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September 2006 Issue (vol 37, number 6)
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SEPTEMBER General Membership Meeting

Tuesday, September 26, 7:30 PM
Bellingham Public Library Lecture Room
PROGRAM: Initiative 933

Washington state Initiative 933 is about the government regulation of private property. According to the ballot description, this measure would require compensation when government regulation damages the use or value of private property; forbid regulations that prohibit existing legal uses of private property; and would provide exceptions or payments as compensation.

Lisa Remlinger, from Audubon Washington, will discuss important initiatives coming up on the November ballot, with a focus on the contentious Initiative 933. Lisa will also let us know what to expect for the 2007 legislative session, and update us on the state of the state office of Audubon.

Audubon Washington supports birds, wildlife, and their habitat. We believe in balance, responsibility, finding common ground, and protecting the natural world and our quality of life in the Pacific Northwest.

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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Were Back!

After a summer that found many of us wanting for time to do all the things we wanted to do, its already September and now we have even more to do but still not enough time to do it! Is there some sort of pattern here?

Looking back over the past few months, a bit of in-town excitement took place this summer with nesting Bald Eagles and Merlins. The Bald Eagle nest at Scudder Pond fell apart and the young birds had to be rescued by the good folks from the Sardis Wildlife Center (send donations to keep them going). As of this writing, both birds are doing well. Personal speculation is that the adults were possibly first-timers and didnt build well enough to suit the standard building guidelines that are established for the strength and durability of nests for large birds.

According to those in the know, there could be as many as six successful Merlin nests within the city. Numerous sightings from various parts of town indicate that local Merlins had a good breeding year.

Caspian Terns were around all summer and caused a lot of ears to turn to their distinctive grating calls. Were still searching for possible nesting sites for this largest member of the tern family; and still wondering where the large flocks go as they head east-northeast from the waterfront on most summer evenings.

Southbound shorebirds are showing up on the local birding radar and signs of fall are in the air. Water-stressed trees are beginning to show some color and the high-country bugs have almost disappeared making for good hiking above the timberline. Theres still plenty of time to squeeze in a few good trips before the snow flies. Go now!

As we begin another Audubon year, there is a full slate of programs on tap to entertain and inform. We begin with a program about a very important land use initiative that will be on the November ballot. See Page 1 for details and mark your calendars for this one.

Other programs and activities to follow will include:

Another wildlife/birding adventure from far-away places with the globe-trotting Keith and Jan Wiggers.

A photo journey to Lake Baikal with Nina Carter, the Executive Director of Audubon Washington.

The annual NCAS Potluck in December. The date will be announced in future newsletters.

The annual Bellingham Christmas Bird Count. Contact me now if you want to participate.

Birds in Motion V with yours truly, sometime in the spring.

The schedule is still a work in progress, to some extent, so keep an eye on the Avalanche and visit our website for updates. Summers winding down and my favorite month is rapidly approaching. All together now....OCTOBER! Have fun out there.

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Birdathon 2006

The success of any fundraiser will always be determined by the number of participants and their enthusiasm. This years effort was filled with an enthusiastic, albeit very small group of birders. A total of six participants carried the banner of NCAS hither and yon, over hill and dale. Two teams chose to stay closer to home while one opted for the eastside-westside routine. Team Killdeer came out on top in the number of species observed; however, Team Schmalz (the one-man wrecking crew of Dave Schmalz) topped the list in the fundraising department. Team Timberdoodle had an adventure of a different feather (see the gory details below).

While its fun to get out and see lots of birds, its most important to the chapter that we gather funds to support a variety of efforts throughout the year.

The following accounts of are offered to possibly encourage more participation for Birdathon 2007. Sign up now!

Team Timberdoodle:
Lessons Learned

Paul Woodcock
NCAS President and Head doodle

In planning for our 2005 Birdathon, we set a goal that we never met. Our hope had been to find at least one species for every mile driven. We ended last year with 110 species but we had covered about 150 miles in three counties in the process. This year, Victor Burgett, Nick Page, and I made it our goal to stay within Whatcom County. We met that goal and we ended our 24 hours with many more species than miles driven. However, this was due to circumstancenot design.

