Brief History of Wake Audubon Society

Peregrine Falcon nests in western North Carolina

i Nov 9th No Comments by

Attempts to re-introduce nesting Peregrine Falcons to western North Carolina continue to be successful.  Beginning in 1984 with the release of four captive bred falcons, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission hacked (captive bred and released) Peregrine Falcons in several sites in Appalachian North Carolina through 1997.  Western North Carolina has several sites suited for the birds, with many steep, exposed rock faces that the species prefers.

Since then, NCWRC staff and volunteers have located several potential nesting spots and monitored them every year for Falcon breeding activity, recording the number of wild fledged young when the Falcons do nest successfully.  While Peregrine Falcon has been delisted from the Federal Endangered Species list, due to significant increases in the western part of the species’ North American range, it’s still protected by the state of North Carolina and remains an uncommon breeder in the Appalachians of North Carolina.

Here’s a summary of 2010 peregrine falcon nest results for North Carolina as reported by Chris Kelly of the NCWRC.  Many are great spots for birders who want to get a look at the birds too!

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) , photo from Steve Spitzer, used with permission

* 10 of the 13 “known” territories were occupied this year.  Falcons were not found at Moore’s Wall, Buzzard’s Roost, or Shortoff Mountain.
* 2 “new” pairs were found this year: Pickens Nose and Victory Wall.
* Nest success improved:  58%. Seven of 12 nesting pairs were successful in raising young.
* Productivity improved: 1.25 nestlings/pair (based on 15 nestlings from 12 nesting pairs).
* Second year females were found at three sites: Big Lost Cove, Grandfather Mountain, and NC Wall.  The female at Grandfather Mtn was banded; first instance of a banded PEFA found nesting in western NC.  Her state of origin could not be determined.

Here are the detailed site summaries:

Big Lost Cove (Avery County)
* Result:  nest failure
* Observations:  The female was a sub-adult based on plumage.
* History:  Falcons were first discovered at this site in 1997 and have reared nine chicks. They were successful for four of the first five years and were successful in 2008-09.

Hickory Nut Gorge (Rutherford County)
* Result:  Two (2) fledglings.
* Observations:  Nesting activity observed at Blue Rock early in season, then they were not often seen. Reece Mitchell observed fledglings in early June. Based on activity and white wash, suspect the birds nested at Blue Rock, approx 1 mi up the gorge from Chimney Rock.
* History:  First successful nest since 1990.

Devil’s Courthouse (Transylvania County)
* Result:  Nest failure
* Observations:  Pair on territory.
* History:  The pair at Devil’s Courthouse has been successful eight of the last eleven years, raising a total of 14 chicks. This cliff is a popular tourist attraction on the Blue Ridge Parkway and an easy place for birders to get a good view of the falcons’ breeding activities.

Grandfather Mountain (Avery County)
* Result:  unknown
* Observations:  Second year, banded female on territory with adult male. Active at usual nest ledge, but not clear if they nested.
* History:  Grandfather Mountain is very remote with plenty of rock faces. A total of 9 chicks have been raised here.

Hanging Rock State Park (Stokes County)
* Result:  Unoccupied
* Observations:  Falcons were not observed during two four-hour observation sessions, along with several shorter observation sessions throughout the winter and spring.
* History:  Falcons returned to Hanging Rock in 2007 after a three year absence and have been successful three times (2001, 2007, and 2008) raising at least three chicks. The falcons face considerable competition from the many ravens and vultures in the area.

Shortoff Mountain (Linville Gorge, Burke County)
* Result:  unoccupied
* Observations:  Falcons were seen on just one occasion near the nest ledge.
* History: A pair has been in the gorge at NC Wall, Shortoff, or Gold Coast every year since reintroduction began.  Although falcons were largely unsuccessful at first, they have produced 24 fledglings in the past eleven years.

North Carolina Wall (Linville Gorge, Burke County)
* Result:  Nest failure
* Observations:  Second year female and adult male on territory.
* History:  North Carolina Wall is the site of the earliest post-reintroduction nesting attempts in Linville Gorge (1987-2000). NC Wall and Shortoff Mtn are now the two closest known nesting sites, less than three miles apart.

Looking Glass (Transylvania County)
* Result:  Three (3) fledglings.
* Observations:  Following a few years of nest failure, this site was successful this year.
* History:  In 1957, Looking Glass hosted the last known pair of falcons before the species was extirpated from North Carolina. A total of 31 chicks have fledged here, including 19 in the past eleven years.

Panthertail Mountain (Transylvania County)
* Result:  Two (2) nestlings.
* History:  Falcons were first successful at Panthertail in 1995. Since then, 29 chicks have fledged from this site.

