Audubon members from across North Carolina flocked together for Chapter Day on Nov. 15, sharing stories of their victories for birds over the past year and inspiring each other to take their advocacy to new heights in 2022. More than 100 people attended the virtual meeting, including members and leaders from fifteen chapters, campus chapters, fledgling chapters, and a new bird meetup group.
Audubon North Carolina Executive Director Andrew Hutson highlighted state-wide victories for birds this year, from a major bipartisan carbon reduction bill to historic levels of conservation funding in the state budget, none of which would have been possible without engaged Audubon members across the state. “Chapters are the backbone of Audubon,” Hutson said. “The success of our conservation and advocacy work depends on you.”
Chapter members were also joined by Jamaal Nelson, National Audubon Society’s Chief Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging Officer, to talk about building an Audubon and a conservation movement that is truly inclusive. “Birds have the power to bring people together across meaningful lines of difference,” Nelson said. But it also requires a “deep, radical commitment to doing the hard work of reaching out to communities different from you, irrespective of how uncomfortable it might be.”
Here are a few highlights of chapter wins in 2021 (for links to chapter web pages, click here):
Cape Fear Audubon Society is working to install a new MOTUS tower at the Lea-Hutaff Island complex, which will help track migratory birds. The chapter also is ramping up their Nature at Home certification program to promote native plants.
Wake Audubon Society worked with the city of Raleigh on a lights out agreement, ensuring municipal buildings go dark at night to protect migrating birds. Chapter members also took state Senator Sydney Batch on a bird outing at Bass Lake Park in Holly Spring. The chapter also is continuing its work to monitor the Lumber River Important Bird Area in southeastern North Carolina, a project that has been ongoing since 2007. They have now tallied 119 species at their count sites!
The new Sandhills Audubon Meetup Group has started bird outings across the region, with great initial turn out. For more information, sign up for the Meetup Group here.
New Hope Audubon Society’s bird-friendly habitat program continues to see growing interest—local nurseries have even expanded their offerings because of the program. This year they conducted 69 site visits covering 260 acres, a new record. The chapter’s new EDI committee also partnered with Urban Community AgriNomics to develop a new birding program at their farm. In Chapel Hill, the chapter built a new bird blind at a local library and is working on a campus bird collision survey at UNC Chapel Hill.
T. Gilbert Pearson Audubon Society helped to pass a Native Plants Week proclamation in the city of Greensboro and is now working on a Lights Out program. The initial response from city officials has been favorable, but chapter leaders are also looking into work with private building owners. The chapter also is working with the city to make the Audubon Natural Area more accessible.
Forsyth Audubon is busy preparing for the chapter’s 50th anniversary next year. Stay tuned for details! Chapter members also took state Senator Paul Lowe on a bird outing and have launched a series of new mindful bird outings, aimed at making birding accessible. In this same spirit, the chapter is putting in an accessibility birding platform with a ramp at Tanglewood Park along the Yadkin River.
Mecklenburg Audubon Society has revved up their socially distant bird walks once again. The chapter also worked with Smallwood Presbyterian Church to finish a memorial garden for the late Darryl Gaston, a community leader and friend to Audubon. The chapter also increased its student research grant program, funding awards up to $1,000 for bird research by undergraduate and graduate students. Mecklenburg Audubon members also reminded folks that the chapter is hosting the Audubon North Carolina 2022 Summit in April—save the date now!
High Country Audubon Society is working on several habitat projects for birds, including a collaborative effort with the city of Boone to restore an area along the South fork of the New River, in addition to ongoing work at Valley Crucis Community Park and Green Valley Park. The most recent planting on the New River brought the total to 1,500 trees and 1,000 shrubs.
Blue Ridge Audubon Chapter had a strong showing at Advocacy Day, with a special focus on elevating the heirs property issue with lawmakers. State Representative Brian Turner of Asheville is cosponsoring heirs property legislation. The chapter continued its legislative advocacy work by taking state Representative Julie Mayfield on a bird outing at Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary. The chapter also restarted in-person events, including a Swift Night Out with more than 100 people and a new monthly bird outing series for children on the autism spectrum.
Highlands Plateau Audubon Society helped fund ornithology classes for five students at the Highlands Biological Station and participated in a local hawk watch at Whiteside Mountain, during which they saw 411 Broad-winged Hawks. In town, the chapter joined a coalition that is helping to remove invasive plants.
UNC Asheville Audubon has been busy collecting birds around campus that have been the victim of building collisions, picking up 150 carcasses in 15 weeks. Their work has inspired a study that will assess how to reduce strikes on a campus building. The chapter also worked with people to put lights on the building that will help prevent window strikes.
Appalachian State Audubon had 80 new students sign up for the chapter mailing list and have restarted bird outings. The chapter has been working on native plants and shrub plantings with High Country Audubon and hosted a DIY bird feeder event.
UNCC Birding Club, the newest Audubon bird group in the state, is holding its first event in January! You can check out their new Instagram account at @unccbirdingclub.
UNCG Audubon Birding and Conservationists (ABCs) is working on new outreach with undergraduates, including a project that involves creating dating profiles for birds.
Seahawk Audubon – UNC Wilmington just started bird outings again, and recently had a bunch of new young students show up for a walk at Burnt Mill Creek in Wilmington. The chapter is planning to join the campus sustainability coalition and hopes to boost membership next semester.