Alligator River Adventure!

Alligator River Adventure!

i Nov 30th No Comments by

Authored by Jeff Beane

On Friday-Sunday, 13-15 November, Wake Audubon held its Alligator River Adventure trip, a joint field trip between and Wake Audubon and the Museum of Natural Sciences, usually offered every two to three years. Trip leaders were Jerry Reynolds and Jeff Beane. Also participating were Herb Amyx, Pat Amyx, Betty Lou Chaika, David Chaika, Dan Harvey, Sue Harvey, Cindy Lincoln, Mary Martorella, Ann McCormick, Betsy McCormick, Betty Ann O’Brien, Adair Pickard, Louise Romanow, Mary Ann Rood, and Bill Swallow.

Birders on the Alligator River field trip

Birders on the Alligator River field trip

Our itinerary included Alligator River, Pea Island, and Pocosin Lakes national wildlife refuges; Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve; Cape Hatteras National Seashore; Pettigrew and Jockey’s Ridge state parks; and a few other stops.

We left from the Museum’s Research Lab at 10 a.m. Friday morning, and returned at about 6 p.m. Sunday evening. We had good weather—sunny to partly cloudy and somewhat unseasonably warm. We identified 107 vertebrate species, including at least 83 birds, nine mammals, seven reptiles, five amphibians, and three fishes. A few other species were glimpsed but not positively identified. Highlights included good looks at several black bears, at least a dozen species each of waterfowl and shorebirds, good looks at American white pelicans and bald eagles, a few late-season reptiles basking, and a fresh road-killed mink. Bill glimpsed a short-eared owl, but he was the only one to see it. We stayed at the Comfort Inn in Nags Head, where some of us could see many species from out our motel room windows, and we enjoyed picnic and fast food lunches and fine dinner dining at Basnight’s Lone Cedar and La Fogata Mexican restaurants. Good times were had by all.

American Oystercatcher at Oregon Inlet

American Oystercatcher at Oregon Inlet



Dunlin at Oregon Inlet

Dunlin at Oregon Inlet


Sanderlings on the beach at Pea Island NWR

Sanderlings on the beach at Pea Island NWR

Savannah Sparrow at Pea Island NWR

Savannah Sparrow at Pea Island NWR

A Red-tailed Hawk at Alligator River sizes up the Museum bus: Nope; a little too large to handle as prey.

A Red-tailed Hawk at Alligator River sizes up the Museum bus: Nope; a little too large to handle as prey.

Boat-tailed Grackle at the Nags Head Comfort Inn

Boat-tailed Grackle at the Nags Head Comfort Inn

Bears! How fortunate that there are still places left for them in our world, and the Albemarle Peninsula is one such place. The group was afforded good looks at several on this trip.

Bears! How fortunate that there are still places left for them in our world, and the Albemarle Peninsula is one such place. The group was afforded good looks at several on this trip.

The dune-sheltered maritime forest and interdunal freshwater ponds at Nags Head Woods provide unique habitat for species like the Marbled Salamander and Southern Cricket Frog, which are common on the mainland but unable to survive on most of the Outer Banks.

The dune-sheltered maritime forest and interdunal freshwater ponds at Nags Head Woods provide unique habitat for species like the Marbled Salamander and Southern Cricket Frog, which are common on the mainland but unable to survive on most of the Outer Banks.

Black-bellied Plover on beach at Pea Island NWR

Black-bellied Plover on beach at Pea Island NWR

Ruddy Turnstone on beach at Pea Island NWR

Ruddy Turnstone on beach at Pea Island NWR

Willet on beach at Nags Head

Willet on beach at Nags Head

Forster's Tern on beach at Nags Head

Forster’s Tern on beach at Nags Head


Green Treefrog finds refuge in a PVC pipe at Nags Head Woods

Green Treefrog finds refuge in a PVC pipe at Nags Head Woods

The weather was warm enough for this Banded Water Snake and Red-bellied Water Snake to seek some late-season sun along the Pocosin Lakes Visitor Center boardwalk.

The weather was warm enough for this Banded Water Snake and Red-bellied Water Snake to seek some late-season sun along the Pocosin Lakes Visitor Center boardwalk.

