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April 2003 Issue (vol 34, number 4)
      (Previous Issue March 2003) - (Next Issue May 2003)

APRIL Meeting

Tuesday, April 22, 7:30 PM
Bellingham Public Library Lecture Room
Program: BORNEO

Jan and Keith Wiggers, who are members of Skagit Audubon, traveled in Malaysia for four months visiting national parks and wildlife reserves. They will present a 50-minute video about their exotic trip as part of our Earth Day celebration

East Malaysia, composed of the states of Sarawak and Sabah, occupies the northern part of the island of Borneo. Positioned at four to seven degrees north of the Equator and rising to 4,101 meter Mt. Kinabalu, Borneo is home to a variety of plant and animal wonders. Orangutans, proboscis monkeys, bearded pigs, Asian elephants, and colugas are a few of the mammal highlights which, along with many avian specialties, are fascinating to naturalists. Jan and Keith captured many of these creatures on film (tape)!

We will also see one of the greatest botanical wonders _ the rafflesia, which has the largest flower in the world, which measures up to three feet in diameter and weighs up to four pounds! Over half the flowering plants in the world are represented on Mt. Kinabalu. There are 450 species of fern, with the largest frond measuring 13 feet. The Wiggers will show us the largest pitcher plant in the world, the Rajah Brooke, which can hold up to four pints of liquid and was once found to be digesting a drowned rat!

In the video, we’ll see many caves, of world-record size and length, which are the habitat for many swiftlets and bats. The edible bird nests in the Gomantong Caves have been harvested for over 200 years. The swiftlets there are calculated to consume, because they eat half their body weight, eleven tons of insects per day! The human nest collectors scrape about one hundred nests off the cave ceilings to make a kilogram of salable material for a few hundred US dollars and their risks are great.

Join us for an entertaining evening as we and hear see the best of Borneo with a couple of Skagit County’s finest world travelers!

Before their presentation, we’ll announce the winners of this year’s Children’s Environmental Poster Contest.

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

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Walk for Wildlife Festival 2003

Join in the fun as the annual Walk for Wildlife Festival celebrates its fifth year, with increasing emphasis on education and awareness of this area’s wildlife and their habitats, in addition to the Pledge Walk to benefit local wildlife projects. Coordinated by the Northwest Discovery Project, the festival is cosponsored by the Whatcom Children’s Museum and Bellingham Parks and Recreation, with additional support from Audubon and the Woodland Park Zoo.

This year, efforts have been made to involve elementary and secondary school teachers and classes throughout the county to work with environmental and wildlife groups to develop hands-on classroom projects, some of which will be on display at the festival. Kids and families will learn more about our area’s wildlife and wild places and have an opportunity to become actively involved in their care.

The Walk for Wildlife Festival is being produced entirely through the efforts of a coalition of non-profit organizations and community members. Thanks to broad support from local businesses and our enthusiastic co-sponsors, all of the money raised by donations will go directly to five organizations, to be used in restoring and sustaining healthy environments and wildlife.

Events will culminate in early June with forums, wildlife movies, programs by the Woodland Park Zoo, and finally, the pledge walk and wildlife festival on June 8 at the Maritime Heritage Park. This will be a day of sharing, fun, food, and live entertainment in celebration of the wild areas and the creatures that live around us.

For more information, call Susie Burnett, the festival coordinator, at 384-5440, or e-mail her at silkcotton@attbi.com.

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Birdathon 2003

May 1-15, 2003

• Support North Cascades Audubon! • Learn about the birds in your neighborhood! • Have fun birding for 24 hours!

Spring is here and it’s that magic time of year again when the neo-tropical migrants are returning and spring bird/birding activity begins to reach its peak. If you’re looking for a worthwhile excuse to get out and spend a full day _ and night _ looking for birds, the NCAS Birdathon is your ticket! You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better way to spend a spring day outdoors than to be out with your team competing in the Birdathon. You can even do it solo if you’d like.

The rules are pretty simple. You pick a day within the Birdathon period and you count individual species of birds that you see in a 24-hour period. The team or individual with the most species will take home the first-ever NCAS Birdathon trophy. There will be prizes awarded for most species counted, as well as for most pledges collected.

That’s the other part _ pledges. Prior to your selected count day, you collect pledges from family, friends, co-workers, and even total strangers to help support various NCAS projects that continue throughout the year.

Pledges can be in the form of a fixed amount for each species counted or as one lump sum just for being out there having fun and braving the elements. You pick the day&#;.you pick the weather, as well!

The same team has been at the head of the pack for the last few years and remains unchallenged to date. Perhaps your team would like to attempt to unseat them and take home the first trophy awarded for the NCAS Birdathon 2003. The gauntlet has been thrown. Who will pick it up this year?

The Birdathon Committee would like to see this year’s effort eclipse the combined efforts of past years. This could be the start of something big!

Interested in participating? Call Joe Meche at 738-0641 or e-mail him at joemeche@aol.com. If you need an excuse to spend the day birding, Birdathon 2003 is the answer.

