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January 2008 Issue (vol 39, number 1)
      (Previous Issue November/December 2007) - (Next Issue February 2008)

JANUARY General Membership Meeting

Tuesday, January 22, 7:00 PM
Bellingham Public Library Lecture Room
PROGRAM: In Search of the Ivory-bill

Mark VanderVen spent five months in the Florida Panhandle searching for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker in winter/spring of 2007. Mark will present photographs of the swamp and forest ecology of northern Florida and perhaps offer some insight into a controversial issue that many birders are still trying to wrap their brains around.

Mark is an adjunct faculty member at Western Washington University and teaches a course on the natural history of Birds of the Pacific Northwest. He is a five-year resident of Bellingham and a lifelong birder. He is also involved in the Fairhaven College marine bird census.

Join us for an intriguing evening and remember that meetings of the North Cascades Audubon Society are FREE and open to the public. Invite a couple of friends to join you.

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From the President

As we stand on the annual precipice to say goodbye to the old year and greet the new, its time to reflect and say thanks to some of the people behind the scenes. The current Board of Directors is as cohesive a unit as I have seen and most perform their duties behind the scenes and rarely receive the praise they deserve. But lets take time here to heap a little praise.

Beginning with two of our primary officers, Lila Emmer and Diane Birsner cheerfully labor to produce splendid reports in their respective roles for each and every board meeting, and its important that all chapter members are aware of the professional quality of their work.

Helene Irving has completed her first full year as Programs Chair and what a great job she has done! Under her tutelage our monthly programs have taken us to exciting parts of the world, from Africa to the Arctic and from Central and South America to Hawaii. The programs have ranged from purely entertaining to addressing pressing issues like conservation and global warming. In complement, Steve Irving, Helenes husband, works like a demon on a variety of conservation topics and always finds time as Hospitality Chair to make sure that the monthly meetings are set up on time with libations and treats on hand for all.

If youve had occasion to visit the NCAS web site, youve probably noticed how good it looks! Our own webmaster, Tom Pratum, has created a gem of a site and keeps it current with all the conservation-related activities that he works on tirelessly as a member of the Conservation Committee.

Paul Woodcock ended his splendid three-year run as President and continues as second in command with the added chore of Field Trips Chair. Rae Edwards is our Education Chair and the closest thing Ive seen to a human dynamo. Her energy could power a small village! Bill McCarter has gained substantial control of the chapters membership rolls and even makes it all look very easy. Christine Smith provides a solid presence as the wildlife and rehab specialist on our Conservation Committee.

All of these board members work tirelessly on a variety of items above and beyond the call of their respective roles. Im currently steering the ship but its these crew members who keep it afloat. Add to this list our superb two-person mailing crew of Alan and Susan Rhodes. I hope I remembered everyone, lest we spring a leak.

Something to consider as we look forward to a new calendar year is how any of you might join our ranks and lend a hand on the inside. We always have room for energetic and motivated individuals to come up with creative roles that you might play. Long-time chapter member Barry Ulman will take over as the head of the Scudder Pond Stewardship Program this year, and we welcome him onboard.

Im beginning to sound a little too nautical here so Ill close by wishing you all the best that the New Year has to offer. Take care of yourselves and stay in touch. Were here for you.

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Bellingham CBC

Dec. 16, 2007

Thanks to all who participated. It was a good count and the potluck was superb! Well do it again next year, so start plan-ning now.

See our brid count page for the results:


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Hawkwatching in Northwest Washington

Classes at the Whatcom Museum

Bud Anderson, of the Falcon Research Group, is a national expert in raptor identification and behavior. His five-class series, which includes a field trip, is the leading raptor class in Washington. This class is a true experience-of-a-lifetime for those interested in bird natural history, as well as for those who wish to learn more about identification in the field.

Buds knowledge is deep and his teaching style eloquent. He brings a strong enthusiasm and caring to his descriptions and stories about raptors and their lives. This class is a great way to liven up the dreary winter months.

The all-day field trip will bring many sightings. At times it might include seeing all five species of falcons as well as eagles, harriers, and several species of accipiters and buteos. Field trips are offered on several weekends during the run of the class.

The classes will take place on Tuesdays, February 5, 12, 19, and 26, as well as on March 4, from 7 to 9 PM. The cost of the series, including the field trip, is $125 for museum mem- bers and $135 for non-members.

To register for this exciting class, call Richard Vanderway at the Whatcom Museum at 676-6981, ext. 219.

Rapacious birds, or those which subsist chiefly on flesh, are much less numerous than ravenous quadrupeds; and it seems wisely provided by nature, that their powers should be equally confined and limited as their numbers; for if, to the rapid flight and penetrating eye of the eagle, were joined the strength and voracious appetite of the lion, the tiger, or the glutton, no artifice would evade the one, and no speed could escape the other.

