Birds Georgia and Trees Atlanta are delighted to host a long-term art exhibit by Kate Breakey that calls attention to bird population declines. This haunting collection of 64 bird photos is now on display in the Board Room at the Trees Atlanta Kendeda TreeHouse located at 825 Warner Street, SW, Atlanta, GA 30310.
The images were made using the earliest form of photography, a process invented by Hendy Fox Talbott (1800-1877) who is regarded as the father of photography. They are called "photogenic drawings" or "photograms" — images made without a camera. The subject is simply laid on light sensitive paper and exposed to light. The result is a negative shadow image that shows variations in tone that depends upon the transparency of the objects used.
The birds on this wall are part of a larger series of photograms of plants and animals made over a 10 years period. They ranged from the tiniest of creatures —scorpions and beetles, bats and mice, to larger mammals, coyote and deer and everything in between, snakes and birds, possum and rabbits —several hundred individual creatures in all. In the darkroom they became the ghostly shadows of the remains of these living creatures, burned into photographic paper with light and with love, to make a lasting impression, the only document of their brief existence here this earth.
A selection of this work was published by University of Texas press in 2012 as a book titled ‘Las Sombras/The Shadows’.
Some of the birds pictured in this exhibit were killed after colliding with buildings. Birds do not see glass as a barrier or understand its reflection, instead they see an open flyway or larger expanse of habitat. Each year, between 350 million and 1 billion birds perish after colliding with buildings in the United States. Nighttime lighting can attract and disorient migrating birds causing them to crash into illuminated facades or land in locations full of threats. Birds may also become trapped in beams of light where they fly until they are exhausted. During daylight hours, reflections of trees and landscapes confuse birds who have stopped to rest and forage causing them to crash into buildings upon takeoff.
Birds Georgia is working to better understand and pursue actions to reduce bird-building collisions through our Project Safe Flight Georgia and Lights Out Georgia programs. The new Trees Atlanta Kendeda TreeHouse, which Birds Georgia calls home, has been constructed using bird-safe glass, which has been shown to reduce collision by more over 90 percent.
A recent study revealed that more than 3 billion birds have been lost since the 1970s. Through small actions, like turning out the lights at night, and through larger conservation actions, like requiring bird-safe glass in new building construction, we can all do our part to help #BringBirdsBack.
Our deepest thanks to Kate Breakey, the artist, for allowing us to display her work and to Laura Adams, a nature artist, curator, and owner of Brickworks Gallery, whose recent 3 Billion Exhibit at the Hudgens Center for Art and Learning (where these photos were also featured in Spring of 2021) called attention to the steps we can all take to make the world safer for birds.
Birds Georgia will be hosting an open house on Sunday, January 28, at 3:00 PM to give our members and the public an opportunity to visit and learn more. Laura Adams, a nature artist, curator, and owner of Brickworks Gallery, will be on hand to discuss how, through art, we can bring awareness to the tragedy of bird loss and its potential solutions. Adam Betuel, director of conservation for Georgia Audubon, will be on hand to discuss Birds Georgia’s work to study and reduce bird-building collisions. And Kate Breakey, the artist who created these haunting images, will join us via Zoom from her home in Arizona, to discuss her work and the process she uses to create these images. We hope you will join us!
Visit our Upcoming Events page to register for the event.
Georgia Audubon was recently awarded a grant from National Fish & Wildlife Foundation’s Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Program to restore 10 acres of habitat to protect the South River Watershed for the benefit of birds, pollinators, and other wildlife. The project site is located within the Lyon Farm area of the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area, adjacent to the South River in southern DeKalb County.
As part of the restoration effort, Georgia Audubon will engage eight local partners and at least 50 volunteers to remove non-native vegetation from 10 acres of the South River Watershed and install 5,400 bird-friendly native plants and 40 pounds of seed to the area to provide high quality habitat for birds and other species. As part of the project scope, Georgia Audubon will engage local community members through volunteer projects, bird and wildlife monitoring, and public outreach and education programming. Georgia Audubon is joined by several partners to complete this work, including Arabia Mountain National Heritage Alliance, DeKalb County Watershed Management, Georgia Native Plant Society, Flat Rock Archives, South River Watershed Alliance, Panola Mountain State Park, and Rock Springs Restoration.
