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May 2006 Issue (vol 37, number 5)
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MAY General Membership Meeting

Tuesday, May 23, 7:30 PM
Fairhaven Middle School Commons
PROGRAM: Wild Places and Wild Things

Join us for the final General Membership meeting of this Audubon year. We wont return en masse until September so this is one to last the summer. And what could be a better send off for the summer than a collection of vivid images of some of the beautiful and wild places and things that nature has to offer. As gas prices soar and the wild places are shrinking and seemingly getting farther away, we might get to a point where things remembered are more valuable than ever.

The NCAS Vice President, newsletter editor, and Birding Programs Coordinator will collaborate for this months program. Actually, Joe Meche currently holds down those three positions and he will present a slide-illustrated tour across the country. You can expect to see birds, of course, but be prepared for a variety of other critters and landscapes.

Joe has been photographing landscapes and wildlife for over 30 years and he promises to entertain us with a wide range of photographs that span the continent and leap the Pacific to the Hawaiian Islands.

As always, programs of the North Cascades Audubon Society are FREE and open to the public. Join us for a fun evening.

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Backyard Habitat and Native Flora Fair

May 6, 10 AM-4 PM
Fairhaven Village Green

This annual event encourages people to create wildlife habitat in their backyards. A native plant sale, wildlife features, and noxious weeds are a few of the educational displays at the Village Green on Saturday, May 6.

This year, NCAS will also have a booth focusing on bird houses and nesting boxes. A chapter grant through Audubon Washington will provide funding for the exhibit, brochures, and nesting box materials.

Please call NCAS Education Committee Chair Rae Edwards if you are willing to help in the NCAS booth. A few hours of your time can help to educate more folks about ways to help birds in town.

You can contact Rae by phone at 527-9619 or by e-mail at redwardsbham@yahoo.ca.

Well see you there!

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NCAS Spring Field Trips

Dave Schmalz
NCAS Field Trip Chair

Ahh, glorious springtime! Warmer, longer days herald the sequential return of Neotropical songbirds to Whatcom County and environs. Swallows, warblers, wrens, flycatchers, orioles, tanagers, and hummingbirds having spent their winter at points south from Mexico to South America return these next two months to the profusion of seeds, insects, and nectar that our region so abundantly provides.

Want to learn more about these colorful, often elusive species? NCAS offers a variety of field trips tailored to all levels of birdwatching expertise. All NCAS field trips are FREE and open to members and non-members alike. Due to the popularity of our outings, all trips require advance registration.

For more information or to register, please contact the individual trip leaders listed below or NCAS Field Trips at 671-1537.

Sunday, May 14. Chuckanut Songbirds. Full-day trip (half-day option) exploring the extraordinary south Chuckanut Mountains for songbirds, raptors, and more. Special guest leader George Heleker has spent the last ten years chronicling the abundance and diversity of spring songbird populations in this scenic wonderland. 8 AM. Trip limit: 12. Trip leader: Dave Schmalz, 671-1537.

Sunday, May 21. Tennant Lake/Nooksack River Dike. Full-day trip covering the diverse habitat and spectacular scenery of the lower Nooksack River country. This fairly-strenuous 6-mile hike will explore open meadows, wetlands, forest, and riverine habitat, featuring swallows, warblers, sparrows, wrens, and birds of prey. 8:30 AM. Trip limit: 12. Trip leader: Paul Woodcock, 380-3356.

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Semiahmoo Birding Trips

Birding the Beaches of Semiahmoo.
First Saturday of June, July, August, and September 9 AM-Noon.
Free. No registration required.
Location: Meet at the Semiahmoo Park Museum
Trip Leader: Paul Woodcock of the North Cascades Audubon Society.
Join bird enthusiasts exploring the beaches and skies of Semiahmoo Spit. This is truly a premier location in the Northwest for diversity of birds and ease of access. We will walk the cobblestone beaches of Semiahmoo Park, discuss opportunities related to this fascinating hobby, and spend time in the park museum sharing our feathered fantasies. Bring your field guides, binoculars, and scopes. Dress for the weather and beach walking.

Birding by Kayak
Saturday, June 3, July 1, and August 6. 1-4 PM
Minimum age: 13, 13-15 with parent.
Location: Semiahmoo Spit.
Trip leaders: Elakah Expeditions and North Cascades Audubon Society.
Bird Semiahmoo Spit from your kayak with the experts.

