In early May, bird lovers from across the Southeast will flock to Unicoi State Park for north Georgia’s only major birding festival.  With more than 60 field trips, programs and hands-on activities to choose from, Georgia Mountain BirdFest open to birders of all ages and skill levels.

Joe Duff of Operation Migration will be the keynote speaker, telling about his experience of guiding hand-raised Whooping Cranes via ultralight on their first migration. Other presenters include E.J. Williams, a migratory bird specialist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and avid birders Cameron Cox of Leica Sport Optics and Georgann Schmalz of Birding Adventures, Inc.

Running May 3 – 6, 2012, the festival includes more than 20 guided field trips to locations such as Ivy Log Gap Road, Brasstown Bald, Smithgall Woods, Anna Ruby Falls, Sosebee Cove and the normally restricted Buck Shoals.  More than 60 seminar topics cover bats and butterflies as well as birds, with titles such as Binoculars 101, Warbler ID, Tree ID, Bat Conservation in Georgia, Nature Photography and Birding by Ear.  Vendors include Leica Optics, wildlife artist Alan Young, Wild Birds Unlimited and others.

“Early-bird” registration for the four-day conference is $110 until March 15. Beginning March 16, registration will be $135.  To register, visit www.gamtnbirdfest.com or call 706-878-2201 ext. 305.

Unicoi State Park in Helen offers a choice of accommodations, beautiful scenery and abundant outdoor recreation.  Hotel-style lodge rooms are available for $59, fully equipped cottages are $105-$150, and modern campsites are $25-$53.  With 1,050 acres of forest, streams and a lake, as well as eight miles of hiking trails, Unicoi State Park is known for exceptional wildlife viewing.  During spring, visitors may see Golden-winged Warblers, Cerulean Warblers, Scarlet Tanagers, Indigo Buntings and numerous other species in the north Georgia mountains. The park is two hours north of Atlanta, just outside Bavarian-themed Helen.

Georgia Mountain BirdFest is sponsored by Friends of Unicoi State Park.

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