Chapter of the Month: Audubon Society of Forsyth County

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 Audubon Society of Forsyth County http://www.forsythaudubon.org/. Read on to learn more about our chapter serving Winston-Salem.

 History:

Audubon Society of Forsyth County, serving the Winston-Salem area, has a rich history of working to preserve North Carolina for birds and people. Chartered in 1971 by members of the former Forsyth Bird Club, the chapter has grown to more than 850 members!

For many years, Forysth Audubon’s inaugural president Ramona Snavely was the guiding light of the chapter, welcoming and mentoring new members, participating in bird studies, founding the Pilot Mountain Hawk Watch and much more.

Forsyth Audubon was the first North Carolina chapter to sign on to the Important Bird Area program, adopting New River Corridor and Hanging Rock State Park. Under the program, the chapter has conducted bird surveys, purchased binoculars, field guides and other educational materials, and provided funding for Brown-headed Nuthatch and American Kestrel boxes. The chapter also began the first Lights Out program in the southeast working with businesses to turn out their lights to support migratory birds passing over North Carolina’s major cities.

Forysth has long been active in Audubon North Carolina programs and activities. In recent years, Linda Davis and Jim Martin each served as Chapter President and board members of the state affiliate while Kim Brand currently serves as Chapter Vice-President. Phil Dickinson (2008) and Kim Brand (2013) have each been honored as an ANC Volunteer of the Year.

How Many Members:

851

Annual Activities:

Forsyth Audubon hosts and participates in bird-watching events year-round including the annual Christmas Bird Count, the Great Backyard Bird Count in February, a Spring Bird Count, which is tied to annual fundraising efforts, a two-week September Hawk Watch at Pilot Mountain State Park, and the community is invited to participate in mid-month Swift Watches where groups visit local chimney roosts to observe thousands of swifts returning for the night.

Special Project(s) We Are Working On:

The Wood Thrush Project: In conjunction with three Audubon groups in New York, Connecticut and Minnesota, Forsyth Audubon is funding and participating in this project to determine the migratory connectivity of Wood Thrushes breeding in each area. This is a two-year project and will involve many of our members, both in fundraising and citizen-science. In partnership with Audubon’s International Alliances Program, a number of our members are traveling to Belize to assist Belize Audubon in their bird monitoring and ecotourism efforts.

Putting Up Homes for Brown-headed Nuthatches: Forsyth Audubon will put up 65 nest boxes to help this responsibility species in North Carolina. Urbanization makes scarce the dead trees these little birds need for nesting, and people can help by putting up nest boxes in areas that are otherwise suitable for nuthatches. Five hundred nest boxes, funded by Audubon Toyota TogetherGreen, will be put up by each chapter across the state.

Revitalizing a Habitat for Humanity Neighborhood for Birds and People: Good habitat for birds is good habitat for people too! Together, Forsyth Audubon and Habitat for Humanity of Forsyth County are transforming the yards of eight first-time homeowners into places where birds and people will thrive. We piloted this program in October 2012 with two yards funded by the Little Greens Garden Club, and plan to impact six more yards this year with funding from an Audubon Toyota TogetherGreen Fellowship earned by chapter leader Kim Brand.

Next up is Shakeda Lowery’s yard. Among the 23 types of native plants Shakeda and her children will enjoy are:

  • Blueberries – a native plant enjoyed by birds and people alike!
  • An oak tree that will feed caterpillars, making sure that spring migrants passing through the yard and baby birds will have plenty to eat. The oak will also shade the house from the western sun in summer, making it more comfortable and cutting down on electricity bills.
  • Wild columbine so that hummingbirds will sip nectar and delight people with their acrobatics.
  • What Birds to See in Your Area:

    During spring and fall migration, birders can find up to 30 species of warbler and many other neo-tropical birds, including tanagers, grosbeaks, thrushes, cuckoos, vireos, flycatchers and orioles. Blue Grosbeak, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Great Crested Flycatcher, Scarlet Tanager and Summer Tanager nest here. Approximately 280 species have been documented in Forsyth County. Unique to the northern Piedmont area is a breeding population of Yellow-crowned Night Herons at Miller Park, while Historic Bethabara Park and adjacent Bethabara City Park host one of the larger state populations of Wood Thrush. Brown-headed Nuthatches are commonly heard and seen throughout the county. Additionally, several species of sparrows breed or winter here.

    BHNU Branch by Diane Harper in New Bern, NC.

    Where Are the Best Birding Spots in our Area:

    For spring and fall songbird migration, local birders flock to Reynolda and Historic Bethabara Park. Miller Park is another migration-season destination, and for years has been the home of nesting Yellow-crowned Night Herons. Tanglewood County Park has a diversity of habitat that makes it a great birding location year-round. Salem Lake and Archie Elledge Water Treatment Plant host a variety of ducks and waterfowl during winter, with Archie Elledge also providing great habitat for migrating shorebirds during spring and late summer. The wetland and riparian areas of Civitan Park provide breeding habitat for some uncommon area species, including Warbling Vireo, Willow Flycatcher and Yellow Warbler. All but Archie Elledge (access restrictions) are stops on the North Carolina Birding Trail.

    Join This Chapter:

    We have regular chapter meetings on the fourth Tuesday of each month, with the exception of summer and during the Christmas holidays. Forsyth Audubon schedules a Saturday and a Monday Bird Walk each month, and hosts periodic day-trips, as well as both a Winter Trip and a Spring Trip.

    For more information or to join the Audubon Society of Forsyth County serving Winston-Salem visit forsythaudubon.org or visit the chapter on Facebook. Learn how you can join and support this chapter here.