Wake Audubon Blog

Wildathon 2020

i Apr 28th No Comments by

Authored by Jeff Beane

Dear friends, loyal past supporters, and potential sponsors: 

For the past 20 consecutive years, the “24 Hour Dream Team” has participated in an annual “Wildathon” for Wake Audubon Society. The Wildathon is a marathon event that evolved from National Audubon’s Birdathon. The objective is to identify as many species as possible (birds, in the case of the original Birdathon; vertebrate species in the case of our Wildathon) in a given amount of time. 

For the past 20 years, the Dream Team has held 24-hour events (except for the first year, 2000, when we did only 18 hours). We not only survived each, but managed to (mostly) stay awake and active for the entire 24-hour period each year. These activities have frequently straddled, even crossed, the boundaries of wisdom and safety, and as our team members have continued to age, the 24-hour events have become increasingly difficult and dangerous, to the point that most team members began to dread the final hours and agreed that our health and safety should be prioritized. Following last year’s event, long before the COVID-19 pandemic changed our lifestyles, the Dream Team had decided that 20 years of 24-hour Wildathons was sufficient to demonstrate our dedication to the event, and we decided to modify our effort to a “Wildathon Weekend,” which would give us more time not only to sleep, rest, and eat, but also time to cover areas more leisurely and thoroughly and seek out species at a pace that was not only more enjoyable, but far better for our health and safety. Since a weekend, by most standards, begins at 5:00 p.m. on Friday afternoon and ends at midnight on Sunday night, that is what we had planned for—a total of 55 hours, of which probably no more than about 36 would be spent actively searching. This was the modified event we had planned on. 

But we had not planned on COVID-19. With sheltering and social isolation restrictions being what they are, we have decided to do a Socially Isolated Wildathon Weekend this year, each of us covering whatever area we can, given restrictions, and compiling all our efforts into a single list. We will maintain contact by cell phone, and some us will be together or may meet at some sites during the event, while maintaining safe social distance. 

This somewhat handicapped Wildathon will represent our 21st consecutive annual effort. This year’s team will consist of Jeff Beane, Ed Corey, Bob Davis, Stephanie Horton, and Judy Morgan-Davis.

This year’s effort is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. on Friday, 1 May through midnight on Sunday, 3 May 2020. 

Wildathon is a fund-raiser. But we aren’t begging for money—we’re willing to work long, hard hours for it. Our objective is to identify as many vertebrate species (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fishes) as possible during the event, and enlist sponsors to pledge a certain monetary amount per species (or a flat donation). As always, we will restrict our efforts to North Carolina, and will spend most of our time in the Piedmont, southeastern Coastal Plain, and Sandhills (much of it in Wake County this year). 

The rules (same as always): 

We will NOT count:
– humans or their domestic animals, such as cattle, horses, dogs, house cats, chickens, ostriches, etc.
– anything in captivity.
– “signs” such as tracks or nests–some portion of the actual animal must be seen or heard (i.e., known to be present during the event).
– Anything we are not certain about the identification of (to the satisfaction of our entire group).
We WILL count:
– species that are heard and positively identified, though not seen.
– Identifiable eggs, larvae, etc. – road-kills or otherwise dead vertebrates, or their readily identifiable remains, including “pieces and parts.”
– established, introduced, non-domestic species (e.g., European starling, house sparrow, Norway rat, redear sunfish). 

-any species we can detect by any legal, reasonable method (trap, seine, dipnet, telemetry, Anabat detector, etc.). 

Our team’s proceeds will be divided between support for management of Audubon’s NC Coastal Island Sanctuaries (>20 islands between Cape Fear and Cape Hatteras, supporting >1/3 of NC’s nesting waterbirds, as well as other wildlife; see http://nc.audubon.org/conservation/coast-islands-and- sanctuary-program); local Wake Audubon conservation projects; and the NC Herpetological Society’s two main conservation/research projects–Project Bog Turtle (conservation and research initiative focused on protecting the bog turtle and its diminishing habitat in the Southeast; www.projectbogturtle.org) and Project Simus (conservation and research initiative developed to gather information on the natural history, status, and distribution of the southern hognose snake and other species tied to upland longleaf pine sandhills habitats; http://ncherps.org/project-simus/).

