Wake Audubon Blog

New Bridge Proposal on Outer Banks

i Jun 21st No Comments by

Many of us in Wake Audubon submitted comments on the proposals for the Bonner Bridge replacement and associated up-grades to the existing highway 12 route along the outer banks, several years ago. Our interests stemmed from the fact that highway 12 runs along the coast, and through a National Wildlife Refuge, and was constantly washing out. This has resulted in a lot of DOT funds spent over the years to repair the road, and thus, a lot of impact on the refuge and on local traffic.

This project affects the southern portion of the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge and the Rodanthe area. An Environmental Assessment was done in 2012 or so, and the first EA report released in December 2013.  More comments were received and this month, a new report was released, indicating a new “preferred” alternative.

The original report recommended replacing the original bridge pretty much in the same place, but many of us and many folks in the Rodanthe area disagreed. The new recommendation is to build a new bridge in Pamlico Sound, to the west of the current Highway 12.

This new bridge location would minimize impacts to the wildlife refuge, the ocean/shore beach, the Rodanthe community and submerged aquatic vegetation in the sound.  This new preferred alternative has the support of federal and state environmental and regulatory agencies and the residents of Rodanthe.

As proposed in this new plan, the part of Highway 12 within the current refuge would be removed, and that land returned to the Refuge management. Some of the original road would remain to allow access by local Rodanthe residents.

If you would like to read more, or see maps, about this project, please visit the following website:


During our last field trip to the outer banks we saw many birds. Here are photos by Bob Oberfelder.

White Pelican at Pea Island NWR

White Pelican at Pea Island NWR

White Ibis at Pea Island NWR

White Ibis at Pea Island NWR



Lights Out, Raleigh

i Aug 31st No Comments by

Wake Audubon Society Citizens Petition to the City of Raleigh Council

Protecting Birds and Saving Money with Lights Out

Wake Audubon Society is a chapter of Audubon North Carolina and the National Audubon Society.  With more than 1,500 members, we actively support projects and educational programs in Raleigh and Wake County to advocate for wildlife, nature and conservation.

During spring and fall migration, millions of birds pass through North Carolina, often flying at night and passing through urban centers on their way to their migratory destination.  Many of these birds collide with buildings and other structures.  Through onsite walks, Wake Audubon has documented more than 100 building associated bird deaths in downtown Raleigh over the last four migrations.  Click here for background information about Lights Out programs in other cities as well as the protocol and data collected from our Raleigh Lights Out surveys.

Research has shown that eliminating non-essential indoor and exterior building lighting between 11:00 PM and 6:00 AM during spring and fall migration can significantly reduce bird mortality. At the same time, significant savings on utility bills could be realized if the reduced late night lighting is extended to a year round practice.

We have discussed Lights Out with staff from the Office of Sustainability and have received favorable feedback on our proposal from several stakeholders they contacted.  We look forward to further discussion and to Council’s assistance with the approval of a formal policy.

In keeping with Wake Audubon Society’s mission of advocating for wildlife, we petition the City of Raleigh Council to adopt the following “Lights Out” policy to provide safer passage for migrating birds and to benefit the City and its citizens by reducing utility costs:

All City of Raleigh owned and operated municipal buildings are included in this Lights Out policy to protect birds and reduce utility costs:

  • All non-essential outside lighting, including decorative up-lighting, and all non-essential interior lights will be turned off year-round from 11 PM to dawn.
  • Staff in buildings with overnight operations will be encouraged to use blinds/curtains, to diffuse transmitted light to the outside.
  • Security lighting is not included in this policy.

If adopted, Raleigh will be the first city in North Carolina to adopt a municipal, city-wide Lights Out policy to protect birds and reduce utility costs.  As such, our city will be widely recognized through the Audubon network for this forward-thinking, bird-friendly, energy-saving policy.  Wake Audubon Society members stand ready to work with city staff and do all we can to make this a win-win for Raleigh and our birds.

First half 2015 in review; in August, Celebrate Swifts and our 40th year!

i Aug 5th No Comments by

Authored by Rick LaRose

Greetings Wake Audubon members and friends! As board member John Connors wrote in the previous post, we’re terrifically excited to Celebrate Swifts and the completion of our Chimney Swift Roost Tower with you the weekend of August 21-23. Friday night, join us downtown at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences for a forum with swift experts from across North America. On Saturday, late afternoon through dusk, join us at Prairie Ridge Ecostation — the site of our tower — for family fun and games and the tower dedication. Bring a blanket or chairs, hang out with us as the sun sets, and let’s see how many swifts join in on the celebration! Meet us out and about Sunday at dusk for more swift viewings at urban chimneys you might not know exist, some in possible peril.