“We are excited to have the support of the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation for this project in the South River Watershed, which is one of Georgia Audubon’s priority areas for engagement,” says Adam Betuel, Georgia Audubon’s director of conservation. “Lyon Farm is located along the South River, and our restoration work will directly benefit the riparian corridor that not only provides valuable habitat for birds and other wildlife, but it also acts as a buffer that protects and enhances the health of this important metro watershed.”
As part of the project, Georgia Audubon’s habitat restoration team and volunteers will remove invasive plant species, including Bradford Pear (Pyrus calleryana), Chinese Privet (Ligustrum sinense), and Autumn Olive (Eleagnus umbellate), as well as non-native, invasive herbaceous plants such as Brazilian Verbena (Verbena brasiliensis), Johnson Grass (Sorghum halepense), and Beefsteak Plant (Perilla frutescens). After the invasive plants are cleared, Georgia Audubon will add native seeds, a diversity of wildflower plugs, and gallon-sized woody, native plants to the space to support and jumpstart the native regeneration of habitat.
The project area is a 10-acre plot located in an area known as Lyon Farm, which stands today as a reminder of the area’s history and a glimpse into the agricultural lifestyle that once dominated the area. It also is key to the history of Flat Rock, one of the oldest African-American communities in Georgia. People were enslaved at the site prior to the Civil War. Enslaved people from the Lyon Farm site went on to help found the community of Flat Rock after the Civil War. Today, Flat Rock is one of the oldest African-American communities in Georgia. The formerly enslaved people from the Lyon Farm and other surrounding farms created a close-knit and resilient community following the Civil War, enabling themselves to flourish in the rural South.
The project area is located in the South River watershed, which encompasses approximately 544 square miles. Approximately 40 percent of the watershed lies in the southern part of urban DeKalb County, which is located on the southeast edge of metro Atlanta. This restoration project will serve as a model of bird-friendly habitat that can be undertaken on other sites within the South River watershed, protecting South River-adjacent communities from flash flooding and other effects from climate change that are disproportionately impacting communities of color.
This is the sixth award that Georgia Audubon has received from The Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Program, which seeks to develop nation-wide community stewardship of local natural resources, preserving these resources for future generations and enhancing habitat for local wildlife. Grants seek to address water quality issues in priority watersheds, such as erosion due to unstable streambanks, pollution from stormwater runoff, and degraded shorelines caused by development.
The Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration grant program is sponsored by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) with major funding provided by U.S Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Salesforce, FedEx, and Southern Company.
About Georgia Audubon: Georgia Audubon is building places where birds and people thrive. We create bird-friendly communities through conservation, education, and community engagement. Learn more at www.GeorgiaAudubon.org.
About the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation: Chartered by Congress in 1984, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) protects and restores the nation’s fish, wildlife, plants and habitats. Working with federal, corporate, foundation and individual partners, NFWF has funded more than 6,000 organizations and generated a total conservation impact of $8.1 billion. NFWF is an equal opportunity provider. Learn more at nfwf.org.
by Dottie Head, Director of Communications
Georgia Audubon is poised to launch a new virtual education platform in September 2023 that will revolutionize and streamline the way the organization delivers content to members and program participants. The platform will be called the Morgens Environmental Education Gateway, in honor of the founding grant from Jim and Sally Morgens with the Morgens West Foundation.
“The Morgens Environmental Education Gateway is a digital space that fosters engaged learning with current educational resources, future program offerings, and other resources to support a thriving birder community and connect people across Georgia,” says Jared Teutsch, Georgia Audubon executive director. “The spark behind the creation of this Gateway was to enable Georgia Audubon to reach our education program participants virtually, while maintaining the ability to offer place-based programs in some locations, as needed.”
