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Honoring the Brown Thrasher: Chalk Art Festival 2019

Have you ever walked through Piedmont Park and stopped for a moment to close your eyes and listen to the birds sing?

Piedmont Park is home to countless birds and other wildlife. No matter what is happening on the grounds of Piedmont Park, there are little creatures with big stories fluttering through the treetops.

In honor of Georgia Grows Native for Birds month in September, the Piedmont Park Conservancy is participating in the Atlanta Audubon Society Chalk Art Festival and highlighting the Brown Thrasher, a common resident of Piedmont Park.

The Brown Thrasher, the state bird of Georgia, is a relatively large songbird that can be identified by their brown feathers, yellow eyes, curved beak, and bold black and white patterns. Brown Thrashers nest in dense wooded areas such as forests, and are the only species of Thrasher found east of Texas. With an omnivorous diet, they are ground foragers and primarily survive on fruits (such as holly berries), seeds, and nuts.

 

Photo credit: Kevin Gaston

The Piedmont Park Conservancy’s design will feature native plants used by Brown Thrashers for food and habitat by illustrating a “bird’s eye view” of the native plants that attract them; a close up of the Brown Thrasher’s eye; and inside the eye will be those native plants such as Holly, Elderberry, Juniper, Dogwood and Serviceberry.

Appreciation goes to our artists: Dana Buskovitz, Krystal Collier, Hannah Hanssens-Reed, and Kaycee Walker!

Please visit the Conservancy’s piece, and all of the art at the Atlanta Audubon Society’s Chalk Art Festival on Sunday, September 29. Chalking occurs from 1-5pm. Voting and awards is from 5-6pm. The festival is located at the Piedmont Commons of Piedmont Park. This location is at the very north end of Piedmont Park.

If It Walks Like A Duck

While walking around Lake Clara Meer, you’ve probably noticed ducks either swimming in the lake or hanging out on its banks. Have you ever wondered about the different types of ducks that inhabit the park and when during the year you can find them here?

In fact, more than 10 different types of ducks can be found in Piedmont Park, few of which actually have the word duck in their name.  Listed below are the formal names of ducks you can see during your visit to the park along with descriptive information about each type.  After the duck’s name is the time of year that each has been observed here.

Muscovy Duck (year-round)

With their long necks, heavy bodies, webbed feet and spatula-shaped bills, these birds are instantly recognizable as ducks but there are many clues that help Muscovy ducks stand out from the flock. Their relatively long bill is dark at the base with variable color bands along its length, including white, pale blue-white, and pink, and the nail at the bill’s tip is gray.  Even though the word Muscovy means “from Moscow”, these ducks are not from Moscow.

Ruddy Duck (January)

The ruddy duck is a species of stifftail duck (others include the masked duck and blue-billed duck) and is a diving duck with a spiky stiff tail which is used as a rudder while swimming.  The tail may also be held angled or vertically as a breeding or territorial display especially between competing males.  These ducks often have colorful bills and compact bodies.

Ring-necked Duck (November through April)

The ring-necked duck is a small to medium-sized diving duck that has two white rings surrounding its gray bill, a shiny black angular head, black back, white line on its wings, a white breast and yellow eyes.  The female has a grayish brown angular head and body with a dark brown back, a dark bill with a more subtle light band than the male, grayish-blue feet and brown eyes with white rings surrounding them. This duck is sometimes referred to as a ringbill.

Wood Duck (year-round)

The wood duck or Carolina duck is one of the most colorful North American waterfowl.  Breeding males exhibit ornate, colorful patterns visible up-close but appear dark overall at a distance; females are gray-brown with a thin white ring around the eye.  The wood duck possesses a crest on its head and flies through trees with exceptional maneuverability thanks to its long tail.  Often shy and quick, the wood duck’s call is a loud, screeching whistle.

Mallard (year-round)

Mallards are large ducks with hefty bodies, rounded heads and wide, flat bills.  The mallard’s body is long and the tail rides high out of the water, giving a blunt shape.  Male mallards have a dark, iridescent-green head and bright yellow bill.  The gray body is sandwiched between a brown breast and black rear.  Females and juveniles are brown with orange-and-brown bills. Both sexes have a white-bordered, blue patch on their wings.

