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October 2004 Issue (vol 35, number 7)
      (Previous Issue September 2004) - (Next Issue November/December 2004)

Attention Writers!

If you want to write, consider participating in the seven-week Life Story Workshop, a workshop in autobiographical awareness, combining the tools of narrative writing with a universal spiritual perspective, which emphasizes the heroic purpose of individual life.

While the seven weeks parallel the chakra system taught in Eastern mystical traditions - which reflects a growing awareness at higher and higher levels of human expression - the workshop is designed, like a class in yoga, to be credible, compatible, and applicable across the entire spectrum of spiritual practices and beliefs.

The premise we work from is that each of us is the hero of our own mythic story which, at the emotional, mental, and moral levels, is every bit as noble in purpose — and challenging in difficulty — as the most celebrated achievements in the world around us.

The practice which brings this to life is the Life Story Journal, which we approach with the narrative tools of a professional writer. Avoiding generalizations, judgments, and labels in favor of the details of description, speech, action, thought, and feeling, produces a neutral — though far from objective — heroic story.

If you’d like to participate or would like more information about the workshop, contact Phil Damon at 738-9337.

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NCAS on the Road
  Rocky Mountain High

by Joe Meche
World Traveler

Cindy and I plan a September Sojourn every year. We take a Spring Sojourn in May to welcome better weather and say our official goodbyes to that season known around these parts as winterspring. The September rendition usually involves a farewell to summer and the return of my favorite season — fall. Past sojourns have provided a wealth of memories, ranging from the now-infamous kidnapping at Hart’s Pass to the equally-infamous Alta Lake Yellow Jacket Festival of 2003.

The plan this year was to spend a week in one of the country’s finest national parks, and come home rejuvenated and with new memories from our annual mid-September getaway. Anyplace that boasts a highway known as the Going to the Sun Road must be very special. It was to be Cindy’s first visit to the northwest corner of Montana....and Glacier National Park.

I went through my usual pre-trip calisthenics to make sure that I knew about everything we needed to do and see. I downloaded the new bird checklist from Montana Audubon; I downloaded all the updated info on grizzlies; and I inventoried all our camping gear (I even packed the yellow jacket traps leftover from last year, just in case).

Everything was rolling along according to plan until I checked in with the folks at weather.com to check the 10-day forecast for the park. I lived in the sunshine-rich Rockies for while and, needless to say, was a bit disappointed by what I saw — ten days of rain loomed! We were not to be deterred, so Plan B was set in motion. This plan involved moving from tent camping to indoor quarters. With the good old Internet at the tip of my fingers, I booked lodging for the duration (I often wonder how the pioneers made it across the Great Divide without laptops).

We drove into the rain — as opposed to our usual habit of driving OUT OF the rain — and headed for Sandpoint, Idaho, for the first leg of our journey. Wet weather was all around us and, true to the forecast, it stayed with us for the duration. I must admit that we were quite accepting of our fate and took it rather well that we were forced to look forward to hot showers and clean sheets at the end of every day. What a sacrifice it was!

After a good breakfast on our first day in the park, we headed up to Logan Pass on one of America’s most spectacular drives. I immediately came up with new names for the Going to the Sun Road; e.g., Looking for the Sun Road and Going to the Clouds Road. Visibility above 3,000 feet alternated between the front end of the car and the guardrails that are there to prevent gawkers from plunging to MacDonald Creek, far below.

We were greeted at Logan Pass by a wintry scene. Shadowy forms moved slowly through the horizontal snow. Some were fellow turistas and some were highway department workers erecting the 20’ snow poles that the snowplow drivers would look for next spring. To add to the surreal nature of life at the pass, bear warnings were posted at the visitors’ center. Bears were close enough to merit closing the center’s back door, which led to the trailheads of the Hidden Lake and Highline Trails! Imagine running into a grizzly on a clear day with unlimited visibility. OK, now imagine running into a grizzly when the visibility is 10-20 feet. I rest my case.

We continued down the east side of the Continental Divide to St. Mary, where we looked back at the enormous mass of dark clouds that was shrouding some of America’s finest scenery!! The weather on the east side was marvelous, and the concept of rain shadow was validated. From the eastern edge of the Front Range, you could see forever to the north, south, and east. To the west were ominous rain clouds. It felt like home.

Just into the park on our first return, maybe a mile from the entrance gate, we had our first trip highlight — and quite possibly THE trip highlight. A young, female grizzly browsed along the road and then crossed over and rambled down to St. Mary’s Lake. I watched as she wandered along the shoreline and knew that she would be back on the road because the flat shoreline ended and turned into a very steep pitch. We were the only humans left in the area when she popped up, looked right and left, and crossed the road again.

The bear browsed just off the road — 20-30 feet away — in thick brush, occasionally giving us a look or two. I kept the Camry between the bear and me and put the Nikon on autopilot. This scene was repeated the next day at almost the same location when another grizzly — a much larger male — stopped traffic and brought out the idiots again. The “idiots” are the humans who fail to understand that it’s really not a good idea to leave the general vicinity of your vehicle when grizzlies are just a stone’s-throw away. On the previous day, one intrepid tourist left his car and reduced the 20-30’ distance to 10-20’! The sad part about the inevitable outcome of a bear-human confrontation/attack is usually that the bear is killed.

Nevertheless, back into the clouds we drove, making one stop for a young Osprey that posed dramatically in the last of the sunshine we would see until we reached Spokane on the way home. We used our heads and made the best of the hand we were dealt by spending ten hours of the last day in the cozy confines of the loft area of the historic Lake MacDonald Lodge. We wrote, we read, we schmoozed, and we played cards all day.

