Our best day yet

When I first accepted my position here at Georgia College, the first thing I did was search eBird for the local hotspots, to see what birds I could expect to find where and when.   I was surprised to see that there are only 2 designated hotspots in the entire county, and have made it my goal to build up the local eBird database.  We went to one of the hotspots, The Oconee Greenway, during our first lab, and today we went to the second, Lockerly Arboretum.

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The habitat is mainly wooded – a mix a deciduous and conifers, but there is a large pond and a small stream running through, with trails running throughout the entire arboretum.   The weather was a little cloudy when we first got there, but the birds were already really active.   We saw a few species from the parking lot.

The first and arguably most exciting part of the morning happened right away – we saw HUGE flocks (multiple!) of Cedar Waxwings.  Even with a small group of students, it can sometimes be hard to make sure that everyone sees every bird, but the flocks made it really easy and we all got great looks at them several times all morning.

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There were also lots of mixed flocks of small songbirds, with nuthatches, titmice, cardinals, robins, chickadees, wrens, and warblers.  Lots of little birds high up in the trees, in non-breeding plumage to challenge the budding ornithologists in class.

They are doing great!  I’m continually impressed with how fast they are all picking it up!  Frustration is common, but they seem to be dealing with it well, or at least being silent about it in front of me.

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Another BIG highlight was seeing a Cooper’s Hawk perched in a tree after seeing it in flight several times.  The lighting was perfect!  I had shown the class museum skins of both Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned hawks so they could see the difference in size and I think that helped in identifying this Coopers.

You might have to squint to see him up in the top of the tree here:

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Other highlights were Red-headed Woodpecker, Blue Jays, Song Sparrows, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Carolina Chickadees, Brown Creepers, and several Eastern Bluebirds.

Of course, the usual suspects were prominent – Cardinals, Mockingbirds, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, Grackles, Crows, Robins….

Full eBird checklist is here.

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