Su = summer
F = fall
W = winter
Sp = spring
YR = year-round
[Sept 2009] = Most recently checked by Ken Blankenship (webmaster)
[N/A] = Not yet checked by Ken Blankenship
= 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 out in the field.
= 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 productive birding virtually year-round (Jekyll Island, Phinizy Swamp Nature Park), while the best birding of the year may be seasonal at others (Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park).
= Habitat and/or access at location is subject to change according to mixed land use or changes in ownership, such as cattle operations, agricultural fields, pine plantations (logging), and so on. Always adhere to good birding ethics concerning private property, and if the habitat at a location has experienced major changes or is no longer accessible, please email the webmaster.
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 and singing. Fall migration is more spread out; fall wood warblers can be notoriously difficult to identify (or 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.
'width' is a duplicate attribute name. Line 1, position 37.1) Black Rock Mountain State Park [June 2008]
PM, May-June for breeding birds
[DeLorme pg. 16, B-3]
3085 Black Rock Mtn. Pkwy Mountain City , GA 30562. Georgia's highest State Park is located on Black Rock Mountain Parkway, 3 miles north of Clayton right on US Hwy 441 / 23 (on the west side of the road). Look for brown directional signs in Mountain City. (This is the next major city north of Clayton, on US Hwy 441 / 23). Even before you enter the park (PHOTO 1), you'll begin to hear birds singing; do not pull over in this area - wait until you reach the park itself where there are official areas to park safely. Just before you pass a sign marking the Continental Divide, look closely for signs indicating a right turn onto a gravel road that will take you to Blackrock Lake. A trail around this lake can be wonderful for migrants and breeding birds. At a major fork in the access road, you can continue left to head to the campground and general store or go to the right to get to the visitor's center and the highest ridge in the park. Instead, park just before the fork to enjoy gorgeous views and a little birding at the Cowee Overlook (PHOTOS 2 & 3). It was at this platform in late June 2005 that a rare Green Comma butterfly was found on the leaves of some grape vines and rhododendron. Take the right fork and continue gaining in elevation, noting the beautiful wildflowers if you are here in spring or early summer; native azaleas abound (PHOTO 6). You can park in an area on your right soon after the Cowee Overlook to hike several trails through the park. Just down the road, stop for more birding and views at the Blue Ridge Overlook (PHOTOS 4 & 5 and VIDEO). Beyond the Blue Ridge Overlook and trail parking, you will pass a pay station ($3.00) and reach the highest point in the park as well as a nice visitor's center, picnic areas, and some great cottages that can be rented, some with views over the valley below. Species of birds to listen and look for in the park include Georgia mountain breeders like Black-throated Blue Warblers, Black-throated Green Warblers, Ovenbird, Hooded Warblers, Worm-eating Warblers, Dark-eyed Juncos, etc. Common Ravens, Broad-winged Hawks, and other soaring birds may be seen from the numerous overlooks. Visit the park's webpage.
PHOTO 1 PHOTO 2 PHOTO 3 PHOTO 4 PHOTO 5 PHOTO 6 VIDEO
Text by KB; photos by KB & RC
'width' is a duplicate attribute name. Line 1, position 37.2) Rabun Bald and Vicinity [July 2008]
PM, May-June for breeding birds
See Beaton's Birding Georgia.
