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Nature preserve inviting residents to become bird watchers

Photo by  Curt Yeomans
Will Wagner, a ranger at the W.H. Reynolds Memorial Nature Preserve, looks for birds through a pair of binoculars on Wednesday. The Morrow-based nature preserve began offering free, self-guided, bird-watching tours last year.

Photo by Curt Yeomans Will Wagner, a ranger at the W.H. Reynolds Memorial Nature Preserve, looks for birds through a pair of binoculars on Wednesday. The Morrow-based nature preserve began offering free, self-guided, bird-watching tours last year.

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

The birds are chirping, squawking and screeching all over the W.H. Reynolds Memorial Nature Preserve in Morrow. During a walk through the preserve, people can hear the birds making noises all around them.

They just do not like it when people get too close. Actually, they fly upward into the trees, and try to hide behind tree trunks, when a bird watcher gets too close for comfort.

"If you sit there, and stay still for awhile, they will come out where you can see them," said Will Wagner, a ranger at the preserve.

Last summer, the preserve began offering free, self-guided, bird-watching tours to local bird enthusiasts. All a person has to do is come by the nature center and check-out a bird-watching field guide, a pair of binoculars, and a checklist of local birds.

The bird watchers have to leave their driver's license with a staff member until they return the equipment, Wagner said. The preserve is located at 5665 Reynolds Road, in Morrow. People can go on the tours from 8 a.m., to 4 p.m., according to Wagner.

There are a few reasons, according to Wagner, why the preserve is offering the tours, including a desire to attract more bird watchers to the south side of the metropolitan Atlanta area, and to determine what types of birds pass through the area, how many of them come, and what time of year they stop by.

Wagner said the preserve sits on the highest ridge in Clayton County, which gives it an advantage as a local, bird-watching perch for the south side of Atlanta, because birds tend to be attracted to higher ground. "When they are in the area, it's easy for them to see places of higher elevation," he said.

Through the older data the preserve has, the rangers know there are at least 120 birds that have been seen on the preserve's grounds at some point in the past, but that data does not reflect when they were seen, according to Wagner.

The lists bird watchers receive when they check out the binoculars and field guides list all the birds that can be seen in the Atlanta area, including what time of year they can typically be seen. While the bird watchers are on their tours, they are asked to check off which birds they saw, and how many. The checklists are turned in to rangers at the end of the tours.

Wagner said that since the self-guided tours began, approximately 40 to 50 people have participated in them, including a half dozen who did bird-watching on their own, as well as members of three group tours.

"We expect after a year's worth of data [from the bird-watching tours], to have at least 170 birds that we know come through the preserve," he said. "We know it's a real good bird-watching area, because people are guaranteed to see a wide variety of birds."

Some of the birds that could be seen in the trees at the preserve on Wednesday included: Tufted Titmouses; Red-Bellied Woodpeckers; White-Breasted Nuthatchers; Mourning Doves, and Carolina Chickadees.

Wagner, and fellow ranger, John Williams, said the preserve is also home to a variety of other birds, including several types of hawks, such as red-tails; sharpshins; broadwings, and red-shoulders.

"You'll see a lot more birds of prey right now, because the leaves have fallen, which makes it easier to see them," Wagner said.

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On the net:

W.H. Reynolds Memorial Nature Preserve: www.reynoldsnaturepreserve.org