By David Pendered
The Atlanta Audubon Society’s tour of wildlife sanctuaries in DeKalb County in September aims to highlight local efforts to provide places for birds to rest, eat and drink, and encourage others to create sanctuaries. The society’s campaign for more natural habitats coincides with Georgia’s efforts to draw attention to the loss of habitat for birds.
The 2018 Wildlife Sanctuary Tour is scheduled for Sept. 15 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The tour features six properties along a 15-mile route through Decatur and DeKalb County.
Two public properties are included in the tour:
- The CRH/Oldcastle Nature Trail at Marcus Autism Center at 1920 Briarcliff Road, NE;
- The Wylde Center’s Hawk Hollow, located at 2304 1st Street, Atlanta.
The locations of the four privately owned homes on the tour are being withheld from the general public to protect the privacy of the owners. The addresses and GPS locations of these homes will be released to ticket purchasers before the event.
At each of the six locations, Atlanta Audubon staff and volunteers are to provide tours through the habits and explaining the steps that were taken to have the wildlife sanctuaries certified by Atlanta Audubon. There are four criteria deemed essential for attracting wildlife and birds:
- Provide food sources. including at least 50 percent native plants;
- Provide nesting sites;
- Provide shelter;
- Provide water sources.
All proceeds of the event are to support Atlanta Audubon’s education and conservation efforts.
Gov. Nathan Deal has proclaimed September as Georgia Grows Native for Birds Month. Deal’s June 18 proclamation observes, in part:
- “Plants that occur naturally in Georgia provide critical insects and other food sources for birds and other wildlife. Homeowners, landscapers and policymakers can benefit birds and other wildlife by choosing native plants when making landscaping decisions;
- “Increasing urbanization and other development in Georgia has damaged ecosystems, reduced native plant biodiversity and removed habitats of birds and other wildlife;
- “During Georgia Grows Native for Birds Months, Georgia gardeners and landscapers across the state are encouraged to grow native plant life in order to benefit the birds, wildlife and citizens of Georgia.”
Birds continue to face pressure across the state, according to Georgia’s State Wildlife Action Plan. The SWAP provides guidance and recommendation for managing the various stressors on the state’s wildlife.
The 2015 SWAP shows that 40 species of birds are listed as high priorities, because of the ecological pressures they face. The 2005 SWAP listed 33 bird species as high priorities.
The SWAP cited the same pressures on birds and wildlife as the governor’s proclamation, adding the economic pressure of replacing hardwood trees with loblolly pines. The report observes:
- “The greatest bird conservation issue in these ecoregions is conversion of hardwood and mixed pine/hardwood forest to loblolly pine plantations, residential or commercial developments, or agricultural uses.
- “A large percentage of natural vegetation has been converted for other uses, and mature forest and the birds dependent on mature forest are less secure here than in any other region in the Southern Appalachians.
- “The long-term health of populations of priority birds including Acadian Flycatcher, Wood Thrush, and Yellow-throated Warbler will depend on maintenance and management of remnant forest stands as well as aggressive restoration efforts.
- “It is recommended that at least eight upland hardwood forest patches greater than 4,000 hectares be sustained and that the number of such patches in the 4,000 to 40,000 hectare range be increased. More than 80% of the mixed mesophytic hardwood acreage within these patches should be managed for long rotation or old growth.”