Vertebrate Species Observed

* = observed only as dead-on-road (DOR) or otherwise dead specimens.

Not all species were seen by all members of the group; some may have been seen by only one or two people.



Strongylura marina  Atlantic Needlefish (at least 2)

Cyprinodon variegatus  Sheepshead Minnow (many)

Gambusia holbrooki  Eastern Mosquitofish (many)


Ambystoma opacum  Marbled Salamander (4 adults)

Bufo [Anaxyrus] [cf. americanus x terrestris] “American/Southern Toad” (1 adult female)

Acris gryllus  Southern Cricket Frog (at least 2)

Hyla cinerea  Green Treefrog (a few)

Rana catesbeiana [Lithobates catesbeianus]  American Bullfrog (at least 2 or 3)


Chrysemys p. picta  Eastern Painted Turtle (several)

Clemmys guttata  Spotted Turtle (at least 1)

Pseudemys rubriventris  Red-bellied Cooter (many)

Trachemys s. scripta  Yellow-bellied Slider (many)

Nerodia erythrogaster  Red-bellied Water Snake (1 adult)

Nerodia fasciata  Banded Water Snake (1 adult)

Thamnophis s. sauritus  Eastern Ribbon Snake (1 small adult male DOR) *


Aix sponsa  Wood Duck (at least 7)

Anas acuta  Northern Pintail (several)

Anas americana  American Widgeon (many)

Anas clypeata  Northern Shoveler (many)

Anas crecca  Green-winged Teal (many)

Anas discors  Blue-winged Teal (at least 1)

Anas platyrhynchos  Mallard (many)

Anas rubripes  American Black Duck (many)

Anas strepera  Gadwall (many)

Branta canadensis  Canada Goose (many)

Cygnus columbianus  Tundra Swan (many)

Lophodytes cucullatus  Hooded Merganser (a few)

Oxyura jamaicensis  Ruddy Duck (many)

Colinus virginianus  Northern Bobwhite (at least 6-7)

Meleagris gallopavo  Wild Turkey (at least 27)

Podilymbus podiceps  Pied-billed Grebe (many)

Morus bassanus  Northern Gannet (many)

Phalacrocorax auritus  Double-crested Cormorant (many)

Pelecanus erythrorhynchos  American White Pelican (many)

Pelecanus occidentalis  Brown Pelican (many)

Ardea alba  Great Egret (many)

Ardea herodias  Great Blue Heron (many)

Egretta thula  Snowy Egret (a few)

Egretta tricolor  Tricolored Heron (a few)

Eudocimus albus  White Ibis (many)

Cathartes aura  Turkey Vulture (many)

Coragyps atratus  Black Vulture (several)

Accipiter cooperii  Cooper’s Hawk (at least 1 or 2)

Accipiter striatus  Sharp-shinned Hawk ( at least 2 or 3)

Buteo jamaicensis  Red-tailed Hawk (many)

Circus cyaneus  Northern Harrier (many)

Haliaeetus leucocephalus  Bald Eagle (several)

Falco sparverius  American Kestrel (many)

Fulica americana  American Coot (at least 1)

Rallus limicola  Virginia Rail (several heard; at least 2 seen)

Charadrius semipalmatus  Semipalmated Plover (at least 1)

Charadrius vociferus  Killdeer (many)

Pluvialis squatarola  Black-bellied Plover (many)

Haematopus palliatus  American Oystercatcher (at least 2)

Recurvirostra americana  American Avocet (many)

Arenaria interpres  Ruddy Turnstone (several)

Calidris alba  Sanderling (many)

Calidris alpina  Dunlin (many)

Calidris canutus  Red Knot (1)

Tringa flavipes  Lesser Yellowlegs (many)

Tringa melanoleuca  Greater Yellowlegs (many)

Tringa semipalmata  Willet (many)

Chroicocephalus philadelphia  Bonaparte’s Gull (several)

Larus argentatus  Herring Gull (many)

Larus delawarensis  Ring-billed Gull (many)

Larus marinus  Great Black-backed Gull (many)

Leucophaeus atricilla  Laughing Gull (many)

Sterna forsteri  Forster’s Tern (many)

