100 Birds in 100 Days—Paste Editor Finds a Salve for Social Distancing

Science Features Birds
100 Birds in 100 Days—Paste Editor Finds a Salve for Social Distancing

Josh Jackson is Paste’s co-founder and editor-in-chief. Back in the spring, after being cooped up at home, he began finding solace in the nature outside his window, eventually challenging himself to find and photograph 100 different species of birds around Atlanta in 100 days. Follow the project on Instagram and Twitter.

Back in April, after a couple weeks of working from home, I hung a bird feeder that had been sitting unused in my garage. While missing the energy of the Paste office and the bands who’d stop by to perform in the new Paste Studio in downtown Atlanta, I started noticing the birds in my small, urban backyard, and realized I often didn’t know what I was looking at. It turns out the colorful bird hopping on the ground just outside my window wasn’t some funny-looking Robin, but an Eastern Towhee. That flock of exquisitely colored birds with little black masks that were darting en masse from tree to tree were Cedar Waxwings. I’d lived in Atlanta most of my life, but realized I hadn’t really paid attention its flying fauna.

Atlanta Bird of the Day #96: Eastern Towhee

Atlanta Bird of the Day #75: Cedar Waxwing

The stress of isolation—of closed offices and crashing advertising markets—was making it harder to go back to sleep after waking up in the middle of the night, so I began going for early-morning walks and carrying a pair of binoculars with me. I started visiting places I didn’t even know existed before the pandemic. It seemed there were as many great parks and nature reserves around Atlanta as there were birds that I had no idea ever visited my city. From the granite outcroppings of Davidson-Arabia Mountain to the marshy wetlands of Constitution Lakes to forests around the Chattahoochee River, there are so many places to experience nature in and around Atlanta, one of the greenest cities in America. And barely five minutes from my house, Legacy Park in Decatur has turned out to be an oasis for birds of all kinds.

I used the Merlin app to identify the birds and the eBird app to keep track of what I’d seen. By the end of June, I bought a telephoto lens for my wife’s camera and started carrying it with me and soon after started the Birds of Atlanta project, seeing how many different species I could photograph and post to Instagram and Twitter.

My goal was to make it to 100 days. Thanks to all the sparrows, raptors, warblers, wading birds, ducks and colorful visitors who pass through during their migration to more tropical climates, I’ve made it. My newest “lifer” bird, the Blue-headed Vireo I saw on the way to the Paste office yesterday morning, was Atlanta Bird of the Day #100. I’ll keep going until I run out of birds. Here are some other birds I’ve found along with way.

Atlanta Bird of the Day #100: Blue-headed Vireo, one of at least five very different Vireos you can find around Atlanta.

Atlanta Bird of the Day #42: Red-tailed Hawk, the biggest of Atlanta’s hawks and a terror to just about every kind of rodent in the city.

Atlanta Bird of the Day #2: Northern Parula, a tiny warbler who can be found in Atlanta from March through November, if you’re lucky.

Atlanta Bird of the Day #78: Eastern Phoebe singing its song in the wetlands of Clyde Shepherd Nature Reserve.

Atlanta Bird of the Day #74: Canada Geese flying over Legacy Park in Decatur.

Atlanta Bird of the Day #81: Green Heron showing off its expert fishing skills on an early morning at Legacy Park in Decatur.

Atlanta Bird of the Day #84: Wood Duck, one of the only year-round ducks in Atlanta and a pretty spectacular example of the artistry of nature.

Follow Josh Jackson on Twitter @joshjackson or Birds of Atlanta on Instagram and Twitter.

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