Field Trip Schedule

FIELD TRIP SCHEDULE

Augusta-Aiken Audubon's field trips are open at no charge to all chapter members and the public. We encourage everyone to come out and join us! Some tips to make the trips more comfortable: bring a hat, sunscreen, insect repellent, and drinking water. Sturdy walking shoes are recommended as is having raingear nearby.

Morning trips in fall and in spring usually begin at 8 a.m. and end around noon. Winter trips usually begin at 9:00 am and end around noon. Summer filed trips during the hot weather usually begin at 8 am and end around 11 am. Check this webpage and the newsletter for field trips that begin at different times.

For many of our fieldtrips we meet at Popeye's Resturant at the corner of Walton Way and the Gordon Highway (Hwy 1) in downtown Augusta.

Another site for field trips is the Phinizy Swamp Nature Park. Directions to the park can be found on the Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy website at www.phinizyswamp.org .

The Brick Pond Park in North Augusta is another favorite fieldtrip venue.

From Augusta take the 13th street bridge to North Augusta. 13th Street becomes Georgia Avenue. Turn left at the light just beond the City of North Augusta Municipal Buildiing. Immediately turn left on Center Drive. Center Drive ends at Railroad Avenue. Turn left. Just before the Bridge, turn left on Brick Pond Park Road which leads to the parking lot.

From I-20 take the Matintown Road Exit. Drive South East on Martintown Road and turn right on Georgia Avenue. At the Cty of North Augusta Municipal Building turn right and turn left on Center Drive. From Center Drive follow the directions above.

Directions to other field trip venues can be found on the Local Birding Sites
page on this website.

If you have questions concerning a field trip, please contact the listed field trip leader.

Lois Stacey can be contacted at: croakie@comcast.net; 803-215-1594

FIELD TRIPS

February 18, SaturdayGreat Backyard Bird Count – Silver Bluff Audubon Center Kathwood Ponds. Join us at the Kathwood Ponds at 9am to walk around the ponds, and possibly to the cabin, to look for small birds which we will report for the GBBC. Trip should end by 1pm. Lois leads.

February 25, Saturday - Merry Ponds Meet at the Popeye’s at the corner of Walton Way and Gordon Highway at 9am. We will carpool to Merry. If the roads are passable we will drive around and check the ponds for waterfowl, if they are not we will bird the paved road looking for wintering birds. There is a $4 charge to enter the property. Lois leads, trip should end by 1pm.

March 4, SaturdayClark’s Hill/Strom Thurmond Lake – Meet at the South Carolina visitor center lower parking lot (overlooking the dam and lake) at 9am. We will drive around to several places looking for wintering waterfowl and gulls. We expect to stop at the SC below dam area, Cherokee park in Lincoln County and Parksville at least. In years past we have had large flocks of Bonaparte’s Gulls, Horned Grebes and breeding plumaged Red-breasted Mergansers. We never know what we may find on this trip. Trip will last into the afternoon so bring a lunch and we will eat along the way. There is a day fee for access to Clark’s Hill lots (I believe it is $5) and a similar fee for Cherokee. Lois leads.

March 11, Saturday Night Sounds Pot Luck – Meet at Silver Bluff Audubon Visitor’s Center at 4pm for a Pot Luck dinner and stay for the Night Sounds walk. Bring your favorite dish (casserole, salad, soup, etc) to share with your friends. After dinner (about 6pm or so) we will walk around the area, and possibly travel down Silver Bluff Road, listening to the sounds of the night. We expect to hear frogs, owls and possibly Woodcocks. Lois and others lead.

March 17, FRIDAY! - Phinizy Swamp Nature Park – Meet at the Phinizy parking lot at 9am. We will walk through the wetland cells looking for waterfowl, bitterns and other wintering birds. Trip should last until 1pm, Lois leads.

March 25, SaturdayLover’s Lane - Meet at the Popeye’s at the corner of Walton Way and Gordon Highway at 9am to carpool. We will look for wintering birds along the road; White-crowned Sparrows can often be found in this location in winter. Trip should end by 1, Lois leads.

April 1, SaturdayWings and Things. Meet at Silver Bluff Kathwood Ponds at 9am, bring a lunch if you would like to stay into the afternoon. We may go as late as 4pm. This is a naturalist’s field trip, we will look at birds but our focus will be everywhere. Dragonflies, butterflies, plants, other insects, reptiles, etc. We often get 18 or more species each of butterflies and dragonflies on this trip, including possibly a Yucca Giant-skipper. Lois leads.

