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Barbara Driscoll is the president of the New Hope Audubon Society Board and Co-Chair of the Bird Friendly Habitat Committee which works with municipalities to promote bird friendly actions such as planting native plants, removing invasive plants, and sponsoring other bird friendly activities. Joining Barbara today are Community Science Committee: Chair–Jin Bai and Field Trips Committee: Chair–David Anderson.  Jin’s duties include all of the Society bird counts and surveys, plus its Climate and Stream Watches, while David is responsible for all field trip activities and all bird walks.


Interviewing the team at New Hope Audubon is Blake Johnson, the Interpretive & Outreach Ranger for the US Army Corps of Engineers at B. Everett Jordan Lake Dam where he specializes in in community outreach and engagement. He began working with the US Army Corps of Engineers at Falls Lake in 2015 and graduated from NCSU with a major in Environmental Technology & Management and minors in Environmental Chemistry & Toxicology and Soil Science.


Many of us already know that the mission of the Audubon Society on a national level is to protect bird populations and their habitants.  I take it the New Hope Audubon chapter is an extension of this but on a specified local level?

{Barbara Driscoll} Yes. our mission is to also promote the conservation and enjoyment of birds, other wildlife, and ecosystems, and this is very similar to National Audubon’s mission.  Of course our focus is on Chatham, Durham, Orange, and parts of their surrounding counties. 

I want to thank the three of you for taking the time from your already busy schedules to spend some time with me. 

Work on restoring and sustaining bird populations surely must be multifaceted. Are there other environmental variables you all work on that benefit our bird populations?

Blake, as our land is increasingly developed, much of the native habitat on which birds and other wildlife depend is destroyed.  New developments might incorporate large areas of lawn and non-native plants, and later. some of the non-native plants escape cultivation and begin to take over the few remaining natural areas, which in turn threatens those habitats for wildlife.   

Invasive plants are really plant pollution.  These take space from native plants and provide little or no value to wildlife.  Certain imported non-native plants spread more aggressively, thus displacing native plants and become threats to ecosystems and the wildlife that depends on them.

​Most people don’t even realize that commonly seen plants like Bradford Pear trees, Chinese Privet, Japanese Honeysuckle, and Nandina are non-native and have become serious invasive threats.

We work on managing aquatic invasive species at Jordan so I understand that this can be a difficult issue to address. What does New Hope Audubon do to combat invasive plant species? 

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We try to help restore native habitat and reduce the pressure from invasive plants through education and direct intervention.

We educate people about the benefits of using native plants, how to identify and remove invasive plants, and other steps they can take to make their property more bird-friendly.

Our goal is to create bird friendly communities, a  goal we share with North Carolina Audubon. 


What types of invasive species are common in our area?

Thank you for sharing this with us, I know many of us don’t often think of the connection between invasive plant species and bird populations, but it’s surely there.  I’d like to direct this next question to the Field Trips Committee Chair, David Anderson.  David, what can you tell us about your bird outings? 

{David Anderson}  Hi Blake.  We conduct bird outings twice weekly at sites throughout the region.  Many sites are easily accessible and we a have special outings for those with visual problems, and for seniors.  

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Trip leaders introduce participants to the basics of birdwatching, and the chance to socialize with other birdwatchers and nature lovers.  They also distribute information on nature friendly planting and about our bird friendly habitat program.

There are also bird count events that engage local birders to participate in community science projects.


These allow the general public to contribute to science, thus making large-scale community science projects possible with the help of volunteers.

David, you indicated  that non-members are encouraged to participate in your bird outings, is that correct?


Yes, that is correct.  We hope newcomers will become active conservationists. Often, non-members will become members once they see how they can help and may also volunteer to help on one of our committees.  Sometimes they may also have special skills and can help on our board as well.

You also sponsor birding events in other parts of our state as well, right?


Yes we do, including arranging trips to birding hotspots, such as in the Blue Ridge Parkway, or the North Carolina Outer Banks.  We also sponsor field trips which are a little different from our bird walks.

What are your field trips like?

We have several field trips every year.  These are generally multi-day trips, and include the Blue Ridge Mountains, the NC Outer Banks, and spots in South Carolina and Virginia as well.

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Anywhere from 12 to 20 people usually participate. These are a great experience for learning  in-depth about birding, about some of our wonderful natural areas, and are a chance to meet birders and nature lovers. Trips like our hawk watch and our warbler road trip, are  focused on specific birds, and give participants a more concentrated experience.

Thank you David.  Barbara, David mentioned bird counts.  Are these different from your bird walks and outings?


{Barbara}  Yes, our bird counts do differ from our walks and outings, but are equally as important.