[DeLorme pg. 16, A-3, 4]
To bird this area, turn right off of US 23/441 to head NE on GA Hwy 246 (PHOTO 1); this is exactly 1.1 miles north of the sign for the Dillard House. A Holiday Inn Express at this intersection is one of the nicer options for staying in the area; you will pass a large RV park on your right in a mile or so. You will gain elevation along several switchbacks, taking you in and out of North Carolina a few times and offering one stunning pull-off to get a view of the valley below (PHOTO 2). You will cross into North Carolina down the road for several miles; make note of a road on your right in an open pasture area with a gas station/general store with a little green dinosaur on its sign - this is Bald Mountain Rd and where you will end your tour of the area later. After a total of 6.8 miles from US 23/441, you will turn right onto Hale Ridge Rd (PHOTO 3). You should drive slower now, with windows down, listening for the tell-tale "chee-bek" call of Least Flycatchers, especially in areas of large conifers along the road. You are already at quite a high elevation, so you may hear Chestnut-sided Warblers, Scarlet Tanagers, and other birds calling as well. Keep an ear and an eye on the sky for soaring Common Ravens or Broad-winged Hawks. Be alert for a fork in the road, where Hale Ridge Rd heads left and the main road swings to the right and becomes Bald Mountain Rd (PHOTO 4). Split off to the left and park carefully on the shoulder. In this immediate area on Bald Mountain Rd, directly across from a long rusted storage structure, are two private residences with some mature conifers and a few oaks that have hosted Least Flycatchers in spring and early summer for several years. If you are interested in butterflies, the roadside and fields in this immediate area have hosted rare species for Georgia such as American Copper, Meadow Fritillary, and Aphrodite Fritillary. If you were to continue on Hale Ridge Rd it will become gravel Forest Service Road 7, and soon you will see signs marking the Bartram Trail for a longer hike up to Rabun Bald. You can also continue on this road for several miles, and it will split off to the right and connect all the way down to Warwoman Road which provides access to more great birding in this corner of the state; incidentally, by continuing straight instead of splitting to the right where a sign shows FS 7 (Hale Ridge Rd), you will then be heading south on Overflow Creek Rd, mentioned in this section as well. Back at the fork where you parked, head down Bald Mountain Rd to the right of the fork, and after a few tight curves watch carefully for Kelsey Mountain Rd on your left, which is easy to miss (PHOTO 5). Turn left and at the end of the road find a place to park so that you do not block the many private driveways (PHOTO 6). Strap on your optics and pack some water and a snack and head uphill; immediately you have the choice to take the foot trail to the left or a Forest Service "Road" to your right (PHOTO 7). I always walk the road because it offers more open views of the canopy for birds, though I strongly question its designation as a road (PHOTO 8). You should encounter Hooded Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Ovenbird, Black-and-white Warbler, Dark-eyed Junco, and if you're really lucky a Ruffed Grouse may cross the road (Why? To get to the other side.) In May and June you will also enjoy beautiful wildflowers blooming, like mountain laurel (PHOTO 9). After a while you will come to an open space where the road ends and the foot trail continues uphill between two boulders (PHOTO 10). The trail in this area is beautiful (PHOTOS 11 & 12) and you may hear or see Veery, Canada Warbler, and more Black-throated Blue Warblers in this area; Winter Wren and Rose-breasted Grosbeak are not annual here but possible. Also possible are Timber Rattlesnakes, so watch your step and if you see one just enjoy the experience and stay far away until it leaves the trail. At the top, you will be stunned by a wonderful 360-degree view of Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina (PHOTO 13 & VIDEO). The observation platform is one of the best spots in the state to watch for Common Ravens soaring and playing mid-air "tag." When you come back down, leave the parking area and turn left onto Bald Mountain Rd. This will wind through the golf/ski community of Sky Valley. Keep your windows down and listen for cool birds, including Chestnut-sided Warblers, Yellow-throated Warblers, Pine Warblers, and Indigo Buntings. Whenever you see mature pines listen carefully for Least Flycatchers; they have not shown up for several years but they may simply be nesting farther from the road. Your tour will end as Bald Mountain Rd deadends into NC Hwy 106 at the general store you passed earlier with the Sinclair green dinosaur on the sign. This is personally one of my favorite places to hike, and can be reached via several trails other than the route mentioned above; my favorite longer access route is the Bartram Trail, which you can pick up on Hale Ridge Road not long after it becomes gravel coming from its fork from Bald Mountain Rd. The crossing is usually marked with a sign with hiker characters but may not be. On weekends in spring/summer you may run into more folks up there, but in general it is not heavily hiked and you may easily have an hour or more at the top by yourself. The firetower lookout platform provides what is by far my favorite panorama in the state of Georgia - see VIDEO below; note the 'anonymous' out-of-breath photographer. The view is unhindered by a large structure and bigger crowds like Brasstown Bald, and is only 88 feet less in elevation! If you are a little bold with your camping ambitions, there are 1-2 somewhat sheltered spots on the top, or you can go all-out and try camping in a sometimes trash-strewn area right on the summit next to the tower. Just explore the summit a little and you can make something work for a small tent. There is no close water source, and at night the wind can be crazy so stake down hard and don't even think of making a campfire - for several reasons. You don't want to do this in really cold weather. An alternative is to camp at the much more sheltered open space where the forest service road ends (PHOTO 10), with a fairly large opening in the canopy but nothing like the 360-degree view at the top. Why bother? Well, the night sky can be simply stunning - it may knock you off your feet even more than the view in the daytime. You can take your sleeping bag up on the platform, lie down and take it in. On a good night, you can't even find a patch of sky that isn't "misty" with stars, the Milky Way shining bright and obvious. Use your binoculars, and you'll easily find star clusters and plenty of other eye candy up there. This is a prime spot to watch the warm-weather Perseids meteor shower, which always peaks around the 11th-12th of August; do some searching for the current year's predictions. This celestial light show may have up to 30 meteors per hour at its peak - just as long as a cloudy night doesn't block your view!