As a statewide organization, Georgia Audubon is continually working to offer educational content for members across the state. During the pandemic, the need for an online platform to deliver this content was brought into vivid focus as traditional in-person classes were neither safe nor practical. Georgia Audubon was a leader in Georgia and the nation in rolling out virtual content during the pandemic including webinars, workshops, virtual field trips, and other programs using Zoom to reach our constituents who were isolated at home. Georgia Audubon’s online content was wildly successful, and it sparked this thought process about building a more robust platform where people could view, on-demand and ad-free, a variety of bird-related educational programs for the comfort of their own homes.
“Jim and Sally Morgens have been generous supporters of Georgia Audubon's education programs, providing seed funding for our in-person Connecting Students with STEM through Birds program and other education programs, so we were excited to present this Gateway proposal to them as way to foster interest and education in birds and their habitats, especially in the next generation,” says Teutch.
“We found in Georgia Audubon’s gateway proposal an ideal way to reach children and teens by assisting science teachers and creating material for school projects relating to birds and birding. Expanding the availability of Master Birder, which serves already-committed birders, is just icing on the cake.” Jim explained.
One of the first programs that will be offered via the Morgens Environmental Education Gateway will be our popular Georgia Audubon Master Birder Program, beginning in October 2023. This six-week program will feature course content taught virtually via the Gateway, followed by in-person weekend field trips in different geographic areas of the state to allow program participants to get hands-on experience with the bird ID and ecology lessons being presented via the virtual sessions. For the fall 2023 course, participants will use the Gateway to access weekly lessons, chat with other learners, and receive field trip information and other updates. In the future, Georgia Audubon anticipates offering the Master Birder Program fully on-demand, where participants can learn on their own schedule.
The Gateway will also feature programming that is available to Georgia Audubon members as a membership benefit. Initial webinar offerings include Beginning eBird, Migration Forecasting and Lights Out Georgia, and Backyard Birds of Georgia.. These courses will be available on-demand for members to view free-of-charge to help them learn more about identifying and reporting birds they see at home or afield. We anticipate adding additional programming as the platform grows and we hear from constituents about the content they would like to see.
As an added bonus, the Morgens Environmental Education Gateway will integrate Georgia Audubon existing membership and registration portal. Upon registering for a course, like Master Birder, via our NEON portal, program participants will be automatically uploaded to the Gateway and will receive email confirmations of course participation, links to join the course, and reminders about upcoming coursework and deadlines for completion.
In addition, Georgia Audubon will begin offering other courses, like our Birds Education for All Kids (BEAK) Homeschool Program for youth, Sparrow ID, Raptor ID, Birding by Ear, and other youth and adult courses via the Morgens Environmental Education Gateway. Registered participants will be able to watch programming live and then revisit the program later to review the information presented without the annoying advertisements that are included on recordings that have previously been stored in YouTube.
Over the past year, Georgia Audubon has been building the platform and conducting beta testing with a select group of users. As we prepare for the full launch of the Gateway later this month, we are eager to receive feedback so that we can continually improve this platform and add new courses of interest to our members and program participants.
“We’re excited to launch the Morgens Environmental Education Gateway as a new tool for delivering educational content to people from across Georgia,” says Teutsch. “We are so appreciative of this transformational grant from the Morgens West Foundation that is enabling us to make this Gateway available to members and program participants.”
Governor Brian Kemp recently signed a proclamation designating the month of September as Georgia Native Plants Month. A collaborative effort between Georgia Audubon and Georgia Native Plant Society, Georgia Native Plants Month is designed to highlight the importance of using native plants in our landscape and the key role that native plants play for birds and other wildlife. Georgia Audubon and Georgia Native Plant Society are hosting a number of collaborative events in September to help Georgians learn more about gardening for birds and other wildlife using native plants.
