Birding Escapes: Radnor Lake State Natural Area, Nashville, Tennessee
By Bobby Harrison
July 17, 2009
Nestled among the Tennessee hills, just 20 minutes south of Nashville’s Music Row, lies Radnor Lake State Natural Area, the birding crown jewel of Music City USA.
Radnor Lake is an 85-acre manmade impoundment, built by the Louisville and Nashville Railroad in 1914 to supply water for steam locomotives. Not long after its construction, migrating waterfowl began using the lake as a resting and feeding stop. In 1923, the vice president of the railroad proclaimed that Radnor Lake would thenceforth be a wildlife sanctuary. Today the natural area encompasses more than 1,100 acres of the surrounding deciduous forest and is well recognized as Nashville’s greatest birding hotspot.
More than 12 miles of trails wind through the surrounding hillsides, taking visitors to Otter Creek, sloughs, and scenic overlooks. From mid-April through May, Radnor Lake comes alive as migrating warblers, tanagers, thrushes, and other songbirds flood the sanctuary. Breeding migrants of particular interest include Prothonotary Warblers, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, and Summer Tanagers. Skulkers, such as the elusive Connecticut and Mourning warblers, peak around May 15 and can be readily found along the Lake Trail. Late fall brings wintering waterfowl, such as Ring-necked Ducks, Canvasbacks, and Common Goldeneyes, and passerines such as Pine Siskins, Purple Finches, and Brown Creepers.
For the photographer, scenic landscapes, small mammals, deer, and birds abound year round. Spring provides dozens of species of wildflowers, blooming dogwoods, and emerging reptiles.