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March 2004 Issue (vol 35, number 3)
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MARCH General Membership Meeting

Tuesday, March 23, 7:30 PM
Bellingham Public Library Lecture Room
PROGRAM - Brant: A Unique Goose

Maynard Axelson, waterfowl enthusiast and president of the Washington Brant Foundation, will present a slide-illustrated program about Brant. The program will also serve as a promotion for the 2nd Annual Washington Brant Festival, which will be held in several venues between Blaine, Semiahmoo, and Birch Bay on April 17-18.

The Brant is a small sea goose, about the size of the common Mallard, which nests in the Arctic regions of Alaska, Canada, and Russia. The Pacific population of Brant winters along the Pacific Coast as far south as Baja. During their spring migration, almost the entire population passes through this area. Their spring migration coincides with the spawning of Pacific herring, which attracts tens of thousands of other marine birds to local maritime areas.

The Washington Brant Foundation is a non-profit organization involved in education, research, and habitat enhancement programs for marine waterfowl. The primary focus of the foundation is the Black Brant. Due to their dependence on specific and dwindling estuarine areas during winter and their long spring and fall migrations along the Pacific Coast, their very existence is precarious. Preserving Brant habitat also preserves critical habitat for many other marine species, including salmon.

Join us for a fascinating evening and learn all about our unique sea goose. As always, programs of the North Cascades Audubon Society are FREE and open to the public.

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2004-05 NCAS Officer Nominations Needed!

If you would like to serve as an officer of the North Cascades Audubon Society, or if you know someone who might serve the chapter well for the coming Audubon year, now is the time to make your nomination(s).

You can do so by contacting any member of the NCAS Officer Nominating Committee. The committee is comprised of Debbie Craig, Tom Pratum, and Joe Meche. Phone numbers for the committee members can be found in the left column on this page. Their respective e-mail addresses, if you prefer, can be found on the chapter’s fantastic website.

The individuals nominated will be voted in or out at a fall general membership meeting. This is an election year so we should be able to fit into the mix. And please, watch your chads! We could get bushwhacked!

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NCAS....On the Road

by Steve Irving
NCAS Hospitality Chair

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to visit Baja California in November of 2003 and in January of 2004. I started each trip by flying into San Jose del Cabo on the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula. On my November trip, Helene went down with me and we flew home out of the same airport. In January I drove back to Bellingham with a friend. On both trips I fled the tourist Mecca on the southern tip of the peninsula for the calmer and way-cheaper La Paz, 100 miles to the north. Once in La Paz, a walk down the malecon, or waterfront promenade, would reward you with views of Magnificent Frigatebirds and Turkey Vultures soaring overhead while a host of shorebirds, including American Oystercatchers and Marbled Godwits, worked the beach. The Brown Pelicans would resort to fishing only if the local fishermen didn’t provide enough scraps for them.

We went on a December kayak trip to the island of Espiritu Santo, north of La Paz, and were able to snorkel amongst a variety a fish that looked like a nature show on the Discovery Channel. We camped on the beach and were able to watch a bunch of Brown Pelicans diving on schools of fish, with Blue-footed Boobies following them in like spears. I can’t figure out how the boobies missed the pelicans at the speed they entered the water, but they did. We also saw rays flying out of the water as much as four feet; Reddish Egrets doing their foraging dances; our old friend, the Great Blue Heron; and our not-so-good friend, Mr. Scorpion, in the tent!

I returned to Baja in January and I can tell you that the swimming is not nearly so much fun, but the bird life is just as rich. We left La Paz and traveled north about 250 miles to Bahia Concepcion, still on the Sea of Cortes, or east side of the peninsula – a trip made more interesting by to me by the relative abundance of the Crested Caracaras and the rich agricultural areas. We stayed in a palapa, or palm leaf shelter, for a couple of days. We kayaked out into the bay and went island-hopping while viewing Ospreys, Snowy Egrets, Whimbrels, and Little Blue Herons. After dark, the kayaking highlights were the magnificent star shows and the bioluminescence every time you took a stroke with the paddle.