“Native plants have evolved over thousands of years to grow in harmony with their local environment, including the soil type and the availability of water,” says Nikki Belmonte, Georgia Native Plant Society executive director. “Native plants require little to no fertilizer, watering, and chemical applications and, if used properly in the landscape, they can mitigate water runoff, improve air quality, and create a stunning display throughout the year”
Incorporating native plants into landscapes also creates high quality wildlife habitat. A 2019 study published in the journal Science by researchers at seven institutions (https://www.3billionbirds.org/) revealed that North America has lost nearly three billion, or one in four birds, since 1970.
“One of the easiest ways that we can help birds and other wildlife is to use native plants in our landscapes,” says Jared Teutsch, Georgia Audubon executive director. “Native plants are built to thrive in their environment, and these plants are important hosts for protein-rich native insects, like caterpillars, which nesting birds need to feed their growing chicks. More than 96 percent of land birds feed insects to their chicks, and native plants host many more insects than non-native plants. For example, a native oak supports more than 550 kinds of butterflies and moths, whereas a non-native Ginkgo tree supports only five.”
This year, Georgia Audubon is delighted to partner with the Georgia Native Plant Society (GNPS) to bring an amazing lineup of events designed to help Georgians transform their landscapes with native plants for birds and other wildlife.
Our signature event will take place on Saturday September 9, from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM at Georgia Audubon’s new home at the Trees Atlanta Kendeda Treehouse. Join fellow plant and bird enthusiasts for a Round Robin on Transforming your Greenspace. Hear from experts from Georgia Audubon, the Georgia Native Plant Society, and Trees Atlanta to learn now to build a wildlife sanctuary in your own landscape, including information on propagating plants, controlling invasive plants, and building and managing native landscapes for birds and other pollinators. Each of these three organizations offers habitat certifications and their presentations will cover specifics on how to become certified. The Round Robin will feature exhibitors, tours of the newly certified garden at Trees Atlanta, and an optional early morning bird walk prior to the event. There will also be an optional native plant and bird tour at nearby Lionel Hampton Park in the afternoon.
In addition to this signature event, Georgia Audubon and Georgia Native Plant Society will be hosting a number of virtual and in-person events to educate the public about the importance of native plants to birds, including:
Georgia Audubon is building places where birds and people thrive. We create bird-friendly communities through conservation, education, and community engagement. Learn more at https://www.georgiaaudubon.org.
The Georgia Native Plant Society (GNPS) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the stewardship and conservation of Georgia’s native plants and their habitats. Learn more at https://gnps.org/
Above: American Goldfinch on black-eyed Susan, by Lucy Franco; Brown Thrasher on black elderberry, by Will Stuart; Eastern Bluebird on winterberry, by David Sloas.
This September, Georgia Audubon will celebrate the sixth annual Georgia Grows Native for Birds Month, a celebration of Georgia’s native plants and the key role they play for birds and other wildlife. This year’s celebration will include a variety of workshops and events designed to help Georgians learn more about gardening for birds and other wildlife using native plants.
“One of the biggest threats to birds in Georgia is habitat loss,” says Adam Betuel, Georgia Audubon’s director of conservation. “As urbanization increases and natural habitats disappear, native plants can go a long way to restoring the habitat birds need. Fortunately, we can ;provide birds with high-quality resources through thoughtful landscaping using native plants.”
This year, Georgia Audubon is delighted to partner with the Georgia Native Plant Society (GNPS) to bring an amazing lineup of events designed to help you transform your landscape with native plants for birds and other wildlife.
Our signature event will take place on Saturday September 9, from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM at Georgia Audubon’s new home at the Trees Atlanta Kendeda Treehouse. Join fellow plant and bird enthusiasts for a Round Robin on Transforming your Greenspace. Hear from experts from Georgia Audubon, the Georgia Native Plant Society, and Trees Atlanta to learn now to build a wildlife sanctuary in your own landscape, including information on propagating plants, controlling invasive plants, and building and managing native landscapes for birds and other pollinators. Each of these three organizations offers habitat certifications and their presentations will cover specifics on how to become certified. The Round Robin will feature exhibitors, tours of the newly certified garden at Trees Atlanta, and an optional early morning birds walk prior to the event. There will also be an optional native plant and bird tour at nearby Lionel Hampton Park in the afternoon.
