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Hampton Creek Cove
State Natural Area


SBRSeasonal Checklist

Hampton Creek Cove SNA

Hampton Creek Cove

Photo by Nora D. Schubert

This is prime high altitude early successional habitat for breeding Golden-winged Warblers at Hampton Creek Cove.

Note:  Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area is part of the IBA site, Southern Blue Ridge.

Location:  Three miles south of the town of Roan Mountain near Roan Mountain State Park, Carter County, Tennessee.
Physiographic Province:  PIF 23 (Southern Blue Ridge); BCR 28 (Appalachian Mountains)
Tennessee IBA Site Map - Hampton Creek Cove.bmp (80006 bytes)
Geographical Coordinates: 
    Hampton Creek Cove--Lat. 360925N Long. 0820331W
Elevation Range:  3,000' - 4,800'
    3,038' Hampton Creek Cove
Size:  693 acres
USGS 7.5' quad:  White Rocks Mountain

Description:  Hampton Creek Cove (HCC) contains a diverse array of habitats including 500 acres of mature hardwood and mixed mesophytic forests, 25 acres of grasslands in the form of hay fields, 100 acres of pastureland with a significant amount of early and mid successional scrub-shrub habitat, a small scrub-shrub wetland, and numerous scattered seeps. These seeps were once the source of drinking water here and are fairly common, often found on slopes. One such seep forms a small scrub and shrub bog. The site is bisected by the Left Prong of Hampton Creek, a prominent native brook trout stream. There are three miles of hiking trails.
    At the lower elevations, a caretaker operates a small Appalachian farm. Here horses and cattle graze pastureland, and hayfields are harvested with the intent of maintaining the early successional habitat associated with the peripheries. A substantial amount of early secondary successional habitat exists. This habitat is primarily composed of Black Locust stands--a scrub-shrub component primarily dominated by hawthorn, multi-flora rose, blackberry and some greenbriar; and a dense layer of herbaceous plants that gradually grade into open pastureland. This habitat is decreasing here and in the Southern Appalachians due to reforestation and human gentrification of the landscape.
    The mid and upper elevations of the natural area are composed of a northern hardwood and mixed mesophytic forests together dominated by Yellow Birch, Striped Maple, Northern Red Oak, Tulip Popular, and buckeye. The upper boundary of the property is contiguous to the Cherokee National Forest where the Appalachian Trail (AT) crosses on Little Hump Mountain and Hump Mountain. The Left Prong of Hampton Creek originates in the Cherokee National Forest and is the prominent aqua-feature that drains the property.

IBA Criteria:  2, 3

Hampton Creek Cove

Photo by Nora D. Schubert

High altitude early successional habitat.

Ornithological Importance:  The large mosaic of vegetative communities found at Hampton Creek Cove supports at least 89 species of birds, of which 71 species breed or are potential breeders. Of these, 44 are neotropical species. Others migrate through the area or overwinter on the property.  See Seasonal Checklist. At the lower elevations, early secondary successional habitat provides excellent nesting habitat for the Golden-winged Warbler. This particular habitat type also supports many other species that require early successional habitat for nesting such as the Alder Flycatcher (2-3 territories at HCC)) and Willow Flycatcher (1-3 territories at HCC), and more common species such as the Yellow Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, American Redstart, Common Yellowthroat, Chipping Sparrow, and Indigo Bunting. The forests of the mid and upper elevations of the natural area provide nesting habitat for a number of bird species including the Black-billed Cuckoo (rare), Acadian Flycatcher, Least Flycatcher, Wood Thrush, Yellow-throated Vireo, Black-throated Green Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, and Canada Warbler.
    Note 1. The Golden-winged Warbler is a Tennessee In Need of Management species. In 2001-2002 during the Tennessee Golden-winged Atlas Project, a total of 59 sites and 203 territorial male Golden-winged Warblers were found in two disjunct physiographic provinces:  The Northern Cumberland Plateau (48 sites, 105 males), and the northern part of the Southern Blue Ridge (11 sites, 53 males) (Welton 2003). All but one of the Southern Blue Ridge "sites were located in Carter County in northeast Tennessee. The greatest distance between the ten Carter County sites found in this study was less than 3.5 km (2.2 miles) (Welton 2003)." Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area with 25 territorial male Golden-winged Warblers represented the largest single Golden-winged Warbler site in the state. Surveys confirmed in 2002 (20 territories), 2003 (15 territories), and 2005 (16 territories) (Allan Trently, Nora Schubert).

Hampton Creek Cove

Photo by Nora D. Schubert

High altitude early successional habitat.

    Note 2. Early successional habitat at high elevations is considered rare in the Southern Blue Ridge (Welton 2003).Clearcuts from the turn of the century have regenerated into mature forests and many of the small-scale farming practices have been abandoned in the mountainous areas further advancing the reforestation of these once open landscapes. Current management in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Tellico Ranger District, and on public lands throughout the Southern Blue Ridge is creating very little early successional habitat and may explain why Golden-winged Warblers have been largely extirpated from the Southern Blue Ridge.
    In addition to habitat loss, hybridization with the closely related Blue-winged Warbler is thought to be contributing to the decline of Golden-winged Warbler. Historically, these two species were largely allopatric but human-induced land use changes have allowed the blue-wings to expand into the range of the golden-wings. When these species interbreed they produce phenotypically distinct fertile hybrids called "Brewster's" and "Lawrence's" warblers. Sites above 2,800 feet in both the Southern Blue Ridge and the Northern Cumberland Plateau were found to be free of Blue-winged Warblers and may represent "safe havens" for the Golden-winged Warbler (Welton 2003). The elevation of Hampton Creek Cove is between 3,000' and 4,800' and while no Blue-winged Warblers have been detected during the breeding season, a single Brewster's hybrid has been reported at Hampton Creek Cove from 1996-2005 (Trently 2002, N. Schubert pers.obs.)
    Managing Hampton Creek Cove in early successional habitat and encouraging the creation of early successional habitat on surrounding private land may prove vital to the continued existence of this species in this region.

Site Criteria



Avg. No Season

Max. No. Season

Years of Data



Golden-winged Warbler (NOM) (See Note 1 above.)


19 territories

25 territories

2001-2003, 2005

6, 7a, 7b

3Habitat: Rare high elevation early successional in East Tennessee mountains (See Note 2 above.)B  2001-20056, 7a, 7b
Season1   B = Breeding, W = Wintering, SM = Spring Migration, FM = Fall Migration
Source 2  1-Atlas Breeding Birds of Tennessee 2-Breeding Bird Surveys 3-Christmas Bird Counts
4-Point Counts 5-Refuge Counts 6-Personal observations (Nora Schubert) 7-Other (a-Trently 2002; b- Welton 2003.)

Ownership:  State of Tennessee
    Contact:  State of Tennessee, Department of Environment and Conservation, Division of Natural Heritage, Natural Areas Program, 401 Church Street, 14th Floor L&C Tower, Nashville, TN 37243-0447, 615-532-0431.

Conservation Concerns:  Critical concerns are forestation and succession. Serious concern is hybridization with and competitive exclusion by the Blue-winged Warbler. Potential concern is introduced plants/animals.

Management Program:  Management Authority--Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC), 804 Rock City Road, Kingsport, TN 37664, 423-323-4993; State of Tennessee, Department of Environment and Conservation, Division of Natural Heritage, Natural Areas Program, 401 church Street, 14th Floor L&C Tower, Nashville, TN 37243-0447, 615-532-0431. Conservation Partners--The following contribute to management objectives implemented at Hampton Creek Cove:   Natural Resource Conservation Service, Trout Unlimited, Tennessee State Parks, Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, National Wild Turkey Federation, and Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation.

Submitted by:  Nora D. Schubert, SAHC Seasonal Ecologist, 1909 Cherokee Road, Apartment 4, Johnson City, TN 37604, 423-741-2967, nschube@uark.edu

Additional Contributors:  Allan J. Trently, former SAHC Seasonal Ecologist (field observations 2000-2003); Melinda Wilson, former Eastern Tennessee State University Graduate Student (field observations 1996-1998); Lisa C. Huff, Stewardship Ecologist, Tennessee Division of Natural Heritage (further evaluated classification of concerns); Melinda Welton, Ornithological Consultant and Tennessee Golden-winged Warbler Atlas Project Coordinator.

Trently, A.2002. The Golden-winged Warbler in Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area. Migrant 73:21-25.
Welton, M. J. 2003. Status and Distribution of the Golden-winged Warbler in Tennessee. Migrant 74:61-82.

Approved under the umbrella IBA site Southern Blue Ridge:  February 2006--Yes 7  No 0

This page was last updated on 02/19/06.