If you can sponsor us, please reply as soon as possible with your pledge (no need to feel pressured; we all get too many requests for donations and these are hard times for many; we won’t be offended if you don’t sponsor us). There are different ways of sponsoring. You can pledge a certain amount per every vertebrate species we record, or for herps only, birds only, etc.; or you can pledge a lump sum (e.g., $25 regardless of how many species we record); or you can pledge “up to” a certain amount (e.g., if you pledge $1 per reptile and amphibian species up to $30, and we see 40 species, then you would just owe $30, or if we only see 20 species you would just owe $20). No amount is too small; even if you pledge a penny per species and end up owing only a dollar or two, that will help, because we will (hopefully) have many sponsors. Every bit counts. If you can’t donate this year, just send some positive thoughts our way. We have especially enjoyed the more “creative” pledges from some of you in past years. If you work for a company that matches charitable gifts, you can have them match your pledge or donation. Wildathon donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. 

We expect to end up with at least 200 species (our average over 20 years has been just over 205), but much will depend on weather and various other factors. The fact that we will be separated, and that we will have more time, could potentially offer us better chances at more species, depending on what areas each of our team members are able to cover, but travel and sheltering restrictions will probably mean that we actually cover less area, so there is no guarantee that we will do any better (or as well) as past years, despite the increased hours. Our best-ever total was 248 species (in 2014), and our lowest-ever was 155 (in 2000). 

As always, I’ll send a summary of our effort and a complete list of all the vertebrates we observe to everyone who sponsors us. 

Pledges will be due in early June. Send your donation by check or via our website. 

By check written to “Wake Audubon” and mailed to Wake Audubon, PO Box 12452, Raleigh, NC 27605 Through the Wake Audubon website (www.wakeaudubon.org) by clicking on the “donate now” icon. Be sure to indicate that your donation is for Wildathon. Please let me know if you donate this way, so that we can keep track of all donations. My email is jeff.beane@naturalsciences.org

In the past, some have indicated a desire to support only the NCHS projects (Project Bog Turtle and/or Project Simus); if you want to do that, you can make a check out to “NC Herpetological Society,” indicate what the donation is for, and send to either me or Ed Corey (same address as above), or you can donate online at https://ncherps.org/donate/(choose a fund, or indicate in the “comments” line where you would like the funds to go). 

Please contact me at the above email address if you have any other questions.
For even more information on the Wildathon, and an account of our 2002 event, see p. 16-19 of the April 2004 issue of Wildlife in North Carolina magazine. You can also read about our 2016 effort in the May 2016 blog on the Wake Audubon website. Thank you! 

Ways to Preserve Nature While Hiking

i Nov 15th No Comments by

By Eric Minghella

Hiking has become one of the most popular outdoor sports. Every year millions of people take a break from the stressful pace of modern life and slow down by hiking. There are hiking trails everywhere from national parks that dot the country to local hiking and biking trails that are popping up in new planned neighborhoods all over. But all that foot traffic can cause a lot of damage to the local environment. If you love to hike but also want to be sure that you’re not damaging the environment when you’re hiking do these five things:

Leash Your Dog

Bringing your dog on a hike makes hiking even more fun. Dogs love the chance to get outdoors for a long walk just like humans do. However, dogs can cause a lot of destruction to the environment. Keep your dog on a leash at all times so that your dog doesn’t run amok through the land, dig up plants, eat the bark off of trees, or chase the local wildlife. Remember to clean up after your dog too and dispose of their waste properly. 

Wash Your Boots

Without even realizing it you could be carrying bacteria and seeds that are killing the environment. When you hike in one area then hike in another area bacteria, seeds, and spores from your boots will get deposited in a new area. If those seeds take root that could lead to a toxic or non-native plant species taking hold and killing off the vegetation in that area. All you need to do to prevent this is wash your boots after you hike. Get in the habit of rinsing your boots after each hike.

Bring A Trail Map

If you don’t have a trail map and you get lost, you could seriously damage the environment as you crash through it trying to make a trail. Pick up a paper map at the trail head and keep it with you so that you can find your way if you get lost. GPS doesn’t always work in the wild so trust your paper map more than your GPS if you get lost. 

