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May 2008 Issue (vol 39, number 5)
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MAY General Membership Meeting

Tuesday, May 27, 7:00 PM
Bellingham Public Library Lecture Room
PROGRAM: TBA

Due to extenuating circumstances beyond our control, our May program information has been delayed. Keep in mind that we will have a program to enthuse and enlighten those in attendance. We could bill it as a “mystery program” but that would be unfair. Just know that you will be entertained and the trip you make to attend the monthly General Membership Meeting will have been more than worthwhile....yadda, yadda, yadda. We apologize for the inconvenience and encourage you to log on to our web site for full information about the May program which will be posted there as soon as it’s available to us.

Join us on a fine spring 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. We’ll save a seat for you and treats and hot beverages will be available

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From the President: A Spring Farewell

Here we are, again, on the verge of summer and the end to another Audubon year. We’ve been meeting on a regular basis in a variety of venues since last September and now it’s time for a break. Keep in mind, however, that the only ‘break’ is the short vacation from monthly chapter meetings until September. We still have field trips scheduled into mid-June and the NCAS Board of Directors will meet throughout the summer to plan for next year.

We always have plenty to do to come up with new ideas to entertain the troops. And keep in mind that you are the ‘troops’ we wish to entertain. Keep in mind, also, that this is your chapter and we’re here to listen to any ideas that you might have to make this well-oiled machine run as well as it can. Don’t be shy and consider this an invitation to bombard us with your thoughts, by mail, e-mail, or by phone. Technology affords us a number of ways to communicate with each other so there should be no excuse.

Before we get too carried away, May is also time to look at the slate of officers that have been nominated to carry us into 2009 — seems so far away, doesn’t it? As of this writing, the following individuals have been nominated by the NCAS Nominating Committee to fill the respective positions for 2008-09:

Joe Meche President

Paul Woodcock Vice President

Christine Smith Secretary

OPEN Treasurer

Nominations for these positions are open, so if you have a name you’d like to add to this list, feel free to do so. Officers will be officially voted in at the May General Membership Meeting on May 27. Join us to enjoy the festivities.

At the recent Audubon Council of Washington, attended by Paul Woodcock, Steve Irving, and yours truly, the theme was “Hatching Solutions for Global Warming.” The threat of global warming is real and the speakers over the weekend knew that they were preaching to the converted, but their words were powerful. There’s always the idea that individuals can’t do much to fight something as large as the problems we face with climate change.

Contrary to that premise is the idea that we all can do our part and take steps on our own, no matter how insignificant they might seem to us. We were all told that to take down a brick wall — metaphorically — it’s best to remove one brick at a time, as opposed to trying to take down the entire wall at once. Small steps in a united effort toward a common goal yield results. Let’s work together and contact our legislators to get busy. This country’s in a serious mess right now and we have to find a way to move forward.

Enjoy the summer, and we’ll see you in September!

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Scudder Pond Stewardship Meeting

Barry Ulman, Chair of the Scudder Pond Stewardship Program, has requested that all Scudder Pond volunteers and/or interested parties gather for a meeting on Wednesday, May 14, at 7:30 PM, in the food court at the Swan Café. The café is located on the north end of the Community Food Co-op Building on the corner of Holly and Forest.

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South of the Border

If you’d like to get together to join in a discussion/rap about “way south” and regional field trips, send an e-mail to Jeff Borsecnik at jeffborsecnik@msn.com.

This will be an informal gathering at a location to be determined to meet with other birders to share experiences or tap into resources about either of the following bird/nature trip topics:

•Mexico, Central America, and other far-off destinations.

•Long-weekend shared/coordinated trips in the Pacific Northwest.

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Speak Out For Rivers

5th Annual River Action Day
Many Rivers, One Voice
June 17-18, 2008

River Action Day is your chance to join river advocates from across the country in the nation’s capital to hold your decision makers in Congress accountable for protecting rivers you love.

This year’s River Action Day is particularly special because it coincides with the 40th Anniversary Celebration of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. American Rivers is hosting a gala event at the U.S. Botanical Garden on the evening of June 18. All River Day participants are invited to celebrate this momentous occasion with us.

There’s no charge to participate. American Rivers will cover the cost of three nights’ hotel (June 16-18) expenses and some meals for all River Action Day participants.

