Upcoming Events

Birding Events

Join Blue Ridge Audubon for birding on these Saturdays.

Free and open to all.

Many thanks to the guides at Ventures Birding

for leading our outings.

May 18, 8 a.m.

Owen Park

June 1, 8 a.m.

Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary

June 8, 8 a.m.

Jackson Park

June 15, 8 a.m.

Owen Park

July 6, 8 a.m.

Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary


Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary


Sunday, May 19, 1-4 p.m.

1056 Merrimon Ave. Asheville

May Program

The Secret Lives of

High Elevation Birds

Tuesday, May 21, 7 p.m.

Reuter Center, UNCA

Audubon North Carolina

Advocacy Day

Wednesday, May 22

Plants for Birds Outing

Saturday, May 25, 1 p.m.

Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary

Board of Directors Meeting

Tuesday, June 11, 6:30 p.m.

To attend email:

Visit our website:
President's Message

Dear Nancy,

Last month around a dozen of us met up on the Mills River Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway around sunset. Our objective: to get an audio glimpse of the Northern Saw-Whet Owl. This tiny little owl (even smaller than a Screech-owl and not much bigger than your fist!) mostly inhabits northern forests, but they come south into the southern Appalachians in the winter. They mostly retreated northward as the last of the ice ages waned, but like the Black-capped Chickadee and some other species more associated with northern forests, a relict breeding population of these incredibly cute owls has remained in the spruce-fir forests of the high ridges in the Smokies, Black Mountains, Pisgah Ridge and Plott Balsams.  


We don’t know much about these populations despite some outstanding research by local ornithologists and Audubon members Marilyn Westphal and Marcus Simpson. Up until now, we have figured out some valuable nesting data, but we simply have not been able to track exactly what habitats the owls use for hunting and living year-round. Do they move habitats when nesting is over (as migratory Saw-whets obviously do)? What habitats do they depend on throughout the year, and are we capably protecting those habitats?

With the advent of mobile microtechnology like the Motus towers and nanotag avian transmitters they support, we can finally start gathering some of this valuable data to figure out how best to support and protect Saw-whet Owls in North Carolina. Anthony Squittieri of the Wild Bird Research Group has launched just such an effort to map and characterize the habitat utilization of Saw-Whet Owls in western North Carolina using nanotags and Motus tracking technology. This information will give us valuable information on the habitat we need to protect to ensure that this small population of Saw-whet Owls remains vibrant and viable for generations to come.


Blue Ridge Audubon Chapter is excited to announce that our 2024 Birdathon’s fundraising objective is to support the Northern Saw-whet Owl project that Wild Bird Research Group is undertaking. This is a wonderful opportunity to support local bird conservation and ensure the survival of a very charismatic owl. I hope that you share our enthusiasm and are able to support our Birdathon with a donation.


We never did hear any Saw-whets tooting away that night last month despite near ideal conditions. Some people did manage to hear a distant owl further south near Mount Pisgah a few nights later. Such is the allure of searching for owls: it’s never a given that you’ll hear one, and so much sweeter when you do.


John Koon

President, Blue Ridge Audubon

Northern Saw-whet Owl photo by Kameron Perensovich

The Secret Lives of High Elevation Birds

Tuesday, May 21, 7 p.m.

Reuter Center, UNCA

or join us on Zoom

Join Blue Ridge Audubon Chapter for a talk by Anthony Squitieri of the Wild Bird Research Group (WBRG). Anthony will share information about WBRG and highlight their exciting research goals to study the regional movement and behavior of high elevation bird populations like the Northern Saw-whet Owl in the Southern Appalachians of North Carolina. Northern Saw-whet Owls still maintain a small breeding population in the Black Mountain Range near Asheville and in other local montane spruce-fir forests. Their breeding behavior, habitat utilization and movements are still poorly understood. Using nanotag transmitters, these owls can be tracked through their habitat year-round which will enable researchers to optimize habitat protection of these tiny, threatened owls.  

Anthony Squitieri is an avian ecologist and environmental educator with twenty years of field research and bird banding experience. He is a co-founder of the Wild Bird Research Group (WBRG), a non-profit organization whose mission is to conduct and support research that benefits birds and their habitats. Anthony works with regional institutions including UNCAsheville, where he assists with field labs and sources technicians, The North Carolina Arboretum, where he manages a MAPS banding station and conducts educational programing, and the North Carolina Wildlife and Resources Commission where he collaborates with building Motus infrastructure for research in Western NC.

See you Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the UNCA Reuter Center or online via Zoom!

