Frank M. Chapman (1864-1945), the visionary innovator who conceived the Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC) now entering its 123rd year, is the forgotten giant of American conservation whose overriding passion from early childhood was birdlife in all its incredible variety and dazzling beauty.
The Man Who Loved BIrds: Pioneer Ornithologist Dr. Frank M. Chapman, 1864-1945 by James Huffstodt is the first full-length biography of this iconic bird man of the American Museum of Natural History. The 2022 biography may be purchased in paperback or E-book format on amazon.book.com. The 400-page book includes vintage photos, extensive footnotes, and bibliography.
Chapman was a self-taught ornithologist and banker who early on abandoned the prison of the teller’s cage for a life of science spent with the New York Museum of Natural History on Central Park West where during his 54-year career he became legendary as the Dean of Ornithologists. This stern, very proper Victorian, had a starchy soul and rather intimidating presence concealing a sensitive and romantic soul.
This extensively researched volume tells the story of Chapman's life of adventure, danger, and discovery spent in search of beautiful wild birds in remote wilderness areas throughout North and South America. He also led the fight against the mass slaughter of wading birds, lobbied for the first bird protection legislation, laid the foundation for modern South American ornithology, and was a friend of President Theodore Roosevelt, who shared his passion for bird and wildlife conservation.
Acknowledged as the Dean of American Ornithologists, Chapman left an imperishable legacy as an influential pioneer whose adventures in the field included dodging rattlesnakes and tornados in Texas, enduring a savage Caribbean hurricane aboard a small sailing craft, negotiating with armed revolutionaries in the South American jungle, and riding muleback on narrow, treacherous trails high in the Andes mountains.
Chapman authored 17 books, and founded Bird Lore magazine, forerunner of today’s Audubon magazine. His landmark bird guide, Handbook of Birds of Eastern North America, 1895, went through several editions and was wildly popular for more than 40 years. He was also a sought-after bird lecturer and educator who helped father the modern birdwatching movement.
Biographer James Huffstodt of Tallahassee spent 25 years working as an information-education officer before retiring to write Chapman’s story. THE MAN WHO LOVED BIRDS is his fourth published non-fiction work. As a freelance writer he published feature stories in various magazines including Civil War Times, the DAR’s American Spirit, Florida Wildlife Magazine Illinois Outdoor Highlights, Dog World Magazine, Tallahassee Magazine, and Sea Classics.
Visitors to the Sandra Deal Learning Center at Camp Jekyll may notice some new, tiny dots adorning the glass on the building. These dots are special window treatments designed to prevent birds from flying into the glass. The project was made possible thanks to a partnership between Georgia Audubon, the University of Georgia, and the Jekyll Island Authority, through a grant from the Disney Conservation Fund.
The dots are a special Feather Friendly film that reduces the transparency of the glass and breaks up reflection, preventing birds from flying into them. Feather Friendly film has been applied to approximately 1342 square feet of the exterior windows. Spaced two inches apart, the dots break up the reflection and alert birds that the space is not a clear flyway, causing them to stall and fly in a different, safer direction. Current research estimates that between 365 million and 1 billion birds perish each year from colliding with buildings in the United States.
The Sandra Deal Learning Center at Camp Jekyll, named for former Georgia First Lady Sandra Dunagan Deal upon opening in 2016, includes a 300-seat auditorium, aquatic and reptile labs, and classrooms. The wife of former Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, Mrs. Deal was a retired school teacher and advocate for childhood literacy until her recent passing in August 2022.
To learn more about Georgia Audubon's work to prevent bird-building collisions or how to prevent collisions at home, visit our collisions page.
by Dottie Head, Director of Communications
This September, Georgia Audubon will observe the fifth annual Georgia Grows Native for Birds Month, a month-long celebration of the inherent connection between Georgia’s native plants and birds. 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.
