Georgia Birding and Nature

Lake Hartwell, Georgia

Recent Georgia Photos of Rare Birds
Lake Hartwell, Georgia
Lake Seminole
Lake Walter F. George
Lake Horton
West Point Lake
GI Horse Park
Yard List
GA Birding Year 2004-6
Yellow-billed Loons
Red-throated Loons (24 Inland)
Red-throated Loons (Inland)
Pacific Loons
Western Grebe
Red-necked Grebes
Eared Grebes
Horned Grebe (summer)
Great Cormorant
Magnificent Frigatebirds (Inland)
Sabine's Gulls
Thayer's Gull
Thayer's Gull - more photos
Franklin's Gulls
California Gull, Glaucous Gull, Iceland Gull, Thayer's Gull
Little Gull
Black-legged Kittiwake
Lesser Black-backed Gulls (Inland)
Sooty Terns, Royal Tern & Sandwich Tern (Inland)
Arctic Tern (Inland)
Pomarine Jaegers (Inland)
Long-tailed Jaegers (Inland)
Parasitic Jaeger (Inland)
Brown Pelicans (Inland)
American White Pelicans (76 in Piedmont)
American White Pelicans (100+ inland)
Common Mergansers
Mottled Duck (Inland)
Long-tailed Ducks
Rare Ducks
Rare Ducks for Summer
Greater White-fronted Geese
Barnacle Goose
Ross's Geese (7)
Ross's Geese in Upson Co
Ross's Geese Elsewhere
Snow Geese
Snow Geese in Summer
Mute Swans (appearing wild)
Black Swans (exotic)
Bell's Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Scott's Oriole
Cave Swallows
Rare Swallows
Black-billed Cuckoos
Clay-colored Sparrows
Lark Sparrows
Lincoln's Sparrow
Wilson's Warblers
Audubon's Warbler
Alder and Willow Flycatchers
Yellow-bellied Flycatchers
Least Flycatchers
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Western Kingbird
Brewer's Blackbirds
Yellow-headed Blackbirds
Common Ground-doves in Piedmont
Rare Shorebirds
Wilson's Phalarope
Long-billed Curlews
Willets (Inland)
American Avocets (Inland)
Baird's Sandpiper
Buff-breasted Sandpipers
Upland Sandpipers 52 seen
American Golden Plover
Anhingas in Piedmont
Anhingas Nesting in Piedmont
Roseate Spoonbill in Piedmont
Wood Storks in Piedmont
Night-Herons in Piedmont
Herons, Egrets, Ibises
Plegadis Ibis (Inland)
White Ibis (Piedmont in Winter)
Swainson's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk (Western)
Golden Eagle
Swallow-tailed Kites in Piedmont
Pelagic Birds
Cedar Waxwings Nesting in Southern Piedmont
31 Species of Warbler in 1 Day
Birds Abroad - Dominican Republic
Birds Abroad - Jamaica
Birds Abroad - St. Lucia
Birds Abroad - Barbados
Birds Abroad - St. Martin
Birds Abroad - St. Croix
Birds Abroad - Antigua
Birds Abroad - Guatemala
Birds Abroad - Central America & Caribbean
Birds Abroad - West Coast
Texas Birds

Here is a list of the rarer birds that I have personally discovered at Lake Hartwell over the last several years.  Some birds were photographed (some were not especially in the beginning due to many challenging conditions of the area).
This is the result of checking the lake about twice a month in the winter.  Lately, I have also checked a handful of times during the summer.

