Chapter of the Month

Chapter of the Month: Elisha Mitchell Audubon Society

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 Elisha Mitchell Audubon Society Read on to learn more about our chapter serving Asheville.

History: The Elisha Mitchell Audubon Society (EMAS) was formed in 1986, named for Dr. Elisha Mitchell. Dr. Mitchell began his career as a professor at the University of North Carolina in 1818. A doctor of Divinity and an early conservationist, his geological studies led to the identification of Mount Mitchell in western North Carolina as the highest peak east of the Mississippi River.

How Many Members: 1,305

Annual Activities:

  • Annual Bird-a-thon Spring Fundraiser
  • Seven general meetings with educational programs
  • Guided bird walks at the Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary on the first Saturday of every month
  • Buncombe County Christmas Bird Count, Buncombe County Spring Migration Bird Count, Balsam Mountain Spring Migration Bird Count and Black Mountains Spring Migration Bird Count

Community Action: EMAS collaborated with the Lake View Park Commission (LVPC), neighbors and citizens across Asheville to preserve a small parcel of land adjacent to Beaver Lake in north Asheville, scheduled to be developed as a strip mall. With financial support from the Janirve Foundation, government agencies and private donations, EMAS raised $400,000 to purchase four acres of wetland. Upon acquisition of the property, EMAS and LVPC cooperated to establish the Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary, which has grown to eight acres.

EMAS is the only Audubon North Carolina chapter that owns and manages an interpretative nature preserve, and has served as the steward for the sanctuary for more than 20 years, investing chapter money and volunteer time to improve the sanctuary and to educate the public about the value of wildlife and the natural world. The sanctuary is now an important Asheville area resource, much loved and used by our citizens and visitors. The Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary has become a critical haven for more than 190 species of birds. 

Special Project(s) We Are Working On:

EMAS sponsors an annual Bird-a-thon in early May. Three teams raised more than $5,000 in each of the last three years. The money is donated to Pro Aves in Colombia to purchase land, and to support other programs for the Reinita Ceilo Azul Reserva de Los Aves (the Cerulean Warbler Reserve) near Giron, Colombia.

What Birds to See in the Buncombe County Area:

Visitors to the Asheville area should keep a lookout for breeding warblers along the Blue Ridge Parkway including Cerulean, Blackburnian, Black-throated Green, Black-throated Blue and Chestnut-sided Warblers. The Swainson's Warbler can be spotted at lower elevations as well.

Where Are the Best Birding Spots in Our Area:

There are many wonderful birding spots in western North Carolina. In Buncombe and Henderson counties, the primary membership area for EMAS, visit the Blue Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary, Jackson Park in Hendersonville and the Sandy Mush Gamelands in northeastern Buncombe County. The Blue Ridge Parkway, both north and south of Asheville, is home to numerous warblers and additional neotropic migrants, and the southern most breeding location for many of these birds.

Join This Chapter: 

For more information or to join the Elisha Mitchell Audubon Society chapter serving the Asheville area visit or visit the chapter on Facebook. If you would like to donate to EMAS, please click here.

Heather Starck with Len Pardue, Immediate Past President of EMAS and his wife Esther.

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