Nature Notes - June 2015
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Audubon Wildlife Overlook at Southwest Park - photo by Dennis Burnette
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
- Photo by Dennis Burnette

Another Look at the Migratory Bird Treaty Act

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) is America’s cornerstone bird conservation law. Passed in 1918, it was part of legislative efforts by Audubon and other early conservationists to stop plume hunters who were engaged in the rapid and wanton killing of birds to adorn women’s hats, as well as market hunting that contributed to the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon and threatened other species.

The MBTA was successful in helping to end these devastating practices, and is credited with preserving hundreds of species, such as the Snowy Egret.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has dusted off this century-old law and proposes to expand the kinds of activities the law would cover. This bold new approach could help reduce the number of bird “death traps” that kill tens of millions of birds each and every year. Uncovered oil waste pits, unshielded power lines, cell tower, and other hazards will come under the scrutiny of the MBTA.

Audubon strongly supports this effort to bring the Migratory Bird Treaty Act into the 21st century. By making the world a safer place for birds, we also make our own communities stronger and healthier. Where birds thrive, people prosper.

T. Gilbert Pearson Audubon Society and other chapters across the country are signing on to a letter to the USFWS in support of these improvements to the MBTA. Look for an alert soon to add your voice in support as well. You can go to the following website for more information:

To sign up to receive alerts from Audubon, go to
How to Make a Birdbath

 Information from the
National Audubon Society

Birds rely on water for drinking, grooming, and staying cool. But during hot summers and extended droughts, water can be hard to find.

By adding a simple birdbath to your yard (you can make one from a cake pan!), you can help birds now and into the future as climate change makes summers in many areas hotter and longer.

• One shallow pan such as an old cake pan, not more than 2 inches (5 cm) deep. Or, use a flower-pot tray: the flat, shallow tray or pan that's used under a flower pot so it won't drip when watered. This should also be less than 2 inches (5 cm) deep.

• A few large pebbles or a flat rock

1. Choose a good site to place the bath. The ground should be level. There should be some evergreens or other shrubs nearby. Pick a site where you can easily watch the birds from a window.

2. Set the pan or tray down and fill it with water. Be sure the water is only about an inch (2.5 cm) to an inch-and-a-half (3.8 cm) deep.

3. Toss in a few large pebbles or a flat stone. These will give the birds confidence to enter the water because it will help them judge how deep the water is.

For more information about birding, go to There, you'll find information about how to begin watching birds, a guide to North American birds, and a variety of birding how-to articles on gear, field guides, eBird, and more.
Birders pose with their binoculars – Photo by Lynn Burnette

Beginning Birder Walk Report

On Sunday afternoon, May 17, we held our spring Beginning Birder Walk. The weather was beautiful! We had a great turn out of 15 people including one youngster. This type of walk is perfect for all ages. We encourage parents and grandparents to bring the kids in their families.
We had a great time exploring parts of Price Park and learning more about birds around the KCE Family Branch Library. Several experienced birders were on hand to help the beginners, including Dennis Burnette, Lynn Burnette, Julien McCarthy, Courtenay Vass, and Ann Walter-Fromson.
This was a no-pressure bird outing. First we talked about how to use binoculars. These tools aren’t necessary to watch birds, but they do bring the image of the birds closer to help us see details, often making the experience more enjoyable. Then we observed birds near the bird feeders beside and in back of the library, checked for birds in the trees and flying over, took a look at the lake, and practiced building our identification skills by watching common birds.
Throughout the afternoon we used clues such as size, shape, markings, habitat, and behavior to help with our identifications. Some of the targets of our attention included a pair of Brown Thrashers, a pair of Eastern Bluebirds, an Indigo Bunting, and Red-winged Blackbirds. As always happens on our walks, we learned from each other as people asked questions and made comments. It looked like everyone had a good time!
Our Beginning Birder Walks are joint efforts of TGPAS and Piedmont Bird Club. We started back in the fall, have had winter and spring walks, and have scheduled one more for summer on Sunday afternoon, July 19. We hope that you’ll join us.

