Brand-new stuffed birds at Amicalola Falls State Park have got some folks as proud as peacocks.
The visitor center now features fresh and colorful avian specimens, including warblers, woodpeckers and a hummingbird.
If you ask park volunteer Kathy Brigman, it’s all thanks to local bird enthusiast Georgann Schmalz, who saw the need for new animals in the 18-year-old exhibit.
“She came in here one day and said, ‘I’d love to help improve your indoor exhibit.’” Brigman said. “Then, she just jumped right in and took over the project.”
Schmalz noticed that several of the birds were in “absolutely horrible” condition.
“If you were a little kid and you saw some of the bird specimens here, you’d be terrified,” said Schmalz, adding that stuffed animals can lose feathers and fur over time.
Applying for grant money in April was the first step.
After receiving $2,750 in funding from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Schmalz contacted friend and nationally-renown taxidermist Ed Thompson of Lilburn.
“I asked Ed if he’d do some birds for us if we started collecting them,” Schmalz said.
She and volunteers told others to look out for “road kills and window kills” found in good condition.
Many of the dead birds were found, and Thompson arrived at the visitor center to work on the exhibit about three weeks ago.
Thompson’s work has impressed visitors over the past several weeks, Brigman said.
“People come in and they’re just amazed,” she said.
“The birds we had were really looking bad. It’s been a huge improvement,” she said, adding that Thompson also plans to replace an old, “ratty-looking” squirrel with a new chipmunk.
Brigman’s husband and fellow volunteer agreed.
“We’ve had more compliments on this than you would believe,” Arliss Brigman said. “People are bragging on it.”
Schmalz said she’s glad to see the new exhibit.
“I’m a birder, so I couldn’t stand the sight of the old specimens,” she said. “This is a real improvement for the exhibit.”
Kathy Brigman added that an exhibit should “inspire and create a sense of wonder in those that see it.”
“Most people don’t get a chance to get up close to wildlife, especially a lot of the songbirds, which are very elusive,” Brigman said.
“To be able to actually get up close to a real bird, even though it’s taxidermy, to be able to examine it ... people are fascinated when they get to do that.”
Amicalola Falls State Park and Lodge is off Hwy. 183, at 418 Amicalola Falls State Park Road.