By Georgia LaMar, Atlanta Audubon Volunteer Certifier
We’d like to welcome Mary and Robert Rockwood, of McDonough, to the Atlanta Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary Program. Georgia LaMar, Atlanta Audubon volunteer, recently made a certification visit to their home and submitted this account. “Not only does Mary rescue native plants, but also German Shepherds and hearts as a cardiovascular technologist,” says Georgia.
A bit about Mary: I grew up in upstate New York. My interest in gardening and the outdoors stems from the years seeing my mother tending to her gardens, or maybe it was from my grandfather with his big vegetable and flower gardens; as well as time spent outdoors camping, playing in the woods, and scouts. Pair that with Robert, who loved the outdoors, hunting and camping with his family, and as my Eagle Scout found our unique setting here in Henry County and cut my trails long before I knew what was here.
When did you decide to make your home an Audubon sanctuary? Following one of Atlanta Audubon’s annual Wildlife Sanctuary Tours.
How would you describe your style? Natural
What is the one plant you can’t do without? Piedmont azalea (Rhododendron canescens). I first saw these and other native azaleas on the property of Verma Farlow in East Point Georgia back in the 1990’s, and I fell in love with them. Verma would sell plants from her yard in order to help pay for the cost of her husband’s heart medication. Searching for them led me to Nearly Native Nursery in Fayetteville, and from there Jim encouraged me to look into Georgia Native Plant Society and Garden Delights /Lazy K Nursery in Pine Mountain. These interactions lead me to being a supporter of native plants.
Do you have a favorite trick? No. I’m always learning via symposiums, talks, books, and web searches. My favorite on the internet is Ellen Honeycutt’s Blog, Using Georgia Native Plants, and my favorite book is The Natural Communities of Georgia. I wish I had had these resources before I began working in my yard!
Any words of wisdom? Be patient. Stick to plants that are native to your habitat, and expect the change that Mother Nature unexpectedly provides!
To learn more about Atlanta Audubon's Wildlife Sanctuary Program, please visit our Wildlife Sanctuary page.
By Anne McCallum, member of the Early Birds Book Club
Can a history of American Birding really be brief? Weidensaul covers so much in this book—early explorer/naturalists, later explorer/soldier/naturalist/scientists, classic bird books, bird naming, the great slaughter, women to the rescue!, the history of field guides, the history of counting/listing mania, modern conservation movements. Quite a few of those of us in the Early Birds book club didn’t get very far in this book or felt overwhelmed by all the names and facts that kept tumbling out of it.
Still there were interesting tidbits to be garnered: For example, the supposed meeting between book peddling Alexander Wilson and failing shopkeeper John James Audubon. The sad ending of Meriweather Lewis (suicide or murder in a frontier inn?) The difference between names of eastern birds—which evolved over time—and western birds—often named shortly after being discovered to honor an explorer or scientist. The link between young George Bird Grinnell and his teacher, none other than Audubon’s long-suffering teacher-wife Lucy! The fact that David Allen Sibley grew up “in the kind of household where he might find a California Condor in the garage.” (His father was an ornithologist.) One of my personal favorites was the account of naturalist Althea Sherman who is buried next to the highway I take to visit my hometown in northeast Iowa. The historical marker by that country cemetery describes her research on Chimney Swifts (c. 1900) using her “Swift Tower” which is reconstructed nearby, but the marker does not mention her vendetta against House Wrens!
The Early Birds also felt some frustration with encountering some of the same cast of characters in multiple chapters. When a reader thought that she had finished with Bartram as explorer, he shows up again in the section on bird names. And Audubon, probably unavoidably, is in multiple chapters.
So—we decided that the book was a superb reference to all things birdy in American history but that it wasn’t our favorite casual “read.”
The Early Birds is a drop-in book club that meets before the Atlanta Audubon Monthly Meeting at Manuel's Tavern, from 2:00 to 3:30 PM. There is no commitment other than to enjoy reading and sharing books about birds and birding. To learn more, visit the Early Birds web page.