Buzzard’s Roost (Pigeon River Gorge, Haywood County)
* Result:  unoccupied
* Observations:  Due to the I-40 rock slide closure, the first opportunity to visit the site was in May, late in the nesting season. Falcons were not observed on two visits, though there was fresh white wash.
* History:  In 2004, a pair established a territory but nesting was not documented.

White Rock (Madison County)
* Result: Two (2) fledglings
* Observations:  New nest ledge on the right side of the cliff.
* History:  The female was a sub-adult in 2008 and had the distinct blond wash of a young bird in 2009.

Whiteside Mountain (Jackson County)
* Result:  Two (2) fledglings
* Observations:  New nest ledge on right side of the cliff.
* History:  This enormous cliff has been the most successful peregrine falcon breeding site in North Carolina since 1984. A total of 45 chicks (28 in the past ten years) have fledged at Whiteside.

Dunn’s Rock (Transylvania County)
* Result:  Nest failure
* Observations:  Pair on territory. Lots of vulture activity near the eyrie.
* History:  The pair nested successfully in 2007.

Chris also checked a few secondary sites this year. These are sites where there is decent cliff nesting habitat, but no records (recently or ever) of nesting peregrines.

Pickens Nose (Macon County)
* Result:  Minimum two (2) fledglings
* Observations:  No clear view of the eyrie.  Adults active at site all spring. Could hear at least two young calling.  Later observed one fledgling at a time flying.
* History:  A birder reported PEFAs at this site in 2009.  Pickens Nose was historically used as a hack site during PEFA reintroductions.

Victory Wall (Haywood County)
* Result:  Two (2) nestlings.
* Observations: Two young observed in nest before leaves blocked view.
* History:  Falcons were observed nesting here in the 1990s, then moved to Devil’s Courthouse. In June 2009, NCWRC observed an adult PEFA on territory, but it was too late in the season to determine if nesting had taken place.

Young Naturalists in the Sandhills

i Nov 2nd No Comments by

By Jeff Beane, Wake Audubon Board member

The Young Naturalists Club enjoyed a successful field trip to the North Carolina Sandhills on Saturday, 9 October 2010.  The trip focused on Sandhills ecology and herpetology, and covered portions of Moore, Richmond, and Scotland counties.  Ten club members participated.  Leaders were Jeff Beane, Ed Corey, Ross Maynard, and Adrian Yirka.

The group observing and photographing the hatchling Southern Hognose Snake.

The group took two Museum passenger vans and split up for most of the trip, but stayed in contact so that if one group found something of particular interest, the other could come see it.  At least 13 reptile and six amphibian species were turned up during the trip, including two of the primary target species—the rare Southern Hognose Snake (one live and two dead hatchlings) and the more common and widespread Eastern Hognose Snake (one live adult and one dead juvenile).  Both of these species are most readily found during fall.

This live hatchling male Southern Hognose Snake (Heterodon simus) was probably the best find of the trip.

The spectacular defensive behavior of the Eastern Hognose Snake (Heterodon platirhinos) contributed to this adult male being a trip highlight.

Other herp species encountered were Fowler’s Toad, Southern Cricket Frog, Squirrel Treefrog, Eastern Narrowmouth Toad, American Bullfrog, Southern Leopard Frog, Eastern Box Turtle, Yellowbelly Slider, Green Anole, Northern Fence Lizard, Southeastern Five-lined Skink, Ground Skink, Black Racer, Rat Snake, Banded Water Snake, and Cottonmouth.

Fall can be a slow season for amphibians, but this Squirrel Treefrog (Hyla squirella) was one of several species turned up.

An Eastern Fox Squirrel was also seen, along with numerous birds (including Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, Bald Eagles, Black-throated Blue Warbler, and Palm Warblers); fall-blooming wildflowers; and a wide variety of butterflies (at least 14 species were noted at one random roadside stop), odonates, and other arthropods. The day ended with an excellent dinner at Los 2 Potrillos Mexican restaurant in Aberdeen.  A good time was had by all, many photos were taken, and hopefully everyone learned something.

Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae) feeding on Carphephorus.

The Carolina Mantis (Stagmomantis carolina) is one of many insects abundant in the Sandhills in fall.


Robert E. Lee Cake

i Oct 27th No Comments by

Robert E. Lee Cake

By Paulette Van deZande, who has been baking the Wake Audubon treats at our monthly meetings for decades.

My aunt gave me this recipe in 1948 telling me it was the best of several recipes for Robert E Lee cake. This one is so good I have never tried any other.  It is called Robert E Lee cake because it was always said to be the general’s favorite cake.  It is certainly mine as well.