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The name we usually give to the birds of this family is derived from the sound of their rapidly-moving wings, a sound which is produced by the largest as well as the smallest member of the family. The Creoles of Guiana similarly call them Courdons or hummers. The French term, Oiseau-mouche, refers to their small size; while Colibri is a native name which has come down from the Carib inhabitants of the West Indies.

The Spaniards and Portuguese call them by more poetical names, such as flower-peckers, flower-kissers, myrtle-suckers while the Mexican and Peruvian names showed a still higher appreciation of their beauties, their meaning being rays of the sun, tresses of the day-star, and other such appellations. Even our modern naturalists, while studying the structure and noting the peculiarities of these living gems, have been so struck by their inimitable beauties that they have endeavored to invent appropriate English names for the beautiful and remarkable genera. Hence we find in common use such terms as Sun-gems, Sun-stars, Hill-stars, Wood-stars, Sun-angels, Star-throats, Comets, Couquettes, Flame-bearers, Sylphs, and fairies; together with many others derived from the character of the tail or the crests.

Alfred Russel Wallace
Humming-birds (1877)

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Wenas Campout 2006

May 26-29

For over 35 years, Audubon families have been camping at the Wenas Creek Campground, officially named the Hazel Wolf Wenas Creek Bird Sanctuary. The site, southwest of Ellensburg, is now in an Important Bird Area which Audubon is working to secure in protected status.

The free, primitive campground on the north fork of Wenas Creek has exceptional opportunities for birding, botanizing, and enjoying spring in the eastern foothills of the Cascades. Here are a few things to consider:
The campground is about 2,500 in elevation and can be quite cold at night and hot during the day.
You should take your own water for cooking and drinking.
Plan on tent camping or using pickup campers.
The committee rents portable toilets for four days and the expense is shared.
Bicycles and Frisbees are fun to take along, as are telescopes and cameras.
Please leave your pets at home.
There will be organized field trips, natural history workshops, and old-fashioned campfires in the evening for story-telling and recapping the sightings of the day.
Visit http://www.nwlink.com/~cyrus/wenas.html for more information. There is a bird checklist, along with directions to the campground, and more.

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ACOW is coming to Whatcom County

There are 26 Audubon chapters in Washington state, one of which is the North Cascades Audubon Society (NCAS). Twice each year leaders of these chapters and our state office Audubon Washington meet at what is known as the Audubon Council of Washington (ACOW). ACOWs are always on the move around the state and are hosted in turn by various chapters. This years Fall ACOW will be hosted by NCAS and will be held on October 6-8, at Camp Lutherwood on Lake Samish.

ACOWs are always inspirational and educational events. They offer an opportunity for the chapters to share knowledge and experience and explain what is happening in their respective parts of the state. Chapters share the issues they are dealing with, the battles they are fighting, and the fun they are having, as well as their successes and their failures. An ACOW is also an opportunity for the host chapter to educate the rest of the state about their area.

On Friday afternoon will be a meeting of the Audubon Washington Conservation Committee and Education Committee, both made up of representatives from all chapters. Saturday morning will be reserved for field trips while the afternoon will be filled with workshops and presentations. On Sunday morning, Audubon Washington will inform the group on what is happening on the state and national levels. Usually, 80-100 people attend.

Hosting such an event is a new experience for most of us at NCAS. We are going to need a committee and it will be necessary to recruit some new volunteers, some of whom will, ideally, have experience in coordinating such a gathering. If you want to meet Auduboners from outside our area, make some new friends (who will know where to find Tri-colored Blackbirds and Great Gray Owls in eastern Washington), and just have some fun, please join the team. We will need people to lend support in the areas of:





Program Coordination

General Administration


If you are inspired to become involved in this once-in-a-decade event, please call Paul Woodcock at 380-3356.

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Birdathon 2006

Its time again for one of the most popular and FUN events that NCAS has to offer our annual Birdathon fundraiser. Now that spring has arrived and a few Neotropical migrants are showing up here and there, shake off those winter blahs and get outside to hone those birding skills. And what better way to get into the swing of spring than to participate in the Birdathon!

Last year saw a spirited competition between Team Timberdoodle and the reigning champs, Team Killdeer. In the end, when the dust had settled and all the totals were in, Timberdoodle had unseated the champs by a feather or two. Team Killdeer immediately asked for a rematch and, as of this writing, both teams have entered this years Birdathon.

