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May 2009 Issue (vol 40, number 5)
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MAY General Membership Meeting

Tuesday, May 26, 7:00 PM
Bellingham Public Library Lecture Room
PROGRAM: Canadian North and High Arctic

Judy Krieger long dreamed of visiting the Arctic and this trip satisfied the dream but not the appetite to see more of the north. After exploring prairies and potholes near Edmonton, Alberta, water birds, warblers, and Great Grey Owls with visiting sapsuckers at lunch, she experienced the boreal forest near Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories. Then it was off to the High Arctic, flying over the Canadian Shield to Cambridge Bay on Victoria Island. Musk oxen, jaegers, shorebirds, and Rough-legged hawks were the stars of this area along with the common street birds Lapland Longspurs and Snow Buntings.

A low lemming year precluded Snowy Owls and a greater presence of predators. Sandhill Cranes were observed at a distance, as well as Peary caribou. The local garbage dump also proved productive and a few American Robins were suggestive of climate change.

This was a wonderful opportunity to see some of our common winter birds in their breeding plumage. Local flora was in full bloom and the char were running in the 24-hour daylight.

Join us for a fun, 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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From the President

The Life of Roger Tory Peterson

Every year, as summer approaches, we have a tendency to line up lists of things to do to wile away the longer, often lazy days of summer things that rise above the less inviting, strenuous tasks such as yard work and associated labors. Some of us are certain to receive the ever-popular honey-do list from our significant others to address items that might have been overlooked for the past several seasons. My own list always includes a good number of books to read, and Id like to recommend one for your own summer reading.

Were all familiar with numerous anecdotes about the one person who is often credited with inspiring and nurturing many of todays leading ornithologists and everyday birdwatchers. If you think you might have read everything there is to read about the father of bird watching and one of the pioneers of the modern environmental movement, think again.

In a new biography by Elizabeth J. Rosenthal, the life of Roger Tory Peterson is elevated to a more detailed portrait than ever before. From his birth in 1908 to his death in 1996, Rosenthal takes us along on an intimate journey with Peterson in a myriad of adventures and encounters with birds and with people.

No other biography of Peterson comes close in the number of interviews Rosenthal conducted to allow us to observe this complex man as we never have before. The words of many of his contemporaries reveal a side of the man that very few actually knew. Unlike many biographies, Birdwatcher moves along with an energetic pace and has the power to evoke a range of emotions. From the quiet of painting birds in his studio to being surrounded by penguins in the Antarctic, Peterson was always passionate about birds, and the essence of his commitment to them and the natural world comes through quite clearly in this wonderful book.

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Come September

Its time to pull up our tent stakes and head down the summer road for a while. Well all be busy on a variety of projects throughout the summer and plan to give a full report in our next newsletter and at the September general membership meeting. You might think September is far off but the usual surprise will be registered when August rushes past. Stay active and come back with your traveling bag filled with memories. And keep in mind that you can always share any of those memories on these pages after all, it is your newsletter.

Until then, happy trails to you all and may all your birds be good birds, if not totally rare birds.

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NCAS Spring Field Trips

Paul Woodcock
NCAS Field Trip Chair

These will the last of our NCAS trips for spring 2008. As we head into what is, in my opinion, the most exciting of birding seasons, I had hoped to add more trips targeting our beautiful neotropical migrants but was unable to do so. Please do not let that stop you from getting out there and experiencing the thrill of interacting with our memorable summer visitors such as warblers, tanagers, flycatchers, thrushes, vireos, and orioles. If you have expertise to share with others, please get in touch. We could provide more birding opportunities to our members and the community with your help. It is a rewarding experience! If you can, do join us in Sequim for our Dungeness Campout, May 15-17. The riparian forest along the Dungeness River provides memorable birding experiences with spring migrants to say nothing about the sea and shorebirds along the spit! Also, "Birding the Beaches" will continue at Semiahmoo Spit through the summer except for the month of July. There will be no Semiahmoo Field Trip on July 4! 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 with if you have questions or suggestions or if you are willing to be a trip leader.