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Consider this&#;.

I was asked to imitate the Wild Turkey call, and I did, to the surprise of all in the circle. Hooted like a Barred Owl, and cooed like the doves. I am glad, really, that I was not desired to bray! “Why?” Why! Because an ass is an ass and it would have been rude even in an ass to bray in such bad company.

John James Audubon, journal, 1826

.and this.

If people persist in trespassing upon the grizzly’s territory, we must accept the fact that the grizzly, from time to time, will harvest a few trespassers.

Edward Abbey, Vox Clamantis in Deserto

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One field trip report

by Paul De Liban

The good weather streak continued for Andrew Craig’s field trip to the George Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary on Saturday, February 22. Two American Bitterns and about 25 Eurasian Wigeons highlighted the trip. We also found a new destination for future trips.

Between the border and the bridge on River Road, the fields yielded views of American Wigeons, Mallards, Trumpeter Swans, Bald Eagles, Glaucous-winged and Ring-billed Gulls, and Northern Harriers. A possible Gyrfalcon or Northern Goshawk flew over too quickly for us to positively identify it as we drove along Ladner Trunk Road to the sanctuary.

We stopped at the bridge at the turnoff from River Road to the sanctuary and saw Red-winged Blackbirds, American Coots, Green-winged Teal, American Wigeons, and juvenile and adult Double-crested Cormorants.

At the sanctuary, we were greeted by the usual Mallard mob that escorted us along the trails, so we had to be careful to avoid squashing them. Duck dinner, anyone?

American Bitterns and Sandhill Cranes highlighted our sanctuary list; we saw two bitterns from the tower. One was at the edge of the reeds near a lower patch, so we had lots of time to study it. I’m glad it wasn’t as well-camouflaged as it thought. Later, a second bittern flew in from the other side of the tower and, if we hadn’t seen it land, we never would have found it.

A Black-crowned Night Heron was not as well-hidden as usual so we could see its eyes and plumage details, especially through the spotting scope. People were surprised at how close they could get to the Sandhill Cranes without scaring them. Hand-feeding the chickadees was fun, too.

Other sanctuary sightings included Pied-billed Grebe, Double-crested Cormorants, Great Blue Herons, common and cackling Canada Geese, Trumpeter Swans, Wood ducks, American Wigeons, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintails, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Hooded and Common Mergansers, Ruddy Duck, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, American Coot, Killdeer, Dunlin, Glaucous-winged, Glaucous, and Western Gulls, Rock Doves, Northern Flickers, Barn Swallows, Black-capped Chicka-dees, Golden-crowned Kinglets, robins, European Starlings, Cedar Waxwings (enjoying berries), Spotted Towhees, Fox and Song Sparrows, juvenile and adult White- and Golden-crowned Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, Red-winged and Brewer’s Black-birds, House Finches, and House Sparrows.

**Editor’s note: Phew!

We checked out Roberts Bank, where we saw a Peregrine falcon hunting _ beautiful sight _ and little else, due to our visit during low tide.

We continued to the Delta Port jetty and scanned the birds to the south. About 25 Eurasian Wigeons thrilled us there. We also observed Dunlin, Northern Pintails, and Mew and Glaucous-winged Gulls. Many shorebirds - probably Dunlin and other peeps - were too far away to see. Andrew said that he would lead another field trip to the Delta Port jetty at high tide to take advantage of this great bird viewing area.

The only drawback to the trip was Andrew’s missing an appointment because of the 1_-hour border delay on the way home. During the wait, we watched two vendors hawking ice cream, chips, and other snacks; a couple of wedding parties; people enjoying the park; and crows and gulls.

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Another field trip

by Victor Burgett

Although this outing was a bit of a damp one, we visited two wonderful sites at opposite ends of Fidalgo Island, and managed to locate a number of beautiful and interesting species.

While admiring a few Hooded Mergansers shortly after arriving at Washington Park, we were treated to the sight of seven Black Oystercatchers flying low and in formation across the channel toward us, calling loudly all the while. These coastal clowns, with their dazzlingly-orange bills, landed on a nearby rocky outcrop and entertained us with their personable antics.

Later, from atop Rosario Head, we were thrilled with scope views of 25+ Brandt’s Cormorants bedecked in their strange breeding plumage, to which no field guide does justice. Worn only briefly each year, it consists of a pair of dramatic tufts of whiskers protruding from the cheeks.

Other birds in the area included Bald Eagles, Red-breasted Mergansers, two additional Black Oystercatchers, many Pigeon Guillemots, Red-throated Loons, and a Peregrine Falcon.

On this field trip, there were seven participants and we observed 45 species

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April...is for shorebirds!

Godwit Days
April 18-21

Follow the shorebirds as they head north on their annual migration to their northern breeding grounds. Begin by visiting the world-renowned Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary, home to 250 species of birds, during the Godwit Days Spring Migration Festival.