PHOTO 1 PHOTO 2 PHOTO 3 PHOTO 4 PHOTO 5 PHOTO 6 PHOTO 7 PHOTO 8
PHOTO 9 PHOTO 10 PHOTO 11 PHOTO 12 PHOTO 13 VIDEO
Text by KB; Photos by KB & RC
'width' is a duplicate attribute name. Line 1, position 37.3) Burrell's Ford Rd [Nov 2007]
PM, late Sp-Su for breeding birds, W for owls
See Beaton's Birding Georgia.
[DeLorme pg. 16, B-5]
This road in the extreme NE corner of the state has become infamous among birders over the last 6-8 years or so, since the discovery of nesting Brown Creeper (2008), Red-breasted Nuthatch (2002) and the documentation of wintering Northern Saw-whet Owls starting during a massive irruption in 1999-2000, which are present here even in some non-invasion years (Jan 2006), plus regular winter sightings of Pine Siskins and occasional Red Crossbills. Beyond these specialties, the area is simply beautiful and quite unique with areas of massive second-growth white pines, hemlocks, and other conifers that dominate the forest along eastern portions of the road close to the roaring Chattooga River, along with high elevations and areas of mixed deciduous forest as well along western portions of the road. Head east from the town of Clayton on Warwoman Rd for 14 miles, when it will dead-end into GA Hwy 28. Turn right, and in just under 2 miles you will see an unmarked gravel road heading uphill on your left; turn here - this is Burrell's Ford Rd, also Forest Service 646. In winter, the area is great for Golden-crowned Kinglet (which may also breed but has not been documented), Red-breasted Nuthatch, Pine Warbler, Blue-headed Vireo, Dark-eyed Junco, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and Winter Wren. Flocks of American Goldfinch may be joined by Pine Siskins during invasion years. You should find some interesting migrants and breeding birds in spring and fall such as Black-throated Green Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Ovenbird, Hooded Warbler, Eastern Wood Pewee, Red-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireo, Scarlet Tanager, or Chestnut-sided Warbler; other birds that have been seen here as they trek north or south include Bay-breasted Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, and Summer Tanager. Both Louisiana Waterthrush and Acadian Flycatcher may be found along the river and feeder creeks. Barred Owls are resident here and may be heard at dusk or just before dawn, and Whip-poor-wills nest here in very good numbers. As mentioned earlier, this is the only current area in Georgia that has been noted for wintering Northern Saw-whet Owl on more than one occasion; they were first detected during an "invasion year" in 2000. At least three were heard calling in Jan-Feb 2006 but none were detected in 2007-2008, so they may not be present annually. In June 2004 two Brown Creepers were observed, suggesting that this species may be breeding here along the extreme southern edge of its breeding range. In May 2008 nesting was confirmed, both here and along Billingsley Creek Rd just west of this area. Another rare Georgia breeder in this area is Red-breasted Nuthatch; listen for their nasal calls in spring and if you are able to observe a bird collecting pine resin (sap), it is a good sign that there is a nest cavity nearby because they are known to smear pine resin around the nest hole to deter predators. Along the route, you could stumble upon a Ruffed Grouse or hear Common Ravens overhead, but either would be rare. There is a "road" that can be easy to miss on the left side at 5.2 miles in from GA Hwy 28, unmarked and properly called "Ridley Branch Rd" in Beaton's book. The road is good enough to be driven but only for a short distance, long enough to get you to several nice primitive camping spots. A word of caution - you will have to ford Ridley Branch, but I have done it many times in a Honda Accord; only once after rain was I truly concerned (I noticed on 1/1/07 that someone has built a footbridge over the creek down the road embankment on the left just before the ford, so you could park without driving through the stream and access the sites). My only complaint here is that they are more heavily used than most "unofficial" campgrounds and folks just don't clean up after themselves like they should. I usually take out more trash than I create, and you must be very wary of broken glass. You can walk a former 4x4 road from this area north for a good ways to access more habitat and find more birds, but it can be very muddy and you must hop-scotch across the creek a couple times and it can be tricky. You can also make your way into the woods a good ways along the Chattooga River on the north side of the road just before the bridge, but the trail is not developed here. If you don't mind that you are birding in South Carolina, the Chattooga River Trail on the other side of the bridge (especially heading north into Ellicott Rock Wilderness Area) is gorgeous and offers similar birding. There is a delayed harvest (often called "DH") section of the Chattooga River in