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February 2009 Issue (vol 40, number 2)
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FEBRUARY General Membership Meeting

Tuesday, February 24, 7:00 PM
Bellingham Public Library Lecture Room
PROGRAM: The Wildlife Photography of Nate Chappell

Nate Chappell will present photos of birds and wildlife from three continents. His presentation will feature a great variety of colorful species. Nate will share bird and mammal photos from recent trips to Namibia, Ecuador, and Thailand. Nate and his wife, Angie, lead bird photography and bird watching trips to a variety of tropical locations around the globe. He is currently the Avian Gallery Moderator for Nature Photographers Online magazine. You can view his web site at http://www.trogontours.net.

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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the President

Here we are, well into another year and if we look far enough ahead, we’ll be sure to hear someone complaining about....the heat! From the perspective of this snowbird wannabe, however, warm weather is something we can only muse about at this point. As I sit here, the potential for snow is still in the air and the flag down the street is straight out from its staff and telling me that the wind is from the northeast. Not a good sign if you’re trying to have warm thoughts. But, a month from now, I’ll be filling these pages with items like the NCAS Spring Field Trip Schedule and another announcement about the 2nd Annual NCAS Dungeness Weekend Campout!

That’s right, we’re going back to Dungeness to try to recapture the magic we found there last year. If you’re interested in joining us, be sure to check the full article on page 4.

Further down the road, as we shake off our winter coats, many opportunities will be available for members and even for non-members to participate in many activities and events.

A highlight on the not-to-distant horizon is a new look to our web site. Our webmaster, Tom Pratum, has been hard at work bringing our site up to date and making it better looking all around and even more user-friendly than our initial effort.

Our Field Trip Chair, Paul Woodcock, is doing a marvelous job of putting together great field trips and keeping an ear open for ideas from participants. The thought of having mid-week trips is going to be really popular, especially since any place you go during the week will be less crowded. Border crossings are also easier during the week. Kudos to Paul for his efforts!

Our winter birds are still with us for a while and there might still be a chill in the air, but who among us can deny that we’ll be on the trail of neotropical migrants before long. The first swallows usually appear sometime around Washington’s birthday and there isn’t a better harbinger of spring than the swallows. In some parts of the country, robins wear that label, but around here it’s the swallows. Perhaps it’s time for another first-swallow contest? OK, whoever sees the first swallow, call me and we’ll find an appropriate prize for you.

The ice on Sunset Pond is still covering most of the surface area, and just this morning I had an overhead flight by one of the Bald Eagles that frequent the old snag on the south side of the pond. I still believe there’s a nest nearby and perhaps this is the year I find it. Stay tuned for that report.

If you have any thoughts or concerns that you’d like to share with us here at NCAS headquarters, don’t be shy. We want to hear from you, and the office is always open. This is, after all, your Audubon chapter, we just work here....for you.

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2009 Winter Field Trips

Paul Woodcock
VP/Field Trip Chair

Those of you who participated in any of the area’s 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 winter’s 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, February 7. 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 County’s 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, 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.

Sunday, February 15. An Urban Birdwalk.

Back by popular demand is an opportunity to look for birds from the downtown core to the waterfront and along Whatcom Creek. The route we will cover for 2-4 hours has a lot of potential for interesting species like Green Herons, diving birds, and perhaps a Great Horned Owl like the one we found on our first trip back in November. We’ll meet in the courtyard on the north side of the downtown Parkade on Commercial Street and depart on foot at 10 AM. We’ll try to set a group limit at 10 but will be flexible. Trip leader: Joe Meche, 739-5383.

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

A half-day trip co-sponsored by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Hunting season will be over so this will be an excellent opportunity to 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 February 7 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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2nd Annual NCAS Dungeness Campout

May 15-17

Riding the wave of enthusiasm from last year’s initial effort, we’ll plan to return to the Clallam County Park Campground at Dungeness Spit for a weekend campout with four field trips worked into the mix.

We have reserved the group campsite for the weekend and the park manager has told me that we may increase the limit to 40 campers. Some folks have already reserved a spot so contact me soon to sign up.