Red-throated Loon (High count 24, total of over 50)
Pacific Loon (High count 3, about 10 total)
Yellow-billed Loon

Red-necked Grebe (5)
Eared Grebe

Brown Pelican
American White Pelican

Cackling Goose
Greater White-fronted Goose
Ross's Goose (5)
Snow Goose

Long-tailed Duck (3)
Surf Scoter
Black Scoter
White-winged Scoter
Common Merganser (2)

Northern Goshawk
Western Red-tailed Hawk (about 10)
Prairie Falcon (nearby)
Mississippi Kite
Swallow-tailed Kite

American Avocet
Wilson's Phalarope
Buff-breasted Sandpiper
Western Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Sanderling (high count 7)
Ruddy Turnstone
Red Knot

Little Gull
Franklin's Gull
Laughing Gull
California Gull
Glaucous Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Sabine's Gull (3)
Black-legged Kittiwake (3+)

Long-tailed Jaeger
Pomarine Jaeger
Parasitic Jaeger

Caspian Tern (High count 8)
Common Tern
Forster's Tern
Black Tern (High count 300+)
Least Tern

Anhinga (2)
Snowy Egret (High count 6)
Cattle Egret (High count 15)
Little Blue Heron (High count 8)
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (2)
White Ibis
Roseate Spoonbill

Bachman's Sparrow
Lapland Longspur

Yellow-headed Blackbird
Brewer's Blackbird

Eric Beohm 

I discovered three Sabine's Gulls at Lake Hartwell, GA (also, on the SC side) on 09/18/2014.
Two birds that were consistent with juvenile plumage were seen flying over most of the lake as viewed from the dam.  They were seen flying by Elrod Ferry and over Long Point and resting by the GA side of the dam.
Another bird that may have been an adult was seen flying west and east and north of Long Point.  So, there were at least three birds seen at one time.
These photos are from one camera only.  Video was also taken of the birds.  As usual I thought the photos would turn out much better, but after realizing that the first one hundred photos did not turn out; I am quite pleased that these did.
- Eric Beohm

Sabine's Gull



This one looked more like an adult.

March 19, 2014  Finally made it back.
Little Gull (1)
Red-throated Loon (24, a staggering number inland)
Red-necked Grebe (1)
White-winged Scoter (1)

Little Gull in the middle, note the small round head, very tiny bill, dark cap.

Little Gull was noticeably smaller than Bonies, with dark cap and shorter primaries.

Here is a Little Gull I found near Long Point.  It flew in and immediately worked its way around the tip of this peninsula.  I was blessed to see it before it disappeared behind the gulls and onto private property.  Note the small body, small bill, dark cap, and short primary projection.  I could see that the primary tips had noticeable black which would suggest a second winter bird.  The bird was so small that it kept disappearing behind even the Bonies.  I was fortunate to get these photos as it would emerge from behind other gulls.  Interestingly, also this winter I had a possible adult Little Gull which I reported near the dam back in Dec.

Red-throated Loons - An amazing total of 24 seen.

Red-throated Loons

Red-throated Loons

Red-throated Loons

Red-throated Loons

White-winged Scoter - Probably the same one I have reported all winter.

Feb 18, 2014

Yellow-billed Loon (1 and appeared to be a second bird also)  
Pacific Loon (1)
Red-throated Loon (10)
White-winged Scoter 
Surf Scoter
Many good ducks

Update: Yellow-billed Loon and a possible second bird, as well as other reported birds, were relocated shortly afterwards by other observers.  


Yellow-billed Loon  -  Details of bill were studied at close range.  Bill straight on top, curved upward on bottom.  Very base of bill was pale and two thirds of bill was yellow.  Above photo shows the ear patch and long yellow upturned bill.


Above photo shows the overall brown body plumage with light head and barred pattern of back.  Neck was very thick.


These cropped photos are not as of good a quality as the originals.  Above photo showing massive bill.


Above photo showing massive upturned bill and distinctive head shape.  

Also, many other birds including a Surf Scoter.

Feb 7, 2014  Lake Hartwell GA
Red-throated Loon (10, a surprisingly high count)
Long-tailed Duck (1)
White-winged Scoter (1)
Good Ducks and more

Long-tailed Duck - very close and cooperative.

It was in the north cove of Elrod Ferry and swam by the buoy on the way to the beach area.

Surprisingly, it swam into the inflatable ringed off area of the beach there at Elrod Ferry.

Red-throated Loon - This was one of the closer ones.

Red-throated Loon - Here is one coming in for a landing.

Red-throated Loon after landing.

Here is another Red-throated Loon in with Ring-billed Gulls.

