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  • Writer's pictureKaren Hogan

Georgia NWR Trip April 2015

Updated: Dec 11, 2018

We visited 2 National Wildlife Refuges south of Atlanta, Georgia over the weekend of April 10-12, 2015. Before heading home on Sunday we stopped at the Whistle Stop Cafe in Juliette, GA for some fried green tomatoes.

Karen and Teresa Bond Swamp NWR, April 11, 2015

March 2015

We had just finished our December 2014 California National Wildlife Refuge

Trip when we started thinking about our next National Wildlife Refuge Trip. By February we had decided to go back to California to visit the refuges we missed during our December 2014 Trip including, Sacramento River, Sutter, and Delevan National Wildlife Refuges part of the Sacramento River National Wildlife Refuge Complex. We would also visit the Salinas National Wildlife Refuge located just above Monterey Bay. Our major reason for the trip would be to bird with Debi Shearwater on one of her Pelagic Trips out to Farallon Islands National Wildlife Refuge. With the California Trip scheduled for the first week of August we decided we might be able to squeeze in a birding trip before the end of July, but where and when? Remembering our birding trip we planned to Blacksburg, Virginia in November 2012 we considered heading back to that area.........


November 2012

I suggested to Teresa a weekend of birding after my coworker Thomas and his wife, Becky invited me to a belated wedding reception in Blacksburg, VA. The reception would be held on November 3, 2012 in Blacksburg. Thomas and Becky were fine with me bringing Teresa as my guest to their reception, she would have to drive from Lexington but we could meet up, explore and bird in the Blacksburg area for a couple of days before and after the reception. Teresa and I were both apprehensive, we had never planned a trip for just the 2 of us, our plans to do something together usually involved spending time with family or caring for our aging parents, we both considered cancelling our first birding trip. Teresa would have a 5-6 hour drive from Lexington and my drive would be about 3.5 hours. Thomas suggested I stay at a friend’s bed and breakfast for free, a gift to the newlyweds for their traveling guest. That sounded good, no hotel cost.


Saturday November 3, 2012

The morning arrived for our first birding trip. We had planned to meeting in Blacksburg around noon. Unable to sleep, Teresa was on the road by 4 am, I was still at my house when she called at 8 am. She was more than half way to Blacksburg by the time I left my house. She had just finished reading the Barefoot Sisters, Lucy and Susan Letchers' book about hiking the Appalachian Trail. She arrived at Pearisburg, VA about an hour before me and discovered the Angel's Rest trailhead a section of the Appalachian Trail. She took me to the trailhead, it looked like a difficult hike, a straight up climb, I didn’t feel ready for this kind of hiking. My idea would be an easy to moderate trail with a waterfall at the end and birding along the way. Snow and ice covering the trails, making a for an even more challenging hike but the temperature was pleasant and I figured we would do Teresa’s hike today and my waterfall hike with birding tomorrow. The summit was beautiful and worth the hike. The air was crisp and clean but we didn’t see very many birds, new to birding we were not trained to hear bird chip notes or calls. I was also an inexperienced hiker with the wrong size hiking shoes, too small. My knees screamed as we came back down the slippery trail. We went to the wedding reception that night and had some wonderful food and met some great folks. Back at the Bed and Breakfast we got in the queen size bed, Teresa and I do not usually sleep together, not even as children, we each had a twin bed. Around 1 am we got a phone call, the nursing home was rushing our Father to the hospital, he was septic and would need a special surgical IV to inject high powered antibiotics. Diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1980, bedridden since 1990, he had been in a nursing home since 2006. For the last 2 years he had been expressing his desire to be allowed to leave his tortured life. He wanted to refuse medical treatments that would extend his life. Teresa and I had struggled to honor our Father’s wish because our Mother was in charge of his health care and could not find the strength to accept and honor his wish. Since 2011 she had been living in an assisted living facility, suddenly our Father’s health care decisions were mine and Teresa's. Teresa handed the phone to me, we didn’t sleep the rest of the night and drove home the next day. The staff at the hospital moved our Father to hospice care where he passed away after refusing to receive antibiotics for his infection.