this area that can be great fishing for stocked Rainbow and Brown Trout; see Georgia DNR trout fishing regulations for details, including specific information on Delayed Harvest waters. Interestingly, helicopters are used to stock fish along more remote sections of the river. Some tributaries of the river also hold fish, wild ones at that, but you will be lucky to catch these spooky buggers. Anytime you are birding in this area, it is always worth a stop at some nice marsh and thicket habitat along the river, just south of the turn for Burrell's Ford Rd on GA Hwy 28 at the bridge into South Carolina. Just before the bridge, park at a large gravel area with information kiosks on the left side. Take your time to bird along a few rough trails in the area. Interesting birds may be seen or heard such as Swainson's Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Common Yellowthroat, Swamp Sparrow, waterthrushes, Wood Duck, and breeding Willow Flycatcher (semi-annual) has been found in this area.
Text by KB; Photos by KB & RC.
'width' is a duplicate attribute name. Line 1, position 37.4) Dillard Loop [June 2008]
PM, late Sp-Su for breeding birds, W for waterfowl
[DeLorme pg. 16, 3-A, B]
This makes a fairly quick stop that is easily worked into a visit to this county that forms the NE corner of Georgia. After passing through the town of Mountain City (Black Rock Mountain State Park is located here), the next town north along US Hwy 23/441 is Dillard. You will pass the beautiful campus, main buildings, and then the athletic fields of the Rabun Gap School on your left. Soon after this, you will cross over Betty's Creek on a bridge; slow down at the bridge and immediately after crossing turn right onto Henry Dillard Street at a large sign for the Dillard House (PHOTO 1 - note that this is the view of the sign looking south, not north). In a quarter of a mile, you will deadend at Franklin St - turn right here. Just down the road, you will see the Dillard House on your left (PHOTO 2). This is a country inn and very popular family-style restaurant serving up delicious country cuisine. If it is not too busy, park in the gravel area on your right across from the restaurant. From here, you can listen carefully for the "rreeet, fitz-bew!" calls of Willow Flycatchers in the direction of a small willow-lined feeder creek that is down in a pasture beyond the split rail fence around the parking area. Whether you hear them from this area or not, you cannot go into the field as it is private property, and you should also not stay for longer than a few minutes because this is parking for the Dillard House. Continue down Franklin St, for a total of .9 miles from the intersection with Henry Dillard St and you will come to a bridge over the Little Tennessee River (PHOTO 3). Cross over the bridge, then turn sharp left at a gravel area used by fishermen. Take a little time to bird the thick riparian habitat along the river here, using a well-trodden fishermen's trail. You may find some good passerine migrants such as Magnolia Warbler, American Redstart, Blackpoll Warbler, Yellow Warbler, or even waterthrushes along the river. Head up to the road shoulder, and over the bridge - be careful and respectful of local traffic. Barn Swallows breed at the bridge, Northern Bobwhites sometimes call from the surrounding fields, and more rarely you may have Yellow Warbler along the creek or Broad-winged Hawks overhead. In migration, swarms of Northern Rough-winged Swallows can be found relating to the river, the bridge, and the surrounding fields and nearby waterworks pond; in migration be on the lookout for them and the Barn Swallows, along with Tree Swallow and Purple Martin (uncommon) or Bank Swallow (rare). Continue walking down the road heading back towards the Dillard House, and you'll see what is either a cabbage or strawberry (2008) farm on your left. Take note of a willow-lined feeder creek out in the middle of this farm (the same one you saw from the Dillard House), which is now closer to the road (PHOTO 4). You can walk the road shoulder all the way back up the road to a shack and some cargo trailors which serves as the processing area for the farm. There is a nice weedy area along the creek behind this building where the birds are sometimes heard, but you must absolutely NOT leave the road shoulder if you hear the birds down there, no matter how tempted you are; use your binoculars or perhaps a scope if you see movement and would like a better look. This is private property and belongs to Osage farms. The last thing the birding community needs is for them to get upset with birders for trespassing on their property and become unfriendly or (worse) even try to chase us from the road. In the same area, listen and look for Yellow Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, and Orchard Oriole. When you are done, head back to your car and continue down Franklin St a short distance to a stop sign and turn left onto Kelly's Creek Rd, and then you may park