Camp Carefully

If you’re going on a multi-day hike and you’re going to camp in the wilderness only camp near a trail shelter. Trail shelters are usually set up about a day’s walk apart so that you should always be able to get to one. Camping in the shelter area minimizing the damage to the environment and protects the water sources that the animals use to drink from. 

Take Trash with You

Even if you’re just going for a day hike you should have plenty of water and some healthy snacks with you. After your snacks and drinks are gone make sure that you take all that trash out with you and dispose of it the right way. Pack your snacks in reusable containers if you can, but if you can’t always take all of your trash with you when you leave the area. 

This article was provided by www.personalinjury-law.com, an organization dedicated to providing the public with information about personal injury and safety information. Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice, and it is intended for informational use only. 

25th Annual Butterfly Count

i Sep 2nd No Comments by

Authored by John Connors

At 9 o’clock on Friday, August 16 a small group of butterfliers met in the parking lot of the NCSU Arboretum to begin the 25thAnnual Wake County Butterfly Count. Three other groups were also beginning their survey at parks across the northern half of the county…Umstead State Park, Durant Nature Preserve and Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve. The morning was warm but cloudy and since butterflies are creatures of the sun, the first hour was pleasant but rather fruitless in terms of butterflies.

For those who’ve participated in a Christmas Bird Count, a Butterfly Count will sound familiar. There is a 15-mile diameter circle and groups fan out at the most likely hot spots within that circle and count every butterfly they see. There are differences though. You don’t need to get up at the crack of dawn for butterflies nor do you keep going after sunset; they don’t make a sound to give you a clue to their presence or identity; and they are often more closely tied to one or a few sets of plants than birds ever would be. 

Around 10 am the first rays of sun broke through the clouds and the flurry of butterfly activity increased. Tiger Swallowtails, Pipevine Swallowtails and Monarchs arrived to nectar on the abundant flowers at the Arboretum. Further on there were Cloudless Sulphurs, Painted Ladies, Silver-spotted Skippers and more. If sparrows are the difficult to identify “little brown jobbies” of the birder’s world, the skippers fill that niche in the butterflier’s world. Clouded, Fiery, Sachem and Ocola Skippers were zipping here and there among the flowers. On beyond the gardens, in the weedy grass and trial beds, we sought and found Common Checkered Skipper and Common Sootywing. 

Male Monarch on Coreopsis at Prairie Ridge Ecostation, Raleigh. Photo by John Gerwin
Male Monarch on Coreopsis at Prairie Ridge Ecostation, Raleigh. Photo by John Gerwin
cloudedskipper_sideview John Gerwin
cloudedskipper_sideview John Gerwin

Meantime, our colleagues were hiking the powerline near Big Lake at Umstead in search of native grassland specialties like Swarthy, Tawny-edged and Crossline Skippers, and the large peek-a-boo presence of the Common Wood Nymph. They tallied the skippers but alas, the Wood Nymph is not Common in Wake County anymore and on this count at least, it failed to show up. At Durant additional woodland skippers were found: Little Glassywing, Dun, Zabulon and Least. Horseshoe Farm produced butterflies of the switchcane lowlands- the Southern Pearly-Eye and Creole Pearly-eye- along with the beautiful Dion Skipper which colonizes sedgy wetlands along river floodplains. Gulf Fritillary showed up at Prairie Ridge.

zabulonskipper-female_wingsopen Allie Stewart
zabulonskipper-female_wingsopen Allie Stewart

In the afternoon, visits to the Buckeye Trail along Crabtree Creek yielded Viceroy among the willow and Hackberry Emperor on their namesake, and then Anderson Point Park where a patch of nut sedge hosts a colony of Appalachian Brown. Often you just have to know your plants, habitats, and think like a butterfly to do well on a butterfly count.

By 3:30 pm an approaching thunderstorm chased all of us from the field. Despite the shortened outing we tallied 52 species of butterflies with a total count of 1274 individuals. 

The Annual Butterfly Count is designed to monitor trends in butterfly populations so any given year doesn’t tell us much. Our peak count was 59 species in 2012. We feel it is important to track these changes in the rapidly urbanizing Wake. This year we recorded the third highest total of Tiger Swallowtails (173), and the second highest number of Monarchs (41) (last year, 49). But at least one species, the Checkered White, seems to have disappeared altogether. 