We left the Mulege area and headed north to Santa Rosalita before turning west and heading into the central desert. We ended up in the town of San Ignacio and turned onto a road worthy of the name, washboard, for 40 miles. We arrived at Laguna San Ignacio, which is one of only three places that the Pacific gray whale can breed, and the last one that is not corrupted by industry or pollution. It was also the place that was picked by Mitsubishi as the site of a gigantic salt works that has, so far, been stopped by people like you, thank you very much! There were about 120 whales in the Laguna when we were there, including 25 newborns. The number of whales will increase as the season goes on, and the whales become very tolerant of the boats and even bring their babies up to them, and people can pet the whales. We were out in a small, open boat and at times got very close to the whales. I would recommend the experience to anyone who has the opportunity. We also saw dolphins, Long-billed Curlews, Great Egrets, and fresh from Birch Bay—Brant.

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Chapter Restoration Work Party at Scudder Pond

March 14

Join us for a trailside work party to remove non-native plants and ready the Earth for native trees and shrubs! Tools will be provided. Dress for the weather. For more info, call Jeanie Johnson at 752-2876.

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Spring Celebration at Scudder Pond

April 24

NCAS invites all to join us in celebrating Earth Day from 11 AM to 1 PM, with a family nature walk, swallow box building and hanging, and tree planting. The nature walk is ideal for ages 7-12. Take binoculars. Refreshments will be provided! For more info, call Paul Woodcock at 380-3356.

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2nd Annual Washington Brant Festival

April 17-18
from the Washington Brant Foundation

Join fellow nature lovers, bird watchers, and even a few curious souls at the 2nd Annual Washington Brant Festival, to be held at various venues in Blaine, Birch Bay, and Semiahmoo on April 17-18. The festival is a celebration of the migration of a unique sea goose--the Black Brant.

Several events and activities are planned for this year and include something for all family members.

• Five viewing stations will be manned by members of the North Cascades Audubon Society (NCAS) from Blaine to the south end of Birch Bay State Park, to help with spotting and identification of Brant and other marine birds.

• Biologists will be on hand at the Semiahmoo Resort to display and discuss various types of birds and other wildlife that live in the area.

• Student projects will be on display and the NCAS Children’s Poster Contest will be set up for viewing at the Blaine Harbor Center.

• Silent and live auctions, with wildlife art, hand-carved decoys, and many other items will take place before and during the banquet at the fabulous Semiahmoo Resort.

The north Puget Sound area is attracting international attention as a bird watching destination. Birding festivals provide an excellent opportunity for education and entertainment for many people while offering both short- and long-term economic benefits. Hundreds of people from the region attended last year’s inaugural festival and we are working harder to ensure a significantly larger crowd this year.

Wildlife-associated recreation is increasingly important in rural areas, especially where traditional industries have declined. The US Fish and Wildlife Service reports that 2.5 million wildlife viewers spent $980 million in Washington state in 2001 on wildlife-related goods and services. Many local businesses count on these activities to prosper.

Just as communities need a supporting infrastructure, so does wildlife. The key factor in this equation is habitat. Healthy habitat is essential to maintain a healthy ecosystem. As we gather to celebrate spring migration, the goal of the Washington Brant Foundation (WBF) is to raise awareness of the special area in which we live.

The WBF is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization involved in education, research, and habitat enhancement programs for Brant and other marine waterfowl. Our primary focus is the Black Brant. Due to their dependence on specific and dwindling estuarine areas during winter and their long spring and fall migrations along the Pacific Coast, their existence is precarious. Preserving Brant habitat also preserves critical habitat for many other marine species, including salmon.

Hosting an event like a birding festival takes a lot of effort from many volunteers, as well as time and money. Ours is an all-volunteer organization and we donate our own time and money to the organization. Please consider investing in the future of this unique species and all the other marine wildlife by making a tax-deductible donation to the foundation.

If you would like to make a contribution at the Sponsorship level, consider the following levels:

• Bronze -- $125 – Listing in news releases, festival brochures, dinner/auction programs, and on the WBF’s website, which receives over 100 visits each day.

• Silver -- $250 – All of the above, plus four tickets to the dinner/auction at the Semiahmoo Resort.

• Gold -- $500 – All of the above plus a framed print by noted wildlife artist, David Hagerbaumer.

