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 T. Gilbert Pearson Audubon Society. Read on to learn more about our chapter serving Guilford County.
By Ann Walter-Fromson and Stella Wear
The T. Gilbert Pearson chapter oversees several ongoing conservation projects, and we have recently added a special focus to a statewide campaign: Bird-Friendly Communities. Under the initiative, our chapter is educating our community on the importance of installing nest boxes for nuthatches and growing native plants for birds.
Monitoring at the Bluebird Trail has been a long-standing project, for Pearson chapter members. We have successfully activated volunteers monitoring 12 boxes positioned beside the stream buffer along N. Buffalo Creek and one of its tributaries in the Lake Daniel Park Greenway each week from April through July. This park is the perfect place for a bluebird trail, with grassy areas adjacent to a stream buffer that was restored using native plants. (The restoration by the city was the result of a 1996 -1998 TGPAS StreamGreen/StreamLife study of the benefits of stream buffers.)
Last year, the bluebird trail project involved 30 people from the neighborhood who recorded 45 Eastern Bluebirds fledging from the nests. We’ve been helping Eastern Bluebirds for many years, and this year, as part of the Bird Friendly Communities initiative, our chapter is also lending a hand to Brown-headed Nuthatches!
Nest Boxes for Nuthatches
Motivated by our September program, “Brown-headed Nuthatches in Suburban Environments” by Mark Stanback, our members enthusiastically joined the Audubon NC Home for Nuthatches project. We have distributed 95 boxes in our area: Audubon NC and the Toyota TogetherGreen by Audubon grant provided 80 boxes and the Pearson chapter purchased 15 boxes.
Awarding boxes through drawings held at the September, October, November and January meetings, we gave boxes to those members who were eager to monitor nests for these squeaky little birds. After one Pearson member gave a presentation to the Burlington Bird Club and shared nest-monitoring information at a Piedmont Bird Club meeting, five boxes were given to each club for their members.
In addition to the 65 boxes being placed near individual homes, we have installed 30 in public areas: Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, Kathleen Clay Edwards Library at Price Park, Audubon Natural Area in Greensboro, Southwest Park, Piedmont Environmental Center of High Point, North Carolina Zoological Park, Bur-Mil Park, Bog Garden, Bicentennial Garden and Haw River State Park. Most of these areas are sites on the North Carolina Birding Trail.
A NestWatch certification training session was held for our members in March as nesting season was set to begin. Even though we have no data to report yet, we look forward to learning more about this bird that we have offered to help.
Native Planting in the Piedmont
Another way the Pearson chapter is helping birds is to fill our yards with native plants that provide food and shelter for our birds. The native plants that evolved in the Piedmont region are well suited to the birds that live here or migrate through our area. Some natives like the Coral Honeysuckle bloom in March just when the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are returning to us from their wintering grounds. Other plants, such as Spicebush, provide high-fat fruits to fuel migration in the fall.
Breeding birds rely heavily on native plants such as oaks, willows and birch trees that host many caterpillar species. Given that 96% of land birds feed insects to their young in the nest, planting natives that support insects can contribute to the survival of our birds.
Invasive exotic plants originate in other parts of the world; they lack pest predators and pathogens; they outcompete native plants, and many have escaped to natural areas such as Price Park in Greensboro. Last November, a Pearson chapter member presented a workshop on invasive plants, followed by a workday with teen volunteers and scouts. We partnered with Piedmont Land Conservancy’s stewardship coordinator to remove two invasive plants (Eleagnus shrubs and Oriental Bittersweet) along the tree line in Price Park using the "cut and paint" method.
To educate folks about the importance of native plants, our chapter presented a program on bird-friendly yards and urban corridors, which described what birds need; how native plants help birds by providing food, shelter and places to nest; and which plants we should avoid. We distributed the new “Native Plants for Birds: Piedmont” brochures published by ANC and the Bird Friendly Communities initiative to all attendees. Copies of the brochure have also been given to our local Sierra Club, Native Plant Society, Wild Birds Unlimited stores, Guilford Garden Center, Bicentennial Garden and the North Carolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill.