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April 2005 Issue (vol 36, number 4)
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APRIL General Membership Meeting

Tuesday, April 26, 7:30 PM
Bellingham Public Library Lecture Room
PROGRAM: Lake Whatcom Water Quality Issues

Professor Robin Matthews, Director of the Institute for Watershed Studies at Western Washington University, will present an update on water quality issues at Lake Whatcom, the source of drinking water for more than 80,000 people in the Bellingham area. Dr. Matthews has been involved with monitoring the water quality in Lake Whatcom since 1987 and during this time, the public’s interest in the condition of Lake Whatcom has grown significantly. High mercury levels in sport fishes have resulted in the posting of health warnings; there have been moratoriums on growth and development in the watershed; and efforts have been made to restrict boat motors on the lake. Lake issues in general have become increasingly diverse and complex.

Her research interests include freshwater ecology, aquatic ecotoxicology, and ecological data analysis. Her current research programs focus on monitoring surface water quality in county streams and lakes; identifying the impacts from agricultural and residential development on water quality; and evaluating the effectiveness of “best management practices” on improving water quality.

Join us for an informative program about what could be the single most important issue in our lives — our drinking water.

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

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Birdathon 2005

It’s time again for a major fundraiser for NCAS. It should really be referred to as a FUNraiser, because it’s a great opportunity not only to raise $$ for the chapter but also to spend a day searching for birds. It goes without saying that you don’t have to be an expert to have fun. Anyone can participate and you can participate as a solo act or you can put together a team.

The key component is to collect pledges from family, friends, and/or coworkers to support your efforts. Pledges can be made in the form of a flat rate or a fixed amount per species. However you work out the finer details is OK. The bottom line is to raise funds to support chapter projects and help defray the operating costs needed to run the chapter.

You can choose any 24-hour period during the month of May to participate. If you’d like to participate or need more information, contact the Birdathon Coordinator, Joe Meche, at 738-0641 or by e-mail at joemeche@aol.com.

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If ever you wanted to be part of a dynamic team and participate in the NCAS efforts in the community, we are currently in need of a new Membership Chair and the position of Secretary will be open in two months.

The primary responsibilities of the Membership Chair require monthly updating of the chapter membership in coordination with National Audubon and preparation of labels for newsletter mailing. The position requires 2-3 hours of time each month.

The Secretary is one of the four officers of the chapter and, as Secretary, the basic requirement is to attend and keep the minutes of each meeting of the Board of Directors. The board meets monthly and the minutes of the previous meeting are reviewed and approved at that time.

The Secretary and the Membership Chair are both eligible to be voting members of the NCAS Board of Directors.

• The NCAS Board of Directors would like to take this opportunity to thank Ann Delvin for her untiring and excellent efforts as Membership Chair. Ann is leaving for the greener pastures of Detroit, MI, and we all wish her the best.

SPRING is here and by the time you read this, Snow Geese, Trumpeter and Tundra Swans, and other wintering species will either be winging their way northward or preparing to do so. Another winter is behind us and species that breed locally are already beginning to show up in the area. Some owl species already have young in the nest and female Bald Eagles are spending more time sitting in their huge nests.

Spring is the time for new beginnings and time to look inside and consider how you might get more involved in the things that you feel are important to you. We at NCAS would welcome new faces with new ideas into our circle of friends, so give any of us a call if you want to become a part of that circle.

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NCAS Spring Field Trips

by Dave Schmalz
Field Trip Chair

The days are finally getting longer — and warmer — and with this year’s early springtime temperatures, who knows what surprises the bird world might have in store for us? Are you interested in finding out? NCAS offers a variety of field trips designed to introduce the beginner and expand the knowledge of experienced birdwatchers. All trips are conducted by experienced leaders and are FREE and OPEN to chapter members and non-members alike.

The number of participants for each trip is limited and the trips can sometimes fill quickly. For information or to reserve a spot, contact the individual trip leader or NCAS Field Trips at 671-1537.

Saturday, April 16. Birdwatching in Bellingham’s City Parks. This half-day trip samples the woodland, riparian, and estuarine habitats of Whatcom Falls Park, lower Whatcom Creek, and Little Squalicum Park. We will explore and listen for early songbirds, woodpeckers, and hummingbirds and bid adieu to our departing, wintering water birds. 8:30 AM. Trip limit: 10. Trip leader: Andrew Craig, 671-8427.

Sunday, April 24. Identifying Birds by their Songs and Calls. Join this half-day trip to enjoy the chorus of morning bird songs and learn to identify families and species of birds by the sounds they make. 8 AM. Trip limit: 10. Trip leader: Dave Schmalz, 671-1537.