Please consider becoming a sponsor of the 2nd Annual Washington Brant Festival. You can call Maynard Axelson or Joe Meche of the WBF for more details. Maynard can be contacted by phone at 360-445-6682 or by e-mail at maynardaxelson@hotmail.com. Joe can be contacted by telephone at 360-738-0641 or by e-mail at joemeche@aol.com.

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NCAS Brant Festival Viewing Stations

NCAS will once again be responsible for providing the personnel to be on hand at the five viewing stations at this year’s Brant festival. If you’re interested in spending time on either Saturday or Sunday, please call Joe Meche at 738-0641 or e-mail him at joemeche@aol.com.

It’s really a fun way to be a part of the festival and help the few birders who can’t tell a Brant from a cormorant. As we found out last year, it’s good to have a tripod-mounted scope and some sort of shelter that you can erect on the spot. NCAS has two that can be borrowed on a first come/first served basis, so be the first on your block to call.

It’s also a great excuse to spend the day outside looking at birds and talking about birds. Make that call now!

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Festivals, Cruises, Classes, etc.

Cruising SE Alaska
March 25

You are cordially invited to spend an exciting evening cruising SE Alaska’s wild and scenic waters with Captain Vic aboard his converted troller, the Galaxy.

Vic Cano’s slides document his 12 years plying the majestic beauty of Alaska, and include splendid examples of wildlife and awesome landscapes. If you’re planning your own SE Alaskan adventure, Vic is a rich source of where to go, what to see, and how to get there.

This event is sponsored by the Whatcom County Parks and Recreation Department, and the Galaxy shoves off from the dock at the Bellingham Senior Center, 315 Halleck Street, on March 25, at 7 PM.

Donations will benefit the Teen Adventure Program.

Aleutian Goose Festival
March 26-28

Celebrate spring with virtually the entire world’s population of the once nearly extinct Aleutian Canada Geese, now numbering over 50,000 birds as they take flight at dawn.

View Castle Rock, the third largest seabird colony in the lower 48 states. Enjoy drift boat, kayak, and ocean charter trips. Choose from eighty bird, nature, and heritage excursions in the home of Redwood National and State Parks and Smith River National Recreation Area, Lake Earl Coastal Lagoon, and 408 recorded bird species.

For more info, contact the Crescent City, CA C of C at 800-343-8300 or visit the festival website at http://www.aleutiangoosefestival.org.

Othello Sandhill Crane Festival
March 26-28

Othello’s 7th Annual Sandhill Crane Festival is set for the weekend of March 26-28. Each year’s wildlife celebration is timed to coincide with the spring migration of thousands of Sandhill Cranes through Washington’s Columbia Basin.

Special guest presenter this year will be renowned wildlife artist and naturalist Robert Bateman, who will present a wildlife art seminar on Friday evening. A portion of the proceeds from the seminar will go toward a scholarship for a 2004 Othello High School graduate. Mr. Bateman will also appear at the festival’s Saturday author’s forum and will be the featured speaker at the Saturday evening banquet.

The festival will again feature numerous tours for viewing cranes and other Columbia Basin wildlife throughout its 3-day run. On Saturday, Othello High School will be the site of lectures and displays. New this year will be birding tours to Lower Crab Creek. The popular Burrowing Owl lecture and tour will be offered again.

During lulls in the festival events, Reichert’s Showhouse will be screening Winged Migration.

For more info on the festival or to register, visit the festival’s website at http://www.othellosandhillcranefestival.org or call 866-SANDHILL. Pre-registration is encouraged for all specialty tours.

Native Plant Identification Course
April 10, 17, & 24

The Bellingham Parks and Recreation Department will offer an introductory Native Plant Identification Course on three Saturdays in April – April 10, 17, & 24. Each day will begin with a three-hour classroom session, followed by a three-hour, local field trip after lunch. The cost is $24 for the three-week course. Join the course and learn how to identify what those birds are eating!

As a followup to the course, on May 2, there will be a day-long field trip to a nearby flower hot spot, The Deception Pass State Park. The cost for this trip will be $17. Transportation will be provided.

For more info or to register for the course or the field trip, call Bellingham Parks and Recreation at 360-676-6985.

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