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January 2007 Issue (vol 38, number 1)
      (Previous Issue November/December 2006) - (Next Issue February 2007)

JANUARY General Membership Meeting

Tuesday, January 23, 7:30 PM
Bellingham Public Library Lecture Room
Whats So Special About Boundary Bay?

Naturalist and author Anne Murray will present a slide show on the exceptionally rich birdlife and other animals found in and around Boundary Bay, an Important Bird Area that connects the coastline of southern British Columbia with northern Washington state. Boundary Bay, together with Roberts Bank and Sturgeon Bank, ranks number one among Canadas important bird sites, but is not widely recognized as a nature destination. Murrays new book, A Nature Guide to Boundary Bay, is the first comprehensive guide to this special area. The guide covers the range of species found here, bird migration, nocturnal nature, life in the intertidal, nature destinations, and much more. The presentation is illustrated with slides by Dr. David Blevins, an outstanding nature photographer who created the 170 illustrations for the guide. After the program, you will have an opportunity to purchase the book and have it signed by the author.

As always, meetings of the North Cascades Audubon Society are FREE and open to the public. Join us as we take a closer look at a local birding hotspot.

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Christmas Bird Count, A Holiday Tradition

Paul Woodcock

On December 17, 2006, 68 observers from around the Northwest, many of them Auduboners, tramped the woods and thickets, surveyed their neighborhoods, scanned bodies of water, cruised roadways, and watched bird feeders in and around Bellingham recording every bird heard or seen. They were taking part in a holiday tradition, the Bellingham Christmas Bird Count (CBC). This years count was more than just the usual eventit was the 40th Bellingham CBC. Terry Wahl and Jim Duemmel established the count in 1967, not only to mark the season but also to gather meaningful data on wintering bird populations.

The local count predates the founding of the North Cascades Audubon Society (NCAS) in 1970, but Audubon members have been involved from the beginning and have remained an integral part of the event throughout its four decades of existence. Terry Wahl has served as compiler since the beginning, recently with the assistance of Paul DeBruyn. Chapter Vice-President and Newsletter Editor Joe Meche coordinates the counters in the field, while Joan Bird coordinates the feeder counters. Geri Walker completes the CBC Committee. We owe them a debt of gratitude for their work in maintaining a smooth-running and successful count. This is a true community event supported by funding from NCAS and the efforts of our members.

For me, coming from a small Midwestern town with lots of traditions, Christmas was always a highlight of the year. I took part in my first CBC as an adolescent and soon the count became as much a part of the holidays as attending church and family gatherings. My brother and I often participated in several counts. I remember the thrill of challenging the back roads of the Nicolet National Forest, often in sub-zero temperatures, to find 17 species. But what wonderful species they were. There were Snow Buntings (often by the hundreds), Common Redpolls, Evening and Pine Grosbeaks. After moving to Bellingham in 1973, I took part in the local count until work and family obligations took me in other directions. Its good to be part of this event once again.

This year, about 50 of the days counters attended the post-count potluck dinner. Most were local but a few came from neighboring counties to the south and from lower British Columbia. It was a reunion of the Northwest birding community. All were rightfully tired but glowing from a day in the field, doing what they like to do best. Old friendships were renewed and new ones were made. After sharing food, the days sightings were totaled and discussed.

The CBC takes place in the spirit of the holidays. Its an opportunity to spend a day with nature and good friendsold and newwhile making a contribution to our community. This event can definitely bring a person closer to the original meaning of Christmas, as do many of the activities we find ourselves involved in during the holiday season. If we conduct our CBC with diligence, the contribution to the community is very real. It becomes citizen science at its best and is great fun at the same time. Make a resolution now to take part in 2007.

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Winter Field Trips

Dave Schmalz
NCAS Field Trip Chair

Wintertime provides some of our best bird watching opportunities of the year here in Whatcom County. Local marine waters are an important component of regionally, if not continentally significant winter habitat for tens of thousands of migratory waterfowl, seabirds, and shorebirds. Additionally, large numbers of eagles, hawks, falcons, and owls concentrate in the uplands immediately adjacent to and upstream from northwest Washingtons saltwater shorelines.

North Cascades Audubon Society (NCAS) offers a variety of trips this winter and each is designed for all levels of bird watching experience, from beginner to advanced. Outings emphasize discovery, wonder, education, and fun. All trips are open and FREE to members and non-members alike. Due to popularity, most trips require advance registration. For more information or to register for a trip, contact individual trip leaders listed below or NCAS Field Trips at 671-1537.

Please Note:
*Trips marked with an asterisk are led by North Cascades Audubon Society guides and are co-sponsored by Whatcom County Parks and Recreation.
**Trips marked with a double asterisk involve travel to Canada and therefore require a passport or birth certificate.

*Saturday, January 6. Semiahmoo Spit.

Half-day beach walk at one of Whatcom Countys most geographically stunning and biologically rich sites. Expect to see large numbers of waterfowl and seabirds, as well as shorebirds, eagles, and the possibility of falcons and owls. 9 AM. Trip Limit: Open-no registration required. Meet at Semiahmoo County Park. Trip Leader: Paul Woodcock, 380-3356.

