The Future of American Goldfinches (and all other life forms) is in our hands!

i Oct 1, 2023 No Comments by

Authored by Phil Doerr

This photo of an American Goldfinch by Bob Oberfelder is a reminder that we must pull out all the stops to stem climate warming! July and August 2023 were the hottest months ever recorded on earth, and 2023 is on track to be hottest year ever. In a few years this stunning male American Goldfinch may no longer be able to nest successfully in North Carolina! The Summers may soon be too hot and dry to allow goldfinch chicks to survive, let alone thrive, as they should!

Male American Goldfinch photo by Bob Oberfelder.

To help out we should consider everything we do in the context of how much fossil fuel we use and what activities we engage in contribute to our carbon footprint, because if the climate change problem is not effectively resolved then all other problems become insignificant. Worried about drinking water and air quality, and the future of our retirement accounts, war and immigration pressures, extremes of heat waves, hurricanes, typhoons, floods, locust plagues, and every other catastrophe? We should be, because each of these and many other events will intensify and become more frequent as the planet warms.

As we do all we can to eliminate fossil fuels from the global economy there are meaningful steps to reduce our short term impacts on wildlife, including all things wild. We’ve looked at some of these options during our year with the American Goldfinch so we know how to provide for local goldfinches, and other wildlife!

But now what? –

We can personally commit to using less of everything, joining “buy Nothing” groups, recycling with purpose, and putting lots of pressure on our leaders, and the large corporations that profit from excess production and marketing of all things plastic.

But Wait, there’s more!

We can convert all or part of our lawn areas to native plant meadows and pollinator gardens (via Doug Tallamy’s Home Grown National Park!) and encourage neighbors to do the same.

We can preserve, (not cut down!) and advocate for every large oak tree in the landscape as they are migrating songbird magnets that support over 600 species of invertebrates birds need!

We can work with public parks (and other lands) managers to help control invasive exotics, be they plants or other life forms and to plant native species, always!

But Wait! – there’s still more!

We can refuse to buy or use bottled water, (carry a personal coffee/water mug/cup)

Encourage fast food outlets to switch to paper service for food/drinks, including straws.

Encourage travel and tourism hoteliers to stop providing single use toiletry containers.

And yes, there’s still more!!

We can convert to all things electric, and insist local utilities provide and encourage energy produced from renewables. And we’ve just scratched surface with our to do lists!

The Elephant in the room is us! We can change this trajectory with lots of work, but we can do it! I expect my 13 year old Australian born granddaughter to visit North Carolina at age 40 and see male American Goldfinches in their brilliant breeding attire! -Just as we do today!

As always, thank you for all you do for the birds.

Phil Doerr, Wake Audubon Board Member, and Volunteer ([email protected])

Please remember during this migration season (Sept 10-Nov 30) we turn off all outdoor lighting from 11pm to 6am to save migrating birds and make their long passages safer. This simple action saves, lives and money while reducing our carbon footprint! Check out “Birdcast.info” daily to keep track of nightly events, as viewed by the real time radar images from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology

Wake Audubon “Long Live Longleaf” Field Trip

i Apr 26, 2023 No Comments by

Authored by Jeff Beane, trip leader.

15 April 2023 (9:00 a.m. – ca. 5:30 p.m.)

NC Sandhills (Moore, Richmond, and Scotland counties)

Participants: Jeff Beane, Louise Belk, Mary Frazer, Ernie Hahn, Stephanie Horton, Michelle Measday, Tess Moody, Dave Powell, Stephen Prior

We had a great time.

We saw many wildflowers.

Unusual find of the day: Mary spotted this Venus Flytrap in an area west of the species’ known range, in a county that has been intensively surveyed by botanists for decades. Flytraps are transplanted by well-meaning but misguided plant enthusiasts, and given that this is an extremely well-known botanical site, several the state’s botanists agree that this occurrence probably represents an introduction.


Vertebrate Species Observed (list is probably incomplete)


Elassoma evergladei  Everglades Pygmy Sunfish (at least 2)


Necturus punctatus  Dwarf Mudpuppy (several juveniles)

Notophthalmus viridescens dorsalis  Broken-striped Newt (1 adult)

Eurycea arenicola  Carolina Sandhills Salamander (1 larva)

Pseudotriton m. montanus  Eastern Mud Salamander (1 adult)

Acris gryllus  Southern Cricket Frog (several seen and heard)

Hyla andersonii  Pines Barrens Treefrog (a few heard)

Pseudacris crucifer  Spring Peeper (tadpoles seen)

Rana [Lithobates] clamitans  Green Frog (a few heard; a few tadpoles seen)

Rana sphenocephala  Southern Leopard Frog (many tadpoles seen)


Kinosternon s. subrubrum  Eastern Mud Turtle (1 juv.)

