A red-bellied woodpecker perches atop a tree in Friendship Forest Wildlife Sanctuary in Clarkston. A former recreation park, Friendship Forest is being restored to native habitat by the City of Clarkston and conservation and community organizations. PHOTO CREDIT: Charles Seabrook

A native forest re-emerges in Clarkston

Despite its relentless development, metro Atlanta has numerous pockets of green space that could be potential havens for birds and other wildlife. Years of neglect, however, have left many of them little more than impenetrable tangles of English ivy, privet, kudzu and other non-native invasive species.

Native flora and fauna find it difficult to survive in such places.

The good news is that conservation and community groups have undertaken daunting tasks to try to restore several of these green spaces to wildlife-friendly native forests.

One such place is the 15.7-acre Friendship Forest Wildlife Sanctuary in Clarkston, where I went on a walk last weekend led by folks with the Atlanta Audubon Society and the Georgia Native Plant Society.

Located along the South Fork of Peachtree Creek half a mile north of Clarkston’s business district, Friendship Forest was a former recreation park deeded to the city by DeKalb County. In 2002, Clarkston’s City Council voted to return it to a native forest and floodplain habitat open to the public.

Since then, the city, the Friends of Friendship Forest and other volunteer groups have made great strides in removing invasive species, ripping out old tennis and basketball courts and other paved surfaces, and building trails on the site.

A huge boost came last year when Atlanta Audubon received a major grant from the Southern Company and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to restore “bird-friendly habitat” to Friendship Forest and another site, Deepdene Park in Atlanta.

Among other things, the grant has been used to plant 15 prime, food-producing native plants for wildlife — including devil’s walking stick, beauty berry and elderberry — in Friendship Forest. Apparently, it is to the birds’ liking. During our 2.5-hour walk there last weekend, we saw or heard 34 species, including several migrating warbler species.

IN THE SKY: From David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer: The Draconid meteor shower will reach a peak on Sunday of about 20 meteors per hour. Look to the north as the sky darkens.

The moon will be last quarter on Thursday. Venus and Mars are low in the east just before dawn. Saturn is low in the southwest at dusk and sets a few hours later.

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