Su = summer
F = fall
W = winter
Sp = spring
YR = year-round
[July 2005] = Most recently checked by KB
[N/A] = Not yet checked by KB
= Location is within +/- 10 miles of the indicated interstate highway. This is especially helpful for out-of-town birders who may be passing through Georgia while travelling and would like to get a quick birding fix. This is also helpful for birders planning a "Big Day," where staying close to a major interstate corridor is essential for covering the greatest diversity of habitats in 24 hours.
= Location is a "Georgia Birding Hotspot." Though this designation is subjective, it generally means that the area should be given high priority when planning a birding trip to a region. Some Hotspots offer incredible, productive birding virtually year-round (Jekyll Island), while the best birding of the year may be more seasonal at others (Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park).
SBM = Shorebird Migration; this very generally refers to mid-March thru May in spring and mid-July thru mid-October in fall. Fall is the prime shorebird season. Baird's and Buff-breasted Sandpipers likely only in fall. Peak passage of specific species is quite variable.
PM = Passerine Migration; this very generally refers to April and May in spring and August thru mid-October in fall. This includes all songbirds - wood warblers, vireos, tanagers, thrushes, flycatchers, etc. Peak passage of specific species is quite variable. Spring migration is much more concentrated and birds are often in colorful breeding plumage. Fall migration is more spread out; fall wood warblers can be notoriously difficult to identify (or even impossible to determine sex), with numerous juveniles which do not exhibit the same obvious field marks as adults.
IBA = Important Bird Area; the aim of the IBA Program is to identify and conserve key breeding and feeding sites for birds. An Important Bird Area is a place that provides essential habitat for one or more species of bird, whether in breeding season, winter, or during migration. These sites are considered to be exceptionally important for bird conservation; see Georgia's IBA Webpage.
1 Carter's Lake & Re-Regulation Lake (also Gilmer County)
[DeLorme: p. 13, F-10 and G-10]
It's amazing how many rarities have shown up in this very productive birding area over the years. Worth birding in any season, it receives great coverage by experienced NW Georgia birders Max Medley and Joshua Spence. In spring 2006 a Mourning Warbler was located on Powerhouse Rd, in October 2006 a Black-throated Gray Warbler was discovered, in winter 2005 a Common Merganser spent some time on the Re-reg Lake, in winter 2007 a Red-necked Grebe showed up, and in June 2007 an astonishing bird - a South Polar Skua - was found on Carter's Lake by Josh Spence! (PHOTO 6). But in addition to rarities, the area is very productive in general, especially during migration, for passerines, waterfowl, shorebirds, and more. You can access the area from I-75 by getting off at Exit 320 and heading east on GA Hwy 136. When you come to the intersection of US Hwy 411 (Ralston's Corner BP gas station here), go straight across the highway, pass over a RR crossing, and 0.4 miles from the intersection you should turn left onto Old Hwy 411 (there is a brown sigh here marking Coosawattee WMA). For passerines, there are two primary areas which should be birded thoroughly. The first is the Songbird Trail (Hidden Pond Trail), which is at the first recreation area at the dam forming the Re-regulation Lake just down Old Hwy 411 on your right. The other is Power House Rd, which is at the base of the larger dam forming Carter's Lake itself. Along the Hidden Pond Trail (PHOTO 15) at the Re-regulation Dam Recreation Area, a Warbling Vireo was found in spring 2006; a Yellow-bellied Flycatcer was seen regularly in fall 2006; and an amazing high count of 13+ Philadelphia Vireos was seen in September 2006 (one higher than the currently published state record in the ACOGB) - in fall this is perhaps the most reliable location in the state for the species. You can cover this area very well by parking at the recreation area at the bottom of the Re-reg dam, where the trailhead is (PHOTO 14). It is notable that you can also access the area by parking in a large paved area on the shoulder of Old Hwy 411 soon after turning off Hwy 136 (with a red/white chain between two posts). The habitat is mixed, with hardwoods, pines, and a wet, swampy area with lots of alders and willows. There is a small footbridge at a creek crossing where many Philadelphia Vireos were seen in fall 2006 (PHOTOS 3 & 4); note in the upper left corner of Photo 4 a tree that is reddish; this is actually virginia creeper berry vines, which can be "covered up" with Red-eyed Vireos, Philadelphia Vireos, and thrushes in the fall. Be sure to walk to the top of the Re-reg dam to scan for waterfowl or gulls, especially from fall through spring (PHOTO 13). When you're done birding in the Re-reg dam area, turn right onto Old Hwy 411 and continue over a one-lane bridge over the Coosawattee River, then pass the brown signs for