In addition to this signature event, Georgia Audubon will host a number of virtual and in-person events to educate the public about the importance of native plants to birds, including:
Georgia Audubon is building places where birds and people thrive. We create bird-friendly communities through conservation, education, and community engagement.
By Georgann Schmalz
It was a Northern Parula. Definitely a Northern Parula. I knew some birds’ voices pretty well in 1960's and '70s, the songs and chip notes of robins, crows, blue jays, cardinals. But what I didn’t realize was how important, if not magical and awesome, those songs were. This little warbler, just him, caught my ear in the midst of a cacophony of other spring migrants that were singing loudly. Wow, I thought, these birds are all yelling their IDs to me without my seeing them. I tuned in to another song and the next and the next. Over time it became my compelling behavior, enough to enable me to share the birding by ear process for more than 45 years. I began to understand that 90% of birding is half listening (sorry, Yogi Berra).
Historically, in the field techniques have changed, albeit slowly in those 45 years. How often have we imagined a convenient way to isolate songs, play them back for study, dissect them with their song characteristics. I remember returning home after many field trips and immediately listening to the LP records by Donald J. Borror, searching for the songs I had heard hours before. The vinyl evolved into plastic reel-to-reel tapes and cassettes. As cumbersome as they were, at least we could take cassettes players into the field with us! And then, came the holy CDs. Digital recordings at our fingertips, no rewinding tapes, no waste of time. In 1999, we had the Blackberry 10 devices, which then begat iOS and Android platforms. By this time, we were all thinking that what we really needed was a handheld device that had not only songs, but also photos, range maps, descriptions — in other words, an app field guide with instant information and gratification on a handheld device with speakers and microphones and just throw in a camera and phone for the heck of it.
Enter the new kid in town: the Merlin app from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Originally known for its visual identification of birds, it became an audio recognition of songs and chips in 2022.
Merlin identifies bird sounds using computer learning technology to recognize species based on spectrograms or sonograms — visual representations of sounds. For Merlin to learn to recognize a species by sound, it uses audio recordings from the Macaulay Library that include a variety of sounds for each species to “train” Merlin’s "ears." Sound ID is currently available for more than 1,000 species and will be expanded in the future to include species world wide. To do that, the Cornell Lab team needs a minimum of 150 sound recordings for each species. You can help to add new species to Merlin by recording the birds and uploading them with your eBird checklists.
The other day, I wanted to see just how Merlin was doing, ear to ear. I chose an early morning location with many birds singing. During the three-minute test, I identified every bird that Merlin did, but I heard a few more birds than it did. I’m not saying that I’m better than Merlin, but there are a few things to be cautious about:
For many years I’ve helped (I hope) beginning birders to learn bird songs. Yet, I’m constantly incorporating new methods, ideas, and skills into my latest recommended techniques. And now, I find myself telling friends and even complete strangers about Merlin. Their world will never be the same again!
For more information on using Merlin, visit http://support.ebird.org, Help Center, Merlin Bird ID.( https://merlin.allaboutbirds.org/ https://merlin.allaboutbirds.org/)
Red-headed Woodpecker, White Ibis, Swallow-tailed Kite. Photos by Stephen Ramsden.
Submitted via electronic mail on 6/28/23
June 28 2023
Office of International Affairs
National Park Service
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240
Re: U.S. Nominations to the World Heritage List; Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge [88 Fed. Reg. 37,270 (June 7, 2023); NPS-WASO-OIA-DTS-35557]
Dear Mr. Putnam,
On behalf of Georgia Audubon members across the state, we are writing today to encourage you to nominate the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage List. At a time when the Nation’s wetlands are more at risk than they have been in decades, nominating the Okefenokee—the largest blackwater wetland ecosystem in North America—would send a strong signal of the Biden Administration’s commitment to protecting and honoring these critical ecosystems. As outlined in this letter, the Okefenokee is a world-renowned wetland that unquestionably deserves to be the next U.S. nomination to the World Heritage List.
