Birding is a very popular activity at West Point Lake. With its varied habitats and rich ecosystem, West Point Lake is home to a vast array of waterfowl, songbirds, and raptors, and birders can’t resist. Sit on benches along the Chattahoochee River at the base of West Point Dam and watch the cormorants dive for fish, or hunker down in the tree line on a track of thousands of acres of forest and watch for the northern parula.
Birding is not hard. All it takes is a desire to break away from the hustle and bustle and chaos to sit and listen and watch. If you’re getting into birding, there are a few basics you should know.
Where to Go Birding
The birding locations at West Point Lake are quite diverse, ranging from marshes to forests and grasslands.
- Brush Creek Park. This location is undoubtedly the No. 1 hotspot for wildlife on West Point Lake. Brush Creek Park and the islands downriver is a hotspot for great egrets and blue herons. As many as 50 great egrets, 20 blue herons, cormorants, killdeer, kingfishers, hawks, osprey, and bald eagles have been observed here in one day, all within a 4-mile stretch. New River, located two miles downriver, is a hotspot for nesting bald eagles! If you kayak or canoe, this location is a must! Take your time paddling and you may see deer and turkey along the bank, watch eagles soar and swoop down to catch fish, as well as kingfishers nosediving. Paddle up to a bank and look for tracks in the sand for raccoons, waterfowl, bobcat, deer, coyote, and more. If you plan to paddle this route, check the West Point Dam Generation Schedule to estimate the strength of the water current.
- Hardley Creek Park. Hardley Creek Park at the base of West Point Dam is the ideal birding spot for observing water fowl, such as cormorants, loons, ducks, geese, gulls, grebes, and mergansers. Bring your binoculars and make yourself comfortable on the observation deck as you watch cormorants dive for their dinner.
- Beaver Lodge Nature Trail. Beaver Lodge Nature Trail, with its lush swamp and boardwalks that extend the width of the swamp, is a great location for observing wading birds, along with song birds, amphibians, and reptiles. Look for blue herons and great egrets here. Duck, owl, and bluebird nest boxes are also stationed here.
- Eagle View Park. Eagle View Park, West Overlook Park, and the observation deck behind West Point Lake Visitor Center overlook the widest section of the lake, and are great locations during spring and summer to watch bald eagles and osprey soar through the sky, scan the water for fish, then swoop down to pluck fish from just below the water surface.
- Georgia DNR Wildlife Management Area. The Georgia DNR Wildlife Management Area, and other WMAs at West Point Lake, provide miles of dirt roads and thousands of acres of forest, and is dotted with ponds and fields. Hike these areas and look for grasslands birds, such as the eastern meadowlark and the indigo bunting. Listen and try to locate turkeys, the pileated woodpecker, northern bobwhite, great horned owl, and chuck-will’s-widow.
- Under Bridges. Drop anchor under bridges during spring for a close-up view of swallows as they build their mud nests, and watch as they swarm the sky at dusk.
- Parks. Bluebird nest boxes, duck nest boxes, owl nest boxes, and raptor platforms are located at various parks surrounding West Point Lake. You can view the location of these boxes on our map of Bird Nest Boxes and Platforms. And take a stroll through the park’s various nature trails as you search for red-tailed hawks.
When to Go Birding
Birding is a year-round activity, but seasonal migrations account for sighting of different species during different times of the year. To view a listing of documented sightings of when and where birds are most frequently observed, view eBird’s Bird Observations at West Point Lake.
- Spring and Summer. Spring and summer months reveals the masses. Watch for purple martins, swallows, the scarlet tanager, blue grosbeak, yellow-throated vireo, chimney swift, and so many, many more.
- Fall and Winter. Fall and winter brings the greater scaup, buffleheads, loons, grebes, gulls, terns, hermit thrush, cedar waxwing, and the winter wren.
- Year-round. Year-round residents include the great blue heron, great egret, killdeer, Canada goose, mallard duck, osprey, turkey vulture, belted kingfisher, red-bellied woodpecker, northern flicker, eastern towhee, American goldfinch, and more.
There are only two absolute essentials that you need for birding, and that is a pair of binoculars and a field guide to help you identify birds. Anything else is extra.
- Binoculars. Binoculars with a range of 8 x 42 are recommended. A monocular and/or spotting scope is also an option.
- Field guide. There are a wide variety of field guides available in print and online. A simple starter field guide app is Merlin Bird ID, provided by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
- Notebook. A notebook and pencil for noting observations, activities, and any other special notes.
- Checklist. A journal to record the date and location of each bird species spotted.
Dress for success. Birds can see color very well. Wearing bright colors will trigger birds to set off nature’s alarm system, and every bird in the neighborhood will steer clear. Although there is no need to go all-out camo, you will need to wear colors that blend with the environment, such as browns and grays.
Cargo pants or a birding vest is great for holding your field guide, notebook, pencil, camera accessories, and cell phone. Call this your birding kit, and keep it packed and ready to go. A brimmed hat is also quite beneficial for keeping the sun out of your eyes.
Know Your Birds
To help you better identify the birds you see, learn the identification clues, such as shape, silhouette, behavior, song, and color. You can differentiate between birds by where you see them, whether they are on the ground, in the trees, on a fence or wire, swimming or wading, even how they fly.