Chapter of the Month

Chapter of the Month: Forsyth Audubon- A Winter Trip on the Atlantic Flyway

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 Audubon Society of Forsyth County Read on to learn more about our chapter serving Winston-Salem.

Recently, five members of Forsyth Audubon, Katherine Thornington, Shelley Rutkin, Kitty Jensen, Phil Dickinson and Jeremy Reiskind, set off on an adventure to follow the Atlantic Flyway south to Belize. As part of our two-year Wood Thrush project, we thought, perhaps our Wood Thrushes were wintering in Belize, so we went to find out!

During the trip, we had two goals in mind: work with the Belize Audubon team to set up accounts and enter observational data on eBird, and to assist and advise them in making their national parks and sanctuaries even more bird-friendly. In return we got their expertise on the best birding sites of Belize.

Usually, this time of year, the diminished wetlands would have concentrated many water birds. Belize’s expected "dry season" was still quite wet when we arrived, so our first intended destination, Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, was flooded out. Instead, we stayed closer to Belize City and had our introduction to its birds on a cruise down the swiftly flowing Belize River, followed by a visit to the Community Baboon Sanctuary nearby.

Lee Jones, Matt Jeffery, Belize Audubon staff, Forsyth Audubon birders

On Monday, our group was joined by Lee Jones, author of The Birds of Belize, who was passing through on his way to California! We accompanied the Belize Audubon team on a bird survey of the Burdon Canal, a waterway close to Belize City. After some fine birding and lunch, we gathered at the headquarters in Belize City and began the first of three eBird training sessions for park wardens and personnel.

Later we had the opportunity to stop by the Basin Wildlife Sanctuary as well as visit the small rural community of Red Bank, which is the only place to see the magnificent Scarlet Macaws in Belize while they search for seasonally available food. This location is expected to serve as an ecotourism draw in the future.

Finally, what is a trip to Belize without some sightseeing? We headed for Mayflower-Bocawina National Park where we saw unexcavated Mayan ruins, wonderful waterfalls and, of course, more Belizean birds!

Scarlet Macaws at Red Bank

Throughout this journey, we saw many Wood Thrushes. Were they "ours” making the long journey from North Carolina as we had done? Perhaps we will find out in the future. We connected with many of our spring migrants including some Magnolia Warblers, American Redstarts and Summer Tanagers. After this trip, our team has a better understanding of how our birds are shared between North Carolina and the lands further south and have connected with the marvelous people of Belize Audubon– protectors of our birds.

The trip was arranged with Matt Jeffery of National Audubon's International Alliances Program, based in Washington, D.C. Matt joined us on the first part of our visit, and as a result, we met some wonderful and dedicated people. It was definitely a win-win proposition if there ever was one!

To enjoy more about our trip and the beautiful birds we saw, read our series on the Forsyth Audubon blog.

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