I think it’s the only time I’ve ever seen a Reithrodontomys mouse cross a road.
  1. Dunbar Cave State Natural Area is a great place to see grey myotis and eastern woodrat. Grey myotis and some tricolored bats roost at night at the cave entrance (inside the gate but well visible with binoculars), while the woodrat lives in the rock wall above. (The entrance area also has the highest density of cave salamanders I’ve ever seen.) There are two trails from the parking lot to the cave; take the lower (paved) one and listen/look for prairie voles in the grass on the right side (we saw two in about an hour); watch also for muskrats in the lake. Small rocky alcoves on the left side of the trail look promising for eastern spotted skunk. You can see more bats (and southern cavefishes) during weekend cave tours (reservations required), but we couldn’t take one because my daughter was 2 and they didn’t allow kids under 5. The park closes at sunset but they don’t mind you staying a bit longer as long as you park outside the gate.

Vladimir Dinets

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