For info, e-mail jklein@americanrivers.org

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A Hunter’s Poem

A hunter shot at a flock of geese that flew within his reach.
Two were stopped in their rapid flight, and fell on the sandy beach.
The male bird lay at the water’s edge, and just before he died,
He faintly called to his wounded mate, and she dragged herself to his side.
She bent her head and crooned to him, in a way distressed and wild,
Caressing her one and only mate, as a mother would a child.
Then covering him with her broken wing, and gasping with failing breath,
She laid her head against his breast, a feeble honk...then death.
This story is true, though crudely told. I was the man in this case.
I stood knee-deep in snow and cold, and the hot tears burned my face.
I buried the birds in the sand where they lay, wrapped in my hunting coat.
And I threw my gun and belt in the bay, when I crossed in my open boat.
Hunters will call me a right poor sport, and scoff at the thing I did,
But that day something broke in my heart, and shoot again? God forbid.

Submitted by
Lois Garlick

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Birdathon 2008

It’s time again for us to offer you a great reason (excuse) to get out of the house and just go birding for 24 hours straight. Join in the fun and pick any 24-hour period during the month of May to participate in the annual fundraiser for NCAS.

The rules are simple: put together a team or opt to compete alone; get pledges from friends, family, and co-workers to support your effort (some choose to contribute a flat fee while others might offer a certain amount per species observed); go out and bird for 24 hours and keep track of species only. You could amass a total high enough to unseat last year’s winner, Team Timberdoodle.

As of this writing, only two teams have come forward to sign in, but the entire month of May is open to you. If you’re interested in participating, contact Joe Meche at mechejmch@aol.com. You can also reach him by phone during the day at 739-5383.

It’s a lot of fun and it’s a great way to fund ongoing NCAS programs throughout the year.

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NCAS Spring Field Trips

Paul Woodcock

Spring is here and it’s my favorite birding season of the year. With spring comes the promise of small, brightly-colored birds from the tropics. These birds travel hundreds, even thousands of miles to spend a few months and raise their young where we live. They bring with them their beautiful songs and exciting identification challenges. We have planned an excellent set of field trips to outstanding local birding habitats. Join us to search for warblers, vireos, tanagers, flycatchers, and other resident and migratory species.

Saturday, May 3. Semiahmoo Spit.

Enjoy a half-day trip to some of Whatcom County’s 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 is 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, May 18. Spring Songbirds.

This is a full-day trip (half-day option) exploring a variety of habitat types around Lake Padden with an emphasis on identifying birds by their songs and calls. This trip is suitable for all levels of experience. Special guest leader, George Heleker, has an exceptional ear for our local avian friends. 8 AM. Trip limit: 10. Trip leaders: George Heleker and Dave Schmalz, 671-1537.

Sunday, May 18. Birds on Bikes.

This trip has been rescheduled to accommodate the folks we might have missed on the first time around. We’ll bike from Fairhaven, along the shoreline of Bellingham Bay, to Little Squalicum Beach on the north side of the bay. After a break at Little Squalicum, we’ll return to our starting point. Of course, we’ll make numerous stops along the way to look for birds.

9 AM. Trip limit: 12. Trip leader: Joe Meche, 739-5383.

Saturday, May 24. Tennant Lake-Nooksack River Delta.

On this full-day trip, we will cover the diverse habitats of Tennant Lake and the adjacent Nooksack River south as far as Marine Drive. At this time of year, the Tennant Lake boardwalk is a trip in itself. But we will go on to explore the open meadows, forests, and riverine habitats of the surrounding area which, at this time of year, feature warblers, vireos, grosbeaks, tanagers, swallows, wrens, and raptors, among other species. 8 AM. Trip limit: 12. Trip leader: Paul Woodcock, 380-3356.

Saturday, May 31. Chuckanut Songbirds.

This full-day trip (half-day option) will explore the south Chuckanut Mountains in search Neotropical songbirds with an emphasis on local breeding bird songs and calls. Special guest leader, George Heleker, has spent the past decade chronicling (often by ear) the abundance and diversity of breeding song

bird populations in this scenic wonderland. This trip is suitable for all levels of experience. 8 AM. Trip limit: 10. Trip leaders: George Heleker and Dave Schmalz, 671-1537.

