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) Brasstown Bald [May 2008]
PM, May-June for breeding birds
[DeLorme pg. 15, C-9]
At 4,784 feet, Brasstown Bald is the highest point in Georgia. As such, it offers very unique birding opportunities because there are bird species that only breed in Georgia at this location and a handful of other high peaks. What makes Brasstown Bald special is that it is the only of these high-elevation locales that can be easily accessed with vehicles; in fact, even people with limited mobility can enjoy seeing breeding Canada Warblers, Veeries, Black-throated Blue Warblers, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and much more because in addition to the great birding around the level parking lot, there is a shuttle service (in season - call ahead) that brings visitors up to the summit where there is an elevator to the observation deck. From the intersection of GA Hwy 17/75 and GA Hwy 180, head west for 5.3 miles to Hwy 180 spur on your right that heads up to Brasstown Bald (PHOTO 1). You can also access Hwy 180 spur from points west coming down from Blairsville or up from Dahlonega. Along the road as you ascend the mountain, you will start to hear interesting birds like Black-throated Blue Warblers, Ovenbirds, Black-throated Green Warblers, Black-and-white Warblers, Red-eyed Vireos, etc. It is a very steep and winding road, and I do not advise stopping even though there are a couple gravel pull-outs. About halfway up, you will come into a nice open area that is a bit more level, where you can stop at a larger gravel area on the left for some birding and a great view (PHOTO 2). You will hear Indigo Buntings, Red-eyed Vireos, and various warblers singing, and keep an eye on the sky for soaring Broad-winged Hawks or Common Ravens. Wild Turkies are often seen in this area as well. Continue to the top and pay the $3.00 fee and park in the huge parking lot (PHOTO 3). This is the only place in the state of Georgia where you can get out of your car and be greeted by Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Chestnut-sided Warblers, Veeries, and Canada Warblers singing all around you! Take your time birding all around the edges of the parking lot, where you may also have Black-throated Blue Warblers, Hooded Warblers, Blue-headed and Red-eyed Vireos, Dark-eyed Juncos, and Scarlet Tanagers. You will also enjoy the blooming mountain laurel and rhododendrons in late May and early June (PHOTO 9). When you're done in the parking lot, walk behind a restroom building to follow the paved summit trail (PHOTO 4). Shortly after starting, you will intersect an old roadbed known as the "Wagon Trail" (PHOTO 5); turn right and walk this old road that brought early visitors to the summit from the town of Young Harris and is now part of the Arkaqua Trail (which can be hiked down to this small college town). Soon you will come to an open area on the right (PHOTO 6), where Chestnut-sided Warblers can usually be found. Just down the trail, you'll come to a gate (PHOTO 7). Black-and-white Warblers, Black-throated Blue Warblers, and Ovenbirds usually nest in this area. Here and all along the trail, listen for the amazing double-flute song of the Veery and look for them flying across the trail; familiarize yourself with their "veer!" call as well. Beyond the gate, the trail closes in a little more and you are in one of the best areas for Canada Warblers - listen for their chippy song and watch for them darting around among the rhododendrons lining the trail. When you come to an area where the trail becomes rocky (PHOTO 8), spend some time listening for the incredible, tinkling, trilly song of the Winter Wren. Do not play ANY audio recordings of this or any other species in this sensitive habitat. I usually turn around here and head back to the paved foot path and get a good workout heading up to the summit and observation platform. The views here are spectacular (PHOTOS 10 & 11, and VIDEO), especially on a clear day. This is perhaps the most reliable spot in the state for Common Ravens, and you may also see Broad-winged Hawks or other raptors soaring. There is a neat visitor's center and restrooms here as well, but it is now only open seasonally so call ahead. When finished at the top, walk down the summit road (PHOTO 12) to see some new areas, listening and looking for the same species mentioned above, and you will come out back at the parking lot; watch out for the shuttle if it is running! On the way down the mountain, use low gears and do not ride your brakes too hard; many a visitor has been seen turning onto Hwy 180 with smoke pouring out of their wheels from overuse of the brakes on this steep grade.
