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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.