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) Ivy Log Gap Rd / Gumlog Gap Rd (also Union County) [May 2008]
IBA, PM, May-June for breeding birds
See Beaton's Birding Georgia.
[DeLorme pg. 15, B-7, 8]
From the light in Blairsville at the intersection of US 76 and US 19/129, (a McDonald's is on the south side of this intersection), head north on US 19/129 for 2.7 miles and turn right onto Rogers Road. You will pass a
shallow arm of Lake Nottely on your left, and then you'll come through a residential area with some low, scrubby habitat along a creek on the left side of the road. Listen in this area for singing Northern Parula above, or Blue-winged or Yellow Warblers down low, but stopping here can be tricky so be careful and respect local traffic. At 0.8 miles from US 19/129, turn left onto Bradley Road. You will curve around past some open fields on your left, and at 0.5 miles from Rogers Rd watch carefully for a gravel road on your right signed as Forestry Rd #100; turn right here – this is Ivy Log Gap Road. For the first 0.5 mile or so, the understory is very thick and there are lots of young pines. You may hear Kentucky or Prairie Warblers in this area. You will pass several cabins and a few private drives, and at 1.1 miles from Bradley Rd you will enter the national forest at a gate; re-set your odometer here. Just past this gate on a tree on your left, you'll notice the first of 15 areas that have been marked by the DNR/Forest Service for the purpose of surveying for the declining Cerulean Warbler. Biologists have followed an experimental protocol of thinning cuts and group selection cuts (along with uncut control areas) to increase vertical forage area for the warblers and attempt to re-create in a young forest the diverse vertical structure created in older forests by blow-downs and dying trees. Birders are encouraged to participate in the effort to detect the Cerulean Warblers by keeping track of their sightings in these marked areas and reporting the birds. You can view a map of the areas HERE. As you begin to bird your way along Ivy Log Gap Rd, keep your windows down and stop to get out whenever you hear something interesting. Typical breeding birds that should be singing vigorously from late April through early June include Ovenbird, Hooded Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Red-eyed Vireo, Blue-headed Vireo, Scarlet Tanager, Wood Thrush, Eastern Wood Pewee, Indigo Bunting, and more. From mid-April through mid-May you may also find a few migrants such as Blackpoll Warbler, Cape May Warbler, and Bay-breasted Warbler among others. As you reach higher elevations you should also encounter Chestnut-sided Warbler (especially in open areas with lots of vines and tangles), American Redstart, and Blackburnian Warbler. In areas of pines you may hear Yellow-throated Warbler, Kentucky Warblers are sporadic in areas with a dense understory, and at the highest points you may find Dark-eyed Junco or Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Overhead you may hear and see Broad-winged Hawks or experience a rare croaking fly-over of a Common Raven. Ruffed Grouse and Wild Turkey are resident but you'd be lucky to stumble into one; the grouse can be heard "drumming" from March through April. At exactly 6.2 miles from the gate, you will notice that Ivy Log Gap Rd curves down to the right while
another road continues straight ahead. Take this road, which is marked by a small brown post as Forest Service 334 and is called Gumlog Gap Road. Continue birding your way down the road; the high elevation means more fluorescent-orange-throated Blackburnian Warblers should be found, along with lots of American Redstarts and other birds mentioned earlier. At 2.4 miles from where you left Ivy Log Gap Rd, you'll see a spur road head up to your right which is gated almost immediately. The sign may be broken, but this is Raven Cliffs Rd; it is also shown on some maps as FAA Tower Rd. You can park on the side of the road and take a nice hike up this road to an FAA signal tower, more good birds (Dark-eyed Juncos, Blackburnian Warblers, American Redstarts, and Chestnut-sided Warblers breed here), and at the top you’re rewarded with an amazing view of four states on a clear day. However, do not approach the FAA structure while you are at the top. Only 0.1 miles past the FAA tower road on the right you'll see the marker for Cerulean Warbler survey Area 10. It is well worth the short hike down to this cut area with a good thicket-filled understory, both for the birds and for the unique sight of literally 1,000’s of blooming trillium and other wildflowers carpeting the forest floor in May; more than a half-dozen varieties of trillium may be represented. From here, you have a couple options to complete your tour. You can either turn around, retrace your way back to Ivy Log Gap Rd, turn left, and bird your way all the way down off the ridge, then through some open habitat, and eventually dead-end into GA Hwy 66 where you can turn right to arrive in the town of Young Harris. Or, you can continue to bird your way down Gumlog Gap Rd, stopping at the remaining Cerulean survey areas in the hopes of detecting one of these special birds, and you will eventually dead-end into paved Gumlog Road (note that the word "Gap" is NOT in the name). Turn left, and in 4.5 miles you will dead-end at US 19/129 and a gas station. By turning left and heading south, you will arrive back at the McDonald's intersection where you started in Blairsville after 5.2 miles.
