Augusta-Aiken Audubon Society offers adventures in birding and nature

·3 min read

Oct. 17—After observing wild birds on her own for many years, Mary Jo Dawson decided to get involved in the Augusta-Aiken Audubon Society.

It turned out to be a good decision.

"First and foremost, I joined to improve my birding skills, and it has made me a much better birder," said Dawson, who is the director of the Aiken-Bamberg-Barnwell-Edgefield Regional Library System. "I've met people who have been birding for decades in this area, and they've raised my awareness of not just the best places to go, but also the best time of year to go there."

They've also helped Dawson do a better job of identifying birds.

"The more different types of birds I see, the more it whets my appetite to see them all," she said. "That's every birder's secret dream, to see every bird in the world."

In addition, Dawson gets a kick from just being outdoors.

"There is so much beauty, and it's close by and accessible," she said. "You just have to slow down and look."

The Augusta-Aiken Audubon Society is a chapter of the National Audubon Society, which was founded in 1905. The national organization's mission is to protect birds and their habitats.

The Augusta-Aiken chapter meets six times a year. In addition, its members participate in activities such as butterfly and bird counts, water quality monitoring and the maintenance of a native pollinator garden that they established at East Aiken School of the Arts.

"Field trips are our biggest thing," said Lois Stacy, the Augusta-Aiken chapter's president.

She leads those excursions, which take place during every season. Phinizy Swamp, Lovers Lane in Augusta and the Silver Bluff Audubon Center and Sanctuary are among the locations visited.

The field trips provide opportunities to observe a variety of birds that live in or visit Georgia and South Carolina.

"You never know what they are going to be doing," Stacy said. "We've watched great blue herons catch snakes and beat them on the ground."

There's also a chance that birds not usually seen in the CSRA will be spotted.

"They show up where they're not supposed to be," Stacy said. "We've had a glaucous gull at Brickyard (Merry) Ponds in the winter. I had a Wilson's warbler in my yard recently."

And if there aren't a lot of birds to watch during the field trips or they're not doing anything interesting, there are other sights to enjoy.

"We end up looking at things like dragonflies, butterflies, plants and reptiles," Stacy said.

For more information about the Augusta-Aiken Audubon Society, visit the chapter's page on Facebook or augustaaikenaudubon.org.

Dawson especially likes the chapter's Facebook page.

"Folks share their sightings (of birds) and their photographs, which are a pleasure to look at," she said. "It's one of the few places on Facebook that I avidly visit. I probably look at it a couple of times a week, more frequently than my family and friends' pages."

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