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November/December 2008 Issue (vol 39, number 8)
      (Previous Issue October 2008) - (Next Issue January 2009)

NOVEMBER General Membership Meeting

Tuesday, November 25, 7:00 PM
Bellingham Public Library Lecture Room
PROGRAM: Fins and Feathers

Lifelong county resident and local businessman Bob Moles will take us on a virtual tour of three very special places. Bob has made numerous trips to Christmas Island, just north of the equator in the Pacific Ocean, and the Katmai National Park in southwest Alaska. He has also traveled to Honduras nine times with a non-profit organization that is bringing clean drinking water to extremely poor communities in that country. Bob will share photos and stories of his travels in those exotic places, with an emphasis on ‘fins and feathers.’

Bob’s love of nature began at an early age, starting with his interest in observing birds and sketching them when he was seven years old. This early attraction to wildlife has been part of a lifelong pursuit of activities in the outdoors, and ultimately led him to his principal passion of fly fishing.

Join us for an entertaining evening of armchair travel, 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

So long, October

As you read this, my favorite month will have come and gone, but wasn’t it another great October? I’ve certainly seen a few but it sometimes seems that they just keep getting better. Crisp mornings with incredible light and startling colors assure us that summer’s heat — though not so bad in the fourth corner — is behind us. And as we make our way into November, can colder weather and even snow be far behind?

Another seasonal phenomenon is underway as well in the form of my favorite group of birds — waterfowl. Some of my earliest and longest-lasting memories of birds are about waterfowl so there’s reason for my attraction to these birds. Late fall in south Louisiana was always a time when the sights and sounds of hundreds of thousands of ducks and geese dominated the landscape. My hometown was an island in the middle of a sea of rice fields and these fields were the domain of wintering waterfowl. On clear, moonlit nights my brother and I would lie awake and listen to the magical sounds as flocks moved from field to field. On foggy nights, the geese would fly just above our house, seemingly lost but looking for a place to land.

While I might never again witness the incredible numbers of birds that I did back then, our corner of the Northwest provides good numbers of waterfowl to enjoy, including several varieties of sea ducks. Late fall, winter, and early spring provide the best opportunities to view the spectacle of large concentrations of waterfowl and shorebirds. In fact, the Drayton Harbor/Semiahmoo Bay area is the premier location for winter birding on the Cascade Loop of the Great Washington State Birding Trail.

And while I type these words, another seasonal phenomenon is occurring — the leaf blower rut! I can hear the males out in the early morning, roaring and bellowing as they stake out their respective territories. I can only wonder when rakes and brooms became extinct. Alas, the beat goes on!

This issue of the Avalanche spans the months of November and December, so look for its return in a new year — 2009! Can you believe it! From all of us at NCAS to all of you, savor the coming holiday season and stay in touch.


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NCAS 2008 Fall Field Trips

Paul Woodcock
Field Trip Chair

North Cascades Audubon 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. For more information or to suggest future field trips, call the field trip chair at 380-3356.

Here is our current roster of trips for November.

Saturday, November 8. Lake Terrell, Whatcom Wildlife Area.

This is a half-day trip co-sponsored by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Join us for an opportunity to look for resident and seasonal species at one of our best local birding locations. No registration required. Meeting place: Lake Terrell parking lot. *Remember that WDFW parking permits are required at Lake Terrell. Those who are interested in carpooling from another location, please contact Paul at 380-3356. Trip leaders: Paul Woodcock, and Jim Edwards of the Tennant Lake Interpretive Center.

Saturday, November 15. Cle Elum, Teanaway River Basin.

This will be a long day trip south on I-5 and east on I-90. Cle Elum and the Teanaway River are 25 miles east of Snoqualmie Pass. Drivers will be needed and carpoolers should share fuel costs. Target species include quail, Sooty and Ruffed Grouse, as well as introduced game birds. Also found in this area are woodpeckers, winter finches, White-breasted Nuthatches, and Mountain Chickadees. 7 AM. Trip limit: 12. Trip leader: Sam Gardner, 961-2887.

Sunday, November 16. An Urban Birdwalk. (*New)

This 2-4 hour morning walk will showcase the potential of birding within the downtown core, from the waterfront and along Whatcom Creek. This unique area is often overlooked and serves as a backyard for downtown residents. There can be a few surprising sightings along the way like Green Herons and Barred Owls. We’ll plan to meet in the courtyard, just north of the downtown Parkade on Commercial Street and depart at 10 AM. Parking is available and free in the mezzanine level of the Parkade. Trip limit: 8. Trip leader, Joe Meche, 739-5383.

Saturday, November 22. George Reifel Sanctuary, BC.

