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March 2003 Issue (vol 34, number 3) - (Next Issue April 2003)

MARCH Meeting

Tuesday, March 25, 7:30 PM
Bellingham Public Library Lecture Room
Project CAT
Cougars and Teaching

Gary Koehler, wildlife research scientist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, will present a slide-illustrated program about Project CAT _ Cougars and Teaching _ integrating science, schools, and community in development planning. His research location is the Cle Elum-Roslyn area of Washington state. Gary’s data on cougar travel corridors and ungulate habitat is shared with community planners. The hope is that cougar interactions can be minimized in this growing area on the east slope of the Cascades.

Complaint reports of cougars _ Puma concolor _ venturing into urban areas, killing livestock and pets, and threatening humans have increased to more than 1,000 reports filed annually in Washington, where in the past five years, cougars have mauled two children. Increased reports are coupled with human population increases of over one million in the past decade and an annual loss to development of over 28,000 hectares of land.

The rural Cle Elum-Roslyn community is experiencing similar growth and development with over 1,400 new homes planned, but presently has few complaints of cougars. To date, Gary and his crew have captured and fitted five adult male cougars and three adult females with Global Positioning System (GPS) transmitter collars. GPS collars provide precise locations of cougars for plotting predation events in relation to human residence and activity. Gary began a second capture effort in December 2002. This is an eight-year project.

This investigation is used to engage students from the Cle Elum-Roslyn School District in an experiential learning activity. Gary will explain how students from kindergarten to senior high school help collect and analyze data.

Adult community members also help collect data and train students in outdoor and collection skills. Central Washington University incorporates Project CAT objectives into training teachers, so this project reaches many levels of the citizenry in towns hugging the east slope of the Cascades.

Join us for this fun, informative gathering and remember, all meetings of the North Cascades Audubon Society are FREE and open to the public.

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Nahkeeta Northwest presents Owls of the Day and Night

An In-depth Study of Northwest Owls

Owls are the source of mystery and illusion. The natural history of this group of birds is both complex and fascinating. To learn more, join us for an in-depth study of Northwest owls. This class will cover field identification, life history, habitat association, prey, seasonal occurrence, and more.

The class series includes 5 sessions, 3 lectures, and 2 field trips. This is an opportunity to master the skills necessary to identify and understand both the habits and habitats of resident and migrant owls.

The instructor is wildlife biologist David Drummond; the classes take place at the Padilla Bay-Brazeale Interpretive Center, in Bayview, WA.

Cost of the class is $135. Inclusive dates are from March 5 to March 19. For more information or to register, call (360) 428-1558, or e-mail nahkeeta@fidalgo.net.

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10th Annual Children’s Environmental Poster Contest

This year’s theme choices are Wetlands as Habitat; Near Shore Habitats; Wildlife of Whatcom County; and WATER: Our Most Important Resource. All Whatcom County children, grades K-6, are eligible to participate. Posters will be judged in three categories: K-2, 3-4, and 5-6.

Artwork can be 8.5 x 11 inches and up to 14 x 18 inches on white paper. With your submission, please include student’s name, address, phone number, age, grade, school, and teacher on the back of the poster.

Prizes will be awarded for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places in each category. One winning poster may be used for the Walk for Wildlife t-shirts this June.

ENTRY DEADLINE is Friday, March 21. Please submit entries to Michele Bodtke, 1473 Lahti Drive, Bellingham 98226.

Prizes will be awarded to the winners at the NCAS General Membership Meeting on April 22.

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Hawkwatching class Field trip report

by Paul DeLiban

This field trip was the culmination of raptor expert Bud Anderson’s winter hawkwatching class at the Whatcom Museum. On February 19, five students accompanied Bud on a field trip into northern Whatcom County and observed a variety of raptors. Bud asked if we wanted to just observe raptors or watch trapping. We chose the latter; after all, how often do you get an opportunity to watch an expert legally trap a bird? We observed both the birds and the trapping. What a thrill!

Our first raptor was a juvenile tundra Peregrine Falcon in a field, plucking and eating its prey. Bald Eagles seemed to be everywhere. We saw all ages, both sexes, and at least two pairs sitting on their nests. Light-morph, dark-morph, western, Harlan’s and immature Red-tailed Hawks were also very well represented. Bud wanted to band some of them, so he tried several times and succeeded in catching two of them.

The first captured Red-tail was not a normal bird because it was so absorbed in getting the bait in the trap that it was oblivious to our approach. Bud let us feel this raptor’s breastbone _ the keel was sharp. Feather mites were on the outer feathers instead of closer to the body where body temperature would normally have been warmer. The bird was not very lively. Bud estimated that this bird would starve to death in two days if left alone. We decided it would be best to find out what was wrong with it and contacted the Sardis Raptor Rehab. We met their representative who took the sick Red-tail to a veterinarian.

