Date: 8/2/17 4:06 pm
From: Harry LeGrand (via carolinabirds Mailing List) <carolinabirds...>
Subject: Re: Request for Info Mattamuskeet and VOA, NC
Answer to the VOA access question? Yes, as of yesterday! Here is today's
story: Sent to me just now by John Wright. Might be tricky to see a
Henslow's now (early August). I have no idea if they sing this late in the
season, but worth a try.

Harry LeGrand
*Former VOA site opens to the public as game land*
[image: 080217voasiteopens-4.jpg]
< >

John Wright talks about the Henslow's Sparrow, an uncommon grasslands bird
that breeds at the Voice of America Game Lands site.

*By Kim Grizzard The Daily Reflector*
*Wednesday, August 2, 2017*
The Henslow's sparrow is an inconspicuous bird with a song so faint that it
sounds more like an insect. So perhaps it was fitting that when the North
Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission opened the rare bird's breeding
habitat to the public, it was done quietly and without fanfare.
There was no dedication ceremony or ribbon-cutting to mark Tuesday's
opening of the Voice of America Game Land in Beaufort County. Wildlife
Resources Commission employees simply unlocked the gate on Cherry Run Road
and let people come inside.
That was enough for Steve Howell, who made the drive from Morehead City for
a chance to walk the grassy plain that had been inaccessible to the public
for more than 50 years.
“I knew this was the opening day of it,” said Howell, of Rocky Mount. “I've
always wanted to make the trip here.”
Located 13 miles northeast of Greenville, the former federal government
broadcasting facility, closed a little more than a decade ago, became the
property of the Wildlife Resources Commission last year. The property,
which is more than twice the size of Goose Creek State Park, is among the
largest land transfers in the 65-year history of the Federal Lands to Parks
While vehicular traffic is restricted and access to the gated building
compound is prohibited, sections of the nearly 3,000-acre property are
scheduled to be open this fall for permit-only hunting of deer, quail,
dove, rabbit and woodcock. The land also is being explored for possible
uses such as horseback riding and a shooting range.
John Thomas, a spokesman for the Old North State Retriever Association,
said the association, which represents 13 retriever clubs in the state, has
asked the Wildlife Resources Commission to consider making a portion of the
property available for field trials and hunt tests.
“Up to this time, most of the property on which we hold these tests and
trials are privately owned,” Thomas said. “There's not a publicly owned
facility in the state for the retrievers.”
He would like to see the VOA Game Land developed like the H. Cooper Black
Jr. Memorial Field Trial and Recreation Area in Cheraw, S.C., which has
both retriever field trials and equestrian trails.
“With Currituck County and all the duck hunting up and down in our coastal
region, it's a natural for the state to have a place for dogs to train and
to compete,” said Thompson, adding that a retriever trials facility would
be an economic boon to the area.
Brian McRae, chief of the land and water access section of the state
Wildlife Resources Commission, said the management plan for the property is
still in development. In an earlier interview, McRae confirmed that the
commission's top priority for the property is to conserve the habitat of
the Henslow's sparrow.
That's good news to John Wright, a Wilson birding enthusiast who for years
tracked the Henslow’s sparrow’s population in eastern North Carolina.
Wright, who visited the VOA Game Land site on Tuesday, has worked behind
the scenes for years to try to protect the birds at the site, sharing his
site surveys of the birds with the Wildlife Resources Commission and
appealing to VOA to avoid mowing areas where the bird was nesting.
“It's basically the only spot where it has a chance,” Wright said of the
former VOA Site A, which is listed as “Henslow’s Fields,” one of the
Audubon Society’s Important Bird Areas of North Carolina. The site also is
included in the “National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North
Henslow's sparrow is on the 2016 State of North America's Birds Watch List,
which includes 432 bird species that are most at risk of extinction without
significant conservation actions to reverse declines and reduce threats.
The bird does not have federally protected status in the United States, but
is listed as endangered in seven states and in Canada.
“It's not an endangered species officially, but really it is,” Wright said.
“The Henslow's is certainly in the category that should be declared
The bird is not the only uncommon species that calls the site home. In
2011, experts surveying the site identified 104 plant species (including
yellow and purple pitcher plants, the yellow loosestrife and the slender
blue iris) and 58 animals (including the oak toad, the reversed roadside
skipper and the helicta satyr butterflies). Besides the Henslow’s sparrow,
the site is home to numerous birds, including the grasshopper sparrow,
Eastern meadowlark, Eastern kingbird, bobwhite quail and the bald eagle.
Previously proposed uses of the property, made public when Beaufort County
was considering acquiring former VOA Site A, included developing a section
for all-terrain vehicles and reforesting a large portion of the site.
Wright worried that they would drive Henslow's sparrow and other birds from
the site.
He believes uses that are now being considered for the property are more
compatible with the birds.
“I think they just need to make sure that the retriever trials and the
horseback riding, things of that nature, are away from the prime breeding
area of the Henslow's sparrows,” he said. “The Henslow's sparrows have
never covered this whole area. They've used portions of it, but never the
whole area.”
Henslow's sparrows eat, nest and spend almost all their time on or near the
ground. The birds prefer grasslands that are not too high (too many woody
stems) or too low (frequently mowed.)
Voice of America's once-a-year mowing schedule (designed to reduce the
threat of wildfire) turned out to be just right for the bird, but much of
the property has become overgrown since the facility was abandoned. The
Wildlife Resources Commission has burned more than 1,000 acres on the
property to control vegetation growth and plans to burn another 335 acres
later this summer.
“I think from the standpoint of an ecological venture, Wildlife Resources
Commission knows a heck of a lot more about what they're doing,” Wright
“I'm just pleased that some of the work that I did has paid off,” he said.
“... Now I don't worry about it. It's in good hands.”
*Voice of America Game Lands is located at 10000 Cherry Run Road in
Beaufort County. A small parking area is available inside the gate. The
entire game *land* will be closed to the public from Aug. 26-29 due to a
commission-sanctioned training event. To apply for a hunting permit, visit < >.*

On Wed, Aug 2, 2017 at 6:46 AM, Jamie Adams <carolinabirds...> wrote:

> Does anyone know if the gate at Lake Landing is open for driving to the
> east impoundments?
> Also, is the VOA site open to the public now?
> Jamie Adams
> Wilmington, NC
> Sent from my iPad
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