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January 2009 Issue (vol 40, number 1)
      (Previous Issue November/December 2008) - (Next Issue February 2009)



JANUARY General Membership Meeting

Tuesday, January 27, 7:00 PM
Bellingham Public Library Lecture Room
PROGRAM: Trekking from Nepal to Tibet

Join Alan Fritzberg as he recounts a journey that most of us will experience only in our dreams. He trekked 35-40 miles in the west of Nepal and took an SUV 60 miles north into Tibet to do a kora (circumambulation) around 22,000 Mt. Kailash, joining Hindus and Buddhists in losing their sins in the process. The kora took him over an 18,500 pass and he then traveled east across Tibet for about 400 miles, before heading south to return to Kathmandu.

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. Well save a seat for you and treats and hot beverages will be available.

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From the President

Dont look now, but a new year is upon us. 2009 will come in with little or no fanfare, possibly because were still buzzing about the last couple of weeks of 2008. Beginning on Christmas Bird Count Day on December 14, winter had us in its grip (to paraphrase a Don McLean song from the 70s), and only loosened that grip a couple of days after Christmas. Rain and more normal temperatures slowly came back into our lives and now we can begin to assess the damage(s).

I dont want to go into detail about what snow and ice did to my own roof, but I will say that I have new priorities to address this spring. I spent so much time on the roof on Christmas Eve that I was afraid I might run into Santa. I didnt see the big guy but I could have used the help. Oh well, the rooftop glacier has retreated and were back to relative normalcy in our humble abode, so we move on.

Id like to say that I had some great birding experiences during the blizzard of 08, but Ill leave that to others. If you have an exciting tale to relate, send it to me and well give you space in the February newsletter to regale us with your story.

So, whats on tap for NCAS in 2009? We already have many irons in the fire and encourage you to join us in any and all activities and events that well make available to you. All NCAS activities are FREE and open to the public, so be prepared. Just to awaken your appetite for the next few months, here are just a few ideas for you to ponder.

The 2nd Annual NCAS Dungeness Weekend Campout will continue the success of our initial effort. The basic premise is a Friday-Sunday, two-night stay at the Clallam County Park Campground at the base of the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge and Dungeness Spit. Well have field trips in two or more directions on both days and stories and songs to share around the community campfire at days end. Ill ask the park manager to increase the maximum number of participants this year to accommodate more of us. Keep an eye on this newsletter for details as we try to secure a good date sometime in mid-May.

Our nesting box program has been quite successful since its inception and will continue this spring. We started with a grant from the state office and weve managed to turn the seed money around after each event to continue our efforts. The object of the program has been to promote the use of nesting boxes for cavity-nesting birds and to educate the public about every backyards potential as a haven for birds.

Our Vice President and Field Trip Chair, Paul Woodcock, has put together a variety of exciting field trips to take us right into spring birding in March. Stay tuned to these pages for any changes/additions to the schedule that youll find on page 3.

We have a fantastic schedule of programs for you to enjoy on the fourth Tuesday of each month through May, so have a look on page 5 for a complete listing.

Yes, were busy, and well probably get busier before all is said and done, so Happy New Year to all! Looks like were in for another good one!

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2009 Winter Field Trips

Paul Woodcock
VP/Field Trip Chair

Those of you who participated in any of the areas Christmas Bird Counts over the recent holiday season know the special joys and trials of winter birding in the northwest. This winter came in early and definitely made its presence known, providing us with holiday birding challenges which will be remembered for seasons to come. Usually it is the birds and not the elements which make lasting impressions. Winter is an outstanding season for birding in the Pacific Northwest and normally the weather is not so great a challenge. Please come and join NCAS leaders, members, and other participants as we observe resident and wintering passerines, wintering raptors, sea ducks and other waterfowl, and other wildlife.

