Blog

Ruby-throated Hummingbird – February

i Feb 1, 2024 No Comments by

Author: John A. Gerwin

February is a chilly, darker month. In the Piedmont of North Carolina, we experience some of the coldest nights, and least amount of daylight. The Ruby-throat is a Neotropical migrant, similar to the warblers, vireos, thrushes, tanagers and more that breed in NC. Most of “our” hummingbirds departed months ago. In NC, some leave as early as late July, others follow as summer turns to fall, and most are gone by late October. They make their way to Mexico or countries in Central America.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird, back view with tail spread. Photo by Mike Dunn.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird, female. Photo by Mike Dunn

Most Ruby-throats migrate south. However, not all of them do. For years, folks have reported wintering hummers in NC. And for some of those years, Susan Campbell and colleagues have caught, measured, photographed, tagged, and released many. They have found a mix of species, but many were Ruby-throats. We do not know why this happens (but we have some opinions all the same. We’ll see if we can get Susan to chime in one month).

During the winter months in Mexico/Central America, a Ruby-throat will be in places with a handful of other species. Keepers of bird lists currently list 340+ species of hummingbirds – all in the western hemisphere.  “Neotropics” means New World Tropics.  I’ve seen a few Ruby-throats on the west side of Nicaragua for example. Where the Ruby-throat can be found in Nicaragua, one might also find two dozen other species of hummingbirds. I have included pictures of a few of these other species.

In the non-breeding season, the Ruby-throat prefers habitat in areas that are drier overall, and often a bit scrubby (forest openings with second growth, forest edges, and some agricultural settings; among others). They will nectar at flowers we might grow in our gardens – various Salvia species for example. They continue to feed on minute arthropods for protein, and have an inordinate fondness for small spiders.

We know that hummingbirds exhibit some extreme life history behaviors and physiological adaptations. One of these concerns the molt cycle and there are aspects of the molt cycle we do not yet fully understand. Hummingbirds, as a group, rely on flight for feeding. Due to their small size, they are subject to extreme “stress” in order to maintain their high body temperature and functions. All to say, they do not molt quite like other birds. I can’t get into all the details here but will note that adults undergo a complete molt (body and flight feathers) after the breeding season. What’s really curious is that recent research has shown that some individuals undergo a molt in summer and apparently another during the winter.

In songbirds the post-breeding season molt can be completed in 6-8 weeks. In Ruby-throats, it is reported to be slower and much more protracted, when compared to the migrant warbler or thrush.. An interesting aside: in 1936 a researcher counted the number of body feathers on some Ruby-throats; he came up with 940.

At the species level then (Ruby-throat), the molt cycle runs from late summer to mid-winter. Individuals will do things differently, and as mentioned some may begin to molt body feathers in late July. These Ruby-throats then migrate while they are molting (or, if you prefer, molt while they are migrating). The question is, when does that July-molting bird complete the molt? No one knows for sure. One researcher did a fairly thorough study of the molt of Ruby-throats, assessing individuals in Mexico and Central America. His data showed that many Ruby-throats began a molt of the flight (wing/tail) feathers in November and completed it by the end of February. Many (most?) individual Ruby-throats complete the body molt in March, when the males’ new gorget feathers grow in.  Still, other aspects of the molt remain unknown. To understand precisely which birds are molting what/when/where, we will need a lot of marked birds that can be followed, month to month.

In February, Ruby-throats are sharing time/space with a large variety of tropical hummingbird species. In addition, they are preparing for the northward migration and some will indeed begin to migrate north during February. Many aspects of their migration also  remain unknown – but we do know that some will arrive in the southern U.S. by early March.