Sceloporus undulatus  Eastern Fence Lizard (1 adult)

Cnemidophorus sexlineatus  Six-lined Racerunner (1 dead adult)

Eumeces [Plestiodon] fasciatus  Five-lined Skink (1 adult)

Eumeces [Plestiodon] inexpectatus  Southeastern Five-lined Skink (1 juv.)

Heterodon platirhinos  Eastern Hognose Snake (1 adult female DOR)

Pituophis m. melanoleucus  Northern Pine Snake (1 telemetered adult male)


Aix sponsa  Wood Duck

Colinus virginianus  Northern Bobwhite

Zenaida macroura  Mourning Dove

Archilochus colubris  Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Cathartes aura  Turkey Vulture

Colaptes auratus  Northern Flicker

Dryobates pubescens  Downy Woodpecker

Melanerpes carolinus  Red-bellied Woodpecker

Tyrannus tyrannus  Eastern Kingbird

Lanius ludovicianus  Loggerhead Shrike

Vireo flavifrons  Yellow-throated Vireo

Vireo griseus  White-eyed Vireo

Vireo olivaceus  Red-eyed Vireo

Corvus brachyrhynchos  American Crow

Cyanocitta cristata  Blue Jay

Baeolophus bicolor  Tufted Titmouse

Poecile carolinensis  Carolina Chickadee

Tachycineta bicolor  Tree Swallow

Sitta pusilla  Brown-headed Nuthatch

Thryothorus ludovicianus  Carolina Wren

Polioptila caerulea  Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

Turdus migratorius  American Robin

Dumetella carolinensis  Gray Catbird

Mimus polyglottos  Northern Mockingbird

Sialia sialis  Eastern Bluebird

Haemorhous mexicanus  House Finch

Spinus tristis  American Goldfinch

Peucaea aestivalis  Bachman’s Sparrow

Pipilo erythrophthalmus  Eastern Towhee

Spizella passerina  Chipping Sparrow

Spizella pusilla  Field Sparrow

Icterus spurius  Orchard Oriole

Parkesia motacilla  Louisiana Waterthrush

Setophaga americana Northern Parula

Setophaga discolor  Prairie Warbler

Setophaga dominica  Yellow-throated Warbler

Setophaga pinus  Pine Warbler

Setophaga ruticilla  American Redstart

Cardinalis cardinalis  Northern Cardinal


Sigmodon hispidus  Hispid Cotton Rat

Wood Duck Boxes

i Feb 22, 2023 2 Comments by

Authored by Phil Doerr

In recent years the inventory of usable nest boxes had deteriorated so a couple years ago the Wake Audubon Society acquired the lumber to construct new boxes, collaborated with Yates Park and Crowder Park  to assemble the boxes, and then this winter, nest boxes were either repaired or replaced by NCSU Leopold Wildlife Club (and Student Chapter of the Wildlife Society) members assisted by Yates Park Staff. The Leopold Club has for generations provided enthusiastic support and especially labor for projects at Yates Mill, while monitoring the nest boxes nearly every spring since 1947.

Male and Female Wood Ducks on nest box

Male and female Wood Ducks on nest box at Historic Yates Mill Pond. Photograph vy Larry Zoller

The above photo of a pair of Wood Ducks was recently “captured” by Larry Zoller at Yates Mill Historical County Park. These ducks are enjoying the benefits of the wood duck nest box program at Yates Mill Pond

That success being the news to share with Wake Audubon members, many of whom frequent Yates Mill Pond, I thought a bit of history appropriate. The wood duck boxes were in place when I came to NCSU in 1973 as a bright eyed assistant professor. Dr. Fred Frederick Schenck Barkalow, Jr was the Wildlife Biologist /mammologist in the then Zoology Department. He and the Leopold Wildlife Club began the wood duck nest box program shortly after his arrival in 1947. Then, Wood ducks were a very much depleted species throughout their range and were in the early stages of recovery from near extinction due to extensive logging and drainage of bottomlands in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The NCSU nest box program was one of thousands introduced to facilitate recovery.  Dr. Fred served as faculty advisor to the Leopold Club from the early days until I arrived and succeeded him in that role, which I happily filled until my retirement in 2007. Over the decades countless wood ducks fledged at Yates and contributed to the remarkable range wide recovery of the species. Every year a couple pairs of screech owls also used the wood duck nest boxes and fledged numerous young. And every spring a new class of NCSU wildlife graduates fledged!

