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September 2009 Issue (vol 40, number 6)
      (Previous Issue May 2009) - (Next Issue October 2009)

General Membership Meeting

Tuesday, September 22, 7:00 PM
Bellingham Public Library Lecture Room

Keith and Jan Wiggers, will present a video program condensed from a ten-week trip through Ecuador from November 2005 to January 2006. The exotic displays of bird species like the Club-winged Manikin and the Long-wattled Umbrellabird, as well as many other beautiful birds, butterflies, monkeys, etc., make tiny Ecuador the main rival to New Guinea for the most extraordinary displays on Earth.

Ecuador is about the size of Colorado, and it is easy to access the nearly 1,600 species of birds and a wide variety of habitats from the Amazonian lowlands to the high Andes and out to the Galapagos Islands. Come and take a mini-vacation with the Wiggers to the warm equator.

This video is being used by the Jocotoco Foundation in Ecuador as an educational tool and for the promotion of the new Spanish version of the excellent field guide, The Birds of Ecuador, by Dr. Robert Ridgely and Paul Greenfield.

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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Were Back!

After surviving a recording-setting heat wave and a variety of unusual Pacific Northwest weather weve returned from our summer sojourn to begin another Audubon year. It will be good to get back into some semblance of rhythm with a full slate of activities and events to keep us busy until....next June! Keep an eye on this newsletter and check out our web site to ensure that you wont miss anything.

Its not always easy to look back and remember all weve done on summer vacation. When I was growing up, I was always so busy doing so many things that when September rolled around, it was all one big blur. Well, Im certainly older now but the blur factor still prevails.

For starters, the second annual NCAS Dungeness Weekend Campout went off without a hitch except for two cracked ribs and from the unofficial vote taken at the end of the weekend, we will do it again sometime in mid-May. Ill begin a sign-up sheet early and make announcements at chapter meetings so no one should be surprised and miss out on a great getaway. We really dont want it to be a secret!

The weather was much more cooperative this year and the hike to the lighthouse seemed to guarantee a good nights sleep. Of course, the campfire camaraderie helped, as well. One of the highlights at Dungeness over the weekend was the commotion on the adjoining Graveyard Spit where hundreds of Caspian Terns were nesting and very actively participating in a variety of courtship rituals. When a peregrine did a low flyover, all the terns were in the air and quite vocal at the intrusion. Little did I know at the time that the Bellingham waterfront would host a new breeding colony of its own at the site of the old GP mill.

I always look forward to the return of the Caspian crew, although some folks find reason to be annoyed at their raucous cries. On a couple of visits to the site, I was taken aback at the number of eggs strewn about in an area that resembled a deserted island beach prime nesting habitat for the terns. On my last visit, I saw >50 young birds, still in the vulnerable stage before fledging. The adults were keeping a close eye on them but I guess well never know how many might have survived the summer. But then, we can look forward to next spring to see if theyll return and try it again.

But first, lets make our way into fall and get busy. I hope everyone had a great summer and I look forward to touching base with each and every one of you at the next meeting.

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NCAS Fall Field Trips
Help Us Get Started

Paul Woodcock
NCAS Field Trip Chair

I always think of autumn as the beginning of a new Audubon Year. Generally, there is no designated year for NCAS or Audubon chapters, but our work certainly slows down over the summer months. Meetings and newsletters are suspended and members tend to turn their objectives to the object of our endeavors the back country, waterways, parks, and other areas where nature still holds sway. Birders and other outdoor and nature enthusiasts are definitely hard to gather together over the long days of summer.

Most of us have returned from our summer travels so we are hoping to entice you to join us on some outings. It is our aim to provide a variety of field experiences that will appeal to citizens of all interests and abilities. We want your participation and we need your support in the form of ideas and volunteer assistance to help make this happen. Please contact me at vp@northcascadesaudubon.org with your feedback, ideas, or to volunteer as a field trip leader. More good leaders will mean more great trips and more people learning about, appreciating, and caring for our natural environment.

NCAS field trips are open to all, members and non-members, FREE of charge. We often limit the number of participants in order to reduce negative impacts and assure a quality experience by requiring advance registration.

So, here are a few offerings to start off the new Audubon Year. Keep checking back with us as there are more and better things ahead for fall, winter, and spring. See you in the field!

Saturday, September 5. Semiahmoo Spit.

Bird the beaches at the only designated Important Bird Area in Whatcom County. These monthly trips are co-sponsored by NCAS and Whatcom County Parks. Semiahmoo is one of our areas most scenic, biologically rich and environmentally-challenged places. We will see shorebirds September is outstanding for shorebirds waterfowl, and other seabirds, as well as raptors and songbirds. Meet at the county park at 9 AM. Trip leader: Paul Woodcock. No registration required.

Sunday, September 20. Scudder Pond and Whatcom Falls Park.