Saturday, April 30. Beginning Birdwatching. This half-day trip covers the basics of birdwatching, including field guides, binoculars and scopes, identification, and the best places to go locally to get started. Also, you’ll have the opportunity to spend time at a nearby natural area enjoying your new skills. 8:30 AM. Trip limit: 10. Trip leader: Paul Woodcock, 380-3356.

Saturday, May 14. Hovander Park, Tennant Lake, and Nooksack River Dike. This strenuous six-mile hike will travel through a diversity of habitat and scenic wonderland in search of early neotropical migrants that have arrived for the breeding season. You will explore open meadows, wetlands, and forest to observe warblers, sparrows, wrens, woodpeckers, and birds of prey. 8 AM. Trip limit: 10. Trip leader: Paul Woodcock, 380-3356.

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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 year’s 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 www.ncascades.org.

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Tennant Lake Programs

by Holly Roger

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, we’ll explore nature’s 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 www.co.whatcom.wa.us/parks.

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NCAS Summer Solstice Picnic

Tuesday, June 21, 6-8 PM

Plans are underway to begin a tradition and celebrate the summer solstice with the first NCAS Summer Solstice Picnic at the Fairhaven Park Pavilion. Look for more details in the May newsletter. Feel free to contact any board member if this already piques your interest.

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Birding Festivals and other stuff!

10th Annual Godwit Days
Spring Migration Bird Festival
April 15-17

Take a spring jaunt to Arcata, CA, and experience extraordinary birding from the redwoods to Humboldt Bay. Godwit Days offers nearly 100 field trips, workshops, lectures, and boat excursions that give birders and nature enthusiasts an extensive and unprecedented world-class opportunity to observe birds and wildlife in scenic surroundings. All trips will be guided by the most-knowledgeable birding and biology talent in the region.

The bird list for the area is 460 species, which exceeds the bird lists of 40 states and 10 Canadian provinces. Additional information can be obtained at www.godwitdays.com. You can also call 1-800-908-WING and request an information packet.

Spring BirdFest. May 6-8

North Central Washington Audubon hosts the Third Annual Leavenworth Spring Bird Fest on May 6-8. The area features spectacular habitats, ranging from snow-capped mountains to sunny Ponderosa pine forests. Search for Calliope Hummingbirds, White-headed Woodpeckers, Harlequin Ducks, Ospreys, Western Tanagers, and a variety of warblers.

Even though birding is at the heart of the festival weekend, activities will also include seminars on geology, wildflowers, and conservation. Guided trips range from leisurely strolls to active hikes, and most events are FREE.

For details and information packets, visit the festival web-site at http://www.leavenworthspringbirdfest.org.

Get Intimate
With the Shrub-Steppe!
May 7

The Kittitas Environmental Education Network (KEEN) and the Yakima Environmental Learning Foundation (Y-ELF) are pleased to be cosponsoring this year’s Get Intimate with the Shrub-Steppe! Event on May 7. This annual celebration of arid ecosystems offers educational activities and field trips for all ages.

Activities include bird watching, photography, geology, beavers, homesteads, prehistory, and native plants. One of the most popular attractions has been the snake-sneaking field trip in which a Central Washington University professor leads a trip into Umtanum Canyon to find rattlesnakes and other native reptiles.

Children’s activities will include storytelling and educational booths. A full schedule of activities and events can be found online at www.KittitasEE.net. The event is FREE and open to everyone.

ANWR River Trip

The Bellingham Festival of Music will hold its annual benefit dinner and auction at the Lakeway Inn on April 30. One of the items offered for auction is of special interest. Donated by the non-profit Cloud River Naturalists organization is a 12-day raft trip called, “Rafting the Hulahula: A River Journey through the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.”

The trip dates are June 20-July 3, 2005. The river flows through land called the “American Serengeti,” home to 36 species of land mammals, more than 180 species of birds, and the 1.5 million acre coastal plain that ends the trip provides critical migratory and nesting habitat for thousands of waterfowl and shorebirds.

This is an adventurer’s dream trip, beginning with a 300-mile bush plane flight across the Brooks Range to the headwaters of the Hulahula River. There will be 2 rafts, 8 people, plus 2 guides — one for each raft. No paddling experience is necessary for the river, which has Class III/IV whitewater conditions in some parts.

Normally, the cost of the trip is $4,450. There will be a minimum auction price, but the entire trip for one person will be donated by Cloud Ridge Naturalists and led by Audrey Benedict of Boulder, CO.

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A Pair from Ed

Longevity, like intelligence and good looks and health and strength of character, is largely a matter of genetic heritage. Choose your parents with care.