The American Goldfinch!   Our 2023 Bird of the Year

i Dec 26, 2022 No Comments by

Authored by Phil Doerr.  Wake Audubon Society is pleased to share among members and anyone else interested, our exploration of this delightful year ‘round resident of Wake County.

American Goldfinch pair at Mid Pines Road, Raleigh, NC Photo by Phil Doerr

This prim, spectacular pair were seen and “captured” in late July along Midpines Road in Wake County, of course! The male (left) sports his breeding best plumage, as summer is the nesting season for goldfinches. The males sing and display in early summer to attract females and defend territories from competitors. The female (right) is not as bright, a feature rendering them less visible to potential nest predators. They are likely the most seed dependent species we know of, and often forage “weedy” grass and forb dominated areas in fallow fields, and roadsides where infrequent mowing allows wildflowers and grasses to develop.

The goldfinch habit of frequenting roadsides in all seasons, and bird feeders in winter make them one of the most familiar birds in our area. Catkins and seed pods of alder, and sweetgum are another spot to observe goldfinches in winter where they dangle up-side-down on the ends of branches high overhead. So this winter, make it a habit to check out those weedy roadsides, or high sweetgum “balls” where these dainty little birds forage, and give a listen for their high pitched “potato chip” calls especially in flight.

In coming months, begin to consider ways we can help goldfinches survive and prosper. It’s quite easy.

Thanks for visiting!

 Phil Doerr, Wake Audubon Society Board Member

From Canberra, Australia, Christmas Day 2022

Ways to Help Vultures

i Nov 29, 2022 No Comments by
Authored by  Kyra Thurow Bartow.
Vultures are vital for our ecosystems. As many of them are obligate scavengers, vultures help to keep ecosystems clean of decaying matter. They also provide disease control as their extremely acidic stomachs as well as special enzymes can help destroy anthrax, tuberculosis, botulism, cholera, and rabies. Vulture populations throughout Africa, Europe, and Asia have plummeted by up to 99% since 1990, and vultures often encounter persecution throughout the entire world. Here are some ways you can help vultures:
1. Tell people about how important and cool vultures are!
2. Get a different perspective on vultures by following some social media accounts:
– Andy N. Condor (Andean Condor) from the Tracy Aviary
– George the Vulture (Turkey Vulture) from the American Eagle Foundation
– Bash the Vulture (Black Vulture) from the American Eagle Foundation
3. Support Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) facilities. These organizations are required to have conservation actions in order to be accredited under the AZA umbrella. One such project is called AZA SAFE (Saving Animals from Extinction), with a focus on African Vultures. They have partnered with the Denver Zoo, NC Zoo, VulPro, Kalahari Research and Conservation, and the Peregrine Fund in order to have people on the ground in Africa looking into how to save their vultures. Visit these websites for more information:
– AZA SAFE African Vultures
– Raptor TAG
4. If you are a hunter or know a hunter, have them switch to copper bullets rather than lead bullets. Better for people and vultures!
5. Celebrate International Vulture Awareness Day! This occurs on the first Saturday of September each year.

6. Tell your local government about your commitment to vultures and vulture-safe practices.

Close-up of Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture photo by Bartow

Close-up of Black Vulture

Black Vulture photo by Bartow

Congratulations Michi Vojta – Lifetime Presidential Volunteer Service Award Rrecipient

i Sep 28, 2022 No Comments by

Wake Audubon is fortunate to have a lot of fantastic volunteers. Our Treasurer Michi Vojta’s volunteer service is so extensive that she recently was awarded a Lifetime Presidential Volunteer Service Award (PVSA). Congratulations, Michi!

Michi volunteered to serve as our Treasurer, a critical and demanding officer position, in 2020. She does a great job of staying on top of our finances and keeping the rest of the board informed while finding time to be involved in other ways from conservation activities to community outreach. In addition to her boundless energy, Michi shares insightful feedback and creative ideas about how we can do our work better. We cherish her contributions and are delighted that she’s being recognized for her service.

