Birds of SGG by Pat Pepper
It’s that time of year! From Dec.14 to Jan.5, birders all over North and Central America volunteer to count birds for the National Audubon Society. They usually spend up to twelve hours on one day identifying birds, both the species and number spotted. This information is invaluable in spotting bird migration trends and breeding success.
The Evening Grosbeak, for example, was once quite common here in Georgia, but now you must travel to Canada or the Northwest Region of the U.S. to spot one. Information like this can be gleaned by studying the results of these Christmas counts.
On December 14, 2014, I and three of my birder friends formed a team to count birds in two designated areas. Both areas were close to SGG, so any of the birds we spotted could be found in the gardens. Our first area included all the land in an area bordered by Stilesboro Rd. on the north, Paul Samuel and Acworth Due West on the east, Dallas Hwy. on the south, and Holland and Mars Hill on the west. Our second area was comprised mostly of Lake Acworth.
We started in the dark at 6am, hoping to hear owls. We were rewarded at Lake Acworth by the sound of a Barred and an Eastern Screech Owl. Birds may be counted either by sight or sound or both. The Lake Acworth area produced 47 different species. The most numerous species was the European Starling (47) and the Mallard Duck (43). The most exciting find, however, was three Common Goldeneyes (ducks). These are so rare for our area that we had to report them on the Rare Bird Alert.
The area south of Stilesboro Rd. produced 48 different species. Leone Price Park on Stilesboro, just west of SGG, and Green Meadows Reserve at the corner of Acworth Due West and Dallas Hwy. had the majority of birds. The most numerous bird was the Cedar Waxwing. We spotted 70 of them in the top of a tree. We also enjoyed watching 23 Eastern Bluebirds flit around near the communal garden. On the ground adjacent to Acworth Due West were a few Savannah Sparrows, always a treat to find.
Of the 63 species we found, I must confess that my favorite find was a very common bird found throughout the US. While common, it is rarely seen because of its excellent camouflage. This bird is the Brown Creeper. I have only spotted one other, and that was at SGG. It has the unusual pattern of walking up the trunk of a tree but then flying down. Nuthatches and Woodpeckers walk both up and down a tree trunk. Luckily, one of our team members lived in our birding area, and she had seen the Creeper in her back yard a few days before the count and had hoped it would still be there. It was!
We concluded our count at 4:30 pm. We were all tired but so excited by how many different birds we had found. You may wonder why the count is conducted in winter when it is not so pleasant to be outside, especially in Northern climes. The main reason is that the birds have finished migrating, so they won’t be counted twice or more in different parts of North and Central America.
Audubon will sponsor another count, The Great Backyard Bird Count, Feb.13-16, 2015. I will be at SGG on Saturday, Feb.14, to help Stefanie Haerynck conduct a count and help visitors
identify birds. It will be Valentine’s Day, so if you LOVE birds, please join us!