Birding Sites Near Metro-Atlanta
Sweetwater Creek State Park is the Georgia state park closest to the metro Atlanta area. Seven miles of trails, shaded streams, and a lake, which supports some interesting species during migration and in the winter, including Red-breasted Merganser, Common Goldeneye, and Greater Scaup, for the rarer species. Occasionally, Bald Eagles and Ospreys are seen there. An access trail leads to Sweetwater Creek itself and traverses a hardwood forest, leading to the creekside trail with its shoals area, extended trail system, and the ruins of an old Civil War mill. Birding is slower here in the summer since the main attraction at Sweetwater is the lake, bringing in the migratory and overwintering waterfowl.
From downtown Atlanta , proceed on I-75/85 south a short distance and take I-20 west. Leave I-20 at the Thornton Road exit, the third exit west of the I-285 interchange. Turn left onto Thornton Road and go 1/4 mile. Turn right on Blair`s Bridge Road, turn left on Mount Vernon Road and proceed to park. There is a $2 parking fee, payable at the park office or at self-pay stations. A map detailing the seven miles of woodland trails around the area is available at the office.
Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve is a 28-acre property in the Medlock Park neighborhood of Decatur. The preserve opened in 1995 under the management of a neighborhood organization with the goal of preserving natural spaces in the South Peachtree Creek watershed.
Great Blue Heron sunning
Photo by Georgann Schmalz
CSNP includes wetlands and a four-acre beaver pond, emerging pine groves, wooded uplands, and floodplain bordering South Peachtree Creek. Wildlife habitat includes brush piles, deadfalls, dense brush, and the pond. These diverse habitats are home to beavers, foxes, turtles, snakes, frogs, rabbits, and dozens of species of birds.
Bird highlights include warblers, hawks, woodpeckers, flycatchers, Sedge Wren, Marsh Wren, Hooded Merganser, Blue-winged Teal, Ring-necked Duck, Great-horned Owl. Regularly seen in summer: Orchard Oriole, Indigo Bunting, Wood Thrush.
An observation tower and boardwalk funded by a grant from Atlanta Audubon offers a great view of the pond area.
From I-285 N or S: Take Hwy 78, Stone Mt. Freeway, exit west toward Decatur. Hwy 78 passes North Dekalb Mall and continues up hill past Banner Ford. At intersection of Hwy 78, North Decatur Rd, and Medlock Rd, take right on Medlock Rd. Follow Medlock Road 1/4-mile to Medlock Elementary School; go right on Wood Trail Lane. Pass one stop sign; travel another 200 yards to the preserve entrance.
From I-75/I-85 N or S: I-85 north or south take North Druid Hills, exit east toward Decatur. Approx. 3 miles, go right on Hwy 78 (at North Dekalb Mall). Follow directions as above.
Big Creek Greenway is a linear park in the city limits of Alpharetta that presently has two sections which eventually will be joined. The paved paths make handicapped access easy. Both sections follow Big Creek that then feeds into the Chattahoochee River.
The lower section is more diverse in habitat and has a wide variety of birds and wildlife. At the wetlands area you might see Red-shouldered Hawk, Belted Kingfisher, Great Blue Heron, Green Heron, or Wood Ducks. In the winter, Hooded Mergansers have been seen. The mature trees along the paved paths host all of the woodpeckers in Georgia except the Red-cockaded Woodpecker. Barred Owls are seen fairly regularly. Many of the migrating warblers can also be seen in the spring and fall.
Lower section : Go north on GA 400 to Mansell Rd, exit 8. Turn right at the light onto Mansell Rd. Go to the next light and turn left onto Northpoint Pkwy. Follow this for about one mile. Turn right into the greenway directly after passing Sears Homelife store on the right. There is a parking area and bathrooms. For more information, check http://georgiatrails.com/trails/bigcreek.html
Upper section:Go north on GA 400 to Old Milton Pkwy, exit 10. Turn right onto Old Milton Pkwy. Go east about one mile then turn left onto Northpoint Pkwy. Go about .5 mile and look for the Big Creek sign next to the YMCA. Turn right and go to the bottom of the hill.
The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (CRNRA) is a series of protected areas along the Chattahoochee River corridor in the metro Atlanta area. Each of these units is maintained by the National Park Service. The Cochran Shoals Unit in Cobb County is used by hundreds of runners and cyclists daily for exercise. It`s also a favorite spot for birders, though the crowds can sometimes interfere with birding . The Cochran Shoals unit is one of the key Atlanta Audubon sites for spring and fall migration walks, second only to Kennesaw Mountain. During the height of migration, the species totals here reach the high 60s, with occasional major finds popping up such as Olive-sided Flycatcher and Lincoln`s Sparrow in the fall and Connecticut Warbler in the spring. All of Georgia`s woodpeckers except the Red-cockaded are found here.
Directions: Cochran Shoals is located on the west bank of the Chattahoochee, just north of I-285, making it easy to find on the map at “10 o`clock” on the Perimeter. Take I-285 to the Northside-Powers Ferry Rd. exit (exit 22). If you are going west on I-285, turn right at the first light onto Interstate North Parkway. Stay on this road as it curves west, through an intersection and crosses the river. After crossing, the parking lot is an immediate right.
If you are going east on I-285, continue east to the second light, then turn left (north) and cross the bridge over I-285 and continue through the traffic light on the other side onto Interstate North Parkway, then continue with instructions above. From this lot, a wide trail leads north along the river for about 1.5 miles before ending in a residential development. The trail loops around to come back out near the beginning point, for a nice overall 3-mile course. There is a $2 parking fee using the pay boxes in the parking lots or a $20 annual pass from the Park Service.
Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park has always been known to have excellent birding habitat. But as the mountain itself has been birded more carefully in the past several years, it has been “discovered” to be the rich migrant stopover it is. While the mountain has always enjoyed the reputation of being the best Atlanta location for observing fall raptor migration movements, we now know that the treelines up and down the paved road to the summit can yield an exciting passerine display.
The 3,000-acre Kennesaw National Battlefield Park is the first location in Georgia to be designated by the Audubon Society as an Important Bird Area .
Bob Zaremba`s Kennesaw Mountain Birding website contains some excellent examples of birding on the mountain.
Directions: From Atlanta drive north on I-75 8.4 miles beyond I-285; turn right at exit 267-B; follow the signs for US 41 for about a mile; turn right onto US 41 at the stoplight; drive 0.6 miles north to the second traffic light; turn left on Bell`s Ferry Rd; take first right onto old US 41; drive 1.1 miles and turn left onto Stilesboro Rd. and then an immediate left into the parking lot. The mountain access road is open to cars during the week, but only to pedestrian travel or the park-operated shuttle bus on weekends. Checklists are available at the Visitors Center.
E. L. Huie facility , owned and operated by the Clayton County Water Authority, is the metro area`s singular best all-around birding area if you are looking for variance in habitat and species. It is one of the best inland locations for shorebirds and waterbirds in the state. There are five ponds inside the facility, and birders can drive the dikes for good views at each pond.
Newman Wetlands Center is farther down Freeman Road on the right, just beyond the bridge. The self-guided boardwalk tour through the wetlands can yield Prothonotary and Kentucky Warbler, and Louisiana Waterthrush during nesting season.
Directions: Take I-75 south beyond I-285 to US 19/41 (Tara Blvd., exit 235); drive south for 8.2 miles to Freeman Rd. and turn left. The Clayton County Authority office is a quarter-mile down Freeman Rd. on the right. The pond complex is across the street. Call the Wetlands Center for information about birding at both sites: 770-603-5606.
Suwanee Creek Greenway
This 85-acre tract will remain largely in its natural state and will serve as the trailhead for the soon-to-be extended Suwanee Creek Greenway. This park, located where Suwanee Creek crosses Buford Highway at the City`s southern limits, eventually will include fishing docks, observation towers, picnic shelters, and unpaved trails.
The trail can be reached two ways:
From I-85, exit GA 317, Suwanee Rd., turn left (right if exiting from I-85 south) and continue on Lawrenceville-Suwanee Rd. until you come to Buford Hwy. Take a right and continue to George Pierce Park on your right. Pass the soccer fields on the right, take a left to park at the last soccer field or continue past the Nature Trail to the end of the road and park.
From I-85, exit GA 317, Suwanee Rd, turn left (right if exiting from I-85 south) and continue to Satellite Blvd, turn left and then right at the sign for Suwanee Creek Greenway. Parking at this trail entrance will be down the road on your left.
Elachee Nature Science Center
Open Monday through Saturday (except Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year`s Eve). Trails are open daily from 8 am to dusk. Use of the trails is free. Regular Center admission is: $3 for adults, $1.50 for children ages 2 to 12, and free for Elachee members.
Elachee hosts more than twelve miles of hiking trials taking the birder through pine forests, hardwood ridges, streams, and wetlands. Elachee is part of the 1300-acre Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve
F rom Atlanta on I-85:
I-85 N to I-985 toward Gainesville.
Take Exit 16 – Oakwood. Turn left off the ramp.
Take 2nd right onto Frontage Rd. and follow it until it dead ends into Atlanta Hwy., SR 13. Turn left onto Atlanta Hwy.
Pass the Chicopee Woods Golf Course on the right. Elachee Drive is the next street to the right.
From the north on I-985/365:
Take Hwy. 365/I-985 south to Exit 16 – Oakwood. Turn right off the ramp.
Take an immediate right onto Frontage Rd.
Go to end of road. Turn left onto Atlanta Hwy.
Pass the Chicopee Woods Golf Course on the right. Elachee Drive is the next street to the right.
From Hwy. 400:
Take exit for Gainesville/Hwy.306.
Turn east onto Hwy. 306.
At the first traffic signal turn right onto Hwy. 369.
Travel 10+ miles toward Gainesville. You will come to a major intersection and traffic signal at McEver Rd. Continue straight on Hwy. 369.
At next traffic signal turn right onto Memorial Park Drive. Go to end of road.
Turn right onto Atlanta Hwy.
Elachee Drive is on the left past the overpass.
Located 35 miles north of Atlanta and the outer loop of I-285, this Atlanta Tract is composed of wetlands, upland hardwoods, mixed pine/hardwood forests, bottomland hardwoods and old field succession. A great place for a nice mixture of species including all the local woodpeckers, Great Blue Heron rookery, winter sparrows, spring and fall migrating warblers and tanagers. Open areas afford good watching sites for migratory hawks including Peregrine Falcons and Northern Harriers.
Directions: Take GA 400 north approximately 35 miles to Dawson County. Turn left (west) on Dawson Forest Road, drive across Hwy 9 into the Atlanta Tract of Dawson Forest. The wetland area is located just inside the gate. A paved road continues for 6 miles and ends at the Etowah River. There are other tracts off Hwy 53, west of Dawsonville. These areas are gated and require parking at the entrance and walking in. Habitat is great for old field succesion birds, along with mixed hardwood/pine forests and riparian areas near the Amicalola River. Blue-winged Warblers nest in some of these areas.