Some years ago my son, Dennik, called me and said he had won a blue ribbon in the LA County Fair for the cake so I entered in it the NC State Fair the same year and I won a blue ribbon also.  Later I won a blue ribbon in the LA County Fair. Then I entered it in the NC egg council contest and I won the top prize of with the cake of $100. It’s good and easy to make.

Robert E. Lee Cake

Cooks note:  needs to be made 2-3 days prior to serving!


9 egg yolks

2 1/8 cups sugar

½ tsp salt

1 Tbsp lemon juice freshly squeezed

2 cups flour

9 egg whites, stiffly beaten but not dry

Beat egg yolks very light, and then slowly beat in sugar. Add salt and lemon juice, stir in well. With spoon carefully stir in stiffly beaten egg whites. Carefully fold in sifted flour. Mix thoroughly but lightly.  Pour into 3 ungreased 9 inch cake pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 25-30 minutes.


3 lemons

6 oranges

3 cups sugar

1 cup shredded coconut (shredded is good)

Zest and juice all the fruit and mix together the collected zest and juice (if fruit is not juicy more may be added).  Add sugar and coconut, stir well. Let stand until sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. Put this mixture between layers and on top of the cake. Let stand 2-3 days until juice soaks into cake.  Sprinkle top with dry coconut. Garnish with orange slices and mint leaves, or flower blossoms.

What the heck is Meetup?

i Oct 27th No Comments by

By Justine Homiak, Wake Audubon Board member

According to, “Meetup is the world’s largest network of local groups. Meetup makes it easy for anyone to organize a local group or find one of the thousands already meeting up face-to-face. More than 2,000 groups get together in local communities each day, each one with the goal of improving themselves or their communities. [It is] Meetup’s mission to revitalize local community and help people around the world self-organize. Meetup believes that people can change their personal world, or the whole world, by organizing themselves into groups that are powerful enough to make a difference.” More information can be found at The Meetup component of Wake Audubon is approaching its third year in existence. Meetup is an easy way to see what Wake Audubon Society and its members are up to, and to RSVP for upcoming events. Examples of events listed on the site are the monthly meetings, field trips, bird walks, festivals and volunteer opportunities. There are currently 145 people taking advantage of this user-friendly technology through our site.

Meetup membership is free. Likewise, membership in Wake Audubon is not required to take part in the Meetup component of our organization or to attend events, but we encourage membership at just $20 per year. The Meetup site allows you to view events in a calendar-style format. You can view past and future events, upload and or view photos, get to know fellow nature-lovers, RSVP with the click of the mouse, and more!

The good news is that if you are lucky enough to be reading this blog, then you can join Wake Audubon on! The only thing needed to get started is an internet connection, an e-mail address, and about 15 minutes or so to create a user profile. While it is not required that you use your real name or that you include a photo, we encourage this so that we can recognize you at events.

The best way to become familiar with the site is to play around…this is a browse free zone!  Fear not…you will never be charged for anything on this site.  Whether or not you choose to create a profile (enabling you to RSVP, etc.), Wake Audubon’s meetup site is public, so feel free to take a peek at

Hog Island Magic

i Oct 24th No Comments by

by Lena Gallitano, North Carolina Audubon Board Member

Hog Island … the very name conjures up images that have little to do with an idyllic, forested island with a beautiful rocky Maine shoreline.  Years ago, Hog Island likely lived up to its name as a local farmer used it, yes, to graze his hogs.  No fences needed.  But today the slang definition of hog “to appropriate selfishly; take more than ones share” better defines this National Audubon treasure as campers and visitors over the years have taken with them more than their share of memories and experiences.  Lifetime friendships and even life partners are a product of Hog Island but equally important is the rejuvenation of our spiritual well-being that comes with time spent on the island.  Whether it’s the flora, fauna, food, programs, people or just the escape from our normal routine, participants often say time spent on Hog Island has been a positive life changing experience.

Educators, teens and adults, over the last 75 years, have experienced this remarkable place.  Wake Audubon sponsored a Wake County teacher in the 1980’s to attend an environmental educator camp so that knowledge could be shared with Wake county students.  In September, I volunteered at Hog Island and was inspired by the people and programs.  Scott Weidensaul, nature writer and author of Living on the Wind and other books; Dr. Steve Kress, Director of Project Puffin who successfully restored Atlantic Puffins in Maine at Eastern Egg Rock;  and, other Project Puffin staff who talked about their seabird restoration work.  The ripples from teachers and campers relating their knowledge and experiences continue to spread far and wide – not just in North Carolina, but across the United States.