Sunday, January 21. Bald Eagles of the Nooksack.

Half-day trip exploring winter concentration sites of Bald Eagles along the lower Nooksack River. Observation, age discrimination, behavior, and the natural history of one of our regions most emblematic species are the focus of this trip. 8:30 AM. Trip Limit: 10. Trip Leader: Dave Schmalz, 671-1537.

**Saturday, January 27. Reifel Island, British Columbia.

Full-day (half-day option) tour of one of our regions most spectacular and heralded wildlife sanctuaries. Highlights include abundant waterfowl, shorebirds, Snow Geese, Sandhill Cranes, eagles, owls, and almost certainly, a surprise or two. 8 AM. Trip Limit: 12. Trip Leader: Paul Woodcock, 380-3356.

*Saturday, February 3. Semiahmoo Spit.

Repeat of January 6 trip (see above for details).

Sunday February 4. The Magic Skagit.

Full-day trip (half- day option) to the avian wonderland of Fir Island and the lower Skagit River delta. Swans, Snow Geese, and owls highlight this annual spectacle of waterfowl, shorebirds, and birds of prey. One of our most popular trips. 8:30 AM. Trip Limit: 10. Trip Leader: Jeanie Johnson, 671-8886.

Sunday, February 11. Birds of the World at Woodland Park Zoo.

The Woodland Park Zoo maintains several aviaries replicating tropical, sub-tropical, and temperate habitats from around the world and is actively involved in conservation efforts related to numerous endangered species. Observe and learn about birds native to Central and South America, Africa, and Asia, including the Violaceous Turaco, Spectacled Mousebird, and the White-crested Laughing Thrush. Time: 8 AM. Trip Limit: 10. Trip Leader: Dave Schmalz, 671-1537.

Saturday, February 24. Samish Flats Birds of Prey.

Eagles, hawks, falcons, and owls are the focus of this full-day trip (half-day option). The Samish Flats support an unusual concentration of birds of prey in winter. Past trips have tallied over 100 individual raptors for the day! Time: 8 AM. Trip Limit: 12. Trip Leader: Paul Woodcock, 380-3356.

*Saturday, March 3. Semiahmoo Spit.

Repeat of January 6 trip (see above for details).

Though men now possess the power to dominate and exploit every corner of the natural world, nothing in that fact implies that they have the right or the need to do so.

Edward Abbey
Vox Clamantis in Deserto

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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 http://www.audubonathome.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 to-day 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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WA State Ferry CBC

From all reports, the weather cooperated with the counters on the state ferry CBC on December 16. Four observers located 34 species and 3,870 individual birds, as well as two mammal species and 42 individuals. The following species were recorded on the international run between Anacortes and Sidney, BC:

Red-throated LoonCommon Merganser
Pacific LoonRed-breasted Merganser
Common LoonHooded Merganser
Red-necked GrebeBonapartes Gull
Western GrebeMew Gull
Double-crested CormorantGlaucous-winged Gull
Brandts CormorantRing-billed Gull
Pelagic CormorantGreat Blue Heron
Common MurreBlack Oystercatcher
Rhinoceros AukletMerlin
Pigeon GuillemotBald Eagle
Ancient MurreletAmerican Crow
Marbled MurreletRock Pigeon
American Wigeon
Eurasian Wigeon
Long-tailed DuckMammals:
Surf ScoterHarbor Seal
White-winged ScoterNorthern Sea Lion
Common Goldeneye
Barrows Goldeneye

Many thanks to Clayton Snider for taking on the task of count leader at a late date, and to his wife, Linda, Sam Gardner, and Rae Edwards for lending their eyes and expertise to the cause. This count provides valuable data on many of the birds that might otherwise go unaccounted for in most of the land-based CBCs. Call and sign up now if youre interested in participating in 2007! Its never too early.

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Wanted: Membership Chair

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@comcast.net.

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New in 2006

A Nature Guide to Boundary Bay
by Anne Murray
with photographs by David Blevins

Boundary Bay is one of the top birding areas in North America, and together with Roberts Bank and Sturgeon Bank, it ranks as the number one Important Bird Area in Canada. This diverse coastal landscape links British Columbia with Washington and lies just 30 km south of Vancouver, BC.

In this comprehensive guide, you will learn about all aspects of nature in the Boundary Bay area, from great grey whales to delicate butterflies, from black bears to bugs. You will learn about the mystery of migration on the Pacific Flyway, a broad corridor followed by millions of shorebirds, waterfowl, and songbirds. You will also discover the world of nocturnal nature and the intricacies of life in the intertidal zone.

This wonderful and much anticipated guide includes a section on nature destinations and how to get to them, and is lavishly illustrated with color photographs taken especially for this book.

This guide is available in bookstores or you can order direct from Nature Guides B.C. by logging on to their web site at www.natureguidesbc.com.

