For the multitudes of us who love being outdoors, Georgia offers marvelous opportunities all year long to enjoy nature’s wonders. Here are a few nature happenings to look for in 2023:
January: Shed of their leaves, deciduous trees have a special beauty now. The bare limb patterns of soaring oaks, maples, tulip poplars, hickories, sweet gums, and other hardwoods are like exquisite works of art – organic sculptures – when spread against a golden winter sky. A special beauty at month’s end is red maples in bloom.
February: With Georgia’s mild winters, some wildflowers bloom early, such as hepatica, trailing arbutus, and yellow Jessamine. But the star of the show is the bright yellow trout lily. In late February, its mass blooms carpet the gentle slopes along the Trout Lily Trail next to Rottenwood Creek in the Paces Mill unit of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.
March: The wildflower season revs up with the blooming of so-called spring ephemerals – bloodroot, toothwort, Dutchman britches, spring beauty, and others. Their mass blooms make a stunning sight in late March along the famed Shirley Miller Wildflower Trail in the Pocket of Pigeon Mountain in Walker County. Meanwhile, ruby-throated hummingbirds start arriving; bluebirds and Carolina wrens commence nesting.
April: Spring is bursting out all over with the first waves of warblers and other Neotropical songbirds returning from Latin America to nest in Georgia. The trails in the Kennesaw National Battlefield Park in Cobb County offer great opportunities to see the colorful avian migrants. Trilliums, violets, and dogwoods bloom. Butterflies flit about. Hardwoods leaf out.
May: Bird song fills the air as the nesting season moves into full swing. You may need to go no farther than your front yard to see the feathered creatures busily tending their nests.
June: The landscape seems to turn 50 shades of green as summer takes hold. In South Georgia’s famed Okefenokee Swamp and other wetlands, alligators build nests. Terrestrial turtles are breeding. White-tailed fawns are born.
July: Life in the wild slows with summer’s heat. Katydids and cicadas crank up their monotonous droning. With their nesting season wrapping up, hummingbirds return to feeders to fatten up for their arduous fall migration. Summer wildflower blooms include iewel-weed, black-eyed Susan, common milkweed and others.
August: Hummingbirds and some songbirds already start heading south for winter. Babies of several snake species start slithering about. Orb-weaving spider webs appear.
September: Fall songbird migration gets underway in earnest. Highway roadsides and old fields are ablaze with blooms of fall’s iconic wildflowers, goldenrods, and asters.
October: The first blushes of fall leaf color appear early in the month. By month’s end, the colors are in full glory. Spectacular views of the fall foliage can be had from the Richard Russell Scenic Highway (Ga. 348) in North Georgia. Deer rutting season begins. Northern nesting songbirds and ducks arrive for the winter.
November: Fall leaf color peaks during the first week or two. Hardwoods shed their leaves. Black bears, white-tailed deer, squirrels, beavers, and other creatures prepare for winter. Bald eagles and great horned owls begin nesting.
December: Winter brings a quiet over the natural landscape. Amidst the mostly brown terrain, evergreens – pines, cedars, hollies, Christmas ferns, mistletoe, and others – stand out. Some folks gather boughs and sprigs to decorate homes for the holidays.