By Jason Ward, Fund II Apprentice, National Audubon Society
Spring migration is upon us, and it is like Christmastime for birders. Countless neotropical jewels are making their way over our city each night as they fly north to their breeding grounds. As the sun rises, warblers, vireos, tanagers, and more will stop and feed, mainly on insects, as they refuel for the next leg of their journey. If you are in the right place at the right time, you’ll be granted front row seats to this spectacle. Finding the “right place” can take some pre-planning. It’s an inexact science, but with the right tips, you’ll find yourself in migratory heaven. I’m going to share some of my personal favorite Fulton County birding destinations with you in this article.
I’ll start with Piedmont Park, I mean, come on, did you expect me to start elsewhere? Sure, I may be biased, since I lead monthly bird walks there, but Piedmont Park is really an amazing place for birds. Despite being in midtown Atlanta, almost 200 species have been recorded there. Every eastern warbler you can imagine can be found within the park’s 180 acres. There are also a variety of habitat in the park, from Six Springs wetlands, to Lake Clara Meer, and there’s even a large flat meadow that attracts Killdeer
and Wilson’s Snipe after a rain shower. It also scores points for its easy-to-navigate terrain and parking accommodations.
PROS: Smooth terrain, kid-friendly, large parking deck.
CONS: Noisy, noisy, and noisy.
MOST NOTABLE MIGRANT: Blue-winged / Golden-winged Warbler hybrid (spring 2014)
East Palisades Unit of CRNRA
Staying inside the perimeter, we have the East Palisades Unit of the Chattahoochee River Nature Recreation Area. Terrain here can be a bit trickier, as you begin at a pretty high elevation and descend down a trail that’s roughly three-quarters of a mile long on the way down to the river. Birders here are usually greeted by singing vireos the moment they step out of their cars. Upon hiking down the trail, some of the more numerous migrants can be Scarlet and Summer Tanagers. It is the closest thing to a Kennesaw Mountain-like experience in Fulton County, since many of the birds here are near eye level, due to the elevation of the trail.
PROS: Amazing views, quiet trails.
CONS: The hike back up to the trailhead can be exhausting.
MOST NOTABLE MIGRANT: Swainson’s Warbler (spring 2018)
Rogers Bridge Trail
Moving to the northern end of Fulton County, we have one of my personal favorites—Rogers Bridge Trail in Johns Creek. I discovered this area thanks to fellow birder Nathan Farnau, after seeing his many reports on eBird of some really cool species. This trail has a small parking lot, capable of fitting maybe five vehicles, which can be a gift and a curse. The lack of parking spots guarantees that you’ll have a nice, peaceful hike as you look and listenfor birds—just as long as you can get one. There is a 1.8-mile long, paved trail that eventually leads to an old bridge near the Chattahoochee River. Along that trail, sparrows can be seen darting back and forth, while warblers sing from the treetops, and there is hardly a moment where there aren’t multiple birds of prey in the sky. There’s a point along the trail where you have the option of breaking off of the paved trail and climbing a short hill leading to a grassy trail that encircles a beautiful retention pond. Yellow-breasted Chats may be found here all spring and summer, singing their weird mimicked songs. American Woodcock are also frequently heard and seen here early in the morning, and during the late afternoon/early evening peenting and doing their courtship flights in the fields. This park is Fulton’s best-kept secret in terms of bird diversity. You truly never know what will show up here.
PROS: Super quiet hikes, large variety of birds.
CONS: Small parking lot, the occasional dog off leash flushing
Killdeer through the field.
MOST NOTABLE MIGRANT: Pectoral Sandpiper (spring 2017)
Whether you choose to visit one of these hotspots or go birding in your neighborhood park, this is the most wonderful time of the year. I wish the best of luck to you all, and I hope to see you out birding!
For a complete listing of Atlanta Audubon Field trips, please visit our field trips page.