Paul Woodcock and I will lead field trips on Saturday and Sunday, alternating between the long hike to the historic Dungeness Lighthouse and the Dungeness River Center/Railroad Bridge Park. Both places will have good birds in a variety of habitats, and both nights will feature a great campfire with a strong possibility of delightful picking and grinning and singing along (an informal poll will determine whether or not we include Kumbaya in the play list).

Carpooling will be emphasized and tents are preferred over larger RVs, although we will entertain a small RV or two and perhaps a VW camper or three.

Join us for a great weekend getaway in mid-May! For more info or to sign up, contact Joe Meche at 739-5383 or at mechejmch@aol.com.

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2009 Winter Wings Festival

Klamath Falls, Oregon February 13-15

Klamath Basin Audubon celebrates the 30th anniversary of its Winter Wings Festival and encourages everyone to take a break and enjoy the longest-running bird festival in the country. A festival highlight will be the keynote speaker, Pete Dunne.

For more information, go to the festival web site at http://www.winterwingsfest.org.

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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 three months and all promise to be really exciting.

March Barb Jensen from San Juan Island Audubon will tell us about the chapter’s Western Bluebird relocation program.

April Frances Wood will discuss Whidbey Audubon’s 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

February 13-16

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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Migration of Shorebirds

The wind birds are strong, marvelous fliers, averaging greater distances in their migrations than any other bird family on Earth. Of the several hundred migratory birds of North America, only thirty-five winter as far south as central Chile, and in this group the barn swallow, blackpoll warbler, and Swainson’s thrush, the osprey, broad-winged hawk, and peregrine, with a few gulls, fly that far only irregularly. All the rest of the thirty-five are shorebirds, several of which go all the way to land’s end, near Cape Horn. The white-rumped sandpiper, which flies nine thousand miles twice every year in pursuit of summer, is only exceeded in its north-south migration by the Arctic tern, and the golden plover far exceeds the tern in the distance covered in a single flight; it is thought to travel well over two thousand miles nonstop on both its Atlantic and Pacific migrations. The bristle-thighed curlew, which flies from Alaska to Polynesia and New Zealand, is another distance flier of renown; and so are the ruddy turnstone, wandering tattler, and sanderling, which may be found on the most far-flung strands and atolls throughout their enormous range.

Because of the great distances they must travel, the migrants make preparation to depart again within a few months of their arrival from the north; the flocking and reflocking that is evident on the summer coasts and pampas of the Southern Hemisphere is a symptom of premigratory restlessness. This restlessness is not entirely attributable to activity of the glands, for castrated birds will migrate, borne along, perhaps, by the northward tide of movement. Migration is part of an annual cycle which also includes breeding and molt; what is not yet fully known is the exact pattern of stimuli, physiological and/or external, that puts this cycle into motion.

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from a fascinating work, The Wind Birds, by Peter Matthiessen

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Birds in Winter

Birds generally wear the russet dress of nature this season. They have their fall no less than the plants; the bright tints depart from their foliage or feathers, and they flit past like withered leaves in rustling flocks. The sparrow is a withered leaf.

Henry David Thoreau, journal

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A Book Review

The Life of the Skies: Birding at the End of Nature
by Jonathan Rosen

This is a moving book about how bird watching enriches our lives. Rosen creates an intricate web of literary, historical, and philosophical meaning toward this activity, which he pursues mostly in New York’s Central Park. In the prologue, he mentions E.M. Forster, Edward O. Wilson, Walt Whitman, Emerson, Sherlock Holmes, Harold Brodkey, Tennyson, D.H. Lawrence, Wallace Stevens, and many others. There are a couple of chapters which focus on Alfred Russel Wallace and his studies of birds of paradise, which I found interesting in light of our October meeting’s guest speakers, Keith and Jan Wiggers, who filmed and discussed the mating dances of these amazing birds.

Reviewed by Sheila Sondik
NCAS Membership Chair

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Are We Ready For an Oil Spill?

Lila Emmer
NCAS Board Member At Large

Are you concerned about the potential for an oil spill along the Washington coast? Would you know how to react to the devastating results of an oil spill along our beaches?

In spring of 2009, Focus Wildlife and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will be providing basic and advanced classes on citizen response to oiled wildlife. The organization and the agency want our help and many of us want to be properly trained.