Saturday, June 7. Semiahmoo Spit.

This is a repeat of the May 3 trip.

Sunday, June 8. Woodland Park Zoo.

Enjoy a full-day adventure featuring “close-up” encounters with both local and exotic avian species from around the world. Woodland Park hosts an amazing array of global bird species and is an important partner and participant in captive breeding programs critical to the survival and conservation of endangered species worldwide. 8 AM. Trip limit: 10. Trip leader: Dave Schmalz, 671-1537.

Saturday, June 14. Beginning Birding.

This half-day trip will cover the history, basic skills, and tools of birdwatching, including field guides, optics, methods of identification, and local birding hotspots. After the indoor session, we’ll spend a few hours in the field practicing our skills. 8:30 AM. Trip limit: 10. Trip leader: Paul Woodcock, 380-3356.

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Ed Continues to Speak

“The Deserto in the title, therefore, denotes not the regions of dry climate and low rainfall on our pillaged planet but, rather, the arid wastes of our contemporary techno-industrial greed-and-power culture; not the clean outback lands of sand, rock, cactus, buzzard, and scorpion, but, rather, the barren neon wilderness and asphalt jungle of the modern urbanized nightmare in which New Age man, eyes hooded, ears plugged, nerves drugged, cannot even get a good night’s sleep. While the grumbling, eccentric Vox, though isolated, may speak—I suspect—for the desperations and aspirations of many. Of very many, deprived by circumstances of the opportunity to speak for themselves. Where the means of communication fall within control of a tightly centralized monopoly, free speech becomes a meaningless gesture, a useless privilege. When and if the opportunity does come, one must make the most of it or betray both thy neighbors and thyself.”

From Edward Abbey’s Introduction
Vox Clamantis Deserto
March 3, 1989

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Reconveyance: Part IV

Tom Pratum

In the past two months significant developments have taken place in the continuing saga of the proposal to reconvey approximately 8,400 acres of Forest Board trust land (7,400 acres inside the Lake Whatcom watershed, and 1,000 acres outside) to Whatcom County. On February 26 a memorandum of agreement (MOA) was presented to the county council by the county administration and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

In an effort to pry open what had been very much a closed process, a public records request was made to the DNR in late February (it is indeed sad to feel the need to make a public records request to a state agency to find out what your county government is up to). As a result of this request a number of interesting things were discovered, such as:

• As late as early February, county officials were claiming that they were trying to defer two watershed timber sales (White Chantrelle on Stewart Mt. and Look North on Lookout Mt.), while the record indicates that, in early January, they told the DNR they no longer opposed the sales going forward.

• Up until early April, county officials claimed reconveyance would result in county acquisition of 13 lots (38 acres) of non-forestry watershed DNR land near Strawberry Point. However, the DNR indicated in early January that this was not possible, and county acquisition of this land appears nowhere in the MOA mentioned previously.

The MOA was given a 60 day comment period, meaning that it would presumably be a done deal by the time you read this. However, in late January the county administration asked the DNR to add time for a “stakeholder review” panel to be added to the agreement. Our chapter had asked for such citizen review formally in early January. County administrators waited over 30 days after presentation of the MOA to act on the appointment of the panel, and have now indicated that the agreement will not be ready for approval or rejection by the council until at least late June.

Even though the composition of the review panel is highly suspect — containing some of the proposal’s primary cheerleaders but none of its critics — any public review should be a good thing. While not a whole lot can be expected, it is hoped that at least the following questions are addressed:

• How much will this cost, in terms of lost revenue and ongoing maintenance, and how will the county pay for it in what is looking to be a tough time for the county budget? Can this be done without “robbing Peter to pay Paul?”

• How will it be ensured that no additional harm will be done to the watershed as a result of having a large, regional park within its boundaries? Shouldn’t a conservation easement, such as those present on other county-managed land (e.g. Canyon Lake Community Forest), be required?

Stay tuned, as we certainly haven’t heard the last of the surprises with regard to this huge land use issue.

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Good News!

Nearly six years after it was first introduced, a bill to create a Wild Sky Wilderness 90 minutes northeast of Seattle has cleared Congress, another step toward the first new wilderness in Washington state in nearly a quarter-century.

The bill designates 167 square miles in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest north of Sultan as federal wilderness, the government’s highest level of protection.