Friday to Sunday, May 15 - 17. Second Annual Dungeness Campout.

More info below....

Saturday, June 6. Semiahmoo Spit.

"Birding the Beaches" is a cooperative effort of NCAS and Whatcom County Parks. This half-day trip, on the first Saturday of each month, is an outing for birders of all abilities. Spring is a time of transition at Semiahmoo, providing good probability to see departing waterfowl, shorebirds, and seabirds as well as encounters with arriving migrant songbirds. Semiahmoo/Drayton Harbor is Whatcom County's only designated Important Bird Area. Meet at Semiahmoo County Park at 9:00 AM. No Registration Required. Trip Leader: Paul Woodcock Saturday, June 13. 4th Annual Woodstock Farm and NW Chuckanut Bay Breeding Bird Survey and Potluck. This event is a co-sponsored by NCAS and Bellingham City Parks. The morning count will be followed by a potluck dinner and presentation in the afternoon. We are looking to enlist a few experienced birders for a dawn to mid-day bird count of the Woodstock Farm, Mud Bay, and Clark's Point area. Please call Paul Woodcock at 380-3356 if you are interested in helping with the count. Everyone is invited to the potluck which will begin with a birding tour of Woodstock at 3:30 PM followed by dinner (bring a dish to share) and a presentation on the survey results and the birds of Woodstock Farm. Please RSVP by calling Tim Wahl at 319-2290 if you plan to attend the potluck. As parking is limited at Woodstock, carpooling will be required.

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Vauxs Swifts

The old Customs House in Sumas is once again to be the scene of a natural phenomenon that you have to experience to believe. As many as one thousand swifts circle the old chimney near dusk and all funnel into the chimney to roost for the night.

NCAS will again participate in the Vauxs Swift Monitoring Project that takes place along the Pacific Coast at selected sites in spring and fall and serves to monitor the health of this incredible bird.

We will monitor the chimney throughout the month of May, focusing primarily on Saturdays. If youd like to join us, call Joe Meche at 739-5383 or email him at mechejmch@aol.com.

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2nd Annual NCAS Dungeness Campout

May 15-17

As you read this newsletter, keep in mind that there is still time to sign on to join the fun at the NCAS weekend campout at Dungeness. Riding the wave of enthusiasm from last years initial effort, well 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 28 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 on the play list).

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

Of note is the fact that the Hood Canal Bridge will be closed for six months beginning May 1, so the Keystone ferry is the way to get to the peninsula most expeditiously. Youll need to make reservations for this ferry.

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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NCAS Birdathon 2009

Its May again and time for our biggest fundraiser of the year, as well a unique opportunity for you to get out and count birds for 24 hours, non-stop, as part of our big NCAS Bird-athon.

The rules are simple enough: go out on your own or as part of a team and record all the species you observe in any 24-hour period during the entire month of May. Prior to your day in the field, get pledges from family, friends, and coworkers to fund your efforts. Some folks like to pay a fixed amount while others prefer to pay per species that you observe. Prizes will be awarded for the most species observed as well as for the most money raised by an individual or team.

Dont miss out on this fun fundraiser. Pick your day and count birds for NCAS. If youre interested, call Joe Meche at 739-5383 or email him at mechejmch@aol.com.

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Post Point Herons

Its that time of year, again, and the Great Blue Herons are returning to the rookery trees at Post Point on Bellinghams southside. We are truly blessed to be able to host a gathering of these large nesting birds practically in the middle of our community. Much like the salmon that are beginning to return to urban streams, the herons offer yet another unique connection to the natural world and provide an opportunity to observe these magnificent birds; albeit from a respectful distance.

As it often is with opportunities of this sort, problems have arisen in the past, causing some of the birds to abandon their nests and young, so measures are being taken to minimize disturbance to the birds during this critical period.

