by Dottie Head, Director of Membership and Communications
On Friday, October 19, the Atlanta Audubon Society recognized the City of Atlanta’s McDaniel Branch Wetlands as an Atlanta Audubon Certified Wildlife Sanctuary. The designation has been a collaborative effort between Atlanta Audubon Society and the City of Atlanta Department Bureau of Watershed Management (DWM). The McDaniel Branch Wetlands is the first of three properties that will ultimately be certified as Atlanta Audubon Wildlife Sanctuaries. The other two, Lionel Hampton-Beecher Hills Nature Preserve and Herbert Greene Nature Preserve, are working to complete the certification process.
The Atlanta Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary Program encourages both private and public properties to enhance their land for birds and other wildlife by installing native plants and providing food, water, and shelter for birds and other wildlife.
“Atlanta Audubon is thrilled to partner with the City of Atlanta Department of Watershed Management to add McDaniel Branch and other wetland areas to our network of more than 450 certified wildlife habitats in Atlanta and north Georgia,” says Melinda Langston, Atlanta Audubon board member and Wildlife Sanctuary Program Coordinator. “The welfare of birds and other wildlife is directly linked to the quality of food and shelter available to them. The plantings used in the McDaniel Branch not only help hold the stream banks in place and improve water quality, but they also create valuable habitat for birds and other wildlife.”
The McDaniel Branch stormwater project was designed to mitigate the impacts of stormwater runoff in and around Atlanta’s in-town neighborhoods. The constructed wetlands central to this project mimic natural systems for managing stormwater. Over the past year, the planting of a variety of native plant species have been underway, including wild rye, river oats, black- and brown-eyed Susan, partridge pea, ironweed, Joe-Pye Weed, and Mexican hat coneflower. In addition, dozens of native trees, shrubs, aquatics and riparian fringe species have been planted around the ponds, including red maple, river birch, overcup oak, water oak, American hornbeam, redbud, dogwood, beautyberry, button bush, sweetshrub, spicebush and witch hazel.
“The designation of the McDaniel Branch Wetlands as an Atlanta Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary underscores the City of Atlanta’s commitment to implementing innovative stormwater solutions while preserving and protecting native ecosystems through green infrastructure,” said DWM Deputy Commissioner Todd Hill. “Our collaboration with the Atlanta Audubon Society will ensure that this natural greenspace will be experienced by a broader audience of Atlanta residents, students, and visitors.”
As a way to help hold the stream banks of the McDaniel Branch Wetlands in place DWM’s Green Infrastructure team installed a number of aquatic and riparian fringe plants, including flatstem spikerush, swamp sunflower, Louisiana iris, pickleweed, bluestem, upland sea oats, cardinal flower and cinnamon fern. A mowing plan has also been implemented that will allow native plants to thrive and avoid harming ground nesting birds and other wildlife during the spring and summer nesting season.
For more information on certifying a property as an Atlanta Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary, visit https://www.atlantaaudubon.org/wildlife-sanctuary-certification.html.
Vote Yes on Amendment 1: The Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act is An Historic Opportunity to Protect our Waters and Lands
By Dottie Head
On November 6, Georgians will head to the polls to cast their votes for a new Governor, Congressional Representatives, and other state and local officials. Much is at stake in this election as we have witnessed countless attacks on long-held, successful conservation programs, such as the Endangered Species Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, clean air and water programs, National Parks, and much more. But there is one amendment on the Georgia ballot this year that can have tremendous positive impacts for birds, wildlife, and public lands here in Georgia. Amendment One, the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Amendment, or GOSA, would dedicate a portion of the existing sales tax on outdoor sporting goods to land and water conservation without raising any taxes or creating new fees. This is not a new tax, just a reallocation of existing tax revenue to land and water conservation.
If passed, this funding would:
Funds would also be made available as grants to cities, counties, or nongovernmental organizations, to help secure and expand access to properties, both rural and urban, that are critical to Georgia’s wildlife and supporting more opportunities for people to recreate.
If passed, the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Amendment would dedicate up to 80% of the existing sales and use tax on outdoor sporting goods to the protection of the state’s lands, water, and wildlife without raising or creating any new taxes or fees.
Over $20 million would be dedicated every year for the next ten years. This funding could not be used for any other purpose and would be subject to strict accountability provisions and public disclosure. Only projects consistent with the state’s established goals for conservation would be approved.
The Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Amendment is supported by a coalition of leading conservation organizations including The Nature Conservancy, the Georgia Conservancy, The Trust for Public Land, Park Pride, and many others.
GOSA will be the subject of our October 28 Monthly Meeting at Manuel’s Tavern (see the announcement on the back of this newsletter), where Thomas Farmer, Director of Government Relations for The Nature Conservancy, will share information on this amendment and answer questions.
Atlanta Audubon encourages members to learn more about GOSA at www.GeorgiaOutdoorStewardship.org and to vote Yes on Amendment One.
by Selu Adams
Selu Adams was the 2018 recipient of the Edward Barnsley Scholarship for Youth offered each year by Atlanta Audubon. The scholarship covers the cost of registration and airfare for one teen, between the ages of 14 and 17 to attend Audubon’s Coastal Bird Studies For Teens Camp on Hog Island, Maine. The scholarship application for the 2019 Camp will open in early 2019.
Last June, thanks to Atlanta Audubon Society, I had an amazing opportunity to attend Audubon’s Coastal Maine Bird Studies For Teens in Bremen, Maine. Using the 330-acre Hog Island as our base, 19 other teens and I spent about a week birding and learning about conservation.
Our first birding outing was a boat ride around Hog Island in the Muscongus Bay where we spotted Common Eiders, Surf Scoters, Black Scoters, and the first of many Black Guillemots and Double-crested Cormorants. The highlight of the trip was seeing three Long-tailed Ducks—a male and two females—gracefully gliding through the water as everyone scrambled to one side of the boat to get a good look at them. Later, we watched a banding demonstration and learned the how’s and why’s of bird banding as well as what equipment is needed. A Ruby-throated Hummingbird was caught right before our eyes. We watched, fascinated, as Sandy Lockerman, a master hummingbird bander, carefully banded the hummingbird and explained modifications to the banding process for hummingbirds, such as using much smaller than normal bands. After the banding demonstration, we returned to the mainland for a short visit to Mad River Decoy, a bird decoy shop that made the puffin decoys used on Eastern Egg Rock, the site of Audubon’s puffin restoration efforts. It was interesting to learn how decoys are made, and how effective they can be in attracting birds in conservation efforts around the world.
The next morning we woke up early to look for thrushes that had been banded by one of the instructors at last year’s camp. Although we weren’t able to get close enough to any thrushes to tell if they were banded, we did find some other birds along the way, including Blackburnian Warblers, Black-throated Green Warblers, Northern Parulas, and Red-breasted Nuthatches. After breakfast, we gathered in the Queen Mary Lab, a small building near the dock and the artist-in-residence on the island, Jennifer Anderson, gave us some tips on drawing birds. One of the instructors, Courtney Brennan, talked to us about study skins. Courtney, who prepares birds specimens for a museum by turning them into study skins, explained to us that study skins are a form of taxidermy where instead of preparing the birds for display, they are prepared for scientific research. Measurements and details such as how much fat is on the bird or what is in the stomach are recorded on a slip of paper, and after it is completely prepared, researchers can use the collected data and examine the birds for additional information.
Although most of our time was spent on Hog Island, we did spend a day birding on the mainland. We stopped on a small gravel road, finding Black-throated Green, Canada and Nashville Warblers, as well as Northern Waterthrushes. I was especially struck by a Veery we heard, whose song brought to my mind a falling maple samara (seed) spinning round and round until it gently lands on the ground. At another one of our locations, we spotted an Alder Flycatcher, a lifer for many of the other campers, including me. We joked about how funny it seemed that we all were trying to catch a glimpse of the flycatcher, a drably colored bird compared to a nearby bright orange Baltimore Oriole that seemed to be showing off its meticulously woven nest.
My favorite experience of the week was visiting Eastern Egg Rock, an island where Project Puffin had successfully restored the Atlantic Puffin population. Earlier in the week, Stephen Kress, who began Project Puffin, told us how Atlantic Puffins had disappeared from Eastern Egg Rock, and how he and his team have been able to get them back. Following the colonial days, hunting on Eastern Egg Rock decimated the puffin population, as well as other seabird populations on the island. But, in the early 1900’s, several bird protection laws that were passed, including the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (1916). This coupled with the addition of Audubon wardens helped increase seabird populations. However, these protections alone weren’t enough for the puffins because they usually return to the island where they hatched at for nesting, and since no puffins were on the island, none would come back. Starting in 1973, Kress and his team transplanted puffin fledglings from Newfoundland to Eastern Egg Rock and placed them in artificial sod burrows where they were fed every day. The puffins were banded before they left for 3 to 5 years on the ocean before returning to nest. Kress and his team also had to deal with the threat of the gull population on the island, since gulls are predators of puffin eggs and chicks. They set up tern decoys, hoping to attract terns to the island because terns could keep the gulls away and make the island a more attractive place for puffins to nest. The tern decoys worked, and puffin decoys and mirrors were also set up to encourage puffins to explore the island’s nesting habitat. Finally, in 1981, puffins were observed nesting on the island for the first time in nearly 100 years. Last year, 172 nesting pairs were observed on the island!
Eastern Egg Rock was a 45-minute boat ride away from Hog Island. After meeting the interns who were conducting research and living on the island for the summer, we carefully made our way to where the interns were based, keeping our eyes peeled for the well camouflaged tern eggs on the rocks. The interns had warned us about how terns would dive bomb our heads (or the highest point they saw), so I held a stick up into the air to avoid getting hit by them. We gathered in front of a small shelter that the interns used before splitting off into three groups. An intern led me to a 3 x 3 foot blind from which I saw a spectacular sight. I was surrounded by hundreds of nesting terns, mainly Common Terns. Every few minutes, a large flock of them flew up into the air, each loudly sounding off kip or kee-ar calls, before landing back onto the ground. Closer to the water, Black Guillemots hopped from rock to rock, and beyond them, I spotted a couple of puffins in the water! They stayed pretty far out on the water for the most time I was in the blind, but the puffins flew closer towards the island a few times, letting me get a better look at them.
One of the best things about the camp for me was being able to meet and talk to other people in working in the field of ornithology. It was interesting to hear about what got them into birding, and the instructors and guests also gave insightful programs about current problems and efforts concerning birds. Meeting the other young birders at the camp was very inspiring, and it was great to get to know more young people as enthusiastic about birds as I am! I can’t thank Atlanta Audubon Society enough for making it possible for me to have a once in a lifetime experience!
Auburn University and Atlanta Audubon team up to study West Nile virus risk: Presence linked to type of trees, variety of birds and forest size
Auburn University researchers and Atlanta Audubon Society volunteers studied birds and mosquitoes at 30 sites this summer in and around Atlanta—finding that the presence of West Nile virus is influenced by an area’s type of trees, variety of birds and size of forest patches.
“If you increase the forested areas, especially with pine trees, more non-carrier birds will inhabit the area, which will lower the probability of a mosquito biting an infected bird,” said Graeme Lockaby, associate dean for research in Auburn’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences.
The researchers found:
“Birds that carry the virus are primarily of the Corvidae species such as crows, ravens, jays and nutcrackers,” Lockaby said. “They prefer open areas with scattered tree cover, but birds that don’t carry the disease are more likely to inhabit forested areas.”
The research builds upon a 2016 Auburn study in Atlanta that showed West Nile virus is lower among forested areas with pine trees.
“Our goal is to develop a more accurate risk-prediction system to determine which neighborhoods are at higher risk,” said Lockaby. “The information we gathered could help in the allotment of resources to battle West Nile virus, like pesticides for mosquitoes and other preventative actions.”
Audubon volunteers documented the variety of bird species at the sites, not only visually but also by identifying birds by their sounds. They recorded the locations in database using GIS and GPS coordinates.
“Atlanta Audubon is thrilled to be partnering with Dr. Lockaby and others from Auburn University. Atlanta is known as the City in a Forest so learning more about the role of our tree canopy on bird diversity, ecosystem health and human health are of the utmost importance,” said Adam Betuel, Atlanta Audubon Society.
Lockaby headed the study with graduate student Nicole Castaneda in conjunction with the Atlanta Audubon Society and U.S. Forest Service. Castaneda studied the bird species diversity data gathered by the Audubon volunteers as well as soil wetness, the age and species of trees and socioeconomic factors at the mosquito sampling sites.
“It is important we understand all factors that influence the presence of corvid birds that infect mosquitoes, and to know what areas are ideal breeding grounds for the Culex mosquitoes which transmit the disease to other species,” Castaneda said.
The CDC recommends that people should try to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes by wearing long sleeves and using insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, IR3535 and para-menthane-diol, or PMD. People should also remove containers with standing water where mosquitoes can breed.
(Written by Charles Martin, Auburn University)
The Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences is a flagship institution for natural resources-based degrees including natural resource management, geospatial and environmental informatics, and sustainable biomaterials and packaging. The school is also the backbone to Alabama’s $24 billion forest, wildlife, and natural resources industry. Its mission is to create future professionals and leaders, to develop new knowledge and science based solutions, and share them with individuals, families, communities, and industries so that they can make informed decisions to advance their business and well-being.
Atlanta Audubon Society is building places where birds and people thrive. We create bird-friendly communities through conservation, education, and advocacy.
by Dottie Head
Atlanta Audubon Society has been awarded a $50,000 grant from the Disney Conservation Fund (DCF) for Project Safe Flight Atlanta. The grant is part of the Fund’s focus on supporting local efforts around the world aimed at saving wildlife, inspiring action, and protecting the planet with more than $75 million distributed to nonprofit organizations since 1995.
This conservation grant recognizes Atlanta Audubon’s efforts to reduce bird-building collisions through Project Safe Flight Atlanta, a program designed to make Atlanta a more bird-friendly city. Project Safe Flight Atlanta is implementing solutions that directly impact conservation of migrating birds and can be modeled by urban centers across the United States.
“Atlanta Audubon Society is thrilled to again receive support from the Disney Conservation Fund for Project Safe Flight Atlanta,” says Nikki Belmonte, Atlanta Audubon Society Executive Director. “This is the second time we have received a DCF Grant, and these funds will enable us to expand Project Safe Flight Atlanta and to work with local stakeholders to implement solutions to reduce the number of resident and migratory birds killed by building collisions.”
Grant monies will be used to enhance monitoring efforts, data collection, and research. In addition, this funding will allow Atlanta Audubon to retrofit four buildings over the next two years with bird-friendly window film to will help prevent collisions. The first building that will receive window treatments is the Trees Atlanta Kendeda Center, which the U.S. Green Building Council awarded platinum certification for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) in 2009. Grant funding will also be used to create an educational video that will be used to further advocate for bird-friendly designs in new development projects and to educate the public, architects, building managers, and policy makers on bird-friendly building solutions.
"Trees Atlanta is very excited to be included as a beneficiary of this grant as so much of our mission revolves around the connection of wildlife to Atlanta's urban forest,” says Greg Levine, Co-Executive Director and Chief Program Officer at Trees Atlanta. “Birds play such an integral part in our ecosystem and we're committed to providing and protecting their habitat around the city, including our headquarters, the Kendeda Center.”
Project Safe Flight Atlanta is a conservation and engagement effort to understand the issue of bird-building collisions in metro-Atlanta. Project Safe Flight Atlanta volunteers patrol selected routes during peak bird migration periods collecting birds that have died or have been injured after colliding with buildings. Since Project Safe Flight Atlanta launched in 2015, more than 1,000 birds of 96 different species have been collected.
Current research estimates that between 365 million and 1 billion birds perish each year from colliding with buildings in the United States. Bright nighttime lights can disorient migrating birds or trap them in upward-facing beams of light where they die of exhaustion or land in dangerous areas. During daylight hours, birds struggle with reflective surfaces when they stop to feed or rest, as they are unable to distinguish between a reflection and an open flyway.
The Disney Conservation Fund Grant will also be used to support a sub-program of Project Safe Flight Atlanta, called Lights Out Atlanta, to help reduce bird deaths caused by building collisions. Lights Out Atlanta is a voluntary program encouraging building owners and residential homeowners to turn off or reduce lighting from midnight to dawn during the peak bird migration periods. Participants pledge to reduce non-essential nocturnal lighting during peak migration periods of March 15 to May 31 (spring) and August 15 to November 15 (fall). More information and the pledge may be found at www.AtlantaAudubon.org/lightsoutatlanta.
Recent DCF grant recipients were selected based on their efforts to implement comprehensive community wildlife conservation programs, stabilize and increase populations of at-risk animals and engage communities in conservation in critical ecosystems around the world.
For information on Disney’s commitment to conserve nature and a complete list of grant recipients, visit www.disney.com/conservation. For more information on Project Safe Flight Atlanta, visit www.atlantaaudubon.org/project-safe-flight.
Atlanta Audubon Society is building places where birds and people thrive. We create bird-friendly communities through conservation, education, and advocacy.