Earlier Archives


Newsletters – from the old website (some of the older ones are not available as PDFs):

Return to List of Newsletters

February 2005 Issue (vol 36, number 2)
      (Previous Issue January 2005) - (Next Issue March 2005)

February General Membership Meeting

Tuesday, February 22, 7:30 PM
Bellingham Public Library Lecture Room
PROGRAM: Comparative Field ID and Behavior of Small Falconids and Accipiters
with David Drummond

Before we can explore the fascinating life histories of these two genera, we’ll need to correctly discern who’s who. For some, “falcon” or “hawk” is good enough. If you’d like to open the door further, join us to better understand how their form relates to ecological function AND get to know them as our neighbors. Using a multimedia, holistic approach, we’ll unravel this challenging raptor and look-alike complex and greatly enhance your field time! This is a fun, close-focus program geared to all skill levels.

David Drummond is founder and president of The Merlin Falcon Foundation. His 21 years of conducting regional and collaborative field study of the coastal forest Merlin have provided valuable insights for us all, of this falcon’s ecological role in the northwest landscape. Participation in this program benefits our collective understanding of this little-known raptor. For more information on the foundation and the Coastal Forest Merlin Project, visit www.merlinfalconfoundation.org.

As always, meetings of the North Cascades Audubon Society are FREE and open to the public.

   Back to top   

Friends of Tennant Lake and Hovander Park

by Paul Woodcock
NCAS President

A lot of people in northwestern Washington are aware of the existence of the Hovander Homestead Park and the Tennant Lake Interpretive Center, both of which are units of Whatcom County’s exceptional county parks system. Citizens use the park complex for numerous reasons, including the Highland Games, Civil war reenactments, Master Gardeners’ display gardens, for hunting, hiking, running, bicycling, picnicking, family and group gatherings, wildlife viewing, and other types of nature study and appreciation.

Most members of Audubon know Tennant Lake and Hovander Park to be outstanding destinations for birding. The area is the home of species such as Marsh Wren, Common Yellowthroat, Virginia Rail, American Bittern, Rufous Hummingbird, Northern Harrier, and Bald Eagle, to name just a few. The determined observer can see beaver and river otter at home in their natural habitat.

Many community members, particularly our school children, have participated in the outstanding naturalist programs presented by the staff of the Tennant Lake Interpretive Center. We are indeed lucky to have a site which preserves such a significant portion of our area’s cultural and natural history.

Changes are taking place at the complex that will make it even more impressive. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has recently purchased acreage along the Nooksack River, south of the park and as far south as Marine Drive, and is restoring the area as wildlife habitat. The area is truly developing into a world-class recreational, historical, and natural site through the cooperative efforts of Whatcom County Parks, the WDFW, and other supporting agencies.

Over the past twenty years a rather informal group, known as the Friends of Tennant Lake, has been meeting periodically with the purpose of supporting the work of the interpretive center staff. The group became more active whenever it was necessary to seek public support to assure the continued existence of the vital educational programs provided by the center. During the past year, a nucleus of concerned park users and supporters has been meeting regularly to formalize and permanently establish an organization known as the Friends of Tennant Lake and Hovander Park; a.k.a. the Friends.

The mission of this newly-incorporated, non-profit group is to provide support for the natural, historical, and cultural preservation of the park and the development of its programs. Members of the Friends have and will continue to assist park staff as volunteers and docents. The group will also function as liaison between the park agencies and user groups, and will be active in the community building support for the park and its programs. There is tremendous potential at Tennant Lake and Hovander Park that can benefit all members of our community, including you and your family, as well as the creatures living on the land. If you are interested in helping the Friends meet these goals as a member, volunteer, or as a working member of the board, please contact Lisa Friend at 715-3686.

   Back to top   

Tennant Lake Interpretive Center Family Programs

by Holly Roger
Tennant Lake Interpretive Center

February 11, Winter Owl Prowl. A family favorite! Bundle up and bring your sense of adventure as we search in the night for owls. Discover secrets behind the owls’ silent flight and listen to the sounds of owls. Learn about adaptations while examining feathers and pellets. Have a hoot exploring field and forest on the lookout for owls. 7-9 PM. Ages 5-adult. $6 per person.

March 19 & 26. Is it a Wader, a Swimmer, or a Raptor? Learn to identify birds using the Peterson System of identification, based on visual cues of behavior and habitat. Local bird enthusiast Joe Meche has been watching birds for more than 50 years and capturing their beauty on film and videotape for more than 20 years. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the North Cascades Audubon Society and serves the chapter as newsletter editor and Birding Programs Coordinator. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Washington Brant Foundation. Come listen and learn as Joe weaves his birding stories into everything we do in this two-class series, specifically designed for beginners. Saturdays, March 19 & 26. Ages 5-adult. 10 AM-12 Noon. $10 per person for both classes. March 19: Swimmers, aerialists, and waders (ducks, swans, terns, gulls, herons, rails, & plovers). March 26: Raptors, fowl-like birds, and passerines (Hawks, falcons, grouse, woodpeckers, songbirds, and more).