Mostly it is a fun time in the field tallying butterflies with friends.

Special thanks to site leaders: Harry LeGrand, Tom Howard, Chris Moorman, Brian Bockhahn, John Gerwin and Chris Goforth.

Awards Honoring Long-time Wake Audubon Volunteers

i Aug 26th No Comments by

Wake Audubon announced the creation of two awards that will recognize extraordinary volunteer efforts and environmental stewardship carried out by our volunteers. The PAULETTE VAN DE ZANDE VOLUNTEER AWARD honors Paulette for her many years of contributions to governance, fellowship, and fund-raising for Wake Audubon. The JOHN CONNORS CONSERVATION & ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION AWARD honors John for his leadership in many of Wake Audubon’s conservation initiatives and his commitment to environmental education.


The full document creating the Paulette Van De Zande Volunteer Award reads as follows:

WHEREAS, it is the desire of the Board of Wake Audubon Society to honor and show gratitude to Paulette Van de Zande for her commitment and many years of volunteer service; and 

WHEREAS, Paulette has been a loyal and devoted member and Board member of Wake Audubon Society since 1978; and 

WHEREAS, Paulette has baked homemade cookies and cakes for refreshments after nearly every monthly meeting for more than 30 years, donating both time and years of expenses to this endeavor; and

WHEREAS, Paulette worked to support Wake Audubon activities through her membership in the Raleigh Garden Club by planning birding outings and asking for financial support for various projects from their members; and

WHEREAS,Paulette supported other Wake Audubon fundraising projects by seeking in-kind and financial contributions; and

WHEREAS,Paulette manages her home landscape for wildlife in addition to feeding and sharing wildlife observations in her yard and garden with others; and

WHEREAS, Paulette’s actions embody the spirit of the Wake Audubon mission, “To foster knowledge, appreciation, and enjoyment of nature; to encourage responsible environmental stewardship; to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats, for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity.”

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that Wake Audubon Society hereby establishes the Paulette Van de Zande VOLUNTEER AWARD.  Through the establishment of this Award, members and friends of Wake Audubon Society hereby convey the deepest expression of gratitude and appreciation for the volunteer contributions of Paulette. Recipients of the Paulette Van de Zande VOLUNTEER AWARDwill be chosen by a suitable committee of Wake Audubon Society members on an annual basis (or as otherwise deemed appropriate). The recipient will embody a similar spirit of fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes and interests and will demonstrate a commitment to the initiatives and goals of Wake Audubon Society to further its mission. 

This Resolution will be entered into the official record and minutes of Wake Audubon Society and in addition will be published in appropriate manners for the public record. 

Presented on behalf of Wake Audubon Society on this 13th day of August, 2019.


The full document creating the John Conors Conservation and Environmental Education Award reads as follows:

WHEREAS, it is the desire of the Board of Wake Audubon Society to honor and show gratitude to John Connors for his commitment and many years of service in both conservation and environmental education activities with Wake Audubon Society and the broader Wake County community; and 

WHEREAS, John has been a loyal and devoted member, Board member, and two-time president of Wake Audubon Society since 1975; and 

WHEREAS, John has been a part of conservation initiatives and environmental education in his professional life as City Naturalist with Raleigh Parks & Recreation, as Coordinator of the Naturalist Center at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences,  and in his personal life through volunteering since graduating from North Carolina State University; and

WHEREAS,John has promoted conservation through his involvement in Trees Across Raleigh, NC Non-game Advisory Board of the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, WakeNature Preserves Partnership, and Wings Over Water, among others; and

WHEREAS,John has coordinated the Wake Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count and Butterfly Count for many years; and

WHEREAS,John has worked annually on conservation and education for specific species by organizing workdays to plant milkweed for monarch butterflies, by leading walks and workdays to establish American Woodcock mating grounds, and by helping to install Chimney Swift nest towers at parks and the Chimney Swift roosting tower at Prairie Ridge Ecostation; and

WHEREAS,John has supported and guided park planning efforts for Wake Audubon Society’s participation on Raleigh Parks & Recreation planning boards leading to the establishment of nature parks; and

WHEREAS, John through his professional life has conducted thousands of environmental education programs reaching both children and adults inspiring many to become advocates for birds and conservation; and

WHEREAS, John’s actions embody the spirit of the Wake Audubon mission, “To foster knowledge, appreciation, and enjoyment of nature; to encourage responsible environmental stewardship; to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats, for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity.” 