This will be a full-day trip to one of our favorite Northwest birding destinations. The Reifel sanctuary is located on Westham Island, west of Ladner, BC. Wintering songbirds, shorebirds, raptors, and particularly large concentrations of waterfowl will make this a memorable outing. 8 AM. Trip limit: 12. Trip leader: Paul Woodcock, 380-3356. Passport or birth certificate with photo ID required to cross the border into Canada.

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The Migrants

The tracks of birds we find in the sand, before they are covered or erased by wind or tide, belong to identifiable species, but where do they lead to? Tierra del Fuego, perhaps, or the Arctic Circle. Long distance migration, from birds to sea turtles, has long attracted our attention. Something about it not only compels a human mind looking for solutions but tempts our feelings and imaginations in still-untraveled directions across the reaches of the globe. For reasons of climatic and geographical change, or as a result of seasonal shifts in food resources, migration is a dynamic process. Animals, and for that matter plants, continually respond to the ceaseless motion of the planet. Long-distance migrants may follow the same routes for thousands of years, depending on the earth’s consistencies, its persistent, rhythmic behavior. Their time scale surpasses our immediate understanding of it. But to stand still is to know the enduring wind, to follow the light, and to sense the greater rhythms of arrival and departure in ourselves.

John D. Hay

bThe Great House of Birds

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A Golden Oldie

“Who killed Cock Robin?”

“I,” said the Sparrow,

“With my bow and arrow,

I killed Cock Robin.”

All the birds of the air fell a-sighing and a-sobbing

When they heard of the death of poor Cock Robin.

from Tom Thumb’s Pretty Song Book
circa 1744

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Burke Museum Events

Arctic Wings:

Miracle of Migration

Through December 18

A new environmental photography exhibit explores the phenomenon of bird migration to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a region that is environmentally crucial to the survival of over 190 bird species, yet is a hotbed for political controversy. Birds from across six continents and all 50 United States migrate to the refuge annually to take advantage of the 24-hour Arctic summer daylight and plentiful food sources.

This exhibit features over 30 photographs that capture the essence of the refuge and the birds that nest there.

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Bellingham Parks Volunteer Program Fall Work Parties 2008

Would you like to lend a hand or two and help restore some of Bellingham’s natural treasures and trails? Here’s a schedule of some of the opportunities you have to do just that, and more.

November 8, 10 AM-noon. Old Village Trail.

This old trail is continuing to improve. Come help plant and mulch along the trail running through the Lettered Streets Neighborhood.

November 15, 9 AM-noon. Padden Creek Trail at 6th St.

Help remove invasive plants and replace them with natives to improve wildlife habitat along the trail.

November 22, 9 AM-noon. Padden Creek at 24th Street.

Join us and NSEA as we help to improve riparian habitat along this salmon stream.

If you’d like to participate in any of these work parties, contact Bellingham Parks at 778-7105.

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Something from an Old Friend

Salmon and the Columbia

Recently I spent a weekend in central British Columbia and saw the sockeye salmon working their way up the Adams River north of Kamloops. Every four years there is a spectacular display as the sockeye change to brilliant red as they approach this final cycle in their lives. The thousands of sockeye made the river a deep red as they maneuvered over the rocks to the sandbars.

The next weekend I attended the State Conference of Audubon at Ellensburg and was reminded many times of the salmon I had seen. The conference focused on what has been happening to the great Columbia River. There are now only 50 miles of it not regulated by dams. According to one official of the National Marine Fisheries Service, the dams, which are equipped with fish ladders, downstream passage devices, or hatcheries, still kill from 20 to 90% of the fish at each dam. It is estimated that 75% of the wild runs that once made the Columbia the nation’s greatest salmon producer are now gone.

The hatcheries have now been called on to supply more of the Columbia’s salmon production as the wild runs have died out, but the hatchery fish are also hit by the large number of dam-related deaths. They die falling back from the ladders, going through the turbines, and by nitrogen supersaturation. It is a miracle that we still have some on our west coast, but I wonder for how long.

Barbara Smith
The Avalanche
November, 1978

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Rare creatures such as wolves, grizzlies, buffalo, trumpeter swans, giant sequoias, and the bristlecone pine still thrive in the special places we began setting aside for them more than a century ago. A new kind of foresight brought us Yosemite and Yellowstone. This was John Muir’s legacy, the American conservation movement. Large blocks of essentially primeval forest and land were put aside in the Adirondacks of New York, to be forever wild. Later, some vast reaches of essential habitat were protected through the Wilderness System.

Unfortunately, too much of what civilization has saved as wilderness has been called “wilderness on the rocks” — to be saved, the land was required to be of low commercial value. Too much was not saved because cities and suburbs crept out from the edges while their centers decayed.

Thoreau asked long ago, “What’s the use of a house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?” We have been overly enamored of that house and of human beings. We have forgotten the context, without which neither is possible.

Still, we have a fair idea of the beauty that surrounded people a century ago. What do we want the place to look like, and be home to, a century hence?