“When it comes to the types of plants that are best for Georgia’s birds, native plants are far better than non-native plants,” says Adam Betuel, Georgia Audubon director of conservation. “As urbanization increases and natural habitats disappear, it is more important than ever that we intentionally include more native plants in our landscapes. Because native trees and shrubs evolved with local wildlife, they harbor more insects and yield more nutritious berries and fruits than non-native varieties. From adding native plants in pots on your balcony to reducing turf grass and planting native trees and shrubs in your yard, planting natives can have far reaching benefits for birds, pollinators, and other wildlife. It’s something each of us can do in our own landscapes to aid bird conservation efforts.”
During Georgia Grows Native for Birds Month, 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:
Fall Native Plant Sale in Atlanta and Athens
Accepting Orders: August 30 to September 26 with pickup dates on October 1 and 2 in Atlanta and Athens.
Georgia Audubon and Oconee Rivers Audubon, in Athens, will collaborate on a fall native plant sale. We will partner with Beech Hollow Wildlife Farms to bring you a large selection of bird-friendly, native plants for your landscape. Visit the plant sale website to view available plants or to place your order beginning August 30.
Georgia Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary Tour
Saturday, September 10
9:00 AM to 2:00 PM
Tickets: $20 for Georgia Audubon members / $30 for non-members
Georgia Audubon will host an in-person Wildlife Sanctuary Tour on Saturday, September 10, from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM. This year's tour will feature five properties in DeKalb and Fulton counties. Join us to gain inspiration on how you can transform your yard into a sanctuary for birds and other wildlife. Each featured property has been certified by Georgia Audubon as a Wildlife Sanctuary because it provides four essential criteria for attracting birds and other wildlife: food sources (at least 50% native plants), nesting sites, shelter, and water sources.
Free Webinar: Reflections from a Bird Bath: What Game Cameras Can Teach Us About Fruit Eating Birds
Thursday, September 15, at 7:00 PM via Zoom
Join ecologist Jim Ferrari in this webinar as he describes his seven-year study of seed deposition to the bird bath in his Macon, Georgia, yard. Jim collects seeds, records the visiting birds, and (for the past year) has trained a game camera on his bird bath to learn more about seed dispersal by birds. Themes covered in the talk include seasonality of fruit production, native vs. non-native plants, which bird species have the broadest fruit diet, and more.
Jim Ferrari is a professor of biology and department chair for biology at Wesleyan College, in Macon. His research interests include the ecology of fruit-eating birds, seasonal patterns of bird diversity, vulture migration and flocking behavior, leaf litter dispersal and effects of leaf decomposition on soil nitrogen cycling rates, and forest ecology
Free Webinar: Creating a Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary
Tuesday, September 20, at 7:00 PM via Zoom
Learn how to promote the conservation and well-being of birds and other wildlife in your green space. We will cover everything from food, water, and shelter to keeping wildlife safe. Whether you are an experienced gardener and birder or just getting started, there will be something for you to learn. Get connected to resources that can help you on your journey, and learn how you can get your space certified as a Georgia Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary.
Plant ID Workshop, with Gabe Andrle
Thursday, September 22, from 5:30 to 7:00 PM
Location: Henderson Park, Tucker
Cost: $20 for Georgia Audubon members / $30 for non-members
Join Georgia Audubon's Habitat Program Manager, Gabe Andrle, for a beginner plant identification workshop where you will learn how to identify some of the most common native and non-native plant species of the metro Atlanta area. No experience is necessary. You will leave equipped with the basics for starting to understand what plants shape the many amazing ecosystems that birds rely on for survival.
Georgia Grows Native for Birds Month Closing Celebration: Birds and the Undiscovered World, with Kenn Kaufman
Sunday, September 25, from 3:00 to 5:30 PM
Monday Night Garage, 933 Lee Street, SW, Atlanta, 30310
Cost: $35 for Georgia Audubon Members / $45 for non-members.
Join us for the Georgia Grows Native for Birds Month Closing Celebration featuring Kenn Kaufman, author, conservatist, and birding legend, as he gives the keynote address on Birds and the Undiscovered World.