Recipients of the Lifetime PVSA have donated over 4,000 hours of their time in eligible volunteer service. Michi has selflessly given more than double that during the last 30 years. Here’s what Shannon Robinson, PVSA Coordinator for Cary Homeschoolers, shared about Michi at a recent award ceremony:

“Michi Vojta served as a US Peace Corps Volunteer in rural Kenya from 1993-1996 as the local forester/agroforestry specialist.  In addition, she organized field days on Solar Cooking and other fuel efficient stoves, built mud stoves, organized and hosted free eye clinics with a nearby hospital, and implemented a penpal exchange program involving around 60 students from 8 Kenyan schools and 30 students from Oregon.

After returning to the US, she volunteered over 1000 hours with the 1999 Special Olympics World Games here in Raleigh and coached youth soccer, moving up with the same group of girls through 5 or 6 seasons.  In 2005, she served again with Peace Corps Response, working in New Orleans with those impacted by Hurricane Katrina.

Michi still volunteers regularly in her community, through City Parks, local public schools, Wake County and NC Senior Games.  She has been a recipient of the silver Presidential Volunteer Service Award for the past 5 years, averaging 344 hours of service per year.

During the past year alone, here some of what she’s been involved with:

Michi helped paint a mural in downtown Raleigh to commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9-11.  She participated in litter pickups at Lake Johnson and Crabtree Creek.  On one day, her team collected 905 pounds of litter!  She planted trees, daffodils, and tulips at Pullen Park.  She volunteered at the Dorothea Dix 5K, the Raleigh Parks Fall Festival, and several special events at the NC Museum of Natural Science, including Bug Fest and Darwin Day.  Michi worked extensively with the West Raleigh Citizen Advisory Council, attended monthly Tree Advocacy meetings, frequently assisted the Friends of the Athens Drive Community Library, and served as Treasurer on the board of the Wake Audubon Society.  Michi spent many hours monitoring and caring for wild bird boxes.  She distributed food via the Food Ark and helped with numerous staff appreciation events at Ligon Middle School.

I contacted some of the organizations that Michi works with to offer them an opportunity to send their thoughts, and the response was overwhelming.   Here are some of their comments.

Mary Abrams, the President of the Wake Audubon Society, said  “Michi brings her endless energy to our conservation activities and community outreach”

Aleix K Murphy from Ligon Middle School emphasized “Michi is a rock star!!”

Yevonne Brannon from the Athens Drive Library offered “You can always count on Michi to be front and center in any effort to help neighbors.”

Sheila B. Jones from Wake County Soil and Water Conservation said “Michi’s community spirit and passion for embracing sustainability is unmatched!”

Representatives of the West Raleigh Citizen Advisory Council shared their thoughts, too!

Jane Harrison said “Michi has an encyclopedic knowledge of issues that matter to her neighbors.”

Don Procipio offered “Michi has been a dedicated, conscientious and key contributor to the West Raleigh CAC for many years.”

Laura Ritchie said “Michi is an integral part of our community, we admire all her hard work!”

Michi has logged a staggering 10,070 hours of service, though we all know the real total is much higher.  As Joe Hartman said, “Michi’s energetic commitment to the whole community’s common good is one-of-a-kind.”

I am deeply honored to announce that Michi has been named a recipient of our highest distinction, the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Michi, thank you for all that you do in our community.  Congratulations!”

We couldn’t have said it better–we’re grateful for your service and proud to have you on our team!

Purple Martin Rescue

i Jul 18, 2022 No Comments by

Authored by Courtney Rousseau, President, North Carolina Purple Martin Society, member, Wake Audubon

