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January 2006 Issue (vol 37, number 1)
      (Previous Issue November/December 2005) - (Next Issue February 2006)

JANUARY General Membership Meeting

Tuesday, January 24, 7:30 PM
Bellingham Public Library Lecture Room
PROGRAM: Birds of Ecuador

Ecuador is one of the most fabulous countries in the world for wildlife. It sits right on the Equator and, as a matter of fact, Ecuador is the Spanish word for “equator.” Ecuador has an enormous variety of habitat, from lowland jungles to cloud forests, from Arctic-alpine terrain to ocean beaches. Ecuador has approximately 1,500 species of birds in a country about the size of Utah. There are 132 species of hummingbirds alone, and 143 kinds of tanagers and related species. Despite being located next to Colombia, Ecuador is a relatively safe country with very friendly people.

Barry Ulman, chapter member and groovin’ musician, will present a program featuring slides taken on two separate trips to Ecuador.

As always, meetings of the North Cascades Audubon Society are FREE and open to the public. Come early to get a good seat and stay late to meet your chapter officers and fellow chapter members.

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From the President

by Paul Woodcock

The Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is a tradition older than the Audubon Society itself. Completion of another CBC, filled with great birds and good fellowship, signals the end of another year for birders and for Auduboners. 2005 was a landmark year for our chapter and for all of Audubon. It marked the 100th anniversary of the National Audubon Society and the 35th year for the North Cascades Audubon chapter.

As most of you know, our chapter made a major change in 2005. Due to dwindling funding from National Audubon, our board of directors decided to separate chapter membership from membership in the national organization and require annual dues from all our members. We are thankful to all of you who have supported our work through your membership dues. With your financial support, NCAS will be able to continue providing you and our community with this excellent newsletter, educational programs, and exciting field trips. Chapter volunteers will also continue their efforts to protect the wildlife and important habitats of our area.

Everything NCAS accomplishes is done with volunteer energy. As you look ahead to 2006, consider giving some of your time to Audubon’s efforts to protect our natural heritage. We can use help on our conservation and education fronts and with fundraising efforts like our annual Birdathon. In the fall of 2006, the chapter will be hosting the semiannual Audubon Council of Washington, a meeting of chapter leaders from all over the state. If you have experience with organizing events or are simply willing to contribute some time and meet fellow Auduboners from outside our area, please contact us.

If you do not have the time to be a volunteer, we sincerely invite you to support your society by taking part in our activities. We hope to see you at one of our meetings or on a field trip sometime during 2006. Maybe I’ll see you on next year’s CBC.

Happy New Year to you all and thanks, again!

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NCAS Programs 2006

January: Birds of Ecuador with Barry Ulman.

February: Birds in Motion IV. Joe Meche, NCAS Vice President and Birding Programs Coordinator presents the latest installment in his video series about birds.

March: Care for the Earth, from the perspective of the Swinomish tribal culture, presented by Rudy Vendiola.

April: Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Presented by Steve Irving and Stan Walsh.

May: Bats of the Northwest with Roger Christopherson

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NCAS Winter Field Trips

by Dave Schmalz
NCAS Field Trip Coordinator

Wintertime offers some of our area’s most exciting and productive birdwatching opportunities. Whatcom County lies at the heart of a regional matrix of internationally significant habitat for migratory and wintering waterfowl, shorebirds, seabirds, and birds of prey.

All that’s necessary to marvel and learn more about this amazing phenomenon is lots of warm layers, a hot thermos, and a guided trip to “see the birds!” North Cascades Audubon field trips are suitable for every level of birdwatching experience and are FREE and open to chapter members and non-members alike.

All trips require advance registration. For more information or to reserve a spot on any of the trips, please contact the individual trip leaders listed below or NCAS Field Trips at 671-1537.

Saturday, January 14. Deming Homestead Eagle Park. The Nooksack River corridor is home to some 300-400 Bald Eagles each winter. Observe these majestic and fascinating birds and learn about the interdependency of their life cycle with that of our region’s other emblematic species — the salmon. 8:30-11:30 AM. Trip limit: 12. Trip leader: Christine Smith, 671-3098.

Saturday, January 21. Boundary Bay, British Columbia. Take a full day (half-day option) tour of a World Biosphere Reserve-nominated site for avian habitat. Experience a true spectacle of waterfowl, shorebird, seabird, and raptor species, as well as possible owls and falcons. 8AM. Trip limit: 12. Trip leader: Paul Woodcock, 380-3356.

Sunday, February 5. Skagit Flats. This full-day trip also has a half-day option. Explore a variety of habitat types observing swans, Snow Geese, waterfowl, shorebirds, and birds of prey in one of our region’s most prolific birdwatching locales. 8:30 AM. Trip limit: 12. Trip leader: Jeanie Johnson, 671-8886.

