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November/December 2006 Issue (vol 37, number 8)
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NOVEMBER General Membership Meeting

Tuesday, November 28, 7:30 PM
Bellingham Public Library
Lecture Room
The Fun and Folly of Lake Baikal

Lake Baikal is the oldest and deepest lake in the world and by volume, the largest freshwater lake on Earth. It contains over 20% of the worlds surface freshwater and more than 90% of Russias surface freshwater. The lake lies in southern Siberia and is known as the Blue Eye of Siberia. Lake Baikal is a World Heritage Site.

For this months program, Nina Carter will present highlights from a trip she made to Lake Baikal in August of 2005. She spent three weeks there learning about ecotourism in Russia. Nina joined Audubon Washington in 2001 as Policy Director, a role in which she worked directly with the states 26 affiliated chapters to craft public policy that protects our natural environment. She began her duties as Executive Director of Audubon Washington in January of 2005.

As always, meetings of the North Cascades Audubon Society are FREE and open to the public. Join us for a trip to this remote and fascinating part of the world.

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From the President

ACOW on Lake Samish

On October 6, 7, and 8, North Cascades Audubon hosted the Fall Audubon Council of Washington (ACOW) at Camp Lutherwood on Lake Samish. Over 70 Audubon leaders from around the state and beyond gathered for meetings, presentations, and even a little fun.

These gatherings of state chapter leaders happen twice a year. As there are 26 Audubon chapters in Washington, the chore of hosting comes around to any one chapter only once every 12 or 13 years. It is great that the work is spread around, but very few chapters have experienced organizers on board when their turn comes around. Our experience here was a positive one. The NCAS team pulled together and produced a successful event, gaining experience in the process. Volunteers came forward to help fill the gaps and provide backup support, and partners from other area organizations helped provide the programs.

The theme of our conference was Local Partnerships, and our partners contributed greatly to the ACOWs success. Tim Wahl of Bellingham Parks and Recreation, Jim Edwards of the Tennant Lake Interpretive Center, Steve and Gail Aslanian of Skagit Audubon, and our own Joe Meche led field trips that were well attended and highly praised. David Bean of Whatcom County Parks entertained and helped to welcome guests after Joe Meches Birds of Whatcom County presentation on Friday evening. Sean Saville of the National Audubon Society traveled all the way from the other Washington to inform us about what is going on with the national organization. At the Saturday evening presentation our keynote speaker, Dr. John Bower of Western Washington University, brought us up to date on the important and troubling research that he and his students are doing on seabird populations.

These conferences serve an important purpose. Coming together gives chapter leaders the opportunity to share information, to learn from the successes and the problems that other chapters are experiencing, and to learn about the conservation challenges taking place in other parts of the state. Certainly, the camaraderie and the friendships that develop are part of the ACOW experience. And there is also the opportunity to visit and experience other areas of the state while attending ACOWs hosted by other chapters.

Our setting on Lake Samish was certainly one of the most important factors contributing to the success of our gathering. Each morning, before dawn, we were awakened to the sound of Northern Pygmy Owls, numbers of them, pooting right in the camp. The full moon rising over Lookout Mountain above Lake Samish on Saturday evening is a memory of Whatcom County that our guests were able to take home with them.

Heartfelt thanks go out to all the local Auduboners who worked to make our ACOW a success, including board members Diane Birsner, Tom Pratum, Joe Meche, Rae Edwards, Steve and Helene Irving, and Lila Emmer. Also, thanks to our other volunteers, Patrice Clark, Yvonne Dean, Gail Stebbings, Nick Page, and Bob and Carolyn Miclivack. Now that we know how, its too bad we cant do it again next year!

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FALL FIELD TRIPS

Dave Schmalz
NCAS Field Trip Chair

Saturday, November 4*. Semiahmoo Spit. Enjoy a half-day beach walk at one of Whatcom Countys most geographically stunning and biologically rich sites. The spit separates Drayton Harbor from Semiahmoo Bay, critical winter habitat for large numbers of seabirds, shorebirds, waterfowl, eagles, and falcons. 9:00 AM. Trip Limit: Open, no registration required. Meeting Place: Semiahmoo County Park. Trip Leader: Paul Woodcock, 380-3356.

Saturday November 11**. Point Roberts.

This full-day adventure explores the unique and stunning marine ecology of one of Whatcom Countys most remote areas. The long, slender peninsula of Point Roberts separates the deeper waters of the Strait of Georgia from the shallow waters of Boundary Bay, home to wintering seabirds, shorebirds, waterfowl, eagles, and the site of numerous rarities over many years. The trip will hopefully include a visit to Lily Point, the largest privately owned, undeveloped site on the peninsula and long-coveted for its spectacular natural and habitat values. Co-sponsored by the Point Roberts Taxpayers Association. 8:00 AM. Trip Limit: 10. Trip Leader: Paul Woodcock, 380-3356.

Sunday, November 19. Marine Park, Blaine.