This year, by order of the Director of Bellingham Parks and Recreation, the wooded area at Post Point will be closed to the public during the heron nesting period. None of the off-leash dog trails that are maintained by the city will be closed; only the volunteer-built (illegal) trails will be closed.

Enjoy the Great Blues, but give them some room!

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NCAS Officer Nominations

Tom Pratum

The following individuals have been nominated to fill the respective positions for the coming Audubon year.

Joe Meche - President

Paul Woodcock - Vice President

Pam Borso - Treasurer

We are currently seeking a candidate for Secretary and would welcome nominations from our membership on any of the officer positions. If you or someone you know would like to be secretary or would like to be in the running for these positions, please contact Tom Pratum, Rae Edwards, or Lila Emmer. Their contact info can be found on page 2 of this newsletter or on our web site here.

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Watching Cherry Point

Paul Woodcock
NCAS Vice President

Almost since its inception in 1970, North Cascades Audubon Society (NCAS) has been involved in monitoring the Whatcom County marine shoreline between Sandy Point and Point Whitehorn, an area of amazing resources known as Cherry Point. While the marine resources of the area are of such statewide importance that it was designated an Aquatic Reserve by the Commissioner of Public Lands in 2000, Cherry Point also contains the British Petroleum and Conoco-Phillips refineries, Intalco Aluminum, and the potential for further deep-water port development. The potential stresses between these competing uses and the constant pressure for new development are the reasons why we monitor and work to protect what is there.

Those of you who were lucky enough to be around Whatcom County in the 1970s and 80s might remember amazing concentrations of waterfowl at Cherry Point in the spring of the year. In their 1991 edition of A Guide to Bird Finding in Washington, Terry Wahl and Dennis Paulson give this description of Cherry Point: During the herring spawning season in April - May very large concentrations of birds may occur here. Flocks of up to 25,000 scoters, Pacific Loons, gulls, murres and others feed on eggs and fish and form an impressive natural spectacle. Yet, little over a decade later in 2003, in Hal Oppermans A Birders Guide to Washington, Cherry Point does not even rate a mention. What took place in those intervening years was a 90% decline in the population of spawning Cherry Point herring causing the loss of this important food source for migrating sea birds and waterfowl. Scientists have not been able to clearly determine the cause of the population crash.

Over the years NCAS has worked on and given input into various issues concerning Cherry Point. In 1977 we opposed the development of an oil superport at Cherry Point which would have brought Alaska crude by tanker to Whatcom County to be transshipped to the Midwest by pipeline. In the late 1970s and early '80s we commented on two proposals to build and ship off-shore oil platforms from the site and a few years later, in the early 90s, NCAS and others came to a settlement which resulted in the withdrawal of plans to build the Cherry Point Industrial Park and shipping pier.

In 1999 NCAS, along with the Washington State Departments of Ecology and Fish and Wildlife and other environmental organizations, came to a settlement agreement with Gateway Pacific Terminal (SSA Marine) which contained extensive conditions, mitigation and resource monitoring necessary to allow them to proceed with the construction and operation of a fourth pier at Cherry Point. That project has not been constructed but recently plans are again moving forward as outlined below. In the early part of this decade, NCAS and a coalition of organizations challenged the expansion of the ARCO dock and accomplished our goals of providing added protections to our Puget Sound waters. Lastly, for nearly two years NCAS representatives have been part of the Cherry Point Technical Workgroup, working to develop a management plan for the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve. The plan has recently been handed to the Commissioner of Public Lands, Peter Goldmark, for his review and will soon be available for review by the public. Through all of these efforts our aim was not to simply oppose further development at Cherry Point but to attempt to stop further degradation of the areas ecosystem and to work toward the recovery of the Cherry Point herring stock.