PHOTO 1 PHOTO 2 PHOTO 3 PHOTO 4 PHOTO 5
Text and photos by KB
2) Brasstown Bald [May 2007]
PM, May-June for breeding birds
[See Union County ]
'width' is a duplicate attribute name. Line 1, position 37.3) Tray Mountain Wilderness / Swallow Creek WMA [July 2008]
PM, May-June for breeding birds
[DeLorme pg. 15, C 9-10 & D9-10]
From the intersection of GA Hwy 75 and GA Hwy 17 just south of the touristy town of Helen, head north on GA Hwy 17-75. This is a beautiful drive, and after a while you will start to gain elevation via several sharp, winding curves. You will cross into Towns County as the top of a high ridge (Wilks Rd is on the right just before the county line - see White County for a full description for birding this area). Exactly 13.1 miles north of the junction of Hwy 75 and 17, keep a sharp eye out for a small brown sign on your right that says "High Shoals Scenic Area." Make a very sharp right turn here, onto Indian Grave Rd (Forest Service Rd 283). If you pass GA Hwy 180 on the left you have just missed it. You will soon pass a sign for Swallow Creek WMA (PHOTO 1) and then ford a small stream (PHOTO 2); I have done it in a Honda Accord many times, but I admit that for this whole area I would be more comfortable in a higher-clearance vehicle with a heavier suspension. Continue along this road for several winding miles, gaining elevation. Keep windows down and look and listen for wood warblers and other passerines, stopping safely in a pull-out to bird when you find them. On the left you will eventually see a large pullout with garbage receptacles and an information sign marking High Shoals Creek Scenic Area. This is a great opportunity to hike down to two gorgeous rumbling waterfalls and bird all along the way for mountain species. After getting a workout hiking back up to your vehicle, continue uphill listening and stopping for good birds until you dead-end at a sharp angle into Tray Mountain Rd up on the ridge. Turn left here, and you will continue to gain elevation (now well over 3000 feet) until you come to a large open gravel opening, where Corbin Creek Rd heads off to the north to your left and a possibly unnamed road heads off to the SE. Park here, and take the Appalachian Trail uphill, which is directly opposite the road you entered the area. You will gain access to extremely high elevations now, and birds like Black-throated Blue Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Dark-eyed Junco, and even Canada Warbler and Veery can be expected in breeding season. At the summit of Tray Mountain, take your time to enjoy a snack and some liquid refreshment as you soak in the amazing views on a bare rock outcropping surrounding by mountain laurel and wild blueberries which produce delicious fruits in mid-July. When done birding here, head back to GA Hwy 17-75 and turn right. Pass GA Hwy 180 on the left (Brasstown Bald is just 5.3 miles down this road), exactly 2 miles from this junction you will cross a bridge over the Hiawassee River; slow down here and take the next right onto a street signed as Mauldin Circle - this can be a tricky turn (PHOTO 3). As soon as you make the right turn, turn sharply to the right again to follow Corbin Creek Rd (Forest Service Rd 698), passing another sign for Swallow Creek WMA (PHOTO 4). This road provides more access to higher elevation birding along a well-maintained but nonetheless dusty, gravel road (PHOTO 5). Breeding birds of note for the area include Black-throated Green Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Ovenbird, Black-and-white Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, American Redstart, Worm-eating Warbler, Yellow-throated or Pine Warbler in areas of conifers, Scarlet Tanager, Blue-headed Vireo, Great-crested Flycatcher, Acadian Flycatcher or Louisiana Waterthrush along High Shoals Creek, and Broad-winged Hawk overhead; Ruffed Grouse and Common Raven are rare but possible. You can easily work this area into a trip to Brasstown Bald, which is a few miles west down GA Hwy 180. You can actually complete a loop between these two roads along the higher ridge up to the open gravel area at Tray Mountain; it would be a long drive because of the gravel roads and all the birding stops, and I would exercise caution in a low-clearance vehicle. Alternately, if you wish to try a different descent from the gravel open area, you can continue back downhill the way you came, pass Indian Grave Rd on your right where you may have ascended and keep going. You'll enter some private property, but this area is still great birding and Red Crossbills were regular in some areas here from May-August 2008 and may have bred so keep your ears open! This descent will also end at Hwy 17-75.
PHOTO 1 PHOTO 2 PHOTO 3 PHOTO 4 PHOTO 5
Text and photos by KB.
Copyright 2013 Ken Blankenship. All rights reserved.