Here we provide a link to Cornell’s eBird website for the non-breeding range of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. This is a page where the user can zoom in and do other ‘animations’ (note also options on the right-hand side).

https://science.ebird.org/en/status-and-trends/species/rthhum/range-map?season=nonbreeding

Finally, I have included photos a few species of tropical hummingbirds in Nicaragua, which ranges overlap that of a given non-breeding Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Crowned Woodnymph – male

Crowned Woodnymph – female

Long-tailed Hermit

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird – 2024 Bird of the Year

i Dec 30, 2023 No Comments by

Authored by Brittany Richards.  Goodbye. Hello! While this tiniest of feeder visitors may have bid backyards farewell months ago, Wake Audubon Society warmly welcomes as its 2024 Bird of the Year, Archilochus colubris: the Ruby-throated Hummingbird!

Even as the days grew shorter and pumpkins began appearing on porches, you replenished your nectar, just in case the emerald-backed and ruby-throated birds that enchanted you all summer needed a final sip of fuel before they began their long journey south. But as the maples and sweetgums turned crimson and gold, you realized your feeders had fallen silent, and you resigned yourself to the fact that even the last stragglers of the season had moved on, and you will have to await the ruby-throateds’ return in the spring. 

But where will the birds who nipped nectar all summer in your yard spend their winter? As improbable as it may seem, these birds, with an average weight of just about 1/10 of an ounce – less than the weight of a single nickel – will travel thousands of miles to reach their wintering grounds in Central America (extending from southern Mexico, throughout the Yucatán Peninsula, to as far south as Panama). A smaller population of birds will stay along the tip of Florida and the southern Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the US to spend their winters stateside. So when our North Carolina days have become chilly and our flowers have all but disappeared for the season, the birds who flitted and fed around your yard all summer may be as far as 3,000 miles away enjoying a verdant, tropical winter.

Surprisingly little is known about the exact routes and duration of their migration, but research suggests that birds stopover throughout the Gulf coast, feeding and refueling for only a few days at most before continuing their journey to their final destination. It is believed that birds follow both an overland route, but also an overwater route that requires an 18-22 hour nonstop flight of 500 miles over the Gulf of Mexico. Just as amazingly, all ruby-throated hummingbirds make this trek alone, even first year migrants, who navigate on instinct alone without a parent to guide them. One study of ruby-throated hummingbirds showed that the southernmost birds of the summer range migrate first. So with our hummingbirds in North Carolina generally departing in late summer, those October feeder visitors very well may be birds from further north just passing through on their way south. 

Though it was once feared that leaving feeders out too late in the fall would discourage hummingbirds from migrating, it is now known that this is a myth. It seems a combination of hormonal signals, the availability of natural food sources, and the decreasing amount of daylight triggers the migration instinct. So while it is certainly reasonable to store your feeder when it has been two weeks since your last sighting of a hummingbird, it will do no harm to leave it out longer. And in fact, should you decide to provide nectar all winter, you might even spot a visit from a so-called winter vagrant. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are the only species with a breeding range in the eastern United States, but with increasing frequency, species either beyond their typical range or birds overwintering between October 15 and March 15 can be spotted in North Carolina. In particular, eastern sightings of the western species, the Rufous Hummingbird, which usually winters in Mexico, are being seen at feeders in the southeast US. It is unknown if more birds are actually spending their winters outside their usual wintering grounds, or if more people are just monitoring their feeders throughout the winter and reporting these sightings. If you do spot a winter visitor, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences has an ongoing project to track these vagrants, and you can report your own sighting on their website

Most of us may not enjoy this jewel-toned wonder again until the coming spring, but Wake Audubon Society looks forward to celebrating and exploring the beautiful and fascinating ruby-throated hummingbird all year! 



Adieu to Our 2023 Bird of the Year – the American Goldfinch

i Nov 30, 2023 No Comments by

The American Goldfinch Wake Audubon’s 2023 Bird of the Year!  by Phil Doerr

It’s time to bid this year’s star adieu and turn our attention to a new rising star coming in January when a new bird ascends! But for now, our American Goldfinch will be with us all winter. They will of course be a bit less obvious, as the fall molt to much duller colors is  happening before our very eyes, so watch carefully! And don’t forget  to keep track of these wonderful birds when they visit bird feeders in your neighborhood, or look for them along roadside ditches, and old fields. They’ll still be there, dangling upside down from sweet gum balls, or dried goldenrod flowerheads .