Two Red-throated Loons

Two Red-throated Loons


Two Red-throated Loons

These two Red-throated Loons were farther in the distance.

One close with Ring-billed Gull.

White-winged Scoter

White-winged Scoter

Greater Scaup - These were fairly close and I could see details much, much better than this photo.

Jan 24

Ross's Goose (1)
White-winged Scoter (4)
Many good ducks
Red-throated Loon (1)

Ross's Goose - Extreme lake haze that day. Fortunately, got a flight pic/vid.

White-winged Scoter in cove. Thought this would turn out better but visibility was low.

Common Goldeneye - very close and cooperative. Nice.

Jan 4

Red-necked Grebe (1)
Pacific Loon (3)
Red-throated Loon (2)

Dec 22

Common Merganser (1 female type, distant)
Red-throated Loon (2 juvenile type, elusive)
Other stuff

Dec 20

Long-tailed Duck (2)
Red-necked Grebe (1)
Cackling Goose (5)
Greater White-fronted Goose (1)
Pacific Loon (3)
Common Goldeneye
Other rare ducks
Probable Common Merganser
Other stuff


PACIFIC LOON - Took a while to get some decent pics.  I will try to add more to this site soon.  I counted three once again.  I have reported these for a while now and am finally getting some better photos.


RED-NECKED GREBE Out on the middle of the lake.  I can't believe these turned out so bad.  I could see the bird fairly clearly.  I'm glad I had a witness for this particular bird.  I have seen this bird now the last two visits, and I think it can be photoed up close eventually.


LONG-TAILED DUCKS  -  Two circled a number of times.  Then they would land and immediately go under for a while.  I could see them very clearly.  Photos show all necessary field marks, but quite frankly I thought they would have turned out better.  That's okay, I'm just glad to get photos.

Long-tailed Ducks


GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE  -  Nice to see such a beautiful bird and one that cooperates for a photo!  The Cackling Geese flew by with their distinctive bodies and flight and appeared to head around Hart State Park.  I got some brief video of them flying.  I hope they stay in the area!

Dec 4, 2013

Black-legged Kittiwake (1)
Pacific Loon (2 to 3)
Surf Scoter (4)
Probable Red-necked Grebe (1)

Black-legged Kittiwake, foggy and overcast with no wind when taken

Nov 26, 2013

Pacific Loon (3)
Probable Red-necked Grebe (1)

Nov 14, 2013

Ross's Goose (1)
Glaucous Gull (1)
Pacific Loon (1)

Ross's Goose

I am told it was relocated afterwards on the SC side of lake.

Feb 18, 2013
Red-throated Loon (1)
Pacific Loon (1)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (1)

Pacific Loon (finally a good pic)

Feb 6  quick check
Red-necked Grebe (1, far away, crude video taken)
Jan 26
Another good day at Lake Hartwell.  Finally found another Pacific Loon after an absence of over two months!  Hunters/boaters were on the lake.
Pacific Loon (1)
Lapland Longspur (1 heard with Horned Larks)
Ducks: Common Goldeneye (3), A. Black Duck (4), RB Merg (3), others.

I have been able to hit Lake Hartwell, GA, a handful of times this fall/winter.  Here are the highlights:
Jan 18, 2013
Lesser Black-backed Gull (1 first winter)

Laughing Gull (1, good for this area)

Bachman Sparrow (1, surprisingly out of expected range.)

Horned Larks (50+, different nearby spots)

Bald Eagle (1, so far oddly elusive at this reservoir unlike other lakes)

Laughing Gull

Dec 31
Northern Goshawk (1 imm)
Western Red-tailed (1 a dark breasted one, also a rufous chested one sometimes seen may have western genes also)
Northern Rough-winged Swallow (1)
Nov 15

Pacific Loon (2 seen from the dam)
Red-throated Loon (1 immature flew in, dived, came up twice briefly, not seen again)

White-winged Scoter (3)

Surf Scoter (1)

Snow Goose (about 10, flying off as I got there heading west probably in search of greener pastures)
Eric Beohm