April 8Phinizy Swamp Nature Park – meet at 8am in the parking lot at Phinizy. We will look for early migrants and lingering winter residents. This is a walking field trip. Trip should be over by 1pm. Lois leads.

Sunday special!! April 9 - Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park – We are having a special field trip to Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield Park in Kennesaw, GA. Meet in the visitor center parking lot at 7:30am. Traffic in and around Atlanta can be heavy so my suggestion is driving over on Saturday evening and staying as close as you can to the park. If the parking lot is full you can park across the street. We will walk up the mountain road looking for migrants. This location is one of the best places in Georgia for spring and fall migrants. It is also one of the best places for the rare Cerulean Warbler. We will be a little early for the main migration event but Cerulean is an early migrant and we have a possibility of see or hearing one. We may make a stop at another birding hotspot in the area on our way back to Augusta, that will be determined at the time. Lois leads.

April 15, Saturday - Lover's Lane. Meet at Popeye's at the corner of Walton Way and Gordon Hwy at 8am. We will look for migrants. Trip should end around noon, Willie leads.

April 29, Saturday - Birdathon.

May 6Migration Count – We will count all of the birds we see or hear in Aiken County. If you do not have a previously assigned territory meet at Silver Bluff Kathwood Ponds at 7:30 to break into groups to bird the property. Bring a bag lunch and meet at the visitor center at 1pm for lunch and a countdown.

May 13, SaturdayCongaree National Park – We will meet at the gas station at exit 1 in North Augusta at 7:30 to drive to Congaree (alternatively, you can meet us at the park at 9am). Bring a lunch and we will walk the boardwalk and possibly other trails at the park. We will head back to North Augusta at approximately 4pm. Lois leads.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM FIELD TRIPS

December 17, 2016. Augusta Christmas Bird Count

Well, another year has come and gone and another Christmas Bird Count season has passed. The Augusta CBC was held on December 17 and we had a very nice turn out. We had 13 teams in the field this year and for the first time in several years we got the small bit of Ft. Gordon that is in the circle counted as well as nearby areas. This area often goes uncounted. We had teams in the usual places; Merry, Phinizy, Lock and Dam, Lover's Lane, Augusta Canal andthe Augusta Levee as well as North Augusta, Horse Creek WTP and Gum Swamp Road in South Carolina. It was a cold start and while the sun did come out it was still chilly most of the day. It was a perfect day to count birds!

The Augusta count ranges from a high of 120 species to a low of 105 species over the 50 plus years of the count and we fell about in the middle this year with 112 species and 16452 individual birds.

We managed to find most of the expected waterfowl species however Northern Pintails, which are usually here, were not found this year and we had no unusual waterfowl species either. 36 Redheads were counted which was a new high count. Only one Horned Grebe was found which was a low count for us.

We found some really nice songbirds this year including a Yellow-throated Warbler and an astounding American Redstart! The Redstarts migrated through in the fall and it extremely unusual to have one here in the winter. In addition we had 18 Gray Catbirds which was the highest count ever, nearly double the highest previous count! Another couple of really good counts for Augusta were 6 Winter Wrens and 6 Baltimore Orioles. Wild Turkey was not found on count day but we did have a report from count week.

It was a good count for hawks as well. We got all of the usual species; Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks, both Accipiters, Northern Harrier, Osprey and Bald Eagle as well as American Kestrel and even a Merlin. In fact, the Augusta count had a new high count for Bald Eagles with 7 birds counted for the day.

Shorebirds were scarce this year with only 5 species counted and only 1 Lesser Yellowlegs. No Greater Yellowlegs were seen at all.

Our big, huge miss for the count was Marsh Wren. We know they are here, especially at Phinizy, and they had been seen the week before the count but they were not in evidence on count day. Other expected but missed birds were King and Virginia Rails.

Over the course of 12 or so hours our 30 birders spent 74 hours in the field and drove and/or walked 227 miles.

If you would like to explore the count results you can go to this link and put GAAU into the block for count code. netapp.audubon.org/CBCObservation/CurrentYear/ResultsByCount.aspx

Thanks to everyone who helped with the count! Lois Stacey.