This half-day walking tour (approx. 1 mile) of the Blaine Harbor Peninsula, Semiahmoo Bay, and the Blaine Harbor channel provides a veritable showcase and classroom for waterfowl, seabirds, and shorebirds, all arranged in a tightly-knit tapestry according to habitat needs. 8:30 AM. Trip Limit: 10. Trip Leader: Dave Schmalz, 671-1537.

Saturday, December 2*. Semiahmoo Spit.

This trip is a repeat of the Saturday, November 4 trip (see above for details).

Sunday, December 3**. Boundary Bay, British Columbia.

This full-day (half-day option) tour explores the diversity and spectacle of one of our regions premier birdwatching locations. We will tour critical, continentally significant, winter habitat for seabirds, shorebirds, waterfowl, eagles, falcons and owls. 8:00 AM. Trip Limit: 10. Trip Leader: Dave Schmalz, 671-1537.

*Trips with one asterisk are sponsored by Whatcom County Parks and led by NCAS guides.
**Trips with two asterisks involve travel to and/or through Canada and participants should take along a passport or birth certificate.

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Apparition

Paul Woodcock
NCAS President

We experienced some unusually hot weather this past summer here in the Northwest. Having grown up in Americas heartland, I am no stranger to hot summer afternoons when the heat seems to warp space and time around you, where objects and colors meld and blend.

On a Sunday afternoon this past August, I was sitting in the shade on the front porch of the Neilsen House at Tennant Lake, leafing through field guides. The temperature was pushing into the 80s. Certainly, the heat was not intense by tropical standards, but it was enough to cause me to drift into sultry dreams of a tropic paradise.

Suddenly, a flash of light from over the hayfield across the road pulled me from my reverie. What was I seeing? A white being floated in the glaring sunlight, backlit by the golden stubble of the mowed field. It seemed to be a visitor from my paradise dream. Almost instantly it took the form of a bird, wings and tail extended, as it seemed to hover briefly in a gilded frame. But what was this?

It climbed and swung toward the south. Then, silhouetted against the blue sky, I knew it was not as large as it first appeared to be. Picking up its image in my binoculars, it was clearly a swallow, though definitely one of pure white. The ghost bird was soon joined by two normal Cliff Swallows as they zoomed over the slough and off toward the Nooksack. Over the following weeks, I watched for the albino Cliff Swallow but never glimpsed it again.

This whole experience probably lasted less than half a minute. Nature gifted me in those few seconds with a vision to last a lifetime. One that words can barely describe.

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Audubon Adventures
Help put Audubon in classrooms!

Rae Edwards
Education Committee

Thank you to those who have chosen to help support educating youth about birds and nature by making donations to NCAS for the Audubon Adventures program.

Each year, NCAS has supported up to 30 teachers with this program. Audubon Adventures provides teachers with materials for each student and teacher resources. This year there is an educational poster and website access added to the package. Topics include Wings & Things, Bees, Bats, Yardbirds. If you would like to check out the interactive website, you can find it at www.audubon.org/birdstohelp.

The cost per classroom is $45.65, but any amount you can offer will move us toward our goal. Please take a moment today to write a check and send it to:

North Cascades Audubon
PO Box 5805
Bellingham, WA 98227

Please indicate on your check that it is for Audubon Adventures. And thank you, again, for your generosity.

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Bellingham Christmas Bird Count

December 17, 2006

The annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) continues to grow in popularity, as well as in credibility. The National Audubon Society has conducted the CBC since 1900 and the Bellingham CBC has been in business since 1967. The CBC is the leading citizen-science effort in the world and contributes significant data to help us track wintering birds across North America and other parts of the hemisphere.

On December 17, well journey forth over hill and dale and count birds from dawn to dusk with the intrepid few starting earlier and staying later to look for owls and finish the day at a festive pre-holiday potluck. The big day culminates with a lively official/unofficial tally of the birds weve seen during the day.

The CBC goes on regardless of weather conditions, and thats actually part of the fun, since the stories are much easier to embellish if the weather is foul. Nonetheless, if youre interested in participating and being a big part of history, please give me a call at 738-0641. If you prefer, you can e-mail me at joemeche@aol.com.

Keep in mind that while the CBC Committee makes every effort to place everyone who volunteers, its often impossible to do so. But we try!

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2006 Bellingham Feeder/Yardbird Count

Count birds at your feeder, in your yard, and seen from your yard on Sunday, December 17, in conjunction with the Bellingham Christmas Bird Count. Participants must reside in the count circle, bordered by Willeys Lake on the north; by Edgemoor on the south; by Noon Road on the east; and by Hale Passage on the west. You will determine the number of hours that you count. Count hours do not have to be consecutive, but can be broken up into various periods. If you are interested or know someone who might be, contact Joan Bird at jbird202@hotmail.com or at 734-1030 with questions and/or for instructions and forms.

