Celebrating Atlanta’s Original Forest

We’ve had a special guest staying with us the last few days:  Dr. Joan Maloof, author and Professor Emeritus at Salisbury University in Maryland, founded the Old-Growth Forest Network to preserve, protect and promote the country’s few remaining stands of old-growth forest.

“Teaching the Trees” – Joan Maloof

She’s been in Atlanta to induct 13 tracts of land in and near Atlanta into OGF Network (see the list below).  This is a remarkable number of additions and underscores what we already knew: Atlanta truly is a City in The Forest.

These forests have been identified and protected by many dedicated individuals who see their value and importance now and for future generations.  There are many heroes in this story,  but one who stands out is Kathryn Kolb, director of Eco-Addendum (Eco-A).

Eco-A is an organization whose stated mission is “is to raise awareness about Georgia’s rich natural environment, and through education, to reconnect people with the natural world”.  Sign up for one of Eco-A’s “Walk About Down Yonder” hikes;  they’re great and you’ll learn a lot about Atlanta and our forests.

Eco-Addendum organized and produced last night’s event, “Discovering Atlanta’s Original Forests”, on the Emory campus with over 200 people in attendance.  The program included a panel discussion about Atlanta’s trees moderated by Maria Saporta,  writer and frequent contributor to the AJC and the Atlanta Business Chronicle, and founder and editor of news website SaportaReport.com, and tree champion.

While Peachtree Park doesn’t qualify as an Old Growth Forest, it is a very valuable urban forest with many old, valuable trees.  We asked Joan to walk the Nature Trail with us yesterday and identify some of the trees.  She spent over 2 hours with us and helped us realize just how special this land is.  She also identified over a dozen species of trees which will be marked with information signs.

Loblolly Pine

Then we asked her to identify the pine tree in our back yard.  It’s a Loblolly, but the real news is that she estimates it to be over 130 years old!  We were stunned!  And we learned that Loblollies can live to be 200 – 300 years old.  We’ve lived beside this tree in our back yard for over 30 years and all the while had no idea it was that old.  There are many trees like this in Peachtree Park: old-growth trees that sustain wildlife and make this neighborhood a wonderful place to live.

Old-Growth Forest Inductions – April 25, 2017

  • Briarlake Forest and Hidden Acres Nature Preserve – DeKalb County
  • Cascade Springs Nature Preserve – City of Atlanta
  • Cumberlander – City of Atlanta
  • D’Agnese tract – City of Atlanta
  • Daniel Johnson Nature Preserve / Herbert Taylor Park – City of Atlanta
  • Deepdene Park – DeKalb County
  • Fernbank Forest – DeKalb County
  • Herbert Greene Park – City of Atlanta
  • Lionel Hampton-Beecher Hills Nature Preserve – City of Atlanta
  • Lullwater Conservation Garden – City of Atlanta
  • Osborne Park, City of Brookhaven – DeKalb County
  • Outdoor Activity Center – City of Atlanta

and these two private forests:

  • McConaughey Nature Preserve and Historic Site – DeKalb County
  • Mosman Forest – City of Atlanta, Fulton Country

 

 

Had Enough Turkey?

Hope not, because we had a chance to see the turkey hen up close; probably the same one reported in last week’s post: Pretty Wild.  Perhaps you might like a follow up.

Wild Turkey – Meleagris gallopavo in Peachtree Park – April 7, 2017

This beautiful bird was roosting on a limb only a few feet from the back door.  She was not at all bothered by us standing only 25 feet away and stayed on her perch for several hours.  There are a few wooded acres in back of the houses which probably makes good habitat.  And the next door neighbor reported seeing her on their driveway and front walk.

“Just this morning there was another post on GABO (Georgia Birders Online) titled Turkey Hen stops traffic in East Cobb County:   “I was traveling East on Shallowford Road near Sandy Plains about 8:30am.  Suddenly – lots of unexpected brake lights.  Something big and dark sauntered across to the other side of 5 lanes.  First thought it was a goose… but no !  A turkey hen !”

Maybe our turkey will hang around. We hope so!

Monthly Journal – March, 2017

Plants are waking up and everybody’s nesting.  The dawn chorus is especially loud and full of courtship and the claiming of territory.  Frogs are beginning to call at night.  Native bees are busy and there’s plenty in bloom to provide nectar and pollen.  On warmer days the honey bees in the hive on the Nature Trail are active.  No hummingbirds have been seen here yet, although there are reports of sightings close by, and butterflies are still scarce.  This will change soon.

Pretty Wild

Wild Turkey in Peachtree Park

Wild Turkey that is.  Almost exactly this time last year someone from the north side of the neighborhood sent us an email report of a wild turkey in their back yard. We set up a camera, but never got a picture.

Wild Turkey

But today, a neighbor on the south side did get pictures of a wild turkey hen right in someone’s front yard.  She was seen early this morning.  We couldn’t find the bird ourselves, but we did talk to the neighbor who kindly sent us the pictures to share.

And ironically, as we were writing this post the following message came across on the Georgia Birders Online (GABO) list server:

“A friend just reported seeing a Wild Turkey near the corner of Lindbergh, Cheshire Bridge and LaVista Rds.  He said the bird was on the sidewalk in front of the old Varsity Jr. ( which is now a storage place) watching the cars go by.”

Every now and then something really cool like this reminds you that there’s more wildlife in small intown neighborhoods than you think.

Four for Spring

Carolina Chickadee with moss for nesting material just before entering a bird house

Nesting is in Full Swing

There’s a lot of nesting going on already.  We count at least 4 active nests in our yard, including Carolina Chickadee, Brown Thrasher, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Carolina Wren and perhaps a Song Sparrow.  Cardinals are eyeing nesting locations and there will probably be more soon.

Watch for Hummingbirds

A friend, who has much better eyesight than either of us, swears he saw a hummingbird in our yard yesterday.  He probably did.  The Native Honeysuckle is starting to bloom and that’s always been our indication that hummers are here, or will be shortly.

Most likely it will be a Ruby-throated Hummingbird that you see.  While they are the only hummingbird that nests in Georgia, 10 other species are seen in this state.  Time to plant hummingbird-friendly flowers and hang your feeders.

Trees Atlanta Native Wildflower and Vine Sale

Trees Atlanta is having their 5th annual Native Wildflower and Plant Sale on Saturday, April 1st at the Freedom Farmer’s Market at the Carter Center.  They will be selling native perennials and vines that are tree-friendly (it is a Trees Atlanta sale after all).

This is a chance to support Trees Atlanta and get great plants that are grown by reputable growers.  Their plant list for the sale has many of the plants that we have on our list of Perennials for Your Yard.  All good things for trees and for wildlife.

Create a Home for Native Bees

We follow an excellent blog called Using Georgia Native Plants.  In their post of March 12, they wrote about a new book titled  Bees – An Identification and Native Plant Foraging Guide  by Heather Holm.  We couldn’t do without our own copy, and it is a beautiful book.

If you read the blog post you’ll see that the author calls attention to a section in the book describing the value of trimming stems from last-year’s plants (perennials) to a length of about 15 inches.  The new growth will soon overtake the stems to hide them, but in the meantime this creates a home for tiny native bees that are so important as pollinators.  They will nest this spring and summer, overwinter in this safe haven and then emerge the following spring.

You can see the before and after efforts of our trimming below.

 

Monthly Journal – February, 2017

Spring has arrived early this year after a mild winter.  Migrants have been here in full force.  Red-winged Blackbirds and American Robins blanketed the neighborhood for days and Sandhill Cranes were seen high overhead.  All that planting you did last year to provide blooms for pollinators in late winter and early spring is now paying off.

Ready for Spring?

Even though it’s been a mild winter, about this time of year we begin thinking of warmer weather and dressing up the yard with annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees.  As you ready your yard for Spring, we offer these thoughts:

Native Be

Native Bee on Blueberry

  • Plant with wildlife in mind (this is, after all, a blog about wildlife) – insects, pollinators, birds and critters.
  • Include plants that provide nectar, pollen and food.   We’ve compiled a list of suggested perennials for your yard that work well here in Peachtree Park.
  • Plant for all seasons – aesthetics for you, and food and shelter for wildlife year-round.
  • Leave dead stems from plants like River Oats, ornamental grasses, Goldenrod, and Joe Pye Weed in place all winter since the seed heads are valuable for the birds, and hollow stems are used by small native bees.  Since we’ve started gardening this way, we’ve realized that our yard is as attractive in the winter as it is in the other seasons (see our post Brown is Beautiful).

    Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly

    Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly

  • Make more butterflies by including host plants for their caterpillars: e.g. Pipevine for Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars and milkweed for the Monarch butterfly.
  • Use mostly native plants when you can.  No need to be a purist, but natives have lots of advantages and there are many wonderful native plant alternatives for common non-natives.
  • Expand diversity in your yard.  The more diverse, the greater the variety of insects (food for birds) and native bees that you will attract.  And, correspondingly, the greater the variety of  birds and critters you will attract and support.
  • Reserve areas for nesting and hiding.
  • Don’t use pesticides and don’t spray for mosquitoes.  Build a healthy ecosystem and encourage nature to control pests.
  • Ruby-throated Hummingbird - Archilochus colubris Peachtree Park, Atlanta, GA - July 13, 2016

    Ruby-throated Hummingbird

    Don’t buy plants that were treated with lethal chemicals, especially neonictinoids – support local growers who know their plants’ histories.  If you live in Atlanta, there’s a list of suggested growers below.

Nearby Toxin-free Plant Suppliers :

We contacted a few plant suppliers in and near Atlanta and came up with this short list of those who get it.  That’s to say they understand the dangers of chemicals, including neonictinoids, and avoid them either by growing their own plants or screening growers for you.  These sellers are doing the right thing.  It’s good to support them.

If you shop at a big-box store, ask which plans are toxin-free.  They may or may not be able to answer your question, but at least you’ll let them know that it’s important to you.

Credits:

Thanks to  Nearly Native Nursery  for their list of native plants as alternatives for non-natives.