Chapter of the Month – T. Gilbert Pearson Audubon: Volunteer Extraordinaire, Marie Poteat

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 SocietyRead on to learn more about our chapter serving Guilford County.

Where would we be without our standout volunteers donating their time and energy to bird conservation through their local chapters? Marie Poteat has been involved with T. Gilbert Pearson Audubon for five years.

Read on to learn more about Marie’s dedication and leadership with our chapter serving the Triad.

"Marie Poteat shares so much of herself with others as she works to educate the community about their natural surroundings. Each year, she enthusiastically plays host to Audubon nature walks that are open to the public. Her family has lived on the land she owns for many years (she grew up there), and she enjoys opening it up and telling people the history of the former farm and how she is converting so much of it back to native prairie. Her efforts are on a grand scale, but people who visit her land come away with ideas about how they can improve the habitat on their own properties to benefit birds and other wildlife. Her knowledge about native flowers and grasses,as well as local birds and other wildlife, is abundant, and she shares her excitement to the extent that others get excited, too." – Lynn Burnette

How long have you been volunteering with Audubon?

Although I have been a member of Audubon for many years, only after retiring have I been active in the local chapter of Audubon for about five years. As an individual, I have been active on my property most of my life, doing projects that are necessary for protecting the environment and providing food and cover for wildlife. My love of both birds and native plants has been in my blood as long as I can remember.

Describe your role within your chapter.

I have served on the board for the last four years and been the secretary for most of that time. I try to attend as many of the state meetings and as many of the local outings as possible. I also have hosted one of our Second Sunday Nature Walks on my property for the last three years.

Describe how your chapter works to support birds in your community.

We strive to educate at every opportunity and then have hands-on projects in the community to show specific activities that support birds and wildlife. Our participation in the Bird-Friendly Communities program emphasizes the importance of native plants to support birds, bees and butterflies, along with water, cover and nest protection. We also provide bird houses at bird-friendly sights across the region.

Tell us about your work converting your meadow to warm season grass.

I have converted old agricultural fields, pastures and right-of-way corridors on my farm from cool-season grasses with lots of non-native invasive plants, to new plantings of native grasses and forbs. This is a project in progress with about 16 acres already planted and should total 25 or more acres upon completion.

I also decided that I would do the work myself since there are many steps in the conversion, and it must be coordinated with weather conditions over several years to establish. As hard as it was, I had to use herbicides to kill everything that was growing in the areas, in order to have any chance of establishing and maintaining the new native grasses and forbs. The process has gone very well, and I now have a great stand of grasses and forbs.

These new fields will be maintained with burning based on fuel loads. The NC Forest Service did the first official burn on my property in March 2014. It was a very successful burn and did the job of killing new woody growth, as well as rejuvenating the native grasses and forbs.

What birds will be supported by the new grass?

Goldfinch, Junco, Grasshopper Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Song Sparrow, White-throated SparrowTurkey, and maybe Meadowlark and Quail.

What inspired you to start this project?

The need for early successional habitat, since so much has disappeared in our area due to development and too much mowing.

Have you seen any success from the project so far? More birds in your meadow?

I definitely noticed a dramatic difference in the number of insects in the fields initially. With so many of the flowers and grasses producing seeds, the number of flocks has increased and the individuals in a flock of birds have greatly increased.

I used to see flocks of Goldfinch with approximately 25 individuals, and now the flocks are so large it is hard to estimate. This is also true of mixed flocks of sparrows in the fields. The food supply in the fields is tremendous from the insects in the spring and summer, and then seeds from the flowers and forbs in late summer, fall, and into the winter also attract birds and other wildlife.

What inspires you to volunteer with Audubon?

My love of nature goes back so far that I really do not know when or how it started. I like how Audubon operates, and what they do to make a difference to protect the environment for birds and all wildlife.

Why should someone volunteer with Audubon?

Audubon has so many varied projects for people to participate in at so many different levels. You do not have to be an expert to participate and make a difference.

Get Involved

Gilbert Pearson Audubon meets at 7 pm the third Thursday of each month from September through May at the KCEF Branch Library in Greensboro. All visitors are welcome. We also have monthly Second Sunday Nature Walks that are open to beginning birders as well as more seasoned ones. Supervised older children are welcome. Visit our website, or visit the T. Gilbert Pearson Audubon Society page on Facebook.

Get to know more of our 10 chapter across North Carolina. Read our Chapter of the Month series.