By setting a goal now, we have a chance to restore what we can of what was needlessly and thoughtlessly lost.

David Brower
Let the Mountains Talk, Let the Rivers Run

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Scudder Pond Stewards

Barry Ulman, chair of the Scudder Pond Stewardship Program, requests that all interested parties attend a meeting to discuss Scudder Pond issues and concerns, as well as establishing a monitoring program at the pond. This NCAS property is an urban gem and a great little “pocket preserve” adjacent to Whatcom Falls Park.

The meeting will take place on Wednesday, November 12, at 7:30 PM, at the Swan Café on the corner of Forest and Holly. For the uninitiated, the café is on the north end of the Community Food Co-op building.

Great Backyard Bird Count

Planning is already underway for the 2009 Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. Join tens of thousands of everyday bird watchers for the 12th Annual GBBC on February 13-16. This is a free event and an opportunity for families, students, and people of all ages to discover the wonders of nature in their own backyards, schoolyards, and local parks, and at the same time make an important contribution to conservation.

For more information or to register as a participant, visit the GBBC web site at http://www.birdcount.org.

Bellingham Christmas Bird Count
Sunday, December 14

Since 1967, local birdwatchers have been combing Whatcom County hill and dale in search of birds as part of the longest-running citizen science effort in the world — the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count (CBC). The CBC began in 1900 and to this day continues to add data tracking wintering bird populations.

If, like many of us, you’re always looking for a good reason to spend the day in the field looking for birds, here’s your chance. We usually run from sunup to sundown and those who are into owling often start early and stay late. At the end of the day, we’ll gather for the festive post-count potluck. It’s a great opportunity to extend the day with birds of a feather. The food is always great and the camaraderie is warm and cozy.

We try every year to get new people involved in the count, so if you’d like to take part in this effort, please contact Joe Meche at 739-5383 or e-mail him at mechejmch@aol.com.

NCAS Annual Christmas Potluck

As this edition of the Avalanche went to press, nothing had been finalized regarding this year’s Christmas Potluck. The Board of Directors, however, is scrambling to arrange a gathering and set a date, time, and location for the festivities.

We should have news to report at the November chapter meeting and we will also post a notice on the chapter web site. Keep an eye and an ear on those two for breaking news. As soon as we know, you can begin making plans to join us.

If you have any questions or suggestions, call Joe Meche at 739-5383 or e-mail him at mechejmch@aol.com.

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NCAS 2009 Program Schedule

The NCAS Programs Committee has been busy lining up programs to amaze and entertain the faithful and the schedule is complete, all the way through May of 2009. The following programs are on tap for next year and sound really exciting from here.


Trekking in Nepal with Alan Fritzberg.


Touring with Nate Chapelle in Namibia and Thailand.


Barb Jensen from San Juan Island Audubon will tell us all about their Western Bluebird relocation program.


Frances Wood will discuss Whidbey Audubon’s Pigeon Guillemot Study.


Travel to the high Arctic with Judy Krieger.

Details for all these programs will be available in the newsletter for their respective months. As always, chapter meetings are held on the fourth Tuesday of each month. Mark your calendars now and join us.

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Conservation News

Habitat Restoration on the South Fork Nooksack River
K. Neumeyer
Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission News

This summer, both the Nooksack Tribe and the Lummi Nation continued their efforts to restore degraded habitat on the South Fork of the Nooksack River, where the native spring Chinook population is dangerously close to extinction.

Over the years, the loss of streamside vegetation has removed shade and reduced in-river woody debris. Water that is too warm can reduce survival of salmon eggs and can also result in disease or death.

In separate projects, the tribes constructed multiple logjams to scour sheltered deep pools and improve the spawning, rearing, and holding habitat for salmon.

In the South Fork near Todd Creek, the Nooksack Tribe used a crane to drive pilings and an excavator to place logs for eight logjams. The crane worked between the existing riparian trees, reducing the need to remove them during the project.

The Lummi Nation used existing wood and helicoptered in additional logs to build eight jams in Nesset’s Reach. By using helicopters, the tribe minimized the environmental impact, because it didn’t have to build roads to bring in wood by truck.

Deep pools with cover are the preferred holding habitat for Chinook salmon. The goal is for the logjams to create this habitat in waters that are cooler, either because they are downstream from the confluence of a tributary or in areas influenced by groundwater.

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NSEA Fall Work Parties

The Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association is a community-based nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring sustainable wild salmon runs to Whatcom County. Consider joining in the effort on some of the work parties scheduled for this fall.

November 8, 9AM-Noon

Scott Creek

November 15, 9AM-Noon

Squalicum Creek

November 22, 9AM-Noon

Padden Creek

December 6, 9AM-Noon

Whatcom Creek

For more information or to sign up for these work parties, call 715-0283 or visit http://www.n-sea.org.

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