very briefly in a small gravel area on the right that provides service access to a power transformer area. In winter this pond may have interesting waterfowl, and in May and June it is good for families of Wood Ducks, Spotted Sandpiper or Green Heron on the edges, and Eastern Kingbirds, Blue Grosbeaks, Yellow-breasted Chat or Common Yellowthroat in the surrounding grassy areas and in the scrubby edge habitat across the street from the pond on the other side of a fence. If you're lucky, Bank Swallows may join several other species mentioned earlier, catapulting over the pond in migration. If you continue down Kelly's Creek Rd, you will soon find Kelly Park, a local park that may offer more migrant birding including Yellow Warbler, Northern Parula, Blackpoll Warbler, American Redstart, and more. Finish by heading back in the opposite direction on Kelly's Creek Rd, passing Franklin St. About a quarter mile further down the road is another bridge over the river with lots of dense undergrowth, providing another good chance to see some interesting migrants or some of the breeding birds mentioned above. Just a little further down the road the loop will end as you intersect US Hwy 23 / 441.
PHOTO 1 PHOTO 2 PHOTO 3 PHOTO 4 PHOTO 5
Text and photos by KB.
5) Upper Tallulah River Watershed [May 2008]
PM, May-June for breeding birds
[DeLorme pg. 16, A-1, B-1]
This makes another interesting drive-in birding destination for typical mountain breeding birds, along with some nice camping opportunities and a well-stocked trout fishery. From the intersection of US Hwy 76 and GA Hwy 197 just west of Lake Burton, head east on US Hwy 76. You will cross a high span over the upper end of Lake Burton, and in about a mile look closely for a left-hand turn lane and turn left to head north on well-signed Persimmon Rd; if you are coming west from Clayton, you will see this road on your right about 7.9 miles from downtown (PHOTO 1). In 4.2 miles, watch for a road on your left and a small brown sign giving the distances to several campgrounds (PHOTO 2). Turn left here and follow the road into the woods. After 1.6 miles you'll reach the first of several bridges and a sign indicating that you are in the Coleman River Scenic Area. All along this good-quality gravel forest service road (FS 70) you may find interesting birds worth stopping to get out and enjoy. Typical species include Hooded Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Ovenbird, Yellow-throated Warbler, Blue-headed and Red-eyed Vireo, Scarlet Tanager, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Northern Parula, and both Louisiana Waterthrush and Acadian Flycatcher along the stream itself. At 3.8 miles from Persimmon Rd, you'll notice an obvious ford of the stream down to your left. The tricky part is, if you wish to do this you actually drive out into the stream, turn right, follow the streambed in your vehicle for at least 50 feet, and the road finally continues on the other side! Incredibly, I have done this in a Honda Accord but by the time I left the stream my fan belts were wet and screaming so I do NOT suggest it in a low-clearance vehicle. The road on the other side is very rough anyway, but may be worth exploring in a 4x4 because it reaches some very high elevations for interesting breeding birds including Blackburnian Warbler, and also there is supposedly an old amethyst mine and associated good gem-grubbing along Charlie's Creek higher on the ridge. Back on FS 70, by continuing north you'll pass a couple well-developed official campgrounds that are usually not full to the gills, even in spring, but it can be hit-or-miss so don't be surprised if you do find a crowd. The last of these is Sandy Bottom, at 4.9 miles from Persimmon Rd. From here, you will enter the interesting and beautiful community of Tate City, an isolated hamlet of well-to-do cabins along with horse pastures and older buildings. In this area are birds like Indigo Bunting, Eastern Bluebird, Chipping Sparrow, etc. At 6.6 miles you will come back into the woods in a very nice area dominated by eastern hemlock and some white pine. Red-breasted Nuthatch can be found in winter and (rarely) in spring or summer; being that this valley is directly down-slope of some very high peaks in North Carolina (over 5,000 feet). I personally think it's not a bad area to check for Black-capped Chickadee at any feeders you may stumble onto at cabins in the winter but this would be a mega-rarity to say the least and would require photographic and/or audio documentation. In addition, both Brown Creeper and Golden-crowned Kinglet were found up on the surrounding ridge on the Appalachian Trail in late April 2007 so these could be possible breeding birds in the area but would also be an extremely rare and significant find. At 7.4 miles from Persimmon Rd you will reach the state line with North Carolina at which point you can continue birding into that state or turn around and head back to US Hwy 76 and other points of birding interest.
PHOTO 1 PHOTO 2
Text by KB
'width' is a duplicate attribute name. Line 1, position 37.6) Overflow Creek Rd / Billingsley Creek Rd [June 2008]
PM, May-June for breeding birds
[DeLorme pg. 16, B-5, A-4 - where the word "RABUN" is printed on the state line]
This is an interesting route that will take you through some areas of mature white pines, hemlocks, other conifers, and mixed deciduous forest along the West Fork Chattooga River and Overflow Creek. The habitat here compares to that along Burrell's Ford Rd, but receives much less birding coverage and is definitely worth exploring. Georgia's second Brown Creeper nest was discovered in the area in May 2008, and Red-breasted Nuthatch has been confirmed to breed along this route as well. It is quite likely that Golden-crowned Kinglet is also breeding in this area; sightings were made on 5/22/05, 5/11/08, and a very significant find was a bird responding territorially to a play-back recording of the species on 6/28/08; however, nesting has yet to be confirmed. Notably, this species was documented nesting in South Carolina within a stone's throw of the Georgia border near the Walhalla Fish Hatchery in June 2003. Red Crossbill has shown up as well, so you never know what you might find! From the town of Clayton near the Day's Inn, head east on Warwoman Rd for 13.7 miles, when you will cross a bridge over the West Fork Chattooga River. Immediately after crossing the bridge, turn left onto Overflow Creek Rd. Roll down your windows and start birding your way along the road. More common birds you should encounter include Black-throated Green Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, Wood Thrush, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Northern Parula, Yellow-throated Warbler, Red-eyed and Blue-headed Vireo, Pine Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Ovenbird, Black-and-white Warbler, and both Louisiana Waterthrush and Acadian Flycatcher along the river and along creeks later on. There are plenty of areas of dead conifers, and the place is a woodpecker's paradise (Hairy, Downy, Red-bellied, Pileated, and Northern Flicker); plenty of nuthatches can also be found including Red-breasted year-round (though they are much more common in winter). When you see a sign marking Forest Service Rd 86-D it is a good idea to park and work this area thoroughly; both Red-breasted Nuthatch and Swainson's Warbler have been found here. At exactly 4.8 miles from Warwoman Rd, you will see FS 86-B on your right, make a sharp right turn here, which will take you down to a concrete bridge crossing at Overflow Creek; this is Billingsley Creek Rd. There are some pretty but over-used unofficial campsites in the vicinity of the bridge, but from this point on I very rarely see anyone on this road, which is nice. Continue birding by ear, stopping to bird on foot when you hear something good. Swainson's Warbler has also been found along Billingsley Creek Rd in areas with a dense understory. During crepuscular hours or at night, you may hear Whip-poor-wills or Barred Owl calling. This road will end at 3.8 miles from Overflow Creek Rd, where there is an information sign and registration information about kayaking on this creek, which I would have to see to believe. There is room to park several vehicles at the end of the road, which is only a fraction of a mile from North Carolina. A bonus is that you can continue to hike on this roadbed beyond the parking area to get into much more of this interesting habitat. In winter, the place is alive with the high-pitched trills of Golden-crowned Kinglets, the nasal whines of Red-breasted Nuthatches, the calls of American Goldfinches and occasionally Pine Siskins, and at any season a Common Raven may come croaking by overhead. When you're done exploring Billingsley Creek Rd, head back and turn right onto Overflow Creek Rd. At 2.4 miles from your turn, you'll notice a major gravel road on your left; this is Hale Ridge Rd and can be used to bird your way back down to Warwoman Rd as a loop through similar habitat except that Hale Ridge Rd gains much higher elevations so you may add a couple more warbler species such as Chestnut-sided, American Redstart, or Blackburnian if you're lucky. Back on Overflow Creek Rd, at 5.0 miles from Billingsley Creek Rd you'll see signs for the Bartram Trail. You could use it to get to the top of Rabun Bald (Georgia's 2nd-highest peak) as a long hike [or check that section above for a shorter walking route]. At 5.3 miles you will be happy to regain paved roads again, and at 6.0 miles from Billingsley Creek Rd you'll come to a fork where if you decide to turn left you're on Bald Mountain Rd headed towards Rabun Bald parking. If you head right you'll soon be in North Carolina but there are some areas of conifers along the road worth checking for Least Flycatcher as mentioned in the Rabun Bald section above.