Let us praise the noble Turkey Vulture: No one envies him; he harms no one; and he contemplates our little world from a most serene and noble height.

Edward Abbey

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Birds Near Your Home

by George Heleker

Want to learn some birds by sight and/or sound? Perhaps if I briefly describe a couple of local places, you will be inspired to dust off those binoculars and that field guide and give it a try. Now is a good time to start and May will bring many more birds to our area. Go ahead; give it a try!

One place to start that I particularly like is the Clayton Beach parking area at Larrabee State Park. If one takes their time at the lot area, down the Interurban and around the north side of the treatment ponds, keeping eyes and ears open, there is a surprising number of birds that can be found. Take plenty of time. Sit down for a while and look and listen. There are five species of warblers that nest by the parking lot: Yellow-rumped, Orange-crowned, Black-throated Gray, Townsend’s, and Wilson’s — usually arriving in that order before the end of April. Mid- to late April is a good time to scan the trees for migrating warblers. Woodpeckers are also common nesters by the lot. Red-breasted Sapsucker, Northern Flicker, Hairy, Downy, and Pileated Woodpeckers have all nested by the lot, and can often be heard calling and drumming there.

Want to take a walk from the parking area to a great view-point? Go up the Fragrance Lake Road, 1.1 miles to a gated road on the right. Follow that road 1 3/4 miles to a beautiful viewpoint that has great views from southeast to northwest. In the spring, one can sometimes see migrating raptors flying just inland of the water, often using the steep-sided hills as updrafts. How remarkable it is to spot a bird well above the 1,080’ viewpoint, then watch it soar in a few minutes high above, before gliding northward. It looks so effortless. Oh, to be a hawk for just one day! Last year, there was a raven nest below and in the distance to the south. I soon learned that even though ravens make lots of sounds, they made a particular sound whenever a raptor entered their territory. Anything from a kestrel to a Bald Eagle would get a loud raven-style “Get out of here,” alerting me that another raptor was on the way.

Lake Padden is another place where one can learn some of our common nesting species. For example, six warbler species can be found nesting in the area, and two more are regular migrants. Bald Eagles and Osprey can often be seen there, as can many of the woodland species of our area. Last year, there were two Barred Owl families there. I spotted the first one on May 14. This family eventually made its way to Padden Creek by May 28, and anywhere from one to four owls were common sights for anyone walking the creek trail into July. A good way to spot them is to listen for robins calling and mobbing the owls, or listen for the young owls’ rising ksssssshhip sound. Once you learn that sound, you will be surprised how many Barred Owl families are in our local woods. They seem quite tame, so you will be able to get some wonderful looks into their big, brown eyes with your binoculars.

One area to add to your walk at Padden is to follow the horse trail up the hill by where the lake flows into the creek. At the top of the hill, take a right turn through the hole in the fence, and follow the trail. Because it is more open there, you can find some birds that you may not find around the lake, such as Olive-sided Flycatcher, Western Wood Pewee, Willow Flycatcher, and MacGillivray’s Warbler, to name a few. There is also a nice view to the west and northwest, and one can often see large birds, especially Turkey Vultures and Bald Eagles, using the updrafts of Chuckanut Ridge. Another high-light for me in that area is the Rufous Hummingbirds that spend all day fearlessly defending their patch of the large concentration of native honeysuckle. That alone is worth the price of admission. Check out the area soon, because I think that it will eventually become houses and lawns.

If you would like to learn some of the birds and their sounds in the aforementioned areas, I would be happy to get you jump-started by pointing out some of their sounds and common locations. Just give me a call at 671-9586.

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33 Years Ago!

Editor’s note: As editor of the Avalanche for almost 10 years, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of sitting on a bit of history. On the shelf above my desk are bound copies of every newsletter of this venerable chapter, since the first one-page issue from June of 1970. I occasionally try to pull out a tidbit of interest and I found this one from February, 1972. Given the recent Senate vote on ANWR (see page 7), this one bears reading.

Pipeline Public Hearing

The trans-Alaska Pipeline, like a huge environmental time bomb, is ticking away. Its implications for Puget Sound: vast volumes of crude oil to be brought down here by supertanker, more refineries, more air pollution, and more oil spills. This project is reaching a critical stage. Within several weeks, The US Department of the Interior will issue an Environmental Impact Statement, as required by law. Within 30 days, they plan to issue a permit for the project to begin. NO PUBLIC HEARINGS WILL BE HELD.

