|Maureen Leong-Kee, Naturalist|
The trip was also a perfect excuse us to see more of Georgia than we had. We love our marshes here in the "low country", as they call it, but Georgia's geography becomes much more interesting and varied as you travel farther inland, until finally reaching the Blue Ridge Mountains in the north. We've been starved for a change of landscape for a while now, as Florida, like Savannah, is essentially flat and marshy. I would have been happy to see even a slight incline after all of our time on the level, but we managed much more than that. Maureen found us a great campsite at High Falls State Park, which, as the names suggests, has a scenic series of waterfalls cutting across the grounds.
Best of all, we got to sleep in a yurt. A yurt is a style of housing that I'll describe as being essentially a cross between a tent a a teepee. It's more comfortable than sleeping on the ground in a tent, but still gives the sense of being in nature. The birding began as soon as we stepped out of the car, with several Eastern Wood-pewees using the surrounding trees as a landing base in between bouts of catching insects in mid-air. An Eastern Kingbird, a large group of Brown-headed Nuthatches, a Pine Warbler, and a pair of Carolina Wrens were also calling and flitting above our yurt while the sun set behind High Falls Lake.
|Outside our Yurt. High Falls Lake is just off to the left.|
|Inside our luxurious yurt. It was surprisingly roomy inside, like camping in one of the tents from Harry Potter.|
The next morning we met up with James Fleullan, president of Macon's local Audubon chapter, and an all-around knowledgable nature-lover. He led us out to some sod farms, where we had high hopes of finding Buff-breasted Sandpipers, which had been seen there recently. They happened to elude us, but it's hard to feel sorry for yourself when we had half a dozen Uplands practically in our laps, and easily a hundred Pectoral Sandpipers milling about. We'd seen an Upland in south Florida last year, but had it marked BVD (better view desired) in our life list. We were more than happy to drop the asterisk after these terrific looks at an awesome migrant.
Beside "grasspipers", our other target was Horned Lark. From the reports we'd read, we expected to be practically tripping over them. In the end, we did get our lifer lark, albeit, as a speck in the scope. Lose one BVD, gain another… c'est la vie! Honestly, we were happily surprised when we learned that they were reliable in Georgia at all, and now we've got something to look forward to next time we go back. Copious Blue Grosbeaks, and singing Field Sparrows rounded out a fantastic morning at the sod farms.
|Northern Rough-winged Swallows|
A little later we witnessed a medley of raptors at Ocmulgee National Monument. A Mississippi Kite, a couple of Turkey Vultures, three Red-tailed Hawks, and a Broad-winged Hawk were all swirling around together in a vortex of awesome when the pint-sized Broad-wing started getting aggressive with one of the Red-tails. After making a few passes, the Broad-wing went its own way, but this was the first time we'd ever seen these two side by side, and allowed me to realize just how much larger Red-tails are. Other than that, Ocmulgee was notable for an abundance of butterflies. We tried to keep up as James called out some of the more interesting species, but we were happy to defer to his expertise, realizing that we've got a long way to go before we can tell our Commas from our Question Marks.