Return to Newsletter

Oak Ridge National Environmental Research Park

Research Park Notes
Issue 15, June 12, 2001

Welcome to Research Park Notes! Look for tidbits of information on National Environmental Research Park activities, observations, and users every couple of weeks. To provide newsletter input, request additional information, make comments, or add/delete mailing list names, contact the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Area Manager, Pat Parr.


Kari Cohen, graduate student from the University of Maryland, is working on the Research Park this summer with Pat Parr. He will be developing guidelines for use of native grasses on the Research Park and assisting in Research Park management activities. Kari is here as an intern through the Joint Institute of Energy and Environment/Southern Appalachian Man and the Biosphere programs.

Goose Longevity - Kelly Roy, Environmental Sciences Division, ORNL

Kelly Roy tagging Canada geeseLongevity of Canada geese using the Oak Ridge Reservation has been monitored since 1989. There are currently about 6 geese more than 12 years old that are known to use the reservation. They have neck collars (white with black lettering and numbers). The six oldest geese are all females, but Kelly is quick to note, “but this doesn't necessarily mean that females live longer--maybe they just retain their collars longer....” Geese on the reservation are rounded up annually and neck collars applied. Specific letter designations are used for specific years. Beginning in 1997, leg bands only were used. Anyone observing neck-collared geese (from any area location) can email the information to Kelly ( Please include your name, phone number, date, time, and exact location of sighting. Also, please report any goose found dead with a collar or leg band (including the same information and leg band number, if possible). The finder may keep the leg band. Reservation geese are rounded up annually during their flightless summer molt period, sexed, and weighed. The next reservation goose roundup is scheduled for June 26-27 and is a cooperative effort by personnel from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, East Tennessee Technology Park, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Tennessee Department of Conservation, and the Animal Damage Control Unit of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


Elk Update - Jim Evans, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Oak Ridge Wildlife Manager


Remember the elk recently released at the Royal Blue Wildlife Management Area in February 2001? They are missing one. He was seen and reported to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) employee D. Dillinger on April 14, 2001. The elk was seen by Mr. Dillinger from Highway 95 in the White Oak Lake area of the Oak Ridge Research Park. TWRA elk biologist Steve Bennett confirmed the sighting the next day using radio tracking equipment. The elk was a 5-year old, 500-plus pound male that was part of the group released on the TWRA's Royal Blue Wildlife Management Area in February 2001. Efforts were made on April 19 to catch the bull and return it to Royal Blue Wildlife Management Area. These efforts were complicated by the need to coordinate with the University of Tennessee Vet program, University of Tennessee Wildlife Department, TWRA, ORNL security, Health Physics personnel, etc. These complicated efforts were unsuccessful primarily because of the extremely thick vegetation along the White Oak Lake shoreline. The elk has since left the Research Park and was last located on April 31 by a weak radio signal coming from the Jones Island portion of the Clinch River in Loudon County. Efforts to pinpoint the exact location of the elk have been hampered by the inability to fly because of the regularly occurring thunderstorms.


Barn owlBarn owl sighting delights watchers (Published April 29, 2001, in Knoxville News-Sentinel by Marcia Davis, page E7)

A barn owl appeared from an abandoned silo and flew out across an open field in broad daylight. More than 40 people, on a guided visit to the new wildlife refuge at Freels Bend in Oak Ridge, stood in amazement and awe at the sight of this rarely seen, secretive, very nocturnal owl.

Barn owls are easily identified by their heart-shaped face and are sometimes described as monkey-faced owls. They lack ear tufts and appear white underneath. The call, usually given only in the night, is a hissing shriek.

The population of barn owls may be declining as farmlands with their open grassland habitats, such as hayfields and pastures, disappear. In Tennessee, the barn owl has been designated as a species in need of management due to its scarcity.

Barn owls feed almost entirely on small, nocturnal mammals such as voles, shrews, mice, and rats. They may fly many miles a night as they silently sweep low over open grasslands in search of prey. Small mammals may freeze in fear when the barn owl utters its terrifying shriek.

The owls nest in hollow trees, caves in river bluffs, silos, abandoned buildings, barns, quarries, and special nest boxes. Nests are difficult to locate because the birds are shy, secretive, and hard to see if silently roosting or standing motionless in a dark place.

No nest is built. Barn owls usually lay three to seven eggs, which hatch about 33 days after the first egg is laid. The young remain at the nest site and are fed by both parents for 9 to 12 weeks. It is sometimes possible to locate a roosting or nesting barn owl by the presence of droppings on the floor, wall, or beams of a building. Also, black, glossy pellets of undigested bone and hair from prey items are spit up by the owl and accumulate under favorite roosts. Examination of these pellets gives clues about the food eaten by the owl.

