Legacy Park has emerged as the region’s premier avian sanctuary.
For some folks, pandemic life was literally for the birds.
Such was the case for Decatur area neighbor Josh Jackson, who discovered birdwatching as a coping mechanism during those decidedly trying times. It didn’t take him long to recognize what many avid bird lovers have also come to know: “Legacy Park,” he wrote in an essay for Paste magazine, “has turned out to be an oasis for birds of all kinds.”
“I’ve seen 108 different species of birds at Legacy Park,” he said, “from Indigo Buntings to Baltimore Orioles to Hooded Mergansers to the only Yellow-billed Cuckoo I’ve ever been able to photograph.”
Jackson ultimately chronicled his affection for Legacy Park multiple times, including an ode to the Barn Owl that thrilled onlookers daily during the spring of 2021.
Legacy Park's barn owl who appeared daily during the spring of 2021.
Preserve it and they will come
Legacy Park’s diversity of birds is directly attributable to its diversity of habitat — from its 22 protected acres of forest, pond and wetlands, to the carefully managed rolling meadows that surround them.
To wit, Josh Daniel, Director of Landscape Architecture for Cooper Carry, was part of the team that created the Legacy Park master plan and knows meadow care inside and out.
“Wildflower meadows are incredibly productive landscapes,” says Daniel, “so watching a meadow undergo maintenance like mowing can be unnerving. We may sense that the habitat – which provides homes for so many creatures – is being eliminated. But wildflower meadows are resilient, and they evolved with regular animal grazing. As animals – or our modern equivalent: mowers – take down the plant stalks, the plants respond by increasing root development – building a stronger underground system for improved stormwater management, soil stabilization and improved habitat for all.”
Late winter or early spring mowing is best for this yearly maintenance, as birds with meadow homes have a defined nesting season, typically from April to August. Mowing outside of this period prevents nest destruction and also allows the fledglings time to develop and leave the nest.
This is why Legacy Park's once a year scheduled meadow mowing takes place in February, and why it should be no cause for alarm for park visitors.
Adds Daniel, “Dead stems that remain through the winter have provided a beneficial environment for insects and wildlife while the new meadow growth has yet to emerge. Following the February cut, meadows are primed to perform at their best as the new growing season approaches.”
Protect and nurture them and they’ll thrive
Creating a safe and inviting environment where birds can flourish is one means of protection. But threats still exist — predators and other factors common in urban environments — that threaten bird populations.
Georgia’s state bird, for example, has seen its population decline by more than 40%. And over the past half century, more than one in every four birds across the country has been lost to environmental threats.
Enter Legacy Park nonprofit tenant, Wild Nest.
Wild Nest Bird Rehab, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization led completely by volunteers, opened its doors at Legacy Park in September 2021 and strives to mitigate these losses by helping every bird they can — rehabilitating sick, injured, and orphaned birds for release back into the wild.
Scenes from the daily work of Wild Nest Bird Rehab.
In addition to bird rehabilitation, they further educate the public about bird conservation and simple actions people can take at home to help birds.
Thanks to the support of the community, in 2022 they were able to care for more than 1,500 songbirds. During the height of the baby season (May-August) they hosted more than 100 patients at any given time, with a licensed rehabilitator and volunteer teams in place for 12+ hours each day. In addition, the organization educates the community by answering thousands of calls from people with questions or concerns about birds.
As the only rehabilitation center in Georgia dedicated to the care of native birds and educating the public about their conservation, Wild Nest’s unique, purpose-led community relies on volunteers, partners, and donors to accomplish its mission. They are always looking for dedicated individuals and have numerous volunteer opportunities, including helping with bird care, facilities maintenance, administrative tasks, marketing, and more.
If you’re interested in contributing to this vital work, please click through below to volunteer.
COVER PHOTO CREDIT: © Josh Jackson
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