The Raven's Nest
December 2019
Upcoming Events
EMAS Meetings/Walks are Free and Open to All!
President's Message

Like many of you, I take stock as the year ends, and remember to give thanks for all of the good things in life. As I reflect back on this year, I recognize how grateful I am for all of you: members, volunteers and supporters of the Elisha Mitchell Audubon Society . While we are a local chapter of the National Audubon Society, EMAS is a separate not-for-profit organization, and is 100% volunteer-run. We rely almost entirely on donations from our members and supporters to fund our work, and for the upkeep of the Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary
EMAS celebrated a wonderful milestone this year: the 30th Anniversary of the Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary. Our beloved Sanctuary was saved from being developed as a strip mall in the mid-1980's, due to the heroic efforts of EMAS' first president, Scott Parker. Talk about something to be thankful for!
The Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary is a true Asheville treasure -- an urban oasis, free and open for all to enjoy, 365 days a year. EMAS is the only Audubon chapter in North Carolina to own and manage a nature preserve. The Sanctuary is a haven for birds with more than 200 species seen there over the years. It’s also much beloved by the community with more than 50,000 people visiting annually. This year, your donations to EMAS helped fund the removal of invasive plants which were overwhelming the Sanctuary. In the coming years, we’ll continue the war on invasives, and replace them with native and bird-friendly plants, shrubs and trees.
As birds (and people) face daunting environmental challenges, Audubon and EMAS continue to be a positive force for effective and beneficial change in the world. I hope you will consider EMAS for a year-end, tax-deductible charitable contribution. Your donation will support the Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary as well as all the work the chapter does to make a positive difference for birds. Please visit the EMAS Donation webpage to donate on-line or send a check to EMAS, PO Box 18711, Asheville, NC 28814.  

Thank you, and Good Birding!
Nancy Casey, President
EMAS Board of Directors
Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary images photographed and collaged by Jay Wherley, @inherent_light 
Audubon Society's Christmas Bird Count
For the 120 th year, the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count will find tens of thousands of bird-loving volunteers participating in counts all across the Western Hemisphere. Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count is one of the longest-running wildlife censuses in the world. “The Christmas Bird Count is a great tradition and opportunity for everyone to be a part of 120 years of ongoing community science,” said Geoff LeBaron, Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count director. “Adding your observations to twelve decades of data helps scientists and conservationists discover trends that make our work more impactful.” When combined with other surveys such as the Breeding Bird Survey, Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count provides a picture of how the continent's bird populations have changed over the past hundred years. It informs strategies to protect birds and their habitat and helps identify environmental issues with implications for people as well. 
To sign up for a Christmas Bird Count and ensure your bird count data makes it into the official Audubon database, please find the circle nearest you at and register with your local Christmas Bird Count compiler. All Christmas Bird Count data must be submitted through the official compiler to be added to the long-running census. There is no fee to participate and counts are open to birders of all skill levels. Buncombe County’s count compiler this year will be EMAS’s own Tom Tribble,

Bird Notes
by Rick Pyeritz
“Until introduced to science by virtue of this description, a species is not formally considered to exist, a technicality of small consequence to the creature itself, which may have been getting along quite nicely without a name for more than a million years.”
-Peter Matthiessen
 By the beginning of the 18 th century, the description and naming of the new birds found in the eastern part of America was well underway. However, the territory west of the Mississippi River was relatively unexplored. The few men who braved the rough terrain, variable food sources, illness, and hostile Indians were rewarded with collecting and studying many new species of birds. Thomas Nuttall and John Kirk Townsend were two early naturalists who made the arduous journey to the west coast and back. If you would like to read a bit more about this unusual pair , follow the link.  
Townsend’s Warbler by Thomas Barbin
Chapter News
By Tom Tribble
In 2018, Elisha Mitchell Audubon partnered with St. Eugene Catholic Church to establish a Friendship Garden or  Jardín de la Amistad . The garden was created with support from a National Audubon Society Burke Grant, and features many bird-friendly, native plants. EMAS and Audubon NC also erected a bilingual sign featuring 3 neo-tropical migrants that winter in Central America and breed near the garden. Although the Burke Grant was only for one year, we continue to work on the garden with our wonderful partners at St. Eugene, Connie Mitchell, Cynthia Gibbs and Vicky Ransom. We are all dedicated to maintaining and improving the garden for the enjoyment of the church's parishioners, including their large Hispanic membership and, of course, for the birds we love.

Chestnut Trees Planted at Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary
More than a century ago, nearly 4 billion American Chestnut trees grew in the eastern US. The Chestnut tree was western North Carolina’s dominant tree where in many places every fourth tree was a chestnut. Among the largest of trees, their massive trunks often stretched 16 feet in diameter. The wood was rot-resistant and suitable for furniture, fencing and building. The nuts fed countless wild animals and birds as well as people and livestock. It was almost the perfect tree until a blight from Asia wiped out almost every American chestnut.   
But there is hope that the chestnut tree will one day regain its place in our forests.  The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF), headquartered in Asheville, is working to restore the American Chestnut to its native range. Scientists used genetic engineering and backcross breeding, crossing Chinese chestnut trees, naturally resistant to the blight, with American Chestnuts. Working with partner organizations, TACF has assisted in the planting of more than 1.8 million seedlings and the reforestation of nearly 3,000 acres. 

TACF recently planted 3 advanced hybrid Chestnuts at the Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary and a sign describing the Chestnut’s history has been erected. Elisha Mitchell Audubon is grateful for the Foundation’s vision and dedicated work to restore this iconic tree to American forests. Join us in watching our trees grow. Maybe one day, visitors to the Sanctuary will stare, wide-eyed, at a 100-foot tall chestnut tree.
The Shelton family by a Chestnut Tree in Great Smoky Mountains National Park circa 1920.
Beaver Bits
Text and photos by Jay Wherley
While snow and ice may initially seem to discourage winter birding, we can take encouragement from the species that show up during this weather to use the water and shelter available at Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary. These aptly named examples have been seen on the site in recent years:
Winter Wren – common to uncommon, many times heard before being seen. Look low in the center scrub area and next to the boardwalk near the two lake overlooks.
 Snow Goose – uncommon to rare, check lake edges including Canada Goose flocks. Both white and blue phases have been observed.
Tundra Swan – rare, open lake area, one juvenile has been observed.

Any chance we could add a Snowy Owl or Snow Bunting sometime soon?
* * *
Notable recent sightings at Beaver Lake include Orange-crowned Warbler and a very late Common Yellowthroat.
Winter Wren, Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary, December 2017
Tundra Swan, Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary, January 2016
About The Raven's Nest
Elisha Mitchell Audubon Society
PO Box 18711 Asheville, NC 28814
EMAS is a chapter of the National Audubon Society, serving Buncombe, Henderson, and surrounding counties in western North Carolina.

Content Editor: 
Marianne Mooney

Technical Editor: 
Nick Dugan
Our mis sion is to promote an awareness and appreciation of nature, to preserve and protect wildlife and natural ecosystems, and to encourage responsible environmental stewardship.

Elisha Mitchell Audubon Society is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
Donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.
For the latest information and schedule changes,
check the EMAS Website or Facebook/Instagram