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 High Country Audubon Society.
As most bird-oriented groups do, the High Country Audubon Society has sponsored a variety of bird counts, walks and field trips. While these have been fun and generally well attended, we began looking for ways to do something different. It wasn’t until we realized how much our members liked to talk about the birding opportunities in our own backyards that we came up with the “something different” to offer.
Since 2013, HCAS has offered a Come Bird @ Our House program. As the name implies, rather than going off to one of the area’s parks or other birding hotspots, chapter members with host a morning of bird watching from their deck, their living rooms or on neighborhood walks. This program is now in its second year, and the number of species that have been spotted continues to grow!
The first Come Bird @ Our House program was at Janet and Richard Paulette’s home on the Blue Ridge Escarpment at an elevation of about 2,000 feet. The birding mornings started on their deck with coffee and sweet bread or muffins, followed by a 2.5-mile walk through their neighborhood, which also included a several lakes. They have now hosted four events to date.
Martha Cutler and Doug Blackford have also hosted four events at their home. The elevation of their house reaches 3,000 feet. After breakfast and birding from the deck, members went for a walk through their backyard and then out into the pasture or down the drive.
Generally the totals for the days have been in the mid-30 species range, with a high of 41 birds that were spotted last year at Martha and Doug’s house. Warblers are always a highlight of spring birding trips in the mountains, and Come Bird @ Our House delivered with Black-throated Green Warblers, Black-and-white Warblers, Yellow-rumped Warblers and others. Local ponds provided more variety with Osprey, Pied-billed Grebes and even a Spotted Sandpiper. Some of the usual suspects can be exciting when they are first-of-the-season birds, as several have been.
In addition to providing something different for our regular field trip attendees, we have found that offering these birding trips has helped to bring out new birders that probably would not join a traditional field trip. Even neighbors have joined a program. After all, it is just a walk in the neighborhood!
We are hoping our new attendees will see the fun of birding and experience it with others. Hopefully, they will continue to join us when we offer more traditional trips to local High Country birding hotspots.
For more information on High Country Audubon or to become a member visit their website.