It was Friday, June 17th at 6:55pm. We had completed a hot but successful day of banding martins at Prairie Ridge Ecostation and University club. I had just finished dinner with my kids and we were watching TV at our home in Holly Springs, NC. Outside, a violent thunderstorm with high winds had just passed overhead. I was a bit nervous when I heard the winds swirling around, and looked outside at my purple martin gourd rack and pole. It had swayed a little bit but was undamaged. Our power flickered a few times, but stayed on. The chance of rain and storms that day had been low, so this one was a surprise. We counted ourselves lucky and settled in for an evening of Star Trek while my husband was away. Suddenly, I got a notification on my phone from a lady we had just met at our banding event that morning. It was Andrea Miller. She was frantically messaging me that the worst possible scenario for a martin landlord had occurred: the poles at University Club in Raleigh had blown down in the storm. Shocked, I asked her for a photo. Soon thereafter, I got an email from James Ivankovitch, the general manager out at University Club. He, too, informed me that the poles had blown over.  I Felt panic rising in my stomach as I pictured gourds full of eggs and helpless young martin nestlings on the ground. I wondered how many had been hurt. My two sons and I went to the garage to gather up materials we might need for a rescue, and we started the 30 minute drive over to University Club from our house. While I was driving, I instructed my older teenage son to text the first people I could think of to help in this situation. In turn, those folks contacted others. When we arrived at University Club, we hurried over to the martin colony site to assess the damage. My worst fears were confirmed: Both poles were broken, gourds were in disarray, the house was on its side, and martin eggs and featherless young were on the ground. Upset adult martins circled above the housing. Nests had been tossed around inside gourds, and nestlings were buried under nest material. They were cold and weak. Two gourds were broken; fortunately, one of them was unoccupied at the time. All of the eggs on the ground were broken with the exception of one, which seemed to be hatching. I put it aside for a little while on a small towel, and as folks started to arrive to help, we broke into triage teams to work on individual tasks.

Storm-damaged Purple Martin Colony at University Club, Raleigh. Photo by Phil Doerr.

Damaged Purple Martin housing

Some folks cut away the mangled owl caging. Others untangled gourds and set them right side up so that their occupants could be counted and checked against the nest check data sheets. Another group discussed how to put the broken poles upright again, and some folks brought personal items to help, such as flashlights, headlamps, and Hot Hands, which were used to keep featherless nestlings warm through the night. It began to grow dark. Andrea moved her car over to the course and turned on the headlights so we could continue to work. Surprise helpers showed up in the form of the Hastings family from Burkes Brothers Hardware, just down the street from the University Club. They asked what they could do to help, and brought Gorilla tape, some more Hot Hands, and tools from their store. Armed with a sawzall, Mr. Hastings was able to cut off part of the damaged pole of one rack so that it could be removed and set upright again on a surviving ground stake. The other pole on which the Lonestar house and gourd rack was mounted had a section which was completely mangled and had to be removed. The remaining length of pole was then put upright again on a pole connector. Both poles were now upright again, thanks to the lifting power of so many helpers.

We then began the task of returning nestlings to their gourds and verifying the contents of all of the gourds. I held the hatching egg in my hand during this process. As it began to warm up, the hatchling inside became more active and pushed its way out of the shell. We tried to find a gourd in which to place it, but the gourd that had the smallest young seemed to be empty now, until John Gerwin started to comb through the nesting material. Eventually, we found the two tiny occupants of the gourd. We placed a Hot Hands packet just under their nesting material and placed the young on top of it, to keep them warm. The broken gourd with 4 feathered occupants was temporarily taped and wired closed and hung back on its proper spot on the rack. Purple martins are very particular about their nesting spot; they remember the compass orientation of their nest cavity and will expect to see the cavity they recognize pointing in that same direction when they return, so ensuring the gourds and house were in the proper position was essential to help prevent the adults from abandoning the nest. After all gourds and house compartments were checked, we began the process of moving the wrecked owl cage and pole section debris to the side for later removal. We cleaned up our tools and headed home.

We did not realize how much time had passed; we were all there for a united purpose, which was to save these martins that depend on us for survival. I left University Club around 11:10pm and arrived home shortly before midnight.  I didn’t sleep much that night, wondering if the adults would return to their nests in the morning, and if the nestlings would survive the night. The next morning, I made my coffee extra strong and headed out the door. When I arrived, a happy sight greeted my eyes: adult martins were swooping around and feeding their hungry nestlings. The tiny hatchling from the previous night was snuggled with its nestmates. A passerby on the golf course had stopped to watch the martins with his young son. I explained to him what had happened the night before, and he thanked me and all the other volunteers who cared enough to save these birds. Some of these volunteers gave up their family time, and others missed their dinners that night. Their efforts were an amazing testament to what can happen when we come together to accomplish a conservation goal.

Why did this accident happen? The two inch square poles had been in place at University Club for over 15 years and had survived many storms. However, the owl cages, which were added last year out of necessity, probably overburdened the poles just a bit. We tried to keep this weight issue in mind when doing nest checks, and never raised the racks more than two thirds of the way up the pole, but it may not have been enough. We will be replacing these poles for next season with stronger, larger 3 inch square poles with thick walls to better withstand storms and support owl caging.