December 24, 2016. Aiken Christmas Bird Count

The Aiken Christmas Bird Count was held on December 24. The count circle includes parts of downtown Aiken, rural areas, Hitchcock Woods and Aiken State Park. 25 people participated in field counts and 2 people watched their feeders and overall they spent 65 hours and covered 338 miles for the day and found 82 species of birds. This is not too bad as there are few areas containing ducks in the count circle.

A Bald Eagle was found on this year's count, only the second time one has been seen on count day. 11 Red-shouldered Hawks was also a new high count. Only one Barred Owl was seen this year which is a low count.

A good number of woodland birds were found on the count and several of them had high counts as well. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers (34), Pileated Woodpeckers (23), Blue-headed Vireos (17!) and Winter Wrens (6) were all high counts. There were some records set for Warblers as well. Palm and Pine Warblers both set new high counts but Black and White Warblers were at an all-time low of 1. Probably not on anyone's worry list but another low count was Brown-headed Cowbird. Only 1 individual was found on this year's count.

A great addition to this year's count was Red-cockaded Woodpecker which are now resident in Hitchcock Woods. Hopefully they will continue in their new homes and appear on many counts to come.

You can explore the entire list of birds found on the count at netapp.audubon.org/CBCObservation/CurrentYear/ResultsByCount.aspx http://netapp.audubon.org/CBCObservation/CurrentYear/ResultsByCount.aspx, enter SCAI in the count code box.

Thank you to all of the participants. The count couldn't happen without you. Lois Stacey.

January 21, 2017-Phinizy Swamp Nature Park

Nine people attended the Phinizy Waterfowl Drive sponsored by Phinizy Swamp Nature Park on a very wet day. Luckily this was slated to be a driving trip and not a walking trip as it rained nearly the entire time!

We started off by looking at some White Ibis and Mallards in the creek and then drove over to the Rain Garden Pond. The water was up several inches from normal there and there were Ring-necked Ducks as well as Ruddy Ducks diving in the pond. We drove out into the wetland and stopped to look for Wilson's Snipe and boy did we find them! There were so many Snipe in cell 5 that we had at least 6 in one scope view. We ended up with over 100 Snipe in several ponds for the day.

We saw and/or heard several hawks during the day including some very vocal Red-shouldered Hawks. Our main destination was the Equalization Pond which is where the ducks have been hanging out. There were over 400 Ring-necked Ducks and 140 or so Northern Shovelers in the pond! as well as Lesser Scaup and a few Blue-winged Teal. We had some time so we drove around looking for other ducks and while we did eventually find a few Gadwall flying out of a pond there weren't many in most of the park. However on our way back to the parking lot we heard a Marsh Wren. We stopped and eventually he hopped out into the open, perched on a tall grass stalk and proceeded to sing for us! He sat there for several minutes until diving back into the grass. What a great experience getting to see such a skulky bird sitting up and showing off. Even though it was wet it was another good birding day. Lois Stacey

February 11, 2017. Burke County and Turkey Pond.

Lifers for everyone! (or nearly everyone). Eight of us drove out to Burke County today to check out the pond at Southern Swiss Dairy, Turkey Pond and the nearby roads. There were two Dunlin at Southern Swiss as well as lots of Shovelers, a couple of Green-winged and Blue-winged Teal, lots of Killdeer and a few Least Sandpipers.

We drove on to Turkey Pond which is usually full of ducks but it was nearly empty. We did see a raft of Redhead and a few Canvasbacks as well as a large raft of Pied-billed Grebes. There were a few Hooded Mergansers and Bufflehead as well as Ruddy Ducks. There were also Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks and a Bald Eagle flying around the area. A little further down Magruder Road we saw a flock of blackbirds in a field and we put the scope on them and they were Brewer's Blackbirds which was a life bird for nearly everyone on the trip! These are western blackbirds that are fairly rare in Georgia but have been found in this area for the last few winters.

We continued down Magruder Rd which became Eden Church Road and then turned onto Benefield Rd. It was fairly quiet but we did have 3 Loggerhead Shrikes along one small stretch of road. There were Red-headed Woodpeckers at one small creek crossing but finally we found a small flock of woodland birds. We got great looks at Blue-headed Vireo, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Ruby-crowned Kinglet as well as the usual Chickadees and Titmice. I also had a quick view of a Brown Creeper. Sparrows were scarce but it was fairly breezy. We ended the day with 53 species. Lois Stacey

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