The second Red-tail captured was an immature female in perfect condition. Bud measured, weighed, and banded her. Some of us held her before release. You develop a real appreciation of these birds when you see them so close and feel their hearts beating _ such a magnificent, beautiful, and powerful bird. After release, she flew to a nearby utility pole so we could watch her some more. It was interesting to compare the great difference in behavior of the two Red-tails.

The other bird captured, measured, banded, and released was an adult male American Kestrel, a small, beautifully-colored falcon. A great comparison of size between the larger Peregrine Falcon and the considerably smaller kestrel. Different feet and beaks for different prey.

We observed an immature Cooper’s Hawk in a willow tree in the front yard of a house by the road. It’s amazing how easy it is to miss it if you don’t have a good viewing angle. We also saw Great Blue Herons, Mallards, swans, crows, starlings, blackbirds, and a few other birds that I don’t remember because they weren’t the focus of our trip.

This class offered a superior, enthusiastic instructor who brings the raptors to life and even into the classroom for us to observe as they observed us in class. The great slides, informative handouts and presentations, and a fascinating field trip were among the highlights of this class. You take from this class a much greater understanding _ if not appreciation _ of raptors. This is a great class for anyone interested in birds, especially diurnal raptors. I had never taken a birding class before so I was overwhelmed when I first took this class a couple of years ago. It encouraged me to go into the field and watch birds more closely than I had done before. I realized that I had learned more than I thought, but I really wanted to take the class again, and I’m so glad that I did. When this class returns in January, it is well worth your attendance.

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Birdathon 2003

Interested in participating? Call Joe Meche at 738-0641 or e-mail him at joemeche@aol.com. If you need an excuse to spend the day birding, Birdathon 2003 is the answer.

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Shaping the Future of Coastal Bird Refuges

By Tim Cullinan
Audubon-WA Science Director

Ninety-five years ago, the federal government set aside more than 800 islands, reefs, and rocks along a 100-mile stretch of the Olympic coast as a sanctuary for nesting marine birds. Today, this sanctuary is known as the Washington Islands Wilderness. It comprises three separate National Wildlife Refuges, managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). From north to south, these are the Flattery Rocks, Quillayute Needles, and Copalis National Wildlife Refuges.

The Washington Islands Wilderness is truly a national treasure. It contains rugged islands and sea stacks set in the most pristine waters on the West Coast. More than 150,000 marine birds nest here, including species seldom seen from shore, such as Leach’s and Fork-tailed Storm Petrels and Cassin’s Auklet. The islands are also a stronghold for Common Murres, Western Gulls, Pelagic Cormorants, and Peregrine Falcons. During fall migration, the bird population can swell to over one million.

Over the millennia, the birds have thrived in the harsh conditions of the north Olympic coast, enduring storms, unpredictable food supplies, and predators. In the last half-century, they’ve also had to contend with oil spills, boat traffic, and until recently, simulated bombing by US Navy jets. Through it all, the bird populations have managed to survive, but their future depends on our commitment to sound stewardship and proper management.

In the next year, Audubon members will have an opportunity to influence the future of the birds in the Washington Islands Wilderness. The USFWS is currently developing a Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) for the three refuges. A CCP is a long-range plan that will guide the management of the refuges and address the need to protect wildlife and habitat over the next 15 years.

Early next year, the USFWS will release a draft of its CCP for the three refuges. The refuge managers will invite the public to submit comments on the plan’s contents and advise them how to best meet the need to protect the birds. Some of the issues that remain to be addressed include how to prevent disturbance to nesting birds; restricting the use of watercraft, aircraft, and oil spills; enhancing public awareness of the refuges’ wildlife values; impacts of nature tourism (including bird watching); water quality and impacts of marine debris, such as abandoned fishing nets.

The Audubon Washington office in Olympia will continue to monitor the progress of the CCP and will notify members when it is available for public review and comment. We hope that you will take an interest in this issue and get involved in shaping the future of the birds nesting along Washington’s wilderness coast.

For more information, please contact Tim Cullinan at (206)683-6827 or by e-mail at cullinant@olympus.net.

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From John Flicker

President and CEO
National Audubon Society

The National Audubon Society (Audubon) was founded in 1905 for the purpose of conserving and restoring natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats. Audubon is supported by over 600,000 members and has programs and chapters across the country.

Audubon receives many calls and letters from people who have confused Audubon with a different organization calling itself Audubon International. Since its inception in 1991, Audubon International, in collaboration with the United States Golf Association, has been certifying golf courses as Audubon Cooperative Sanctuaries. Similar certifications are available from Audubon International to developers of cemeteries, municipal parks, campgrounds, resorts, stores, industrial facilities, marinas, residential communities, and preparatory schools.

Audubon is not associated with Audubon International in any way. Audubon does not certify golf courses or any other development as being environmentally sound. Indeed, Audubon more often opposes such development. Audubon also owns and manages many sanctuaries around the country. Audubon sanctuaries are natural places protected from development, not places certified for development.