Bird counts help everyone better understand how bird populations change over time. In the case of our Christmas Bird Count, which has been run for more than a century, it helps us gain valuable insights into changes in bird population in North America across decades. This is one of the data sources that tell us that almost 3 billion birds in our country have been lost in the last 3 decades.


So this appears to be somewhat of a national effort.  How does New Hope Audubon contribute to this mission on a local level?

Blake, I want to refer this to our Community Science Committee: Chair–Jin Bai who is responsible for bird counts, and our Climate Watch and Stream Watch.

{Jin Bai}  Good Question and glad to help.

We support the national mission with local bird counts including the Jordan Lake Spring and Christmas Bird Counts, Climate Watch, the Mini-Breeding Bird Survey, and the Quarterly Eagle Count at Jordan Lake.  Since 1977, the Jordan Spring and Christmas counts have been in a 15-miles circle that covers the majority of the lake and its surroundings in Chatham and Wake Counties. 

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A 15-mile circle seems like a lot to cover.  How do you manage such as large area?

There are 27 designated count areas within this circle, and some are into smaller areas. The count day mission is to report birds seen or heard within each area.

Participants decide what  spots they will visit, make note of the number of miles traveled, and the hours spent for the bird count.

The smaller boundaries in the circle are 27 designated count areas and each team will count birds in their claimed areas on count day.

Volunteers are welcome to be part of teams within a count circle.  They are a  great help in an area

as large as this.


And how is all this collected data is being used?

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One example would be of the data collected from our Jordan Lake Spring and Christmas Bird Counts.  This data is added to data collected from other count areas and contributes to larger-scale bird population estimates both regionally and nationally.

And this data provides insight on local population changes as well.


What would one example of local population changes be?

This would be the change in the population of Northern Bobwhites that were common here in the 1970s and 1980s.  Records now show that this population has dramatically declined and now we rarely observe them here as documented by our bird counts. 

It is good to see that your efforts are effective in producing reliable data, although the data is not always encouraging, such as for the Northern Bobwhites.

I wanted to also ask you about Climate Watch.  Can you tell us more about it?

The National Audubon Society has a Climate Watch program that helps determine if researchers’ projections on the distribution of climate-sensitive species can be verified by our surveys.  Climate Watch happens twice a year, with one winter count Jan 15 to Feb 15, and one summer count May 15 to June 15.

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In support of this national mission, New Hope Audubon has established 43 Climate Watch squares in our area, each covering a 6 mile X 6 mile square.


The boundary highlighted in blue is the boundary of New Hope Audubon. The squares that fall into the New Hope boundary are climate watch squares coordinated by New Hope Audubon. The squares in red are claimed for both summer and winter surveys.


The squares in orange or blue are claimed for summer only or winter only. Other squares within the boundary are not claimed yet. Also, the red squares outside of the New Hope boundary are squares coordinated by Wake Audubon.

You might want to know that the target species for our Climate Watch here is the Brown-Headed Nuthatches.


This methodology seems interesting.  Might this be an opportunity for anyone to make a contribution to better understanding the impact of climate change on local species?  What about participation?

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Actually, anyone who thinks they can identify the target species by sight and sound can participate.  They would adopt a specific square, and layout 12 survey locations in their square that may be  suitable for Brown-headed Nuthatches. Then they would perform 5-minute counts at each survey location.


These observations can help scientists determine how climate change affects bird distribution and help improve projections of where species may go due to climate change in the upcoming decades.

There is a Quarterly Eagle Count at Jordan Lake which is also where my office is located.  What can you tell us about this?

We have been helping with this since 1994.  The population of Bald Eagles there was in decline due to DDT starting a few decades ago.  Our eagle counts, conducted in January, April, July, and October help us understand how the Bald Eagle population is doing, and we are pleased to report that data collected over the last decade indicates that the number of Bald Eagles has been steadily increasing. 

Is the Quarterly Eagle Count something anyone can also participate in?

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Photo courtesy of Ellen Tinsley, DVM,
nature photographer

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Yes it is.  Birders with any skill level are welcome to volunteer in this program.

We have other opportunities for volunteers as well – one is the Mini-breeding Bird Survey, with survey routes in Orange, Durham, and Chatham Counties.  Participants identify birds by sight and sound, and perform stationary 3-minute counts. This project focuses on the breeding bird population in the New Hope territory, and helps us understand the population changes in resident breeding birds and migratory breeding birds.  

Photo courtesy of Ellen Tinsley, DVM,
nature photographer

Thank you again Jin, I think we all found your talk about the count areas and the Climate Watch program very interesting. 

David, I understand you really enjoy taking birders on field trips and bird walks.  Do you have a few favorite areas?