Join us for an easy, half-day outing designed for beginning birder, families, or anyone who appreciates a slower-paced birding trip. We will take our time to study the environment of our chapters own urban wildlife refuge and the adjacent city park. This will be fun and exciting as excellent birding can be found in the urban setting. 8:30 AM. Trip leader: Paul Woodcock, 380-3356.

Tuesday, September 29. Whatcom Museums Syre Center

We will be given a tour of Edson-Booth-Edson collection by the Whatcom Museums Curator of Education, Richard Vanderway. Certainly, looking at dead birds is less exciting than the real thing but this collection of hundreds of mounted specimens from the early days of Whatcom County ornithology many were collected over 100 years agois historically and scientifically significant. At the time these birds were collected, the standard procedure was to shoot birds in order to identify and study them, but these are still available for us to study. The collectors were the pioneering Northwest ornithologists and, yes, two of them, unrelated, were named Edson. 7 PM. Meeting place: Syre Center on Prospect Street, next to the Whatcom Museum. Trip leaders: Paul Woodcock, 380-3356, and Richard Vanderway. Please call Paul to register.

Significantly, this will be one of the last tours Richard will lead for the museum, as he will be retiring in October. Richard has been a life-long NCAS member and supporter so, even if you do not want to see dead birds, come to thank Richard for his long and outstanding career as an educator with our museum.

Saturday, October 3. Semiahmoo Spit.

Another edition of Birding the Beaches, like the September 5 trip described before, but every month is different. We will see fewer shorebirds but many more waterfowl. Join us!

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Point Whitehorn

It was a beautiful, sunny Memorial Day and over 400 people came to discover the treasure known as Point Whitehorn Marine Reserve. For this park opening, we tried something new. We received a grant from the Alliance for Puget Sound Shorelines (the MudUp people) to get a radio broadcast from Point Whitehorn. During the event, the station was at Point Whitehorn, periodically broadcasting live. Tom and Jon from the station enthusiastically talked about the park and encouraged people to visit. It seemed to work, as several families mentioned they heard it on the radio and decided to come out.

The Grand Opening of the Point Whitehorn Marine Reserve began with dedication speeches by County Executive Pet Kremen and WLT founding member Rand Jack. WLT board member Chris Moench explained the connection between the pipeline explosion of 1999 and the beautiful park purchased with funds from the legal settlement of that event.

After the words of dedication, the crowd walked down the three quarter-mile trail through the forested wetlands. Along the way, the WSU Beach Watchers had three stations explaining the importance of those wetlands and their function in keeping the waters of the Strait of Georgia clean. Once on the beach, ReSources Beach Naturalists and Whatcom County Parks & Recreation staff helped people discover the sea life exposed during the -2.8 tide. The big find was a large moon snail.

The magic of the day was captured in the excitement of one child as he eagerly showed off the sunflower sea star he discovered, and in the exclamation of another child as he looked at a prolific nurse log in the forest. Now that this land is a park protected by a conservation easement, future generations can experience the thrill of running through the forest and playing on this beach.

If you havent had a chance to experience this beautiful, new park, we encourage you to visit. To get there, take Grandview Road (exit 266) west. Keep going until it takes a 90 degree turn to the left and becomes Koehn Road. The park is on the left.

This article was featured in the summer 2009 issue of The Steward, the newsletter of the Whatcom Land Trust.

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Bellingham Parks and Recreation Activities and Events

Rae Edwards
NCAS Education Chair

Arbor Day at Elizabeth Park. September 26, 10 AM-2PM

Bellingham celebrates Arbor Day in the fall because this is the best time to plant trees and shrubs! Come join the celebration! There will be guided tree walks; an opportunity to build a nesting box for cavity-nesting birds; watch a tree-climbing demonstration; arborists demonstrating tools of the trade; a childrens area; and more!

The guided walks of the parks trees at 10 and 12:30 will be with James Luce, Bellingham Parks Arborist, and John Wesselink, tree taxonomist extraordinaire. John has volunteered his time to identify and help create tree brochures for several city parks which include Elizabeth and Broadway, and Bay View Cemetery. He became interested in trees and tree identification as a mailman in the Columbia Neighborhood. Now retired, he has more time to learn about and enjoy trees in Bellingham and travels around the United States looking for rare tree species.

Come and join the fun at Elizabeth Park, on the corner of Madison and Elizabeth Streets in the Eldridge neighborhood.

Make a Difference Day. October 24

This is a day to lend a helping hand in the community. This event is sponsored by the Whatcom Volunteer Center with organizations offering a wide variety of volunteer opportunities. Call or look online to find out more and sign up! Contact information by telephone is 734-3055 or, if you prefer, http://www.whatcomvolunteer.org/events/make-a-difference-day.

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October is Urban Forestry Month

The Tree Keepers, a local group whose mission is to preserve, promote, and protect trees in Bellingham, is coordinating with Bellingham Parks and Recreation to provide three Tuesday lunchtime presentations at the downtown library Lecture Room, from 12 noon to 1 PM..