The Okefenokee Swamp’s 438,000 acres are a diverse ecosystem that provides critical habitat for both resident and migratory bird populations, as well as many other plant and animal species. A recent study published in the journal Science revealed that we have lost more than three billion birds since 1970.
Georgia Audubon’s mission is to build places where birds and people thrive. We fulfill our mission through education, conservation, and community engagement. With more than 2,300 members and more than 5,000 National Audubon Society members from across the state, Georgia Audubon represents a broad constituency united by a desire to protect birds and other wildlife. Our constituents include Georgia residents, frequent visitors, and concerned citizens who understand the significance of the Okefenokee Swamp to the more than 200 bird species, including Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, Wood Storks, Bachman’s Sparrows, and many other bird species that winter, breed, migrate through, or live year-round in the Okefenokee Swamp.
Georgia Audubon is also a proud member of the Okefenokee Protection Alliance. As the Alliance explained in comments submitted in January 2021, the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge should be the United States’ next nomination because it demonstrates Outstanding Universal Value that deserves international acclaim and protection. Okefenokee is one of the world’s largest naturally driven freshwater systems and is also the source of two rivers. It is world-renowned for its wildlife diversity, which is supported by a mosaic of habitats ranging from diverse wetlands to stately longleaf pine uplands. The Refuge offers essential habitat to thousands of species, including 48 species of mammals, 200 species of birds, 33 species of fish, 101 species of reptiles and amphibians, and as many as 1,000 species of moths.
Some of these species, like the red-cockaded woodpecker, eastern indigo snake, gopher tortoise, and alligator snapping turtle, are rare and endangered. Beneath the Okefenokee’s dark waters lie deep, undisturbed peat formations that preserve critically valuable information about environmental conditions over the past 5,000 years. The Okefenokee Swamp is also part of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation ancestral homeland with great cultural significance.
The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge’s Outstanding Universal Values are in an
exceptionally good state of conservation and adequately protected as part of a National Wildlife Refuge and Congressionally designated Wilderness Area. Thus the Okefenokee clearly meets the World Heritage Committee’s requirements for Integrity and Protection.
Furthermore, the Refuge and a nonprofit private partner, Okefenokee Swamp Park, are ready to prepare a nomination, and the Alliance and its organizational members, including Georgia Audubon, remain prepared to offer our collective knowledge, expertise, and resources in furtherance of those efforts. The Alliance is also dedicated to continued advocacy for conservation and protection of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. Indeed support for protecting the Okefenokee has only grown over the last few years.
From the local gateway communities around the Refuge to visitors from around the world, more than 150,000 comments have been sent to government officials at the local, state, and federal level in support of protecting the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.
Likewise, the United States is in a stronger position to improve relations with the World Heritage Committee by paying dues and arrearages. Late last year Congress passed the Fiscal Year 2023 State and Foreign Operations appropriations bill, which provided robust funding for the State Department’s Contributions to International Organizations budget, which may be used to fund UNESCO and the World Heritage Committee. Congress also authorized the President to waive longstanding restrictions on contributions to UNESCO. In early June, a delegation of U.S. diplomats delivered a letter to UNESCO seeking readmission in July and committing to repay membership arrearages over the ensuing years.
Given Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge’s qualifications—and the Refuge’s readiness to prepare a nomination—we urge the National Park Service Office of International Affairs to promptly authorize the preparation of a World Heritage nomination for the Refuge.
Thank you for your consideration. Should you require any additional information, please reach out to me via email at Jared.Teutsch@georgiaaudubon.org.
by Gabe Andrle, Habitat Program Manager
Recently, Georgia Audubon’s habitat team loaded up tools, supplies, and food onto a local fishing guide’s boat for a trip up the Chattahoochee River to Buzzard Roost Island in Fulton County. The team set out to begin work on one of five sites the team will be working on as part of the greater Chattahoochee RiverLands, an initiative of the Trust for Public Land connecting greenspaces from Lake Lanier to Chattahoochee Bend State Park. The trip up the river included sightings of Wood Ducks, cormorants, and migrants like Northern Parula and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, along with the elusive American mink. The five sites the team will be working on will be part of a camp and paddle trail that will allow folks to paddle from Standing Peachtree Park in Atlanta to McIntosh Reserve in Carroll County and camp along the way. With the Chattahoochee being an incredibly valuable resource for migratory birds, Georgia Audubon is excited to be able to provide habitat restoration and improvement services to this initiative.
