February 2017                                                                                   emasnc.org

Upcoming Events UpcomingEvents
For more details see our Calendar of Events   or visit emasnc.org
Tue, Feb 7, 7pm
EMAS Board Meeting

Sat, Feb 11, 9am
Jackson Park Birdwalk

Sat, Feb 18, 9am
Swannanoa Valley Birdwalk

Sat, Mar 4, 9am
Beaver Lake Birdwalk

Tue, Mar 7, 7pm
EMAS Board Meeting

Sat, Mar 18, 9am
Jackson Park Birdwalk

Sat, Mar 25, 9am
Swannanoa Valley Birdwalk

Sat, Apr 1, 8am
Beaver lake Birdwalk

Sat, Apr 8, 8am
Jackson Park Birdwalk

Special Events  

Great Backyard Bird Count Event, Feb 11, 8am-12pm, North Carolina Arboretum

Join Arboretum educators for a day full of birding hikes, hands-on activities and bird crafts. EMAS will have an activity table. Highlights include a bird walk at 8:15. Carlton Burke will lead a presentation on raptors at 10:30am. Bring the kids out for a fun morning.

Sierra Club March 1, 7pm
Unitarian Universalist
Congregation of Asheville.

"Preserving a Picturesque America."  Scott Varn, founder of Preserving a Picturesque America, will show how his organization is using history, art and adventure to help preserve our country's beautiful natural treasures. Early artistic representations and tales of natural wonders were key in creating the concept of conservation in 1800s America. PAPA believes that stories and art can be used as tools for preservation.

Free & open to the public. 
For the latest schedule and any changes:
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The Great Backyard Bird Count! 

The 20th annual Great
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) will take place February 17-20. Launched by the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in 1998, this citizen science project was the first to collect data on birds online and to display results in near real-time. Last February, over 160,000 people in 130 countries totaled 5,689 species of birds! Scientists use information from the GBBC to compile data regarding winter distribution and abundance of birds. 

Pick up your binos and join in! Registered participants count birds for 15 or more minutes for one to four days and then submit their lists. It's a great activity for young or old, and experienced birders or beginners. Birds can be counted in your own backyard or seen on an outing. For more information on how to register and participate, go to www.birdcount.org.

EMAS will participate in the GBBC by hosting bird walks at Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary on Saturday, February 18 from 9-11a.m., and at Owen Park on Sunday, February 19 from 9-11a.m. The bird walks are free and open to the public. No reservations are necessary. Please visit our website, emasnc.org for details and keep an eye on the listserve for any updates.
sawwhetowls  Saw-Whet Owls in WNC
EMAS 2017 programs will kick off in March with an exciting presentation on Saw-whet Owls. Retired environmental scientist and former EMAS board member, Marilyn Westphal, and her husband Mark Simpson, retired pathologist and author of Birds of the Blue Ridge Mountains, have been monitoring Northern Saw-whet Owls in the southern Blue Ridge Mountains for many years by means of night-time calling surveys and monitoring nest boxes. Their talk will focus on owl behavior, egg production and chick growth, prey selection, and other interesting observations. More details to come in the March newsletter.
Birdnotes Bird Notes by Rick Pyeritz

"A bird that uses its head as a hammer to drive a chisel-like bill into solid wood appears to jeopardize its brain."
Alexander Skutch from Life of the Woodpecker 

"Why don't
Red-bellied Woodpecker
woodpeckers get headaches," was a question asked of me by a 10-year-old boy during a bird walk I was leading along the Blue Ridge Parkway a number of years ago. Scratching my head I realized that I must have slept through that lecture during my ornithology course in college. My answer to the lad was an honest, "I don't know." The question stimulated my curiosity and sent me to the literature to find the answer. I found that several structural adaptations and behavioral characteristics work to protect the woodpecker from the considerable force (around 1000 times the force of gravity) generated by the impact of its bill against a tree. Click on this link to learn more about this fascinating family of birds, the woodpeckers.
Christmas  The 2016 Christmas Bird Count
Go back to 1895! On Christmas Day, men would grab their guns and head out for the traditional Christmas "Side Hunt." Teams would kill as many birds and animals as possible and the team with the biggest count "won." The birds did not win. In 1900, Fred Chapman, an ornithologist and early officer of National Audubon Society, had a better idea. In an issue of Bird Lore, he proposed a Christmas Bird Census. Twenty-seven dedicated birders, from Toronto to California, participated in that first CBC and counted a total of about 90 bird species. 

Today, Audubon conducts Christmas Bird Counts (CBC) in Canada, the US, Latin America and the Caribbean. The CBC is now the longest-running citizen science project in the world. The results of this 116-year-old tradition are invaluable to scientists. The data provides a picture of how the continent's bird populations have changed over the past hundred years. CBC Data from the previous 40 years comprised a critical part of the National Audubon's Climate Science Study. Historical CBC results are available at www.audubon.org

EMAS conducted its 2016 CBC on January 2. Thirty-five dedicated volunteers participated in our Buncombe County count. We are grateful to this year's birders who carried on this long running tradition. A few avian highlights: 
  • 76 species were sighted, with a total count of 7,755 birds. 2015 results were 65 species and a 4,992 total. 2014 numbers were 80 species and 6,387 individuals. 
  • Can you guess the most common bird? The count yielded 1,005 Robins, 891 Starlings and 839 American Crows. Robins don't migrate but gather in large flocks in forests and other habitats, wandering around the county looking for food. Oddly, in 2015 the Robin count was only 63. We must have missed their gathering spots last year. 
  • The most unusual bird was a Virginia Rail, found at Owen Park. Two Greater White-fronted Geese, rare in western NC at any time, were also at Owen Park. 
  • Birds seen this year and not in 2015: Killdeer, House Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet (24!), Gray Catbird, Fox Sparrow, Pine Siskin, and Red Crossbill. 
EMAS is proud to be part of this tradition, joining with more than 60,000 birders to count birds. Our contribution to this important effort allows scientists and resource managers to identify species that are in trouble and to develop strategies to protect birds. 
beaverbits  Beaver Bits
Text and Photos by Jay Wherley

Winter Rarities at Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary

While the birding at Beaver Lake may slow down during the winter months, there is always the chance of a noteworthy sighting. In the recent past, these have included:

American Tree Sparrow
Northern Pintail
Greater White-fronted Goose

Common Goldeneye

Ross's Goose
American Black Duck

Common Goldeneye 
Tundra Swan 
Tundra Swan
Tundra Swan

With 103 species of birds reported during the three coldest months at Beaver Lake over the years, it is interesting to speculate on what might be number 104. Possibilities include Cackling Goose and Red-throated Loon, or even a Virginia Rail such as the one recently located in Owen Park!
Elisha Mitchell Audubon Society |  emas@emasnc.org | PO Box 18711 Asheville, NC 28814