Chapter of the Month – T. Gilbert Pearson Audubon: Volunteer Extraordinaire, Jim Eldrett

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.

jimvolunteerWhere would we be without our standout volunteers donating their time and energy to bird conservation through their local chapters? Jim Eldrett has been involved with T. Gilbert Pearson Audubon for several years.

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

“Jim rose to the occasion of helping with the Audubon Natural Area without being asked. His attitude about his work is modest – yes, he works across the street from it, but it takes a huge effort to do more than just keep an eye on the area. He pitches In with hard physical work, eradicating invasive plants, maintaining the trail and removing trash and debris. He often visits the NA before or after his 12-hour shifts as a nurse at the hospital.” – T. Gilbert Pearson Audubon Society Leadership

 How long have you been volunteering with Audubon?

I’ve volunteered sporadically for a few years, but have been more involved regularly the last year or so.

Describe your role within your chapter. (volunteer duties, board member, etc.)

I’ve become more actively involved by way of the Audubon Natural Area (NA). I also enjoy events such as nature walks, monthly meetings and participating in our beginning birder events. I have also obtained a nest box for the Brown-headed Nuthatch and am participating in that project.

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

The chapter works in many ways, to support our birds:

  • We participate in various Bird-Friendly Communities programs.
  • Event promotions, such as hikes. Folks become more aware and appreciative of our natural world through these events.
  • We’ve joined in putting up 10,000 Nest Boxes for Nuthatches
  • The Bluebird Box project.
  • Outreach to beginning birders with walks designed with them in mind.
  • Backyard Bird Count Class, as well as group counts to put what is learned into practice.

Tell us about your work maintaining the Audubon Natural Area.

The natural area is adjacent to my place of work (Cone Hospital), so it was natural that I became interested in its maintenance. A driving force in its earlier development was another Cone employee. Now, I feel that I am walking in his footsteps. I can’t knock off ten-mile hikes on the AT like I used to, but the natural area is small enough that I can put in an hour here or there and really feel that I can make a difference.

Most of the work there involves trail maintenance, general clean up and control of invasive species. We had a cleanup event at the NA in conjunction with a citywide cleanup event, and I volunteered to do the creek portion, getting waist-deep in water—and knee-deep in mud in the process.

Where else can you play in the mud and get an “atta boy?”

How does the Audubon Natural Area support birds in your region?

While it is relatively small in size, the NA is part of a greater greenway area along Buffalo Creek. By controlling invasive plants and promoting native species, we assist the avian community with food and shelter. There are several nest boxes located within the area, both for Bluebirds and Brown-headed Nuthatches.

What inspired you to contribute to this project?

This particular area is adjacent to my place of work, Cone Hospital, so it is literally in my backyard. Because of this, I can keep an eye on the area for any activities that might not be compatible with Audubon’s mission.

What inspires you to volunteer with Audubon?

As I observe others making a difference in so many ways, I’m inspired to do my part in thinking globally and acting locally for the betterment of our planet.

Why should someone volunteer with Audubon?

You are rewarded by knowing that you have played a part in something greater than yourself. You can do worse than spending time with like-minded folks, from whom you learn so much, while also improving the natural world in your own backyard. While the objective of the “work” may be limited in scope, you really do gain a sense of satisfaction in having contributed to keeping our environment healthy and balanced.

How can others get involved with your chapter?

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 at http://tgpearsonaudubon.net, 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 here: link to chapter of the month tag.

 

Ocracoke Inlet Islands Update

For more than 25 years, Audubon North Carolina has managed a network of coastal sites along our state’s coast offering a haven for nesting beach-nesting birds. By protecting the specialized habitats that birds need, shorebirds have a chance to thrive. Read on to learn more about nesting updates from islands inside the Ocracoke Inlet and the coastal team who protects them.

Please welcome staff member Lindsay Addison

Ocracoke Inlet lies between Ocracoke Island, part of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, to the north and North Core Banks, part of Cape Lookout National Seashore, to the south. The inlet connects the vast Pamlico Sound with the Atlantic Ocean. Near this sometimes rough and choppy inlet are several tiny islands rising out of oysterbeds and sand flats. Years ago, the islands were large enough to hold a lighthouse that predated Ocracoke Light, other buildings and wharves.

Over the years, they’ve since eroded. Though they are now reduced in size, they still provide nesting habitat for many birds.