The Nixon Administration in its haste to help get the oil companies going by early spring doesn’t wish to have its six-volume impact statement torn to ribbons by conservationists and scientists, as was their first draft at hearings held in February of 1971. It will be a case of “damn the environment — full steam ahead”...unless.

Conservation groups have been given a small hint that if a sufficient public outcry results, hearings may be held. Consequently, all concerned citizens and organizations are being urged to send letters at once to the following individuals asking that any decision on the pipeline be deferred until after public hearings are held on the impact statement:

1. President Richard M. Nixon
White House, Washington, DC, 20050

2. Secretary of the Interior Rogers Morton
Interior Department, Washington, DC, 20050

3. Senator Henry M. Jackson
Senate Office Bldg., Washington DC 20050

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Irony of Bush’s Assault on ANWR

Editor’s note: From the New York Times comes this interesting perspective from Jim Hightower.

George W has shown again and again that he won’t ever let reality get in the way of ideology whether the issue is his Iraq attack, global warming, privatization of Social Security, tax cuts for the rich...whatever.

Now the Bushites are even pushing ideology over geology. BushCheney & Company are determined to win congressional approval of their plan to allow oil companies to drill and pump in the pristine reaches of ANWR, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. George has even played the security card, declaring that “our national security makes it urgent” to open this unspoiled wilderness to the oil giants.

But, in a gusher of political irony, guess what? The oil giants have little interest in drilling there! Even a Bush advisor on this issue confided that “No oil company really cares about ANWR,” adding that “If the government gave them the [drilling] leases for free, they wouldn’t take them.” Indeed, ChevronTexaco, BP, and ConocoPhillips have so little interest in ANWR that they have withdrawn from Arctic Power, the chief lobbying front behind Bush’s push to open the refuge.

Why the corporate disinterest? Because, unlike George, companies have to base their decisions at least partially on reality, and the geological reality is that ANWR doesn’t hold enough oil to make private investment there worthwhile. Only one actual test of the refuge’s oil potential has been done — a secret test by ChevronTexaco and BP, two of the giants that have now backed away from Bush’s ANWR scheme. If it had real production potential, these profit seekers would be lobbying hard to get in there.

What’s really behind the Bushite’s insistence on drilling in a wildlife refuge is nothing but their reactionary, kneejerk laissez-faire ideology. They hate the idea that the public can protect any piece of nature from corporate intrusion even if the corporations don’t choose to intrude. ANWR is a case of their ideological loopiness.

Editor’s note: The following press release, from the office of National Audubon Society President John Flicker, came on March 16, the same day the Senate voted to open the ANWR to oil drilling.


Today, the US Senate took a major step toward opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil drilling. In many ways this is just one more battle in the long effort to protect the Arctic refuge that began when President Carter signed the Alaska Lands Act in 1980. This is one of the last great wilderness areas left on the planet. We have a responsibility to preserve it for our children and future generations. We were all disappointed, but we won’t stop working to protect the refuge. The vast majority of Americans oppose drilling in the refuge. There will be more opportunities for their voices to be heard. We will win in the end.

The coastal plain of the ANWR is the most biologically-productive area and the center of wildlife activity. The Porcupine caribou herd migrates annually to the coastal plain to give birth and nurse its young. More than 100 bird species from four continents utilize the coastal plain during migration. Birds that use the coastal plain of the refuge visit all 50 states during the year.

Over the last several years, we have faced one challenge after another defending the refuge, including a similar vote in the last Congress, which we won. Throughout this ongoing struggle, I have been tremendously proud of Audubon. We have left no stone unturned raising our voices, encouraging others to do the same and finding the energy to never give up when we knew the odds were long. We didn’t give up because of what is at stake, and because we know how strongly our members and the American people feel about it. Today was an unfortunate vote against common sense and the environment. It was a vote for the past, a past where our consumption of resources is assumed to have no boundaries. This was a vote for failed energy policies that will only lead to increased global warning.

This vote was extremely close, and I believe it will not stand. Before they begin to actually cause damage on the ground, we will find a way to reverse it. As we pick ourselves up and prepare for the next round, I want to thank the countless Audubon volunteers and members who have taken their time over the years, and especially in the last several months, to speak out, to act, and to meet with lawmakers on this issue. I know that Audubon has made a difference and we will continue to do so.

While we didn’t win this time, the close vote sends a strong message that this isn’t over. It should give anyone planning to invest in Arctic Oil some pause to assess the certainty and political risk of their investment. This also shows why it is so important that we are a grassroots organization and that we continue to build our strength in the field. The more relationships we have with elected officials from the local as opposed to national perspective will only increase our ability to make a difference in the future, and believe me, there will be a future fight over this remarkable wilderness.

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