Aiken residents, visitors flock to Cold Creek Nurseries for Wild Bird Expo

Dede Biles
Aiken Standard

Feb.3, 2019


Julie Wisz of North Augusta touches female mallard duck held by Chris Leaphart: staff photo by Dede Biles, Aiken Standard

Flocks of people showed up at Cold Creek Nurseries in Aiken for the Wild Bird Expo on Saturday.

Michaela Berley, Cold Creek’s retail store manager, reported there were around 200 visitors during the first hour of the new event.

For the Plantings for Birds & Wildlife seminar, “we had 50 chairs set up, and it was standing room only,” she said.

An exhibit with owls was very popular. Many Wild Bird Expo attendees took photos with their cameras and cellphones of two screech owls named Charlotte and Lina, a barred owl named Raleigh and a great horned owl named Bear.

Charlotte, Lina and Raleigh live at USC Aiken’s Ruth Patrick Science Education Center. Bear usually appears in programs offered by the University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, which is based at the Savannah River Site.

“I like birds, especially owls,” said Elizabeth Jackson of Aiken. “I think they are so pretty and so mysterious. They remind me of cats because they sit and just look at you. They make you wonder what they’re thinking.”

Chris Leaphart, a University of Georgia doctoral student at the SREL, was in charge of an exhibit that featured three female mallard ducks that are members of a breeding colony he is using in his research.

He let Julie Wisz of North Augusta touch a duck he was holding.

“I’m an animal person,” Wisz said. “I love wildlife.”

The main reason she came to the Wild Bird Expo was to attend the Plantings for Birds & Wildlife seminar.

“I read that a lot of birds aren’t coming around that are native to here because of not having the plants they need,” she said. “People are planting other species that don’t belong in this area. Birds are wonderful creatures, and I think we should do everything we can to protect them.”

The South Carolina Bluebird Society’s exhibit included examples of the nests of birds that raise their young in cavities in trees or in nest boxes.

“I had no idea about the different types of nests and how you can tell what birds built them from what the nests look like,” said Mary Flora of Aiken.

She and her husband, David, were at Cold Creek to buy a pre-emergent herbicide for their lawn to prevent weeds. When they found out the Wild Bird Expo was going on, they decided to look around.

“We have a bluebird house that we’re going to put up, and we wanted to get some information on how to install it and how to take care of it,” David said.

For Kathleen Whittaker, who moved to Augusta from Virginia last year, the Wild Bird Expo was an opportunity to find out how she can attract wild birds in this area to her yard.

“I’m trying to see come spring what kind of birds I can get and how I can feed them best,” she said. “I want to make sure I’m doing the right thing when the time comes.”

The closing last year of Birds & Butterflies, a nature store in downtown Aiken, led to the idea for the Wild Bird Expo, said Cold Creek’s Berley.

Birds & Butterflies owners Ron and Dori Brenneman retired, and Ron became a Cold Creek staff member.

“We felt like Birds & Butterflies was a store that was going to be missed, so we started carrying some of the same inventory it did,” Berley said. “We want to let people know that they can come here and get their favorite bird products.”

For more information about Cold Creek, call 803-648-3592 or visit

Cold Creek is at 398 Hitchcock Parkway.