Saturday, February 11. Lummi Flats. Well known for its wintering raptor population, the Lummi Flats also hosts numerous passerine species in winter. You can search for warblers, meadowlarks, Snow Buntings, and longspurs. 8:30 AM. Trip limit: 12. Trip leader: Paul Woodcock, 380-3356.

Sunday, February 19. Samish Flats Raptor Count. Observe and learn how to identify eagles, hawks, harriers, and falcons while taking part in an informal tally of birds of prey on the Samish Flats. No experience necessary. 8 AM. Trip limit: 12. Trip leader: Dave Schmalz, 671-1537.

Saturday, February 25. Drayton Harbor, Semiahmoo Spit. Enjoy a half-day trip exploring the bird-rich marine waters of northern Whatcom County. Observe seabirds, shorebirds, waterfowl, and eagles in a spectacular setting. 8:30 AM. Trip limit: 12. Trip leader: Andrew Craig, 671-8427.

Saturday, March 11. Marine Birds in Troubled Waters. Spend time observing and identifying seabirds, shorebirds, and waterfowl while learning about the current state of our local marine waters and opportunities to help protect and conserve habitat and our marine environment. 8:30 AM. Trip limit: 12. Trip leaders: Dave Schmalz, 671-1537, and North Sound Baykeeper, Wendy Steffensen, 733-8307.

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Hawkwatching in Northwest Washington

Presented by the Whatcom Museum of History and Art

Bud Anderson, of the Falcon Research Group, is a nationally-known expert in raptor identification and behavior. His five-class series, complete with a field trip, is the leading raptor class in Washington. The class is a true experience-of-a-lifetime for those interested in the natural history of birds, as well as for those who simply wish to learn more about raptor field identification. Live birds are included as part of the classroom experience.

Bud’s knowledge is deep and his teaching style eloquent. He brings a strong enthusiasm and caring to his descriptions and stories about raptors and their lives. This class is a great way to enliven the dreary winter months.

The all-day field trip will bring many sightings. At times, it might include seeing all five species of falcons, as well as eagles, harriers, and several species of accipiters and buteos. Field trips are offered on several weekend dates during the run of the class.

The classes will be held on Tuesdays, from 7-9 PM, on January 31, February 7, 14, 21, and 28; plus the full-day field trip. Cost of the series is $125 for museum members and $135 for non-members.

To register for this exciting series, call Richard Vanderway at the Whatcom Museum at 676-6981, ext. 219.

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About Hawks and Their Allies

The North American accipitrids are medium-size to very large diurnal raptors with hooked beaks for tearing flesh, and strong legs and sharp talons for grasping, holding, and in some cases killing their prey. Members of this family have eyesight that is four to eight times better than that of humans, enabling them to spot prey from great distances. Accipitrids occur in most terrestrial habitats and are regularly seen soaring overhead.

David Sibley
The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior

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St. George Winter Birding Festival

January 26-29
St. George, Utah

Join the members of the Red Cliffs chapter of the National Audubon Society for a variety of free activities and a change of pace in your winter birding. This year’s 3-day event offers an opportunity to explore and learn about the natural areas of southwestern Utah and its many birding hot spots.

Field trips, workshops, presentations, and live displays highlight the festival, along with a banquet and keynote speaker at the beautiful Sun River St. George Community Center Ballroom.

For more info or to register, contact Marilyn Davis of the Red Cliffs Audubon Society at mkdavis@xmission.com. Visit the chapter’s website at www.xmission.com/~cldavis/

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Return of the Floaters; Anacortes to Sidney, BC CBC

by RB Porter

One hundred and one crows were the surprise of the day; a day when things seemed unusual. We left the Anacortes ferry dock at 7:45 AM with the sun coming up over the Cascade Mountains. With the weather clear and cool, those on board knew we would be able to count birds as fast as our eyes would work.

With the calm water, we began counting many alcid species. Thatcher Pass provided us with many Marbled and Ancient Murrelets, in numbers not seen in the last five years.

Gone this year were the hundreds of Mew Gulls and Pacific Loons. Our big surprise was the flock of 100 or so American Crows dancing among the goats on Spieden Island. It seems that the goat herd continues to grow. Spieden also offered up about eight of our Bald Eagles — four juveniles and three adults.