Redhead (March)

The redhead goes by many names including the red-headed duck and is easily distinguished from other ducks by the male’s copper-colored head and bright blue bill during the breeding season.  Slightly larger than a ring-necked duck and slightly smaller than a canvasback, the redhead is a medium-sized diving duck with a smoothly rounded head and a moderately large bill.  Redheads have black-tipped, gray bills, and in flight they show gray flight feathers.

Canvasback (December & January)

The canvasback is the largest species of diving duck in North America measuring up to 22 inches in length and weighing up to 3.5 pounds.  The canvasback has a distinctive wedge-shaped head and long graceful neck.  Its sloping profile distinguishes it from other ducks.  Both male and female have a black bill; the male has a chestnut red head and neck while the female has a light brown head and neck.  The canvasback’s legs and feet are bluish-gray.

Northern Shoveler (Spring & Fall)

Appropriately nicknamed the spoonbill, the northern shoveler has the largest bill of any duck in North America. The bill is actually longer than the duck’s head with a flattened wide tip perfect for “shoveling” along the water’s surface for food.  Males have an iridescent green head; females are brown, buff and black with darker upperparts, finer streaking on the head and a faint dark eye line.  Both genders have yellow eyes, and bright orange legs and feet.

Blue-winged Teal (Spring & Fall)

There are more than 20 species of teal ducks throughout the world.  The blue-winged teal is a smaller, petite duck characterized by its short neck and short tail.  Males have brightly marked, distinctive plumage.  The unexpected shades may be difficult to see when the bird’s wings are folded but very colorful when in flight.  Females are more camouflaged with muted, earth tone colors which serve as protection while they are nesting or caring for young ducklings.

Lesser Scaup (January & March)

The lesser scaup is a medium-sized diving duck, smaller than the closely-related greater scaup, with a small peak at the back of the head.  It is colloquially known as the little bluebill or broadbill because of its distinctive blue bill. The lesser scaup is one of the most numerous and widespread diving ducks in North America.  Its name, scaup, may stem from the bird’s preference for feeding on scalp—the Scottish word for clams, oysters and mussels.

Bufflehead (February through April)

Adult males are striking black and white with iridescent green and purple heads and a large white patch behind the eye.  Females are gray-toned with a smaller white patch behind the eye and a light underside.  The bufflehead rivals the green-winged teal as the smallest American duck, measuring under 16 inches long and weighing under 20 oz.  Its name refers to its head shape, noticeable when the male puffs out the feathers on its head, greatly increasing its size.

Hooded Merganser (November & December)

The most prominent feature of this small, slim, streamlined duck is its narrow, serrated, hooked bill.  The merganser is the only type of duck that regularly eats a large amount of fish and similar prey, and its bill is specialized to make this duck a keen and ferocious hunter.  Two other species of this duck includes the common and the red-breasted merganser.

Piedmont Park Ducks – Do’s & Don’ts

Do’s

  • Only offer foods in bite-sized pieces the ducks can easily consume without choking or struggling.
  • Good foods for ducks include bite-sized pieces of apples and tomatoes, cracked corn, chopped kale, bite-sized pieces of romaine lettuce or Swiss chard and watermelon
  • Enjoy the experience of being in nature with these colorful birds

Don’ts

  • Don’t feed bread to the ducks; it’s not good for them
  • Do not allow pets or children to chase or disturb the ducks
  • Stop feeding if the ducks appear uninterested or are leaving the food uneaten, and avoid feeding the ducks if other visitors are already offering treats

Guest Post by Don Disner

AUTHOR’S BIO: Don Disner

Stop and Listen to the Birds Sing

If you’ve ever walked through Piedmont Park on a gorgeous spring day, you’ve likely been surrounded by the songs of more bird species than you realized were there. Before moving to Atlanta nine years ago, I could identify maybe five common songbirds and a few birds of prey, probably the same ones everyone knows. Though it’s nothing compared to dedicated birders, ornithologists, or even semi-serious hobbyists, I can easily ID three dozen or so now.

I’ve been lucky; most of my bird knowledge came to me through the grace of others- Books gifted from friends and family, bits of knowledge gleaned from birders, photographers, and friends who know more than me. Gray and brown birds on my home feeders, once lost in the fray, now stand out as chipping sparrows, house finches, brown-headed nuthatches, and several others.

