Seeing wildlife while exploring historic sites along Georgia’s coast is easier and more engaging thanks to a new website and app features announced Tuesday by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
The launch of georgiabirdingtrails.com and the addition of a trail function to the Go Outdoors Georgia app are part of DNR Wildlife Resources Division efforts to expand its Georgia Birding and Wildlife Trails program. The upgrades offer improved accessibility to wildlife viewing resources and support Georgia’s strong interest in birding and other wildlife watching, activities that pack a $2 billion annual economic impact statewide.
The Colonial Coast Birding Trail, developed in 1999 and Georgia’s premier state wildlife trail, is the first trail updated under the new Birding and Wildlife Trails program.
The Colonial Coast Trail includes 17 sites stretching from Fort Pulaski National Monument and the beaches of Tybee Island south to Cumberland Island National Seashore and the swamps of the Okefenokee.
Shorelines, salt marshes, old rice fields, woodlands, tidal rivers and freshwater wetlands offer an array of habitats that showcase unique communities of birds and other wildlife. The trail includes federal, state and local sites that provide the opportunity to encounter wildlife, connect with nature and visit historic places.
“Promoting outdoor recreation and wildlife conservation is part of our mission at the Wildlife Resources Division,” said Rusty Garrison, division director. “We’re excited to introduce a more accessible platform for Georgia Birding and Wildlife Trails and encourage more people to discover the fascinating natural and cultural resources that Georgia has to offer.”
This program is made possible through partnerships. Colonial Coast Trail partners include the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites, Jekyll Island Authority, the Savannah-Ogeechee Canal Society, local governments and area tourism organizations.
The Colonial Coast Trail’s wild blend of nature and history is especially evident at the Savannah-Ogeechee Canal Museum and Nature Center. Built between 1826 and 1830, the canal was used to transport crops and goods from inland plantations to the shipping port of Savannah. Connie Shreve, also known as Connie the Canoe Lady, is the master naturalist at the center.
“The native and non-native birds that visit the Savannah-Ogeechee Canal daily and seasonally are phenomenal,” Ms. Shreve said. “It's amazing seeing how many varieties of birds frequent the canal on their migration journeys."
The Georgia Birding and Wildlife Trails website introduces each trail site with access tips, a map, a list of amenities, wildlife highlights and a link to eBird hotspots. Wildlife viewing resources include a printable species checklist with seasonality data, as well as information on birding basics, Georgia Audubon chapters, citizen science projects, bird curricula and conservation organizations. A new program logo showcases the great blue heron, a familiar species found throughout the state.
Funding for some outreach items at trail sites and visitor centers was provided through a federal Recreational Trails Program grant.
The Colonial Coast Birding Trail has also been added to the free Go Outdoors GA app developed by Brandt Information Services. The mobile platform provides an on-the-go resource for trail users to learn about trail sites, get directions, keep a species checklist and browse recent eBird sightings. And even more upgrades are coming soon.
The app can be downloaded on mobile devices through the Apple or Google Play store.
The program improvements provide the foundation for updating DNR’s Southern Rivers Birding Trail, developed in 2003, and for adding new trails to encourage wildlife viewing in Georgia.
While travel can be a challenge during the pandemic, getting outside is a great way to recreate responsibly and enjoy nature. Follow social distancing guidelines and check with individual trail sites before planning a trip to determine the latest visitation policies. Additional tips are available at responsible-recreation.org.
Visit georgiabirdingtrails.com to learn more about Colonial Coast Birding Trail sites, brush up on birding basics, download the mobile app and print a species checklist to carry with you. Hit the trail and discover why so many people are Wild about Georgia.