The advances of modern science, and the reality of instant global communication, may lead us to assume that everything in our world is well known. But this is an illusion: in fact, the unknown is all around us, beginning right outside our doors. A close look at the world of birds and nature is enough to remind us that we are still surrounded by fascinating mysteries. Kenn Kaufman will draw on the adventures of his own life to talk about the unknown realms of nature, the potential for discovery, and the power of personal observation to rekindle our sense of wonder.
About the speaker: Kenn Kaufman became fascinated with birds by the age of six. As a professional tour guide, he led birding tour groups to all seven continents, but today he works as an artist, writer, and editor. He has written 13 books about birds and nature, including Kingbird Highway, Lives of North American Birds, and his own series of nature guides, Kaufman Field Guides, now published by HarperCollins. His most recent book is A Season on the Wind: Inside the World of Spring Migration, published in 2019. Kenn is a Fellow of the American Ornithological Society, a Field Editor for the National Audubon Society, and an official "birding expert" for Birds & Blooms magazine.
Eagle Eye Book Shop will be setting up a pop-up store at this event so that guests may purchase copies of Kenn Kaufman's books for autographing. Learn more or register on our website.
Georgia Audubon is building places where birds and people thrive. We create bird-friendly communities through conservation, education, and community engagement.
By Steve Phenicie
People hearing the Gray Catbird for the first time have been known to exclaim incredulously, “A bird made that sound?” Yes, it did – this common, widespread bird is well-known for making a mewing sound like that of a cat. It also mimics the calls of other birds as well as tree frogs and mechanical sounds. Because of its well-developed vocal organ, it even has the ability to make two different sounds at once.
The catbird is mostly gray, of course, but its coloration has some touches that might play well with a Madison Avenue ad executive. The long tail is dark gray to black, and the bird has black eyes, legs, bill and “cap.” Best of all, look for the chestnut-colored feathers under the tail. In size the catbird is slightly smaller than a Northern Mockingbird.
Although catbirds sometimes appear in the open, they like to hide in thickets, brambles, and shrubby or brushy areas, particularly near water, including the Chattahoochee River. Their triangular-shaped range map stretches from Nova Scotia to British Columbia to Panama, with the winter range generally being limited to the Atlantic seaboard. A few linger far to the north, however, if they can find food. Catbirds apparently migrate mostly at night. Birds breeding in the Northwest seem to migrate east before turning south in fall, since they are rarely seen in the Southwest. In the winter the bird is rare north of Georgia’s Fall Line. At least in the East, populations seem to have been growing in recent decades.
In breeding season, a nest is built mostly by the female in dense shrubs, thickets, briar tangles, or low trees, usually three to 10 feet above the ground. The structure is a large, bulky cup of twigs, weeds, grass, leaves, and sometimes pieces of trash, lined with rootlets and other fine materials. Mama catbird usually lays four greenish blue eggs, although there can be from two to six. Incubation is by the female only and lasts about 12 or 13 days. Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave the nest about 10 or 11 days after hatching. There are two broods per year. Catbirds won’t take any bullying from Brown-headed Cowbirds: If a cowbird lays eggs in the nest of a catbird, the adult catbirds usually puncture and eject them.
The catbird’s diet is heavy on insects and berries. Especially in early summer, it consumes many beetles, ants, caterpillars, grasshoppers, crickets, and other insects, as well as spiders and millipedes. Nestlings are fed almost entirely on insects. In fall and winter it eats many kinds of wild berries and some cultivated fruit. On rare occasions it catches small fish. At feeders, catbirds have been known to eat doughnuts, cheese, boiled potato, and corn flakes. Native fruit-bearing trees and shrubs such as dogwood, winterberry, and serviceberry might attract them to your yard.
The phrase “in the catbird seat” means being in a position of advantage and is based on the fact that the bird likes to make its mocking calls from a secluded perch. The term is rooted in the South and was popularized by the sportscaster Red Barber, who called Major League Baseball games from the 1930s through the 1960s and titled his autobiography Rhubarb in the Catbird Seat.
by Dottie Head, Director of Communications
Georgia Audubon has been awarded a grant from the Robert F. Schumann Foundation for expanded bird-friendly habitat restoration work on Jekyll Island. This grant will enable Georgia Audubon to restore three additional acres of maritime grassland dune habitat with native grasses and perennials to support migratory and resident birds. Additional project goals include educating and engaging community members in monitoring and advocating for birds and monitoring coastal bird populations and activity to create a set of data from which to better inform future conservation decisions.