We experienced so much during our first birding trip but it was only the beginning and boy did we have so much more to learn about birds and each other……..


April 2015

Feeling nostalgic about our first birding trip we planned another birding trip to Blacksburg, Virginia but this time we would stay in a hotel but bird where? We had already reserved the hotel and the trip was about week away when we realized, what were we doing, a quick look at the map. Surely we could find some National Wildlife Refuges, within driving distance for both of us. We didn’t have a weekend to waste birding at just any birding hotspot. We could bird in Georgia at Bond Swamp and Piedmont National Wildlife Refuges, they were an equal distance for each of us, about 6-7 hour drives. Not an easy drive but it would be worth it.


Friday April 10, 2015

We both headed to Forsyth, Georgia to spend the night. We would spend 2 nights, bird at 2 refuges south of Atlanta and be headed back home Sunday afternoon, we both had to go to work on Monday.


Saturday April 11, 2015 Bond Swamp and Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge

We woke up early and drove straight to Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge arriving around 8 am. Established in 1989 Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge consist of 7,764 acres of diverse habitats including mixed hardwood/pine ridges, bottomland hardwoods, swamp forests, creeks, beaver swamps and oxbow lakes. Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is located along the Ocmulgee River and is situated along the fall line separating the coastal plains and the piedmont.

Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, April 11, 2015

Karen at Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, April 11, 2015

Karen at Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, April 11, 2015

Teresa at Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, April 11, 2015

Thrush at Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, April 11, 2015

We observed 27 species including 7 species of warblers. I listed Kentucky Warbler after another birder helped ID the call, going against my normal "first time listing a life bird" needs to be by sight not just the call. We were thrilled to see a couple of pairs of Black-and-white Warblers gathering nesting materials. We hiked the Longleaf Pine trail and part of the Beaver Swamp Loop trail.

We headed to Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge and drove the Little Rock Wildlife Drive.

Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, April 11, 2015

Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, April 11, 2015

Established in 1939 the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge has 35,000 acres of reforested land including loblolly pines on the ridges and hardwoods along the creek bottoms and the scattered upland coves. Streams and ponds at the refuge provide resting and feeding areas for wintering waterfowl.

We would be back the next day to look for the Red-cockaded Woodpecker, an endangered species that nest in the mature pine stands at Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge.

We spent another night in the same hotel in Forsyth.


Sunday April 12, 2015 Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge

I had called the headquarters at Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge a few days before our trip. The staff member was so helpful in directing me to the location at the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge where we could find the nesting sights of the Red-cockaded Woodpeckers and hopefully these endangered woodpeckers. Apparently Refuge Staff paint white bands around the mature pine trees that the Woodpeckers are using for nesting. We were able to find the trees and the Red-cockaded Woodpeckers. As we studied the Woodpeckers as they moved among the trees, we heard a new bird call, could this be the song of a Bachman's Sparrow? After searching the understory trees below the woodpecker pine tree homes we finally saw the little Bachman's Sparrow perched on a high branch and singing his now familiar song, a life bird for both of us.

Red-cockaded Woodpecker at Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, April 12, 2015

Bachman's Sparrow at Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, April 12, 2015

Yellow-throated Vireo at Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, April 12, 2015

Hawk at Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, April 12, 2015

Karen at Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, April 12, 2015

Piedmnt National Wildlife Refuge, April 12, 2015

We decided we should head back home by noon but of course we are always a couple of hours behind our planned departure and this time we were delayed even more as we stopped at The Whistle Stop Cafe for lunch, it was delicious. We still had to drive back to Forysth for Teresa to drop me off at my car. We had been using her car for the past 2 days to drive around the refuges. We each headed home, Teresa to Lexington and me to Chapel Hill.


Visited 2 National Wildlife Refuges in Georgia

Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia, 4/11/15

Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, Gerogia, 4/11/15, 4/12/15


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