the recreation area on the other side of the river. When you come into a large open area with fields on your right, turn right onto Powerhouse Rd (1.6 miles from the road to the Re-reg dam and Hidden Pond trailhead). There is a great sparrow field for "tromping" in winter. As you pass the transformers coming in from Old Hwy 411, pass two gravel driveways, and then take the first available gravel road on the right. You will curve around and soon see a short road split off to the right between some gravel piles to some maintenance buildings. Park along the side of the road anywhere in this area. Notice that another road splits off just down the road, and there is an "island" of scrub where the roads fork; this is known as the "spur road" (to the right) and it ends at the maintenance buildings fence. This area offers great migratory birding - look for warblers, vireos, thrushes, anything. This is the area where both Black-throated Gray and Mourning Warbler were found. In late spring and summer Orchard Orioles and Yellow-breasted Chats (along with other birds) breed here. Where you parked on your left is the expansive sparrow field - see PHOTOS 1 & 2 below, noting just what a pretty place it is overall, aside from the birding! A good strategy is to get several birders in a line and walk across the field, flushing anything of interest. Many species of sparrows may be found, along with Sedge Wren or Marsh Wren in migration; in October 2006 Lincoln's Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, and Vesper Sparrow were found. Also on Powerhouse Rd in winter 2005-2006, Red Crossbills were observed; this species has also been heard flying over Hwy 136 between Old Hwy 411 and the bridge over Talking Rock Creek, so familiarize yourself with its flight call. In addition to the famous rarities, the entire area is just great birding at any time of year - Black Scoters, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Common Loon, Purple Finch, Pine Siskin, Black-throated Green Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, Brown-headed Nuthatch, woodpeckers, and a rainbow of neotropical migrants like warblers, vireos, thrushes, and tanagers have turned up every year in migration. Now it's time to bird Carter's Lake itself. Generally you can make a quick tour of the best vantage point not too far from PowerHouse Rd, a camping area on a peninsula. If you need more views, you can backtrack to the intersection of Old Hwy 411 and Hwy 136 and follow the directions below. First, turn right out of Powerhouse Rd and go exactly 3.9 miles and turn right onto US Hwy 76 / GA Hwy 282. Continue for 3.6 miles and turn right at the brown sign for the Woodring Branch campground. The main campground is open mid-April through the end of October, but the caretakers live there year-round and keep bird feeders filled behind their RV (PHOTO 5). In winter there may be very impressive numbers of American Goldfinches, Pine Siskins, and Purple Finches; Red Crossbills have been known to frequent the feeders sporadically. If the campground is open, you can ask for a 20-minute pass to drive down and get several more nice views of the lake. Just past the entrance to the campground, a gate to a boat ramp is not always open, but when it is you can continue all the way down to a narrow spit of land next to the boat ramp offering good views of the main body of the lake (PHOTO 7). In winter you may find waterfowl, Common Loons, Ring-billed Gull, or Bonaparte's Gull. A rare Red-necked Grebe was seen here in Jan-Feb 2007, and a Franklin's Gull and South Polar Skua were first seen here in June 2007. You can end your tour here, but if you'd like more views of Carter's Lake (especially if there's a rarity out there and you haven't seen it yet), head all the way back to the intersection of Old Hwy 411 and GA Hwy 136 and turn left to head east on 136. In 1.0 miles, you can park in a gravel area on the left side of the road to get a view of a cove on the Re-reg Lake (PHOTO 8). After 1.8 miles, you'll cross a bridge over Talking Rock Creek. Depending on the level of the lake, you can either get another view of open water or some nice mud flats for shorebirds in migration (PHOTO 9); along with regular birds like Western, Least, Semipalmated, and Solitary Sandpiper, you may see more uncommon species such as Sanderling, Solitary Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, or even Baird's Sandpiper. After a total of 2.1 miles from Old Hwy 411, turn left onto Carter's Dam Rd. In 1.4 miles, you turn right and go through a gate to the marina, where you can get a nice view of the lake (PHOTO 10) and some cold drinks. When finished here, you should head back to Carter's Dam Rd and turn right; you will have to pay a day-use fee of $4.00. Drive down and across the dam to a large parking lot. Walking back on the dam with your scope offers a great view of Carter's Lake (PHOTO 11) and a picturesque view of the Re-reg Lake below (PHOTO 12). Take a look at the he Army Corps of Engineers MAP for more vantage points on the lake, such as Harris Branch, Doll Mountain, or Ridgeway Recreation Areas.