Now I cannot help but notice dozens of species of birds when I’m outside. For me, lack of knowledge was a symptom of a lack of observation, and changing that behavior opened me up to an entire world.

Working in Piedmont Park, I take in as much as I can in between tasks, but as a park visitor you have the chance to sit back and observe. I strongly recommend you take advantage of sitting down on a bench, looking, listening, and noticing the birds. See if you can start picking them out by their call or colors.

Carolina Wren

With all that’s going on in our lives, it’s easy to inadvertently ignore all the different species of birds around you. For instance, the Carolina Wren as he, (only the males of the species sing) sings in a voice too big for his body. No doubt, if you live almost anywhere in the southeast, you have heard this call, but could you identify the wren by his song? If you saw him, would you recognize the shape of his body, upright tail, the white “eyebrow” line, or his thin, curving beak? These details, relied upon by birders, can easily go unnoticed unless we stop to see them.

Pileated Woodpecker

Over the sound of chirps, whistles, and trills, you may hear a distinct knocking on wood. A woodpecker will hammer on a tree in search of insects for lunch, or dig a hollow for a nest. If you can spot them, you’ll notice that they’re all some variation of black and white, usually with degrees of red on their heads. With the common downy woodpecker, a small red mark is a defining characteristic of the male. See the relatively large red bellied woodpecker, and you’ll likely wonder why it’s called that, since its bright head is redder than its belly. Let’s not forget the most famous (and largest) woodpecker, the pileated. The pileated woodpecker can be elusive, but you might find one feasting on grubs from a rotted tree trunk.

Brown Thrasher

Spring and fall turn the park into a hotbed for migratory birds avoiding harsh northern winters or revisiting breeding grounds, which creates great opportunity for interesting sightings. We have the easily recognizable northern cardinal, vibrant red (the females are more pinkish brown) with its bright orange beak, the American robin, foraging for worms on the ground in groups with their rusty orange chests and white rings around their eyes, and our friend from earlier, the Carolina wren. The northern mockingbird, a particularly vocal gray songster, can spout a dozen tunes in the span of a minute. They can have hundreds of songs in their repertoire, but our Georgia state bird, the brown thrasher, can have over a thousand!

American Robin

With the noise of civilization around us, birds provide a natural, meditative escape through their songs, their call and response, and variety in countless species. Whether or not you desire to know them all by name, or if you just want to enjoy their songs and observe their behavior, I sincerely hope that you take the  time (and now’s a good time to do it) to ignore everything else and focus on our feathered friends for a bit- watch, listen and be humbled by them. Learn a little or a lot, you’ll be richer for the experience- I promise.

Want to learn more about bird life in Piedmont Park? Sign up for one of our bird walks! https://www.piedmontpark.org/sightseeing-and-tours/

Author: Michael Paul

Photo Credits: Kevin Gaston

A Look Inside the Colorful World of Piedmont Park’s Spring Blooms

Spring is in full swing at Piedmont Park. The air is filled with fragrant and bountiful blooms that create a non-stop show. A green sanctuary in the middle of Atlanta, the Park is home to a diversity of trees that provide not only beauty, but habitat for hundreds of pollinators including bees, butterflies, birds and other critters that live in the Park.

From majestic oaks to diminutive dogwoods, these trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals also provide visitors with four seasons of color and a green oasis to enjoy throughout the year.

And if you’re inspired you may want to try growing some of these plants in your own garden.

Below is a list of garden-worthy plants to consider. Both the common and botanical names are listed so that if you are shopping for plants then you will know what to ask for.

Dogwoods, a favorite spring bloomer at Piedmont Park

Autumn Fern- Dryopteris erythrosora: This exotic ornamental makes itself right at home in southern gardens. The new growth emerges with bronzy tinges before it turns green which remind some of autumn.

Carolina Silverbell- Halesia carolina: This native small to medium sized flowering tree displays beautiful white bell shaped flowers. Full sun or part shade.

Carolina Silverbell, a great native plant with striking flowers.

Dogwood- Cornus florida: There are hundreds of native dogwoods growing throughout the park, easily recognizable by their beautiful white bracts in spring. The red fall fruits and red leaf color make it a standout in the fall.

Fringe Tree- Chionanthus virginicus: This native flowering tree produces masses of fleecy white flowers in spring.

