Coming soon to an outdoors theater near you: the return of the migrants.
With spring in swing, ruby-throated hummingbirds, chimney swifts and purple martins are among the more noticeable species beginning to appear at feeders, chimneys and fields across Georgia.
Jim Ozier of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources saw his first chimney swifts of the year over a Pike County soccer field last weekend. Ozier, a Nongame Conservation Section program manager, had already been hearing about sightings of ruby-throated hummingbirds, the only “hummer” that nests in the state. The earliest-arriving purple martins are also checking out old nest sites, capping their long journey from winter ranges in South America.
These birds are just “some of the ones you may be on the lookout for,” the first wave of a spring migration that crests in late April or early May, Ozier said.
Georgians can prepare by:
Hanging up hummingbird feeders and planting nectar-rich native plants such as coral honeysuckle, columbine and bee balm. Both nourish these high-energy acrobats that may travel more than 600 miles from Mexico to Georgia.
Leaving chimneys in which chimney swifts can nest and roost uncapped from March through September. Appropriate flues are made of stone, firebrick or masonry tiles with mortared joints, materials that – unlike metal flues – swifts can cling to with their sharp claws.
Erecting purple martin houses in suitable habitat, open areas with trees no taller than the martin house within 40-60 feet and no houses within about 30 feet. In eastern North America, these graceful blue-black birds depend on manmade cavity nest sites, according to the Purple Martin Conservation Association (http://purplemartin.org).
Other birds, from warblers to swallows, are also arriving in Georgia. Ozier said they overlap in early spring with species such as white-throated sparrows and hermit thrushes that winter here but haven’t moved north yet, making this time of the season even more interesting for birdwatching.
Which brings up another way to prepare for the return of the migrants: Keep a pair of binoculars close.
Georgians can help conserve migratory birds and rare and endangered wildlife through buying a hummingbird or bald eagle license plate, and by donating to the Georgia Wildlife Conservation Fund state income tax checkoff. Both programs are vital to the Nongame Conservation Section, which receives no state funds to help conserve Georgia wildlife not legally hunted, fished for or trapped, as well as rare plants and natural habitats.
The license plates are available for a one-time $25 fee at county tag offices, by checking the wildlife license plate box on mail-in registrations and through online renewals (http://mvd.dor.ga.gov/tags). Details: www.georgiawildlife.com.
The Give Wildlife a Chance checkoff is line 27 on the state’s long tax form (Form 500) and line 10 on the short form (Form 500EZ). Contributions can be deducted from refunds or added to payments. Details: www.georgiawildlife.com/node/338.
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