Intown bird count becomes official

Wild turkeys in Westview Cemetery. Eastern meadowlarks near a city landfill. A pied-billed grebe in Glen Emerald Park Lake. A peregrine falcon at a downtown skyscraper. A Virginia rail in Candler Park.

They were some of the 84 bird species that several birders — including I — tallied last Sunday during the first official Intown Atlanta Christmas Bird Count (CBC). As the results show, Atlanta, although buried under thousands of acres of asphalt and concrete, still has an abundance of green space that provides habitat for a variety of birds.

The count was deemed “official” because the National Audubon Society officially endorsed it after a trial run last year, said Joy Carter, Atlanta Audubon president.

Before Audubon gives its stamp of approval to a CBC, it makes sure that the count’s organizers have worked out the boundaries of a 15-mile-diameter circle in which the survey takes place.

The Intown Atlanta CBC’s circle is centered near the intersection of Briarcliff Road and Ponce de Leon Avenue. On a bitterly cold morning last Sunday, some 60 of us birders, divided into 12 teams, fanned out across the city and nearby areas within the circle to identify and count all the birds we could see or hear during the day.

Teams combed city parks, nature preserves, parking lots, power line right-of-ways, cemeteries, lakes and ponds, golf courses, ballfields, PATH Foundation trails and other places to count birds. They peered into backyards (with homeowners’ permission) to include birds at feeders.

Carter’s 95-year-old mother, Katherine Turner Carter, kept tabs on the birds in her yard on Woodland Avenue in southeast Atlanta. She added a Baltimore oriole and a rufous hummingbird (rarities in Atlanta) to the count list.

Our quest, though, took us into some unsavory areas. “Birds don’t discriminate between good neighborhoods and bad neighborhoods,” Joy Carter noted.

While looking for cedar waxwings on the weedy grounds of the old Atlanta Prison Farm in south DeKalb County, we came upon an obviously stolen Mercedes SUV. Its windows had been smashed in. We reported it to the DeKalb police.

IN THE SKY: The moon will be full on Jan. 15 — the "Cold Moon," as the Cherokee peoples called it, said David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer. It was also called the "Wolf Moon" because of wolves howling hungrily outside Indian villages. Mars is in the east a few hours after dark. Jupiter rises out of the east at twilight and is visible all night. (If you look at Jupiter this month through binoculars, you can see four of its big moons.) Jupiter will appear near our moon Tuesday night. Saturn rises out of the east about three hours before dawn.