Team Timberdoodle launched its 24-hour effort at Marine Park in Blaine at 4 PM on May 15. Glaucous-winged Gull, Rock Pigeon, Song Sparrow, and Northern Pintail we started out as expected. Before leaving Blaine, we checked out Lincoln Park, where Barred Owls had been recently seen. The owls were not there but many Neotropical migrants were, including Cassins Vireo, Wilsons and Townsends Warblers, and Bullocks Oriole. As we made the rounds of Drayton Harbor and Semiahmoo, we were pleasantly surprised by the number of wintering waterfowl and shorebirds that we found. We had not expected to find Long-tailed Ducks and all three species of scoters. Also, Black-bellied Plover, Dunlin, and Sanderling were still present along the shores of the spit.

Birding south through Birch Bay State Park, we located Cliff Swallows over the ponds along Jackson Road at Terrell Creek, giving us five species of swallows for the evening. Least and Spotted Sandpipers and Ring-necked Pheasant were present at the ponds along Grandview. More waterfowl, including Wood Duck and Gadwall, were located at Lake Terrell. As darkness set in, we made our final stop of the evening along Mountain View Road to add species #70 Barn Owl to our list. With most of our count ahead of us, we were feeling motivated and sure that we would achieve a record count.

At 4:30 AM on May 16, I was awakened to the sound of a Barred Owl hooting in the woods behind my house. Nice start to a promising day. It was just a little after 5 AM as we parked outside the gate at Tennant Lake and headed for the boardwalk. In the hedgerow alongside the road we found a pleasant surprise a Northern Bobwhite. These birds have been seen in the area of the interpretive center a number of times over the past few years. Introduced and fairly numerous in the county early in the last century, the origin of these particular birds is unknown. Around the lake we added American Bittern, Cinnamon Teal, Marsh Wren, and Yellow Warbler, among others. Upon returning to Victors truck at about 6 AM, we received the biggest surprise of the day.

The passenger side window was smashed out of the vehicle and the contents of the truck were rifled. My Eagle Optics scope and tripod, plus a bag containing my Sibley guide were gone, as were Victors IPod and CDs. The truck was parked just outside the gate along Neilsen Road, in clear view of two homes. I live only about two miles from the lake and spend a lot of time there. This felt like being violated on my own turf. We never even thought about this happening at this time and in this location. As we phoned the police, we watched a suspicious vehicle cruising the area. We also spotted Cedar Waxwings overhead. The police took our information and informed us of which pawnshops we might want to check to try to find our lost belongings. This was an expensive lesson but one well-learned. Leave no items of value in your parked vehicle at any location.

Our plan had been to head east and bird our way along the Mount Baker Highway. At this point, we were unsure how to proceed. I was dropped at home to get my truck and then headed into Bellingham to pick up Victor at the auto repair shop. We had lost over two hours of our day but were not going to let the misfortune ruin our count. Watching the Merlins at their nest near 21st and Mill Streets rejuvenated us and we decided to head down Chuckanut Drive.

As the day turned out, we might not have done better anywhere else. Along Chuckanut Drive, we found Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Warbling Vireo, MacGillivrays Warbler, and Western Tanager. Views of Chuckanut Bay revealed Pelagic Cormorants, Black Oystercatchers, and a Pigeon Guillemot. Up Cleator Road, we were able to find Red-breasted Sapsucker, Olive-sided and Pacific Slope Flycatchers, Western Wood Pewee, Varied Thrush, Huttons Vireo, Black-throated Gray and Townsends Warblers. At this point, we were just two species behind Team Killdeers old record of 117 species and we still had three hours left. But where would our time be best spent? Since we were short on raptors, we headed back to the north county and the Lummi Flats.

On our way, we made a surprising stop at the retention pond east of I-5 at exit 262. Ring-necked Duck and Blue-winged Teal were added at that location. At Gooseberry Point we were lucky enough to find a Red-throated Loon out on Hale Passage. Heading north from there we finally found a Turkey Vulture and a couple of Red-tailed Hawks. With one hour left, we returned to Hovander Park and Tennant Lake. Our 121st and final species was a Downy Woodpecker near the interpretive center. It was an excellent way to end our day and exorcise the demons from that wonderful place.

We missed some species that we found in previous years such as Green Heron and Sharp-shinned and Coopers Hawks. None of the nomadic seed-eaters, such as Pine Siskin, Evening Grosbeak, and Red Crossbill were around this year. Even though our 121 species passed the old record, we were still surpassed by an outstanding effort from Team Killdeer.

