By Jared Teutsch, Managing Director
Despite ongoing pandemic concerns, 2022 is shaping up to be a great year for the birds of Georgia. At Georgia Audubon, birds are our catalyst for conservation – easy to see and hear wherever you are – and they provide an entry point to appreciate nature and understand the challenges we all face in protecting our parks and green spaces, in Atlanta and throughout the state.
Georgia Audubon builds places where birds and people thrive. Building on our three pillars of conservation, education and community engagement, we use bird-based science programs to develop a conservation ethic in individuals, landowners, businesses, partner organizations, decision makers and communities across the state.
Here are some of our focus areas for 2022:
Habitat restoration: For the past six years, Georgia Audubon has worked in Metro Atlanta to create a model for restoring bird-friendly habitats in urban green spaces, such as Deepdene Park, Cascade Springs Nature Preserve, Friendship Forest, and more. . Recently, we have expanded our work to state-managed lands such as Panola Mountain State Park and other public natural areas such as Sams Lake Bird Sanctuary in Fayette County and Cooper’s Furnace at Lake Allatoona. We know that Georgia birds depend on healthy habitat to find the resources they need during migration, nesting season and overwintering. In 2022, we are excited to continue our work in Atlanta while expanding our bird-friendly restoration work to the Georgian coast, beginning with seagrass restoration on Jekyll Island in conjunction with the Jekyll Island Authority and other partners.
Migration Prediction: Last fall, Georgia Audubon launched a new conservation tool to predict the nighttime migration of birds over the state, allowing us to send alerts across the state for nights at high migration intensity to provide a safer passage for our migratory birds. When spring migration begins in a few months, we will send out alerts and encourage individuals and businesses to reduce outdoor lighting to ensure safe passage for our migratory birds.
Making birds and birding accessible to everyone: In 2022, we are strengthening our partnership with the accessible birding organization, Birdability. Through a series of virtual birding excursions hosted via Facebook Live with guest chefs from across the country, we show how people with disabilities explore their local green spaces and enjoy the birds around them. We also launched Georgia Audubon’s first series of adapted in-person birding trips to accommodate those who have mobility issues outdoors. Finally, our Bird Beyond initiative allows us to prioritize our engagement with communities that were previously underrepresented in community avian science. We work with local organizations, leaders and community groups to engage our resources in ways relevant to each community, in places like Adams Park, Historic Washington Park and Grove Park.
Connecting Students to STEM Through Birds: After a brief pandemic-related hiatus, Georgia Audubon resumed success Connecting students to STEM through the Birds program, adding three more Atlanta Title I public schools to the program. Heritage Academy (Elementary), Crawford Long Middle School, and South Atlanta High School have all been added over the past year, and additional schools are in the pipeline for 2022. Under this program, provided free to each partner school, a a bird-friendly STEM garden is set up on campus with the help of students and teachers. At each of the three schools, more than 100 students participated in the installation of a bird-friendly native plant garden on the school campus, turning areas of dirt and grass into wildlife habitat. Moreover, each the school is receiving training for teachers to provide lesson ideas and teaching resources to enhance their use of the new outdoor classroom, and this spring, as the gardens begin to bloom, we will be back to deliver a set of binoculars for school and provide another day of hands-on learning for students.
In Metro Atlanta and throughout the state, Georgia Audubon also strives to create healthy spaces for birds and people. Healthy habitats, including parks and green spaces, that harbor birds and other wildlife create healthy communities that we not only can enjoy, but need for our own survival.