Hellebore- Helleborus x hybrida, also known as Lenten roses: This evergreen groundcover blooms in late winter to early spring.

Native azaleas fill the air with their sweet perfume.

Native Azaleas- Rhododendron spp. including R. austrinum, and  R. canescens: bloom over a period of months beginning in early spring and continuing until late summer.

Redbuds- Cercis canadensis: is a small flowering tree with distinct lavender-pink flowers that appear before the heart shaped leaves.

Redbud flowers appear before the leaves emerge in spring.

White Oak- Quercus alba: This majestic native gets better and better with age. Be sure to give this beauty plenty of space as it becomes a large tree growing to heights of 50 to 80 feet tall, or more.  Oakleaf Hydrangeas-Hydrangea quercifolia- The leaves remind some of oak trees and the large white flowers standout in the landscape.

Want to do more for Piedmont Park’s plant life? Visit piedmontpark.org/support-the-park/commemorative-donations/ and learn how to plant your very own tree!

Author: Erica Glasener

Best Ways to Preserve Nature while Hiking

Hiking and walking is a great way to get healthy exercise and clear your head. People of all ages and abilities can enjoy the scenic views and trail hikes at Piedmont Park, which offers some of the most beautiful nature preserves in the area.

If you’ve visited Piedmont Park before, you know its popular destinations, such as the Meadow or the Dog Parks. Just north of those locations though, there’s a path that leads you through a tucked away tree-lined expansion to the Park. Now you have 53 acres of land to explore! This land expansion happened in 2011 to boast nature trails and conservation areas.

When you venture on the trails, it’s very important that you not disturb or destroy the natural landscape and the delicate ecosystem of the area. Make sure that you follow these rules, so that you can preserve that natural beauty and not cause any harm to the animals or plants that here.

If You Pack it In, Pack it Out

Everything you bring to the trail should leave with you. That includes things like water bottles, food wrappers and containers, tissues, and any other debris that you might have brought with you. Even food should be taken out with you again. There are trash and recycling bins once you return to the main areas of the Park.

Don’t Feed the Wildlife

It’s very exciting to see all kinds of wildlife when you’re out in the forest that you may not see in everyday life, such as our rare species of birds and our Eastern Screech Owl.

However, you shouldn’t try to feed these animals while you are out on your hike. It may seem harmless, but animals may rely on humans for that food in the future. It’s similar to giving your dog a piece of meat from your plate during dinner. Do you think your dog will want to go back to eating dog food?

So, it’s a good practice to observe and admire the wildlife from a distance. It will keep you and the animals safe from harm.

Keep Dogs on a Leash

While dogs are some of the best hiking companions you could ever ask for, they aren’t always on their best behaviors. You should always have your dog on a leash in case you find something that may tempt your dog to run away.

Be sure to keep your dog to the right of the trail to avoid any potential collisions with other trail users. No one wants to see waste when they are walking the trail — it’s unsightly and unsanitary. So, don’t forget to bring those doggie bags and take any dog waste out with you. Keep the trail clean for others to enjoy, too!

Stay on the Trail

If you are walking on a designated trail or path, you shouldn’t venture off into other areas. While it may seem harmless, you risk damaging the plants of the surrounding area. Those plants are a major source of food for a lot of animals! Not only that, but just stepping off the trail can contribute to erosion. It will leave a beaten down path that will entice others to do the same.

When you skirt a muddy area, you are broadening the trail and causing damage. Head down the center of the hiking trail and through the mud to prevent trail widening.

Choosing Your Clothes

Did you know that even the clothes you wear can affect the environment? It’s highly encouraged to wear eco-friendly clothing. Be sure to wear clean clothing and shoes before each new hike so you don’t take along any insects or seeds that aren’t native to the other area.

If you’re looking to get rid of clothes, don’t just toss them! Many articles of clothing consist of synthetic, non-biodegradable fiber and will just pile up in the landfill. Instead, consider donating your unwanted clothing, or recycle them in a textile bin.

Remember that your actions, small or large, have an enormous impact on our environment. It’s up to you to make the changes necessary to protect it.

As Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said:

“A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.”

Guest Post by Personal Injury Law

Author’s Note: The information in this article was provided by Personal Injury Law, an organization dedicated to providing the public with information about personal injury and safety information. Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice, and it is intended for informational use only.