During the year we explored some fascinating  features of the biology of this stunning and remarkable bird. We saw that Goldfinches are able to thwart would be brood parasitism by brown-headed cowbirds simply because they are vegetarian, and cowbird chicks starve without animal protein and fat. We also saw that some clever females hedge their genetic bets by choosing to raise a second brood after the first has fledged into the care of her mate. The second brood is with a different male, so if successful, the female produces a large number of offspring, with a diversity of genetic traits, increasing their survival probabilities and spreading her genotype more broadly. And at the end of the day, that’s what evolution is all about! Whoever leaves more offspring, more widely distributed wins!

We also saw that our local goldfinches are largely non-migratory, but that in winter our region often hosts short distance goldfinch migrants from colder climate areas to our north where goldfinches nest. Consequently, our local goldfinch populations do swell in winter, and they become quite common. And while goldfinches are indeed common throughout  the southeast, the forecast for habitat changes with the current rate of warming associated with climate change, the future for goldfinches in North Carolina is tenuous. North Carolina east of the mountains will become too hot and dry for goldfinches to nest successfully. Goldfinches will shift breeding ranges northward unless we cease pumping fossil fuel residues into the atmosphere, and we will no longer be witness to the stunning gold of the breeding males!

What can we do for American goldfinches, to ensure our grandchildren will see breeding plumage birds? We can advocate for government policies to eliminate fossil fuel burning and promote the conversion of our entire economy to renewable energy. Failure is not an acceptable option, because it’s not just American Goldfinches we’ll lose, its life, and business as we know it. Let’s get to it!

To demonstrate that we can successfully address big environmental challenges, I want to call attention to an anniversary!

2023 is the  50th Anniversary of the Endangered Species Act!  This monumental bipartisan act of Congress was signed into law by president Richard Nixon, and over the years has been the linchpin contributing to the recovery and delisting of the Bald Eagle, the Peregrine Falcon, the Brown Pelican, the American Alligator, and the Channel Island Fox. In addition, many other species are on the path to recovery with growing numbers because of the protection and positive conservation actions under the ESA. These include Green Sea Turtles, Humpback whales (some populations delisted), Whooping Cranes, Piping Plover, and California Condors among others.  Its an anniversary worth celebrating!

And another success!

We also addressed the threat of the ozone hole in our upper atmosphere! When in the 1980s coolants escaping from refrigeration units and chlorine based propellants from spray cans were discovered depleting the ozone layer humans were at increasing risk from UVB ray induced skin cancers. The ozone layer absorbs UVB and reduces it’s incidence at the earth’s surface, reducing the cancer risk. An international treaty banning these substances facilitated by the United Nations (1989) has resulted in steady recovery of the ozone layer which is on track to full restoration by 2045.

The point is we (the world!) can accomplish big things. Yes, we can! Yes we must!

Have a great holiday season, and new year, and thanks for all the hard work you do for the for the planet!

Phil Doerr, Retiring Wake Audubon Board Member

[email protected]

Migration, Local Movements, and Residential Habitats

i Oct 31, 2023 No Comments by

Authored by Phil Doerr

November! It’s midway past the time of year when fall migration is really exciting! Every day (well actually night-time!!) holds the promise of delivering  another delightful arrival of amazing numbers of birds, and the potential for some of our favorite woodlands to host a new group of warblers and thrushes. We closely monitor the fruiting dogwoods, tupelos, hackberries and persimmons or oaks for activity.  Almost any oak species supports bocoos of the wee invertebrates sought by the famished hordes! October 7, 2023 “Birdcast.info” radar reported 1.2 billion birds were in flight across North America and Wake County recorded passage of more than a million birds that same night! Most of these birds are passing through to Central or South America, but recently we’re seeing the arrival from the north of a number of species of sparrows that will spend the winter with us and brighten our outings at least until April next year! The list includes Song, Chipping, Savannah, White-throated, Swamp, Field, Vesper, and occasionally White crowned sparrows. The brushy areas these birds frequent are often shared with American Goldfinches, our locally nesting birds, most of whom stay with us all year. However, our winter visitors from the north include some goldfinches fleeing northern regions where the cold is more intense. Consequently, American Goldfinches are often considered to be short distance migrants, or largely non-migratory in the south. Collectively there’s a moderate southerly shift to the continental goldfinch population.

