MOULTRIE — Rangers at Reed Bingham State Park are reporting a significant increase in the number of migratory bird species being seen at the park this year. Migratory sightings typically increase in December as they head south to avoid the northern winters; however, the numbers of species seen thus far are up exceptionally when compared to previous years.

According to interpretive ranger, Jennifer Glover, as many as 10 species or more may be seen from a single location.

“Last Saturday afternoon, we stood in one place and watched an American Kestrel, Lesser Scaups, Common Loons, a Double-crested Cormorant, American Coots, Common Moorhens, Gulls and Ring-necked, Canvasback and Redhead Ducks” she said, almost out of breath.

Other species documented over the past week alone include Ruddy Ducks, Red-Breasted Mergansers, Buffleheads, Hooded Mergansers, Northern Shoveler, Sandhill Cranes and 31 Snow Geese.

Reed Bingham State Park is one of 30 designated sites along the Southern Rivers Birding Trail, which consists of four loops of driving routes through west-central and southwest Georgia. Of the estimated 385 species of birds found in Georgia, more than 262 may be seen along the trail at certain times of the year. Bird-watchers from around the US frequently visit the park. Local birders come even more.

Tifton resident, Wayne Schaffner, has been visiting the park on a regular basis for several months. During one recent visit, he watched a group of 400 Tree Swallows, which he described on a birding website as “little blue-green iridescent festive lights with wings” as they converged in a small area near the dam.

“It was amazing how these birds could hover stationary six inches over the ground while tacking ever so slightly in the face of a 10 mph headwind with constant gusts. It was like watching birds fly in a wind tunnel,” said Schaffner.

His attention was diverted as he found himself watching the reaction of other park guests. “The biggest thrill was seeing so many people walking up with mouth agape, wondering, and enjoying these birds,” he said.

Schaffner also commended Reed Bingham's staff: “The staff and volunteers at the park are energetic, available, and always engaged in promoting education and awareness of all natural resources, including birds.”

Bruce Horn of Albany has been birding at Reed Bingham for nearly 20y years and has personally documented more than 160 species of birds at the park. “Reed Bingham State Park is a wonderful place to go bird watching. The park offers a wide range of habitat that holds a great variety of birds year-round. From waterfowl, waders and shorebirds to birds of prey, warblers and sparrows, in all seasons you can count on a good day of birding,” Horn said.

Park Manager Chet Powell says that he is still learning.

“I'm probably the most inexperienced birder of the park staff.” said Powell. Three years ago, he had reported one of the rarest birds in Georgia without even knowing It.

“During a conservation with Dr. Brad Bergstrom at Valdosta State University about our birding program, I was naming species that might be seen on the tour,” said Powell. Bergstrom stopped him at one point asking, “Did you say a Limpkin?” He answered yes and asked if that was a big deal? Bergstrom replied, “This is a very big deal.” He told Powell to get ready for visitors after the sighting was reported. “I thought he was exaggerating,” said Powell.

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