Lake Hartwell, GA
I had pretty much stopped reporting my sightings, but this was the best day of the year for me, and one of the best days I've ever had.
Fierce storms had just moved through the Northeast and a surge of rarities were being reported in the south.  As for me, there was so much action that I could barely keep up.  I didn't even know how much I had seen until looking at my photos which I took in bunches and analyzed later.
The list of rarities was shocking.  I described it as a giant pinata of birds bursting open.
Western Red-tailed Hawk (3 with western characteristics)
California Gull (1 apparent adult)
Black-legged Kittiwake (1 first winter)
Franklin's Gull (2)
Pacific Loon (1)
White-winged Scoter (3)
Snow Goose (2)
Unfortunately, the Black-legged Kittiwake was too far out for good photos and the California Gull didn't hang around for a photo op. However, I was able to get good photos of perhaps the most significant of the sightings, three Western Red-tailed Hawks, which is encouraging since having that many in GA at one spot may be unprecedented. And upon review I actually did get photos of Pacific Loon and White-winged Scoters.
Eric Beohm


Here is an all dark Western Red-tailed Hawk seen near the lake at the fields there at the western start of Will Bailey Road.  Technically, I believe this would be called an intermediate morph since there are some reddish hues mixed in with the brown.  Most birders at least used to call the ones appearing all dark, dark morphs.  Now there are all kinds of morphs and classifications for the variations within the dark Western complex.


I've seen a few other all dark western Red-tails in Georgia and a few of the other types.  In the checklist from 2002 there are a only a handful of documented records of western red-tails for GA.  Of course, for Western types that have similar characteristics to Easterns, then hybrids should be considered.


It was odd for me to see three Western types right around the same area.  Look below for even a different one.


This is a different Western type Red-tailed.  It had some white on the lower belly.  Note the dark throat and wingtips extending to the tip of the tail. 


Here is a little better photo of the second Western type Red-tailed.  Again note the dark throat (seen from the other side) and the long wings.  The head shape and structure seem slightly different from a typical Eastern and was apparent from a distance.


Here is an interesting Red-tailed showing a lot of rufous.  Two of the birds were similar and flew upon approach and even went into the same tree at one point.  This appears to be the third one judging by a handful of field marks.  I'm not sure the extent of the field marks of this one at this time.


Since there was so much going on and so little time, I took the strategy of "take photos now and ask questions later".  So, while I was trying to find and relocate the gulls, I snapped about oh, a couple hundred photos.  This time it actually paid off.  I noticed a few shots showed a PACIFIC LOON (farthest left).  This is not too surprising since I have found Pacific Loon at this location a number of times and figured one was probably out there again.


I'm glad I got this photo because going back to the location under blustery conditions midday the next week resulted in two Pacifics but no clear photos.


I saw two blue morph SNOW GEESE flying around.  I threw my camera up and blindly took some photos.  A few photos actually came out.


I had seen three scoter species in the distance and felt they were WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS.  However, I didn't realize that I had photoed them in flight.  I was trying to photo the ducks that were circling close and scoters seem to have a habit of flying close to the dam.  So, once again, I was quite surprised and happy with this photo!

Eared Grebe

Eared Grebe with Horned and Pied-billed

Pacific Loon




The water level at the lake was higher, so some of the terns flew in closer than usual to rest including this Caspian Tern with Black Terns.  09/02/2015


Black Tern (85) at Lake Hartwell  08/20/2015.  This was about the best photo I could muster despite the whole lake being covered by terns.  Also, had Caspian, Forster's, Common, and a Least Tern.


The quest for a decent photo of a Caspian Tern at Lake Hartwell continues.  Once again, I had two at the lake 08/20/2015 but just a little too far out for the old camera.


Caspian Tern at Lake Hartwell, 08/13/2015.  Two flew around the lake for over an hour.  Also, had Forster's, Common, and Black Terns.  I attempted many photos, but it was just not a good day for photos.


Black Tern (14) at Lake Hartwell, 08/13/2015.  Small groups flew around the lake for hours, however, they never came in close enough for a good photo.


White Ibis at Lake Hartwell,  08/13/2015.  Rare this far north.