Thank you to all of you who have helped to make this tower a reality through your generous donations, many in support of our Buy a Brick for Swifts campaign. With the tower installed, your future donations will help fund technology to study swift activity at the tower and to landscape with native plants around the tower and viewing patio. See your inscribed bricks on display when you join us on August 22.

I also want to express my sincere appreciation for your ongoing support of Wake Audubon — as participants in our advocacy, conservation, and education initiatives; as volunteers; as members; as donors — in fulfillment of our mission.

Together we’ve successfully advocated to protect land in Eastern NC for endangered Henslow’s sparrows. Locally, we’re helping to conserve monarch butterflies by planting milkweed, the American woodcock by maintaining nesting grounds, and native landscape by removing invasive species — these among many other conservation efforts. And together we’re providing education to families as exhibitors at community events throughout the year. We enjoy your fellowship through all these activities, at monthly educational program and chapter meetings, on bird walks and field trips, and at bird counts. Thank you.

While we’ve had a busy year thus far, we have much more in store for this summer, including our August 11 chapter meeting, where members will show and tell about an array of experiences and adventures. Always entertaining! Bring a potluck dish to share and have a slice of cake in celebration of Wake Audubon’s 40th anniversary, with a preview to our August swift celebration!

While on our web site, see our calendar for summer and fall activities. Read recent blog posts. Visit our Flickr photostream. At the top right of any web page, find us on Facebook, and join our Wake Audubon Meetup group.

We look forward to seeing you soon!

Rick LaRose

President, Wake Audubon

Chimney Swift roosting tower at Prairie Ridge Ecostation.

Chimney Swift roosting tower at Prairie Ridge Ecostation.

Milkweed planting crew from Wake Audubon. Planting was on May 17, 2015

Milkweed planting crew from Wake Audubon. Planting at Harris Lake was on May 17, 2015

Worksite team photo

Wake Audubon and NC State Volunteers

Outreach at Songbird Celebration at Blue Jay Point County Park.

Outreach at Songbird Celebration at Blue Jay Point County Park.


Protect Henslow’s Sparrows’ Breeding Grounds

i Feb 17th No Comments by

Authored by Gerry Luginbuhl

The Wildlife Diversity staff with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission have submitted a proposal to the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners to manage 1,645 acres of the 2,800 acre former Voice of America (VOA) site. This former transmission facility is the largest expanse of contiguous grassland in North Carolina. The transfer of these acres to the NC Wildlife Resources Commission will, for the first time, allow the public access to the only robust population of breeding Henslow’s Sparrows in the eastern Unite States. The VOA closed in 2006 and is now disposing of the land. Beaufort County has been given first option to develop a parks and recreation plan for the entire site, and the Wildlife Commission’s proposal will complement active recreation facilities which may occur on the remaining acreage.

To read more about the proposed development of the former Voice of America site and to learn what you can do the protect this valuable resource, please visit our Advocacy page.

HenslowsSparrow2LG copy


i Sep 10th No Comments by

By John Little

Starting this fall, Wake Audubon will initiate its own “Lights Out” program to help prevent the needless deaths of migrating birds.  It’s well known that millions upon millions of avian migrants are nocturnal travelers.  These night flyers who navigate by the moon and stars encounter barriers to their destinations in the form of well lighted buildings in urban areas.  The birds become confused by the artificial light and crash into buildings causing senseless carnage.  Raleigh is an unlikely exception which is where Wake Audubon’s “Lights Out” program will come into play.  Volunteers are needed to survey a predetermined route in downtown Raleigh looking for dead and injured birds, collecting those poor creatures for delivery to the Natural Science Museum, and recording the findings.  When sufficient data are collected, meetings will be arranged with building owners and city officials to gain their support in reducing the number of artificially lighted buildings.  In cities where this has been done, the night time death rate has been reduced by as much 80 per cent.  Probably more important to the building owners, their energy costs have been significantly reduced.  The 2013 fall campaign will take place between 15 September and 15 November.