Thalasseus maximus  Royal Tern (several)

Columba livia  Rock Pigeon (many)

Zenaida macroura  Mourning Dove (many)

Asio flammeus  Short-eared Owl (1)

Megaceryle alcyon  Belted Kingfisher (at least 2)

Colaptes auratus  Northern Flicker (several)

Melanerpes carolinus  Red-bellied Woodpecker (several)

Sayornis phoebe  Eastern Phoebe (a few)

Corvus brachyrhynchos  American Crow (many)

Corvus ossifragus  Fish Crow (at least 1)

Cyanocitta cristata  Blue Jay (at least 2)

Tachycineta bicolor  Tree Swallow (many)

Poecile carolinensis  Carolina Chickadee (several)

Cistothorus palustris  Marsh Wren (at least 1)

Thryothorus ludovicianus  Carolina Wren (several)

Troglodytes aedon  House Wren (at least 1)

Turdus migratorius  American Robin (several)

Dumetella carolinensis  Gray Catbird (a few)

Mimus polyglottos  Northern Mockingbird (many)

Sturnus vulgaris  European Starling (many)

Bombycilla cedrorum  Cedar Waxwing (several)

Setophaga coronata  Yellow-rumped Warbler (many)

Melospiza melodia  Song Sparrow (a few)

Passerculus sandwichensis  Savannah Sparrow (many)

Zonotrichia albicollis  White-throated Sparrow (at least 1 or 2)

Cardinalis cardinalis  Northern Cardinal (a few)

Agelaius phoeniceus  Red-winged Blackbird (many)

Quiscalus major  Boat-tailed Grackle (many)

Sturnella magna  Eastern Meadowlark (many)

Carpodacus mexicanus  House Finch (a few)


Didelphis virginiana  Virginia Opossum (many DOR en route) *

Ursus americanus  American Black Bear (at least 6-7)

Procyon lotor  Common Raccoon (several DOR) *

Mephitis mephitis  Striped Skunk (1 adult DOR en route) *

Neovison [Mustela] vison  Mink (1 adult female DOR) *

Urocyon cinereoargenteus  Gray Fox (at least 1 or 2 DOR en route) *

Sciurus carolinensis  Eastern Gray Squirrel (several alive and DOR)

Odocoileus virginianus  White-tailed Deer (many alive and DOR, mostly en route)

Megaptera novaeangliae  Humpback Whale (remains of 1 dead on beach) *



Fishes:  at least 3

Amphibians:  at least 5

Reptiles:  7

Birds:  at least 83

Mammals:  at least 9

Total Vertebrate Species:  at least 107

[Some additional species—mostly birds and fishes—were potentially glimpsed or heard but not positively identified.]





–Jeff Beane

It’s Official! City of Raleigh Turns Out Lights for Birds

i Nov 25th No Comments by

Authored by Rick LaRose

On November 2, 2015, the City of Raleigh Public Affairs Departments announced that, in collaboration with Wake Audubon, the City of Raleigh is implementing bird-friendly lighting strategies for City-owned and operated buildings. In doing so, Raleigh is the first city in North Carolina to reduce lighting on City owned and operated buildings to reduce bird collisions.

We are proud of our Wake Audubon citizen scientist volunteers for their passion and commitment to our Lights Out monitoring. City of Raleigh Sustainability Manager Megan Anderson was eager to understand our monitors’ findings, and work with Wake Audubon and stakeholders to script specific practices for city owned and operated buildings to save migrating birds – AND reduce energy consumption and costs, while maintaining pedestrian safety and security as utmost importance.

We applaud Megan Anderson and team, our city leaders, building managers and all stakeholders who were very supportive and happy to participate in this program. It has been a fantastic collaboration and partnership. Special thanks to organizers Lena Gallitano, Elaine McManus and John Little, and volunteer monitors for their early morning, pre-sunrise time downtown, all of whom enabled this achievement.

Read the City of Raleigh news release here.

View local news coverage:

News & Observer: Raleigh turns out lights for birds (link to : ) This idea’s for the birds: Raleigh to dim building lights (link to: )

WUNC: Raleigh to Turn ‘Lights Out’ After Hours to Protect Migrating Birds (link to:

Walter Magazine: Spotlight: Audubon Lights Out (February 2015)   (Gerry – link to this:


Read our full account of this initiative below:

Why do this?

