December: It was a perfect day for the annual Christmas Fern and Holly Hike with Eleanor and Wendell Hoomes. As usual, we had both the fast walkers led by Eleanor and the slower walkers led by Wendell. This year we had two visitors from the Douglasville Photography club, Stella Spyrou and Janet Newton, who provided the wonderful pictures presented here. We visited Wendell’s favorite Hawthorne tree, and checked up on a few old standby’s, like the pipsissewa and the wild ginger, who seem to like to keep company with the greenery of the hollies and the ferns. It was truly a magnificent day. Thank you Wendell and Eleanor – and Stella and Janet!
November: For the FOMR November Walk and Talk, Sally Bethea, Chattahoochee River Keeper, paid a visit to the amphitheater at McIntosh Reserve Park. As they celebrate their 18th birthday, the CRK is now keeper for the entire Chattahoochee River, throughout its extent from the national forest above Helen to Lake Seminole on the Florida line; the Apalachicola Riverkeeper protects the last 100 miles of the river system as it flows into the Gulf of Mexico. There are other groups throughout its range that are concerned with the health and utilization of the river, and the CRK plans to interact with these groups for a united purpose. There are 8 fulltime and 4 part-time employees of CRK. Jill Sistino, based in LaGrange, has taken on the role of coordinating activities in the West Point Lake area.
Sally explained that the City of Atlanta has been approved by the US EPA for an extension in time to complete the clean-up program for its sewer system. The CRK is in agreement for a number of reasons. There are 1500 miles of sewer lines in Atlanta. The situation has improved significantly by the reduction of 97 percent of the volume of sewage spills that were occurring in the 1990s, since the inception of the CRK lawsuit against the City, and there has been good faith in meeting the deadlines along the way. However, the last little bit is very difficult, and will be very expensive. By 2014, the city should be 99 percent complete with repairs, but estimate they will need another 13 years to get the last improvements in place.
The CRK has become the main supporter of the adopt-a-stream program, where they continue to seek groups to take on the task of monitoring streams in the watershed area of the Chattahoochee. These groups are extremely helpful in detecting hotspot problems throughout the system.
Locally, thanks to a grant from the Alice Richards Foundation, the CRK is now engaged in a project of monitoring Snake Creek in 5 locations.
The group is also concerned with monitoring both the quality of the river and the amount of water flow at critical sites along the river. The ultimate goal is for there to be an integrated system of monitoring so that any disturbance in flow can be detected early enough to adjust the release rate from the dams along the river. The system now in place is not automated and is too slow and unreliable for timely intervention.
Finally, the cooperation of CRK with other environmental watch groups around the state to determine each year the 12 most serious offenders to the water quality in the state. By publiciSally discussed zing these difficult areas, there is hope that citizen concern will lead to the alleviation of the problem areas.
For more information and to join CRK, visit www.chattahoochee.org
October: A cool fall evening provided the perfect backdrop for the second and latest installment of the Chattahoochee Story Project, this time a campfire beside the river. Approximately 50 folks – old-timers and youngsters alike – gathered by the Chattahoochee at McIntosh Reserve to share stories over roasted marshmallows, apples, and s’mores. The youngest storyteller was 5, the oldest just turned 90! Storytellers came from as far away as France, New York, and Bowdon, and included Boy Scout Pack 970. The stories spanned a wide number of rivers besides our own. They included tales about bridges over French rivers, surprise catches in fishing nets, embarrassing clothing incidents, rescues from river mishaps, and also stories that remind us of those who protect our rivers and their inhabitants. These unforgettable stories weave together community and a lifelong love of the river. (The Chattahoochee Story Project is dedicated to creating safe, fun, multigenerational venues for local storytelling and collecting our stories about rivers.)
August: Walk and Talk: Warm season grasses and sedges with Dr. David Morgan of West Georgia University. Fourteen of us hiked along the river and across to the “wetlands” (now dried up and covered with grasses and sedges). While Dr. Morgan tried to keep us focused on grasses (over 100 species in the park) and sedges (over 50 species in the park), he was patient as we continually brought samples of tree leaves or composites for him to identify. We were also captivated and distracted by several animal species as well- including a nest of yellow jackets that sent several of us home a bit early.