The Wild Sky section of the bill was proposed by Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Rick Larsen, both D-Wash. Named for the Skykomish River, Wild Sky covers some 106,000 acres of low-elevation old-growth forest. A wilderness designation would block development and other economic activity in an area north of U.S. Highway 2 that includes habitat for bears, Bald Eagles, and other wildlife, as well as streams, hiking trails, and other recreation.

From the Associated Press

Editor’s note: As of this printing, the bill must still be signed by the president, who has not yet taken a position. So, let’s keep our fingers crossed.

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Serpentine Wildlife Area

Lila Emmer

On April 12, our first day of summer (although, looking out the window and at the thermometer as I’m typing this, I was apparently hallucinating), Sam Gardner led 10 hopeful birders up across the USA/Canadian border into the Serpentine Wildlife Area. Since this writer has never been to this specific refuge, but always seen the sign and wondered as she drove north on 99, “how in the world do I access this site?” Trust me, it is easy — simply exit on King George Highway and turn left into the parking lot immediately following 44th Avenue.

We took several cars, scopes, lunch, and fortunately — sun tan lotion. It was a glorious and increasingly warm day as we wandered the trails along the water. This is a trip for the gentle walker. The only elevation is to climb one of the three towers for better viewing. But this time of year, the multitude of birds and the lone mammal, are easily viewed from the flat trails.

For others, domestic pets are clearly welcome in the refuge, and I was happy to see so many people exercising with their dogs - leashed and not leashed — big dogs and little dogs - fancy breeds and not so fancy breeds. However, I was stunned at what I deem irresponsible pet owners who have not a clue as to “trail etiquette.” The amount of dog poop (remember I said “big dogs”) was incredible. This was not the occasional “accident.” This is clearly a case of people who are apparently are unaware of their environment and how their lack of caring, affects the rest of us. The dog owners seemingly don’t care about the degradation of the water from the runoff.

The refuge is particularly fun because of the varied landscape — the river, the brackish waterways, brackish and freshwater marshes, and protected meadows. And, we were lucky, as we witnessed at least 48 species of birds and ducks as well as a singular harbor seal in the Serpentine River, observing us observing it. From one of the viewing towers, we were able to observe a great blue heron, frozen in attack position for what seemed an eternity; suddenly stabbing into the puddle in the mudflat and retrieving something large and very wiggly. From the same tower, we enjoyed a Canada Goose, head tucked under the wing, on a nest in the mudflat. I wondered about a future heavy rain and rising waters but, at that moment, the goose appeared content.

There were too many birds and ducks to name them all, but there were (for me) standouts. Of course, the Marsh Wrens were singing their song. And again from the tower, we watched the wrens snatching fuzz off an available cattail and carrying it over to the nest that we could not see in the dried grasses. On one of the trails, we enjoyed a Bushtit traveling back and forth from a branch to her intricately designed hanging nest — someone said the nest reminded them of an old sock.

And because some of our participants were talented in bird song identification, we followed the song and eventually located Yellow-rumped Warblers and Common Yellowthroats. Our state bird, the American Goldfinch, was also magnificent in the sun, high in the tree (again viewed from the tower); yet another highlight was the shining colors of the Green-winged Teal snorkeling/snuffling in the mud. The iridescent green on their heads at times appeared (at least to me) as blue/purple. And even the Ring-necked Ducks deserve a thank you.

In summary, the day was a huge success. The egg yolk yellow of the warblers and goldfinch, the iridescent green of the ducks, and even the momentary shock of seeing a seal on an inland birding trip, made for an (almost) perfect day of birding — thanks to the organization of Paul Woodcock, VP of NCAS, and Sam Gardner, avid trip leader.

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Robin

How admirable the constitution and temper of this cheery, graceful bird, keeping glad heath over so vast and varied a range. In all America he is at home, flying from plains to mountains, up and down, north and south, away and back, with the seasons and supply of food. Oftentimes in the High Sierras, as you wander through the solemn woods, awe-stricken and silent, you will hear the reassuring voice of this fellow wanderer ringing out sweet and clear as if saying, “Fear not, fear not. Only love is here.” In the severest solitudes he seems as happy as in gardens and apple orchards.

John Muir
Among the Birds of Yosemite
1898

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