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NCAS Annual Christmas Potluck

December 12, 5-10 PM

The local chapter of the Sierra Club has made plans to join us for the Annual Christmas Potluck on December 12, from 5-10 PM, at the Fairhaven Librarys Fireplace Room.

Participants are asked to contribute a favorite entree, salad, or dessert, as well as your own plates and silverware. Well have a coffee pot ready to go with H20 aplenty. No alcohol is permitted in the library so check those brown bags at the door, please.

Photographer Mark Turner will entertain us with a presentation about wildflowers.

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Thanks, Ann!

The entire Board of Directors extends a warm Thank You to Ann Haslam for her efforts as our Membership Chair for the past year and a half. The Membership Chair is one of the more complex jobs of all and, like many of the jobs within the chapter, a mostly thankless one.

Nevertheless, thanks, Ann. Our best to you in future plans.

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Wanted: Membership Chair

If you read the previous article, youve probably surmised that NCAS is actively seeking someone to take over as Chair of the Membership Committee. The primary requirements for the position include basic computer skills and an eye toward a commitment that involves keeping track of our membership and supplying mailing labels for our monthly newsletter.

If youre interested in discussing the position, send an e-mail to Paul Woodcock at paulwoodcock@earthlink.net.

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Conservation News

Some Very Large Development Proposals, with very few owners....
Tom Pratum
NCAS Conservation Committee

In our area we are blessed with a few property owners who currently have some very large development proposals. This is nothing new. Large tracts of land in the city (Barkley, Cordata), as well as the county (Sudden Valley, Columbia Valley, etc.) have been developed in the past. These proposals are of some concern, due to their location near significant water and wildlife resources. Two of these proposals we have talked about previously.

The first is Trilliums proposal to put a 2,400 acre UGA on Galbraith (Lookout) Mt. We are opposed to this proposal, which straddles both the Lake Whatcom and Lake Samish watersheds. The proposal was turned down by the county council in the 2006 round of comprehensive plan amendments, but we expect it to be back in 2007.

The second is the Vineyard Development mentioned in the September Avalanche, and discussed recently in the Bellingham Herald. This proposal to put a cluster development of 46-60 homes on Squalicum Mt. faces an increasingly uphill battle as it cannot proceed under the current Lake Whatcom subdivision moratorium, which was renewed for another six months on October 10. At this same time an emergency moratorium on clustering in rural forestry zones was also enacted by the county council. This clustering moratorium also prohibits this development from proceeding. However, we expect that a comprehensive plan amendment will be submitted regarding this proposal for 2007.

The third proposal has been discussed recently in the Bellingham Herald and the Cascadia Weekly.

This is Trilliums 1,000 acre Alden Reach proposal on Point Whitehorn. We have not seen the details of this proposal, but it will also require a comprehensive plan amendment as the area is currently zoned for heavy industrial use. We imagine the proposal will be to add this area to the adjacent Birch Bay UGA, which we would most likely be opposed to due to the sensitive nature of the near-shore and marine environment in the area.

Two maps of these areas are shown on the following maps:
http://www.northcascadesaudubon.org/documents/Trillium_Iverson.jpg and
http://www.northcascadesaudubon.org/documents/TrilliumPtWhBirPtAlden.jpg. These maps were generated from the Whatcom County Assessors database dated 9/5/2006, using GIS software. Only two property owners are involved in these three proposals: Trillium, and Gordon and Carol Iverson.

The maps show a few interesting ownership aspects.

Trillium is solely involved in one proposal (Alden Reach), but has well over 1,000 acres nearby on Birch Point that is not involved in this proposal. Part of the Birch Point property is in the Blaine UGA, and much of the area was clearcut several years ago. Trillium recently obtained a SEPA Determination of Non-Significance (DNS) to pull stumps on part of the Birch Point property under the guise of converting it to pasture. We can expect a comprehensive plan amendment to develop this Birch Point area in the future. Interestingly, both the Point Whitehorn and Birch Point properties are listed on Trilliums website (http://www.trilliumcorp.com) as being for sale.

The Iversons are mostly the only ones involved in the Vineyard proposal. Much of this area was purchased from Trillium in 2001, although other parts have been acquired more recently.

Both Trillium and the Iversons are involved in the Galbraith Mt. UGA proposal. This proposal was submitted by Trillium, but over one square mile of it (1 square mile = 640 acres) is owned by the Iversons, having been purchased from Trillium in 2001. Part of this area was also obtained by Trillium from Bloedel Timberlands in a trade for land at the south end of Lake Whatcom in 2002. Note that Trillium owns adjoining land to the east that is entirely within the Lake Whatcom watershed. We would not be surprised to see Trillium offer to trade development rights on this watershed land in exchange for the allowance to proceed with its UGA proposal.

If I-933 does not pass, we will have an opportunity to comment on these proposals as they move forward in the future. If I-933 passes, our community will no longer have any say in these, or any other development proposals. If you happen to receive this prior to voting, please vote NO on I-933.

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