Our State Magazine Article

Do you read Our State magazine? Our State is one of North Carolina’s longest running, and most popular magazines. It features stories about North Carolina’s history, food, travel destinations, and people. If you picked up the June 2015 issue of Our State, you may have noticed their “Out and About” segment was all about our very own North Carolina Birding Trail!


North Carolina Recreational Trails Program Grant

The Recreational Trails Program is a federal grant program authorized by Congress in 2012 to help fund trails and trail-related recreational needs at the State level. This $10,000-$100,000 grant is available to Governmental Agencies and Non-Profit Organizations with a 25% match requirement. The pre-application period for the 2016 grant cycle has closed, but because of strong competition for funding, it would be wise to start preparing for the next grant cycle now. The next call for Pre-Applications and the 2017 funding cycle will begin in January of 2016. Click here for further details.


Nightjar Survey 2015

Nightjars are the most enigmatic family of birds in North America, and among the most peculiar in the world. Their reclusive nature makes them very difficult to study. Nightjars are nocturnal, or crepuscular birds. In the evenings, they feed on the wing by snapping up flying insects. They typically nest and rest on the ground during the day, where their cryptic plumage keeps them well camouflaged.

Though notoriously difficult to spot, Nightjars are easily identified by their distinct calls on warm, moonlit evenings. You can hear the songs of North Carolina’s three resident Nightjars—Chuck-will’s-widow, Eastern Whip-poor-will, and Common Nighthawk—here

This summer, volunteers across the country participated in the annual Nightjar Survey sponsored by the Nightjar Survey Network. This national initiative is entirely dependent on volunteers who go out to pre-determined sites in their states, cities, and towns to listen for Nightjars. The data is then uploaded to the Nightjar Survey Network website. You can see survey data from previous years and read about the Nightjar Survey on our blog.

Thanks again to anyone who volunteered their time!


International Hawk Migration Week

The second annual International Hawk Migration Week is slated for September 19-27 this year. Each fall, thousands of hawks, vultures, and eagles migrate from Canada and the US to their wintering grounds in Central and South America.

From Hawk Mountain

Many popular sites have dedicated hawk counters that track their migration. Visit any of the great hawk watching sites on the North Carolina Birding Trail to see this annual spectacle, or contact Hawk Migration Association of North America to join the official count! 

North Carolina Hawk Watch Sites

Visitors on Linville Peak at Grandfather Mountain. Grandfather is the most rugged mountain in the Eastern US, and a very popular place to see migrating raptors.

Table Mountain Pine seen on Grandfather Mountain.


Bachman's Sparrow Survey at Sandhills Game Land

Bachman’s Sparrows are strongly tied to longleaf pine habitat, and both have experienced dramatic declines in the past century. Longleaf pine stands once spanned across the southeastern United States, west through Louisiana and into East Texas. With its open understory dominated by wiregrass, and widely spaced longleaf pine trees, this habitat had more in common with a savannah than with a typical forest. Frequent fires kept shrubs, hardwoods, and other pine trees out. But decades of fire suppression, development, and conversion of longleaf pine stands into loblolly pine plantations have destroyed most of it.

Because maintaining the longleaf habitat requires frequent burnings, 95% of Bachman’s Sparrows currently lived on managed conservation lands (Birds of NC). 

Sandhills Game Land represents one of the largest examples of intact longleaf pine ecosystem left in North Carolina.

The 60,000+ acres are maintained through active management, including controlled burning, and support populations of Red-cockaded woodpecker, Bob White Quail, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Wild Turkey, and Bachman’s Sparrow.


In fact, Sandhills Game Land is one of the most productive Bachman’s Sparrow habitats in North Carolina, which is why it is the site of our annual Bachman’s Sparrow survey.

The survey is conducted by a team of people covering several routes individually. Route assignments are rotated throughout the week to avoid sampling bias, and to gain a measure of detectability. Each survey begins 30 minutes before dawn, and involves driving and walking through some difficult terrain. For instance, this year one of the service roads used for a particular route was completely flooded by beavers.




At another route, a short-lived forest fire burned out all the understory—during the week of the survey!

Researchers use an audio recording of a Bachman’s Sparrow song to lure them in, then we note how many respond, and from which direction.

Each bird counted is marked on a map, so that we can gain an approximation of where they are in the habitat. In addition to Bachman’s Sparrow, we also count Bob White Quail. Quail are much rarer, so hearing one is always a thrill! 

If you’re looking to see a Bachman’s sparrow, here are the NC Birding Trail Sites where they are most likely to be found.