Cranes & Waterfowl: A Winter Week in the Southeast
December 1 - 7, 2020
Leader: Jan Hansen
$1650 from Lenoir City
This short driving tour will provide participants with an opportunity to spend time birding in four southeastern states: Tennessee; Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. Though perhaps not thought of as "bucket list" destinations by most birders, each state has much to offer visiting birders. Through my efforts to see 150 birds in every U.S. state, I have spent time in many out of the way and little known places and have learned that there is something worthwhile and interesting see practically everywhere, and these states are no exception.
During the tour we will visit the Hiawasee Wildlife Refuge in Tennessee, the winter home of the largest Sandhill Crane flock in the eastern United States; Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge in Alabama, where up to 15 Whooping Cranes have joined the wintering flock of sandhills for at least the past 10 years; the Bradley Unit of Eufala NWR in Georgia where large numbers of wintering waterfowl congregate each year and where it is possible to encounter seldom seen birds like King Rail and Barn Owl; Harris Neck NWR in Georgia's Coastal Plain where birds like Wood Stork, Roseate Spoonbill and Purple Galliunule will be possible and Huntington Beach State Park, the Palmetto state's premier birding venue.
During the course of the trip we can expect to record 125+ species of birds and witness the spectacle of large concentrations of wintering ducks, geese, cranes and raptors. However, rather than frenetically racing about trying to accumulate a lengthy list, we will bird at a leisurely pace and take time for photography and discussion of some of the more difficult identification issues that might arise. In that sense, this will be a good tour for both experienced and inexperienced birders alike. Though many of the birds we see along the way will probably be familiar, we are certain to turn up something a bit out of the ordinary that will add some spice to the adventure.
To maximize safety for everyone we will not travel together in a large van. Instead this will be a self-driving tour and the number of participants will be limited to six. We will also not have group meals in restaurants, but instead will stay in hotels with microwaves and refrigerators so that participants can eat in their rooms. By following these safety protocols we can reduce close contact and thus minimize risk of contracting Covid-19.