Wake Audubon’s mission is one of conservation, education and advocacy. Raleigh City Council’s mission champions environmental, cultural and economic sustainability.

Evidence shows that artificial lighting can have dire consequences on myriad species of migrating birds that fly after the sun sets. Normally they rely on natural lighting – stars and constellations – to guide their journeys. Yet, indoor and outdoor urban lighting can confuse their sense of steering. Birds become disoriented and collide with lighted structures. Poor weather conditions like fog or rain causes birds to fly at even lower elevations, and exacerbate this circumstance. Bird friendly lighting practices have been successful in other cities like Toronto and Chicago where these have been implanted, both to reduce bird fatalities, and energy consumption and operating costs.

As environmental stewards, and citizens of Raleigh, we were interested to know the impact of Raleigh’s growing skyline on migrating species, and work with our leaders to implement similar practices.

Lights Out Raleigh monitoring

Volunteers from Wake Audubon Society began surveying buildings in downtown Raleigh in fall 2013. This citizen science project followed the National Audubon Society developed protocol for Lights Out programs. Data was collected daily beginning at 6:30 AM from, March to May and September to November in fall of 2013, spring and fall 2014 and spring 2015.

More than 2 dozen Wake Audubon volunteers walked in teams of two to conduct the Wake Audubon Lights Out surveys. We had a number of inquiries, and positive interest, from citizens who began to recognize our volunteers during their early morning monitoring.

Data was collected by buildings when birds were either found dead, injured or stunned. Monitors collected more than 100 dead or injured birds. It is insightful to see the species that were most commonly found.

Twenty seven bird species were collected in our monitoring. 21 species were migrants, with some coming to Raleigh as their breeding destination or overwintering destination, or passing through on their way north or south.

Our native year-round birds, for the most part, seem to have adapted to living with buildings in an urban habitat, though we did find mourning dove, woodpecker, blue jay, house wren, eastern towhee, sparrows, cardinals and more in low numbers.

Common Yellowthroat, ovenbird, white throated sparrows and two species of thrush – Hermit and Wood Thrush – were found in the largest numbers. Wood Thrush is a species of concern in North Carolina because of their decreasing numbers.  Chimney Swifts, another bird found at several buildings, has been Wake Audubon’s ‘Bird of the Year’ 3 of the past 5 years (Gerry – link ‘Wake Audubon’s Bird of the Year’ to – and will be the Audubon NC Bird of the Year for 2016 – due to their declining numbers.

In reviewing the data, it was clear that the building where most dead birds were found is the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts. The Raleigh Convention Center and Wake County Justice Center followed.

We approached Raleigh City Council and City of Raleigh Sustainability Manager Megan Anderson with findings. Raleigh already has a progressive mission of conserving and protecting our environmental resources through best practices and cutting edge conservation and stewardship.

Our research enabled Megan and team to script win-win policies to both save birds and reduce energy consumption and operating cost at city-owned and operated buildings while maintaining pedestrian safety as of utmost importance.

As clarifying points: the Convention Center and Duke Performing Arts Center will be working to turn off non-essential lighting as the press release states. While some events may cause the need to lighting on during early morning hours, property managers will be as vigilant as they can be to turn off non-essential lighting, especially during migration months.


The Duke Performing Arts Center will turn off non-essential indoor lighting and the decorative architectural outdoor lighting (that lights up the front of the building). Ground level outdoor pathways around the Duke Performing Arts Center will stay lit for safety.


The Shimmer Wall on the Convention Center is iconic for Raleigh and also a street side lighting source. Wake Audubon did not identify this as contributing to bird deaths, and the Shimmer Wall will stay lit.

What we hope from this

With the City taking the first step, we believe that the managers of privately owned buildings will be more open to implementing similar efforts, resulting in even greater benefits. With City staff and Wake Audubon working together, Raleigh can serve as a model for other cities in North Carolina to implement bird-friendly lighting strategies.

