WILD GEORGIA: A virtual bird walk with Atlanta Audubon Society

Charles Seabrook’s “Wild Georgia” column appears weekly in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

For birdwatchers like me, April through early May is the prime time of year for pursuing our pastime. Spring migration is at its peak. Songbirds are attired in dazzling breeding plumages and singing at their loudest and sweetest.

The great spectacle draws legions of us binocular-toting enthusiasts to woodlands, grasslands and wetlands for sociable “bird walks,” in which we share bird lore and learn more about the feathered creatures we’re observing.

But not this spring. The COVID-19 pandemic has curtailed our social birding. To help prevent the virus’s spread, the Atlanta Audubon Society (AAS) canceled its scheduled spring bird walks. Many birding “hot spots” are closed — including Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park in Cobb County, one of the Southeast’s prime spots for watching migrating warblers.

The situation, however, has not completely stopped AAS. On a morning last weekend, the society did perhaps the next best thing to an actual bird walk — a virtual bird walk. Three AAS staffers — Adam Betuel, Michelle Hamner and Gabe Andrle — used livestreaming video via Facebook to lead a 45-minute bird walk at an Atlanta park, a Fayette County wetland and an Athens lake.

Anyone with Facebook could watch in real time as the AAS birders described the birds they were seeing and hearing. Viewers could ask the leaders questions about the birds. Betuel, for instance, talked about a “loudly singing” ovenbird, a “squeaky” brown-headed nuthatch and some “vocal” yellow-rumped warblers as he observed them. Hamner described activity at a great blue heron rookery that she was watching.

Dozens of viewers tuned in for the livestreaming event. Since then, some 2,000 folks have watched a recorded video of it on AAS's Facebook page. Now, says spokeswoman Dottie Heat, the society plans to conduct a virtual bird walk every Friday at 9 a.m. To watch, go to https://www.facebook.com/atlanta.audubon.society/.

IN THE SKY: From David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer: The moon will be first quarter on Thursday morning. Venus is low in the west at dusk and sets about an hour later, and will appear near the moon this evening. Mars rises about four hours before sunrise. Jupiter and Saturn rise in the east around midnight.