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March 2009 Issue (vol 40, number 3)
      (Previous Issue February 2009) - (Next Issue April 2009)

MARCH General Membership Meeting

Tuesday, March 24, 7:00 PM
Bellingham Public Library Lecture Room
PROGRAM: Western Bluebirds on San Juan Island

In the 1980s, volunteers built nesting boxes to revive a Western Bluebird population that had nearly vanished from the Fort Lewis prairies. With the success of that program, four other conservation groups have been at work on a similar project to bring the bluebirds back to the native Garry oak woodlands on San Juan Island. Loss of habitat and competition from starlings for cavity nesting sites on the island were primarily responsible for the subsequent loss of nesting bluebirds, but volunteers have stepped to the task. Birds from Fort Lewis have been released on the island with the hopes that they will return and again populate the San Juans.

Barb Jensen, President of San Juan Islands Audubon, will bring us up to date on the progress of this most ambitious and intriguing project.

Join us for an informative 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. Well save a seat for you and treats and hot beverages will be available.

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Spring Forward

As you read this months newsletter, spring as we know it will be just a few weeks away. Daylight Saving Time (DST) begins on March 8 this year and the longer daylight hours will continue until November 1. This is an exciting time of year for many outdoor enthusiasts since it allows more daylight to be in the out and about doing whatever it is you might.

The basic idea of DST is to have more daylight in the evening than in the morning, and its conceptual origins go back to ancient times and follow a thread through Benjamin Franklin and its most tireless advocate, William Willett. Although Willetts primary goal might have been to increase the daylight hours for outdoor and leisure activities, DST has provided other benefits as well.

The energy saved during DST is documented, as are the economic benefits when workers have more daylight for shopping after their work day has ended. Public safety and health issues are also part of the equation. Physical health and mental well being are also improved with the potential for more exercise and the feeling that youre not at work from dawn to dark.

Of course, theres no denying that weather also plays a part in the success of this extra daylight. Better weather gets us out of the house more readily than the cold and wet of winter. So, would DST work as well from October through March? Probably not, but thats another discussion for another day.

Anyway you look at it, the Vernal Equinox will be upon us on March 20 and we can rest assured that were free of winter at least as far as the calendar is concerned. Its time to start thinking about the return of the migrants that brighten our days in spring and summer.

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! News Flash !

Allow me to interrupt this thread that I started last week, because just one week later, on February 25-26, heavy snow started falling, and falling, as if to mock my free of winter comment from the previous paragraph. We could certainly call this a freak winter storm, but where weather is concerned, what actually constitutes freak weather?

I was up and about at 2:45 this morning dont ask me why and the temperature was 21 deg. with stiff breeze coming from Sumas, so the wind chill was 8 deg.! If those colorful migrants have any sense, they might consider waiting a while longer before heading this way. And last week was so.... spring-like! Of course, we all know the many old sayings about the weather, so Ill spare you at this time and just send you warm thoughts and hope that you enjoyed this last little taste of winter.

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NCAS Field Trips - On Into Spring

Paul Woodcock
NCAS VP/Field Trip Chair

As I write this column, another month of winter remains ahead but the signs of spring are all around. Buds are swelling, the first blossoms are out on the Indian Plums and a few of our songbirds are beginning to sing when the sun warms the air. But have no fear, there are still a few winter trips available with the promise of spring trips to follow so come out with us and experience the changing seasons.

North Cascades Audubon trips are open to all who wish to attend, FREE of charge. We limit the number of participants on 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 if you have questions or suggestions.

The list of late winter and early spring field trips is below. Look for more spring trips in April's issue of The Avalanche. Please contact individual leaders if advance registration is necessary.

Saturday, March 7. Semiahmoo Spit.

Join us for Birding the Beaches, a cooperative effort of NCAS and Whatcom County Parks. This trip, on the first Saturday of each month, is usually about three hours in length. It is a great outing for beginning birders. 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/Drayton Harbor is Whatcom Countys only designated Important Bird Area. We all need to know and value this important habitat. Meet at Semiahmoo County Park at 9:00 AM. No Registration Required. Trip Leader: Paul Woodcock.

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

A half-day trip co-sponsored by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Hunting season is over so now is an excellent opportunity to view wintering swans, ducks, coots, grebes, raptors, finches, and sparrows and other 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 9:00 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.

Saturday, March 28. Fidalgo Island.

This will be a six-hour trip to excellent birding spots in the Anacortes area such as Washington Park, Rosario Beach, and Mount Erie. We will be looking for cormorants (three species), alcids, loons and other seabirds as well as shorebirds and woodland species. 8:30 AM. Trip limit:10. Trip leader: Paul Woodcock, 380-3356.

Saturday, April 4. Semiahmoo Spit.

This is a repeat of the March 7 trip so see above for details. Remember that every month is different as the seasons change.

Saturday, April 25. Stimpson Family Nature Reserve.

This trip is cosponsored by the Whatcom Land Trust. We will be searching the Land Trust's beautiful Stimpson Reserve for neotropical migrants and other woodland birds. Join NCAS leaders for an easy hike of about 2 miles through a mixed coniferous and deciduous forest. Deer are usually plentiful and a few flycatchers and warblers should be back and singing. 10:00 AM. Trip leaders: Tom Pratum and Paul Woodcock. Call the Whatcon Land Trust at 650-9470 to register.

