Chapter of the Month

Chapter of the Month- The T. Gilbert Pearson Audubon Natural Area

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 Dennis Burnette

You received an introduction to the Pearson chapter’s natural areas and best birding spots. Now get a more in depth look into some of the areas managed by our piedmont chapter and learn how members are working to protect these areas for everyone to enjoy.

The T. Gilbert Pearson Audubon Natural Area

The Pearson chapter continues to manage the Audubon Natural Area. This small “pocket park” has provided a natural oasis with trails, picnic tables and a new bench in the midst of nearby residential neighborhoods, an apartment complex and offices.

Work Day at the Audubon Natural Area

Despite its small size, we have maintained a wooded area with a groomed trail and a picnic area where nearby workers and residents can take a break during the day. We have several working field trips throughout the year to conduct maintenance tasks. Over the years, we have planted native trees and shrubs. Due to the proximity of electrical power lines and a sewer right of way, these haven’t always survived outside human intervention from other agencies, but we have continued to try to enhance the natural character of the site with native plants.

As we do maintenance work in the natural area, we have left woodpecker snags that are in areas that would not endanger visitors, have placed nest boxes for Eastern Bluebirds, and recently have added nest boxes for Brown-headed Nuthatches around the area. We also have species such as Carolina Wrens and Carolina Chickadees nesting in some of the boxes. We have observed a nice variety of birds throughout the natural area, as well as deer, on nature walks and workdays, and we can see signs of other small mammals that use the natural area as home.

Although we encourage the local neighborhood community to use the natural area, our chapter also uses it for nature studies like bird walks and nature workshops on such topics as tree and bird identification.

In addition, our chapter members take part in two citywide litter cleanups each year, the Big Sweep and Great American Cleanup. The Pearson chapter focuses our attention on the creek that runs through a portion of the Audubon Natural Area and the nearby roadside edge.

Our volunteer natural area steward has created signs identifying many of the tree species in the wooded area. We also decided to leave an example of each of several non-native shrub species such as Chinese Ligustrum, Leatherleaf Mahonia and Bush Honeysuckle near the trail entrance with educational signage to indicate what plants visitors should avoid on their own properties. We are working to eradicate these non-native shrubs in other parts of the property.

A portion of the Audubon Natural Area has a grassy/shrubby meadow under a power line right of way. So far, we have managed to arrange for the power company to use mowing rather than spraying herbicides to keep the growth within their specifications. We have arranged for some of the woody saplings to be removed by hand. Recently, we added a section of mowed trail that goes through the meadow for walkers to see grassland and scrub species such as sparrows, butterflies and wildflowers.

Unfortunately, it also has revealed a graphic example of more invasive species of plants, as well. We have begun working on eliminating some of the species, and we plan to highlight others with signage.

Although we have had the T. Gilbert Pearson Audubon Natural Area since the mid 1970s, it’s always a work in progress. The overall effect we’re seeking is a natural oasis that will also act as an outdoor classroom.

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