By Joel Hall
As the leaves turn brown in the northern parts of the country, thousands of migratory birds travel thousands of miles south to warmer climates. For many birds looking for food along the way, the E.L. Huie Holding Ponds and Newman Wetlands Center are a popular rest stop.
The Atlanta Audubon Society will host an official bird-watching field trip at the Clayton County Water Authority's holding ponds, and the Newman Wetlands Center this Saturday from 8 a.m., to 11 a.m. During the event, society guides will help experienced, and amateur, "birders" identify a number of songbirds, raptors, shorebirds, and waterfowl taking temporary refuge on the water authority's grounds.
Carol Lambert, Newman Wetlands Center senior conservationist, and a member of the Atlanta Audubon Society, will help lead Saturday's field trip. She said the field trips, which the society hosts regularly in different locations around metro Atlanta, introduce people to a world of nature that many are too busy to notice.
"We're still in the fall migration of birds, so there are still a lot of birds heading south to the tropics, to South America," she said. "A lot of the birds stop along the way, where they can find good habitat, where they can rest and feed. Places like the Huie pond and the wetlands center are good habitats.
"Every month, the Audubon field trip takes place somewhere [in the metro Atlanta area]," she added. "It gives people a chance to go out with experienced leaders, experienced birders, and see what is there."
According to Lambert, the water authority's fall bird survey last Saturday revealed 81 species of birds. This Saturday, careful observers may see a variety tropical songbirds, hawks, vultures, merlin, and peregrine falcons.
Participants in the bird-watching trip will receive a check list of the 400 bird species found in Georgia, and will be able to check off the birds they find, Lambert said.
"It's a very exciting time," she said. "The song birds are stopping. They're feeding heavily. We had good a number of hawks and a lot of woodpeckers last Saturday. Right now, the falcons are migrating, along with [the] merlin, kestrel, and peregrine falcon. The peregrine falcon is the fastest flying bird on earth, I'm pretty sure. They're like a bullet when they dive and they take out pigeons and other small birds. They're really neat birds and were endangered until recently."
Water Authority Public Information Officer Suzanne Brown said the field trip will serve as a way to introduce more people to the wetlands center and illustrate, in real terms, the importance of keeping the county's waterways clean.
"A lot of our property is known as some of the best in the metro-Atlanta area and the Southeast, in terms of the variety of birds there," Brown said. "Whether they are experienced birders, or if they haven't done it before, getting them there exposes them to the center.
"It's important not to pollute our local streams and creeks," Brown continued. "When we have school children out there, you can show them how important it is ... it shows by protecting your watershed, you make it a better environment for wildlife. In turn, it leads to a better environment for us humans, also."
The bird watchers will meet in the parking lot of the Newman Wetlands Center, located at 2755 Freeman Road in Hampton. Participants should bring binoculars, and dress warmly.
For more information, call (770) 603-5606, or visit www.ccwa.us.