In addition to the work at Buzzard Roost, the team has begun woody-invasive plant management at Campbellton Park, in Chattahoochee Hills. The park is a great place for migratory warblers and a favorite Bird Fest event locale. The Campbellton Park project, combined with an additional project at RiverLands Park, will allow more public access to the river. To help with this new and exciting work, the team has welcomed a new Habitat Program Coordinator, Sebastian Hagan, and Logan Jones, habitat program specialist. Both team members have hit the ground running, helping out with field work and volunteer workdays at other restoration sites.
At the Island Ford Unit of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (CRNRA) the team has been enjoying the spectacle of more than 500 recently-installed native plants coming to life. In recent weeks, the team has transitioned from planting into management of the space with the help of many volunteers. This wonderful, small Georgia Audubon-certified pollinator garden outside of the visitor center is the perfect place to connect with pollinators and native plants. We hope that folks will be able to emulate some of what they see in this garden in their own yards, gardens, or greenspaces and get certified through our Wildlife Sanctuary Program.
Flying south, the team is gearing up for more site preparation and invasive plant management on Jekyll Island to build on the maritime grassland work the team has already started in partnership with the Jekyll Island Authority, Coastal Georgia Audubon, and others. During a January 2023 volunteer workday, staff and dozens of volunteers installed more than 30,000 native muhly grass plugs to jumpstart the valuable grassland and pollinator habitat. With the support of the Georgia Ornithological Society, Georgia Audubon is working on a few more acres of connected habitat to strengthen the connectivity and quality of the unique coastal grassland that hosts Loggerhead Shrikes, American Kestrels, Painted Buntings, and a variety of other migratory species.
In addition, the habitat team continues to work on sites such as Panola Mountain State Park’s native meadows and riparian forests, the Little Creek Horse Farm’s pollinator meadow, and others. Be on the lookout for more volunteer opportunities in the coming months to get connected with our new sites and revisit and learn about our current sites.
To learn more about upcoming volunteer opportunities and habitat restoration workdays, please visit our volunteer page.
By Steve Phenicie
Whip-poor-wills aren’t always terribly popular with the sleeping bag crowd at campgrounds. Sure, their bucolic calls are a pleasure to hear while sitting around the campfire, but when they are still “whip-poor-willing” long after it’s time for some shuteye, well …
A patient observer once counted 1,088 “whip-poor-wills” in rapid succession. After a night of delivering its trademark call, the bird sleeps on the forest floor or on a horizontal log or branch during the day. You’re unlikely to detect one, however, because they prefer to sit motionless.
Whip-poor-wills are a mottled brown-gray overall with black flecking, a reddish tinge on rounded wings, a black throat, and a long, rounded tail. They measure nine or 10 inches long and prefer open deciduous and pine woodlands, often along forest edges. They don’t build nests but often lay their eggs, typically a clutch of two, in leaf or pine litter along the edge of a clearing under herbaceous plan growth. For food, they catch large, night-flying insects in flight – mostly moths, beetles, and mosquitoes.
The bird is a common summer breeding resident in the northern part of Georgia, although it can also be found farther south. Overall, they breed throughout the eastern half of the U.S. north of the Peach State as well as in southern Canada. Many spend the winter in the Southeast, in areas where Chuck-will's-widows are resident in summer. Others migrate to Central America and Mexico; a few show up in the Caribbean.