Kenn Kaufman, author of several field guides and King-bird Highway, will be the special keynote guest speaker. Enjoy pelagic tours, ancient redwoods, egret rookeries, and the Humboldt Big Day during the festivities.

For more information, visit the Godwit Days festival website at http://www.godwitdays.com.

Grays Harbor
Shorebird Festival
April 25-27

After you leave Godwit Days and migrate up the coast in the comfort of your warm, dry vehicle, pull into the Grays Harbor Shorebird Festival, one of the more successful bird festivals on the Pacific Coast. The 8th annual festival, celebrating the arrival of migrating shorebirds, promises to be the best ever. You’ve practiced your ID skills at Godwit Days, now it’s time to get serious and see how many Red Knots you can pick out of the crowd out on the mudflats.

Witness migrating shorebirds in spectacular numbers at the Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge and other nearby hot-spots. Events at the festival include field trips with expert birders, lectures, authors, free Fun Fair for children, and a Saturday evening banquet with speaker Jack Nesbit, naturalist and award-winning author.

For details, visit the website of the Grays Harbor Audubon Society at http://www.ghas.org or call 800-303-8498.

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County Watershed Issues

by Tom Pratum
Conservation Committee

As of this writing, the county council has not taken final action regarding two issues that we have been talking about for quite some time; i.e., changes to Whatcom County Code Title 20 Development Standards for the Lake Whatcom, Lake Samish, and Drayton Harbor watersheds; and the downzone of the Lake Whatcom watershed. The final outcome of these ordinances will help shape our local quality of life for years to come.

The council Planning and Development Committee has spent considerable time on the development standards ordinance, and it will likely be passed out of committee at the March 25 or April 8 county council meetings. A final vote will likely take place sometime later this month _ April _ or in early May. Check our website, http://www.northcascadesaudubon.org/lake_whatcom for updated information regarding the ordinance as amended in committee. There will be a county council public hearing before a final vote is taken on this issue. We need to let the council know that if development is allowed in our sensitive watersheds, it must be held to the highest environmental standards.

The downzone proposal remains in the hands of the planning commission, who seem to feel that they can wield more power by sitting on a decision rather than actually rendering a recommendation. There is plenty of scientific evidence indicating that high-density development has harmed the Lake Whatcom watershed _ the density reductions embodied in the downzone need to be enacted (at a minimum). The planning commission needs to move the proposal forward, and send it to the council for a vote. Tell your council members: hold firm on the downzone as originally proposed _ downzoning is the most effective means at our disposal to reduce impervious surface and other water quality degrading effects, such as traffic.

Contact your county council members ( council@co.whatcom.wa.us ) and tell them to stand strong to protect our water resources! Their decisions regarding development regulation must be based on sound science and not on anecdotal information provided by the building industry.

In a related note, if you happen to feel like contacting the Bellingham City Council members, thank them for taking action via the city’s watershed land acquisition program, which has protected over 750 acres in our primary drinking watershed.

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Sibley Returns to Village Books

David Allen Sibley will make a return appearance at Village Books on Sunday, May 4, to promote his new field guides.

The publications, in 2000 and 2001, of the huge and hugely-acclaimed Guide to Birds and Guide to Bird Life and Behavior gave birders encyclopedic sources of information about all the avian species they might see in North America. Now, Sibley has prepared two guides specifically designed for use in the field and eminently portable _ the Sibley Guide to Birds of Western North America and Eastern North America.

Each volume has essential information and thousands of illustrations culled from the first two books, plus many entirely new illustrations and newly-drawn maps. Each guide offers complete coverage of 550 eastern and 650 western species; more than 4,000 paintings, with at least six views of each species; clear and detailed descriptions, augmented with information on habitat and behavior; all new maps by 90 experts who provided the most up-to-date and accurate range information ever available in a field guide. Each volume also covers a larger area than any other guide.

Join us to welcome the return of David Allen Sibley to Village Books. Tickets for the event will be $3 each and all the proceeds of the ticket sales will go to David Drummond’s Coastal Forest Merlin Project, whose work is sponsored by the Wildlife Conservation Trust, a non-profit organization.

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Coastal Forest Merlin Project A Brief Overview

by David Drummond

Since 1983, we have been conducting an in-depth study of the coastal forest Merlin in Bellingham, Whatcom County, and the region of WA/BC. Team Merlin is comprised of dedicated and motivated people of diverse professions. Our findings are providing natural resource agencies, conservation organizations, and the public with new insights on Merlin, as part of the riparian/upland forest wildlife community that we all call home.

We would like to express our appreciation to the many people who have shared our mission: To investigate the coastal forest Merlin of the Northwest in relation to the world forms, educating people toward their conservation stewardship.

Your continued involvement will ensure further information of our research through educational programs, popular articles, and scientific publication.

Thank you for your Merlin sightings.

For more information on the Coastal Forest Merlin Project, send an e-mail to merlinology@hotmail.com.