Summit Grove

Summit Grove is a small neighborhood in Oconee County, Georgia, about an hour’s drive east of Atlanta. Most of the homes were built a decade or two ago on the site of an old pecan grove, and many pecan trees still shade the two quiet streets and large grassy yards. Located between two creeks that converge not far from our house, the neighborhood is buffered on roughly three sides by a wide band of woods extending down steep hillsides to the creeks. A few lots remain unoccupied by houses and have grown up in tall grasses, shrubs and small trees, and there’s one small pond. There’s also a large old field that runs the length of the dead-end road that leads to our subdivision and the one next to it, called Summit Oaks. Beyond that field lies a busy highway, U.S. 441.

The neighborhood’s mix of woods, fields, creeks, shrubs and lawns attracts many bird species, as well as white-tailed deer, bobcats, foxes, coyotes, bats, turtles, frogs, snakes, butterflies and other forms of wildlife. We’ve identified at least 102 species of birds, including both residents and those just passing through. The woods that provide the most important part of the landscape are made up mostly of hardwoods – white oak, red oak, water oak, tulip poplar, sweet gum, beech, and American hornbeam, with dogwoods in the understory and pines in some areas. Because I’m especially interested in them, most of my natural observations focus on birds, but I’m also trying to become a better observer, and to learn more about the other members of the natural community here.

Although I frequently visit other places to watch birds and other wildlife, I have always felt most interested in what I observe around our own home. I write about my observations here, in part, because I believe it’s important to live with the natural world – not only to visit it on weekends or vacations. It’s important that we learn to recognize and value the plants, animals and natural communities around our own homes, so that we understand that conservation of the natural world is not something that only needs to be done somewhere else, in some pristine or exotic place. The natural world – even the grandest and most spectacular places – will be protected in the long run only if more of us come to know it and respect it here at home.

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