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that Wake Audubon Society hereby establishes the John Connors CONSERVATION & ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION AWARD. Through the establishment of this Award, members and friends of Wake Audubon Society hereby convey the deepest expression of gratitude and appreciation for the many conservation and education contributions John has made to the broader Wake County community. Recipients of the John Connors CONSERVATION & ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATIONAWARDwill be chosen by a suitable committee of Wake Audubon Society members on an annual basis (or as otherwise deemed appropriate). The recipient will demonstrate participation in conservation and environmental education activities as a result of sharing common attitudes and interests, and a commitment to the initiatives and goals of Wake Audubon Society to further its mission. 

This Resolution will be entered into the official record and minutes of Wake Audubon Society and in addition will be published in appropriate manners for the public record. 

Presented on behalf of Wake Audubon Society on this 13th day of August, 2019:

The Faces of a Burrowing Owl

i Mar 29th No Comments by

Authored by Bob Oberfelder

A recent trip to Phoenix Arizona provided an opportunity for my wife and I to check out the Burrowing Owls at Zanjero Park. This was one of several places that we birded, and future posts will display our sightings in those other locations. The park is an unassuming place with about a mile of horse trails and a walking/bicycling path as well. It has been made into habitat for Burrowing Owls by installing pipes in the ground (along the walking/bicycling trail) that serve as burrows for the owls. Since the owls are diurnal, they are visible throughout the day. According to the locals, at least a few owls can typically be seen throughout the day. We were there in the early afternoon and saw two that were lounging in front of their burrows. There appear to be at least 50 burrows, but I do not know how many are occupied. We viewed these owls from about 15 feet away and they did not seem to be disturbed by our presence. These owls are small, with a total height of 9.5 inches but they were kind of sitting down so they were probably only about 7 inches tall. The noonish light was probably not ideal, but we thoroughly enjoyed being able to see and photograph them.

The entrance sign to this park which sits right next to the 202 Loop Highway.
The entrance sign to this park which sits right next to the 202 Loop Highway.
One of the Burrowing Owls standing in front of the artificial burrows. There were probably 50 or so burrows and they were not far apart. Some were only 4-5 feet apart. Photo by Robert Oberfelder.
One of the Burrowing Owls standing in front of the artificial burrows. There were probably 50 or so burrows and they were not far apart. Some were only 4-5 feet apart. Photo by Robert Oberfelder.
The "I'm not worried" pose. Photo by Robert Oberfelder.
The “I’m not worried” pose. Photo by Robert Oberfelder.
The "I've got my eye on you" pose. Photo by Robert Oberfelder.
The “I’ve got my eye on you” pose. Photo by Robert Oberfelder.
The "You will blink first" pose. Photo by Robert Oberfelder.
The “You will blink first” pose. Photo by Robert Oberfelder.
The "I see you" pose. Photo by Robert Oberfelder.
The “I see you” pose. Photo by Robert Oberfelder.
The "You don't see me, I am invisible pose." The legs and chest are facing forward, but the head is turned 180 degrees around. Photo by Robert Oberfelder.
The “You don’t see me, I am invisible pose.” The legs and chest are facing forward, but the head is turned 180 degrees around. Photo by Robert Oberfelder.
The "I'm getting some rays" pose. Photo by Robert Oberfelder
The “I’m getting some rays” pose. Photo by Robert Oberfelder

Let the Games Begin

i Mar 12th No Comments by

John A. Gerwin, Wake Audubon board member

On March 5, I was out of bed by 4 a.m. to get ready for an early flight, and it was 36 degrees outside! It may not feel much like spring these days, but a few days of low temperatures does not dissuade our local birds. They are tuned to multiple factors, and it seems clear that daylength is one that sends a strong if not the strongest signal that it is time to get the house ready – the kids are coming. 

