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February 2006 Issue (vol 37, number 2)
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FEBRUARY General Membership Meeting

Tuesday, February 28, 7:30 PM
Bellingham Public Library
Lecture Room
PROGRAM: The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge 2005

The coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is visited annually by 135 species of birds, including numerous shorebirds, loons, songbirds, and raptors. In June of 2005, Steve Irving and Stan Walsh hiked in the Jago and Aichilik River drainages in the north central portion of the refuge during the height of the caribou calving season. They observed thousands of caribou, nesting Gyrfalcons, grizzly bears, and Arctic foxes.

ANWR has been in the news a lot lately, primarily due to the ongoing struggle to maintain the pristine nature of the area and keep the oil seekers and despoilers out of the refuge. This months program will give us an opportunity to see some of the beauty of that special place. Join us and see what an unspoiled wilderness looks like.

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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A Busy Year for Northwest Wildlife Rehabilitation

by Christine Smith
NCAS Wildlife Chair

2005 was Northwest Wildlife Rehabilitations (NWR) busiest year, yet. Throughout the course of the year, the center took in 889 animals and answered over 4,000 calls dealing with injured, orphaned, and nuisance animals. Of those 889 animals, the center cared for 72 species of birds, 17 species of mammals, and two species of reptiles.

NWRs busy volunteers did all this work while moving into their new location at Nugents Corner in June. The new location has provided the center with more room to fully rehabilitate wildlife. 2005 was also the first time the center had interns and two part-time paid positions for licensed rehabilitators. It looks like this year will be just as busy for the center. To start off the New Year and raise money for 2006 operations, NWR volunteers are organizing this years 2nd Annual Wild Things Ball, to be held on February 25 at the Lakeway Inn.

For information about NWR, contact Christine Smith at 201-8184, or at christine.smith5@comcast.net. For information about the ball, contact Krista Unser at 366-3881, or by e-mail at luku@earthlink.net.

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NCAS Winter Field Trips

by Dave Schmalz
NCAS Field Trip Coordinator

Wintertime offers some of our areas 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 thats 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.

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 regions 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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Olympic Bird Fest

Sequim, Washington
March 31-April 2

Grab your binoculars and join the 2006 Olympic Bird Fest celebration at the Dungeness River Audubon Center. The stage is set&#;quiet bays and estuaries, sandy beaches, a five-mile-long sand spit, and a protected island bird sanctuary on the Strait of Juan de Fuca; wetlands, tide pools, rainforests, and lush river valleys. The players are ready&#;Marbled Murrelets, Rhinoceros Auklets, Harlequin Ducks, Black Oystercatchers, Peregrine Falcons, and Northern Pygmy Owls will be sporting their finest spring plumage for this celebration. Enjoy guided birding trips, boat and kayak tours, a traditional salmon bake at the Jamestown SKlallam Tribal Center, and more.

Program information and registration can be found online at http://www.olympicbirdfest.org. You can also reach us by e-mail at rivercenter@olympus.net or by utilizing the traditional telephone technique at 360-681-4076.

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Among the picturesque lakes of the wilder, wooded portions of the northern states and Canada where dark firs and spruces mingle with graceful white birches, cast their reflections in the still, clear waters sportsmen and appreciative nature lovers have found attractive summer resorts. Here, far from the cares of the busy world, one finds true recreation in his pursuit of speckled trout, real rest among the fragrant balsams, and genuine joy in his communion with nature in her wildest solitudes. The woodland lakes would be solitudes, indeed, did they lack the finishing touch to make the picture complete, the tinge of wildness which adds color to the scene, the weird and mournful cry of the loon, as he calls to his mate or greets a new arrival. Who has ever paddled a canoe, or cast a fly, or pitched a tent in the north woods and not stopped to listen to this wail of the wilderness? And what would the wilderness be without it?

Arthur Cleveland Bent
Life Histories of North American Diving Birds

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ANWR Potpourri

Editors note: One of the last true wilderness areas has been under constant attack by short-sighted politicians and those whose greed drives them headlong in search of profit and profit alone. Included here are a few odds and ends about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and its importance in the future of many species, including Homo sapiens.

Forty years ago....

President Dwight D. Eisenhower wisely set aside much of the area now in northeast Alaskas Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, including its coastal plain, to protect wildlife, wilderness, and recreational values. In 1980, Congress enlarged the refuge and clearly identified the conservation of fish and wildlife populations and habitats in their natural diversity, including Snow Geese, Peregrine Falcons, and other migratory birds as one of its major purposes.

