Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary/Beaver Lake Area
Habitats: Pond with muddy and marshy edges, open water on lake, wetlands along lake edge, weedy field, patches of hardwoods and conifers.
Key birds: Summer: Yellow-throated and Warbling Vireos, Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, Yellow and Yellow-throated Warblers, Tree, Barn and Northern Rough-winged Swallows, Eastern Kingbird, Gray Catbird, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Winter: Brown Creeper, White-throated Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Winter Wren, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Ruby and Golden-crowned Kinglets, Pied-billed Grebe, Bufflehead. Year-round: Brown-headed and White-breasted Nuthatches, Pine Warbler, American Goldfinch, Eastern Bluebird, Belted Kingfisher, Red-shouldered Hawk.
Best times to bird: late spring through June; then late August through October; the lake is worth checking for waterfowl after winter storms.
Description: Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary is half uplands and half wetlands and lakeside. In an urban setting, on a busy street, it provides good resting, feeding and nesting spots for resident and migratory birds. Elisha Mitchell Audubon Society, a chapter of National Audubon, owns half the 10-acre sanctuary and manages the rest under an agreement with the Lake View Park homeowners' association, owner of Beaver Lake. The sanctuary features a 3/8-mile boardwalk loop with two lake overlooks and several benches, and an eco-filter pond designed to clean up storm run-off before it enters the lake and the French Broad River system.
Directions: The sanctuary is on Merrimon Avenue about 2 miles north of downtown Asheville. Take exit 5-A from I-240 north onto Merrimon, as your odometer approaches 2 miles, look for an Ingle's grocery on your right. When you see a guardrail on your left in a short distance, get ready to enter the sanctuary parking lot at the end of the guardrail. To reach the sanctuary from the north on US 19/23, take the Merrimon Ave. exit and at the bottom of the exit ramp turn right onto Merrimon. In about 1.5 miles, you'll see Beaver Lake on the right; the sanctuary parking lot is another .8 mile.
Birding Highlights: Brown-headed Nuthatch (unusual in the mountains) is often found at the sanctuary or nearby. Warbling Vireo and both orioles have regularly nested by the lake; if you don't find them in the sanctuary, walk the lake's edge toward the dam. Eastern Kingbirds sometimes put on great displays over the lake and adjoining field. In summer, swallows and Chimney Swifts often swoop low over the lake in early morning and evening. Yellow Warbler is common in breeding season. The mature white pines along Merrimon attract Yellow-throated Warbler. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher arrive for the breeding season in late March, and have been seen nesting over the boardwalk. Red-shouldered Hawks have nested in the neighborhood, and Cooper's Hawks have nested not far away. Swamp Sparrow is always a possibility in wet spots during winter and Savannah Sparrow can usually be observed in the weedy field along Merrimon Avenue in late winter.
General Information: Audubon uses donations to maintain the sanctuary, and a donation box is situated near the parking lot. In 2002, Audubon began a major effort to replace invasive/exotic vegetation in Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary with native plants. The sanctuary was established in the mid-1980s, when Audubon successfully led an effort to prevent construction of a strip mall on the site. In addition to the sanctuary lot a few parking spots are available at the dam at the corner of Merrimon and Glen Falls. There are no restrooms. Hours are dawn to dusk, and the parking-lot gate opens and shuts on a timer. North of the sanctuary, a gravel path follows the lake's edge to the dam and spillway. Visitors are asked to take away trash, keep pets on leash and clean up pets' after pets.
DeLorme map grid: page 31, D6
North Carolina Travel Map grid: C2
For more information: Elisha Mitchell Audubon Society; check its web site for contact information: www.main.nc.us/emas/