{David}  I like Brumley Forest Nature Preserve in spring and fall.  It was ranked the number two NC eBird hotspot by the Cornell School of Ornithology for May of 2022.


Brumley North has very diverse habitat types, including evergreen, mixed, and deciduous forests, wetlands, and creeks.    During fall migration, one might observe a dozen warbler species and a variety of vireos, thrushes, and flycatchers there

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Bynum Bridge is another special spot. The bridge allows us to enjoy birds at a higher altitude.  The bridge is relatively short, so ones does not need to hike long distances to see Blackpoll Warblers, Bay-breasted Warblers, and Cape May Warblers.  eBird states there have been a total of 165 species reported there.


Another would be Ebenezer Point at Jordan Lake near the lake shore. 


The trees and vegetation around the lake there  attract lots of migrants and because there are so few trees around the lake edge, birders have a better chance of picking up the movement of birds there.


One last question for you, David.  For those who want to seriously consider birdwatching, how can they get started? 


I would suggest that they begin in their own yard.  Initially, they need a bird field guide, such as Sibley’s Birds of Eastern US.  


They can also download field guides such as Audubon or iBird Pro.  Then try to find birds in their yard and use their guide to identify them.  They can use binoculars for a better view.

Going on our outings is an excellent way to learn about bird watching. Our trip leaders and our regular participants are very welcoming of new birders, and very helpful in teaching about birds, birdwatching, and birding hotspots. 

Barbara, how we can get more people interested in a rewarding and beneficial life of birdwatching and counting?  What would you suggest?

{Barbara} I would strongly suggest we begin by educating our youth and get them to begin appreciating the issues we face early, and perhaps make a life-long commitment to helping us achieve our goals.

Our New Hope Audubon fully embraces the National Society’s focus of educating and engaging youth – our future conservation stewards – to instill in them an understanding of and an appreciation for wildlife and nature.  And because education is a lifelong journey, we offer resources for all ages who want to learn about conservation and discover the joys of birding.

Well said, and are there any specific programs you want to mention that would help us on this journey?

Our Family Bird Walks are popular with for youth of all ages and their families as well, and a great introduction to the joys of birding.


I understand that you have a large and active membership base.  Where do these members generally reside?


Many live in towns like Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Durham, Hillsborough, Pittsboro, but there are many members that
live in the surrounding rural areas as well.


What about your regular meetings?  Where are these held and what might a typical agenda be?

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We hold our meetings in the Visitor Education Center at the North Carolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill, on the first Thursday of every month (except in summer).  We cover a lot of different topics including birds and birding, pollinators, bats, native plants – all nature themes generally, but a wide range of topics as well.

I want to add that non-members are welcome to attend our meetings, as an important part of our mission is to educate, and this includes the general public as well. 

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We offer two- hour interactive programs using our Learning Centers, and can do shorter or longer programs upon request. Our programs have been offered in county libraries and community centers. 

We can assist with construction of bird feeders and with learning to look at birds through scopes and binoculars.

And how important is volunteering to New Hope Audubon?

Blake, I am glad you asked this.  We are an all-volunteer organization with no paid staff or even physical offices, and we cannot achieve our goals for conservation and education without the help of many volunteers

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Depending on how much time and energy one can devote, we have volunteer opportunities for everyone.  You can help with a one-day project, staff a table at a special event, or help with a bird count.

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If one wants  to make a bigger commitment, they might serve on one of our committees, run for an elected office, or serve on our Board of Directors.

Just one more question and this is for Jin.  As Community Science Committee Chair, can you tell us if you also have volunteer opportunities in community science projects as well? 

{Jin} We do, and you do not need to be a member to participate. I recommend beginners sign up for a Climate Watch, as we frequently have squares that haven’t been claimed.

Those that are interested in learning more can email Marcia Mandel at and should put “Climate Watch” in the subject field.  

I want to thank Barbara, David, and Jin for meeting with us today. There's a lot to learn here and I know I'm certainly walking away with a lot of new knowledge. In reading many of the stories featured on this site, you can see that there's a lot of good work being done for our environment and the New Hope Audubon is surely no exception to this. I'd definitely recommend for any interested readers to at least attend an Audubon meeting or outing. It doesn't have to be New Hope Audubon, there's chapters everywhere.


The mailing address of New Hope Audubon is PO Box 2693  Chapel Hill, NC, 27515 and its email address is

Its website is 

Please go to its Ways To Help web page at  to learn about several ways that you can personally help New Hope Audubon fulfill its mission and protect our local bird populations.

These include:

Membership       Donating         Volunteering        Building Nest Boxes 

Participating in Community Science

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