Beacon Island

The marshy Beacon Island, is the largest of these. It plays host to nesting Brown Pelicans —sometimes more than 500 pairs—along with oystercatchers and Laughing Gulls. This year, the pelicans chose a nearby island built of dredged sand. Two pairs of American Oystercatchers and Black-crowned Night Herons, along with 30 pairs of Forster’s Terns, have chosen the island for their nests.

Forster’s Terns are small, orange-billed terns that resemble Common Terns at first glance. They nest on wrack (dead vegetation) that forms mats in the marsh grass. Most were incubating on our last visit to the island. Meanwhile, the oystercatcher pairs each have chicks. One of them has fledged two chicks, while the other pair’s chick is still growing.

Volunteer Maria Logan putting up a sign on Beacon Island. Photo by Lindsay Addison.

Volunteer Maria Logan putting up a sign on Beacon Island. Photo by Lindsay Addison.

Shell Castle Island

To the east of Beacon lies Shell Castle Island. Shell Castle is a long, narrow finger of oyster shell, backed by extensive oysterbeds. In years when no storms rake its precarious high ground, the Oystercatchers that nest there do well. Their chicks can walk with the parents a few feet to an oyster buffet and eat their fill, while other pairs must commute back and forth to bring in shellfish food.

This year, three oystercatcher pairs hold territories on the eastern portion of Shell Castle, and two have broods of chicks, hatched from re-nesting that followed the passage of Tropical Storm Ana.

The western portion of Shell Castle is where ships used to offload their ballast stones before making their way across Pamlico Sound. The long, narrow island is home to nesting Common Terns and Black Skimmers. A recent visit found about 15 pairs of each hatching chicks!

Common Tern with chick. Photo by Lindsay Addison.

Common Tern with chick. Photo by Lindsay Addison.

North Rock Island:

The third of the Audubon Sanctuaries is North Rock Island, a grouping of several small marsh and shell islands. North Rock is home to a Great Egret colony that produced over 15 fledglings this year, along with several more pairs of oystercatchers. There’s even a colony of about 50 pairs of Royal Terns! The terns rode out Ana and about 25 chicks are now scurrying around the island, tended to by parents who are working hard to feed the hungry youngsters.

The oystercatchers are doing great and all are working on raising chicks. Some even wear bands. One, Dark Green EM, hatched from North Rock in 2010. It wintered around Beaufort Inlet about 40 miles south and returned to the tiny islands in Ocracoke Inlet to nest for the first time in 2014. There, it successfully fledged a chick! This year, it’s tending to its chicks with an unbanded mate. With a little luck and some calm weather, it may succeed again.

Learn more about Audubon North Carolina’s conservation efforts to protect the seas and shores our birds need to thrive. 

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.

marievolunteer

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.

The History of Bird Banding, Part II

Bird banding is a valuable tool in the study and conservation of many bird species. In this series, we’ll explain bird banding practices and explore insights gleaned from the observation of banded birds here on North Carolina’s coast and beyond. Now we’re looking back—to see how this important practice has evolved into what it is today. 

Please welcome guest writer, Katharine Frazier.

Bird banding gives ornithologists much insight into the lives of birds, but the modern system scientists use today hasn’t been around forever. In fact, it only began to take shape in the early 1900s!

Paul Bartsch’s early work:

The use of numbered bands—a cornerstone of today’s banding system—was initiated by Paul Bartsch, a scientist who banded Black-crowned Night Herons, near Washington, DC in 1902 and 1903. Bartsch inscribed each of his bands with a serial number and a message—“Return to Smithsonian Institution.”

Later in 1903, someone reported one of Bartsch’s banded herons in Leesburg, Virginia. Bartsch’s basic system of banding birds and having people send in reports of sightings continues today in the form of websites, where citizen scientists can submit sightings for specific birds. Many of you may have even reported sightings of banded birds to these websites!

Bartsch’s work in the field of bird banding inspired others to use banding as a method of conducting serious scientific studies. In 1909, Leon Cole, an ornithologist from the University of Wisconsin, founded a national banding organization known as the American Bird Banding Association, which oversaw all banding activities in the country until 1920, when the Bureau of Biological Survey—housed in the U.S. Department of Agriculture—began to administer banding.

Frederick C. Lincoln takes over:

When the federal government took over banding activities, they chose Frederick C. Lincoln, an ornithologist from Colorado, to oversee the program. He managed the Section of Distribution and Migration of Birds within the Bureau of Biological Survey. For his work in this department, Lincoln is recognized as one of the most influential figures in the development of modern bird banding.