PHOTO 1 PHOTO 2 PHOTO 3 PHOTO 4 PHOTO 5 PHOTO 6 PHOTO 7 PHOTO 8
PHOTO 9 PHOTO 10 PHOTO 11 VIDEO PHOTO 12
Text by KB; Photo 11 by Steve Barlow; other photos by KB & RC
'width' is a duplicate attribute name. Line 1, position 37.2) Sosebee Cove [May 2008]
PM, May-June for breeding birds
[DeLorme pg 15, E-7]
Located 2.9 miles west of the intersection of GA Hwy 180 (Wolfpen Gap Rd) and US 129 / 19, this is a very pretty and quick stop for some really cool birds in spring and early summer. Two specialties here are breeding Black-throated Blue Warblers and Veery. You may also encounter American Redstart and Dark-eyed Junco and (rarely) Canada Warbler, or perhaps Common Raven soaring overhead. The best chance you have to spot a raven in the sky from here is a powerline cut (PHOTO 3) that is most open just downhill to the right of the parking area and trailhead (PHOTOS 1 & 2); they seem to be part of the same group that is often seen during hikes up Blood Mountain, which is just uphill from Sosebee Cove. The powerline cut also offers some great views up into the canopy for American Redstarts, Black-throated Blue Warblers, and migrants working the trees. Just downhill from the powerline cut are a few informative signs (PHOTO 4); in the same area look and listen for the beautiful song of the Veery and the "veer-veer-veer-vreeeee" of Black-throated Blue Warblers. The trail itself is short but gorgeous (PHOTO 5), with massive second-growth trees reaching for the heavens - some of them would take 3 adults holding hands to encircle the trunk. The only complaint I have here - and in general along all portions of Hwy 180 - is that large numbers of motorcycles cruise through all the time in spring and summer, with their obnoxiously loud exhaust pipes echoing across the valley. I respect their right to enjoy the mountains like anyone else, but I can't think of anyone else whose mountain enjoyment ruins that of others.
PHOTO 1 PHOTO 2 PHOTO 3 PHOTO 4 PHOTO 5
Text and photos by KB.
'width' is a duplicate attribute name. Line 1, position 37.3) Blairsville Ingles [May 2008]
late Sp-early Su
[DeLorme pg 15, C-7]
Located on the north side of US Hwy 76 just east of the overpass and intersection with US 129 / 19; turn at the large sign for Ingles and cross a small bridge over Butternut Creek. Park far away from the grocery storefront and bird all along the creek on both sides of the bridge. You can also explore other businesses on the other side of the creek to get a different view. Listen for the signature "rrreeet, fitz-bew!" calls of the Willow Flycatcher and look for them on the wires and down low in the scrubby vegetation along the creek. You may also find birds like Yellow Warbler, Orchard Oriole, Eastern Kingbird, Belted Kingfisher, Red-winged Blackbird, Barn and Northern Rough-winged Swallows, Common Yellowthroat, or (rarely) Wilson's Warbler here. Do not play ANY sound recordings in this area. The reason why a grocery store is on a list of birding locations is simple - sometimes the last vestiges of appropriate habitat in which a species may be able to scratch out a living are squeezed into the middle of suburban development. Such is the case for the Willow Flycatcher, which is a very rare breeder in Georgia. Butternut Creek runs along the front (south side) of the parking lot for Ingles, among various businesses which would seemingly like nothing more than to cut down all the vegetation to the bank of the stream in favor of manicured turf lawns. However, an ordinance exists requiring an "undisturbed buffer zone" along the banks of streams - this has provided a narrow strip of willow trees, alders, weeds, and viny tangles that the flycatchers need to prosper (despite surreptitious efforts of some of the bordering property owners who flagrantly violate this law with brush mowers and landscaping every year). Early in 2007, an adjacent piece of property across a feeder creek that was also lined with willows (on the west side of the Ingles parking lot) went under the bulldozer. The feeder creek was completely destroyed and re-routed into huge underground pipes, and an expansive weedy field that provided cover and forage for the birds was graded and prepared for more commercial development (PHOTO 1). Everyone in the birding community was appauled, and held their collective breath. In May 2007, up to three Willow Flycatchers were seen along the creek in what little habitat remains in this area (PHOTO 2); in May 2008 at least two birds were seen and it is hoped that more are present. It remains to be seen how well the birds will succeed, especially if the adjacent property is developed and turned into concrete and asphalt. On a more positive note, you can get some awesome BBQ at the Rib Country restaurant just east of Ingles on Hwy 76 (PHOTO 3); it is important to let local businesses know that you are bringing your dollars to them because you are there to see the birds - visit www.gos.org to find out how you can order FREE business cards to leave at local businesses broadcasting this important message!