This winters scheduled trips include two weekday field trips. Apologies to those cannot attend but, with the graying of our membership, there is definitely a demand for weekday trips. But all are welcome, gray hair or not! North Cascades Audubon trips are open to all who wish to attend, FREE of charge. We limit the number of participants for many of our trips in order to reduce environmental impact and to assure a quality experience. Therefore, advance registration is often required. Carpooling is encouraged and we urge all passengers to share expenses with those who drive. Please call Paul at 380-3356 with if you have questions or suggestions.

The list of winter field trips is below. Please contact individual leaders if advance registration is necessary.

Saturday, January 3. Semiahmoo Spit.

In its third year, Birding the Beaches continues as a cooperative effort of NCAS and Whatcom County Parks. Join us for a half-day trip on the first Saturday of each month. We will tour beaches on Semiahmoo Bay and Drayton Harbor and view large numbers of seabirds, waterfowl, and shorebirds as well as raptors and songbirds. Semiahmoo is Whatcom Countys only designated Important Bird Area. We all need to know and value this important habitat. Beginning birders are welcome! Meet at Semiahmoo County Park at 9:00 AM. No registration required. Trip Leader: Paul Woodcock

Sunday, January 11. Bald Eagles of the Nooksack.

This is a half-day trip that will explore winter concentration sites of Bald Eagles along the Nooksack River. The field experience will focus on observation, age discrimination, behavior and natural history of one of our regions most emblematic species. 9 AM. Trip Limit: 10. Trip Leader: Dave Schmalz, 671-1537.

Tuesday, January 27. George Reifel Sanctuary, B.C.

The large number of visitors present at Reifel when we visited in November led to the question, What would Reifel be like on a weekday? A poll of our group showed that 80% of us would be able to go during the week so we decided to give it a try. This will be a full-day trip to a spectacular habitat. Large

concentrations of dabbling ducks and Snow Geese are complemented by Sandhill Cranes, shorebirds, owls, and other raptors. Woodland birds, possibly including northern, nomadic species, are also present. 8 AM. Trip Limit: 12. Trip Leader: Paul Woodcock, 380-3356. Passport or birth certificate with photo ID required to cross international boundary.

Saturday, February 7. Semiahmoo Spit.

This is a repeat of the January 3 trip. Please see details above.

Sunday, February 8. The Magic Skagit.

This will be a full-day trip (half-day option) to the avian wonderland of Fir Island and the lower Skagit Delta. Swans, Snow Geese, and owls highlight this annual spectacle of waterfowl, shorebirds, and birds of prey. This trip always fills so call early! 8:30 AM. Trip Limit: 10. Trip Leader: Jeanie Johnson, 671-8886.

Saturday, February 21. Lake Terrell, Whatcom Wildlife Area.

A half-day trip co-sponsored by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Hunting season will be over so this will be an excellent opportunity view wintering swans, ducks, coots, grebes, raptors, finches, and sparrows as well as resident song birds. There is a wide variety of excellent habitat within the wildlife area. Beginning birders are welcome! No registration required. Meet at the Lake Terrell parking lot (WDFW parking permit required) at 9 AM. (Those interested in carpooling from another location, call Paul at 380-3356.) Trip Leaders: Paul Woodcock and Jim Edwards of Tennant Lake Interpretive Center.

Sunday, February 22. Samish Flats.

A four to six hour outing to an internationally-recognized habitat on the delta fields of northern Skagit County. Eagles, hawks, falcons, ravens, and owls are the focus but waterfowl, shorebirds, and songbirds are also an attraction, for us as well as the raptors. Scores of raptors are guaranteed and there are usually a few surprises. 8:30 AM. Trip Limit: 10. Trip Leader: Dave Schmalz, 671-1537.

Wednesday, February 25. Blaine, Semiahmoo, Birch Bay State Park, Lake Terrell.