How everyone can help

Help to make the skies darker during migration system:

Turn off lights outside your home, especially upward-facing lights.

Turn off inside lights when not in use; close blinds and curtains at home and before leaving your office for the day.

If you work in an office building, ask your employer to turn out exterior upward-facing lights, as well as interior light from 11 p.m. to dawn. If necessary to maintain interior lighting, draw shades to diffuse lights to lessen their brightness to the outdoors.


Further resources

Wake Audubon Lights Out Raleigh monitoring protocols and route (Gerry – link to attachment)

Wake Audubon Lights Out Raleigh data by species and location (Gerry – link to attachment

Lights Out History    (Gerry – link to attachment)

North Carolina Lights Out, Audubon North Carolina    (Gerry – link to

North America Lights Out, National Audubon Society   (Gerry – link to

American Bird Conservancy map of Lights Out programs  (Gerry – link to


10,000 Brown-headed Nuthatch Nest Boxes!

i Nov 22nd 1 Comment by

Authored by Curtis Smalling, Audubon North Carolina. Referring to Audubon North Carolina’s campaign to help the Brown-headed Nuthatch. Thanks to Wake Audubon members and friends for doing our part to make this happen.

We did it!

Together, we have put up 10,000 new Brown-headed Nuthatch nest boxes!

In 2013, we asked for your help to provide a good home for Brown-headed Nuthatches near you. Today, thanks to YOU, North Carolina has 10,000 more nest boxes to support this priority species.

This was a tremendous goal, and we met it in just two years! When Audubon North Carolina’s network comes together, we are able to make significant strides in bird conservation.

With amazing collaboration from individuals, Audubon Chapters, the Eastern Bluebird Rescue Group and bird stores across our state, we’ve been able to help this squeaky, southern bird find more places to call home and raise the next generation of nuthatches.

Learn about how our Chapters make a huge impact on this goal!


We met this amazing goal, but our work doesn’t stop at 10,000. As bird lovers, we need to create even more places for this squeaky little bird to call home as our state faces the growing impact of climate change.

During our campaign to put up more homes, we learned from Audubon’s Birds & Climate Change Report that 95% of the Brown-headed Nuthatch’s current summer range could be highly stressed by climate change by 2080. From 2 to 200 to 2,000 – every nest box installed helps build more bird-friendly communities across our state and helps this tiny southern bird find a home as our climate changes and their ranges shift.

Thank you again for welcoming the Brown-headed Nuthatch to your yard. Our southern hospitality is evident for this charming little bird.

DON’T REST NOW! We’ve still got more to do!

Now we need to monitor how all those nest boxes are being used. The next important step is to share your data! If you haven’t entered your nest box location online already, visit As breeding season gets going, enter data for any birds that nest in your box — House Wrens and Carolina Chickadees as well as Brown-headed Nuthatches. Even if you have only one or two observations to report, please share them so we can get a better idea of how our birds are doing. If you have trouble getting your data in, contact Kim Brand at

Two Beautiful and Very Different Children’s Books by Local Authors

i Nov 9th No Comments by

Written by Annie Runyon

My Friend Hootie by F. Eugene Hester

Eugene Hester is a talented writer, photographer and teacher. He lives in Wendell, not far from the swamp where his story is set. He introduces his picture book:

“… The wild barred owl that I have named Hootie lives in that swamp and



I visit him there. He and I have been friends for more than seven years. We have developed a great relationship. When I call, he comes and I give him a fish. This is the story of how this amazing and trusting relationship developed between a human and this beautiful bird.”

Illustrated with the author’s beautiful photos, this gentle and true story will delight the whole family.  Available from local bookstores (support local!)  and Amazon. (Remember to use with Wake Audubon as your designated non-profit.)


Nature Illustration for Kids -Techniques in ink, graphite, watercolor

Nature Illustration for Kids

Nature Illustration for Kids

and gouache for 7-12 year olds illustrating the natural world.  by Bob Palmatier

Bob Palmatier is a science teacher, artist and the author of a series of children’s picture books about our endangered North American turtles.

Nature Illustration for Kids is a delightfully illustrated book full of ideas and techniques to use indoors, as you learn the art of illustrating natural subjects.

Available from: