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What's New at Charles D. Owen Park?


Cold weather can mean less time spent outdoors, but Buncombe County Recreation Services has taken winter as an opportunity to enhance amenities at its parks. Two community partnerships at Charles D. Owen Park aim to educate kids and study the range expansion of tree swallows in the region.

TRACK Trail

Kids in Parks is installing a TRACK Trail kiosk at the park with funding from a Buncombe County Community Recreation Grant. TRACK Trails are an expanding network of family-friendly outdoor adventures, each featuring self-guided brochures and signs that turn a visit into a fun and exciting outdoors experience. Those who track their adventures earn prizes.

Initial adventures are titled Natures Hide & Seek, Animal Athletes, Types of Trees, Pond Life, and Nature’s Relationships. Bilingual brochures are available, too.

Tracking Tree Swallows

Andrew Laughlin, an Environmental Studies professor at UNC Asheville, has installed 20 nest-boxes around the park’s ponds as part of a research project investigating the recent range expansion of tree swallows into western North Carolina. Tree swallows are migratory birds that breed across much of northern North America and Canada, spending winter months along the Gulf and southern Atlantic Coasts. They are declining in their northeast breeding grounds for unknown reasons, but appear to be shifting their eastern breeding range southwards into the Carolinas, Alabama, and Georgia.

The nest-boxes have an entrance designed for eastern bluebirds, tree swallows, and house wrens. Smaller birds such as Carolina chickadees, tufted titmice, and brown-headed nuthatches may also use these boxes. This study will help scientists understand many aspects of the range expansion, including demographics, timing of breeding, and range-wide movements of the iconic migratory bird.

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(Tree swallow image used under license from Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International.)

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Josh O'Conner
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Asheville, NC 28801

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