Audubon Important Bird Areas
The Audubon Important Bird Area (IBA) program helps Audubon, its partners and landowners identify and protect natural areas and landscapes that are critical to maintaining bird populations, diversity and habitat. In North Carolina, 96 IBAs comprise some 4 million acres from the mountains to the coast.
Local chapters can adopt individual IBAs and can receive collaborative funding from Audubon to support citizen science, conservation or educational activities at these locations. Forsyth Audubon was the first chapter in the state to participate in this program, adopting Hanging Rock State Park and New River Corridor, which is in Ashe County.
Hanging Rock State Park
Hanging Rock is included in the adoption program, even though IBA status remains pending. Nesting of Peregrine Falcons in the park in recent years has made it an area of interest. Common Ravens also nest on the cliffs. In addition, passerine species such as Worm-eating and Black-throated Green Warbler breed in the park, even though they do not do so at the lower elevations here in Forsyth County.
Forsyth Audubon conducts Christmas and Spring Bird Counts for the area in and around the park. It also conducts campfire programs and bird walks for park visitors, and has supported the park with purchases of binoculars and field guides for children, reference materials relating to the falcons, museum display items and signage promoting the park as a stop on the North Carolina Birding Trail. On May 13, 15 chapter members conducted or 2012 spring count at the park, finding 66 species, including a male Swainson’s Warbler singing on territory. This is the first time this species has been reported in Stokes County.
Hanging Rock was chosen 2012 State Park of the Year by the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation. The announcment cited the park’s interpretive programs and museum display for which we have contributed materials over the years.
New River Corridor
The New River Corridor IBA includes New River State Park and nearby habitat along the North and South Forks of the New River in Ashe and Allegheny Counties. The area is known as critical breeding habitat for such species as Golden-winged Warbler and Warbling Vireo.
For several spring seasons, Forsyth Audubon volunteers have worked with NC Audubon’s IBA Coordinator Curtis Smalling to conduct point count surveys along the New River at the state park’s river-only Allegheny Access campground and elsewhere along both the South Fork and North Fork of the New River. On May 15, 2010, we conducted our annual point count surveys and presented a program about area birds to park visitors. In 2011 and 2012, Ron Morris and Kim Brand conducted Golden-winged Warbler breeding bird surveys along the New River. Chapter members also take part in Christmas Bird Counts for the area. With collaborative funds, the Chapter purchased signage that promotes the IBA and Birding Trail status of the park and a GPS for use by park staff. This year, funds were provided for the construction and installation of American Kestrel boxes in the park.