Category Archives: Audubon – Atlanta

Monthly Journal – August, 2016

August has passed, and birds are beginning to head south.  Groups of migrating American Robins are beginning to appear on lawns.  There was another report of the groundhog from the north end of the neighborhood and twice we’ve caught a glimpse of a groundhog-size critter disappearing into the grass on the Nature Trail.   Also, we were lucky a few days ago to have a rare daylight visit from one of our resident possums.

A newsletter from the South Fork Conservancy reports that Atlanta Audubon has documented over 75 species of birds on the South Fork of Peachtree Creek!  It’s just off Lindbergh, very close to us, and you can go on a guided bird tour of the trail this Saturday, September 3.  Atlanta Audubon has more information on their Field Trips page.  You’ll need to scroll down to the calendar and click on the “The Confluence” under September 3rd.  If you want to join them, they ask that you RSVP.

Here’s Looking at You

Two days ago our friend Cindy (one of our bird ID experts) sent an email with these terrific photos of two Barred Owls taken in her back yard in a Sandy Springs subdivision.  She was generous enough to let us post the pictures along with her story which follows.

“My husband & I live in the southern Roswell neighborhood of Northcliff, near the Chattahoochee River.  It’s a heavily forested, residential area with people & dogs walking, biking, running & playing in the river.  Wildlife is abundant in the area, but setting up a couple of bird feeders & bird baths [has helped] to bring the critters closer to you for observation.”

Barred Owl“Two owls sometimes visit our backyard late in the afternoon or early evening while I water plants & clean birdbaths. They usually perch on a low tree branch to watch me as a handful of brave chickadees brazenly scold the much larger owls.  We are thankful to get to observe these owl friends from time to time — especially in our own backyard.”

“I am a 4th generation Atlanta native & my background is in education & environmental science. My love of nature & the outdoors was influenced by my grandparents, who maintained a backyard organic garden for decades, long before ‘organic’ was cool. As a child, I cherished visiting them — watching birds & playing with worms, skinks & garter snakes while doing our outdoor chores.”

Barred OwlWe have Barred Owls in Peachtree Park, but we haven’t been as successful as Cindy getting a picture.  However, we were able to record them calling in our back yard – check out our post title Who Cooks for You? from September.

Atlanta AudubonWe first met Cindy when she came to certify our yard as a wildlife sanctuary with the Atlanta Audubon Society.  It was fun and Cindy taught us a lot emphasizing these key attributes: “items like a water feature (birdbath), native plants that provide food, places for wildlife to hide (like  brush piles or shrubby area) & places for wildlife to nest & raise young.”

Join the fun and let’s get some more yards certified in Peachtree Park!

Welcome Home

Growing up in the country near near Atlanta, I could hear Bobwhites making their distinctive Bobwhite calls in the woods and fields nearby; it is a beautiful sound.  The woods and fields in and around Atlanta once were filled with those calls too.  Bobwhite calls are now gone, another victim of habitat loss.

Quail Release

Brett Bannor of the AHC releasing the Bobwhites

But a remarkable thing happened yesterday right here in the heart of Buckhead.  Twenty Northern Bobwhites were released on the 33-acre campus of the Atlanta History Center (AHC). The hope is those calls will return to some of Atlanta’s urban woods.

The credit for this idea belongs to President and CEO Sheffield Hale who was there for the birds’ release.  Goizuetta Gardens and Living Collections Director Sarah Roberts and Manager of Animal Collections, Brett Bannor were also there and told us the focus is on release and conservation.

Bobwhite

Male Bobwhite (photo BS Thurner Hof)

The Bobwhite quail is the only quail native to the eastern United States.  They are predominantly seed eaters, but females eat insects when preparing to lay eggs and chicks eat insects too.  The Bobwhite population has declined 85% since 1960 and 80% don’t live through the first year.  But the History Center’s plan is to replenish their initial population with more birds in hopes of establishing breeding pairs.

Bobwhites prefer early successional habitat, which is harder and harder to find.  However AHC’s Swan Woods has 10 acres of secondary successional forest with strictly Piedmont natives.  And now they have a wildflower meadow with native grasses and other plants, including partridge pea which Bobwhites love to eat.

Bird FestWe were lucky to be on a tour hosted by Atlanta Audubon, part of the Atlanta Bird Fest which continues through May 15.  Atlanta Audubon also has bird walks at the History Center in the summer and fall.

We discovered that there’s much more to explore at the AHC than the main museum and Swan House.  Extensive walking trails go through woods, fields and magnificent gardens.  Conservation abounds and friendly staff is eager to tell you about it, such as an experimental American Chestnut orchard in partnership with the Georgia chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation.  If you haven’t visited the AHC recently, check it out.