Meet the Author

Join Anne Murray this month at the NCAS general membership meeting. For details on her program, see page 1. Enjoy a wonderful evening finding out whats so special about Boundary Bay. Youll have an opportunity to meet the author and purchase an autographed copy of her fascinating book.

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Bellingham Christmas Bird Count 2006

For complete results, please see http://www.northcascadesaudubon.org/php/index.php?birding,birdcount#b2006.

Five additional species recorded during Count Period: Black Oystercatcher, Surfbird, Western Screech Owl, Audubons Warbler, and Black-headed Grosbeak.

Many thanks to all who participated in this years effort from the Bellingham CBC Committee: Joan Bird, Paul DeBruyn, Ronna Loerch, Terry Wahl, Geri Walker, and Joe Meche.

Lets do it again in 2007!

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Bellingham CBC Adjunct

Additional notes from Terry Wahl:

People attending the summing-up at the [post count] potluck will note the absence here of three species seen. The White-fronted Geese are apparently tame, occurring all year round. The Mute Swan, though with wild swan flocks, is not accepted as wild in Washington and is regrettably not counted. And three Wild Turkeys, noted for some time locally are not officially wild, either. Maybe next year someone will report wild turkey babies. Appearing just before the count were Pine Grosbeaks, recorded now on nine of our counts. Among species with all-time high counts were dabbling ducks, Barred Owl, Annas Hummingbird, Downy and Pileated woodpeckers, Stellers Jay, raven, Brown Creeper, dipper, and White-throated Sparrow. As in recent years, a number of species, including Short-eared Owl, were noted in low numbers and murre, Marbled Murrelet, and Lapland Longspur did not appear and suggest changes in overall populations. Absent also were Red Crossbills and Evening Grosbeaks. Further comments on trends, possible explanations of apparent changes and problems of interpreting results due to habitat loss and other factors will come later on.

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Long-eared Owlin Downtown Bellingham

Joe Meche

Just after the big snow, I received a call reporting the sighting of a Great Horned Owl (GHOW) roosting in a tree above Whatcom Creek, just behind Construction Supply on York Street. A few weeks later, the photos arrived and the owl turned out to be a Long-eared Owl (LEOW).

While the GHOW would have been a good bird to add to our growing list of downtown birds, the LEOW would have been even better. But, an owl in the bush is.....well, you know the rest.

I sallied forth over the landscape while the snow was still around in search of the GHOW to no avail. After the photos arrived, I continued the search for the LEOW, hoping to add it to the list for the upcoming CBC, also to no avail.

The trails along Whatcom Creek hold a lot of potential for any number of good birds, so in your walkabouts in the downtown area, consider a creek side amble as part of you routine. You could do worse.

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From a Mountaintop

In the legends of the saints and prophets, either a desert or a mountain is pretty sure to figure. It is usually in the middle of one or on top of the other that their vision comes or a test is met. To give their messages to the world they come down or they come out, but it is almost invariably in solitude, either high or dry, that it is first revealed.

Moses and Zoroaster climbed up; Buddha sat down; Mohammed fled. Each in his own way had to separate himself from men before he could discover what it was that he had to say to mankind. In a wilderness, Jesus prepared himself for the mountaintop from which he would reject the world which Satan would offer. Loneliness is essential and loneliness, it would seem, is loneliest where the air is either thin or dry and nature herself does not riot too luxuriously. If Plato was satisfied with no more than a grove in Athens, that was because he was already halfway to the mere college professor.

Yesterday, when I stood on the peak and looked down at the arid emptiness, I felt on my shoulders an awful responsibility. Under such circumstances as these, said I to myself, other men have grown wise. Only a few before me have ever had the double advantage of mountain and desert. It is now or never. If THE ANSWER is even to be whispered into my willing ear, this should be the moment.

No awful presenceI hasten to addhanded me any tablets of the law. Neither did Satan appear to offer me the world, and if he had done so I might, for all I can really know, have taken him up. Yet it did seem that I saw something with unusual clearness and that I came down not quite empty-handed.

From where I stood there was no visible evidence that the Earth was inhabited. Like some astronomer peering through a telescope at the planet Mars, I could only say, It might be. It was thus the world might have looked at the end of the fifth day, and I found myself wondering whether the test of Genesis might not possibly be garbled; whether, perchance, it was really after the fifth, not after the sixth day, that God looked at His work and saw that it was good. Would not I, in His place, have stopped right there? Would I have risked the addition of a disturbing element? Was the world ever again so obviously good?

But Gods decisions are, by definition, wise, and presumably He knew what He was doing. Perhaps, as some have fancied, He wanted one more projection of Himself to contemplate. Perhaps, as the deists supposed, man is an essential link in that Great Chain of Being which stretches unbroken from the most imperfect up to perfection itself. But in any event, here we are! And here, too, are others, sometimes exasperatingly different. With ourselves and with others we must somehow deal. If one could stay on the mountaintop there would be no problem.

Joseph Wood Krutch

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