For the past 2 weeks, folks have been emailing or otherwise telling me about their observations of a couple species that are indeed conducting nest building activities – the Red-shouldered Hawk, and the Brown-headed Nuthatch. The former is our Bird of the Year, and the latter of course has been a focus for several chapters selling “nuthatch” nest boxes (Wake Audubon has sold many hundreds!). 

In a “normal” year around the Piedmont of NC, Red-tailed hawks begin nest building (or refurbishing last year’s nest) in mid-to-late January, which can go on for a week or two. The Red-shouldered Hawk begins 2-3 weeks later and thus this year, they are “on time” as some folks reported watching adults carrying sticks to nest locations, in mid-February. 

On this schedule, for those young who make it “all the way”, the Red-tails will fledge in late May, whereas the Red-shouldered’s will do so in mid-to-late June. May is a noisy month with many begging Buteo’s around town. 

Similarly, I received my first “Nuthatch alert” in mid-February – an adult was excavating a cavity in a dead snag in a neighbor’s yard. In addition, Wake Audubon board member and Flickr manager Bob Oberfelder found an adult excavating along the American Tobacco Trail on February 21. Once again, these birds are “on time”.  Bob got some great shots of the adult tossing wood chips out of the cavity, which I include here. I’m also including a shot or two of eggs from a nest box I installed at a nearby elementary school. Another neighbor and her pre-teen daughter have been checking this and 10 other boxes I put up, for the past 2 seasons. Our small bit of data show that nuthatches can be incubating eggs from the second week of March into late-April. That is, some lay as early as mid-March, whereas others, for some reason, lay in mid-April (you may recall it takes about 10 days for a BH Nuthatch egg to hatch). 

Brown-headed Nuthatch excavating nest hole. American Tobacco Trail-21Feb2019. Photo by Bob Oberfelder
Brown-headed Nuthatch excavating nest hole. American Tobacco Trail-21Feb2019. Photo by Bob Oberfelder
Brown-headed Nuthatch_American Tobacco Trail-21Feb2019. Photo by Bob Oberfelder
Brown-headed Nuthatch_American Tobacco Trail-21Feb2019. Photo by Bob Oberfelder
Brown-headed Nuthatch eggs in nest box at AB Combs School. Photo by John Gerwin.
Brown-headed Nuthatch eggs in nest box at AB Combs School. Photo by John Gerwin.

Hopefully, you have your ‘nuthatch’ boxes up, but if not, now you know there are some late layers out there. So go ahead and put up another if you wish to. 

Purple Martins at Prairie Ridge

i Mar 4th No Comments by

Authored by Courtney Rousseau

It was a beautiful, sunny Saturday, March second, out at Prairie Ridge Ecostation, and it was perfect for erecting a brand-new Deluxe 12 gourd rack with 12 Excluder gourds from the Purple Martin Conservation Association (PMCA). The sun was a welcome sight after the grey, rainy days of late. Rob and I arrived around 1:00pm to get the equipment out of the shed and down to the area next to the outdoor classroom. We took all of the parts out of the boxes and read over the instructions to make sure we understood what to do before the kids showed up. We decided to divide them into two groups: one would work on the pole and the gourd rack hardware, and the other would prep the gourds for mounting.           

Most of the kids showed up around 1:45pm. We sent them on a brief walk on the trails while we waited for the last scouts to arrive. Once everyone was there, we got to work. We had 5 scouts.  Rob led the hardware group, and Courtney showed the other group how to prep gourds. First, we got out the non-stick cooking spray and sprayed and wiped the upper inside area of the gourds to keep wasps from hanging nests there before martins move in. After each gourd was sprayed, another scout put in a handful of pine straw as a pre-nest. After these two scouts were finished, another scout looked over their work to make sure they didn’t miss any spots or get too skimpy with the pine straw.  Shortly after they finished the gourds, the pole was ready to erect. Rob and 2 scouts set the pole upright, and then all of the scouts helped to hang the gourds. We wrote numbers on each gourd for easy record-keeping. Each scout took turns at the winch handle, since everyone wanted to raise it up. After the rack was up, we hung the predator guard on the pole. It’s 4 ft from the ground to the top of the predator guard, which is the recommended distance. However, we know they have some big rat snakes out there, so the guard should be waxed, at the very least! We discussed why a predator guard was necessary with the scouts.  Today, the scouts learned about teamwork, martin conservation, carefully following procedures, and quality control to assure uniformity of their work. They are all excited to come back later in the season to watch banding or to see the martins using the new rack. While we were there, a few members of the public also came up to ask us about the gourd rack, so it was a good opportunity to engage them as well.