November Goldfinch photo by Bob Oberfelder.

November Goldfinch photo by Bob Oberfelder.

Above photograph is of a post breeding season, likely male, goldfinch w/buffy wing bars, yellow shoulders and throat with a rich almost rusty back. Some of these have been around us recently, this one was “captured” by Bob Oberfelder. Most goldfinches will seem a bit dull soon as they acquire winter plumage via the fall molt.

For the long distance migrants we’re by now all aware of the extreme dangers the night fliers face from glass towers and artificial lights, especially during heavy migration flights. To prevent thousands of  bird deaths on such nights we turn the lights off from 11pm to 6am. It’s very simple and easy! But what about our more local bird movements? Is there danger here?

If we are indeed making our yards bird friendly, with native plants, replacing all or part of the ecological deserts represented by the “lawn” then it’s important we make our yards bird SAFE!

Lights, and glass in neighborhood parks and nearby residences with good habitat can be a death trap for migrating birds and even our winter residents or visitors. Lights may confuse birds and while the habitat may seem otherwise suitable, even single-story structures with windows will reflect habitat and kill birds.

Recent research from Oklahoma State University biologists that examined how bird population abundance reflected mortality revealed that some species were disproportionately vulnerable. These included Black-throated Blue Warbler, Ovenbird, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Wood Thrush, Gray Catbird, Common Yellowthroat, Brown Thrasher, White-breasted Nuthatch, and American Goldfinch. Of special concern to us is that the first several birds in that list are long distance migrants, but there’s continuum to the last three species (including our BOTY!) that are largely short distance migrants or even non-migratory. The long-distance migrants often travel at night in large flocks and are especially vulnerable to the lighted  glass expanses in large cities. The non-migratory birds, (read goldfinches!) seem more vulnerable to local hazards where they live, and thus residential and business structures may be a frequent problem. This underscores the need to eliminate or reduce lighting in or near our homes, and to use bird safe glass so that our feeder citizens (nuthatches, goldfinches, titmice and chickadees) are less vulnerable to window strikes.

For this end of fall migration season month please:

1)Turn out the Lights 11pm-6am!

2) Leave your leaves (the creeply crawlies need’em) and

3) Leave last year’s flowering stems as well-at least until spring greenup. is starts! (there’s lots of eggs and overwintering bugs in there.

 As always thanks for all ya’ll do for the birds-keep it going!

Phil Doerr,  Wake Audubon Board Member & Volunteer

To see all of the posts on the American Goldfinch, go the our Bird of the Year site

Partnerships Help the Lights Out Program Expand

i Oct 16, 2023 No Comments by

Article by Connie Sanchez, Bird-friendly Buildings Program Manager, National Audubon

The night sky looks darker–and the future looks brighter–for birds flying through Raleigh, North Carolina. Starting this fall, Kane Realty Corporation, one of Raleigh’s biggest building managers, has committed to participating in the Wake Audubon chapter’s Lights Out Wake initiative. Going forward, during spring and fall migration Kane Realty will turn off unnecessary lights at its commercial buildings and ask its tenants to do the same. This will be crucial for the Wake Audubon chapter’s ongoing work making the city’s night skies safer for migrating birds, and the new collaboration shows how the Lights Out program is growing locally through national partnerships that create new connections on the ground.

“It is really significant that a commercial entity like Kane Realty recognizes that Lights Out will save birds’ lives and save money,” says Wake Audubon Society board member Phil Doerr. “This influence can help us bring more awareness and persuade more commercial interests to join the initiative.”

