Audubon members gathered together at Chapter Day on Oct. 16 to share inspiring stories from the past year as well as how they’re hoping to take their advocacy, outreach, and education to new heights.
More than 50 people attended the virtual meeting, where we heard from Interim Executive Director Curtis Smalling, chapter leaders from across the state, and our new staff. Smalling highlighted major advocacy wins at the state and local level, including new native plants and Lights Out policies, thanks to efforts by our members.
“Chapters are the life blood of Audubon and that is especially true in North Carolina,” said Smalling. “Chapters are the boots on the ground for much of our conservation and advocacy work and have been a constant source of innovation at all levels. We are extremely grateful for all that you do and look forward to what's to come with the new strategic plan.”
Chapters also heard from Policy Director Brian Turner, who highlighted our legislative priorities from this year and those going forward. “We’re hoping to build on the momentum we’ve seen this past year, especially on native plants and Lights Out, and are excited to work with chapters to make that happen,” said Turner. Forestry Program Manager Hannah Pursley also introduced our new Urban Forestry program. Stay tuned for details!
Here are a few highlights of chapter wins in 2023 (for links to chapter web pages, click here):
Cape Fear Audubon Society has worked to expand their geographic and organizational reach by adding 20 birding locations to their regular outings and partnering with organizations such as the Historic Wilmington Foundation for a Swift Night Out event. The chapter is also ramping up a Lights Out program and has been working with the NC Department of Cultural and Natural Resources to make their new center in Fort Fisher more bird friendly.
Wake Audubon Society celebrated 10 years of Lights Out Wake which comes on the heels of a major agreement with one of the largest real estate companies in Raleigh to go Lights Out for birds. They’ve also continued their Beginning Birder Program with inclusion and belonging at the forefront of that effort.
New Hope Audubon Society has continued their Bird Friendly Habitat work and developed a Managing Native Plant Landscapes manual in partnership with The Burt’s Bees Foundation and Keep Durham Beautiful. The chapter has also continued their advocacy for Leave the Leaves and Lights Out and led successful Swift Night Out events including one at the Durham Hotel with 200 people in attendance.
T. Gilbert Pearson Audubon Society continued their local promotion of Audubon Plants for Birds Signs for homeowners' associations, churches, and suburban yards. They also worked with Florence Elementary school in Greensboro to fund a native plants garden, bird feeders, seed, and books. The chapter awarded grants to students conducting bird research and to local community gardens and have continued their advocacy through visits to the legislature as well as their Lights Out and Native Plants campaigns.
Forsyth Audubon was awarded an Audubon in Action Grant and used it to hire a Summer Intern, JahQueen McClellan, who lead bird activities with students from the WR Anderson Recreation Center and the Kimberly Park Freedom School. Students were introduced to basic binocular use, local birds, and went on some bird strolls. They also worked with New Hope Audubon to develop their Bird Friendly Yard program and are ramping up advocacy at the legislature in November.
Mecklenburg Audubon Society engaged members through a number of bird walks and field trips. The chapter also has a strong grant program, providing up to $1,000 to undergraduate and graduate students, $500 to high school students, and up to $500 for local elementary school classrooms. These grants have made a tremendous impact on students at all levels.
UNC Charlotte Audubon Campus Chapter has been working hard to install bird friendly window treatments across campus as part of their bird-window collision monitoring work. Their board members represent a diversity of programs on campus and have been able to more than double their membership since August. Chapter President Joe Roche will be attending the National Audubon Society Leadership Conference.
Blue Ridge Audubon Chapter led exciting new programs this year including trips to Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary for folks with autism spectrum disorder and partnered with a summer camp for the blind and visually impaired. Their 2023 Birdathon raised over $5600 for two new Motus receiver stations in Western North Carolina. The chapter has also continued their Lights Out program and are looking to engage the corporate and legislative sectors.
UNC Ashville Audubon has seen in increase in club participation thanks to more regular meetings and bird outings. They’ve participated in two tabling events and are planning a Climate Action Talk in November with Policy Director Brian Turner to advocate for motion activated lighting and other bird friendly initiatives on campus.
Appalachian State Audubon has 20 active members this semester and participated in HawkWatch at Grandfather Mountain. They’ve done 100 building surveys on campus and have found 40 bird strikes. Their Chapter President is also attending the National Audubon Society Leadership Conference.