Thanks to Diana Christianson, Sydney Kohlmeier, Clayton and Linda Snider, and Patricia Nachreiner for holding steady in the brisk weather. Without volunteers like you, this count would not be possible. The totals for the count were as follows:

Pacific Loon2
Common Loon26
Loon species1
Horned Grebe4
Red-necked Grebe12
Grebe species6
Dbl-crested Cormorant 81
Brandt’s Cormorant 22
Pelagic Cormorant 44
Cormorant species 15
Long-tailed Duck123
Surf Scoter 4
Common Goldeneye 5
Bufflehead 67
Hooded Merganser 2
Common Merganser 4
Bald Eagle 16
Mew Gull106
Glaucous-winged Gull448
Bonaparte’s Gull 9
Gull species142
Common Murre 84
Pigeon Guillemot 17
Marbled Murrelet 33
Ancient Murrelet 64
Alcid species 23
Rock Pigeon 9
Belted Kingfisher 3
Tern species 3
Crow species118
European Starling 13
Dark-eyed Junco 2
Total species: 28
Total individual birds: 1590
Total participants: 6

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9th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count

Feel like counting birds one more time? The popular Backyard Bird Count will be held this year on February 17-20. If you’d like to plan on a unique way to celebrate President’s Day weekend, consider this activity that the entire family can do together. All ages and skill levels are welcome. The count is hosted by National Audubon and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. For all the info you’ll need to participate, visit the website http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc.

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Bellingham Christmas Bird Count

For results of the Bellingham CBC, which took place on December 18, 2005, go to http://www.northcascadesaudubon.org/php/index.php?birding,birdcount#b2005.

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Conservation News

Editor’s note: The following press release was issued on December 22 by John Flicker, President of the National Audubon Society.

A Holiday Gift for the Arctic!

Yesterday, the Senate voted to remove Arctic drilling language from the Defense Appropriations bill, by a vote of 56-44. The actual vote was on whether to shut down the filibuster to protect the Arctic, for which we needed 40 votes.

This is a remarkable achievement and marks the end of a long, arduous battle this year to protect the Arctic from drilling. Audubon has worked tirelessly alongside virtually every other conservation group out there to stop this latest series of attacks. After efforts to attach drilling language to the Budget Reconciliation Bill failed in the house, Senator Ted Stephens (R-AK) added his Arctic plan to the Senate Defense Appropriations bill — a backdoor effort to attach controversial legislation to a must-pass bill.

We once again turned to our Senate champions to commit to a filibuster — a difficult political task. And once again, Senators Cantwell, Liebermann, Boxer, Feinstein, Lautenberg, Durbin, and Reid, among others, stepped to the plate and fought for the refuge. Thirty-four other Democrats and two Republicans joined them in defeating the motion to end the filibuster.

But they didn’t do it alone. Grassroots pressure to support the filibuster was unrelenting. Senate voice-mail boxes filled up and were shut down. Calls and e-mails continued to pour in. No stone was left unturned as we looked for people who might know senators personally. And it worked! Thank you for your tireless efforts — you believed this special place was worth fighting for and you never gave up.

Now, the Arctic language has been removed and the defense bill has passed, as it should. The Senate has finally adjourned and we can all have a very special, very merry, happy holiday!

For every call you made, thank you. For every e-mail, every letter you sent, thank you. For every person you persuaded to do the same, thank you. To those who met with their elected officials either back home or here in Washington, thank you. To those who published letters to the editor or editorials, thank you. To those who never gave up, thank you!

It is a special time to be part of the Audubon family. Our best to you all this holiday season!

A Writer’s Credo

It is my belief that the writer, the free-lance author, should be and must be a critic of the society in which he lives. It is easy enough, and always profitable, to rail away at national enemies beyond the sea, at foreign powers beyond our borders, and at those within our borders who question the prevailing order. It’s easy. And it pays. But the moral duty of the free writer is to begin his work at home: to be a critic of his own community, his own country, his own government, his own culture. The more freedom the writer possesses the greater the moral obligation to play the role of critic. If the writer is unwilling to fill this part then the writer should abandon pretense and find another line of work: become a shoe repairman, a brain surgeon, a janitor, a cowboy, a nuclear physicist, a bus driver. Whereof one fears to speak thereof one must be silent. Far better silence than the written word used to shore up the wrong, the false, the ugly, the evil. When necessary, the writer must be willing to undertake the dangerous, and often ridiculous, and sometimes martyr-like role of hero or heroine.

That’s all I ask of the author. To be a hero, appoint himself a moral leader, wanted or not. I believe that words count, that writing matters, that poems, essays, and novels — in the long run — make a difference. If they do not, then in the words of my exemplar Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the writer’s work is of no more importance than the barking of the village dogs at night. The hack writer, the temporizer, the toady and the sycophant, the journalistic courtier, all those in the world trade who simply go with the flow, who never oppose the rich and powerful, are no better in my view than Solzhenitsyn’s village dogs. The dogs bark; the caravan moves on.

I write to record the truth of our time as best I can see it. I write to oppose injustice, to defy power, and to speak for the voiceless. I write to make a difference. I write to give pleasure and promote aesthetic bliss. I write to honor life and to praise the divine beauty of the natural world. I write for the joy and exultation of writing itself. I write to tell my story.

Edward Abbey

Editor’s note: The previous article is an excerpt from a collection of essays by Edward Abbey, “One Life at a Time, Please.”

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