Birding at dawn

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Nick Nunn, Nunnsense

Nick Nunn, Nunnsense

By Nick Nunn

Last week, I had the singular fortune of renewing/refilling the Citizen’s community calendar. I don’t think that I had ever really taken a good look at it because, frankly, my time is already filled with a plethora of community functions.

But being forced to look carefully at the various types of events that Morgan County offers really opened my eyes to a number of things that I’ve been missing out on.

For instance: I saw in the calendar that there would be a beginner’s bird walk at Hard Labor Creek State Park on Sunday from 8 to 11 a.m. I wasn’t really excited about getting up so early on one of the only days of the week that I’m able to sleep in, but I knew that my girlfriend, Alayna, would have a great time exploring a new kind of outdoor activity, so I proposed that we bundle ourselves up early for the bird walk and spend a little time with nature.

Sunday morning, the temperature peeked just above freezing as we headed out the door, and we were reminded of the season as soon as we exited the car at Hard Labor Creek’s trading post.

Because of the hour and the chill, we thought that we might be the only ones to show up, but that didn’t end up being the case; we were accompanied by a couple, who had camped at Hard Labor Creek the night before, and a gentleman from Augusta that brought along a camera with an enormous lens for capturing any winged specimens that came our way.

The walk was led by Phil Delestrez, Resource Manager at Hard Labor Creek and Panola Mountain State Parks, who proved to be quite knowledgeable about the local fauna and more than capable of carrying out his duties.

But despite Delestrez’ best efforts, an eerie calm presided over the woods for almost our entire walk. I mean, there was almost nothing out there in the woods.

Apparently, they knew I was coming.

Delestrez described the day as “a tough morning for bird watching,” but we managed to see or hear a total of 26 species during the three-hour tour. (…the three-hour tour.)

Now, when it comes to differentiating just about anything in nature, I’m pretty useless.

I can barely tell a bird from a plane. Or Superman, for that matter. But it seemed that the more knowledgeable among us got the most excited about our spotting a number of bufflehead ducks, both at Lake Brantley and at Lake Rutledge.

We also managed to feast our eyes – I was, quite inappropriately, already thinking of Thanksgiving – on a great blue heron and a number of mallards.

I even spotted a yellow-bellied sapsucker in a nearby tree that evaded the wandering eye of the rest of our group.

Of course, Alayna saw fit to nickname me after that poor bird thereafter.

All in all, we had a great time. Where else can you get three hours of enjoyable, educational activity for only the $5 parking fee?

If you missed out this month – and I know you did because I didn’t see you there – there will be another one on December 21 at 2 p.m.

And if bird watching isn’t your thing, Hard Labor Creek will offer a number of additional activities in December, including carriage rides under the stars, and a winter solstice campfire celebration. So, if you’re bored and looking for something new, check out our calendar. It’s always in the “C” section with new offerings every week.

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