Chapter of the Month

Volunteer Extraordinaire, Mark Kosiewski

New Hope Audubon: Chapter of the Month

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 New Hope Audubon.

Where would we be without our standout volunteers donating their time and energy to bird conservation through their local chapters? Mark Kosiewski has been involved with New Hope Audubon Society for more than five years.

Read on to learn more about Mark’s dedication and leadership with our chapter serving Chatham, Durham and Orange counties in the piedmont.

Mark with a Barn Owl nest box.

Describe your role within the New Hope Audubon Society.

I have been active on the NHAS Board for about 5 years. At first, I sat in on board meetings to get to know people and see where I might fit in. I then joined the board as director, and for the past couple of years, I have chaired both the conservation and program committees.

I got involved with the board because some thought I could help engage younger people to become active in our chapter. I have volunteered to help with outreach, bird walks, Christmas and spring bird counts, Bird-Friendly Communities, and our Barn Owl project. And I am still committed to engaging younger people in Audubon.

Describe how NHAS works to support birds in your community.

We work to identify and support birds in our area that need help. We have been providing nest boxes, either for sale or as donations, for Eastern Bluebirds, Brown-headed Nuthatches, and Eastern Screech-Owls. We have built a wildlife observation platform and associated trails at Jordan Lake. We helped construct a bird blind for children and a boardwalk for the North Carolina Botanical Garden and Mason Farm Wildlife Preserve in Chapel Hill. We lead bird walks and field trips, and we hold monthly meetings with speakers from September through May each year.

Tell us about your role with the Piedmont Barn Owl Initiative.

When I learned that Barn Owls used to be present in our part of the piedmont in North Carolina, but were now rarely ever seen, I wondered if there was something we could do to help this very beneficial species make a comeback. I pitched the idea to our board and explained my vision of how we might put up nest boxes for the owls in Chatham, Durham and Orange counties. The board endorsed my vision, set me up as leader and organizer, and earmarked money for what became the Piedmont Barn Owl Initiative.

After conducting research, I contacted Mark Browning of the Barn Owl Box Company in Pennsylvania, scouted habitats and reached out to landowners. With help from a number of volunteers, we have built and put up 26 nest boxes in appropriate habitat for Barn Owls. I have organized volunteers to check the boxes periodically for signs of occupancy, coordinated the installation of a nest camera in one of our boxes near the Jordan Lake dam, and have provided information for individuals and other organizations (Cape Fear Audubon, for example) who have expressed interest in putting up their own nest boxes.

To learn more about the project, see my blog here.

It’s too soon to determine the success of the nest boxes. We have put up 26 boxes and installed a nest cam. That required extensive labor and is a success story by itself. To date, we have one confirmed sighting of an owl using a box, but it didn’t stay. Late winter or early spring is the time when the owls start to breed, so we’re keeping our eyes open.

How can someone support or get involved with the Piedmont Barn Owl Initiative?

If someone is interested in being a ‘guardian’ of one of our nest boxes located on public property, he or she can contact me at Put ‘Barn Owl’ in the subject line so the message will be forwarded to me. Similarly, contact me if you know of a farmer who already has Barn Owls. We could supplement the farm with more houses. And, of course, donations for a nest box are always welcome. Contact us for information.

What inspires you to volunteer with Audubon?

Birds put me in touch with something greater than myself. They are unique as a source of inspiration for me. I want to pass this on to the next generation.

Why should someone volunteer with Audubon?

Volunteering can be an endless source of learning. It’s a way to meet interesting, smart people, so you can learn and grow. And, of course, there are the birds that need our help.

A final note from a past president of NHAS:

Mark came to us hesitantly, not sure how he might fit in or whether he could even devote time to NHAS because he was starting up his own business. But it didn’t take long before he was getting involved in one project after another. Then, before we knew it, he was spearheading the Barn Owl project with all of the energy and enthusiasm he could muster. And because he knew lots of people or had connections, he took on the role of Program Chair and has invited a host of excellent speakers for our monthly meetings.

No dust settles on his head. He’s too busy doing good work for our birds.

Click here to learn more about how you can join New Hope Audubon Society as a member or volunteer.

How you can help, right now