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Old Hickory Lake

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Maps

Old Hickory Lake

Heronry at Cage's Bend on Old Hickory Lake.

Photo by Chris Sloan

This heronry near Cages Bend on Old Hickory Lake on July 9, 2005, contained nests of Double-crested Cormorant, Black-crowned Night-Heron, and Great Blue Heron, and a Black Vulture nest in the duck blink, a favorite place for this species to nest along the lakes.

Location:  Old Hickory Lake (Cumberland River), 25.5 miles upriver from Nashville, from river mile 215.0 downstream from Old Hickory Lake dam (river mile 216.2) to river mile 236.0 (upstream from power line crossing at Cages Bend) and from the mouth of Drake's Creek (mouth at river mile 222.7) 4.0 river miles upstream to Gallatin Road, to include all water areas, islands, lakeshore, and public shoreline areas in the counties of Davidson, Sumner, and Wilson, Tennessee.
Physiographic Province:  PIF 14 (Interior Low Plateaus [Central Basin]); BCR 27 (Southeastern Coastal Plain)
Tennessee IBA Site Map - Old Hickory Lake
Geographical Coordinates: 
    Old Hickory Lake--Lat. 361748N  Long. 0863919W
    Drake's Creek--Lat. 361445N  Long. 0863549W
    Saunder's Ferry Park--Lat. 361506N  Long. 0863619W
    Cages Bend Access Area--Lat. 361806N  Long. 0863048W
Elevation Range: 440' - 600'
    446' Old Hickory Lake
    446' Drake's Creek
    459' Saunder's Ferry Park
    446' Cages Bend Access Area
Size: acres
USGS 7.5’ quads:  Goodlettsville, Hendersonville, Hermitage

Description:  Old Hickory Lake was formed in 1954 by a dam and lock (445' above sea level) across the Cumberland River at river mile 216.2. There are patches of hardwood forest of oak, hickory, and maple, and riparian forest of Black Willow and sycamore along the shoreline of parts of the lake. Most of the habitat surrounding the lake is urban/suburban development including several recreation areas with beaches, trails, picnic, and camping facilities including Old Hickory Environmental Area, Saunders Ferry Park, Walton Ferry Access Area, Old Hickory Beach, Lock 3 Recreation Area, Rockland Recreation Area, and the nature trail at the dam. Public floodplain land has been allowed to be manicured and incorporated into yards by adjoining landowners over much of the area thus reducing wildlife habitat.

IBA Criteria:  4a, 4b, 4e

Rookery in Drake's Creek at Old Hickory Lake.

Photo by Chris Sloan

Heronry in Drake's Creek  on Old Hickory Lake.

Ornithological Importance:  The largest breeding colonies of wading birds in the Central Basin are located on Old Hickory Lake. In addition, there are breeding Ospreys, and transient and wintering waterfowl, loons, grebes, gulls, terns, and swallows. Pied-billed Grebe:  Recent high count: September 30, 1997 (100). Horned Grebe:  recent high count: December 1, 1997 (100). Osprey:   Two active nests, July 9, 2005 on different utility towers just upriver from Cage's Bend (Chris Sloan). Terns:  Recent high counts include: Caspian Tern--April 15, 1997 (15); Forster's Tern--September 25, 1997 (47); Black Tern--August 30, 2005 (38) (Richard Connors, Jan Shaw). Swallows:  Recent high count includes: May 3, 1997 (2000+) mixed flock of 6 species (Chris Sloan).
    Note 1. Waterfowl (IBA defined--loons, grebes, cormorants, swans, geese, ducks, coots, and moorhens) totals on the Hickory-Priest CBC, in the period 2001-2005, were: January 1, 2001 (945), January 1, 2002 (720), January 1, 2003 (521), January 1, 2004 (644), and January 1, 2005 (263), for an average of 619 birds. In the more traditional definition of waterfowl (ducks, geese, and swans), the five-year average is 240 birds. Resident Canada Geese are not eligible in any totals.
        American Coots
are present in the hundreds with a few non-breeding birds occasionally in the summer. In the period 2001-2004, Hickory-Priest CBC counts of American Coots were:  January 1, 2001 (541), January 1, 2002 (316), January 1, 2003 (2003), January 1, 2004 (330), and January 1, 2005 (139), for an average of 305 birds. Coot numbers are included in the IBA waterfowl definition above. 
        Double-crested Cormorant was first confirmed breeding in the area on June 13, 1997. Additional nest records include: May 13, 2000 (4 nests), May 10, 2003 (~20 nests), and in a boat survey July 9, 2005, about 134 nests were found at three heronries (see boat survey table below for locations). High counts include:  April 25, 1997 (1,000), May 13, 2000 (190), September 30, 2000 (350), and May 11, 2002 (265).

