By Kaitlan Morehouse
Do you want to learn about local bird populations and other wildlife? The National Audubon Society can help you with that! Get involved with the High Country chapter of the society to take advantage of the events and the programs it offers. These mountains have a one-of-a-kind bird-watching experience that’ll you’ll be sure to enjoy!
The High Country Audubon Society will meet at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 19 at the Holiday Inn Express in Boone.
About the National Organization
National Association of Audubon Society for the Protection of Wild Birds and Animals in 1905 was founded in 1905 after several state societies organized and helped to create the first National Wildlife Refuge in the U.S. and facilitated the hiring of game wardens to protect waterbird breeding areas. It focusing primarily on gulls, terns, egrets, herons and other waterbirds on its conservation list.
Audubon has over 450 societies or local chapters around the continent today.
The society strives to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the Earth’s biological diversity and protect waterbird populations.
Chapters receive resources to plan programs and projects from the National- and State-level Audubon Societies, and the High Country chapter receives resources from North Carolina Audubon.
“It is good to have these resources available here and it is important to feel part of a larger community of people who care not just about birds but about the world we share with them,” said Martha Cutler, Chair of the Programs and Field Trips Committee of the local chapter.
About Our Local Chapter
Our local chapter, High Country Audubon Society (HCAS), offers activities that focus around the area it serves: Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Watauga and Wilkes counties.
“We have some real good birders, many of whom are just starting out,” said HCAS President and Conservation Chair Bob Cherry.
Anyone can join – but you don’t have to join to attend the monthly meetings. They take place at the Holiday Inn Express on Blowing Rock Road in Boone from 6:30-7:30 p.m. between March and October. You can also participate in the society’s walks, trips or monthly programs!
The group hosts bird walks in many of the local areas and some two- to three-day overnight bird trips to the coast and neighboring states, such as South Carolina, Tennessee and coastal North Carolina. Most of the trips are half-day, visiting local site like the Blue Ridge Parkway and Valle Crucis Community Park, but can also be workdays to remove non-native plants or improve bird habitats.
The monthly meetings will be held on the third Tuesday of every month from March to October, will address the birding sites or features and will be announced online through local online sources like Ray’s Weather.
Most programs are naturally about birds, but some have been on bears, frogs, dragonflies and people talking about the trips they’ve been on from within and outside of the country.
One such program will be a report from Grandfather Mountain Naturalist Mickey Shortt and his experience after doing a Big Year for NC – the national event encouraging people to try to see as many species of bird as they can in a single calendar year – with Grandfather’s Executive Director Jesse Pope last year.
For more information, a calendar of events or to join, read the quarterly newsletter here or join here. If you come to the meetings starting next month, any member will be glad to sign you up, and dues are only $10 per year.
Birding in the High Country
Ready to give birding a shot? The best advice that Cherry and Cutler have to offer is to frequently get out and practice looking for birds.
You will need binoculars, a field guide and a buddy who knows more than yourself for best results, especially as it can be hard first starting out, but it’s not required!
“It’s much easier to go out with more experienced people who can help you learn,” Cherry said.
What’s that? You don’t have any of the above?
Fear not – there are plenty of opportunities for you!
Before you go out and spend money on binoculars, share with a bird-watching friend to get an idea of what you’re doing when you go out. Besides, there’s always a spare at HCAS because of all the walks, trips and monthly programs happening!
Then, if you need and don’t have a guide, “there’s an app for that!” Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a free smartphone app called “Merlin,” designed specifically for beginners.
“I confess to never having used it, but I think folks are finding it helpful,” Cutler said.
Last, if you don’t have anyone to go with, Curtis Smalling and HCAS member Guy McGrane lead walks! Smalling walks in Valle Crucis Community Park on Wednesday mornings from April-October, starting at 8:30 a.m., and McGrane walks at Brookshire Park on the first Saturday of the month from 8.-10 a.m.
Check out the High Country chapter website for more details.