Audubon North Carolina has 10 amazing chapters across the state who help put a local focus on bird preservation and conservation issues. In this special blog series, we’ll focus on a chapter each month to learn more about their history, what they are working on, and to increase the statewide understanding of special ecosystems and habitats. Each month will include a series of posts about each chapter including a post from our biologists that will share a unique research project that is happening in the chapter’s geographic footprint.
This month, we get to know the T. Gilbert Pearson Audubon Society. Read on to learn more about our chapter serving Guilford County.
By Dennis Burnette
You received an introduction to the Pearson chapter’s natural areas and best birding spots. Now get a more in depth look into some of the areas managed by our piedmont chapter and learn how members are working to protect these areas for everyone to enjoy.
Our chapter is particularly proud of our collaborative work in putting in a wildlife-viewing platform adjacent to Southwest Park in our county. We call it the Audubon Wildlife Overlook.
A relatively new impoundment in that part of the county resulted in an area of constructed wetlands on Piedmont Triad Regional Water Authority property immediately adjacent to the county park. There is a heronry nearby that supported at least 27 Great Blue Heron nests. While it can’t be seen from our site, we have fly-bys of the birds frequently throughout the day as they’re foraging for food in the wetland and around the lake. In addition, there are snags that provide perches for hunting Red-tailed Hawks, pine and deciduous woods that attract migrants, and a meadow surrounding our platform site.
We negotiated with the water authority for permission to put in an overlook, and with the county parks authority to give us access through the park. We then arranged for a nearby Southern Guilford High School carpentry class to build the platform with materials that our chapter purchased. In the second year, we arranged for the next year’s high school carpentry class to construct a roof, complete with a cupola, over half the platform, leaving the other half for watching soaring birds.
Recently we completed the third phase. We have had educational signage developed that explains the concept of a constructed wetland and some of the history of the land, which formerly was a golf course. Around the platform railing we have spaced smaller signs identifying birds, butterflies, and reptiles that visitors are likely to see or hear from the overlook. To make the wildlife overlook even more accessible as a learning experience for park visitors, TGPAS has donated binoculars and field guides that may be checked out by the public at the nearby park marina.
This is still a work in progress. We plan to enhance the signage. We also have had to work to maintain the surrounding meadow as grassland by removing saplings that were slowly returning the property to successional forest. Our intention for the future is to reintroduce native grasses and flowering plants to support native pollinators.