Georgia Audubon is partnering with the Jekyll Island Authority (JIA), UGA Marine Extension & Sea Grant Program, and Coastal Georgia Audubon Society on this project. The JIA is providing guidance on restoration site selection, ground reconnaissance, restoration/long-term site maintenance services, and assistance with work permitting. Coastal Georgia Audubon will assist in recruiting volunteers for the habitat restoration work and lead community bird walks at the project site. Georgia Audubon is also partnering with the UGA Marine Extension & Sea Grant Program via a coastal fellow who will oversee all community engagement and outreach activities at this site.
These three acres are in addition to seven acres of restoration currently underway or already complete thanks to funding from other sources, bringing the total project area to more than 10 acres. The project goals are to improve habitat currently overrun by non-native plants and reinforce dune areas of Jekyll Island to make them more resilient and ecologically rich.
As part of the project, Georgia Audubon’s habitat restoration crew and volunteers will remove non-native invasive plant species from the 3-acre project site, primarily Bahia Grass (Paspalum notatum) and Bermuda Grass (Cynodon dactylon). This will be followed by an installation of new native plant vegetation, including approximately 48,000 native coastal grass and perennial plugs (Muhlenbergia sericea, Panicum amarum, Sporobolus virginicus, Paspalum virginicus, Monarda punctata, Euthamia graminifolia, and Pityopis graminifolia), as well as approximately 20 pounds of native Broom Sedge seed.
Georgia Audubon and partners will also involve the community in conservation activities through bird surveys and other community science activities and educational programs. Georgia Audubon’s professional restoration team, alongside volunteers and community partners, will work on specific target days to do the on-the-ground conservation work.
The grant will also enable Georgia Audubon to produce a final project summary report to guide partners in future restoration and community engagement efforts. Follow-up assessments/maintenance will also happen well beyond the grant period as the habitat quality, wildlife and bird abundance surveys are continued and analyzed to assess the project’s success and future opportunities.
“Georgia Audubon is excited to expand our habitat restoration work on Jekyll Island thanks to this generous grant from the Robert F. Schumann Foundation,” says Adam Betuel, director of conservation for Georgia Audubon. “This project builds on successful past and ongoing restoration work with the Jekyll Island Authority and deepens our ongoing partnership enabling us to build more ecologically productive space in a threatened habitat that experiences high levels of public visitation."
One of Georgia’s barrier islands, Jekyll Island is notable for its pristine beaches, tidal salt marshes, and dense coastal forests. The natural features include quiet beaches where endangered sea turtles nest, critical "stopover" habitat for migrating shorebirds, and an abundance of wooded areas for millions of migrating birds, butterflies, and dragonflies. Tidal creeks and salt marshes border the island on its western side, while a rim of dynamic dunes, beaches, and the Atlantic Ocean border the eastern side. Jekyll Island, along with Georgia's twelve other barrier islands, protect valuable salt marshes, which represent 28 percent of all salt marsh habitat along the U.S. eastern seaboard.
About Georgia Audubon: Georgia Audubon is building places where birds and people thrive. We create bird-friendly communities through conservation, education, and community engagement. (www.georgiaaudubon.org)
About the Jekyll Island Authority: The Jekyll Island Authority (JIA) is a self-supporting state entity responsible for the overall management and stewardship of Jekyll Island, a Georgia State Park. JIA oversees the conservation and management of Jekyll Island and has set up parameters to protect the island’s ecosystem while ensuring it remains an inviting destination for visitors. (www.jekyllisland.com)
Georgia Audubon recently launched a new tool that allows visitors to explore Georgia Audubon's certified Wildlife Sanctuaries. A new ArcGIS tool allows visitors to explore all the different sanctuaries that exist throughout Georgia. Click on any point to learn more about the type of certified space, its size and its general location.
