When the competition started at 5 P.M. on Friday evening, the Mockingjays were positioned at the State Botanical Gardens of Georgia. Once the clock struck five, the birding began. We got many inland warblers like Prothonotary and Swainsons Warblers, as well as Northern Waterthrush.
After two and a half hours of birding there, we birded some other local hot spots to patch up our inland birds list before we went to the coast. Seventy species later, we started our overnight drive to the coast. At around 2 A.M. we finally got our missing Nightjar, Whip Poor Will, putting us at an even seventy species for the first day. We came into our campsite at three A.M. and got a little bit of sleep.
At 5:30 A.M. we all got up and went to St. Simons Island for out first stop, seeing many specialties there such as:
- Gray Kingbird
- American White Pelican
- Clapper Rail
- Common Ground Dove
- Painted Bunting
We then started our drive to Altamaha Wildlife Management Area. There we picked up another thirty or so species including our highlight of the stop, Least Bittern. After braving the mosquitoes at Altamaha, we began the journey all the way back inland to Charlie Elliot Wildlife Center.
On the way we picked up a couple raptors as well as Eastern Kingbird and Eastern Meadowlark. We arrived at Charlie Elliot an hour before the deadline (as planned) and birded the surrounding areas and got seven more key species.
At five o'clock, we stopped birding and submitted our checklist to the judges. We are proud to say no species were taken off our list and we got all of the 143 species that we saw or heard. Partly because we had photographic evidence of many of the birds.
Great Egret in the morning sun by John Mark Simmons
Summer Tanager by John Mark Simmons