Thomas Bewick
The History of English Birds

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NCAS Winter Field Trips

Paul Woodcock

If you are new to Whatcom County, or just have not gotten out much in winter, you might feel as I did years ago. Winter is a time to sit by the fire listening to the rain on the roof and dreaming of spring warbler migration or Rufous Motmots and their environs. Winter may well be Whatcom Countys finest birding season. Our marine environment offers habitat for thousands of Trumpeter Swans, Snow Geese, and other waterfowl, as well as hundreds of raptors. And there is so much more to find for those who take the time to look. All of you birders who already know this to be true are welcome to come along also!

NCAS field trips are open to chapter members and non-members alike and are FREE of charge. We limit the number of participants for most of our trips in order to reduce environmental impact and to assure a quality experience. Therefore, advance registration is usually required.

If you have feedback or suggestions concerning field trips or would like to lead a trip, please contact me by e-mail at vp@northcascadesaudubon.org or by phone at 380-3356. It is our aim to provide a positive birding experience for all.

Here is our winter field trip calendar. Please check next months issue of The Avalanche as more trips may be added.

Saturday, January 5. Semiahmoo Spit.

Enjoy a half-day trip to some of Whatcom Countys most scenic and biologically rich shorelines on Semiahmoo Bay and Drayton Harbor. We will view large numbers of seabirds, waterfowl, and shorebirds as well as raptors and songbirds. No registration required. Meet at Semiahmoo County Park at 9 AM. Trip leader: Paul Woodcock. This trip is sponsored by Whatcom County Parks with NCAS leadership.

Sunday, January 13. Boundary Bay, British Columbia.

This will be a full-day tour (half-day option) to explore the diversity and spectacle of one of our regions premier birding locations. The trip will cover critical, continentally-significant winter habitat for seabirds, shorebirds, waterfowl, and raptors just across the Canadian border from Whatcom County. 8 AM. Trip limit: 10. Trip Leader: Dave Schmalz, 671-1537. Passport or birth certificate with photo ID required. *This trip is rescheduled from December 2. Previously registered participants will have priority.

Saturday, January 26. Beyond Boundary Bay.

We will be heading back to B.C. as all of us deserve a chance to get up there this winter. This will be a full-day trip to observe wintering shorebirds, waterfowl, raptors, and songbirds along the entire length of the Boundary Bay shoreline, from White Rock to Point Roberts. Gyrfalcons, a Prairie Falcon, and American Tree Sparrows have been sighted along the Boundary Bay dike already this winter. 8 AM. Trip limit: 12. Trip leader: Paul Woodcock, 380-3356. Passport or birth certificate with photo ID required.

Sunday, January 27. Bald Eagles of the Nooksack.

This is a half-day trip that will explore winter concentration sites of Bald Eagles along the Nooksack River. This field experience will focus on observation, age discrimination, behavior, and natural history of one of our regions most emblematic species. 8:30 AM. Trip limit: 10. Trip leader: Dave Schmalz, 671-1537.

Saturday, February 2. Semiahmoo Spit.

This is a repeat of the January 5 trip. Same details.

Sunday, February 10. The Magic Skagit.

This is a 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. This trip always fills up so call early. 8:30 AM. Trip limit: 10. Trip leader: Jeanie Johnson, 671-8886.

Sunday, February 17. Marine Park, Blaine.

This will be a half-day walking tourapproximately one mileviewing a veritable outdoor classroom for the study of waterfowl, seabirds, and shorebirds. Shallow, mid-depth, and deep-water habitats, often patrolled by eagles and other raptors, are easily seen. Enjoy a morning walk with great birdwatching and learn about some of the amazing adaptations of our avian friends. 8:30 AM. Trip limit: 12. Trip leader: Dave Schmalz, 671-1537.

Saturday, March 8. George Reifel Sanctuary, B.C.

No birders winter is complete without a trip to the Reifel sanctuary near Ladner, B.C. This will be a full-day trip to one of our areas most spectacular wildlife refuges. Habitat diversity is part of the magic of Reifel. Large concentrations of dabbling ducks and Snow Geese are complemented by Sand- hill Cranes, shorebirds, owls, and other raptors. Woodland birds, possibly including some of our northern, nomadic species, are also present. 8 AM. Trip limit: 12. Trip leader: Paul Woodcock, 380-3356.

**Border crossing requirements are about to change! After January 31, 2008, you might be required to have a passport in hand to cross the border into Canada.

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A Thank You to Our Field Trip Leaders

I am deeply grateful to Dave Schmalz and Paul Woodcock for their inspiring leadership on field trips. My adventure into birding has been a magnificent experience because of Paul and Daves ongoing dedication, expertise, and contagious enthusiasm. My good friend and fellow birder, Joanne Allison, shares my appreciation. We often remark how these field trips are a special opportunity to enjoy nature, hone our birding skills, and have fun with a great group of people! I also appreciate Joe Meches efforts as birding programs coordinator and all the officers and committee chairs that keep this Audubon chapter ticking. Thanks you so much!