Please stay tuned to this newsletter and as soon as dates and locations for the training are known, we will provide you with the information in order for you to sign up. And just a reminder — these classes are free!

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Backyard Habitat & Native Flora Fair

May 9

Mark your calendars for this annual spring event at the Village Green in Fairhaven. NCAS will have more of those great nesting boxes for sale, and the Komo Kulshan Chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society will conduct a plant sale. This group is a great help in selecting the right place for your native habitat. Plus, there will be tours demonstrating backyard features for wildlife! NCAS could use your help educating people about nesting boxes at our booth. If you are interested, please contact Rae Edwards at 527-9619 or e-mail her at redwards@yahoo.ca.

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Family Birding/Nature Programs
Would you like to lead?

I am looking for an Audubon member willing to lead a Saturday field trip for families. Current research is showing that grandparents and/or working parents value activities where adults and children explore nature together. If you think you would like to lead a family program, please contact Rae Edwards, NCAS Education Chair at 527-9619, or you may e-mail her at redwards@yahoo.ca.

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Educational Materials for Sale

Is there a special child, teacher, or environmental educator in your life who would love a Department of Ecology poster on Wetlands, Estuaries, or Streams? These beautiful posters will be for sale at monthly chapter meetings, for a $5 donation to NCAS.

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Conservation News

Environmental Lobby Day
February 19
Steve Irving
NCAS Conservation Committee

Join your local activists on a trip to Olympia on February 19. Join the state’s leading conservation groups and hundreds of citizen lobbyists to push for passage of the Priorities for a Healthy Washington legislative package. The NCAS group will also be advocating for Audubon Washington issues. During Lobby Day, you will hear from legislators who are championing the environmental priorities, receive training on how to lobby from top environmental lobbyists, and meet face-to-face with your elected officials. And don’t forget the party in the evening!

We will be riding down and back on a bus (although you can drive yourself) and the after-lobby party is going to be held at the governor’s mansion. The governor’s husband, Mike, will be hosting! Believe me; it’s not as scary as it sounds. Some of the people you know from local Audubon meetings will be riding down on the bus.

To register and save your seat on the bus, go to the web site http://pugetsound.org/policy/lobbyday09. For more info you might also contact Rein Attemann at 206-382-7007 or e-mail rattemann@pugetsound.org . For an NCAS contact, call Steve Irving at 360-384-1618.

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Bellingham Parks Volunteer Work Parties And Events
Winter 2009

Get involved with these important habitat restoration projects with Bellingham Parks volunteers clearing invasive plants and weeds and planting native trees and shrubs.

Squalicum Creek Park
February 7, 10 AM-Noon

Help plant a seed crop of red alders to reduce weeds through shading and increase of nitrogen in the soil.

Squalicum Creek Park.
February 21, 10 AM-Noon

Help weed, mulch, and secure trees in this newly planted urban forest.

Old Village Trail.
February 21, 10 AM-Noon

Help us continue to improve this old trail that runs through the Lettered Streets Neighborhood by weeding out invasive plants and planting native shrubs.

Lake Padden
February 28, 9 AM-Noon

Help prepare a site near the swimming beach for future planting. Blackberries and ivy must go to make way for native species!

Boulevard Park
March 7, 10 AM-Noon

Lend a hand removing invasive weeds from the headlands section of Boulevard Park located between the two foot-bridges.

Lake Padden
March 7, 9 AM-Noon

Help increase the buffer between the parking lot and the park while increasing wildlife habitat by planting native plant species.

Franklin Park
March 14, 9 AM-Noon

Work with local community leaders planting native vegetation, mulching and weeding on the Franklin Street Island.

Padden Creek Trail at 6th Street
March 21, 10 AM-Noon

Help remove invasive plants to improve wildlife habitat along the trail.

Maritime Heritage Park
March 28, 9 AM-Noon

Get involved with improving salmon habitat by joining the Parks Volunteer Program and the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association in removing invasive weeds and planting native vegetation along the new trail at Maritime.

South Bay Trail
March 28, 1-3 PM

Join the Village Books staff in weeding, mulching, and planting along the trail.

For more information or to learn more about the program and ways to volunteer, call 360-778-7105 or go to the web site at http://www.cob.org/government/public/volunteer/parks/index.aspx.

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