Georgia Audubon's Wildlife Sanctuary Program encourages property owners to enhance their land for birds and other wildlife. Through planting and providing native plants, removing or controlling exotic species, and providing food, water, and shelter for wildlife, local property owners can provide critical wildlife habitat and create a safe haven for wildlife.
Please join us in welcoming two new staff to Georgia Audubon. Catie Iber joins Georgia Audubon as our new Finance and Administration Manager, and Jason Taylor is coming on board as the new Development Manager.
Catie E. Iber joins Georgia Audubon with more than 25 years of accounting experience. A graduate of Furman University, Catie has spent the past several years as a finance consultant. This has given her a great deal of experience in industries ranging from nonprofits and manufacturing to medical and corporate acounting. She is a Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, a Certified Microsoft Office Specialist, and a Notary for the State of Georgia. Her areas of expertise are handling large amounts of data, creating an easily digestible explanation of accounting complexities, technical and transactional accounting, reconciliations, technology, software/hardware conversion, consulting, training, and special projects. She is a well-rounded team player who loves to sing and spend time in nature. As a volunteer with Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, she has been involved in cleaning trash from our waterways and taking part in conservation work for years.
Jason Taylor is a native Georgian who grew up exploring the outdoors with a field guide in hand. He carried this passion to Emory University, where he majored in History, while also co-majoring in Human and Natural Ecology. After college, Jason’s professional path led him to the environmental education community. Starting as a naturalist, he made his way around the environmental/humane education landscape of Atlanta, working for nature centers, Zoo Atlanta, and Piedmont Park Conservancy. One of Jason’s greatest accomplishments was creating, from scratch, an education department at Atlanta Humane Society, bringing much-needed Humane Education to thousands of students in the Atlanta Metropolitan area. Most recently, Jason worked at Emory University as Associate Director of Alumni and Constituent Giving, managing a staff of students who reached out to alumni and friends of Emory to engage, steward, and fundraise. Jason lives in the Upper Westside of Atlanta with his dog Murphy, but enjoys escaping the city to hike across Georgia and beyond to flip logs and rocks for snakes as he goes. At home, he enjoys gardening heirloom vegetables and is a sucker for a craft beer and a good movie, particularly if it’s kaiju or sci-fi/fantasy.
Clean water heroes from across the state were recognized for their extraordinary work to protect Georgia’s water during the Georgia Water Coalition’s 20th Anniversary & Clean 13 Celebration on May 22, 2022 at Fall Line Station in Macon. The event, with 125 in attendance celebrated the 20th Anniversary of the Georgia Water Coalition and featured an awards ceremony. Read the report and learn about the awardees at https://www.gawater.org/clean-13.
The celebration honored: Athens-Clarke County, Blue Bird Bus Corporation, City of Savannah, City of South Fulton, Georgia Audubon and Southern Conservation Trust, Madison County Clean Power Commission, Mitchell County 4-H, Hanwha QCELLS North America, Dr. Dionne Hoskins-Brown, Patagonia, Rep. Andy Welch and Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, White Oak Pastures and Jim Wright.
The work celebrated includes:
Athens-Clarke County has embraced clean energy by adopting a goal of making its entire community powered 100 percent by renewable energy sources by 2050. To do this, the city-county commission adopted an innovative funding mechanism to generate the cash needed to reach the goal. Now, solar arrays are popping up on fire station roofs and low-income neighborhoods are getting water and energy efficiency assistance.
Blue Bird Bus Corporation (Peach County)
In Ft. Valley, the Blue Bird Bus Corporation has become the country’s leading manufacturer of electric school buses and expects that by 2030 nearly 100 percent of its sales will be for electric and alternative fuel buses. By eliminating greenhouse gas emissions, this trend will lead to cleaner air for today’s school children and a more livable world for future generations.