Text by KB
'width' is a duplicate attribute name. Line 1, position 37.
7) Coleman River Rd / Chestnut Mountain [May 2008]
PM, May-June for breeding birds
[DeLorme pg. 16, B-1]
From the intersection of US Hwy 76 and GA Hwy 197 just west of Lake Burton, head east on US Hwy 76. You will cross a high span over the upper end of Lake Burton, and in about a mile look closely for a left-hand turn lane and turn left to head north on well-signed Persimmon Rd; if you are coming west from Clayton, you will see this road on your right about 7.9 miles from downtown (PHOTO 1). After 4.6 miles, look carefully for gravel Coleman River Rd on your left (PHOTO 2) and turn here to head north. Right away you will be in a conifer-dominated forest and you may hear and see Yellow-throated Warbler, Pine Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler with Ovenbirds singing in the understory. In winter the same area can be good for Pine Siskin, American Goldfinch, Red-breasted Nuhatch, Brown Creeper, and (rarely) Red Crossbills may show up. The road will descend through some huge hemlocks and you'll pass a gorgeous piece of private property with an open meadow and tiny cabin on your left and soon you'll reach a small bridge over the Coleman River, which is really just a stream at this point. Just past the bridge on the right is a primitive campsite, and there is a nice wild trout fishery here though the fish are spooky at best. Georgia's first Appalachian Swallowtail was photographed at this bridge in May 2008, and there are many other lepidopteran species along this route in spring for the enthusiast. In areas of rhododendron and mountain laurel, look and listen for Hooded Warbler and Black-throated Blue Warbler, while in the trees overhead you may have American Redstart, Black-and-white Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Red-eyed and Blue-headed Vireo. Swainson's Warbler is rare but possible in areas with a thick understory. Not far beyond the campsite, the road will reach an obvious fork; from this point on you must be very careful in a low-clearance vehicle and some vehicles may not be suitable. If you take the right fork, you will be following Coleman River Rd along the grade of the stream through hemlock-dominated forest. Listen for Acadian Flycatchers and Louisiana Waterthrush along the stream. If you find any areas of dead conifers with loose, shaggy patches of bark on them keep a sharp eye and ear for Brown Creepers during breeding season; Golden-crowned Kinglet may also breed in the area. By following the left fork, you will begin winding up the slopes of Chestnut Mountain and gaining elevation. Red-breasted Nuthatch breeds in this area, and you may begin to encounter higher-elevation breeders including Blackburnian Warbler, while Chestnut-sided Warbler or Indigo Bunting may be heard singing from scrubby open areas uphill. Indeed, as the road gets higher and higher to reach 3000 feet or more, you will notice that the top of the ridge is not forested, but instead features a very large area of successional habitat. The top of Chestnut Mountain was cleared with an intense prescribed burn to create appropriate habitat for the declining Golden-winged Warbler. Biologists with the DNR have even attempted the use of remote audio play-back devices of this species in the area to entice migrating birds to come down and check out the habitat. None have been detected here so far. However, this great habitat improvement has created an area that is used by Kentucky Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Hooded Warbler, and several other species. When you are done birding on Chestnut Mountain, retrace your way back to Persimmon Rd.
Text and photos by KB.