We felt particularly successful in that we found all of those species without leaving western Whatcom County, driving only 98 miles and never going farther east than downtown Bellingham. We had a great time birding, helped raise funds for the chapter, and we learned some lessons. To find the maximum number of species, you need to select a date early enough that many of the wintering birds have not departed, but late enough that many Neotropical migrants have arrived. The lesson we really want to share with you all is that parked vehicles are no longer safe in unsecured parking lots or roadsides in Whatcom County. Do not leave items of value in your car! Times have changed in Whatcom County.

Return of the Killdeer

Joe Meche
CEO,Team Killdeer

It would be difficult to match Pauls tale of woe with the car prowl incident, so I wont even try. However, our own Birdathon effort was not without its own infernal combustion-related challenges. Team Killdeers routine for some of the past Birdathons has been to start on the east side of the mountains, and finish the next day on the west side. The plan this year was to use our 24-hour period to cap a 4-day getaway to the Eden Valley, east of Oroville. On the trip over the mountains, I couldnt help noticing that my brakes were a little soft as we rolled down and into Winthrop. Not a good sign.

But that was nothing compared to the fact that my engine wouldnt start on our second day. We spent time in Oroville getting to know the car-care professionals and spent the remainder of our visit wondering where we might be stranded for the night. We decided to stay closer to our cabin and walk wherever we needed to go to prepare for our Birdathon effort on the way home.

As has been our modus operandi of late, we started in the late afternoon of our last eastside day and picked up our first birds near Molson, just south of the Canadian border. Molson and Sidley Lakes provided the usual suspects that we always expect to find there, including the Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Ruddy Ducks, and Green- and Blue-winged Teal. Other lakes near Chesaw provided good looks at Common Loons, Red-necked Grebes, Black Terns, Common and Barrows Goldeneyes, and Hooded Mergansers.

Campground walks at Lake Bonaparte yielded Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Yellow Warblers, White-and Red-breasted Nuthatches, Brown Creepers, and a nesting pair of Red-naped Sapsuckers. We decided to get closer to our cabin when the engine started with a grudging whimper. Right around the cabin, we found Says Phoebes, Cliff, Bank, and Northern Rough-winged Swallows and American Kestrels. In the meadow below we could hear snipe calling at sunset.

One of the trip highlights came when we left the next morning. Yes, the truck started! The Eden Valley was marvelous with fog drifting between the ridges and providing a nice filter for the rising sun. As we drove slowly along a winding road to get back to the main highway, I braked when I saw a hawk on the ground. I approached slowly to see a magnificent dark morph Swainsons Hawk, beautifully backlit by the morning sun. The dew sparkled in the sunlight and my camera was, of course, out of reach. It was a good start, however, for the journey westward.

The standard Gray Jays and Clarks Nutcrackers greeted us in the higher elevations and dippers were easy to find on most of the westside streams. As we neared the end of our day, I finished the count at Tennant Lake with calling Marsh Wrens, Common Yellowthroats, and American Bitterns.

In the process, we checked off 126 species for a new NCAS Birdathon standard. We know we can do better but after reading Pauls account and thinking ahead to what gas prices might be next year, we just might have to make Birdathon 2007 a Whatcom County-only affair.

Your comments are welcome.

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Audubon Adventures

Rae Edwards
NCAS Education Chair

Its Audubon Adventures time, again! Kids are heading back to school and its time to make sure that birds and nature are part of their education.

For only $45.65 (including shipping), a teacher will receive a Classroom Resource Manual with content and activities. Each student will receive a copy of four topics: Wings and Things, Bees, Bats, and Yardbirds. The kit will also include a poster Invitation to a Healthy Schoolyard linking teachers and students to Audubons new website with a science-based program.

The interactive, educational website introduces the needs of birds and other wildlife showing teachers and students how they can meet wildlife needs at home or in the schoolyard. Check it out at http://www.audubonathome.org/birdstohelp.

Please send your donation to: North Cascades Audubon Society PO Box 5805 Bellingham, WA 98227-5805

And please indicate Audubon Adventures on your check. Any amount is appreciated.

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NCAS Officers 2006-07

The following individuals were resoundingly elected (it was a veritable avalanche) at the May General Membership meeting to serve the chapter for the coming year.

Paul Woodcock,President

Joe Meche,Vice President

Lila Emmer,Secretary

Diane Birsner,Treasurer

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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:

Planning

Registration

Hospitality

Transportation

Program Coordination

General Administration

Procurement

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

Conference Volunteers Needed

The North Cascades Audubon Society is preparing to host leaders from all 26 Audubon chapters in Washington state on October 6-8. The fall Audubon Council of Washington will be held at Camp Lutherwood on Lake Samish. We still need volunteers to help us make this event a success. We can use your assistance and expertise to help with preparation as well as registration, set-up, and on-site logistics during the conference.