Keep in mind, however, that this is a friendly competition and part of the FUN of a birdathon. To become part of the fun, all you need to do is join the ranks of participants, as an individual or as a member of your own team. The NCAS Birdathon is open to everyone. The level at which you participate is totally up to you.

The objective of a birdathon is to count all the species you see or hear in a single 24-hour period. The entire month of May will be set aside for you to participate on any day that fits into your teams schedule. Prior to your count day, you talk to friends, family, and coworkers and solicit funds to sponsor your efforts. Sponsors can pledge a flat amount or a certain amount per species you observe.

The NCAS Birdathon is a terrific way to enjoy a day in the field and at the same time, help to raise much-needed funds to support Audubon efforts throughout the year. You can also use it as an excuse to go birding for an entire day!

If youd like more information or would like to sign up now to participate, call Joe Meche at 738-0641. You can also send him an e-mail at joemeche@aol.com.

The industrial way of life leads to the industrial way of death. From Shiloh to Dachau, from Antietam to Stalingrad, from Hiroshima to Vietnam and Afghanistan, the great specialty of industry and
technology has been the mass production of
human corpses.

Ed Abbey

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Affordable Optics

Paul Woodcock
Local Birder

There seems to be little doubt that Swarovski binoculars have become the benchmark in birding optics. I am continually surprised at how many birders make the choice to pay $1,200 to $1,800 to achieve the excellent views assured by a Swarovski, Leica, or Zeiss binocular. Some of these proud owners have given me the opportunity to try them out and I can definitely see the attraction. Certainly, binoculars are a birders most important tool and we all want the best we can afford. For me personally, the prices of these top quality brands are a limiting factor.

The growing numbers of bird watchers looking for affordable quality in a pair of birding glasses are driving a great deal of innovation in the market. Over the past few years there have been a number of new binocular models in the $300 to $500 range that are attracting attention and praise from birders. Manufacturers competing for a share of the market are building binoculars that are waterproof and fog proof a must in our area and approach the more expensive brands in optical quality. In areas such as close focus and eyeglass compatibility, many of the less expensive models equal or exceed those costing four times as much.

Working with a budget in the area of $300, I set out to find the best possible binocular for the money. Relying on reviews in birding literature plus feedback and experience from wherever I could find it, I made a list of models I wished to check out and headed off on a bino field trip. The Seattle area was the closest place to find the variety I had in mind. I visited a total of six different stores and looked at eleven different binocular models. Never having more than four different pairs to compare at any one location, one must rely on memory to make comparisons. I did my best to compare crispness and clarity of view, brightness, weight, eyeglass compatibility, field of view, close focus and overall feel. Here is a list of models I reviewed with an approximate price, in order of my preference.

Leupold Wind River Cascade
10 X 42
Audubon Equinox
10 X 42
Eagle Optics Ranger
10 X 42
Stokes Vortex Broadwing
10 X 42
Leupold Wind River Olympic
10 X 50
Zeiss Diafun
10 X 30
10 X 42
Alpen Shasta Ridge
8 X 42
Nikon Monarch ATB
10 X 42
Leupold Wind River Katmai
10 X 32
Leupold Wind River Pinnacles
10 X 42

There were numerous surprises in these comparisons. First of all, some of the lower priced models felt better and impressed me the most. The clarity and brightness of the Zeiss Diafun and most of the Leupold Wind River models were impressive. The Diafun slipped in my estimation because its extremely light weight seemed to make it difficult to hold steady. The Leupold Wind River Pinnacles are an excellent binocular but its contoured eye cups could not be adjusted to work with my glasses. The Wind River Katmai model is a compact binocular which lacked the impressive clarity and brightness I found in the other Leupolds.

The Audubon Equinox, Eagle Ranger and Stokes Vortex Broadwing are all products of Eagle Optics of Middleton, Wisconsin. All three of these are excellent binoculars for the price, very close in quality and performance. Also, I had never heard of Alpen binoculars until I was introduced to them at the Wild Bird Chalet in Bellingham. They are a quality binocular worth checking out. Like Leupold, Alpen started in the optical business making scopes for hunters. In fact, the only place I could find the complete line of Leupold binoculars was at Kesselrings Gun Shop in Alger.

Of the stores I visited, two helped to make the experience memorable. Seattle Audubons Nature Shop, 8050 35th Avenue NE in Seattle has a wide variety of birding optics in stock. The volunteer staff members are birders who are helpful and allow you spend time using and comparing their products. The staff at Wild Birds Unlimited in Lake Forest Park is also outstanding, allowing us to take their Eagle Optics binoculars outside to try them on real birds.

