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March 2005 Issue (vol 36, number 3)
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MARCH General Membership Meeting

Tuesday, March 22, 7:30 PM
Bellingham Public Library Lecture Room
PROGRAM: Rare and Unusual Birds

Birdwatching enthusiast and retired educator Dick McNeely will share documented sightings and photographic images, gathered over the past 30 years, of rare and unusual birds in local areas of western Washington and British Columbia. As a daily commuter, Dick had the opportunity to observe a variety of habitats and bird sightings, including those shared by others. Join us for an evening of fine bird photography and probably a few good stories about the birds Dick has pursued around the area.

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

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The Magic Skagit
The Perfect NCAS Field Trip

by Lila Emmer

Begin a sunny, cold day in a field in Skagit County with more than 10,000 pushing, honking Snow Geese. And end this perfect day on and around Fir Island and the Skagit and Samish Flats with one Gyrfalcon on a utility pole; three perfectly-posed shrikes; the usual array of ducks; stalking herons; flocking Dunlin; soaring hawks (Red-tailed and Rough-legged); and of course, the fabulous Bald Eagles both juveniles and adults! And, for a bit of whimsy, a flock of Cedar Waxwings near a red berry bush in Bay View State Park.

Could a winter day in the Northwest be more perfect? Oh sure, there is always one disappointed birder....we couldnt find the Short-eared Owl for her! Apparently, another group had seen several, but our group Jeanie Johnsons group failed this woman! Life can be hard!

Although we have agonizing world situations, such as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, fears of nukes in Iran and North Korea, this groups most heated discussion centered on the following point: those five finches on Samish Island. On top of the tree with the buds nearly bursting against the backdrop of the incredible blue sky, were they House Finches or Purple Finches? Big-time scopes, two Sibley texts, and a couple of experts, and we never came to an agreement!

Oh, that wasnt the only disagreement of the day. Occasionally, perching Rough-legged hawks were confused with perching Red-tailed Hawks (Where is David Drummond when you really need him?). In flight, however, the ID became clearer. And then there was the discussion over what an isthmus really is! Im sure Jeanie will never again point out the surrounding land mass and associated water bodies and suggest that it is an isthmus; but, not to worry. The geographer whipped out her cell phone with wireless Internet, and in moments, we had the true definition! Yes, that was a scary one!!!! Once again, the day was saved with technology and the Internet. (Thank you, Al Gore.)

Some of the raptors were hovering; some were kiting; many were soaring; some preening; most hunting; and some were just resting. Were they like us, or we like them, just enjoying the day? Clearly, birds can enjoy? At least, isnt that what a barrel roll is all about, or a deep dive, or a swooping maneuver? That speaks Joy to me!! Id like to think that they may be mimicking my recipe for life. Its not always about the hunt or the activity of the day it can just be about fun.

However, at the end of the day, at home and thawing from the cold with a hot drink, the disquieting reality rose to the surface. These magnificent raptors, the song birds, the geese and swans they are all here on business. Their business of this particular day, and surrounding days in this winter, is to rest, eat, and bulk up for the next leg of the journey. And I whispered a little prayer for them:

Please be safe in your migration. Please beware of hostile environments. And hopefully, our environment, here in the Northwest, will remain a healthy one for you all to return to, year after year.

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Swan Survey Update

by Tom Pratum
Swan Survey Coordinator

Our survey of wintering swans, which took place on Wednesdays and Saturdays between November 2 and January 29, has ended for the year. Our volunteers logged over 450 hours of observation time and counted and logged the location of over 24,000 swans in nearly 475 individual flocks. These efforts were in the continued hope that the source of lead poisoning that is afflicting our local population can be found.

As of this writing, approximately 199 dead swans have been recovered by state, federal, and provincial agencies in the Whatcom-Skagit-BC area. Analysis of the cause of death for those that were found awaits further work, but it is likely that most have elevated levels of lead in their systems. This year, more telemetry data was obtained on those that did reach that unfortunate end. Hopefully, this, too, will help to solve the riddle of lead poisoning.

I would again like to thank our volunteers who have donated their precious spare time to this project: Michele Bodtke, Jim Duemmel, Scott Pratschner, Ellen Kramer, Steve Pratum, Ann Haslam, TR, Wilma Totten, Barry Ulman, Paul Woodcock, Lila Emmer, Andrea Warner, and Joe Meche.

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Birds on the Radio!

from Andrea Warner

Let KPLU transport you out of the daily grind and into the natural world for an aural appreciation of our fine, feathered friends. BirdNote is an exciting new radio series from Seattle Audubon. This program is exclusive to KPLU in the Seattle/Tacoma market, featuring the birds of the Pacific Northwest their rich sounds and intriguing ways. Each two-minute program is timed to expose listeners to birds that can be seen seasonally in the Northwest. KPLU airs a different BirdNote feature each weekday from 8:58 to 9 AM, following NPRs Morning Edition.