For volunteer Lena Gallitano, the partnership with Kane Realty is the biggest thing that’s happened to Lights Out Wake since the group launched the program about ten years ago. She says the inspiration for Lights Out Wake came during a walk with a colleague in 2014, when she saw a Common Yellowthroat trapped in a corner and disoriented by artificial light, and placed the tiny masked bird in a safe place to rest before releasing it in her backyard.

“I opened the container and the bird flew out, landed on a branch on one of my flowers, and turned around and looked at me like, ‘Thank you so much for helping me,’” she says.

Soon after, volunteers started surveying buildings during spring and fall migration to track the number of birds killed or injured by collisions. The data helped them determine buildings of concern in order to work with those building managers.

Volunteer Lena Gallitano holds a Common Yellowthroat killed by window collision in Raleigh. Photo:Kim Brand

The new collaboration with Kane Realty was made possible through Audubon’s ongoing work with KPMG LLP, a multinational company that provides audit, tax, and advisory services. Since 2021, KPMG has been promoting Lights Out to owners and managers across their U.S. offices. Audubon’s Lights Out program has been connecting those offices with Audubon chapter leaders and staff engaged in Lights Out efforts. This is already leading to more sustainable and meaningful partnerships that help KPMG offices save energy while saving birds at the same time.

“At KPMG, we believe in protecting our natural environment,” says KPMG Senior Director of Corporate Sustainability Darren McGann. “By engaging our building property managers in the Lights Out program, we’re taking concrete steps to reduce light pollution and protect migratory birds that play a vital role in our ecosystem. We’re proud to be part of this important initiative by the National Audubon Society, and we hope that our example can inspire others to join us in building a more sustainable and responsible future.”

Billions of night-flying migratory birds make their way through cities during spring and fall migration–and many of them are vulnerable to window collisions. Research indicates that in the United States alone, up to one billion birds die from collisions each year after becoming disoriented by bright artificial lights and skyglow. This month, Chicago saw a mass collision event where 1,000 songbirds collided with a single building in one night. To reduce bird-building collisions, the Audubon network has been working with property owners, building managers, and local governments to shut off, shield, or dim all unnecessary lighting during migration seasons.

Lights Out is gaining momentum, with more than 45 cities involved, programs in 18 of the top 20 most-dangerous metropolitan areas for migratory birds, and several state and regional efforts underway. In North Carolina, the city of Raleigh was the first to join the cause, and, with support from Audubon North Carolina, chapters have established programs with other towns and cities, including Matthews, Greensboro, Asheville, Cary, Winston-Salem, and Chapel Hill.

“Lights Out Wake underscores just how much power chapters have to make change in their communities,” says Ben Graham, engagement director at Audubon North Carolina. “They are on the ground, showing up year after year to reach out to local officials and building managers. We’re seeing the momentum really take off.”

The Lights Out Wake team in 2015. Photo: Courtesy of Lena Gallitano

For Doerr, Audubon chapters are “where residents and constituents can speak directly to local leaders and media to educate and advocate for Lights Out.” And according to Gallitano, the group has learned to be persistent with their message each migration season, build relationships with local elected officials, and communicate the value of Lights Out from many perspectives—from conservation to urban nature and energy savings.

“Every city around is trying to save energy,” she says.

Looking to make your home a more bird-friendly space? Wherever possible, you can help reduce collisions by:

  • Turning off exterior decorative lighting
  • Extinguishing pot and flood-lights
  • Turning off interior lighting, especially on higher stories
  • Down-shielding exterior lighting
  • Installing automatic motion sensors and controls
  • Assessing the quality and quantity of light needed, and avoiding over-lighting with newer, brighter technology

