Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary: A gem in North Asheville
Published 10:00 pm Monday, June 27, 2016
Situated just off US 25 or Merrimon Avenue in North Asheville is a small, yet very pleasant and important wildlife sanctuary. It is very close to town and is the perfect spot for a walk away from the noise and hubbub of everyday life.
This sanctuary is owned and operated by the local Elisha Mitchell Audubon Society, a regional chapter of the National Audubon Society. This NC chapter was formed in 1986 and immediately got to work on a major conservation project, averting the imminent destruction of this land adjacent to Beaver Lake.
This threat came in the form of a proposed strip mall development planned for where the sanctuary is today. Work was needed and this had to happen very fast indeed. Plans were made, people were rallied, and over $400,000 was raised to help save this wetland. In several months the threat of commercial development to this sensitive property was averted and the land was preserved.
A major renovation of the sanctuary was finished in 2014 with new boardwalks added and benches dotted along its length. The sanctuary is now 100 percent accessible for all people.
To help open people’s eyes to the world within Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary, the local Audubon Society offers monthly bird walks throughout the year. They are open to all interested people, whether they are new or experienced birders, Audubon members or not.
Please meet us at the sanctuary’s gazebo on the first Saturday of every month. Times are from 9-11 a.m. from October to May and from 8-10 a.m. from June to September. Visitors to Asheville are always welcome on any of our monthly bird walks. More information is available on the website emasnc.org.
For such a small geographical area, the birding is very good and a morning walk in the spring or fall of the year can produce a list of over 50 species. Because of the dense tangles and wet thickets, some species are very common.
Song Sparrows are year round residents and the sanctuary is often alive with Gray Catbirds, Green Herons and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds during the warmer months. Both Baltimore and Orchard Orioles nest along the lakeshore in the summer, along with Yellow and Yellow-throated Warblers, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and a couple of pairs of Warbling Vireos.
House Wrens have taken over several of the bluebird boxes and Tree Swallows nest in the Purple Martin condominium that has been put up along the shore. An excellent selection of warblers and other transient passerines can be seen during migration, and there are often interesting ducks and other waterfowl during the winter months, which are often joined by Swamp Sparrows, Yellow-rumped Warblers and Ruby-crowned Kinglets.
Because Beaver Lake Sanctuary is so easy to bird, many people drop by on their lunch hour to check out the lake. Occasionally they are rewarded by a real rarity and over the years we have had Bobolink, Bonaparte’s Gull, Common Loon, and even American Avocet grace the sanctuary. A bird list outlining all of the species recorded at Beaver Lake is available at the sanctuary bulletin board.
Whether you join one of the organized bird walks at Beaver Lake Sanctuary or just enjoy walking along the boardwalks, stop and think for a while about the folks that helped to make this North Asheville gem a reality.
Simon Thompson has lived in WNC for the past 20 years. He owns and operates his own birding tour company, Ventures Birding Tours, online at birdventures.com. For more information on any of the birding activities in the area, check the website for additional listings.