Pam Champagne

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Washington State Ferry CBC 2007

According to the count leader, Clayton Snider, the annual CBC on the Washington State Ferry international run between Anacortes and Sidney, BC, was enjoyable. This report was despite the drizzle/rain that forced him and his fellow team members to the uppermost, enclosed deck of the ferry.

Joining Clayton on the count were his wife, Linda, Rae Edwards, and Sam Gardner. The following is a list of the species they observed on their passage:

See our brid count page for the results:

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NCAS Spring Field Trip to Dungeness Spit

As with any good field tripor trip of any sort for that mattera good plan is essential. We are still in the early planning stages for a weekend field trip to the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge/Dungeness Spit Recreation Area, sometime in May. The plan is to spend at least one night at the Clallam County Park that overlooks the spit. The park has a group campground and should provide a good base for as many participants as we can muster. So far, we have about a dozen people signed on to make the journey.

Paul Woodcock and I will be on hand to lead one or two excursions onto the spit and also spend some time at the Dungeness River Audubon Center. Both destinations should be super in May with lots of good birds and the good weather that is the norm around the Sequim area.

Further announcements will be made at future chapter meetings to add to the roster and begin planning on the logistics of carpooling, camping, etc. It is possible that you can participate in the field trips and stay in one of the many motels nearby, if youd rather not rough it.

E-mail Paul at paulwoodcock@comcast.net or phone him at 380-3356. Im available at mechejmch@aol.com or by phone at 739-5383. Let us hear from you.

**We will keep you posted as to the situation with the ferry between Keystone and Port Townsend.

How winter emphasizes the movements of wild life! The snow and the cold are the white paper upon which the print is revealed. A track of a mouse, a squirrel, or a fox shows us at a glance how the warm pulse of life defies the embargo of winter. From cracks and rents in the frigid zone which creep down upon us at this season there issue tiny jets of warm life which play about here and there as if in the heyday of summer. The woods snap and explode with the frost, the ground is choked with snow, no sign of food is there for bird or beast, and yet there are these tiny bundles of cheer and contentment in feathersthe chickadees, the nuthatches, and their fellows.

John Burroughs
Birds and Bees

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Lake Whatcom Reconveyance Coming Soon To Your County

Tom Pratum, Conservation Committee

Over the past 18 months I have periodically mentioned the possibility that some or all of the Forest Board Transfer land in the Lake Whatcom watershed may be reconveyed to Whatcom County for parks purposes. It is quite possible that, by the time you read this, there will have been a formal announcement.

In early December I had the opportunity to see the results of a public document request to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) regarding this issue. From what I saw, it is apparent that despite the lack of any significant announcement from the county there has been a relatively well-formulated plan in existence since at least June 2007. One has to wonder what all of the secrecy has been about.

This plan involves an inter-grant transfer of about 2600 acres from the county to the DNR, and 2400 acres from the DNR to the county, to yield about 8300 acres to be reconveyed. A map showing the countys proposal was presented to the county council on November 7 and can be seen at

Having a new 8,300 acre park will be great addition to the county, and I expect this plan is likely to be adopted. But this park happens to be in a rapidly deteriorating drinking watershed, and my concerns regarding the transfer remain:

It is impossible to know what the cost of this park will be in terms of management and lost revenue, but it is likely to be very substantial. These costs need to be viewed in light of the paltry sum the county currently spends on Lake Whatcom management. Could this money not be spent more wisely to protect the watershed?

This, or a future county administration will have the opportunity to harvest timber on this land once it is reconveyed, and that harvest will not be protected by the current Lake Whatcom Landscape Plan.

Having a park in the watershed is very likely to make the remaining private land more desirable for residential development. I think one example to look at is how Bridal Trails State Park near Bellevue affects the property values nearby. This will make it much more difficult to protect this private land through public acquisition.

This is billed as a regional park, which will likely result in severe transportation impacts to the watershed as it draws visitors from outside Whatcom County into the watershed on Lake Whatcom Boulevard and North Shore Road.

Assuming this plan is adopted, I hope the county will immediately convene a committee of citizens and stakeholders to discuss the management of the area. Such a group should have been established well before now, but it is not entirely too late.

We await further news, and updates to this proposal are most certainly coming.

For more information, see our reconveyance information page.

We need wildness to protect us from ourselves. We need wilderness to buffer this dark lost-gyroscopic tumble that democracy, top-heavy with big business and leaning precariously over rot, has entered. Were an adolescent country, a tough, macho, posturing Madison Avenue sleek-jawed Marlboro Mans caricature of strength.

We need the strength of lilies, ferns, mosses, and mayflies. We need the masculinity of ponds and rivers, the femininity of stone, the wisdom of quietness, if not silence.

Every day in the West is big industrys Rip-Off Day. Theyre stripping public resources, public lands, faster than they can recover, and theyre stripping away mystery.

Where is wilderness going? What happens to us when it is gone? Are we richer when this happensare we more secure?

Will we know more joy, more peace?

Rick Bass
The Book of Yaak

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