By Jared Teutsch, Executive Director
Drive anywhere in metro Atlanta and it’s easy to see the impacts of habitat loss and degradation —trees and hills covered in kudzu, impenetrable thickets of Chinese privet and Japanese honeysuckle, landscapes covered by English ivy — these habitats are not only unsightly, but they are also ecological deserts for birds and pollinators and are a major contributor to the decline of these species.
Birds and people both need healthy habitats to thrive. With this in mind, Georgia Audubon is working to create and maintain ecosystems that benefit birds and people, too. Through innovative partnerships and with the help of our own in-house habitat restoration team and a large group of amazing volunteers, Georgia Audubon is actively restoring and managing sites across Georgia that support and sustain bird and pollinator populations.
Georgia Audubon’s Habitat Team focuses on removing exotic and invasive vegetation, managing ecosystems, and planting native bird-friendly plant species. The goal is to create and maintain a functioning native ecosystem that benefits all organisms, including birds, wildlife, and people. Our projects include nest box placement, invasive plant removal, native plant installation, wildlife sanctuary certification, bird banding, nest monitoring, and educational displays. We are actively restoring and managing sites across the state. Here are just a few examples from our work in metro Atlanta.
Lyon Farm at Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area
Georgia Audubon was recently awarded a grant from National Fish & Wildlife Foundation’s Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Program to restore habitat in the South River Watershed for the benefit of birds, pollinators, and other wildlife. The project site is located within the Lyon Farm area of the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area, adjacent to the South River in southern DeKalb County.
As part of the restoration effort, Georgia Audubon will work with local partners and volunteers to remove non-native vegetation from 10 acres of the South River Watershed and install 5,400 bird-friendly native plants and 40 pounds of seed to the area to provide high quality habitat for birds and other species. Throughout the process, Georgia Audubon will engage local community members through volunteer projects, bird and wildlife monitoring, and public outreach and education programming.
Chattahoochee RiverLands Camp and Paddle Trail
The Chattahoochee River and its adjacent habitat serve as one of the most valuable corridors for birds across the state of Georgia and the entire southeast. Hundreds of species nest, overwinter, or pass through these spaces, finding rich food sources and secure resting places.
In partnership with the Trust for Public Land’s Chattahoochee RiverLands, Georgia Audubon is restoring bird-friendly habitat along the Chattahoochee RiverLands Camp and Paddle Trail, a 48-mile trail that spans the Chattahoochee River from the Standing Peachtree Greenspace in Atlanta to Chattahoochee Bend State Park in Coweta County. The trail offers a new kayak launch site at Atlanta’s Standing Peachtree Greenspace, an overnight camping opportunity at Campbellton Park in Chattahoochee Hills, a new camping site at a new park in Chattahoochee Hills called RiverLands Park, and a final stop at the beautiful McIntosh Reserve in Carroll County. The trail is expected to open in Spring 2024.
Georgia Audubon’s Habitat Team is removing invasive species and restoring native, bird-friendly plants at each site along the Chattahoochee RiverLands Camp & Paddle Trail to improve each habitat for native birds.
In addition to the sites listed above, Georgia Audubon continues its work at Panola Mountain State Park in Stockbridge, working to remove turf grass and other invasive plants and replace them with native species. The crew has restored a native meadow that is a popular destination for bird watchers, hikers, and nature enthusiasts, and additional restoration work is underway.
At the Island Ford Unit of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, the team has reinvigorated a fantastic pollinator garden just outside of the park headquarters. Chock full of native plants, like American beautyberry, ironweed, mountain mint, and rattlesnake master, the garden is a pollinator’s paradise thanks to the many flowering grassland species that may be found in this landscape. Just as the insects benefit from this landscape, so do the many birds that migrate through or nest along the Chattahoochee and find themselves with a healthier selection of food sources.
Our work also continues on Jekyll Island in Glynn County where the team is restoring dune habitat that not only provides habitat for birds on their migratory journeys but also protects the upland areas during storm and extreme high-tide events.
In recent years, we’ve also completed restoration projects at Little Creek Horse Farm, in DeKalb County; Sam’s Lake Bird Sanctuary, a Southern Conservation Trust property in Fayette County; and at Deepdene Park and Friendship Forest, in DeKalb County; Cascade Springs Nature Preserve, in Fulton County; Big Creek Greenway, in North Fulton County; and at Blue Heron Nature Preserve.
Where birds thrive people thrive, and Georgia Audubon is doing our part to restore these formerly inhospitable sites for the benefit and enjoyment of our feathered and human friends.