City of Savannah (Chatham County)
In Savannah where visitors are often seen strolling the streets of the entertainment and historic districts with drinks in hand, the city partnered with local restaurants and bars in on a pilot project to replace plastic to-go cups with infinitely-recyclable, Georgia-made aluminum cups. The pilot was so successful that additional restaurants are buying in and consumers are clamoring for the cups, taking them home as souvenirs rather than tossing them in trash cans or recycling bins.
City of South Fulton (Fulton County)
In the City of South Fulton nestled along the Chattahoochee River, city leaders this year voted to make their municipality the first in Georgia to implement regulations prohibiting private businesses from using plastic bags. Other communities are watching and now following their lead.
Georgia Audubon and Southern Conservation Trust (Fayette County)
Near Fayetteville, Georgia Audubon and the Southern Conservation Trust are working at the micro-level, showing how little changes add up to big impacts. The two groups are partnering at Sams Lake Bird Sanctuary to eliminate invasive aquatic and terrestrial plants and restore native plants. The project is a lesson in the interconnectivity of our natural systems. The native plants produce more insects that benefit the 138 bird species that live in or annually visit the 56-acre sanctuary of wetlands and wildlife.
Madison County Clean Power Coalition (Madison and Franklin counties)
In rural Northeast Georgia residents rallied together to fight pollution from two local biomass-to-energy plants. When residents discovered the facilities were chipping and burning creosote-soaked railroad ties, they took action. Within a year, this small group of determined activists had secured state legislation banning the use of creosote-soaked wood at power generation facilities and held the polluting entities accountable.
Mitchell County 4-H (Camilla/Mitchell County)
In partnership with the Stripling Irrigation Research Park in Camilla, Mitchell County 4-H sponsors an annual 4-H20 camp to teach youth about the importance of the state’s water resources. Since 2008, hundreds of children have participated, and now “graduates” of 4-H20 Camp are becoming science and water management leaders.
Hanwha QCELLS North America (Whitfield County)
In 2019, Dalton became home to the largest manufacturer of solar panels in the Western Hemisphere with the opening of Hanwha QCELLS facility which annually produces enough panels to generate 1.7 gigawatts (GW) of electricity. QCELLS chose the location, in part, because of the need to be close to the growing solar market in Georgia and the Southeast.
Dr. Dionne Hoskins-Brown (Chatham County)
Dr. Dionne Hoskins-Brown of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has become an advocate for Georgia’s coastal waters and through a NOAA partnership with Savannah State University, Georgia’s first public university for African Americans, is working to diversify NOAA’s workforce. During the past 20 years, Hoskins-Brown’s work has made the historically black university one of the nation’s top producers of marine science graduates—some of whom are now working for NOAA studying how climate change is impacting fisheries and coastal communities.
Patagonia (Fulton County)
When it comes to supporting environmental advocacy and water protection efforts in Georgia, perhaps there is no business as committed to change as Patagonia. The iconic brand’s retail store in Atlanta funds local environmental organizations, donates products to these groups and provides employee volunteers for multiple causes. Since 1996, the store has invested $1.3 million in local environmental organizations.
Rep. Andy Welch and Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (Henry County and Floyd County)
Rep. Andy Welch (R-Locust Grove) and Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) took up the cause championed by the late Rep. Jay Powell of Camilla and during the 2020 General Assembly session successfully secured legislation that restores funding for the state’s environmental trust funds. The legislation initiated a constitutional amendment on the 2020 ballot that was overwhelmingly supported by voters. During the 2021 legislation session, measures were adopted that will ensure that fees collected for environmental cleanups will be used for that purpose.
White Oak Pastures (Early County)
Will Harris and his team at White Oak Pasture’s regenerative land management practices are proving their ability to sequester as much carbon as is produced by the livestock raised on the farm. The beef raised on the farm in Southwest Georgia’s Bluffton community has a carbon footprint 111 percent lower than conventionally raised beef. The businesses’ farming practices are protecting local creeks and improving the land.
Jim Wright (Lee County)
In Southwest Georgia’s Lee County, code enforcement officer Jim Wright has become known for his work to clean Kinchafoonee and Muckalee creeks and make them accessible for residents and visitors for boating and fishing. Leading community cleanups, Boy Scout projects and development of public access points along the creeks, the Lee County employee and his community have transformed these waterways.