All Blue Ridge Audubon Chapter Programs are free and open to the public. At our May program, we invite you to donate to our Birdathon fundraiser!

Photo by Jim Bachman, Audubon Photography Awards

Blue Ridge Audubon Chapter News

Chapter Elections

It’s time for our chapter elections and we have some amazing candidates this year to present to the membership. The Blue Ridge Audubon Chapter board voted on this slate at our April board meeting and will present it for vote by the membership at the May 21 program meeting.

Board officers will be Danielle DiBella-Lenaway, Vice-president, Dora Brande, Treasurer. Our returning at-large board members are Tom Tribble and Jay Wherley. Our 2024 nominees for at-large board members are: Jennifer Burke, Kevin Burke, LaShanda Brown, Paula Caycedo, Anna Hardy, Art Hulse and Joe Simon. We are thrilled that these talented and dedicated people have agreed to join our board. You can meet them at the May 21 Blue Ridge Audubon program meeting where there will be a vote on the slate. The board thanks all our candidates for their willingness to serve on the Blue Ridge Audubon Chapter board.

We also would like to give a big shout out and thanks to departing board members for the contributions they have made in running our chapter: Clayton Gibb, Casey Girard, and Marianne Mooney. Thank you all!

Remembrance Tree

The Blue Ridge Audubon Chapter has a beautiful addition to the Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary, a Remembrance Tree. Through the generosity of the Mitchell Lerner family, iron artisan Tina Councell created a metal sculpture of a tree with bird silhouettes on it. Names of special loved ones can be engraved on a nameplate and affixed to the tree which is sited in a peaceful gazebo at the Sanctuary. Please join us for the unveiling of the Remembrance Tree at 1 p.m. at our May 19th Celebration. Check our website and see our June Newsletter for more information about adding names to the Tree.

Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary Celebration!

Sunday, May 19, 1-4 p.m.

Please join us on Sunday, May 19 from 1-4 p.m. for our annual Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary Celebration! It’s a fun event for families and friends to celebrate the positive impact that the Sanctuary makes for birds and for people. We’ll have interpretive stations with scopes, activities for kids, and plenty of information about birds. A highlight will be a live raptor demonstration by Carlton Burke.

We will also have an unveiling of our Remembrance Tree memorial sculpture at 1 p.m. It’s a beautiful piece and a wonderful place for folks to add names of their loved ones. More information will be in our June newsletter.

Audubon North Carolina

Advocacy Day

Wednesday, May 22 on Zoom

Join the Audubon North Carolina flock on May 22 for our 8th annual Advocacy Day with the NC General Assembly! Audubon members from across the state will meet with lawmakers (via Zoom for the Blue Ridge Audubon Chapter members) to advocate for important issues that impact birds and people—from native plants to conservation funding. All are welcome, regardless of experience level. Please register here to participate! For more information, please contact

Beaver Bits
Text and Photos by Jay Wherley

Over the years, May has brought 27 species of “wood-warblers” to Beaver Lake. Some of those birds, like Yellow-throated Warblers, even stay around to breed in the sanctuary. Other birds are also busy nesting including Eastern Screech Owls. We ask birders to only look from a safe distance and not to get close enough to disturb the fledglings.

May also sees the greatest number of birders in the Sanctuary! On May 4th, 40 participants showed up for our regular first Saturday of the month bird outing. Highlights of the outing included a singing American Redstart, a Pileated Woodpecker entering a cavity near the south overlook, a Brown-headed Nuthatch delivering food to a cavity near north overlook, Green Heron, Warbling Vireo, Orchard Orioles, and nesting Eastern Kingbirds. Join us on the first Saturday of every month for more fun birding times!

* * *

Recent notable sightings at Beaver Lake include Yellow-breasted Chat and Prothonotary Warbler.


Yellow-throated Warbler after bathing, BLBS April 2024

Pileated Woodpecker feeding young, BLBS, May 2023

About the Blue Ridge Audubon Chapter
Blue Ridge Audubon is a chapter of the National Audubon Society, serving Buncombe, Henderson, and surrounding counties in western North Carolina.

We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Donations are
tax-deductible to the extent
allowed by law.

Raven's Nest Editor: 
Marianne Mooney
Blue Ridge Audubon Chapter
PO Box 18711
Asheville, NC 28814

Blue Ridge Audubon's mission is to protect birds and the places they depend on. We believe that a world in which birds thrive is a world that benefits all living things.

Our vision is a vibrant and just community where the protection of birds and our natural world is valued by everyone.
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