PHOTO 1 PHOTO 2 PHOTO 3
Text and photos by KB.
'width' is a duplicate attribute name. Line 1, position 37.4) Least Flycatcher Survey Route [May 2008]
[DeLorme pg. 15, D 6-7, E 6-7]
These are good spots to stop and listen carefully for the signature "chee-bek!" calls of the Least Flycatcher. This is a very rare nesting species in Georgia, and may not build its nest in the same area every year. While these are the "traditional" locations to find the species, you may only find the species at one stop or none at all in any given year. You should check these spots in combination with a trip to Sosebee Cove, Vogel State Park, Brasstown Bald, Blairsville Ingles, etc. From the town of Suches at the intersection of GA Hwy 60 and GA Hwy 180, head north on Hwy 60. About 5 miles down the road you will come into an area of open pastures, especially on the west (left) side of the road. Make a note of Johnny Gap Rd on the right when you see the street sign - this is a good road to explore for interesting mountain breeding species and migrants, and both Blue-winged Warblers and Golden-winged Warblers have been found in migration in blackberry thickets along the road. The next road north of Johnny Gap Rd on the right is Grizzle Creek Rd, exactly 5.5 miles north of Suches (from the Hwy 180 junction). Park in front of an old abandoned gas station/antique shop, which is directly across Hwy 60 from Grizzle Creek Road on the opposite side (west) of Hwy 60, and is adjacent to a local fire station - do not block access to the fire station! Carefully cross the highway and listen for the Least Flycatcher, usually relating to some large conifers that are in the yard of an abandoned house across from the old gas station; this bird was most recently re-located on 5/18/08. Grizzle Creek Rd and the surrounding area along Hwy 60 have some interesting open and edge habitat to explore, and you may see or hear Common Yellowthroat, Song Sparrow, Eastern Bluebird, Red-winged Blackbird, Yellow-breasted Chat, Indigo Bunting, House Wren, Blue Grosbeak, or interesting migrants in season such as Blue-winged Warbler, American Redstart, or Chestnut-sided Warbler. By very carefully walking south along the west shoulder of GA Hwy 60, just past a small creek, you can look to the west and see a nice brushy area full of willows, alders, river cane, blackberry thickets, etc. at the back of a field. You may walk into the field for better views into this riparian habitat (an adjacent landowner has graciously allowed limited access to the area but does not actually own this section of property); be prepared to politely leave if anyone asks you to. In this area, interesting breeding birds have been found such as Orchard Oriole, Yellow Warbler, and (rarely) Willow Flycatcher. Notably, if the latter species and the Least Flycatcher are present, you could potentially visit nearby Coopers Creek WMA to find an Acadian Flycatcher and thereby have seen all three of Georgia's breeding Empidonax flycatchers within just a few miles of one another! Do NOT play audio of any species in this area under any circumstance, so as not to cause these special Georgia breeding birds harm. The other spots to check for the tiny "chee-bek bird" (Least Flycatcher) are back on GA Hwy 180 (also called Wolfpen Gap Rd). About one mile east of the junction with Hwy 60, slow down and start looking carefully for Kennedy Creek Rd on your right. Continue past this road, through some large open fields on both sides of the road, and at the next road on the right park at a little church on the right (this is Miller Gap Rd). Check the trees around this area and then walk down and check the area around Kennedy Creek Rd, listening and looking for the Least Flycatcher. Be extremely careful on the road shoulder as bikers and cars zoom through this stretch quickly. If you have not found the bird yet, continue on Hwy 180 east for about a half mile, or until you see another open field on your left and a small street sign marking Anglin Rd on your right. It may be hard to find a safe place to park here, perhaps on Anglin Rd itself is best. Listen all along the road in this area for the bird; in late May 2007 a bird was heard from the woods on the other side of the field and good looks could not be had because this is private property. Do not trespass on private property anywhere along the route, even if you hear a bird calling!