Original article posted on the National Audubon web site

Autumn Garden Activities for a Wildlife-Friendly Yard

i Oct 8, 2023 No Comments by

By Alison Hoover

Autumn is often busy with back-to-school, new schedules, and the rapidly approaching holidays, but fall in North Carolina is an ideal time to be out in the yard and garden. Fall is the perfect time to plant vegetables and bulbs in preparation for spring or prep your lawn for a healthy return in warmer weather. There’s also a lot you can do now to help ensure your yard is wildlife-friendly and help support local ecology. Here are 5 autumn garden activities to foster a wildlife-friendly yard:

  1. Focus on native plants which require less additional water and nutrients, meaning less overall maintenance and impact on the environment. Native plants also support the needs of local wildlife including birds, bugs, insects, and four-legged critters. If your goal is to create a wildlife sanctuary, aim for upward of 70% of all plants in your yard to be native. As the temperatures drop in the fall, you will need less water to help the roots get established. This makes autumn –– particularly September –– the ideal time to install native plants.
  2. Provide food sources with perennials and annuals that bloom throughout the entire growing season. Now is the time to plant bulbs and rip out shrubs or plants you plan to replace come spring. Native plants are best because they are key for encouraging the presence of insects and pollinators, such as bees and butterflies. You want to include nectar plants and host plants, giving these important creatures space to eat and breed.

    Shrubs and trees are also important food sources which double as shelter. You can also consider bird and hummingbird feeders. However, you want to be sure to offer quality seeds and sugar water as opposed to synthetic mixtures. You should also be aware that feeders can attract all sorts of wildlife, not just your intended audience. Be sure to change the food regularly, even on those chilly autumn mornings when you might rather stay inside.

  3. Create habitats and safe spaces for animals to sleep, eat, breed, and protect their young. To support a variety of animals, you want to incorporate layers of vegetation. This means including clusters of shrubs, small trees, tall trees, and evergreens. Evergreens are particularly important during the colder months as they provide shelter from winter winds. Trees are important for nesting animals as they provide protection from predators. Finally, large rocks offer a safe space for butterflies and other insects to sun themselves, which is an important part of their lifecycle.

    As you clean up your yard for winter, consider leaving the leaves under and around trees as they provide shelter and warmth for animals over the long winter. If you plan to do any trimming of trees or hedging of bushes, consider the impact you might have on nesting and burrowing animals. Look before you cut in case there is a shelter or nest already established.

  4. Provide water by incorporating at least one water source, be it a bird bath or a puddling dish. You won’t want to fill the container with water once winter approaches, but you should keep fresh water available as long as it’s safe to do so. If you don’t currently have a water source for animals, now is the time to determine where you’ll place it come spring. This is also the time to find fixtures on sale at the local home supply store.

    In the meantime, you can create a puddling dish by filling a saucer or shallow bowl with fresh water. As soon as the temperatures begin to rise again, you will want to provide water at all times. If your yard is large, try to offer multiple water sources. Throughout spring and summer, remember to change the water frequently so it stays clean and safe, and doesn’t become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

  5. Practice sustainable gardening to ensure a safe and healthy environment today and into the future. Native plants are part of this as they require less additional water, but you also should consider the materials and additives you use. While Americans are pretty enamored by our lawns, all of the fertilizers and chemicals used to make them thrive are terrible for other plants and animal life. Additionally, lawns offer little food or shelter, making them ornamental and not at all useful.

    Instead of adding chemicals, leave the cut grass and fallen leaves on the surface of your lawn. This will add adequate nitrogen and organic matter without introducing dangerous additives. While it isn’t necessary to rip out your lawn altogether, consider how your maintenance practices may impact or support the other efforts you’ve made to create a wildlife-friendly yard. Perhaps you can take autumn as an opportunity to tear out some grass and build a new flower bed for spring.

For a long time, we thought of our yards as simply outdoor spaces that needed to be maintained. With the looming effects of climate change and other results of human activity, we are beginning to see our yards as spaces where we can support wildlife and ecology. Each step toward welcoming and supporting nature is important, no matter how small it may seem.

 

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)

Fishes

Elassoma evergladei  Everglades Pygmy Sunfish (at least 2)

Amphibians

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)

Reptiles

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)

Birds

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

Mammals

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