PHOTO 1 PHOTO 2 PHOTO 14 PHOTO 15 PHOTO 3 PHOTO 4 PHOTO 5 PHOTO 6
PHOTO 7 PHOTO 8 PHOTO 9 PHOTO 10 PHOTO 11 PHOTO 12 PHOTO 13
Text and photos by KB.
2) County Line Rd / Fagala Rd
[DeLorme: p. 13, grid E-8]
From Atlanta - take I-75 North to Exit 317 and turn right off of the ramp onto Hwy 225. Stay on this road for approx 4-5 miles. Notice a four-way stop were Hwy 136 and 225 intersect. This is a community called Nickelsville; there are two gas stations and the sporadically open "Corner Café" at this intersection. Continue north (straight) on Hwy 225 for approximately 1.0 miles, or until you see a road on the left named County Line Rd. Turn here and drive less than a mile to a creek crossing (PHOTO 1). Stop here and listen; you may have Louisiana Waterthrush along the creek. Continue over the one-lane bridge and drive along the road, noting that the creek continues on your left while open fields begin on your right. When you come to a side road on your right, this is Fagala Rd (PHOTO 2). Park in this area on the shoulder (not much room, but the road is traveled very little). This is a very pretty open area with some great grassland habitat. The south side of CountyLine Rd is Gordon County while the north side is Murray County. On the northeast corner of Fagala Rd & Countyline Rd is a field that has hosted Dickcissels from 2004-2006 (PHOTO 3). Feel free to walk on roadside for better viewing. Migration birding can be good with a chance to find raptors, swallows, Sedge & Marsh Wrens, Bobolink, Orchard Oriole, and other grassland species. Summer highlights are Grasshopper Sparrow and Dickcissel. Night stakeouts have produced Barn Owl flyovers.
PHOTO 1 PHOTO 2 PHOTO 3
Text by Joshua Spence and KB; photos by KB.
3) Fox Bridge Rd Marsh
[DeLorme: p. 13, grid E-8]
From Atlanta: Take I-75 north to Exit 317. From here take Hwy 225 northeast for approx. 12 miles to an area called Holley on the map. Right before you reach this area where the highway crosses Holly Creek you’ll see a road on the left called Fox Bridge Rd. Turn here and continue about 1.5 miles. By this time you will have noticed the wetland on the left side of the road. Park at the first open area (PHOTO 1), as far off the road as possible but be careful because the shoulder is soft and steep. This swamp/marsh runs along the road for at least a mile or more, and after you have checked for rails and other birds at the first stop, continue on for a ways and the road will curve sharply to the right, with a large area on the left side of the road to park near the other main open part of the marsh. You can make a u-turn later and come back to park on that side (PHOTO 2). There is little open water in the area, most of it is dense cattail. The entire area is gated so all birding has to be done from the road. Find a safe place to pull off - see notes above - and walk along the fence (see views in PHOTOS 3 &4). There is also a forest on right side of the road that can be good for passerine species. This area has the potential to host a variety of marsh birds any time of year, so look carefully for rarities. Winter: Some waterfowl. Virginia Rail and Sora have been found here over the last few winters (most recently Nov 2007). Woodpeckers, sparrows, blackbirds also present in good numbers. Migration: Marsh & Sedge Wrens, Northern Waterthrush and other passerine migrants. Summer: Waders, Acadian Flycatcher, & Prothonotary Warbler - the latter species may be more likely in the first part of the wetlands as you come into the area on Fox Bridge Rd (PHOTO 5); however, do not play recordings as this may disturb the territories of the few nesting pairs that are present.
PHOTO 1 PHOTO 2 PHOTO 3 PHOTO 4 PHOTO 5
Text by Joshua Spence and KB; Photos by KB.
4) Bouckaerts Sod Farm
[DeLorme: p. 13, grid E-9]
Read about Birding Georgia's Sod Farms
From I-75 take Exit 317. From here take Hwy 225 northeast for approx. 15 miles to a Four-way Stop. Turn right here and continue a mile or so and turn right onto Berry Bennett Rd. Continue on this road for another mile. As soon as you cross the bridge the road will go through the sod farm. You can carefully pull off on the shoulder of the road and scan the fields. Birding here can be slow. It is better in migration and best after a heavy rain, windstorm, etc. Key birds: Shorebirds. Can be good for waders, raptors, terns, and swallows. Text by Joshua Spence.
Copyright 2013 Ken Blankenship. All rights reserved.