Photos here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/xrVCSB8scg1hFgoi9

Bird Safe Buildings Act

i Feb 13th No Comments by

Action Alert from the National Audubon Society

Every year hundreds of millions of birds die when they fly into unseen or reflective glass in buildings. Many of these deaths could be prevented by commonsense bird-friendly building standards. Please join us in urging your congressional representative to support the Bird-Safe Buildings Act https://act.audubon.org/onlineactions/cFKDdto0hEC6HqnxgB0y-Q2  to reduce these unnecessary bird deaths.

Since 2013, over a dozen Wake Audubon Society volunteers have monitored the number of migratory birds killed locally by building collisions. Sadly, we have seen no reduction in bird deaths despite the City of Raleigh’s support for the Lights Out initiative. We need to take additional steps to make a difference for birds. Let your congressional representative know https://act.audubon.org/onlineactions/cFKDdto0hEC6HqnxgB0y-Q2  that you want them to act to protect birds.

2018 Raleigh Christmas Bird Count

i Jan 6th No Comments by

Authored by John Gerwin

The Raleigh Christmas Bird Count in 2018 was very different from recent past years – it was relatively warm!  I won’t say ‘balmy’ but compared to the below-freezing dawn temps some of us have experienced the past few years, this year felt a little, well, balmy. But it was also rather drizzly and indeed for the first 90 minutes, most of us experienced some form of light precipitation. I continued my tradition of providing a couple boxes of Krispy Kreme donuts Graphic by Emma Little.(assorted variety), a thermos of bird-friendly coffee, for those willing to join me for one pre-dawn hour on site, to listen for any wood-be owl. To date, I have heard only one such owl in 5 or so years of this, and by the end of the hour, I am still at 1. But I always enjoy a few donuts and many many ounces of coffee. I have also enjoyed the company of a variety of other “dawn birds”. This year, my “flock” consisted of a couple Young Naturalists, a couple recent YNC graduates, some Audubon members, and a couple folks from the Museum.

Our overall effort this year took the form of 19 groups, covering their respective areas. By 12:30pm, with about “half the precincts” reporting, the species list total was at 95. This is noticeably higher than years past. Some of the groups will be sending in their reports in the coming 2 weeks, and the total species number may reach 100, something that hasn’t happened on this count in many years.

But it’s not just a high number that matters. Indeed, the main focus on the count is to cover the areas we do in a consistent manner. The data we collect are submitted to a national database, and this database is available to the general public. Many folks have performed a variety of analyses on these data, which span 118 years for some locations.

This is a ‘big year’ for seeing some “northern” species, which are moving into the SE in large numbers this fall/winter. Pine siskins have been showing up at various feeders. We found a couple Red-breasted Nuthatches at Walnut Creek.

Pine Siskin on Mid Pines Road. Photo by Bob Oberfelder.

Pine Siskin on Mid Pines Road. Photo by Bob Oberfelder.

Red-breasted Nuthatch. Photo by Bob Oberfelder.

Red-breasted Nuthatch. Photo by Bob Oberfelder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last year, we flushed an amazing Wood duck from the Garner Road pond along the Walnut Creek greenway – this year only half a dozen flew by. It’s pretty unusual to find 75 Wood ducks in such an urban setting. And some of our crew managed to flush a Gray Catbird, always rare for this count. Folks over along Swift Creek found some Rusty Blackbirds, anther good find.

Rusty Blackbird at Fred Fletcher Park in Raleigh. Photo by Bob Oberfelder.

Rusty Blackbird at Fred Fletcher Park in Raleigh. Photo by Bob Oberfelder.

A Peregrine Falcon and Merlin were seen along Mid Pines Road. A Peregrine was seen at the same spot last year, and the year before. Surely this Peregrine is a returning individual, enjoying some of the many pigeons along that stretch.