I want to thank the following people who came out that night:

Tommy Hastings, Jeff Hastings, and their family from Burkes Brothers Hardware, Phil Doerr, Anne Miller,John Gerwin, Laura Eason, Bob Oberfelder, Andrea Miller, James Ivankovitch
and my two sons Graham and Lee Rousseau, who gave up their Friday night to step up!

We could not have done it without all of you!

2022 Volunteer and Conservation and Environmental Education Awards

i Apr 14, 2022 1 Comment by

We are happy to announce the recipients of our two awards, created to recognize individuals who have contributed to Wake Audubon’s mission through their service as volunteers and through their work in conservation and education.
Wake Audubon honors deserving volunteers with the Paulette Van De Zande Volunteer Award.
Our 2022 honoree is Erla Beegle
Erla Beegle has been a devoted volunteer with Wake Audubon for over 10 years. She has selflessly shared more than 1,000 hours of her time leading bird walks, working on conservation projects, tabling, and organizing our calendar and Meetup group. Engaging within and beyond Wake Audubon, she builds community around birds by sharing her unflagging enthusiasm, mentoring fledgling birders, and inviting everyone into the group. She has also contributed countless hours to science by recording daily eBird checklists and recording NC Bird Atlas data across the state.
Wake Audubon honors deserving volunteer educators with the John Connors Conservation and Environmental Education Award.
Our 2022 honoree is Courtney Rousseau
Courtney Rousseau is the President of the NC Purple Martin Society. She has unselfishly cared for a Purple Martin colony at the University Club for over 15 years and has advised and helped Wake Audubon install Purple Martin houses at Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve, Prairie Ridge Ecostation, and Yates Mill County Park. A respected educator, she has trained folks from Wake Audubon, the NC Museum of Natural Science, and park staff to monitor these and other colonies, protect them from predators, and maintain their homes. Her public engagement and passion fuels the fascination that so many people have for these birds.

Five Tips For Keeping Your Children Connected To Nature This Fall

i Nov 3, 2021 No Comments by

By Kate Newberry

Algebra homework, music lessons, youth group, and choosing the perfect Halloween costume. Fall seems to pass even faster than the leaves fall to the ground. After a slow and relaxing summer and before the harried holiday season, autumn is a great time to pause the chaos and enjoy the beauty of nature.

Encourage your kids to put down the technology, head outside, and enjoy the autumn calm. Especially in a time when the average child’s mental health is suffering, connecting with nature is more important than ever. Here are a few ways to get your kids excited about heading out.

Reserve Time for a Preserve

One way to help young ones connect with nature is by allowing them to learn and experience their environment first-hand. With several outdoor centers and countless trails, Raleigh’s nature preserves offer the space to learn about nature. Pull up a list of native plants on your phone and go on a scavenger hunt. A cell phone picture can’t compare to an actual cardinal flower or purple coneflower.

The first dedicated reserve in Raleigh, Annie Louise Wilkerson, MD Nature Preserve, spans 157-acres along the southern shores of Falls Lake. If you’d like to take Fido along for the adventure, pick up his leash and head over to Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve.

Lace-up the Tennis Shoes

Hitting the trails for a bike ride or a casual hike is an easy way to combine nature and physical activity. This duo is a great way to help kids relax and beat the stress of a new school year.

With three miles of trails and 140-acres of vegetation, Hemlock Bluffs is a great park for a family ride. William B. Umstead State Park offers 22 miles of trails, as well as horseback riding and mountain biking trails. These are great options for older children. To keep everyone happy on the trail, pack a few snacks and make sure you have plenty of water.

Pitch a Tent

Camping is one of the best ways to connect with nature and carve out quality family time. From watching the stars appear to waking to the sounds of nature, there’s no better way to commune with the outdoors. While just the prospect of a family camping trip might be exhausting, there’s a simpler solution: keep it local.

Backyard camping is just as much fun for kids and comes with the added benefit of your own bathroom. Build a bonfire and share favorite memories, jokes, and stories while roasting marshmallows. Listen for owls, watch for bats, and talk about how mosquitos are a necessary nuisance. Leaving the technology indoors will give your kids a chance to enjoy the serenity of a North Carolina evening.