To register or for more info, call 384-3064.

Wing-tagged Harriers

On our annual New Year’s Day birding trip, coming home by way of the Samish Flats, I noticed something different about one particular Northern Harrier. The bird was a female and seemed normal in every way, but a flash of green on the left wing encouraged me to take a closer look with the scope. This particular bird was wearing a wing tag which was placed there by Jack Bettesworth, who has been conducting a long-term study on harrier populations on Whidbey Island and in the Kent Valley.

I submitted the info to Jack via e-mail and learned the entire life history of this harrier. She was hatched on a nest at the sewage ponds east of Oak Harbor in June of 2000; she was seen on the Samish Flats in December of 2001; and in the summer of 2003, she was a successful breeding female at a small wetlands area in the center of Oak Harbor. How many birds have you seen and then learned their life histories?

So, take a close look at harriers and check for wing tags. If you see one, the things to check for are the color of the tag; which wing the tag is on; a number or letter on the tag; and whether or not there is circle around the number or letter. Take the time to note the date, time, and location of the sighting, as well.

Jack will be happy to take your info by phone at 206-285-5276, or by e-mail at jgbett@comcast.net.

Banded Cooper’s Hawks

Over 700 Cooper’s Hawk nestlings have been banded in Victoria, BC, since 1996. This is part of a long-term study of the urban-nesting ecology of this species. I have observed and reported two banded individuals from downtown Bellingham in the past four years. One was an adult female and the other a juvenile male.

If you see banded Cooper’s Hawks in and around the area, note the color of the band(s); which leg the band is on; and the date, time, and location of the sighting. Send an e-mail with your info to andy.stewart@gems6.gov.bc.ca.

Owling Outback

David Drummond presents a two-class, two-field trip education series on Northwest owls. The class will delve into the lifestyles of individual owls, the ecology of owls, and owl mythology. Participants will gain knowledge and identification skills about these ancient denizens of the dark and day. The February morning field trip will look for owls visible in the daytime, and the March evening trip will look for owls that are active at night. Register through Bellingham Parks and Recreation at 3424 Meridian, or by calling 676-6985. Registration closes on February 11.

   Back to top   

Letters to the Editor

Comment on “Varied Thrush Economics”

While I always enjoy the wit, humor, and interesting stories that I find in the Avalanche, I find the article “Varied Thrush Economics” lacking in scientific accuracy. The article purports to analyze the energetics of a Varied Thrush obtaining energy from an apple in eastern Washington. Such an analysis involves the use of thermodynamics, which just happens to be covered in the Chemistry 462 class I am teaching this quarter at WWU.

Now, I might have just read through the article without further comment if there had not been one extremely serious error that I noticed right away — the author stated that “&#;kilocalories, or calories times 100.” This is false — kilocalories are calories times 1,000. This led me to believe that the author’s conclusion was off by a factor of 10, and possibly more, depending on whatever other errors might be present.

So, I did my own calculation from scratch — I even weighed my own apple — using only the author’s temperature as a starting point, and making the same assumptions as the author regarding the neglect of the fact that the water in the apple has all manner of stuff (sugar, etc.) dissolved in it, which will change its thermodynamic properties relative to that of pure water, and also the neglect of the thermodynamic properties of all that other stuff.

To get right to the point, I find, using values of all appropriate constants — heat of fusion of water and the heat capacity of water — found in standard reference texts, that it would take 97 calories (those are “real” calories, as opposed to the ones used to specify how “fat” you will get) to heat one gram of apple from freezing to the assumed body temperature of the thrush (40C), while the energy content of that one gram of apple is approximately 383 calories (again, those are “real” calories). Thus, the energy content of the apple is nearly 4 times the amount of heat that would need to be put in to bring its water to 40C — this is about a factor of 8 different from the author’s conclusion; which is approximately the same as the ten-fold error made in conversion from calories to kilocalories.

I think the message here, with regard to the Varied Thrush, is that it is more likely the thrush can’t survive on frozen apples simply because they are unable to penetrate the hard apple than due to the energetics of the situation.

Tom Pratum

A New Chapter Member

Dear NCAS,

I’d like to join your group. Been meaning to join for quite a while because I admire the work you do and respect the goals of the Audubon Society&#;.guess now’s the time.

I frequently go past Scudder Pond, oftentimes at odd hours. Observed, at very close range, what I think was a muskrat for several minutes lately. I have in the past seen quite a variety of critters there, in fact. One spring, it was difficult to not get dive-bombed by an irate Red-winged Blackbird. It actually became quite unnerving!

I’m concerned about pesticide run-off into the pond and the effect on the plants and animals living there. There have been studies of the water quality — pesticidewise — by, I think, Skagit Valley College, I am curious about what those studies came up with.

Bill Black

Editor’s note: Your letters are always welcome and you may address anything you read in these pages or anything that pertains to the goals of NCAS. Or maybe you’d just like to let off a little steam. Keep in mind that articles in the Avalanche express the opinions of the specific author and do not necessarily reflect the views of this organization. So, with that in mind, keep those cards and letters coming! I’ll wait here!

   Back to top