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Bird lovers get eyeful, earful at Elachee event
Fall migration makes bird watching interesting this time of year, expert says
Bird watching enthusiasts participate in the Atlanta Audubon Society's bird walk Saturday at Chicopee Lake near Gainesville. - photo by Brandee Thomas

The early bird may get the worm, but if you want to be there to see the bird in action — well, you've got to get up even earlier.

About a dozen bird enthusiasts gathered Saturday morning at the Chicopee Lake Aquatic Center in Gainesville for a bird walk sponsored by the Atlanta Audubon Society.

"Fall migration is just starting, so Georgia is a terrific birding spot this time of year," said Peter Gordon, Elachee Nature Science Center education director and bird walk leader.

Chicopee Woods in particular is an especially good spot for bird watching. In 2003, the National Audubon Society designated the area as an "Important Bird watching Area," meaning that it is an "essential area for migrating and nesting birds."

Within the first hour, the group had already spotted more than 10 different types of birds, from Carolina wrens to goldfinches and blue jays. The key to a successful bird watching trip is to engage multiple senses: vision and hearing.

"That chattery, chattery call that you heard was a kingfisher," Gordon told the group.

"Oh look! Over there by the tree line — there they are. A pair of them!"

For Karen Henman, who recently relocated from Indiana, bird watching is something of a family tradition.

"I started bird watching when I was 3. I can remember being in the back of the station wagon on trips to Florida and my parents stopping to look at birds," Henman said.

"They get excited and point out a bird and us kids would look up for a second and then go back to coloring or whatever it is that we were doing. That was about the extend of my bird watching then."

But now, Henman is quite the accomplished bird watcher.

Not only can she identify birds by sight, she can even name a few based on their calls.

Although many of the birds spotted during the walk flew out in plain sight, others were a bit hidden in the thick underbrush. To see those, participants had to pull out their binoculars — and their patience.

"We're going to hang out here for about another 15 or 20 minutes before we move on," Gordon said to the group at the first stop on a boardwalk, extending over Chicopee Lake.

"The diversity of the habitat here allows a whole bunch of species to find a way of making a living here. This is really a unique area where we are, so there's no telling what we'll see."

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