I hope that this information can be of help to those of you who must, like me, bird on a budget. Of course, the choice of a good pair of binoculars is a personal thing. I prefer a 10 power bino and need it to be compatible with eyeglasses. Though I have not yet purchased that pair of Leupolds that topped my list, I do expect to do so in the near future. Will they be as good as a pair of Swarovskis? No, but they will be close enough that I will not mind having saved that thousand dollars.

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Rick Clements

Binoculation is defined as that moment when the image of a bird is coupled with the visual receptors in the eye via the instrument of coupling the binocular. For many birders, it is the supreme moment of exhilaration, the consummation of all his efforts, the flash of ecstasy that climaxes the birding experience. For others, it is merely icing on the birding cake; a deliriously wonderful icing to be sure, but not required for satisfaction.

Binoculation takes many forms. Perfect binoculation is a crystal clear image in flawless focus at reasonably-close range that affords accurate identification and immense gratification. It is the quintessential paradigm of binoculation. In contrast, fractional binoculation, that situation when a bird is in focus for something less than a fraction of a millisecond, represents the nadir of birding, particularly if the bird in question is thought to have been a Bachmans warbler. Dysfunctional binoculation is that embarrassing circumstance when an otherwise perfect binoculation is misidentified. Among the com-moner birds, Lincolns sparrow is responsible for a disproportionate share of dysfunctional binoculations. Simultaneous binoculation is, of course, when two birders achieve binocula-tion at the same time. While this experience can be a pleasant nuance, its fervent pursuit can be self-defeating.

Group binoculation is a shockingly common practice. During particularly lively group binoculation, as when binoculating with swans, it is not unusual for one binoculator to obstruct the view of another in an act known as binoculus interuptus. A common and most frustrating experience is partial binoculation which seems to occur far too often, particularly with warblers, when constant activity and intervening foliage permits only glimpses of individual anatomical portions. While partial binoculation can be frustrating, it is the only reliable method of adding elusive tropical species such as ant-birds, wrens, and tapuculos to ones life list. This accumula-tion of partial binoculations of various body parts is called composite binoculation and can be extremely satisfying, albeit time-consuming.

Several truths are associated with binoculation. Everyone, save the visually-impaired can, with a little practice, achieve binoculation. Multiple binoculation is a common experience for both sexes. In fact, I recall, with a trace of exhaustion, the last Birdathon when I attained in excess of 160 binoculations with Kathryn, Kathi, and Suzanne. Premature binoculation can occur but, happily, is never a source of shame or embarrassment. In fact, it can be quite satisfying. For example, a while back we heard that an American redstart had been found in the parking lot at Cabrillo National Monument and we headed in that direction. Upon arrival, a flash of yellow in one of the ornamental trees enabled us to achieve perfect binoculation without even turning off the ignition.

From time to time everyone experiences the heartbreak of binoculation failure. I remember a certain humiliating episode concerning Californias second record of a red-headed woodpecker. Three times we went to Santa Barbara and three times we failed to achieve binoculation. Everyone I knew had seen the bird and a growing sense of panic was overtaking me. I was so ashamed of my failure that I even snuck off to Santa Barbara by myself a few times in hopes of regaining my binoculating ability. Alas, more failures. Then one day we tried again and for some reason I was relaxed and not making a big deal out of this woodpecker and it just happenedperfect binoculation.

Binoculation failure had happened before and it will happen again (probably with increasing regularity as I grow older) but I know that worrying about it and placing an inordinate amount of importance on it, just makes the situation worse and that the important lesson is that there is a lot more to birding than binoculation.

Editors note: I discovered this article several years ago and thought that a rerun was in order, given that we are about to take a break for the summer and might not be around to answer questions and assist people in need.

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NCAS Officer Nominations

The following individuals have been nominated to fill these positions for the 2006-2007 Audubon year.

Paul Woodcock
Joe Meche
Vice President
Lila Emmer
Diane Birsner

If you would like to nominate anyone else to fill any of these positions, contact NCAS and do so. Election for these offices will take place at the May General Membership meeting on May 23.

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NCAS is currently seeking a new Membership Committee Chair, as well as a new Programs Committee Chair. Interested? Would you like to learn more about the positions? Give us a call or send us an e-mail.


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