8 Ways to Participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count

By Candy Cook


I’m always looking for fun ways to get outdoors, with my kids, and learn more about nature. The Great Backyard Bird Count gets us excited about spending time outside and learning about Georgia’s birds. It’s an annual event that we’ve been doing for years. One thing we’ve learned is that the diversity of Georgia’s landscape attracts birds to the mountains, swamps, coastline and forests offering an exceptional birdwatching experience all across the state.

The Great Backyard Bird Count runs from February 13 – 16, this year. It’s a fun citizen-science project launched by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and The National Audubon Society. Birdwatchers, of all ages, provide real-time information that helps scientists learn more about our wild bird populations including migration routes and diversity. Many parks and nature centers are jumping in to help novice birders identify species and give experts a chance to share their knowledge. Learn more about Georgia’s feathered friends with crafts, activities and expert bird watching guides at these eight great bird count events.

FDR State Park
Friday, February 13
8am – 11am
Novice and expert birders, bring your binoculars and meet at the park office to receive a bird count checklist. Pack a picnic to enjoy after the count.


Dunwoody Nature Center
Friday, February 13 9:30am & 11am
Monday, February 16 10am & 12pm
In addition to 22 acres and miles of trails for participants to use in their search for birds, Dunwoody Nature Center  offers free classes to help birdwatchers correctly identify and observe birds in the wild. Register here.


Birdsong Nature Center
Friday, February 13 8:30am – 12pm
Saturday, February 14 8:30am- 12pm
Birdsong Nature Center in Thomasville has guided birdwatching tours. Plan to meet in the parking lot at 8am to participate.


Satilla River Waterfront Park on the Greenway

Saturday, February 14, 9am
Woodbine Women’s Club & Coastal Georgia Audubon Society are hosting a bird count at Satilla River Waterfront Park on the Greenway in Woodbine  with fun activities and games, afterward at 10:30am. Bring your binoculars and meet at the Riverwalk Gazebo on 2nd street.


Blue Heron Nature Preserve
Saturday, February 14 8:30am
Join Atlanta Audubon Society at Blue Heron Nature Preserve for guided hike bird counts and more surprises.


Panola Mountain State Park
Saturday, February 14 8:30am
Atlanta Audubon Society will also be counting woodland and grassland bird species along the newest trail at Panola Mountain State Park. Meet at the visitors center.


Smith-Gilbert Gardens
Saturday, February 14 10am – noon
Come count birds with an expert to help with identification! Make a bird feeder and go on a birdhouse scavenger hunt while you explore the gardens.


Gwinnett Environmental Heritage Center
Saturday, February 14 11am – 3pm
Sunday, February 15 11am-3pm
Monday, February 16 11am-3pm
Learn about birds with crafts and activities, followed by bird count hikes throughout the day, at Gwinnett Environmental Education Center. Bird watching and identification classes are also available each day at 1:00 & 2:00pm.

candycookCandy is Georgia’s official Outdoor Explorer and the author of the blog “Happy Trails Wild Tales.” Click here for more Outdoor content from Candy.

Eco Adventures in Georgia

group fishing trip for kids

Coastal Georgia is a pristine, unique paradox for Georgia. When thinking about Southern travels, most folks picture sweet tea, peaches, our vast rolling Appalachian Mountains and the signature historic antebellum homes.

Those scenarios all have their place in our great state. But when tourists hear about the Georgia coast, they typically squint their eyes in a disbelieving stare. Georgia has beaches? Like, sandy shores and oceans?

The answer is yes, very much so. Our coastline is a gem for the state. A golden gem, if you will. The Golden Isles features several lovely islands and a historic mainland that attract guests year-round.

What’s more, the outdoor eco-educational opportunities that exist in the region are immense. For both the kiddos and the grown-ups, there are multiple ways to get out, get active and get informed about the intricate nature of, well, coastal nature.

GSTCGeorgia Sea Turtle Center: Rehabilitate. Research. Educate. Those are the overarching goals of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island. Established in 2007, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center is the coast’s premier marine life rehabilitation, research and education facility. Located in the island’s historic power plant building, the Sea Turtle Center brings in thousands of eager visitors from across the country every year. While visiting the center, guests can experience hands-on exhibits, witness sea turtle operations and interactively learn about the conditions of the delicate coastal ecosystem.

The Georgia Sea Turtle Center is open for individual and family visits, as well as school field trips, public programs, birthday parties and special events. All admission fees and donations to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center go to the daily operations, upkeep and maintenance of the center, as well as exhibit development, maintenance, equipment, and, of course, all aspects of turtle care.

Tidelands Nature Center: While visiting Jekyll Island to “sea” the happenings at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, be sure to stop at the University of Georgia 4-H Tidelands Nature Center. At the center, guests will find hands-on exhibition tanks and educational displays, as well as opportunities to canoe, paddle boat and kayak on the nearby pond. On-the-water opportunities are offered year-round, and camps, exhibits and workshops change monthly, so be sure to visit the website before setting your final plans.

kayakingSoutheast Adventures: From the ocean and streams to marshes and rivers, the Golden Isles is a haven for water-based activities, including canoeing, kayaking and paddle boarding. More than two decades ago, Southeast Adventures tapped into this aquatic theme by introducing guests and residents of the Golden Isles to these water-heavy activities.