July: Dale Arrowood of Winged Ambassadors demonstrated the prowess of seven of his birds of prey and shared his knowledge of the birds and the history of falconry for the Walk and Talk attendees. We saw a Eurasian Eagle Owl, native to Asia and Europe. With a mature weight of 7 pounds and a wing span of 6 feet, this species is the largest owl on the planet. It can exert 1200-1300 pound of crushing power. They can live to be 60 years of age. The Great Horned Owl is the most widely distributed owl in the Americas. The female is 30% larger than the male. They can fly extremely quietly. Skunks are their favorite prey and they have 700- 760 pounds gripping strength. Dale’s Barn Owl was named Banshee, because of the Irish legend related to barn owls and the “banshee scream” of the barn owl while hunting. It is noted for its quiet flight, nest on the ground and its propensity to consume 45,000 mice each year. The Black Vulture, Quasi Mota, was very entertaining. Dale said he is probably his most intelligent bird. With a lifespan of 30 to 40 years, they are amazing for their ability to handle all sorts of microorganisms in their diet and are credited for keeping disease down. The black vulture is the subject of research in trying to determine how this bird is able to digest all sorts of pathogens. The feet of a buzzard are white due to his defecating on his legs and feet to kill the bacteria. They mate for life and nest on the ground. The Red Tail Hawk is noted for the double wing over dive that served as an inspiration for the Tuskegee airmen in World War II. They can reach 125mph in a dive. They have a spectacular courtship flight consisting of dives and passes. Lobo, a Harris Hawk, native to the SW desert, demonstrated how he could dive from the tree to retrieve his food. Once he got his food he covered his catch with his wings by hovering over it with his wings spread wide. His species are pack hunters and live in families. Stratus, the falcon, is a cross between a Saker Falcon and a Gyrfalcon. Flacons have been widely used since biblical times for hunting. Falcons were nearing extinction but have made a remarkable come back. Many well know men have enjoyed falconry such as King Solomon, Moses, Gen. Patton, the Kennedy clan to name a few.
June: Scot Keith, Archeologist with New South Associates, spoke about the excavations at the Leak site near Cartersville, GA which has been researched off and on since the 1870’s. The site is important because it was a link in the Native American trail system between the southeastern coastal tribes and the mid-western tribes who accessed the Atlantic coast through the Tennessee valley. He showed evidence of pottery shards and other artifacts at the site from both the coast and mid-western tribes each having unique identifiable characteristics. The importance of this site may also have resulted from geological outcroppings of copper and other minerals which had spiritual implications for these peoples. Native American activity at the site declined over 600 years ago and he speculated that changes in religious practices may have been a reason. The site has been heavily industrialized but the City of Cartersville has acquired some of the land for a public park, which is being developed with walking trails and kiosks to tell of the Native American historical significance. Scott is very passionate and knowledgeable about the archeological significance of this site and wants to help promote future additional preservation efforts.
May: Song Bird Walk and Talk with Dr. Barbara Ballentine (UWG) and Dr. Jeremy Hyman ( Western Carolina University.) We had clear views of a Bald Eagle sunning in the trees on the other side of the river, and a Yellow Crowned Night Heron and a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers in the wetlands. We caught glimpses of but mostly heard the Summer Tanager, the Parula Warbler, the Red-bellied Woodpecker, the Yellow Billed Cuckoo, the Indigo Bunting, the Northern Rough-winged Swallow, the Eastern Meadowlark, as well as the other more familiar residents we see at our feeders (Northern Cardinal, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee, Rufous-sided Towhee.) We observed the reactions of birds to the alarm calls produced by a Carolina Wren that were recorded and stored on an MP3 player and projected from a small speaker by Dr. Hyman. Many species of songbirds will respond to alarm calls produced by other species by inspecting the area and producing their own alarm calls. Alarm calling behavior informs a potential predator that they have been spotted, removing the element of surprise and reducing the likelihood of a successful hunt!
April: The Spring Wildflower hike with Wendell and Eleanor Hoomes again featured two hikes – the fast walkers with Eleanor, and the slow walkers with Wendell. Even though the hike was slightly earlier in the month than usual, many flowering plants were already past their prime. It seems that spring comes earlier these days.
March: Drew Olsen, 2011 winner of the Legends Division of the 2011 Supreme Extreme Mustang presented a program on the trainer’s perspective on preparing a young or “green” horse for trail riding on trails shared with hikers and cyclists. His insight into equine behavior was a benefit to all who encounter horses on mixed-use trails, especially hikers, cyclists, and parents with small children.
February: We met at the Moore’s Bridge Park for an update on the development of that park by Trudy Crunkleton, Director of Parks for Carroll County. Some work has been done for the trails on the Black Dirt side of the park. Eventually – in the future, as this is a DOT project – there will be a paved trail along the river, connecting to other river trails outside the park. Inside, there will be many miles of trails for use by both equestrians and hikers. Eventually, there will be camping available, as well. Doug Mabry also shared his progress in accumulating historical documents for Moore’s Bridge.
January: DNR Wildlife Biologist, Brent Womack, spoke about small game and their habitat relationships. A rainstorm prevented the planned hike through the woodlands, pastures and wetlands.