Together, the efforts of these “Clean 13” are adding up to cleaner rivers, stronger communities and a more resilient and sustainable future for Georgia.
The Georgia Water Coalition publishes this list not only to recognize these positive efforts on behalf of Georgia’s water but also as a call to action for our state’s leaders and citizens to review these success stories, borrow from them and emulate them.
Sponsors of the event included: Stack & Associates, Stripling Inc., Advanced Metal Components, Anonymous, Altamaha Riverkeeper, Southern Environmental Law Center, Little Saint Simons Island, Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, Storm Water Systems, Georgia Aquarium, Rev. Sam Rogers, Georgia River Network, Environment Georgia, R2T, Tally Sweat, Fire Systems, Flint Riverkeeper, Terracon, Holly & Brian Markwalter, Graham Law Firm, American Rivers, Fish Dock Restaurant, R. Howard Dobbs Jr. Foundation, Sapelo Foundation and the Turner Foundation.
The Georgia Water Coalition is a consortium of more than 285 conservation and environmental organizations, hunting and fishing groups, businesses, and faith-based organizations that have been working to protect Georgia’s water since 2002. Collectively, these organizations represent thousands of Georgians.
By Kim Savides, Georgia Audubon/UGA Sea Grant Fellow
Migration along the coast is picking up, and so is Georgia Audubon’s work along the coast. In the last month, the number of shorebirds and warblers have swelled along the beaches, marshes, and maritime forests of coastal Georgia. Though many of these birds are visitors stopping by to use abundant food resources in the state, some will be staying to call Georgia home during the summer breeding season. And many of these species—migrants and breeders alike—are of conservation concern, presenting opportunities for bird biologists across organizations to form partnerships to better understand population levels and threats to birds.
This year Georgia Audubon is partnering with Manomet and other organizations up and down the Atlantic Coast to monitor shorebirds and potential disturbances through the Atlantic Flyway Disturbance Project. Humans and shorebirds alike love to flock around Georgia’s beaches. Though beach recreation may seem ecologically benign to many beachgoers, human activities around resting or breeding shorebirds can have impacts on their condition and breeding success throughout the year. To help understand the effects of human disturbances on the Georgia coast, we are surveying points spread out across Jekyll Island. At each point we look for and count focal shorebird species like the Wilson’s Plover, American Oystercatcher, and Red Knot, as well as the number of potential disturbances present like the number of people, dogs, boats, or other vehicles. We also take a three-minute behavioral observation of each focal species to determine if the bird is resting, foraging, or being alert to natural or human disturbances. While Jekyll has lower levels of recreation that many other beaches along the Atlantic coast, we still see human disturbance to shorebirds during every survey, including biking or running through roosting flocks, dogs off leash or on beaches closed to pets, and even low-flying planes and powered parasails flying over. By comparing data from sites like Jekyll with islands with higher levels of recreation, like Tybee Island, where our colleagues from Manomet are conducting the same surveys, we can begin to get a clearer view of how shorebirds respond to human recreation along the coast. And by collecting data as part of a larger, flyway-scale project, Georgia’s data will go towards helping biologists throughout the Atlantic Flyway research and manage human impacts to shorebirds.