Nothing about this trip should be seen in a negative light. We made the best of the situation and enjoyed the time we spent together, just getting a break from our everyday routine. We’ll go back to Glacier NP, again. And, we will go to the sun!

Trip bird list: 1(One) Osprey.

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Scudder Pond Volunteers Needed

by Jeanie Johnson
Scudder Pond Stewardship Program

This fall, the Scudder Pond Stewardship Program is gearing up its activities and project opportunities in which volunteers can participate. If you like to walk, watch wildlife, watch people, or restore native habitat, this program needs you. NCAS needs additional new volunteer stewards and now is a good time to begin. All you have to do is choose a schedule for visiting the Scudder Pond Preserve that best suits your needs and record your observations while there onto a survey form. This gem of a wetland is located across Electric Avenue from Bloedel-Donovan Park on Lake Whatcom. The trailhead starts at the corner of Electric and Alabama Street.

There are many Scudder Pond projects lined up in which you are encouraged to participate. Some of the projects that will take place this fall include: •Monitoring the Wood Duck and bat boxes. •Trapping/identifying amphibians in and around the pond. •Planting native plants and eradicating invasive plants. •Leading birdwatching and botanizing field trips.

These are just some of the activities in which you can participate, while learning more about this fascinating wetland owned by NCAS. Come and join the fun while contributing to the wildlife enhancement of this special place.

To find out more about the program, come to the Scudder Pond Stewardship meeting on Wednesday, October 6, at 6:30 PM, at the Swan Café. For more information, please call Jeanie Johnson at 671-8886. Hope to see you there!

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Education Committee Wants Interns and Members

by Jeanie Johnson
Education Committee Chair

The NCAS Education Committee is the umbrella commit-tee for educational outreach for community — and particularly children’s — programs and events. In addition, teachers and families rely on educational resources and referrals that our local chapter has to offer, that are funneled through the education committee. Historically, we have hosted a number of programs and events, including the Environmental Poster Contest; Audubon Adventures; children’s field trips; home school and classroom presentations; library presentations; parks and recreation camp activities; senior center presentations; and college internships.

Join the fun with your local Audubon chapter to help bring the wonders of our natural world to our community and the children of Whatcom County.

Please join us for an Education Committee meeting to discuss how you can help and which ideas you would like to offer through NCAS. The meeting will be held Wednesday, October 6, at 7:30 PM, at the Swan Café. Call Jeanie at 671-8886 for questions and information.

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Swan Survey....
  Volunteers Needed!

by Tom Pratum
Conservation Committee Chair

This year, our chapter will again be working with the WDFW,USFWS, and other agencies in the continuing search for the source of lead shot that has been responsible for poison-ing approximately 10% of our locally-wintering Trumpeter Swans each year.

From the beginning of November, through January, we will be conducting roadside surveys of the local swan population. The surveys will be conducted on Wednesdays and Saturdays throughout this period, and will require about 2-4 hours of each volunteer’s time per survey day.

Details of previous surveys can be found on our website at: http://www.northcascadesaudubon.org/php/index.php?chapter projects,swan_survey.

If you can help us out in this effort or if you have any questions about the survey, please contact Tom Pratum by e-mail at water@northcascadesaudubon.org or by telephone at 715-8244. We particularly need people who might be available during the week to perform the surveys on Wednesdays.

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Timber Cutting In State Forests To Be Ramped Up

by Tom Pratum
Conservation Committee Chair

On September 7, the Board of Natural Resources voted to increase the harvest level in state forests to 597 million board feet per year. This level is about a 50% increase over that which was taken over the last ten years, and is not sustainable, according to a recent evaluation of state forests conducted by Scientific Certification Systems for the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC).

This decision places many of our well-loved local state forests, and the important habitat they provide to our avian friends, in peril. Blanchard Mountain, Sumas Mountain, and possibly even the Lake Whatcom watershed, as well as others, could be the sites of large “regenerative harvests” — a standard clear cut in any forester’s dictionary — under the plan.

We opposed this plan from the outset, and our conservation committee has been actively involved in monitoring Forest Practice Applications (FPAs) in our area forests.

If you are interested in local forestry issues, or any local conservation issues for that matter, contact Tom Pratum at fp@northcascadesaudubon.org.

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Winter Birds Are Coming!

As wonderful as the weather can be from spring and into fall, the season that many local birders look forward to the most is winter. Despite weather that can border on hostile, birdwatchers are out in large numbers to view the spectacle of winter birds. Many birds that breed in the northern latitudes and inland to the east-northeast find safe haven and a plentiful food supply in our area. Along with the usual wintering birds, the rare migrant has been known to show up and get everyone out for a look. Life listers are on the edges of their seats in winter.

Marine habitats become quite crowded with waterfowl species that run the gamut from diving ducks to dabblers; swans and Snow Geese fill the fallow fields; shorebirds frequent the tide flats; and falcons cruise in search of those same shorebirds.

Western Washington supports large populations of raptors in winter. Rough-legged Hawks compete with increased wintering populations of Red-tails, and Bald Eagles seem to be every-where. A five-falcon day has become the norm on the Samish Flats; Short-eared Owls compete with Northern Harriers on the Lummi Flats; owls are easier to find with the leaves on the ground instead of in the trees; and the arrival of the first Snowy Owl always creates quite a stir. Great Gray Owls have also shown up in the county the past three years.

Winter birding in Whatcom County is especially wonderful, possibly because there are fewer Homo sapiens out there being human.

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