Category Archives: Rabun

Piedmont to Open Wildlife Sanctuary at Smith Center Near Clayton

Lillian E. Smith Center will open a new wildlife sanctuary on April 23.
Piedmont professor Dr. Tim Menzel leads an outdoor biology class at the Lillian E. Smith Center, which will open a new wildlife sanctuary on April 23.

Piedmont College will formally designate a portion of the Lillian E. Smith Center near Clayton, Georgia, as a wildlife sanctuary, and visitors can get a sneak peek with a nature walk and a reception on Saturday, April 23.

The LES Center is a former camp and home of the late Clayton author Lillian E. Smith. The 150-acre site is operated by the college as an artist retreat and outdoor classrooms. Director Craig Amason said the college is designating about 30 acres as a formal wildlife sanctuary. “The area will be managed specifically as a wildlife habitat, which means that invasive plants will be controlled, with limited use of chemical pesticides and herbicides, in order to maintain and preserve current thriving ecosystems,” Amason said.

The festivities will begin at 8:15 a.m., April 23, with a guided bird and plant nature walk led by Jack Johnston, a local native plant specialist and avid birder. The cost per person for the two-hour excursion through the Center’s forest trails is $5. There will be a light reception in the Common Room at 11 a.m., with an official opening of the sanctuary.

The public is invited, but space is limited for the guided nature walk. If you are interested in taking the nature walk, call Amason at 706-894-4204 to reserve your place. After April 23, the trail will be open to visitors by appointment by calling the same number.

Piedmont biology professor Dr. Tim Menzel and Johnston have led the effort to create nature trails through this portion of the property, leading to some of the more interesting land features available for exploration,” Amason said.

“Bird populations are severely limited by available habitat during nesting and migration, and the woods at the LES Center have the necessary ingredients to support multiple species during both seasons,” Dr. Menzel said. “Protecting and managing this forest for wildlife is a valuable contribution that we can make to protecting biodiversity and natural beauty in our area.”

About Piedmont College

One of the most dynamic small colleges in the Southeast, Piedmont is an independent liberal arts college of more than 2,260 students. The college’s four schools—Arts & Sciences, Business, Education, and Nursing & Health Sciences—develop tomorrow’s leaders by engaging students in the classroom, in their community, and around the world. Founded in 1897, Piedmont offers bachelor’s, master’s, specialist, and doctoral degree programs at its Demorest residential campus in the foothills of the northeast Georgia mountains and at its Athens campus in the heart of Georgia’s Classic City.

State Record Walleye Catch of 1995 Bested This Past Week

Carlton, age 42, of Gainesville hooked the new state record walleye at Lake Rabun on Feb. 19.

Angler Wes Carlton knows his walleye, and is awfully glad that he took time to go fish last week!  Carlton, age 42, of Gainesville hooked the new state record walleye at Lake Rabun on Feb. 19.

According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division, this 14 lb, 2 oz, 31 ½” inch catch beat the existing state record, established in 1995, by almost 3 pounds!  A new state record has to be at least one ounce greater.

“Based on sampling efforts by fisheries staff, we have just been waiting on the day that a new state record walleye was pulled from Lake Rabun,” says John Biagi, chief of fisheries for the Wildlife Resources Division.  ”Hearing about a new state record is a great start to 2016 and I hope it encourages all new and experienced anglers to get outdoors and go fish Georgia!”

Walleye are considered part of the perch fish family.  They typically have a golden-brown colored body with a white belly.  The name derives from their large, glassy marble-like eyes, and they have a spiny dorsal fin and long, sharp teeth.  Up to 1-2 lb walleye are typical, but found up to 15 lb.  They live in large, cold water rivers and lakes and are frequently found near boulders, points and humps.  Recommended bait or lures include minnows, nightcrawlers, jigs, crankbait and spinner combos.

Walleye fishing information can be found at and lake information can be found at

Anglers must possess a current Georgia fishing license to fish in public waters.  Where can you get a license? Buy it online, find a list of retail license vendors at or buy it by phone at 1-800-366-2661.

By purchasing a license as well as fishing equipment and related items, you and your fellow anglers help fund sport fish restoration programs, thanks to the Sport Fish Restoration Act.  This Act allows funds accumulated from a federal excise tax on fishing equipment and related items to be directed to activities that benefit recreational anglers.  A portion of these funds is provided to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources based on several factors, including the number of paid sporting licenses.  Sport Fish funds make the following activities possible: managing sport fish populations, raising freshwater fish in hatcheries and stocking them in public waters, maintaining and operating public fishing areas and building boat ramps, and much more!

Information about state-record fish, including an application and rules, can be found at or in the current Sport Fishing Regulations Guidebook.

‘Natural’ Peregrine Falcon nest is first in 80 years

For the first time in nearly 80 years, a Peregrine Falcon nest in a natural setting has been spotted in Georgia. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) staff confirmed  the nest and two chicks at Tallulah Gorge State Park on Monday. The only other known peregrine nests in the state are atop office buildings in Atlanta.

Climbers at the northeast Georgia state park reported an agitated bird diving at them as they explored the gorge’s rocky walls. Upon inspection, DNR officials discovered the nest and at least two chicks. To protect the world’s fastest bird, rock climbing has been temporarily suspended while the chicks grow.

“We are thrilled to discover this amazing bird inside Tallulah Gorge,” said Park Manager Danny Tatum. “Peregrines themselves are a rare sighting, but discovering a natural nest in the park makes it even more exciting. We’d like to thank the rock climbers for bringing this to our attention and for understanding the importance of protecting the area until the chicks fledge.”

Peregrine Falcons practically disappeared from the eastern United States a few decades ago, primarily because of the effects of the pesticide DDT.  Built for speed, they can reach 200 miles per hour while hunting prey. Nest sites, called eyries, are normally located on cliff ledges where the young chicks are safe from predators. Georgia’s last known eyrie outside Atlanta was found in 1936 at Cloudland Canyon State Park in northwest Georgia.

Biologists and birders are exceptionally excited about this discovery due to its rarity. Nathan Klaus, a DNR senior wildlife biologist, said the find is a credit to the work of scientists and others who, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, released peregrines in north Georgia and have continued to monitor nests in Atlanta — all with the goal of restoring falcons to the wild.

“So, here we are 20 years later, and we finally have our first nesting peregrines in the mountains,” Klaus said.

Tallulah Gorge State Park visitors are welcome to bring binoculars to the park’s overlooks to view the nest.  Guests are encouraged to stop at the Interpretive Center first to get directions and viewing tips. The park is located off Hwy. 441, south of Clayton. Parking is $5 and camping is available. Nearby Black Rock Mountain State Park also has camping and cabins.  To learn more, visit or call 706-754-7981.

Georgians can help conserve Peregrine Falcons and other nongame wildlife through buying or renewing a Bald Eagle or Ruby-throated Hummingbird license plate. Wildlife tags support DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section, which depends primarily on fundraisers, grants and direct donations.