Tune in to KPLU at 88.7 on your FM radio and experience a different kind of music to start your day. For more info, visit the programs web site http://www.birdnote.org.

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Procession of the Species

Flocks of birds, schools of salmon, butterflies, frogs, trees, flowers, and fungi will soon be making their way through the streets of Bellingham in the 2nd annual Procession of the Species. This celebration of art and nature is the end result of weeks of preparation. Beginning now, school outreach programs are available to work with teachers and classes to learn about natural history.

In mid-March, the Community Arts Studio will open to help people create their costumes from donated recycled materials. A mask-making booth at the Bellingham Farmers Market will run through May. North Cascades Institute, whose mission is to conserve and restore Northwest environments through education, is coordinating this years event. Other sponsors include the City of Bellingham, Port of Bellingham, the Power of Hope, and Allied Arts Education Project.

An event of this size takes many volunteers. Help is needed at the Community Arts Studio, Farmers Market booth, and the day of the procession. To find out how to volunteer or for more info about the event, call the hotline at 738-7308, or visit the North Cascades Institute website at http://www.ncascades.org.

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Tennant Lake Programs

by Holly Roger
Naturalist
Tennant Lake Interpretive Center

March 19 & 26.
Look, Up in the Sky!

Is it a wader, a swimmer, or a raptor? Learn to identify birds using the Peterson System of identification based on 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, serving the chapter as newsletter editor and Birding Programs Coordinator. Joe is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Washington Brant Foundation. Come listen, learn, and be entertained while Joe weaves his birding stories into everything we do in this two-class series, especially designed for beginners.

Ages: 5 and up.

Cost: $10 per person.

Saturdays, March 19 & 26, 10 AM-12 noon.

March 19: Swimmers, aerialists, and waders.

Ducks, swans, herons, plovers, rails, terns, and gulls, oh my!

March 26: Raptors, perchers, & fowl-like birds.

Hawks, falcons, songbirds, grouse, woodpeckers, and more!

Wild Walkabouts.

For wee folks, ages 3-5! Toddle, walk, skip or run every Saturday from 12:30 to 1:15 PM for wild walkabouts, especially designed for the adventurous youngster. Using your eagle eyes, deer ears, and bear noses, well explore natures beautiful bounty observing colors, shapes, sounds, and scents. Themes vary from week to week. Bring a few friends for a great way to spend a play date!

Please call the Tennant Lake Interpretive Center to register at 384-3064, or find us online at http://www.co.whatcom.wa.us/parks.

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Birding Festivals

Othello Sandhill Crane Festival
March 18-20

Field trips, crane viewing buses, numerous activities and events for all persuasions....not to mention thousands of migrating Sandhill Cranes! Enjoy the heart of eastern Washington and be sure to look for Burrowing Owls.

For much more info and details about the festival, visit http://www.othellosandhillcranefestival.org. For registration, call 866-726-3445.

Wings Over Water /Northwest Birding Festival
April 2-3

The Wings Over Water /Northwest Birding Festival is the new name for the Washington Brant Festival of the past two years. We decided to broaden the appeal to cover the entire range of birds that winter in the area. We will still focus much of our attention on Brant and the need for conservation and restoration of the sensitive habitat they share with other species.

Most programs, seminars, and activities will center at the Semiahmoo Resort, with a variety of additional activities in Blaine and Birch Bay. Included in the list of things to do:

Tables from various organizations at Semiahmoo.

Walking tours of great birding areas at the Semiahmoo Spit and Marine Park in Blaine.

Viewing and information stations ranging from Marine Park in Blaine to the Birch Bay State Park.

Optics display by Whidbey Wild Bird.

Nest box building.

Shuttle between Blaine harbor and Semiahmoo on the historic Plover foot passenger ferry.

The Saturday festivities will conclude with a raffle, silent and live auctions, and the banquet program at the Semiahmoo Resort. Tickets for the banquet are limited and need to be purchased soon.

Olympic Peninsula BirdFest
April 1-3

Grab your binoculars and come to the Dungeness River Audubon Center for the second annual Olympic Peninsula BirdFest. Explore beaches, bays, and estuaries; a protected island sanctuary and five mile-long sand spit; extra-low tides and the mountains, rainforests, and river valleys of the Olympic Peninsula.

Participate in guided birding trips, boat tours, salmon dinner, workshops on bird watching, and many other presentations. Visit the festivals website at www.olympicbirdfest.org or visit the chapters website http://www.olympicpeninsulaudubon.org.

Coming in May: Leavenworth Spring BirdFest.
May 6-8.

For details, visit http://www.leavenworthspringbirdfest.org.

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