Chapter of the Month

Chapter of the Month: Cape Fear Audubon Honors Amazing Backyard Habitat Steward

Audubon North Carolina has 10 amazing chapters across the state. 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 state-wide understanding of special ecosystems and habitats. This month, we get to know Cape Fear Audubon - Read on to learn more about our only coastal chapter.

Each year, Cape Fear Audubon chooses one bird-friendly backyard habitat to honor with the Bird-friendly Habitat Gold Award.

And the winner of the 2013 Gold Award is…Melanie Doyle!

Wilmington's Melanie Doyle has been honored for her bird-friendly backyard near Carolina Beach, where she has passionately restored her yard with more than 70 native plants that now provide beauty and sustenance for area birds and people alike. Melanie’s award-winning yard has been a project 10 years in the making, and is a shining example of bird stewardship in our community.

“The reason I fell in love with this house was that the property consisted of a large lot with patches of vine woodlands. I wanted to try to restore it to a woodland lot, and 10 years later, we are getting there,” says Melanie Doyle. “This project has been continual work and labor of love.”

Melanie hasn’t always called the beaches of North Carolina home. She moved to Wilmington from Omaha, NE, where she received a BS in Wildlife Biology from the University of Nebraska. Melanie came to UNCW to obtain her Masters in Biology, and is currently working on a PhD in Botany at Wake Forest.

Melanie has identified more than 70 species of native plants providing food, shade, shelter and nesting materials for the 58 bird species in and around her half-acre yard. Her backyard bird sightings include Chuck-will's-widow, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Fox Sparrow, Painted Bunting, Purple Finch, Yellow Warbler and even a Western Tanager!

The award-winning yard is at the northern end of the dune ridge plant community – where hikers can experience the trails at Carolina Beach State Park. She has preserved the natural habitat where it still existed in her yard, and has restored what was formerly lost.

She went on to add, “The idea of stewardship can apply to anybody who has ownership and decision-making over a piece of property. You can choose to create habitats, be low impact and have a wildlife-friendly, sustainably conscious yard. It all goes together.”

Each year’s winning yard has met a set of standards that assesses the presence of native plants and desirable habitats that make it a go-to destination for coastal birds. The Cape Fear Audubon Conservation Committee chooses the steward who meets these requirements, and best embodies the idea of the bird-friendly backyard. The award recipient receives a plaque that features a hand-carved, colorful Painted Bunting.


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