Rookery at Loch 3 at Old Hickory Lake.

Photo by Chris Sloan

Heronry at Lock 3 on Old Hickory Lake.

    Note 2. From at least 1952 to at least 1988, Black-crowned Night-Herons nested in a wooded lot in an area of Nashville referred to as Bordeaux. The heronry was referred to in the beginning as White's Creek and then as the Bordeaux Heronry. Nest numbers over the years ranged as high as 140+ nests (1984). A prominent feeding area, especially during the breeding season, was Old Hickory Lake, particuarly around the dam and environs. Birds could be seen flying in a straight line between the two sites, a distance of 12 aerial miles. Initially the nesting area was undeveloped but slowly the area was developed and houses were built across the street and next to the heronry. The site was bought by the the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and fenced in 1979. The birds continued to use the site for nesting until the late 1980's or early 1990's when it was abandoned. From all indications, these same birds established a heronry on a small island out from Lock 3 on Old Hickory Lake, Sumner County (Lat. 361624N  Long. 0863814W). Prior to this, the only known nesting of Black-crowned Night-Herons on Old Hickory Lake was in May-June 1975, when 6 nests were built on an island north of Lock 3 across from the community of Old Hickory. A maximum of 30 young were observed on June 22, 1975. The species did not use the island in 1976 or after.
        The island at Lock 3 was first used by nesting herons from the late 1980's or early 1990's until 2005. The Black-crowned Night-Heron was the first heron species to breed. Several years later Cattle Egrets nested and then over a period of years Great Egrets then Great Blue Herons (first nesting activity February 14, 1997), and finally Double-crested Cormorants. Drake's Creek was first used for nesting around 2001 or 2002.
        Great Egret, a Tennessee In Need of Management species, was first confirmed breeding at Lock 3 on Old Hickory Lake on March 31, 1997. This was the first known nesting of this species in the Central Basin. Additional nest records include: May 13, 2000 (1 nest, 6 individuals) and May 10, 2003 (5 nests, 5 individuals).
        Spring Count surveys in the period 2000-2005 document six species of wading birds and Double-crested Cormorant on Old Hickory Lake. Great Blue Heron and Black-crowned Night-Heron were the heron species detected all six years as was the Double-crested Cormorant. The table below summaries the results of these counts.

Wading Birds/Cormorants Spring Counts 2000- 2005

SPECIESMay 13
2000
May 12
2001
May 11
2002
May 10
2003
May 8
2004
May 7
2005
Double-crested Cormorant190
+ 4 nests

20

265

65
+ ~20 nests

10

60

Great Blue Heron303

157

105
+ ~40 nests

90

137

Great Egret (NOM)6
+ 1 nest
--25
+ 5 nests

--

1

Snowy Egret1------

--

--

Cattle Egret25--5040
+ ~30 nests

15

--

Green Heron--1----

--

--

Black-crowned Night-Heron4019

250

100
+ ~40 nests

20

62

TOTAL HERONS/EGRETS102

23

459

250

125

200

TOTAL HERON/EGRET NESTS1 nest

--

--

~125 nests

--

--

TOTAL CORMORANTS190

20

265

65

10

60

TOTAL CORMORANT NESTS4 nests

--

--

~20 NESTS

--

--

Party Leader

Chris
Sloan

Dick
Newton

Chris
Sloan

Chris
Sloan

Susan
Hollyday

Chris
Sloan

 

        Fall Count surveys in the period 2000-2005 documented three species of wading birds and Double-crested Cormorant on Old Hickory Lake. Great Blue Heron was the heron species detected all six years as was the Double-crested Cormorant. The table below summaries the results of these counts.

Wading Birds/Cormorants Fall Counts 2000- 2005

SPECIESSept. 30
2000
Sept. 29
2001
Oct. 5
2002
Sept. 27
2003
Oct. 2
2004
Oct. 8
2005
Double-crested Cormorant350

74

29

31

37

150
Great Blue Heron1115

13

33

4

24
Great Egret (NOM)32--1

2

11
Black-crowned Night-Heron722

75

8

--

8
TOTAL HERONS/EGRETS21

39

88

42

6

43

TOTAL CORMORANTS350

74

29

31

37

150
Party Leader

Chris
Sloan

Chris
Sloan

Chris
Sloan

Chris
Sloan

Chris
Sloan

Chris
Sloan


        A heronry survey conducted by boat on July 9, 2005, documented five islands with evidence of wading birds or cormorant nesting activity. See table below. The largest concentration was in Drake's Creek with an estimated 300+ nests. Because it was late in the season, exact species composition was based on the numbers present, and the size and locations of the nests. A small number of Cattle Egrets had been observed at this heronry earlier in the season, although none were observed on the day of the survey. Cattle Egrets used to have significant presence (25+ nests) on an island just south of Lock 3 (Lat. 361624N  Long. 0863813W), but almost all of the birds have abandoned those islands due to the loss of several large trees during the winters of 2003-2004 and 2004-2005.

Heronry Boat Survey July 9, 2005

SPECIESLock 3 1Tanasi Shores 2Lock 4 3Cages Bend 4Drake's Creek 5
Double-crested Cormorant--3 nests7 nests67 nestsabout 60 nests
Great Blue Heron----17 nests1 nestabout 45 nests
Great Egret (NOM)--------2-3 nests
Cattle Egret--------

--

Black-crowned Night-Heron----5 nests7 nestsabout 195 nests
TOTAL HERON/EGRET NESTS--0 NESTS22 NESTS8 NESTSabout 242 NESTS
TOTAL CORMORANT NESTS--3 NESTS7 NESTS67 NESTSabout 60 NESTS
1 Lock 3 (36o16.24' N, 86o 38.14 ' W). 2 Tanasi Shores (36o 18.117'N, 86o 32.248' W).
3 Lock 4 (36o 19.347' N, 86o 28.468' W). 4 Cages Bend (36o 18.220' N, 86o 30.323' W).
5 Drake's Creek 36o 15.781' N, 86o 36.286' W).

    Note 3. Gull numbers range into the thousands depending on the extent and duration of cold weather. The three main Tennessee gulls are present--Bonaparte's, Ring-billed, and Herring, with a total of eight gull species being recorded over time. Bonaparte's Gulls numbers generally peak during the migration periods with winter numbers dependent on the extent of cold. Ring-billed Gull is the prominent winter gull with non-breeding summer birds annually. Herring Gull numbers on average are small but increase during the coldest weather. In the period 2001-2005, high gull counts include:  Bonaparte's Gull--January 1, 2001 (42) and January 1, 2003 (311); Ring-billed Gull--January 1, 2001 (750), January 1, 2002 (4,000), January 1, 2003 (1,500), January 1, 2004 (2,467), and January 1, 2005 (3,500); Herring Gull--January 1, 2001 (42), January 1, 2003 (52), and January 1, 2005 (45).

Site Criteria

Species/
Group

Season1

Avg. No Season

Max. No. Season

Years of Data

Source2

4a

Waterfowl (See Note 1 above.)

W, SM, FM

                     

                     

1997-2005

3, 6

4b

Wading Birds: Breeding (See Note 2 above.)

B

400

600+

1997-2005

6

4e

Gulls (See Note 3 above.)

W

2,500

4,000

1997-2005

3, 6

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 (Hickory-Priest--Chris Sloan, compiler)
4-Point Counts 5-Refuge Counts 6-Personal observations (Chris Sloan) 7-Other (specify)

Ownership:  The lake itself as well as the islands within it are managed by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. The surrounding areas are owned by a myriad of private commercial and residential landowners although there are a number of public areas managed by the Corps.
    Contact:  Resource Manager's Office, No. 5 Power Plant Road, Hendersonville, TN 37075, 615-822-4846, 615-847-2395.

Conservation Concerns:  Critical concerns are disturbance to birds* and deforestation. Serious concerns are commercial development, residential development/overuse, and pesticides. Major concerns are introduced plants/animals and bird habitat destruction**. Potential concern is air pollution, agricultural conversion, and predation.
   *The rookeries are very vulnerable to human disturbance. Historically, before the main rookery moved to its current location, every visit would turn up a number of shotgun shells as well as birds that appeared to have been injured or killed. In addition, it is easy for boaters and swimmers to intentionally or unintentionally harass these birds by visiting the islands. On the water itself, boaters and sea-do riders have been observed chasing or harassing winter flocks of coots and cormorants.
   **In some respects, the birds slowly destroy their own breeding habitat. Over time, the guano buildup kills the trees in the rookery, forcing the birds to move to a new location while the former location has years to regenerate. It is for this reason that protection of the presently unused islands and shoreline locations is just as important as protecting the presently used islands.

Management Program:  None.

Submitted by:  Chris Sloan, 224 Hicks Road, Nashville, TN 73221, 615-662-5004, chris.sloan@comcast.net

Additional Contributors:  Some of the data is from Ken Oeser. Charlie Leath of the Army Corps of Engineers provided valuable assistance in surveying the rookeries.

Approved as an IBA site:  December 2005--Yes 6  No 1

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