Thomasville Times Enterprise

March 5, 2014

Pebble Hill Plantation to hold birding field trip

Staff report

THOMASVILLE — Pebble Hill Plantation and Jim Cox of Tall Timbers Research Station are offering the chance to learn more about the bird species that call the pinewoods home.

Cox will be leading a leisurely wagon ride across Pebble Hill looking for some of the characteristic species of mature pinelands. Bachman's Sparrows, Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, Brown-headed Nuthatches and other pine specialists will be a primary focus. However, wintering sparrows (Henslow's, Song, Swamp, White-throated, Chipping, and others) as well as several migratory birds that should be returning to set up breeding territories (Great Crested Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Vireo, and Northern Parula) may also be seen.

He will attempt to band some sparrows, which will give the participants an unparalleled look at how colorful some of these little brown jobs can be. Bird identification as well as the importance of prescribed fire in maintaining southern pinelands will be topics for discussion.

Cox heads up the Stoddard Bird Lab at Tall Timbers Research Station near Tallahassee, Fla. Tall Timbers is an independent research facility that is supported by members.  Most of his time is spent studying Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, Bachman’s Sparrows, Brown-headed Nuthatches, and other declining species associated with southern pine forests.

Birds are one of the most visible components of these fire-maintained forests, which harbor a rich diversity of plants and animals, and which once stretched from Virginia to south Florida to Texas. He also is engaged in land conservation efforts that make use of special programs designed to conserve habitat for rare species on private lands.  The programs typically reduce regulatory requirements by providing incentives that help landowners improve conditions for rare species.

He received his M.Sc. from Florida State University and worked as a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for many years before moving to Tall Timbers. He also taught a popular bird-watching class at Florida State University for several years and continues to try to lure new bodies into the birding community. 

Pebble Hill Plantation was developed into a prime 20th century shooting plantation by the Hanna family of Cleveland, Ohio.  Elisabeth (“Pansy”) Ireland Poe, a Hanna granddaughter and the last family member to own the property, willed that the plantation become a museum at her death.  Pebble Hill has been open to the public since 1983.  The plantation is comprised of 3,000 acres, but only 77 of those are regularly open to the public.  This trip provides the rare opportunity to see some of the property not normally available for viewing.

Participants need to wear long pants, boots or appropriate field shoes, bring sunscreen and a refillable water bottle (no plastic bottles).  Scheduled for March 15, the trip starts at 9 a.m. and finishes around noon.  Space is limited. Although there is no fee, advance reservations are required and can be made by calling Lori Curtis at 229-227-5390 or