With the fall bird migration in full swing, avid birders recently attended an educational hike at the 107-acre Euharlee wildlife refuge on Dobbins Mountain. The hikes, which were hosted by Cartersville Ranch and the City of Euharlee, provided members of the Atlanta Audubon Society, Coalition for the Right Road and others with the opportunity to learn about several different types of native and migratory birds and their habitat.
Joshua Spence, who has 16 years of experience in bird identification in north Georgia, led the birding hike through the refuge and noted 53 bird species. Participants heard and saw many types of birds, but various species of tanagers, warblers and vireos were the most common neotropical birds observed.
Many agreed that the highlight of the hike was three adult bald eagles having a dispute over a fish. As the hike was concluding, a bald eagle dove towards the lake and grabbed a fish approximately 200 to 300 feet from the hikers and the remaining two bald eagles gave chase for the eagle’s catch. Other notable highlights included a sharp-shinned hawk pursuing a woodpecker through the wildlife refuge and a confirmed sighting of the declining Cerulean Warbler.
According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “The Cerulean Warbler is one of the species of highest concern in the eastern United States because of a small total population size and significant declines throughout its range. The Cerulean is under consideration for listing under the Endangered Species Act and is listed on the Audubon Watchlist.”
Kent Percy, member of the Atlanta Audubon Society, said, “It was a beautiful hike through the wildlife refuge’s contiguous hardwood forest, which contains a wide array of birds and wildlife. It would be tragic to see the 411 Connector come through here. If there are other options to build the road, I certainly hope the Georgia Department of Transportation looks very closely at its alternatives before destroying the easement. You cannot recreate what is here.”
While many were excited about the numerous types of neotropical birds observed, others remarked at the beauty and habitat quality of the wildlife refuge.
“I was very impressed with the diversity of bird species we observed on the hike,” said Atlanta birder Ruth Marley. “The property and conservation easement are beautifully maintained. It is wonderful that there are so many vines, great cover and protected areas for the birds. More importantly, it should be kept this way.”
Percy added, “This is something you cannot find in your backyard. You can see cardinals and blue jays all you want, but you cannot observe this many different types of birds; unless you get into an area that has a lot of forest. You hate to see some of this being destroyed for a road that could be done elsewhere.”
Designated as a significant wildlife refuge by the City of Euharlee in 2010, the conservation easement on Dobbins Mountain was certified for special conservation status last year by the DNR because it protects wildlife habitat through the conservation of high priority species and habitats.