The osprey sat silently atop a tree, carefully scanning the horizon. In an instant, something in the distance caught its eye, as it outstretched its wings and took to the bright summer sky.
Catching glimpses of these types of birds of prey is a common occurrence, one that can be witnessed throughout the Golden Isles. And ospreys are not the only feathered creatures to be sighted. Hawks and even bald eagles often make frequent appearances, positioned along causeways or in tall trees, cutting a fierce outline against the Coastal vista.
For Eamonn Leonard, it is always thrilling to see these majestic beings in their natural habitats. The chairman of Coastal Wildscapes feels that it allows humans to take a peak into an often unseen world of the birds of prey that call the area home.
It’s one reason the ecological nonprofit group wanted to introduce a program to help locals and guests better connect with a number of species. In 2014, Coastal Wildscapes unveiled a Birds of Prey Lunch and Learn, featuring a number of presenters from the Center for Birds of Prey, located in Awendaw, S.C.
It will return this year from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 29 at the Unitarian Universalists of Coastal Georgia, 1710 Gloucester St., Brunswick. Leonard encourages those interested to sign up online at coastalwildscapes.org, as the 65 spaces quickly fill. The cost is $25 for Coastal Wildscape members, $35 for nonmembers and $15 for youth. The proceeds go back into the program to help continue its mission.
“The whole purpose of Coastal Wildscapes is to really connect people to the ecology of the area and to get them to appreciate Coastal Georgia’s habitat,” he said.
“This is a dynamic program where they bring in live birds, which is an easier way to bridge the gap.”
Since the roll out five years ago, it’s been one of the most popular offerings.
The different birds are showcased up close and personal with some even flying over the assembled crowd. But Leonard notes that the types of birds that appear are always a bit of a surprise.
“It really depends on what’s available to travel so we never really know. It is a rehab center so those who aren’t sick and able to travel that day are the ones that come,” he said.
“This past year, we had baby vultures, various owls and hawks. We have several that are native but usually have one or two that are exotic.”
The point of the program is to illustrate how the birds benefit the whole of the ecosystem and to encourage more beneficial interactions with humans. Leonard hopes the attendees will see the value of all types of birds of prey and better understand the vital roles they play.
“(Attendees) get to understand how they live and better appreciate their role in nature. We want to get them talking about how to help them thrive and not do simple things — like throwing apples out of the car window — that can hinder that,” he said.
“When we had the baby vulture, they talked about how important he is for the ecosystem. They’re the garbage men ... and this one was very gregarious. He was walking around with his wings out, really showing off. It helps to change the dynamic and perspective ... some people think ‘gosh that’s just a vulture.’ But a lot of people don’t understand the important part they play. If we didn’t have them, we’d have dead animals everywhere — they help to keep the balance in nature.”
In addition to the Birds of Prey Lunch and Learn, Coastal Wildscapes is also offering another program for the summer, its Film and Cocktail series, which will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. July 11 at the Ritz Theatre in downtown Brunswick. The cost is $15 for members and $20 for nonmembers. Wine and beer will be provided.
“We’ve also been doing this lecture series since 2014. This film will be about the longleaf pine ecosystem. It was actually put together by Rhett Turner, Ted Turner’s son,” Leonard said.
“The longleaf pine originally covered about 90 million acres and now it’s down to about 3 million. The film talks about how it is pretty much gone since the pines were such a driver of the economy in Darien and Brunswick. It was economically good for our area but it cost us ecologically.”
Together, the Birds of Prey Lunch and Learn and the Film and Cocktail Series are designed to help further the mission of Coastal Wildscapes. Leonard hopes that the public will take an opportunity to learn more about the world around them — and in a comfortable environment.
“Both of these summer programs are indoor events. We want people to learn about ecology without having to get out in the heat,” he said with a laugh.