The first day of autumn is still four weeks away, but don’t tell the birds that: Fall bird migration already is underway and intensifying daily.
Already moving out to winter grounds in Central and South America are the first waves of ruby-throated hummingbirds, warblers and other neo-tropical songbirds. Also southbound are several species of sandpipers, yellowlegs, plovers, dowitchers and other shorebirds, which are appearing on inland and coastal mudflats as they migrate through Georgia.
Well along in their migration are purple martins and other swallows, which began forming big flocks and roosting together as early as mid-July to prepare for their southward trek.
So, grab your binoculars and bird books and head outside to enjoy this great annual spectacle of nature. If you live in metro Atlanta, there’s probably a prime birding area near you.
Here are some birding hot spots where the Atlanta Audubon Society will be leading free fall-migration bird walks over the next several weeks for beginner and veteran birders:
— Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, Cobb County, one of the Southeast’s premier spots for spotting warblers, vireos, tanagers and other migrating songbirds. More than 20 warbler species have been seen here on a single morning during fall migration.
— Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, which includes more than a dozen units along the river from Buford Dam to the confluence with Peachtree Creek in Atlanta. A favorite among birders is the Cochran Shoals unit. The river is said to be second only to Kennesaw Mountain for seeing all kinds of migrating birds.
— Piedmont and Murphey-Candler parks, premier urban parks.
— Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve, Decatur; has a loop trail and boardwalk.
— Henderson Park, Tucker, which has become popular with birders for seeing fall migrants and observing the transition from summer birds to fall birds. Has a lake, marshy area and woods.
— Stone Mountain Park Songbird Trail, created to encourage birdwatching.
— E.L. Huie/Newman Wetlands Center, Clayton County, metro Atlanta’s best place for observing migrating shorebirds and more than 15 duck species that arrive in the fall and spend the winter on the treatment ponds. Center has a boardwalk through a marsh.
For directions and time and dates of bird walks, visit: www.atlantaaudubon.org. Click on “field trips.”
IN THE SKY: The moon will be last quarter on Wednesday, said David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer. Venus is very low in the west at dusk and sets shortly thereafter. Mars and Jupiter are low in the east just before dawn. Saturn is low in the southwest just after dark and sets in the west about three hours later.