We ask your cooperation and care in distinguishing between Audubon and Audubon International in clarifying that these various certification programs are not endorsed or supported by Audubon.

Audubon is dedicated to protecting birds and other wildlife and the habitat that supports them. Our national network of community-based Audubon nature centers and chapters, environmental education programs, and advocacy on behalf of areas sustaining bird populations engage millions of people of all ages and backgrounds in positive conservation experiences.

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Field Trip(s) Report

by Paul De Liban
January 18. Deming Homestead Eagle Park.

Fifty to sixty Bald Eagles of all ages highlighted Andrew Craig’s field trip to the Deming Homestead Eagle Park and surrounding area. One other participant and I joined Andrew on this outing. The sun was shining, but it was still cool at our first stop.

At our first stop at the park, we counted only perched birds - six adults and nine immatures. One immature eagle landed and partially spread its wings. Four or five other eagles of various ages flew overhead, but since we might have counted them earlier when they were perched, we did not add them to our tally. We had good views of low-flying eagles but focused primarily on the birds that were perched in the trees along the river.

By 11 AM, when we moved to the Nooksack River bridge on Mosquito Lake Road, it was noticeably warmer and we observed more eagles than we had earlier. The largest number of perched eagles was 17 adults and 5-10 immatures, while another 6-8 immature eagles kettled over the same area. As I silently wondered if Bald Eagles associated with other raptors, an adult Red-tailed Hawk joined 6-8 circling immature eagles. None of these raptors seemed interested in the other as prey and it was fascinating to see the size differences between the hawk and the eagles.

Our focus was eagles but we also found Steller’s Jays, robins, Downy Woodpeckers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Spot-ted Towhees, Song Sparrows, Rock Doves, Black-capped Chickadees, CommonMergansers, Red-tailed Hawks, ravens, crows, and gulls.

On the way home, a Red-tailed Hawk flew from atop its roadside utility pole after prey at the foot of the pole. Because of traffic, we couldn’t stop to see if it was a successful hunt. It was a good way to end another great NCAS field trip.

February 9. Skagit Field Trip.

Hundreds of Dunlin up close and personal, 9 raptors at once, thousands of Snow Geese, and weird wigeons were the more interesting birds of Jeanie Johnson’s field trip through Skagit County. Four other participants and I accompanied Jeanie as she guided us through different parts of Fir Island, the Skagit Flats, Bayview State park, and the Samish Flats.

One field near the Skagit River boasted over 5,000 Snow Geese. We also saw Tundra Swans, Great Blue Herons, Bald Eagles, Mallards, American Wigeons, Red-tailed Hawks, Northern Harriers, Double-crested Cormorants, and Red-winged Blackbirds in the fields and waterways of Fir Island and the Skagit River.

The Maupin Road Dike Access treated us to about 3,000 Dunlin as close as 20-50 feet away so that we could easily study them. Put a scope on them and you really had an incredible look! Farther out and closer to the water, a satiated Peregrine Falcon with a full crop gave us plenty of time to check it out. Green-winged Teal, Northern Pintails, Ring-billed Gulls, robins, Marsh Wrens, Great Blue Herons, and European Starlings completed the mix of birds that we observed while we were there and at the Skagit Wildlife Area off Rawlins Road.

In Bayview, our highlights were Brant, American and Eurasian Wigeon, a hybrid American-Eurasian Wigeon and a partial albino wigeon with a clear white cheek and a white chin and throat. Common Loons, Double-crested cormorants, female scaup, Northern Pintails, Great Blue Herons, Mew and Glaucous-winged Gulls, and Northwestern Crows also appeared. A Harbor Seal casually swam among the birds on the water.

A brief stop at the Padilla Bay Interpretive Center netted a Pileated Woodpecker and a Winter Wren.

On the Samish Flats, we saw a female American Kestrel in its usual area, Trumpeter Swans, Canada Geese, and Great Blue Herons.

We saw 9 different buteos all at once at the West 90! There were 3 Rough-legged Hawks -2 light and 1 dark morph - and 6 Red-tailed Hawks, representing most of their varieties; i.e., juvenile, dark and light morph, normal, and Harlan’s. At least 5 Northern Harriers-male, female, and immatures-hunted over the marshes. We also observed Song Sparrows and Common Ravens.

So ended another rewarding field trip.

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Native Plant Identification

In April, the Bellingham Parks Department will offer an introductory Native Plant Identification class. The class will consist of three Saturday meetings on April 12, 19, and 26, from 9 AM to 3 PM. Each meeting will have a morning classroom session followed by an afternoon field trip. The course will be taught by members of the Washington Native Plant Society.

The cost is $24. Enrollment is limited to twelve. Profits will go to the Washington Native Plant Society. To register, call the Bellingham Parks Department at 676-6985.

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