The refuge at Freels Bend provides lots of wild open land used by other birds of prey besides the barn owl. A great horned owl was seen roosting in the top of a hedgerow beside an open field and a pair of red-tailed hawks circled overhead. A barred owl was heard and a red-shouldered hawk flew above the shoreline. Osprey were observed on their bulky stick nest atop a utility pole at the edge of the water. A broad-winged hawk soared and a migrant northern harrier, uncommon in East Tennessee, flew past. The short grass fields at the refuge are good habitat for American kestrels.

The presence of so many species of hawks and owls tells us that this land must have lots of food for birds of prey. The abandoned farmland, protected from human disturbance for many years, has extensive open fields with both short and tall grasses. Shrubby and wooded areas, plus bottomlands along the water, add to the diversity.

A total of 73 species of birds, including the very uncommon barn owl, was recorded on the morning of April 21, 2001, on the guided walk at Freels Bend. This is a remarkably high number of birds to see at one location, in just a few hours, while enjoying an easy walk with many scenic views.

Freels Bend is part of the Three Bend Scenic and Wildlife Management Refuge Area established last summer on the Oak Ridge Reservation by the U.S. Department of Energy. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has a five-year license with DOE to actively manage the refuge for wildlife. Solway Bend, Freels Bend, and Gallaher Bend are the three bends of the nearly 3,000-acre refuge on the north shore of Melton Hill Lake in Anderson County. Public access is restricted on many parts of the refuge. However, the greenway in the Gallaher Bend section is open year-round to walkers.

The American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge has scheduled several public bird watching field trips to the restricted area of Freels Bend. Saturday morning trips depart at 7 a.m. on May 5, 12, and 19, with reservations required before noon on the Friday before the trip. Telephone Lissa Clarke (1-865-576-3218) and go to the museum web site ( for details, directions, and sign up. Bird watchers, children, and photographers will enjoy the field trips. This is your opportunity to visit a beautiful place, see lots of birds, and learn about plans for the conservation and management of the important bird habitats on the three bends of the wildlife refuge. (NOTE: Walks are sponsored by TWRA, ORNL, and the Museum of Science and Energy and have been completed for this year. Check Park Notes next spring for the 2002 schedule.


NASA's Terra satellite provides the most complete view ever assembled of the flow of global air pollution.


June 12, 7:00 p.m. – Solutions to Air Pollution: An Open Community Forum to Address the Air Quality of the Smoky Mountain Region, Gatlinburg Convention Center. Speakers Jim Renfro, National Park Service; Stephen Smith, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy; Janice Nolen, American Lung Association. For more information, email:

June 24-27, 2001 – National Association of Environmental Professionals Annual Meeting in Arlington, Virginia. Contact National Association of Environmental Professionals, P.O. Box 2086, Bowie, MD 20718, (301) 860-1141,

June 27-29, 2001 – "Decision Support Systems for Water Resources Management," AWRA/UCOWR Summer Specialty Conference, Snowbird Resort, Snowbird, Utah. More info: Contact AWRA Headquarters [(540) 687-8390] or

August 5-8, 2001 – "Globalization and Water Management--The Changing Value of Water," AWRA/University of Dundee International Specialty Conference, University of Dundee, Dundee, Scotland. More info: Contact AWRA Headquarters [(540) 687-8390] or

August 5-10, 2001 – The 86th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America, Madison, Wisconsin. More info:

October 3-6, 2001 – Natural Areas Association Annual Conference at Cape Canaveral, Florida, on “Searching for a Natural Balance.” More info:

November 12-15, 2001 – Annual Water Resources Conference, Hyatt Regency Albuquerque, Albuquerque, New Mexico. More info: Contact AWRA Headquarters [(540) 687-8390] or

November 26-28, 2001 – Southern Forest Science Conference, Contributions of Forest Research to Sustainable Forestry, Atlanta, Georgia. More info: or call (828) 257-4302.

The Oak Ridge National Environmental Research Park was designated by the Department of Energy in 1980 and is one of a network of seven National Environmental Research Parks. It is an Oak Ridge National Laboratory User Facility. The Oak Ridge National Environmental Research Park was designated an international biosphere reserve in 1989. It is also a unit member of the Southern Appalachian Biosphere Reserve and part of the Southern Appalachian Man and the Biosphere (SAMAB) Cooperative. More information on the Oak Ridge National Environmental Research Park can be found on the website at:

Top of Page / Home / Send comments to Pat Parr
Last Modified: July 11, 2001
Warnings and Disclaimers