B and L Organic, a 35-acre farm near Mars Hill, NC, has plenty of young-forest habitat suitable for Golden-winged Warblers, a species with only 1,000 or so individuals in North Carolina.
The farm sits atop a gorgeous 3500-foot ridge where farmers Barry and Laura grow crops year-round to sell at the North Asheville and West Asheville Farmers Markets near Asheville, NC. They began growing apples on the property 40 years ago and stopped using pesticides altogether 30 years ago. I didn't find Golden-winged Warblers on their farm during an initial survey, but they continued to maintain their excellent habitat in hopes of attracting these imperiled warblers and supporting other wildlife.
I returned to B and L Organic in June 2018 to do a Climate Watch survey and found an impressive array of songbirds: Eastern Bluebirds, American Goldfinches, Field Sparrows, and Indigo Buntings.
But it was a quiet buzzing warble that made me hold my breath. Was it? Could it be?! It was! Vermivora chrysoptera – a showy male Golden-winged Warbler – had chosen to land at Barry and Laura’s organic farm! Likely a young male, I hope he will successfully mate and nest in the coming years, thanks to Barry and Laura’s excellent land stewardship and love of birds.
December is the only month the Rubensteins take off from farming. When I visited them on Christmas Eve, it felt like visiting with old friends. The journey of bird conservation can be long but also rewarding. B and L Organic is now officially designated as a part of the growing network of land Audubon recognizes as Working Lands that work for birds and people. With luck – and continued good stewardship – the cabin they are working to finish as a vacation rental, which also happens to be surrounded by great Golden-winged Warbler habitat, will offer up buzzy, brilliant Golden-winged Warblers to delight guests.
Aimee Tomcho, conservation biologist, joined the Audubon North Carolina staff in 2013.