Email Addresses

(click name to send email)

Dennis Burnette
Sue Cole
Judy Hoag
Jack Jezorek
Margaret Kane
Lynn Moseley
Gregg Morris
Marie Poteat
Courtney Vass
Stella Wear
Tom Wear

Click here for our website
Click here for National Audubon website

The Red-shouldered Hawk can be found soaring or perching throughout Guilford County during the summer months and is likely to be seen on one of our summer walks.
-- Photo by Dennis Burnette

Here Comes Summer

But Pearson Audubon Is Not Going on Vacation

Heather Hahn's interesting program on the effects of climate change on birds was the chapter's last indoor event for this program year. However, chapter activities will continue with two outdoor events in each of the three summer months.

We will continue our popular Second Sunday nature walks, meeting at 6 p.m. in the Whole Foods parking lot off Friendly Avenue. Note that these are evening walks to avoid the summer heat.

And instead of an indoor program on the usual second Thursday evening, we will have another nature walk, but at 6 p.m. on the fourth Thursday at the KCE Family Branch Library in Price Park. The June events have already been scheduled (see descriptions below), but the July and August walks are TBA.

Please mark your calendars for our twice-monthly nature walks, and plan to join us for some outdoor fun while we learn more about our wonderful Piedmont nature scene.

Help Us Explore What You Want to Explore!

Pearson Audubon wants your two-cents worth...and then some!

Our chapter will have its annual planning meeting and officer elections from 2 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, June 7, at the KCE Library in Price Park, our usual indoor meeting place.

This is your chance to ask us to explore what you want to explore! Suggest places to go, topics to delve into, and types of nature for us to put into focus for you, your family, and our community.

If you’d like to propose some places for our nature walks this summer or throughout the year, or if you have a really cool idea or hot-button issue for one of our regular meetings, please come to the annual meeting or send us an e-mail with your ideas. We will keep in touch with you via e-mail, our website and Facebook.

A Cool Walk on a Sunday Evening at Green Hill Cemetery

What: Second Sunday Nature Walk
When: 6 p.m., Sunday, June 14
Where: Green Hill Cemetery

Carpooling: Meet at 6:00 p.m. in the Whole Foods parking lot, 3202 W. Friendly Ave.

Our chapter has done a couple of walks in Green Hill in the past, and we have been dying to do it again, if you'll pardon the pun.

This 50-acre green space has hundreds of species of trees and shrubs, many planted by the late Bill Craft, father of chapter member David Craft. What is new this year is that most of these trees have been cataloged and labeled by a retired Department of Agriculture botanist.

So as we look and listen for evening birds we will also be able to add to our knowledge of trees, some native, some not. And of course, we'll stop at the grave of our namesake, T. Gilbert Pearson, to pay our respects and acknowledge his immense contribution to conservation in this country and worldwide.
Note that this is an evening walk, as will be all six of our June, July and August nature walks.We are trying to avoid the heat of the summer days. We'll have three 2nd Sunday walks and three 4th Thursday walks.
For this first of our summer outings we'll gather at 6:00 p.m. in the usual place, the Whole Foods parking lot at Friendly Center between the BB&T building and Chick-fil-A. Please plan to join us for a leisurely stroll around Green Hill. Bring a friend, and enjoy the cool of a June Sunday evening.

Photos courtesy Courtenay Vass

Micro Hike for Kids

What: T. Gilbert Pearson Audubon Society Nature Walk
When: Thursday, June 25, 6:25 p.m.
Where: Bur-Mil Park Little Loop trail
Carpooling: Meet at 6:00 p.m. in the Whole Foods parking lot, 3202 W. Friendly Ave.

Did you know that a decaying log can house up to 20,000 creatures or that a third of all forest species live in fallen logs?  Join us for a kid-friendly hike as we explore what is at our feet in the forest. 