And now it’s time to give back so others will be able to share the magic of Hog Island for years to come.  Friends of Hog Island is dusting off the cobwebs and working to reinvigorate the energy of the past to support Hog Island into the future.  Take a moment to explore the website, subscribe to the mailing list, and check out the 2011 calendar for a camp opportunity and perhaps you too will discover the magic of Hog Island.


i Oct 6th 22 Comments by

We are having a Shraiku contest as part of Wake Audubon’s Year of the Loggerhead Shrike. Shraikus, like Haikus, are highly structured poems composed in 3 lines with a total of 17 syllables. Shraikus must have 5 syllables in lines 1 and 3 and 7 syllables in line 2. The theme of a shraiku must be the Loggerhead Shrike – evoking images or feelings associated with this amazing bird.

You may enter as many times as you wish.   There will be prizes for the top three Shraiku writers.

Submit your Shraiku as a comment using the following form:

  • Title (all caps)
  • Line 1: 5 syllables
  • Line 2: 7 syllables
  • Line 3: 5 syllables

***  PLEASE NOTE:  All comment must go through moderation, so it may be a few hours before your poem posts.  ***


i Oct 5th No Comments by

From Nathan Swick and cross-posted on The Drinking Bird.

Up until the last week or so I’d been feeling that our fall migration was mostly a bust. Between the lingering summer temperatures and the weather systems conspiring to hold birds up in parts farther north, I was worried that the whole of fall migration would blow past us on a day when I was otherwise indisposed, building and moving past me all too fast, more like the frantic sprint of spring than the long easy jog we’re usually familiar with around here. I needn’t have really concerned myself; the nature of fall migration means the birds are more apathetic about moving, more keen to take in the sights, and I would eventually get my fall warblers even if it ended up taking an extra week or two for them to make their way to where I am.

It’s a battle I end up having to fight with myself every fall. Maybe one of these years the compulsive need, the small-scale zugunruhe that more than drives me outdoors, but makes every glance at the treetops mildly anxiety ridden, will subside. But maybe I don’t want it too either. The quarry is warblers, and around here the fall offers more variety and numbers that you can get in spring. From late August to mid-October, nearly anything is possible, but where and when they are is a crapshoot.

I had headed to Ebenezer Point Recreational Area on Jordan Lake hoping that warblers would be on the agenda. This park is well known for its impressive views of the reservoir itself, which is great for scanning the water for waterfowl and gulls in the winter, but the inlets and peninsulas make for excellent land birding in the fall as well. Songbirds are reluctant to cross open water, even if it’s no more than a couple hundred meters across, so birds tend to pile up in the north side of the lake shore until they reach critical mass, and all burst across the water in one loose flock of warblers. It’s the same principle that makes a place like Magee Marsh on the shore of Lake Eire so productive in the spring, but writ tiny. Instead of thousands of birds, it’s dozens, but still enough to make a morning. I was banking on the recent cold bringing northwest winds to put the warblers on the move.


Store Sale

i Sep 27th No Comments by

What: Shopping Day for Wake Audubon members and/or supporters.

When: October 23, 2010; hours: 10:00 – 6:00

Where: The Outdoor Bird Store, in Stonehenge Mall; 7426 Creedmore Road, North Raleigh. 919.846.2473

Why: Wake Audubon is partnering once again with the fine folks at the Outdoor Bird Store to raise some funds for our various programs. This year, the owners and manager have offered to donate a percentage of sales for ALL store items sold on this day, to WAS. Obviously, the more they sell, the more we get.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Last year we did just bird seed, with pre-orders. This year, you need only show up on this day to make your purchases, but those purchases can be for anything in the store (including the various bird seed, of course).  Also, if a desired item is sold out, the Store will issue a “rain check” for the member/Wake Audubon, for when that item is back in stock.

The Bird Store Manager is talking to other Stonehenge vendors, to see if they will also participate. Wake Audubon will host an information table, and we hope to present some birdy presentations throughout the day.

Please MARK YOUR CALENDARS now, and visit our webpage for updated information.

If you would like to volunteer at our table, please contact John Gerwin.


i Sep 13th No Comments by

A HUGE, HUGE thank you to all the folks who volunteered for Bugfest.  It was a huge success, not only did we make a bunch of money but we really got great exposure!  Thanks so much to all the volunteers and especially to Erla and Beth, the two organizers.  You ladies are awesome!

Bioblitz Oct 6

i Sep 7th No Comments by

For those interested in helping out with this Bioblitz at Duke forest, see the link below!  It looks like a great way to learn invertebrates!