Good luck all you Bobwhites.  We’ll be listening for your call.

Quail Release

Bobwhites contemplating freedom

Nuthatches Need Your Help

Brown-headed Nuthatch

Brown-headed Nuthatch

Brown-headed Nuthatch populations are declining in many areas.  In fact, the brown-headed nuthatch is considered by some experts to be the least common nuthatch in North America.  Brown-headed nuthatches prefer mature pine forests, and loss of this habitat has played a major role in their decline. [1]

They are small industrious birds and are fun to watch.  It’s easy to tell when they are around because their call sounds like a small squeaky toy.

Brown-headed Nuthatch

Brown-headed Nuthatches nesting in a snag

The good news is that, so far, they seem to be doing well in Peachtree Park.  We’ve noticed them nesting here in birdhouses and snags for the last several years.

But that’s not to say that they don’t still need your help.  It’s nesting season, and you can do a lot for this little bird by putting up a birdhouse.  Atlanta Audubon’s Nest Boxes for Nuthatches page has information on how you can buy or build your own nest box along with other information about the Brown-headed nuthatch.

Below is a short video of a pair nesting in a birdhouse mounted on a snag just down the street from us (thanks for leaving the snag!)  The video was recorded yesterday and today.  We think they are still building the nest because you can see nesting material in one Nuthatch’s mouth at the beginning of the clip.

These photos were taken in Peachtree Park and there are two additional Brown-headed Nuthatch videos on our Bird Videos page.

[1]  Georgia Department of Natural Resources

Rescue Adventure

Late Thursday afternoon, February 24, Melanie Furr with Atlanta Audubon put out a call for help on GABO’s  (Georgia Birders Online) list serve:

Pied-billed Grebe

A Pied-billed Grebe hampered by a dog toy – Melanie Furr

There is a grebe on the lake at Murphy Candler Park (DeKalb Co) with a ring around its neck (appears to be a dog toy?). The bird does not appear to be able to dive or fly. A canoe will probably be needed to get to the bird. If there’s anything that anyone can do to help, please get in touch with me.

“A canoe will probably be needed…”.  That was a key phrase.  Jack Wissner (aka KyakJak), our friend here in Peachtree Park, responded immediately with an offer to help with his canoe.  Perfect team for the job – Melanie with her long experience rescuing animals and Jack with his formidable skills in a canoe.  I went along as observer and unskilled labor.

Murphey Candler Park, Atlanta, GA - February 25, 2016

Melanie and Jack – Grebe Rescue at Murphey Candler Park

The next morning Melanie went early to the lake and called Jack to say the bird was still there and still in trouble.  So we loaded the canoe on Jack’s car and went to Murphey Candler.

Murphey Candler Park, Atlanta, GA - February 25, 2016

Melanie and Jack – Grebe Rescue at Murphey Candler Park

Jack and Melanie paddled the lake from one end to the other several times but were unable to locate the bird.  After a couple of hours, two additional resources from Atlanta Audubon came to help with the search.  No luck.

Then finally the Grebe was spotted on the far side of the lake and to everybody’s relief it had managed to free itself from the constraining plastic.

Pied-billed Grebe - Podilymbus podiceps Murphey Candler Park, Atlanta, GA - February 25, 2016

Pied-billed Grebe free of constraining plastic toy

Great adventure, and in the process we learned a lot about animal rescue and met some talented, dedicated individuals.

Melanie is the author of an outstanding blog “My Eco-centric Life” which we really liked.  Check out her post titled “You Might Be A Wildlife Rehabilitator If…

All of this prompted us to do some homework on wildlife rescue, the results of which are included on our page “Learn About Wildlife Rescue“.

Thanks to Melanie, Jack and the folks at Atlanta Audubon for this most excellent urban wildlife adventure!

Big Lawn? Big Yawn

I had breakfast with a  good friend yesterday who is renting a house as a transition to his next move.  He told me that they are in a neighborhood with an association that requires manicured laws, going so far as to tell home owners which of two types of grass are ‘acceptable’.  Really?

Fortunately we aren’t afflicted with Lawn Police in Peachtree Park, and most homes here have great support for wildlife.  We think they are beautiful and much more interesting than the football field look.  When the sun shines again, we’ll post some photos of our favorites.

Atlanta AudubonCoincidentally, Atlanta Audubon sent out their monthly newsletter today with a great article on their Sanctuary Certification Program.  Cindy Mayer, who heads up their team of trained volunteers, visited our yard as part of the certification process about two years ago.

We learned a lot and it was great fun!  Cindy was awesome. Participating in Audubon’s certification helped us identify things we could do to make our yard better for wildlife and more beautiful.