We will amble along the Little Loop trail at Bur-Mil Park in search of dead and decaying plant and animal life on the forest floor.  Using magnifying glasses we will be nature detectives as we search out plants and animals inside, outside and under fallen trees. 

Have you ever wondered how many things in the woods will fit on a penny?  If so, join us and you will be amazed at the life found at our feet.
We will meet for carpooling at 6 p.m. in front of the Whole Foods Market in Friendly Shopping Center, 3202 W. Friendly Ave., Greensboro. We plan to leave at 6:10 p.m.. If you would prefer to meet us at the site, we plan to be there about 6:25 p.m. We will meet at the Wildlife Education Center located within Bur-Mil Park at 5834 Bur-Mil Club Road, Greensboro.
Contact the leader, Courtenay Vass at, if you have any questions.
Virginia Sweetspire grows easily in Guilford County
Virginia Sweetspire flowers - Photos by Dennis Burnette

Going Native:
Planting Virginia Sweetspire for Birds and Other Wildlife

 By Dennis Burnette
Audubon has launched its Bird Friendly Communities project, a partnership program that targets our conservation efforts in towns and cities where most Americans live. The idea is that all of us can play a role in fostering healthy populations of birds and other wildlife.
One of the important aspects of the project is encouraging folks to include native bird-friendly plants in their yards and gardens. (For more on the project, check out Audubon NC’s website:
TGPAS is helping our members find and use native plants around their homes. We have given away seeds and plants at our meetings, and we’re providing information on growing native plant species.

In this month’s Nature Notes we’re spotlighting Virginia Sweetspire, Itea virginiana.
This pretty native shrub is thought to be a host plant for more than 30 insect species, the larval stages of which provide food for birds. In addition, the flowers provide pollen and nectar for butterflies and other native pollinators. Colonies of the shrub no doubt provide nesting habitat for birds and protective cover for birds and other kinds of wildlife.
Will Cook, in his “Carolina Nature” website, describes Virginia Sweetspire as an uncommon medium-sized shrub of stream banks that’s found in the coastal plain, eastern half of the piedmont, and the western NC mountains. Sometimes it’s just called Itea, but you might already know of this shrub by one of its other common names such as Virginia-willow and Tassel-white.
Virginia Sweetspire puts on a pretty floral display in May and June with many showy tassel-like racemes of white flowers. The National Wildlife Federation blog emphasizes that in autumn the leaves put on another colorful show, turning crimson-red or burgundy.
In fact, people have begun to replace a popular landscaping shrub, Burning Bush, a non-native invasive plant from Asia, with Virginia Sweetspire for it’s similar “fiery” color. Non-native shrubs such as Burning Bush are a threat to native habitats because they shade out or crowd out our native herbs and shrubs that provide important habitat for birds and other wildlife.
Many gardening guides tell us that Virginia Sweetspire is a versatile, easy to grow shrub that has no serious disease or insect problems. In nature the shrub often is found on moist, shady riverbanks, so it will do well if you have similar conditions. However, it can take partial shade to sun. Like many native plants, it does fine in a variety of soil types. It prefers somewhat moist soil but tolerates some drought and also will grow in soil that’s occasionally wet.
Planting Virginia Sweetspire, Itea virginiana, with its drooping bottlebrush blooms and attractive “burning bush” fall foliage, is a great way for home landscapers to add a bird friendly shrub to their neighborhood habitats!

Would you like to see what it looks like in person? The new garden between the parking deck and cancer treatment center at Wesley Long Hospital in Greensboro has more than a dozen of the shrubs planted in it.


June 7, Sun., 2-5 p.m. -- Annual Planning Meeting, T. Gilber Pearson Audubon Society

June 14, Sun., 6 p.m. -- Second Sunday Nature Walk, Green Hill Cemetery

June 25, Thurs., 6:25 p.m. -- Micro Hike for Kids (meet at Whole Foods parking lot at 6 p.m. to carpool)
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