Natural habitats on the property are primarily dominated by hardwoods including oaks and hickories. In recent years the understory in some areas has become infested with non-native invasive plants such as Chinese privet and bush honeysuckle. Staff has put considerable sweat and tears into removing the invasives near the office with great success. Native wildflowers such as yellow trilliums, toothwort and spring beauty were revealed and are now enjoying their new freedom. Many areas are rocky outcrops and include numerous sinkholes and a large cave.
Fortunately, the existing natural habitats here support considerable diversity in both plant and animal species which we enjoy on a daily basis. The year we moved in (2017) great blue herons also moved in and began a rookery at our small spring fed pond which has now increased to 3 nests. Wood ducks use habitats on the pond and the waterways and have nested in the box we installed at the pond. Our bluebird trail of 10 boxes filled up immediately with bluebirds and tree swallows. One ”bluebird box” was put on the pond in hopes of tempting a prothonotary warbler. Deer are plentiful as are the usual raccoons, ‘possums and groundhogs. A few of the more exciting critters we see from time to time include mink, ravens and bald eagles.
Water is abundant on the property via Nails Creek, Little River, a spring fed pond and another spring. These excellent water sources are critical components for supporting wildlife and for humans as well. The Little River, which originates in GSMNP, is the primary water source for much of Blount County and includes Maryville, Alcoa along with many smaller communities. Taking needed breaks walking through the woods and along the water quickly bring us back to our happy place.