Peregrine Falcon over Raleigh. Photo by John Gerwin.

Peregrine Falcon over Raleigh. Photo by John Gerwin.

By 0900, the drizzle had stopped and the next few hours were nice for walking and birding. One of my favorite birding experiences of the year happened at the end of our count. A few of us wandered east along the Greenway into an adjoining neighborhood of southeast Raleigh (which is how the Greenway was planned at this section). In 20 minutes, covering about 3 blocks with normal yards and houses, but Walnut Creek nearby, we found nearly 75 individual birds of over 20 species. This was a section we have never covered before, but this year we had time.  And it goes to show how interesting it can be to wander into such an area and see what you can find.

Indeed, the new organizer, Brian O’Shea, and I were discussing this very topic right before the count. And that we plan to get some folks into such areas in the future and thus expand coverage. There are many wooded neighborhoods within the count circle, that are never covered. If you are interested in being one of our “urban” stealth bird counters in the future, just let us know and we will set you up.

In the meantime, a big thanks to all who helped out. In the end, our Walnut Creek totals (species and individuals) were almost the same as 2017 – only a tad lower. I would have bet money that both were “a lot lower” but I would have lost. That’s in part why we do what we do. Even in a light drizzle.

This way we have real data, and we don’t have to rely on Gerwin’s faulty memory.

Here are photos of two other birds that were spotted.

Red-shouldered Hawk. Photo by John Gerwin.

Red-shouldered Hawk. Photo by John Gerwin.

Brown Creeper. Photo by Bob Oberfelder.

Brown Creeper. Photo by Bob Oberfelder.

Lumber River birding in June

i Jul 29th No Comments by

authored by Erik Thomas

On June 15, I conducted some bird counts at the Lumber River Important Bird Area (IBA), which the Wake Audubon Society monitors.  Counting consists of stopping for ten minutes at designated spots and making a record of all birds seen or heard.  All of the sites in the Lumber River IBA are wetland habitats. This time, however, I decided to do something a little different.  I counted at six of the designated sites along Ashpole Swamp, which parallels the South Carolina border a few miles away, and six other spots at nearby upland sites that are not designated locations.

The contrast in birdlife between the bottomland sites and the upland sites was striking.  Down in the bottomlands, birds of wooded swamps were plentiful.  I heard Yellow-billed Cuckoos at several sites, Red-shouldered Hawks at a few, and various kinds of woodpeckers.  Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were easy to find, and I heard—but only occasionally saw—quite a few Carolina Wrens and some Acadian Flycatchers.  Prothonotary Warblers, Northern Parulas, and Yellow-throated Warblers were actively defending territories.  Here and there a White-eyed Vireo chattered.  There was even a flock of Wood Storks passing overhead.

Northern Parula. Photo by Ed Schneider

Northern Parula. Photo by Ed Schneider

Yellow-throated Warbler. Photo by Chris Wood Glamor

Yellow-throated Warbler. Photo by Chris Wood Glamor

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just up the hill from the swamp, however, the birds changed dramatically. Three members of the icterid family—the Eastern Meadowlark, Orchard Oriole, and Red-winged Blackbird—appeared there.  Indigo Buntings were singing at several spots, and Northern Mockingbirds guarded yards throughout.  Mourning Doves sat on power lines or flew by nearly everywhere.  Cattle Egrets were attending a group of steers at one site and a Chipping Sparrow was singing heartily at another.  Most impressively, a congregation of Mississippi Kites—I counted nine, but there may have been more—was sailing over some fields.

Indigo Bunting at Yates Mill Park. Photo by Bob Oberfelder.

Indigo Bunting at Yates Mill Park. Photo by Bob Oberfelder.

Eastern Meadowlark

Eastern Meadowlark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’d like to see more details, I’ve uploaded all the counts I did to eBird. One additional sighting I had was a series of realtor signs in Ashpole Swamp.  It seems that most of the swamp is for sale.  It’s too wet to develop for housing (fortunately!), but logging interests may want to pounce on it.  It would be desirable if the state or an environmental organization could acquire this valuable and extensive habitat, perhaps to be added to Lumber River State Park at some future date.

 

–Erik Thomas