Their numbers appear to have decreased over much of their range in recent decades. The reasons are not well understood, but one possibility is a general reduction in the numbers of large moths and beetles. Open-understory forests, which they like, are also being lost as forest is converted to crops, pasture, or urbanization, and fire suppression leads to dense understories. Also, because whip-poor-wills often fly over roads or sit on roadways while foraging, they are vulnerable to collisions with cars.
Some cool facts about whip-poor-wills:
By Lauren Bowman Clontz, Coastal Conservation Coordinator
Georgia’s birds face a number of challenges, ranging from habitat loss and degradation, collisions with structures, pesticide use, climate change, and more. Some of the most unique, secretive, and compelling of Georgia’s birds facing these threats are the nightjars. There are three species of nightjars in Georgia: The Chuck-will’s-widow, or “Chucks”, Eastern Whip-poor-will, and the Common Nighthawk. While all three of these species are worthy of conservation action and increased engagement, Georgia Audubon has chosen the Chuck-will’s-widow as our focal species for 2023-2025.
A bird that is heard far more often than seen, the Chuck-will’s-widow sings out its namesake song across the Georgia landscape on late spring and summer nights. Very little is known about this elusive, nocturnal species, in part, because they are notoriously difficult to locate. Their mottled brown plumage provides perfect camouflage as they roost during daylight hours among dried leaves and tree branches. Despite their widespread nature across the state, little is known about what attracts them to various habitats. Learning the habitat preferences of Chucks will be key to figuring out how to make Georgia more hospitable for them in addition to lesseing well-known threats.
Over the next few years, Georgia Audubon, in collaboration with multiple partners including the University of Georgia, hopes to help fill in some of the gaps about this species and create more suitable habitat to help these birds thrive. We will accomplish this by investing resources and expertise into restoring native habitat, assisting with Chuck-will’s-widow focused research projects, and engaging the public in order to gain a better understanding of statewide population numbers and migratory behavior. To encourage Audubon members and the public to become involved with community science and Chuck conservation, we are promoting the Nightjar Survey Network program run by the Center for Conservation Biology. While a robust nationwide program, there is currently little data being reported across Georgia. It is time we change this and do our part to help our secretive summer singer!
This spring, Georgia Audubon will begin coordinating nightjar surveys across Georgia. We are recruiting volunteers to conduct survey routes with the Nightjar Survey Network. These routes are conducted roadside by a personal vehicle and involve point-counts. Point count surveys are when an observer counts all birds detected by sight and sound while stationary at location during a specified amount of time. Nightjar Survey routes are standardized population counts consisting of 10 roadside stops/point counts. Each of the 10 roadside stops along a route are spaced approximately one-mile apart.
When: Routes should be conducted on a clear, full-moon night during either of the following windows:
For additional information or to sign-up, please contact Lauren Clontz: Lauren.email@example.com. Learn more about our species of concern on our website!
Reporting Incidental Sightings is valuable, too
Can’t quite find the time to commit to a formal survey but want to help? Do you occasionally encounter Chuck-will's-widow or one of the other nightjar species? You can still contribute valuable data on their abundance and distribution by adding your sightings of chucks and other birds to eBird.
If you are an eBird user, we would appreciate any effort you can put towards detecting Chuck-will’s-widows and their nightjar brethren. All you are asked to do as a volunteer is to go outside approximately 20 minutes after sunset and listen for the species distinctive calls. Birds generally begin calling about 30 minutes after sunset and continue until it gets too dark to see their prey but can call throughout the entire night. At the beginning of your search, either start a new mobile eBird checklist or take notes on date, time, and location so that your sightings can be submitted at a later time. Traveling, stationary, and incidental checklists all are valuable as is noting any and all species seen or heard. If you hear any nightjars and feel comfortable doing so, adding an audio recording to your list would provide extra value. During the breeding season, Chuck-wills-widows tend to favor open areas with sandy soils, open pine forest, oak woodlands, and the edges of swamps. However we lack robust data on this and they could be just about anywhere. You never know what you may find until you get out to look and listen!
If you are new to eBird or need a refresher, visit their introduction webpage or email Lauren Clontz at Lauren.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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