This is an opportunity to further the Audubon cause in our community and our state and to meet some good people in the process. If you have a few hours to spare at any time during this event or in the days leading up to it, please give us a call at 380-3356.

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Tidbits

Few writers captured the spirit of the West like Edward Abbey. Over his long writing career Abbey built up a phenomenally large audience, in the East and especially in the West. His fame was earned by such classics as The Brave Cowboy, Desert Solitaire, The Monkey Wrench Gang, and Fools Progress.

Abbey was an honest writer; a naturalist who actually lived in and with nature; a gifted storyteller whose novels were tales spun like they must have been around campfires through time immemorial raucous, poignant, flowing, beautiful things that grew from the land and people that they were about.

Here are a few random pearls from A Voice Crying in the Wilderness, published in 1989 the same year he died.

A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.

As war and government prove, insanity is the most contagious of diseases.

In the world of words, my best-loved tribe is the diatribe.

Music clouds the intellect but clarifies the heart.

The industrial corporation is the natural enemy of nature.

Concrete is heavy; iron is hard but the grass will prevail.

Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.

The most common form of terrorism in the USA is that carried on by bulldozers and chainsaws.

The basic science is not physics or mathematics but biology the study of life. We must learn to think both logically and bio-logically.

And last but certainly not least:

God bless America. Lets save some of it.

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Conservation Issues

Tom Pratum
NCAS Conservation Committee

We are coming up on fall and there are numerous conservation issues that NCAS is either involved in or looking into. Among them:

I-933 This overly broad property rights initiative, referred to by some as Oregons Measure 37 on steroids, will be the subject of Septembers general membership meeting. We have provided speakers yours truly for a number of venues and feel strongly that this measure must be defeated.

Greenmill Hydro Project. This project would take water from Lake Whatcom, near the outlet to Whatcom Creek, and use it only to generate power by running it down to the GP mill site, where generating equipment would be located. The proponents would use the City of Bellinghams existing water rights, but it does not appear that this would be to the benefit of the public. The water would likely come from the Middle Fork Nooksack River diversion, thereby taking scarce water resources away from that drainage. We are opposed to this proposal.

The Vineyard Development on Squalicum Mountain. This 680-acre development would cluster 46-60 homes mostly in the Lake Whatcom watershed near the crest of Squalicum Mountain (see our website for a map of the proposed development area). In order for the development to proceed, the owners who also happen to include parties responsible for the clearcutting of nearly the entire west side of Lookout Mountain, above Lake Samish require an extension of services outside any existing water and sewer service areas. We have not yet weighed in on this proposal but we are concerned about the effects of this proposal on the watershed, and those that will follow if the required service extension is allowed.

Reconveyance of DNR Forest Board Transfer Land in the Lake Whatcom watershed. It is possible that by the time you read this, Whatcom County will have proposed that the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reconvey the 8,400 acres of Forest Transfer Land in the Lake Whatcom Watershed. This land would then be under the jurisdiction of Whatcom County Parks. As we have not yet seen an actual proposal but are fairly certain that one is coming we cannot yet take a position. This is a complex issue. While it might seem at first glance like a good idea, to have the County take over responsibility of 8,400 acres of watershed that is already in public ownership might not be the best use of scarce resources. Note that there would still be nearly 8,000 acres of forest land remaining under DNR jurisdiction, and another 7,400 acres of private land in the watershed. More on this will be coming.

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Adieu, Guy

Guy Loiselle founded the Wild Bird Chalet in February of 1992 and has been catering to the birding and bird-feeding community ever since. Guy, who is quite a character in his own right, has decided to move on after more than 15 years and pass the reins over to Valeri Wade. Valeri will continue operating the business at 705 Kentucky Street, and we encourage everyone to support her efforts.

Guy has plans to travel for a short time before trying to learn how to relax in his retirement. We wish him the best and bid him a fond adieu.

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Board of Directors Update

Welcome Helene

NCAS would like to welcome Helene Irving to the board as our new Programs Chair. Helene has been an active member of the chapter for a number of years and will undoubtedly bring her cheerfulness and enthusiasm to this important position.

WANTED

NCAS is still seeking a new Membership Committee Chair. Interested? Would you like to learn more about the position? Give us a call or send us an e-mail. Thanks.

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