Daily, the guides at Southeast Adventure takes guests out on kayak tours, as well as paddle-boarding excursions, fishing tours and nature boat cruises. Need more than a few hours on the water? They can handle that too, with the multi-day charter tours that take visitors throughout the region.

dolphinDolphin and Fishing Tours: Throughout the Golden Isles, guests can find several options for dolphin-watching tours and fishing excursions. Jekyll and St. Simons Islands offer several seasoned captains who can accommodate groups of varying sizes.

Whether looking to get far out in the ocean for some deep-sea charter fishing, or wanting a more inland experience with the shoreline in view, guests itching for a day on the water will not leave the Golden Isles disappointed. We suggest giving Captain Phillip or Cap Fendig a buzz. Both operate throughout the Golden Isles, presenting visitors with an assortment of charter boat rides (including dinner and wine cruises). You can also find a long list of options here.

Of course, the islands are not the only places to learn about Georgia’s great outdoors. Here are a few other Peach State eco-education ideas to get you started:

okeefenokeeGeorgia Aquarium in Atlanta; Black Forest Bear Park & Reptile Center in Helen; Georgia Buffalo Ranch in McIntosh County; Okefenokee Swamp in Folkston ; Cumberland Island in St. Mary’s; Banning Mills Zip Line Adventure in Banning; Alpaca Tierra in Young Harris; and the Go Fish Center in Perry.

These are just a small handful of the multitude of eco-educational and outdoor adventures that await you and your family throughout the state. Visit ExploreGeorgia.org for plenty of ways to shake off that indoor dust and get a hands-on look at Georgia, its ecological wonders and its environmental elements.

headshot1With two journalism degrees from the University of Georgia, Anna Hall is proud to be a double-dawg curious about her home state. Daily, Hall uses her passion for Georgia in her role as communications and social media manager for the Jekyll Island Authority. Whether its shark fishing in the coastal waterways of her Golden Isles home, or trekking a mountain in the northern region of the state, Hall actively seeks out new opportunities to showcase and share the beauty of the Peach State. 


Fan Photo Friday

Submit your Georgia photos for the chance to be featured:

Dahlonega, Georgia. Photo submitted by Sussman Imaging via Facebook.

Dahlonega, Georgia. Photo submitted by Sussman Imaging via Facebook.

Skidaway Island. Photo by @dusta. Submitted via Instagram.

Skidaway Island. Photo by @dusta. Submitted via Instagram.

Canton, Georgia by larri073. Submitted via Flickr.

Canton, Georgia by larri073. Submitted via Flickr.


Get Outdoors in Augusta

When you think of Augusta, The Masters golf tournament or James Brown might be the first things that come to your mind. However, what you may not know is that Augusta is a fantastic place to get out and enjoy the beautiful outdoors.  Here are my suggestions for great outdoor attractions & activities in Augusta, Georgia:

Augusta Riverwalk: Augusta is situated along the Savannah River, which forms the state line between Georgia and South Carolina. Take a stroll down the multilevel Riverwalk and enjoy the scenery of the river, gardens, abundant opportunities for picnicking and a playground for kids (and kids at heart). Riverwalk is a great place to experience 4th of July fireworks, the St. Patrick’s Day Celebration and the Augusta Market on the River, where you can find fresh produce, food and crafts during the warmer months of the year. It is also home to the Jessye Norman Amphitheatre, a unique spot for outdoor concerts.

Kayaking the Canal

Kayaking the Canal

The Augusta Canal: The Augusta Canal was built to provide water to textile mills and factories that used hydro-power to operate large machinery. Today, you can tour the canal by boat, bike or foot. If you have your own canoe or kayak, you can put in at the canal head gates and paddle the 7 miles past Lake Olmstead to the 13th Street Bridge. There are several outfitters in town that offer boat rentals and shuttles. Because there are no gas-powered boats allowed in the canal, the only traffic you will see is tour boats and other paddlers. It’s pretty cool to be on the water, viewing birds, turtles and possibly alligators and heading right through the heart of downtown at the same time. If you’d rather stick to land, you can experience the Canal Trail, a dirt path that runs the length of the canal and is great for biking or hiking. The trail is shaded by large trees, so it is enjoyable year-round, and there are different entrance points, so you don’t have to trek the entire length of the trail if you’re not up for it.

Disc Golf: Augusta is home to the PDGA International Disc Golf Center, making it a mecca for disc golfers. You can toss some discs there or at several different courses throughout the area. Just bring your own discs, and you’re all set.  Pendleton King Park is great for beginners. If you’re looking for a challenge, I suggest the Lake Olmstead course is perfect, which is built around the water.



The Augusta Greenjackets: The Augusta Greenjackets are a minor league team affiliated with the San Francisco Giants that plays at Lake Olmstead Stadium, just minutes from downtown. The tickets are affordable and the beer is cold, making it a great option for a night out with family or friends. Insider tip: Don’t miss out on the chance to have your picture taken with the mascot Auggie!

Lake Thurmond

Lake Thurmond

Camping: After all of your outdoor adventures, it’s time to relax with nature. What better way to do that than by camping at Lake Thurmond? Mistletoe State Park is only about 30 minutes from downtown and a great place to set up camp. You’ll be right on the banks of Lake Thurmond, where you can swim, boat or simply laze about and enjoy your surroundings. The last time I camped there, the weather was perfect and peaceful. It’s also nice to know you aren’t too far from civilization in case you forget to pack any essentials.

Camping in the Giant TentAnna Lee Mikell is a Southern girl raised in Georgia and South Carolina. She loves Southern food, photography and SEC football. You can often find her searching for old records at the flea market or sipping sweet iced tea.