This will be a five-hour tour to four of the best birding spots in northwest Whatcom County. Emphasis will be on waterfowl including grebes, scoters, scaups, American Wigeon, Northern Pintail, Ruddy Duck, and Harlequin as well as shorebirds, loons, and Long-tailed Ducks at Blaine and Semiahmoo. Dress for the weather and bring a lunch, binoculars and spotting-scope if you have one. No registration required. Meet to carpool at the southeast corner of the Sunset Square parking lot at 8:30 AM. Call Andrea at 734-9881 if you have questions. Trip Leaders: Andrea Warner and Joan Bird.

Saturday, March 7. Semiahmoo Spit.

This is a repeat of the January 3 trip. Please see details above.

Saturday, March 14. Lake Terrell, Whatcom Wildlife Area.

This is a repeat of the February 21 trip. Please see above for details.

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A Cure for Winter Lassitude

Many people loathe the winter months because of the gloom and rain, cold weather, snow, or all of these that beset our area. There is no excuse for such depression because the North Cascades are as beautiful during these months as they are at any time. On recent ski tours or snowshoe hikes, I have observed peaks gleaming in the sunlight as though they were frosted glass with powerful lights shining inside; incredible crystalline ice formations on ground, twig, and river bed; and great, gleaming plumes of snowy spume blowing like banners from the ridges of Mts. Baker and Shuksan.

Roads that are crowded with campers in summer provide wilderness solitude and beauty in winter. If you find yourself blue and suffering from winter lassitude, go out and borrow or rent a pair of snowshoes or cross-country skis, drive up the Mt. Baker Highway, sign out your hike at the Glacier Ranger Station, and venture along the Hannegan Pass Road or some other roads up there.

Editors note: This perfect solution for the so-called winter blahs appeared in the January1973 issue of the Avalanche under the heading of Notes and Anecdotes. Although no authors name is listed, I believe that most of us have a clue as to who might have written this prescription. Its a variation on my own cure for cabin fever, and that is....get out of the cabin!

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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 the next five months and all promise to be really exciting.


• January Trekking in Nepal with Alan Fritzberg. See page 1 for details.

• February Eco-touring with Nate Chapelle in Namibia and Thailand.

• March Barb Jensen from San Juan Island Audubon will tell us about the chapters Western Bluebird relocation program.

• April Frances Wood will discuss Whidbey Audubons Pigeon Guillemot study.

• May Travel to the High Arctic with Judy Krieger.

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

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Great Backyard Bird Count

The 2009 Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is 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.

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Bellingham CBC

Intrepid counters braved the not-quite-ideal winter winds and cold to participate in the 2008 Bellingham Christmas Bird Count (CBC). If youll recall, December 14 was the first day of this years historic cold snap. Conditions were deemed so bad that one concerned citizen called me shortly after 6 AM and advised me to call off the count. While it might have been a good-enough idea, the logistics would have made the effort useless. Add to that the fact that CBCs take place regardless of the weather sort of like old-fashioned football games.

As of press time for this humble newsletter, the results have yet to be totaled. Part of the reason for this is the weather-related delay for all the checklists to come in and be added to the pile. A full report will be available in next months Avalanche.

At this time, however, the CBC Committee would like to express its deepest/warmest thanks to those who bundled and buckled together to complete the count. While the total numbers might be down, theres no way to measure the enthusiasm of those who took on the Blizzard of 08 and laughed all the way to the potluck!

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San Juan Ferry CBC

The 2008 San Juan Ferry CBC was conducted on Saturday, December 20. This unique count takes place onboard the Washington State Ferry between Anacortes and Sidney, BC. Four observers experienced bitter, brutal cold with temperatures ranging from 8 deg to 12 deg F, with sunny skies and virtually unlimited visibility. Total number of species observed was 29 and included good numbers of Ancient and Marbled Murrelets, as well as 1,296 Mew Gulls.

According to the count leader, the snow cover on land and the unusual cold could have had some impact, due to the glare, and the physical impact on the observers was obvious.

Thanks to Clayton and Linda Snider, John McDermott, and Greg Horch for their efforts in braving the elements on behalf of citizen science.

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