Currently, SSA Marine has been updating its permits with Whatcom County and communicating with state agencies concerning the Gateway Pacific Terminal project. It seems that their intent is to move ahead with this project at this time and the chapter feels that county residents should be aware that this major shipping facility will potentially be built on our county shoreline over the next few years. Its purpose will be the transshipment of bulk commodities and it will include a pier of about 3,000 feet long by 100 feet wide which will be located between the present BP and Intalco docks, where Gulf Road meets the beach. A trestle will carry the bulk cargo up to the highlands where warehouses and the transshipping facility, with rail and truck access, will be located. The planned facility will probably occupy 200 to 300 acres of land. Some ships accessing the terminal will apparently be the type known as cape ships which are about 200,000 dead weight tons and 1,000 feet in length and too large for the Panama Canal.

The potential for negative impacts to the Cherry Point ecosystem is obvious. In 1999 we entered into an agreement which would allow this project to move ahead if certain conditions are met, studies completed and ongoing monitoring is conducted. The goals of NCAS remain the same, to protect and, hopefully, to restore the Cherry Point marine ecosystem. Whatever the outcome of this latest development proposal for Cherry Point, we will continue to work toward those goals.

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Odds and Ends

Have You Seen Any Western Bluebirds?

Western Bluebirds have been released on San Juan Island as part of a reintroduction program. Some of the birds are wearing leg bands. General ID tips: Length, 5.5 inches (smaller than a robin), with a thin bill. Where found: In open habitat, pastureland, meadows, perched on fence lines.

Open areas north and west of Bellingham provide more or less ideal habitat for Western Bluebirds and there are numbers of nesting boxes in place. With this in mind and when youre traveling the back roads, keep an eye out for flashes of blue. If you happen to observe any bluebirds, report any sightings to: Kathleen Foley of the San Juan Preservation Trust at 360-378-2461, or kathleenf@sjpt.org. You can also report any sightings to Barbara Jensen of the San Juan Islands Audubon Society at 360-378-3068. To file a report on the Western Bluebird Hotline, call 360-298-2822.

Ospreys and Baling Twine

Ospreys have returned from their winter sojourn to dazzle us with the skills that gave them the nickname of fish hawks. Ninety-nine percent of an Ospreys diet is fish and they nearly disappeared between the 50s and 70s due to the extensive use of DDT and other pesticides. After DDT was banned in the US in 1972, Osprey numbers began to increase.

Another problem has emerged that threatens Ospreys once again, and that comes from another manmade sourcebaling twine. Ospreys pick up baling twine that has been left in fields and use it as lining in the construction of their nests. The only problem is that baling twine can become entangled in their sharp talons and as much as 10% of chicks and adult birds die as a result.

The good news is that Ospreys are very resilient and this problem is easily fixed. Here are a few things you can do to help: pick up all used twine in fields and on fence posts; store used twine out of sight; dispose of old twine safely out of reach of Ospreys, and spread the word by telling your friends and neighbors about this little known problem.

If youd like more information on Project Osprey, you can contact projectosprey@mso.umt.edu.

Bellingham Parks Work Parties and Events

The following opportunities will be available for volunteers to lend a hand on projects in and around the broader neighborhood we call home.

Saturday, May 16, 10 AM-Noon. Memorial Park.

Help to improve Memorial Park by cleaning moss and debris off the new memorial brick walkway. Park on King Street adjacent to the park and follow the signs to the work party site.

Saturday, May 16, 1-3 PM. South Bay Trail.

Help Village Books with their ongoing efforts to restore the trail in historic Fairhaven. Park in Fairhaven and catch the trail at 10th and Mill; follow the trail to Douglas Street.

Saturday, May 30, 10 AM-Noon. Bay to Baker Trail.

Help maintain this restoration site on the hill above the new Squalicum Creek Park by weeding invasive plants away from the native trees and shrubs planted there. Located at the south end of Firwood Avenue off Cedarwood Avenue.

To learn more about the program and these individual work parties, call the parks department at 778-7105.

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Backyard Habitat & Native Flora Fair

May 9

Join us 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 in educating people about nesting boxes at our booth. If youre interested, please contact Rae Edwards at 527-9619 or at redwardsbham@yahoo.ca.

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