In August 1991, the members of the prestigious American Ornithologists Union, the leading professional organization for avian scientists in North America, adopted the following resolution:

On the Consequences of Oil
Exploration in the Arctic
National Wildlife Refuge

WHEREAS the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is representative of Arctic lowland tundra habitats for which the assemblage of birds is afforded protection in no other conservation area, and WHEREAS the coastal plain provides fall staging areas for up to 300,000 Lesser Snow Geese from nesting colonies in the western Canadian Arctic which are easily disturbed by aircraft activity at these staging areas, and WHEREAS the coastal plain provides nesting habitat for the Spectacled Eider, which is currently under review for listing as an endangered species, and

WHEREAS coastal lagoons provide valuable habitat for molting, staging, and feeding for hundreds of thousands of ducks, loons, phalaropes, and larids, and WHEREAS Arctic salt marsh habitat is extremely limited in extent on the Beaufort Sea coast and receives heavy use for brood rearing and staging for a variety of shorebirds and waterfowl species, and WHEREAS riparian areas, including willow shrub communities, are relatively uncommon habitats that support high densities of breeding birds, including species with very limited North American distributions, such as the Yellow Wagtail and Bluethroat, and WHEREAS the coastal plain provides resting habitat for an estimated 300-400 thousand shorebirds of at least l4 species, including the Buff-breasted Sandpiper, a species of conservation concern, and RECOGNIZING that the potential effects of oil exploration on the avifauna if the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge are currently unknown, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the American Ornithologists Union recommends that the United States Congress designate the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as Wilderness Area.

Oilfields Attract Predators

Human food wastes and structures attract predators to oilfields and enhance their populations through increased survival and reproductive rates. Numbers of Glaucous Gulls, Common Ravens, Grizzly Bears, and Arctic Foxes have increased in central Arctic oilfields, and these predators, in turn, prey on nesting birds. A report by BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. cites increased predation as a significant impact of oilfield development on Pacific Loons, Brant, Common Eiders, and Snow Geese.

One Final Thought

It is never silent on the Arctic tundra during summer&#; the lilting song of the Lapland Longspur, the peeping sandpipers, the jaegers cry, the loons mystical call, the grunting of thousands of caribou. The Arctic music is as constant as the 24-hour daylight.

Debbie Miller
Midnight Wilderness

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4th Annual Wings Over Water Northwest Birding Festival

March 24-26

Join in the fun at one of the Pacific Northwests premier birding locations and help to celebrate the 4th Annual Wings Over Water/Northwest Birding Festival. Events for all ages include a variety of displays and programs, field trips, and cruises on the historic foot passenger ferry, the MV Plover. The festival highlight will be the Saturday evening banquet and live auction at the Semiahmoo Resort.

The festival will have its center of operations at the resort, located at the tip of the 1.5 mile-long natural sand spit separating Semiahmoo Bay from Drayton Harbor. This unique area is one of the 53 Important Bird Areas in Washington state and the prime wintering area for thousands of waterfowl and shorebirds, as well as passerine species and raptors.

This festival began its run in 2002 as the Washington Brant Festival and the emphasis since then has been to increase public awareness of the Pacific Black Brant and the need for conservation and restoration of specific habitat that is crucial to the life cycle of this unique species.

For more information about the festival and about Brant, visit the website of the Washington Brant Foundation at http://www.washingtonbrant.org.

NCAS is responsible for placing knowledgeable birders at five viewing stations for a full day on Saturday and a half-day on Sunday. Its a lot of fun and you get a ringside seat to spend the day watching birds and meeting new people. If youd like to participate or lend a hand, contact Joe Meche at joemeche@aol.com. You can also contact him by telephone at 739-5383.

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Yellowstone to Yukon Freedom to Roam A Photographic Journey

by Florian Schulz

Award winning photographer Florian Schulz has devoted the past decade to documenting one of the last intact mountain ecosystems in the world. His photography showcases the beauty of this land and demonstrates the value in connecting vital wildlife habitats.

Join Florian for a photographic journey through the wild heart of North America.

The great Yellowstone to Yukon corridor is a dream worthy of the North American people. The superb photography by Florian Schulz gives substance to that dream and added hope that it can be realized.

Edward O. Wilson
University Professor Emeritus
Harvard University

Thursday, March 2, 7 PM
WWU campus CF115

Sponsored by Conservation Northwest, Huxley College, and Mountaineer Books

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August 8th, 1871

Today we went into the woods. Our party consisted of Father and his guide Godfrey in one boat; Uncle Hill and his guide Moses Sawyer in another one and we three boys and our guide Jake Hayes in another one. We first rode through the lower St. Regis for about three miles and then put our boats on sleds drawn by horses and made portage of 5 miles through the woods. We finally arrived at a small stream where we were about to launch our boats, when a thunder shower coming up forced us to turn them upside down and get under them.