Also on Jekyll Island this spring and summer, Georgia Audubon is continuing our partnership with the Jekyll Island Authority to monitor nesting Wilson’s Plovers. Wilson’s Plovers are bold but sneaky shorebirds which breed from long the Gulf Coast to southern Florida and up though southern Delaware. Throughout much of its breeding range, the species is considered of conservation concern, including in Georgia where it is part of the State Wildlife Action Plan. Tracking how many plovers are breeding and the success of the nesting season is of great value to managers and researchers. But to get this data we have to find nests and monitor them closely throughout the breeding season, which can be very tricky. Wilson’s Plovers lay eggs in shallow depressions, called “scrapes”, dug in dune habitat along the shore. Finding these cryptic nests takes keen attention to behavioral cues, tracks in the sand, and a lot of luck! Males will dig multiple scrapes before wind and rain erase them or a female selects one as a nest. After the female lays three eggs and the pair incubates for about a month, the chicks will hatch and quickly join their parents and forage on their own before officially fledging in another month. But between fresh scrape and fledging, many hazards exist, including storms, ghost crabs, raccoons, loose pets, crows, and recreating humans just to name a few. While most of these threats are naturally occurring, it is important for biologists to monitor nests and ascertain why some nests fail. By monitoring nests, we can determine why certain nests are unsuccessful and propose management strategies if unnatural levels of nest failure occur. At the time of writing, we are in the very beginning of nesting season, and have found over 20 scrapes between a dozen pairs of Wilson’s Plovers within the monitoring area on Jekyll Island. As more plovers pair up and establish territories, we will be busy looking for scrapes and nests, and hope to watch many of them successfully fledge chicks as the season continues.
Looking ahead to later this spring and summer, we are excited to continue efforts with Georgia and South Carolina DNRs to monitor and track migrating Red Knots, as well as starting up a new partnership with University of Georgia professor Dr. Clark Rushing to research the breeding biology of two species along the coast—the Painted Bunting and Chuck-will’s-widow. These projects are aimed at filling gaps in our knowledge of how these species interact with and use Georgia’s coastal resources. We are excited to work with our array of partner organizations to better understand the conservation issues of birds and look forward to these projects and more to come along the Georgia coast.
By Doug Walker Augusta-Aiken Audubon Society
With a mission to educate the public about birds, other wildlife, and habitat, and to provide opportunities for our community to appreciate the natural world, the Augusta-Aiken Audubon Society focuses on birds and wildlife in the central Savannah River area, around Augusta, Georgia, and Aiken, South Carolina.
Native Wildlife Garden for East Aiken School for the Arts
In 2016, the Augusta-Aiken Audubon Society provided funding for a STEAM program (that’s STEM with an additional “A” for Arts) offered through the Ruth Patrick Science Center at the University of South Carolina Aiken. The beneficiary was the East Aiken School for the Arts, a local Title IX magnet school where 95 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced lunches. The curriculum consisted primarily of field trips with the hope of introducing the students to nature and the outdoors. When the project was complete, the chapter felt that kids still needed a place where they could get outside so they could continue to learn about and appreciate nature. By installing a native plant garden at the school, they were able to create a place where students could spend time in nature and continue their learning.
The school provided an unused weedy courtyard and gave us free rein to transform it. With assistance and funding from the Aiken Master Gardeners Club, the chapter set to preparing the soil, eliminating weeds, and ensuring the garden would be very low maintenance. The school principal personally donated plastic sheeting for solarization, a means of natural weed killing, as well as some pavers, and the Silver Bluff Audubon Center in Jackson, SC, gave us carte blanche in gathering native plants and shrubs from their sanctuary for transplanting in the garden. In addition, a local Boy Scout Troop provided labor, digging trenches for a drip irrigation system and spreading pine bark mulch to keep the weeds down. Local businesses provided substantial discounts on supplies and provided a venue for fundraising to complete the project.
Fast forward to 2022, and the garden is now thriving, complete with a pollinator garden, sections of native grasses and ferns, and numerous bird-friendly shrubs planted around the edges. There are two water features, a bluebird house, bird feeders, a tree frog tube, various rock and wood piles, and a mason bee house. The only non-native vegetation are two crepe myrtles, which were planted years ago as memorial trees. Regular visitors include green and squirrel tree frogs, southern toads, an occasional anole and many species of voracious birds.
The Chapter started this project in support of Audubon’s Bird Friendly Communities initiative, and it has indeed turned out to be a bi-state community effort. When we were working in the garden one afternoon, a special education teacher approached and expressed her appreciation. She said her students love to visit the space, and one little girl has fallen in love with the beautyberry and just sits there and gazes at it. Maybe we have a future botanist in training!
Georgia Audubon is building places where birds and people thrive.