So, what is needed?  Wake Audubon, like the Marines, is looking for a few good women and men–around fourteen–to conduct daily early morning surveys in teams of two.  Maps will be provided to show the route and identify the major buildings to examine.  The first training session will be conducted at 6:30 AM, Sunday, 8 September in front of the Wells Fargo Building on Fayetteville Street.  Winston-Salem ornithologist Kim Brand who has spearheaded that city’s Lights Out program will lead the session.  This is one of the most important conservation undertakings Wake Audubon has ever engaged.  It’s success totally depends on a strong voluntary response.  If you can and are willing to help, please notify John Little (jjlittle1940@gmail.com) or Lena Gallitano (lgallitano@nc.rr.com.)   Remember the training date will be 8 September at 6:30 AM in front of the Wells Fargo Building on Fayetteville Street.

Wake Audubon's Jeff Beane Receives Conservation Award!

i Aug 16th No Comments by

The NC Wildlife Federation has chosen Jeff Beane as its 2012 Wildlife Conservationist of the Year. Jeff Beane is Wake Audubon Society’s Vice President and is a hero of North Carolina conservation.

“The Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards Program, sponsored by the NC Wildlife Federation and now in its 50th Year, honors those individuals, governmental bodies, associations and others who have exhibited an unwavering commitment to conservation in North Carolina.”

Jeff has terrific expertise in the amphibians and reptiles of North Carolina, in particular their natural history and conservation. He serves as an important resource to numerous councils, committees, and government agencies that deal with the natural heritage of North Carolina, as well as to members of the public. He is the lead author on the 2010 guide Amphibians and Reptiles of the Carolinas and Virginia (UNC Press), has published numerous scientific papers on the natural history of amphibians and reptiles in North Carolina, and is a regular contributor to many popular publications, in particular the magazine Wildlife in North Carolina.

Jeff’s award will be presented to him at the NC Wildlife Federation’s Annual Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards Banquet on Saturday evening, September 7th.

Congratulations to Jeff on his very well-deserved award!

The Eastern Bluebird

i Mar 31st No Comments by

It is hard to believe, living in Raleigh, NC, that when I was growing up the first time I saw a bluebird was as a college student in upstate NY, and what a thrill it was! What a joy to see the beautiful bright colors of what at the time, was a rare bird, and actually is the state bird of New York.
From the 1940’s until the 1970’s, bluebird populations were in decline, due to competition for nest sites from non-native house sparrows and starlings, as well as the use of DDT. Habitat loss increased as well, and outdoor cats were and continue to be a threat to bluebirds as well as other species. However, with the discontinuation of DDT spraying, and the establishment of bluebird trails and increasing use of nestboxes by individuals around the country, the beautiful birds have made a comeback.
If you are interested in seeing some unique birdhouses for bluebirds and other birds, be sure to come out to the 12th Annual Birdhouse Competition on Saturday and Sunday April 14-15 at the JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh.

Beth Gaffer, Wake Audubon Board Member

Eastern Bluebird Nest - Jeff Beane

Making your hearth a home for Chimney Swifts!

i Mar 23rd No Comments by

By Nathan Swick, Wake Audubon Board member

Birdwatchers in North Carolina’s Piedmont should be on the lookout for the eminent return of Chimney Swifts from their wintering range in Amazon South America. Historically, Swifts nested in hollow snags across eastern North America but quickly took to residential chimneys as a replacement, from whence their common name is derived. The birds are actually quite nice to have around for homeowners as they feed on thousands of small and annoying flying insects per day.

Unfortunately, chimney caps and screens have become more prevalent as some homeowners either don’t want swifts nesting on their property or don’t understand that caps can have an effect on locally nesting swifts. But by taking a few steps you can easily encourage swifts to come to your own chimney where you can enjoy them all summer. And besides, you weren’t using your chimney in the heat anyway, were you?

Wake Audubon member Erla Beegle has put together some tips borne of experience; she fledged 3 chicks in her chimney last summer!

Chimney Swift Checklist:

– Do you have a suitable chimney? (brick inside – not slippery metal or porcelain, and a “cap” that can be easily removed. Any chimney eight feet or taller is high enough. )

– BEFORE YOU REMOVE THE CAP: Call a chimney cleaning company before late April and get the chimney cleaned out! (Dirty chimneys can lead to nest failure, as the nest can break off with a big flake of creosote when the babies get big)

– Get the metal lid (“cap”) off your chimney before late April (save the cap for the winter). The cleaning company might remove it for you for a small fee, or ask a contractor, if you do not want to climb onto the roof.

– Keep the flue CLOSED during the nesting season (just in case a baby swift has to climb back up.)

– Do NOT use the chimney during the nesting season (gas fireplace owners: put a sign on the switch so guests do not make that mistake! I put a sign on the flue handle for my wood-burning fireplace.)