While in the Lake St. Regis we saw other kinds of wild ducks, loons, and a great blue heron. While going down stream we saw numerous tracks of deer and occasionally of wolves and bears. I also saw a kingfisher dive for a fish and a mink swam across the stream while coveys of quail and grouse rose from the banks. After supper Father read aloud to us from The Last of the Mohicans. In the middle of the reading I fell asleep. Father read by the light of the campfire.

Theodore Roosevelt, Age 13

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Conservation News

Let Greens Run ANWR
by John A. Baden

We do not need to despoil the pristine wilderness of the Arctic Refuge, said John Flicker, President of the National Audubon Society. I strongly agree.

The Audubon Society long accepted carefully controlled exploration on its Rainey Sanctuary, a 26,800-acre wildlife preserve in southern Louisiana. Audubon was a pioneer when it permitted carefully regulated gas and oil drilling there from the 1940s until 1999. With close monitoring by Audubon, the negative impacts on the marshes or wildlife during the 50-year life of the field were minimized, for Audubon controlled exploration timing and procedures. Hence, oil and gas companies bids competed for environmental sensitivity.

Unfortunately, the recent fight over Alaskas Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) sullied both politicians and the environmental lobby. Alaska Senator Ted Stevens antics demonstrate why politicians are so widely disdained. And rather than seeking environmentally sensitive energy production, for 25 years Greens have used the ANWR controversy as a fundraising venture.

Many conservative and libertarian friends believe Republican leaders are brain damaged when it comes to environmental matters. Lets be more charitable and assume they are merely color-blind to different shades of green. I hope the 06 congressional elections will improve their vision.

National politicians, like other mega-predators, continually seek niches to exploit. With gasoline prices averaging over $2.30 per gallon and oil prices around $60 per barrel (about $20 higher than a year ago), ANWR offers a prime example of an exploitable political opportunity. Environmentalists have a rare opportunity to take advantage of this situation. Heres the context and the means.

Alaska historically has produced about 20 percent of our domestic petroleum supplies, mainly from Prudhoe Bay. The state derives over 80 percent of its general fund revenue from oil royalties and taxes. Politicians fear the end of this bonanza as production from the Prudhoe fields has declined to 24 percent of its 1988 peak. Hence, Senators Murkowski and Stevens have extremely strong incentives to find another revenue gusher.

Here are facts beyond dispute. For historical and geographic reasons, America is fundamentally dependent on oil and gas and we have only 3 percent of the worlds reserves. We have also become accustomed to cheap fuel and adjusted our consumption accordingly. The recent popularity of more and larger SUVs was no accident. Adjustment to expensive energy will be difficult, especially for Americas poor. Perhaps, politicians reason, with high gas prices Americans will ultimately accept drilling in ANWR.

Recall the OPEC oil embargo of October 7, 1973. Although a proposed Alaskan pipeline bill had been debated for over a decade, it was signed November 16 without constraints by further administrative or judicial delay or impediment. There is an important lesson in this experience. When we encounter our next significant, long-term disruption in energy supply, environmental constraints on drilling will evaporate.

Heres the environmentalists opportunity. I propose we give the 1.5 million acres set aside for development in 1980 to groups such as the Audubon Society, with Alaska taking its 50 percent cut. (Actual production and support facilities, pads, roads, etc., are restricted to a mere 2,000 acres). Here are two arguments.

First, experiments like Audubons Rainey Sanctuary show us that careful, environmentally sensitive exploration leaves a lighter footprint on the land and can coexist with wildlife.

Second, Audubon used the millions of dollars in royalties from Rainey to further protect lands and purchase additional habitat. The environmental groups would use the revenue from ANWR leases to preserve lands or improve habitat elsewhere. By controlling the conditions under which oil and gas exploration and production occur, Green groups could enforce environmental standards.

Under this ANWR plan, environmental groups would bid not money but rather environmental projects to be funded from the oil revenue generated. The National Academy of Sciences would evaluate the bids. Based on their recommendations, the U.S. Minerals Management Service would award drilling rights to the most environmentally valuable and promising proposals.

This process would force such organizations to consider the environmental opportunities lost by ignoring the less than 8 percent of ANWR scheduled for exploration. It would also test the sincerity of claims that this small area is of such high ecological value that its lockup trumps all. Ive been there. It doesnt.

Editors note: John Baden, Ph.D., is chairman of FREE and Gallatin Writers. Both are based in Bozeman, Montana. Contact him at jbaden@free-eco.org.

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