Go on a Friendly Hunt

Kids love animals, and animals love autumn. Spend a little time learning about native animals and go on a hunt to spot them. Whether you try your luck with bird watching or turn over rocks to see the worms, kids of all ages love spotting wildlife. (Isn’t it a universal reflex to say “cows!” when passing a field?)

Little ones will enjoy the opportunity to explore and get dirty. Consider buying a bug house or pair of kids’ binoculars, packing some trail mix, and documenting your finds through photos. Focusing on wildlife will allow you to talk about colors and textures with little ones, or diet and habitat with older children. And, if you don’t know much about Raleigh’s critters, take a minute and learn about your finds together.

Keep it Simple

Raleigh offers myriad community events throughout the fall, many of which take place outside. Pausing for a moment of cloud watching is all it takes to appreciate your surroundings. If you have older kids, or ones especially interested in the arts, catch a matinee at Theatre In The Park. After the show, take a stroll and discuss the performance.

Connecting with nature doesn’t have to be a lot of work. Pick up some sandwiches to eat at your neighborhood park and talk about the sights and sounds around you. Take a few books or even a board game outside and settle in beneath a tree. Getting kids outside might even be as simple as signing up for soccer or another outdoor sport. Just enjoying the fresh air and warm sun is enough to help your child feel connected to nature.

In an age of digital learning and endless Zoom calls, it’s even more important to limit screen time. Helping your kids connect with the outdoors now will set them up for a positive relationship with nature in the future.


Kate Newberry writes about camping and hiking for several publications. She and her family have hiked everything from the Big Dalton Canyon in California to Pikes Peak in Colorado and the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. (although her kids claim the Smokey Mountains are just “small hills.”)

2021 Volunteer Awards

i Apr 20, 2021 No Comments by

Authored by Mary Abrams

In celebration of National Volunteer Week, we say “THANK YOU” to all of our volunteers! Of course, we are always grateful for everyone’s contributions, but it’s important to set aside time to crow about the folks who make Wake Audubon great.

This year, we kicked off our celebration early by announcing the first recipients of two special awards that Wake Audubon created to recognize extraordinary volunteers. These awards honor the legacy of two long-time leaders in our chapter, John Connors and Paulette Van de Zande. You can learn more about them and their contributions here (link to awards page).

Marti Kane is the inaugural recipient of the John Connors Conservation and Environmental Education Award. Marti is one of the most energetic, dedicated, and selfless volunteers we know. She has dedicated her life to conservation and education and readily shares her knowledge and love for birds with the community.

In 2020 alone, Marti took over caring for the Bluebird Trail at Wil-Mar Golf Course where she installed predator guards and repaired, replaced, or relocated many existing Bluebird boxes. Overall, she monitored 55 nest boxes between Wil-Mar, Mordecai Historic Park, Durant Nature Preserve, and Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve. Marti also volunteers with the American Wildlife Refuge cleaning cages and rescuing and transporting raptors. She enjoys educating others on how they too  can help birds and is a popular speaker with the Wake Audubon Education and Outreach Committee reaching communities across the county. Marti recently retired from a career in environmental education and conservation culminating as the Director of the Annie Wilkerson Nature Preserve Park in Raleigh, but she’s still working as hard as ever!

Keith Jensen is the first recipient of the Paulette Van de Zande Volunteer Award. We selected Keith because he creates fellowship within the chapter and surrounding community through his hard work and love of birds.

A Research Technician at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, Keith works with many organizations and connects people with birds through several outreach programs. He has served on the UNC Wilmington Painted Bunting Observer Team studying the decline of these colorful birds along our coast and banding birds with his brother. He has mentored WAS Young Naturalists and provided outdoor learning experiences for backyard bird lovers and underserved youth through the Smithsonian Neighborhood Nestwatch program. If you’ve been to a banding demonstration at Prairie Ridge, Keith was the early bird who prepared everything in advance and then shared that special experience with everyone there. Similarly, when we host in-person meetings, he covers all of the logistics including inviting our guests into the Nature Research Center. He is quite an artist too, and his carved Brown-headed Nuthatches and Chimney Swift display have raised community awareness across the Triangle of these declining species.

Please join us in thanking Marti and Keith for all that they do when you see them!

Photo credits: Marti Kane’s photo is by Anne Runyon. Keith Jensen’s photo provided by Keith Jensen.