Text by KB.
'width' is a duplicate attribute name. Line 1, position 37.5) Coopers Creek WMA [May 2008]
PM, May-June for breeding birds
[DeLorme pg. D-6, 7 and E-6, 7]
This is another nice drive along forest service roads in spring and early summer for migrants and breeding birds. From the intersection of GA Hwy 60 and Hwy 180 in Suches, head north for 5.1 miles and you will see Johnny Gap Rd on your right with a barn at the intersection (PHOTO 1). Take your time birding along this road, with some nice edge habitat and brush along with some mature trees. In migration both Blue-winged and Golden-winged Warlbers have been seen here, and breeding birds include Chestnut-sided Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Northern Parula, Common Yellowthroat, and Indigo Bunting among others. At 0.8 miles note Grizzle Creek Rd on your left, which features more of the same habitat and has a possible Least Flycatcher location at its terminus with Hwy 60. Continue past Grizzle Creek Rd for another 0.5 miles and the road will change names as you enter national forest property, you are now on Forest Servie Rd 33D (PHOTO 2), with larger, more mature pines and a few hardwoods as well. Listen for both Yellow-throated and Pine Warblers here. A total of 2.2 miles from Hwy 60, you will dead-end into Coopers Creek Rd, turn right. At 1.3 miles down the road, take a left fork that will turn to gravel immediately; the road is kind of rough but can be managed in a passenger vehicle with care. You will enter a nice mixed forest at this point, and you may encounter lots of typical mountain breeding birds like Black-throated Green Warbler, Ovenbird, Chestnut-sided Warbler, and Hooded Warbler. You will see another forest service road come in from the right, just keep left to stay on Coopers Creek Rd. Exactly 5.7 miles after you turned right onto Coopers Creek Rd from Johnny Gap Rd, you will notice that FS 33 continues to your right, while going left will put you on FS 33A (Mulky Gap Rd). Keep left, cross a small bridge over Coopers Creek and park (PHOTO 3). There are nice "unofficial" campsites in this area and all along FS 33 later as it follows the creek. You should hear plenty of Black-throated Blue Warblers start mixing in with the other species, and listen and look for Acadian Flycatchers or Louisiana Waterthrush on the creek. If you have a high-clearance, heavy-duty vehicle you can actually continue up this road to Duncan Ridge Rd and turn right, taking you along Duncan Ridge at very high elevations. This area has received the same experimental treatment as Ivy Log Gap Rd/Gumlog Gap Rd (Towns County) to improve the habitat for the declining Cerulean Warbler; in May 2008 a bird was detected near the eastern end of this road at Coosa Bald. At these higher elevations you may add several other breeding birds that would not be found along the lower creek sections including Chestnut-sided Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, or American Redstart. Interestingly, this area was surveyed by the Forest Service for possible breeding Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (July 2003) but with no results. To continue the route from the bridge mentioned earlier, go back across it and turn left to keep following FS 33. In this area in late June you may come across the very large and beautiful Diana butterfly. 1.4 miles down the road from the fork with FS 33A, there is a spur on your left that will go down to an official campground with tent pads right on the creek. Coopers Creek is stocked with rainbow trout in this area for good fishing, but you may have lots of other fishermen and campers to contend with in spring and early summer. Continue birding down Coopers Creek Rd, passing FS 637 on your right. After a total of 6.6 miles from the fork with FS 33A, you will come out on GA Hwy 180 (Wolfpen Gap Rd) where there is a sign for the WMA (PHOTO 4); incidentally, you could run the route backwards from here. Turn right, and then take the next left into Lake Winfield Scott (PHOTO 5), offering more good birding and fishing; Veery and Cedar Waxwing have nested near the lake along with other mountain species mentioned earlier. When done here, turn left onto 180 and in 4.4 miles you will actually complete a loop by coming back to Suches where you will dead-end into GA Hwy 60.
PHOTO 1 PHOTO 2 PHOTO 3 PHOTO 4 PHOTO 5
Text and photos by KB.
Copyright 2013 Ken Blankenship. All rights reserved.