Seeds of Opportunity
Audubon Mid-Atlantic
Chapter Chatter Newsletter May 2021
Planting Seeds for Opportunity
Spring has sprung and we are busy across the network with all sorts of Plants for Birds projects that turn small seeds into major impact. Read on to learn about Audubon Society of Western PA’s plant “foster” program, Audubon Society of Central Maryland’s schoolyard habitat grant program, and the Renewable Energy Working Group’s efforts to develop bird-friendly pollinator options for solar developers.

Looking ahead, mark your calendars for this year’s #BlackBirdersWeek from May 31st – June 5th. Look for more details soon on how your chapter can get involved and show your support.

And remember to register for our quarterly chapter leadership call on June 1st.  See you there!
solar planting site
Renewable Energy Working Group Takes a Roots and Wings Approach
The Renewable Energy Working Group (REWG) of Audubon Mid-Atlantic has been hard at work over the last year on a number of fronts including advocacy efforts and resource development. Their latest project aims to create a suite of bird-friendly planting options for solar developers across the region.

With solar development expected to dramatically increase in the region, the REWG is proactively working with colleagues at Audubon Florida and Audubon’s Clean Energy Initiative to discuss, adapt, and incorporate some tried and tested ideas into a Mid-Atlantic strategy. The goals include:
  • Developing a guide to pollinator options that provides solar developers with the rationale and benefits for planting natives under and around the solar arrays,
  • Working with a range of partners to create custom seed mixes, recommended by Audubon,
  • And working with business partners across the region to make the seed mixes readily available to developers.
Combined, these efforts build awareness, reduce barriers, and create pathways for bird-friendly habitat enhancements that align with renewable energy goals. The REWG is looking for chapter leaders from across the region to join the pollinator project committee. Please share this opportunity with your board and volunteers and reach out to Laura Jackson to get started!
Solar Site Planting. Photo: Rob Davis/Center for Pollinators in Energy
Schoolyard Habitat Program
20 Years of Cultivating Community Gardens
For 20 years, Audubon Society of Central Maryland (ASCM) has been cultivating scientific inquiry, nourishing a sense of wonder, and strengthening community roots through its Schoolyard Habitat Grant Program. 

In 2001, three 5th grade students, including the daughter of ASCM board member Julie Dunlap, wrote the first application in an effort to create a pollinator garden at Dasher Green Elementary School. Since then, the program has supported 36 projects across the chapter’s territory. The projects, sited at schools, libraries, and nature centers, range from wildlife habitat plantings to pollinator and rain gardens to bluebird nest box trails. 

Each year, ASCM offers between one and three grants of $500 each to public and private schools, as well as other educational organizations. The projects created through this special program engage students, educators, and the community in meaningful ways that emphasize local action and large-scale impact.

Coming full circle, the chapter received a grant application this year from one of those three 5th graders. You guessed it, Julie’s daughter, Hannah Vogel (who also served on the ASCM board for six years). Hannah’s successful application, through an online nonprofit called Oakland Mills Online, secured funds through the program to purchase native plants for a pandemic-inspired outdoor classroom at her alma mater, Oakland Mills High School. This project, along with so many others around ASCM’s chapter territory, directly impacts wildlife through enhanced habitat, while simultaneously sparking conversation and encouraging action related to biodiversity, habitat loss, and climate change.  

Congratulations to ASCM for two decades of making the world a better place through education, engagement, and empowerment!

 
Schoolyard Habitats. Photo: Audubon Society of Central Maryland
Foster Plants
Nurturing Nature with Plant "Fosters"
Demand for native plants has never been higher. But at Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania (ASWP), space to grow the plants onsite is limited. To solve the problem, ASWP looked to its volunteers, members, and the community. People were asked to raise native plants that ASWP provided to them. They’d care for the plants for a designated timeframe, right in their own gardens. The Native Plant Foster Program was born.

At the start of the program, ASWP used two different approaches—year-long fosters and four-month-long fosters. Participants were given training materials to learn how to care for the plants. ASWP also checked up on them with regular informational updates to ensure that the program was going well. The year-long program participants looked after native nectar species such as Blazing Star while the shorter fosters grew only milkweed.

The four-month fosters turned out to be more successful, but both groups helped ASWP to increase the quantity of native plants available at the nursery. Another benefit? When the fostered milkweed plants were returned ASWP’s native plant nursery, the numbers of Monarch caterpillars in the nursery went up exponentially.

This year, ASWP is utilizing a slightly different approach to the foster program. Thirty people are caring for milkweed that will be planted locally thanks to pollinator grants from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

The collaboration with local gardeners has been very beneficial in helping ASWP to get more native plants into the community. The fostering program continues to be very successful and ASWP recommends fostering as a solution for other Audubon chapters. To learn more, please contact Sarah Koenig, Conservation Director at ASWP: skoenig@aswp.org.

 
Year One Plants & Set-Up. Photo: Audubon Society of Western PA
Dark-eyed Junco
Quarterly Chapter Leadership Call
Our quarterly chapter leadership call is scheduled for Tuesday, June 1st at 6:30 PM. Lots of discussion and opportunities on the agenda. Please register for the call and share with leaders on your board and committees who would be interested in connecting with the network through this call. 

 
Dark-eyed Junco. Photo: Belen Schneider/Audubon Photography Awards
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