Atlanta’s green spaces host a variety of birds

Friday was the last day of the 118th annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) season. Now, results from the season’s hundreds of CBCs nationwide — including 26 in Georgia — will be used by scientists to help gauge the status of bird populations and the health of the planet.

Under National Audubon Society rules, an official CBC can take place on any 24-hour day between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5. Each count covers a pre-approved 15-mile-diameter circle.

I took part in last weekend’s Intown Atlanta CBC, whose circle is centered near the intersection of Briarcliff Road and Ponce de Leon Avenue. Braving bone-numbing cold, more than 70 of us Atlanta Audubon Society members — comprising 13 teams — fanned out just after sunrise to areas of the city within the circle to count all the birds we could see and hear during the day.

Count areas included well-known city green spaces, such as Piedmont, Centennial Olympic and Gresham city parks, and nature preserves, cemeteries, fields, city sidewalks, parking lots, stream banks and other places where birds might congregate. On the south side, our team combed Constitution Lakes Park in an industrial area off Moreland Avenue and walked stretches of the PATH Foundation’s South River Trail in search of birds.

The Intown CBC was started five years ago by birding enthusiasts, led by Atlanta birder Joy Carter, who believed that amid Atlanta’s swaths of asphalt and concrete, there was still a lot of greenery that could provide habitat for a variety of birds.

As if to affirm that notion, last weekend’s Intown CBC tallied 93 species, a record high. Highlights included rufous hummingbird, American kestrel, perergrine falcon, pine siskin, hooded merganser, Wilson’s snipe, sedge wren, wild turkey, brown creeper, pied-billed grebe, snow goose and others.

As Atlanta Audubon’s incoming president Esther Stokes noted: “We have a lot of avian diversity to celebrate in Atlanta. Plus, it was a lot of fun finding the birds.”

IN THE SKY: From David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer: The moon will be last quarter on Monday. Mercury, Venus and Saturn are low in the east just before sunrise. Jupiter and Mars rise out of the east just after midnight. Mars and Jupiter appear near the moon Wednesday night.