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2nd Annual NCAS Dungeness Campout

May 15-17

Riding the wave of enthusiasm from last years initial effort, well 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 25 as of this printing 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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Enjoying the Magic of the Skagit Delta with Jeanie Johnson

Lila Emmer
NCAS Board Member at Large

Sundays weather was very western Washington. At times we experienced high overcast skies alternating with serious clouds, filtered sun, and thankfully, dry but bone chilling cold when near the water. Clearly, the soaring raptors were totally unaware of us as we wandered the diked area of Fir Island. There were great numbers of adult and juvenile Bald Eagles as well as Red-tailed Hawks and Northern Harriers. A smaller number of highly acrobatic (tawny or buffy colored) Short-eared Owls were hunting low over the driftwood, perching on snags, and even pursuing a Northern Harrier with a captured treasure in her talons.

This same dike revealed one lone golden plover poking in the thin surf but separate from the Northern Pintail and Mallards a bit farther out in the deeper surf. Prior to reaching the dike, a Northern Shrike presented itself, as did Great Blue Herons and mostly Trumpeter Swans.

I am going to share a natural but sad image on this trip. A large collection of white feathers was visible on the dike, just past the Keep Out sign. The pile of feathers required identification; if only to lend dignity. The magnificent white wings with the black slash clearly let me know that the carcass was a Snow Goose. But sadness became a learning experience as I studied the head and particularly the beak. Ive never encountered the remains of a Snow Goose, and I was awed at the serrated beak. One sees these birds grabbing and pulling at the winter grasses in the fields, but this finely-serrated beak illustrated the mechanism as no text could do.

We left Fir Island and on our way to Padilla Bay and Bay View State Park, Jeanie suddenly pulled our cars off the road and pointed to an American Kestrel perched on the very tip of a leafless tree. Perhaps it was due to our famous oyster light, but we were all witness to the spectacular slate blue and rufous on the wings and back of this kestrel. And finally, in the Sullivan Road area, three peregrines (one possible prairie) were sighted. One perched with a full crop and two were vocalizing and tangling in mid-air. And the last gift for the day was nearly 10,000 Snow Geese along the frontage road.

Lastly, just before our picnic lunch, Jeanie was focusing her scope and observing a raft of wigeons offshore in Padilla Bay, when she suddenly straightened and announced (to no one in particular), this is my 10th year Ive been leading this trip for 10 years. As if the day wasnt special enough for her group of birders this indeed made it a bit more special. Over these 10 years, Jeanie has introduced the joy of birding to multitudes of novices as well as sharing her quiet knowledge with more-seasoned birders.

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New NCAS Website

Tom Pratum
NCAS Webmaster

After months of work, we have a revamped version of our web site online now. The site is not entirely complete, yet, and there are a few glitches here and there, but we hope to have it all ironed out in the next few months. We thank Rod Burton for his help in the site design, and various contributors for photo credits.

Visit the site at http://www.northcascadesaudubon.org

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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!

*Training Update*

Focus Wildlife and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will be offering a basic class the weekend of April 4-5. However, there is a waiting list for this class and availability for slots is possibly limited. Please e-mail Jenny, Focus Wildlife trainer, at jenny@focuswildlife.org and let her know of your interest.

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 redwardsbham@yahoo.ca.

WSU Beach Watchers Program

The WSU Beach Watchers program invites you to celebrate spring in Whatcom County by getting out, getting informed, and getting involved!

Join us as we explore our beaches, streams, forests, and agricultural lands. Youll learn about our coastal geology, wildlife, marine biology, urban growth, and other local issues.

Beach Watchers receive an extensive FREE training and contribute 100 hours enhancing our community with volunteer projects of their choice.

Classes take place in Bellingham with field trips throughout Whatcom County. Classes are on Tuesdays from 6-9 PM and Fridays from 9 AM to 4:30 PM, March 17 thru May 8. Space is limited so contact Cheryl Lovato Niles at 676-6736 or clniles@wsu.edu.

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 redwardsbham@yahoo.ca.

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

Gordon Carter Environmental Education Site

The rumor around the campfire is that the Bellingham School District administrators have recently decided to discontinue the sixth grade Environmental Education Program at the Gordon Carter site on the south end of Lake Whatcom. If this is more than a rumor and the decision has actually been made more than likely due to financial reasons it would be in the best interest of the school district to re-examine this situation.

This wonderful site won state recognition in 1995 and 96, due primarily to the opportunities the site provided for students to experience on-site learning adventures in conservation issues and to gain more in-depth understanding of the environment.

I visited recently with a former intern and she talked about her experiences there as a leader when she attended Whatcom Community College. She was shocked and saddened to hear that this program would be discontinued. She spoke of the range of experiences that took sixth graders into an environmental setting, away from computers and video games, to awaken their senses to the real world. She fondly related one experience where the students would rope together and walk through the dark forest at night and just listen to the night sounds something they could never do at home.

I visited the site a few years ago trying to locate a pair of Barred Owls that had been nesting there regularly. I found the nesting tree and observed a trio of owlets and in the process, had a tour of the facilities with a faculty member. I thought at the time how wonderful it would have been to have this kind of experience when I was a sixth grader and eager to learn.

This 135 acre site was donated to the community in 1954 by Gordon Carter, former Superintendent of Bellingham Public Schools. This gift was granted with the stipulation that the property be used to educate students in conservation issues. Many former students some who are now leaders in the community have fond memories of the time they spent at the site during their youth.

Economic considerations notwithstanding, the loss of a learning experience like the Gordon Carter site would be a serious blow to the entire community. Skills like those learned at this site can serve as a seminal turning point and be an inspiration for future naturalists. We can all benefit by voicing our concerns over this decision.

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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.

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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