– If you are lucky enough to have a pair of swifts in your chimney: Congratulations! You will hear peeping and chattering for several weeks (any time in May and June). This wonderful sound can be quite loud, and goes on from dawn to dusk. Turn up the radio and you won’t notice it. They are quiet once the sun goes down.

– There’s only one pair of swifts per chimney, and it will be their home all spring and summer. The parents and “kids” may roost in your chimney throughout the late summer, so keep the cap off until late fall.

– To keep your insurance company happy: re-attach the chimney cap in late fall before you start using the fireplace again. The cap prevents sparks from landing on the roof.

Thank you for opening your hearth to swifts!

Legislators move to take millions from conservation trusts

i Feb 7th No Comments by

Via Land for Tomorrow:

ACTION ALERT: Legislators move to take millions from conservation trusts – take action now!

On Thursday, February 3, the North Carolina Senate took its first vote on fast-moving legislation that would gut two conservation trust funds. Senate Bill 13 would take $1.8 million from the Farmland Preservation Trust Fund and $8.5 million from the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund. This legislation is moving quickly, so write your Representative and Senator today and ask them to oppose Senate Bill 13.

The legislation is part of an effort to shift money from this year’s state budget into the next fiscal year. Legislators are facing a $3.7 billion budget shortfall for the next fiscal year, and are looking for ways to reduce the size of that shortfall.

Taking money from the state’s conservation trust funds is the wrong way to close that gap. These trust funds leverage local dollars, protect farms and create jobs.

Click here to take action now by writing your state legislators. Tell them to protect the state’s conservation trust funds.

Rusty Blackbird blitzing

i Nov 30th No Comments by

How many of us are really aware of the plight of the Rusty Blackbird? Sure, it’s not flashy, it’s rarely a target species for many as it’s buried there in the back of the field guide, and often can be difficult to tell from other blackbirds especially given the Icterid propensity to hang out together. But of all the species that have suffered declines in North America (and sadly, it’s many), the Rusty has quietly suffered one of the most severe. According to Breeding Bird Survey and Christmas Bird Count statistics, the Rusty Blackbird population has collapsed, down a staggering 80-90% since the 1960s. The bird is in serious trouble.

In many states blackbirds, characterized as not only the ever present grackles, starling and red-wings but also the Rusty are listed as nuisance birds. Therefore, one is allowed to take as many as one wants if the birds are, and this is directly from Federal law (emphasis mine), “committing or about to commit depredations on ornamental or shade trees, agricultural crops, livestock, or wildlife, or when concentrated in numbers and in a manner that constitutes a health hazard or other nuisance“. There is a lot of gray area there. In short, you can shoot Rusty Blackbirds practically whenever you want. In North Dakota the USDA is currently testing a new plan that involves baiting the birds with brown rice. If that proves successful the rice will be treated with a poison. Migratory Bird Act need not apply apparently.

The problem, of course, is that there are no provisions differentiating starlings and grackles, which certainly can be nuisances in large numbers, from our Rusty Blackbird, whose population is taking a dramatic nosedive. And if no such qualifications are made, the Rusty Blackbird’s unfortunate resemblance to more problematic species may write its ticket right into extinction.

So we’re well aware of the bad hand the Rusty Blackbird has drawn.  And it can be overwhelming to sit there as a birder and feel completely helpless as these forces largely out of our control conspire to take one of North America’s unique bird species away from us right before our eyes.  But in this case there is something you can, in fact, do to help.  In heart of darkest cynicism shines a glimmer of hope.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology is launching their third annual Rusty Blackbird Blitz, encouraging birders from several states in the southeast and lower midwest to go out over a three week period, from January 29 to February 13, with Rusty Blackbirds specifically in mind.  Your bird lists, either with or without Rusties (negative data is still data!), should be submitted to Cornell via eBird.  More specific details are available here.

You should do this for several reasons.    First;  Rusty Blackbirds are in big trouble and we need to know where they are when they are so that appropriate habitat can be preserved.

Second; data collection via eBird will introduce you to what is a phenomenal tool for your personal birding records as well as a way for scientists to compile data on bird populations and movements.  In many ways conventional “citizen science” rarely provides useful data sets, but eBird is that rare project that is actually enormously useful for scientists and birders, and when more people use it, its usefulness grows exponentially.

Third; you’re already going to be birding then anyway, right?  Might as well look for Rusties!

I hope the case is easily made.  The bottom line is that Rusty Blackbirds need your help and that you have the opportunity to offer it.  So get out there and look for Blackbirds, folks!