2023 is for the Birds
By Jared Teutsch, Executive Director
2023 is shaping up to be a great year for Georgia’s birds. At Georgia Audubon, birds are a catalyst for conservation—easy to see and hear wherever you are—and they provide an entry point into appreciating nature and understanding the challenges we all face to protect our parks and greenspaces, in Atlanta and across the state.
Georgia Audubon is building places where birds and people thrive. Building off of our three pillars of Conservation, Education, and Community Engagement, we use science-based, bird-focused programs to build a conservation ethic in individuals, landowners, businesses, partner organizations, policy makers, and communities throughout the state.
Here are some of our focus areas for 2023:
Habitat Restoration: Over the past seven years, Georgia Audubon has worked across metro Atlanta to create a model of bird-friendly habitat restoration at urban greenspaces, such as Deepdene Park, Cascade Springs Nature Preserve, Island Ford Unit of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, and on state-managed lands, including Panola Mountain State Park and Jekyll Island. In 2023 we are excited to expand our habitat work to the Chattahoochee RiverLands, an initiative to reunite the Chattahoochee River with the metro Atlanta region, and link suburban, urban, and rural communities into a 100-mile public realm. This year Georgia Audubon will kick off a two-year project at five Chattahoochee RiverLands sites, beginning at the new Trust for Public Land Camp + Paddle Site, to remove non-native, invasive plant species, like privet and English ivy, and replace them with native plant species and to educate the public about the important connection between native plants, birds, and other pollinators.
Migration Forecasting: Through a generous grant from the Disney Conservation Fund and a robust partnership with Dr. Kyle Horton at the Aero-Eco lab at Colorado State University, Georgia Audubon in 2021 launched a conservation tool to predict nightly migration of birds over the state, allowing us to send alerts across the state for nights of high migration intensity in order to provide safer passage for our migrating birds. In addition to our ongoing bird collision monitoring and light reduction efforts in the metro area, in 2023 Georgia Audubon will expand these programs along Georgia’s 100-mile coastline. Continuing improvements to migration forecasting software and alert systems will enable Georgia Audubon to issue targeted Lights Out Alerts on nights of peak migration to encourage people to reduce or eliminate outdoor lighting to allow safe passage for migrating birds.
Birds for All: In addition to offering more than 125 free bird walks across the metro area each year, including a new series of walks specifically for teen birders and a series of adaptive field trips for people who experience mobility challenges in the outdoors, Georgia Audubon is introducing birds and birding to diverse communities. Using our own Bird Beyond tool, Georgia Audubon is identifying and engaging with under-birded, underserved communities in metro Atlanta to build a ladder of engagement, including bird walks and workforce development. Through a partnership with DeKalb County, Georgia Audubon is collaborating on a series of projects at the new E.M.B.A.R.C Park in the South River watershed, including providing educational opportunities for youth and adults and installing a native plant garden that can be used to educate visitors about the important connections between birds and native plants.
Educating the Next Generation: Georgia Audubon is continuing its successful Connecting Students with STEM through Birds program, adding four additional Title I Public Schools to the program, including Miller Grove High School in DeKalb County. To date, Georgia Audubon has worked with 12 metro area schools to provide—at no cost to each partner school—a bird-friendly STEM garden on campus, installed with the help of students and teachers. At each school, students and teachers participate in the installation of a bird-friendly native plant garden on the school campus, transforming areas of dirt and turf grass into wildlife habitat. In addition, each school receives training for teachers to provide lesson ideas and curriculum resources to enhance their use of the new outdoor classroom, and this spring, as the gardens are beginning to bloom, we will return to deliver a class set of binoculars for the school and provide another hands-on day of learning for students.
In metro Atlanta and across the state, Georgia Audubon is working to create healthy spaces for birds and people, too. Healthy habitats, including parks and greenspaces, that support birds and other wildlife create healthy communities that we all can not only enjoy, but that we need for our own survival.