During his 26-year tenure, Lincoln completely transformed the basic system created by Bartsch and implemented by the American Bird Banding Association. He created fixed, uniform systems for numbering and recording banded birds, established banding standards, recruited banders from across the country and promoted banding as an important area of scientific study. As his banding program grew, Lincoln also became involved in migratory bird conservation, an issue brought to light by population data shown through records of banded birds.

His work with the Bureau of Biological Survey (and later the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) came to an end in 1946.

Modern Day Banding:

Today, banding is much more than the simple metal bands used by the falconers of the Middle Ages and the ornithologists of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Modern banders have progressed past bands placed around birds’ legs. With modern technologies such as radio and satellite transmitters, banders gather more information about birds’ lives than ever before.

Photo credit: Lindsay Addison

Photo credit: Lindsay Addison

These trackers allow scientists to study birds’ migration routes from a distance without having to rely on resighting reports. Thanks to trackers, banders reveal a more complete picture of certain birds’ migratory, nesting and even feeding patterns.

Considering banding’s beginnings as a method of conveying messages in the Punic Wars and as a way to express ownership of falcons in the Middle Ages, it’s amazing to see how far banding has come.

The practice has had an incredibly long history, and it’s certainly not over yet. As new technology continues to develop, so will banding. Who knows how scientists will be tracking birds in 20, 50 or even 100 years?

Now that you know the history of bird banding, learn how the practice supports bird conservation science.

The History of Bird Banding, Part I

Bird banding is a valuable tool in the study and conservation of many bird species. In this series, we’ll explain bird banding practices and explore insights gleaned from the observation of banded birds here on North Carolina’s coast and beyond. Now we’re looking back—to see how this important practice has evolved into what it is today.

Please welcome guest writer, Katharine Frazier.

Chances are, you’ve happened to see a bird at some point with a band around its leg. You might have noticed that this band had numbers and letters written on it—but what did they mean? More importantly, what was the purpose of this band in the first place?

Bird banding is a method of tracking and identifying birds. It involves attaching a small, ring-like band of plastic or metal to a bird’s leg, which can be used to identify the bird. The data gathered from sightings of banded birds helps ornithologists study birds’ migration routes, lifespans and nesting habits.

Although it may seem like a fairly new practice, bird banding, in one form or another, has actually been around for hundreds of years!

Photo credit: Lindsay Addison

Photo credit: Lindsay Addison

From Rome to the Middle Ages:

Evidence shows bird banding was used as early as 218-201 BC, during the Punic Wars. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, records show Roman officers tied threads around the legs of birds, which served as messages to fellow soldiers.

In the Middle Ages, European falconers marked their birds with leg bands to show ownership. One of the first instances of a bird being identified by its band in the Middle Ages was around 1595, when a banded Peregrine Falcon, belonging to Henry IV was spotted in Malta—1,350 miles away from its home in France!

While these early instances of bird banding weren’t used for the same scientific purposes as banding is used today, the practice soon started to study birds in the year 1669, when Duke Ferdinand placed a silver band around the leg of a grey Heron. This same bird—identified by its band—was found by the Duke’s grandson in 1728. Despite the fact that this observation took place several hundred years ago, today’s scientists use bands in a very similar way to determine a bird’s age.

Bringing bird banding to the sciences:

The scientific use of banding was furthered by John James Audubon, one of the first to conduct banding experiments in North America. In the early 1800s, while in the midst of studying and painting North American birds, Audubon banded several young Eastern Phoebes at their nesting site near Philadelphia. The next year, he noticed that the previous year’s phoebes—easily distinguished by their banded legs—had returned to the same nesting site.

Photo credit: Murray N. Hadley, Frisco, Hatteras Island, NC.

Photo credit: Murray N. Hadley, Frisco, Hatteras Island, NC.

Without the bands, it might have seemed as though they were just another flock of phoebes arriving in the area to nest, but the presence of the bands revealed the species’ nesting site fidelity and provided a glimpse into the birds’ nesting and migratory patterns. This was an exciting discovery, and it wouldn’t have been possible without Audubon’s decision to band the birds.

While early bird banding definitely had its uses—whether it was sending messages or making some of the first ornithological discoveries—it wasn’t until the 1900s that banding began to resemble the system in place today.

Next, take a look at how the modern banding system came to be!