8) Patterson Gap Rd [July 2008]
PM, May-June for breeding birds
[DeLorme pg. 16, B-2 and A-2]
From the intersection of US Hwy 76 and GA Hwy 197 just west of Lake Burton, head east on US Hwy 76. You will cross a high span over the upper end of Lake Burton, and in about a mile look closely for a left-hand turn lane and turn left to head north on well-signed Persimmon Rd; if you are coming west from Clayton, you will see this road on your right about 7.9 miles from downtown (PHOTO 1). Note that as you head north on Persimmon Rd you will pass Tallulah River Rd (4.2 miles) and Coleman River Rd (4.6 miles) which are also excellent birding destinations and are described above. Not far past Coleman River Rd, you will notice a gravel drive signed as Jim Keener Ln on your left; the second house on the right past this road hosted a large flock of Red Crossbills (up to 14 birds) both at several feeders and in the surrounding white pines from June-August of 2008. Continue on the paved road, and about a mile from Jim Keener Ln you will notice a very large summer camp on your left with a lake, climbing wall, activity center, etc. Just after passing the entrance road to the camp with a sign reading "Ramah Darom," the road will turn to gravel, cross over Persimmon Creek, and is now Patterson Gap Rd as you enter the National Forest. This road is a good-quality gravel road but can be steep (especially here at the west end) so take your time and watch out for washboards. Not long after you start ascending on this road, you'll come into an area on Persimmon Creek where a spur "road" heads downhill on your right through some very large hemlocks to cross the creek to access a nice camping area; this spur cannot be driven in an average vehicle so just park on the shoulder and walk down there. Take some time to bird this area thoroughly. Breeding birds include Ovenbird, Scarlet Tanager, Black-throated Green Warbler, Acadian Flycatcher, Louisiana Waterthrush, Black-and-white Warbler, and Red-breasted Nuthatch. From this area all along the creek for the next 1-2 miles, the habitat is perfect for rare breeding Brown Creepers anywhere you find stands of dead conifers with loose shaggy bark. A pair of Brown Creepers was located along this stretch on 29 May 2008 singing constantly and making food deliveries to such a stand of dead trees but the nest could not be located without disturbing the birds. Golden-crowned Kinglet is also possible as a breeding bird in this habitat. The two latter species, along with Red-breasted Nuthatch and Pine Siskin, are all to be expected - and sometimes in good numbers - in winter. As you continue to gain elevation you may encounter American Redstart, Black-throated Green and Black-throated Blue Warbler, Dark-eyed Junco, Ovenbird, Wood Thrush, Red-eyed and Blue-headed Vireo, Broad-winged Hawk, and much more. Eventually, you will take a sharp switch-back to your left immediately followed by a narrow section of road with a guard rail on your left. Just beyond this, you'll crest the ridge at Patterson Gap itself, which you'll recognize by a wide turn-out on both sides of the road and an obvious trail heading north (to your left). This moderately strenuous trail will wind its way up to the top of Grassy Ridge at the very high elevation of 4,000 feet and more. There have been records of both Pine Siskin and Brown Creeper during breeding season here, and you'll also likely find lots of cool mountain breeding birds already mentioned in this section. But what might be the most intriguing and enigmatic nesting possibility here is the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. This species is a well-known and widely distributed winter resident across Georgia. However, when all the migratory birds have headed far to our north to their breeding grounds in the spring, an extremely rare and local permanent resident population remains in the Southern Appalachians to breed! It is the opinion of many biologists that these birds of the extreme high elevations of North Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia constitute a separate sub-species - the "Appalachian Sapsucker." A pair of birds was found along Patterson Gap Rd in June 2002, and in the same spring/summer several groups were located in North Carolina. On 29 May 2008, a tulip tree was found on this road with sap wells so fresh that sap was still oozing from them. More field work is needed in the area, but it is hopeful that a small group of these elusive birds are present and may be documented and studied in the future. From the top of the ridge, the road winds its way back downhill heading east, through more hardwood-dominated forest and eventually into some private property featuring some open areas and edge habitat, along with a nice rental cabin establishment. Exactly 14.5 miles from where you turned off of US Hwy 76, you will cross a bridge over Betty Creek and dead-end at Betty's Creek Rd. Turn right, and in 3.4 miles you'll come to US Hwy 441 in the middle of the town of Dillard where more great birding awaits you!
Text and photo by KB.
'width' is a duplicate attribute name. Line 1, position 37.9) Popcorn Overlook [Nov 2007]
PM, May-June for breeding birds
[DeLorme pg. 16, C-1]
This is a quick and scenic stop along US Hwy 76 just west of its intersection with GA Hwy 197 and the bridge over the upper arm of Lake Burton / Tallulah River. Typical Georgia mountain breeding birds may be encountered such as Black-throated Green Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, Pine Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Dark-eyed Junco, Broad-winged Hawk; there is a rare outside shot at Common Raven soaring. You may have migrants here earlier in the spring such as Blackpoll Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, etc.
Text and photos by KB.
Copyright 2013 Ken Blankenship. All rights reserved.