October 6. Tree Pruning, by Paul Thompson of Arboreal Consultants, LLC.

October 13. Forest Fragments, by James Luce, City of Bellingham Arborist.

October 20, Bellinghams Best Conifers, a photographic survey by John Wesselink.

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Bellingham Parks Volunteer Fall Work Parties

Lend a hand on Saturdays this fall keeping Bellingham parks and trails green. We provide the gloves, tools, and directions.

Whatcom Creek Trail. September 26, 9 AM-Noon

Squalicum Creek Park. October 3, 10-AM-Noon

South Bay Trail. October 3, 1 PM-3 PM

Bloedel-Donovan Park. October 10, 10 AM-Noon

Padden Creek Trail. October 10, 1 PM-3 PM

Whatcom Creek Trail. October 31, 9 AM-Noon

Woodstock Farm. November 7, 10 AM-Noon

Racine Trail. November 21, 9 AM-Noon

If youre interested in participating in any of these work parties, contact Rae Edwards, Bellingham Parks Volunteer Coordinator, at 778-7105.

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NCAS Bylaws Changes

Our chapter bylaws were last updated in 1999 and in the ensuing years, a number of proposed changes have been discussed by the Board of Directors. Briefly, they are as follows:

Membership changes to reflect the separation of chapter- only and National memberships.

Correction of officer and board member duties to reflect the capacity in which each one currently serves.

Removal of reference to Register Receipts Committee, since register receipts can no longer be redeemed.

Addition of language creating an Advisory Board category for those individuals advising us regularly, but not being members of the board.

Miscellaneous spelling and grammatical corrections and removal of gender-specific language.

If you have questions or concerns about these changes, or want to see a copy of the chapters bylaws, please contact Tom Pratum at water@northcascadesaudubon.org or by phone at 756-1905.

Final adoption of these changes will be voted on at the September general membership meeting.

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Annual Board Secretary Election

In accordance with the chapter bylaws, we elect officers each May for the coming year for the following officer positions on the Board of Directors: President, Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer.

We had no candidate for the position of Secretary at the May general membership meeting but we now have one: Susan Lamb. Susan will stand for election at our September meeting and we hope that she will join our slate of elected officers soon thereafter.

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NCAS Programs

The NCAS Programs Committee has been hard at work over the summer to line up programs that are at once, enlightening, informative, and entertaining. As of press time, the following programs will take us to the end of the Audubon year in May of 2010,

September: Ecuador, with Keith and Jan Wiggers.

Our intrepid world travelers and neighbors from Skagit County will present another of their wonderful videos from their travels.

October: Pete Stelling

A program about volcanoes.

November: Paul Bannick.

Author of The Owl and the Woodpecker, Paul Bannick brings his phenomenal presentation to NCAS for a Thanksgiving week treat.

December: Holiday Potluck

Details will be announced in future newsletters.

January: Jackie-Caplan Auerbach

Northwest seismology.

February: TBA

March: TBA

April: Robin Matthews

Lake Whatcom update.

May: Matt Fisher

Our most recent grant recipient will give us an update on his research project

More details will follow for all these programs as time approaches. Enjoy.

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Puget Sound Through an Artists Eye

People for Puget Sound, in association with the University of Washington Press, presents artist and naturalist Tony Angell in readings from his new book that captures his art and the natural history of Puget Sound. In Bellingham, a reading and book signing will be held at 7 PM on September 29 at the Bellingham Public Library.

For nearly 50 years, Tony Angell has used Puget Sounds natural diversity as his artists palette. In his book, he describes the living systems within the Sound and shares his observations and encounters with the species that make up the complex communities of the sounds rivers, tidal flats, islands, and beaches: the fledging flight of a young peregrine, an otter playfully herding a small red rockfish, the grasp of a curious octopus.

Tony Angell is an illustrator, sculptor, and author. He has won numerous writing and artistic awards for his work. He is the author of In the Company of Crows and Ravens; Ravens, Crows, Magpies, and Jays; and Owls. He lives in Seattle with his wife and two daughters.

If you would like to see more info or program details, go to http://www.pugetsound.org/events/angell.

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The Passenger Pigeon

Editors note: Occasionally its important for us to remind ourselves of our place in the overall scheme of things. This excerpt is from The Great House of Birds, edited by John Hay.

If there is a tendency in our age to treat birds as numbers, rather than wild beings, there is a precedent for it, dating back to long before 1620, when the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock. When Jacques Cartier sailed toward the islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, back in 1534, he saw gannets, murres, puffins, and kittiwakes, which were as thick as a meadow with grass. His men landed on cliffs and killed more than a thousand murres in a few hours, as well as great auks, flightless birds which were to become extinct as a result of their repeated slaughter by sailors arriving at the New World.

During the centuries of settlement, indiscriminate shooting of birds was commonplace. The abundance of the continent was feverishly admired, to the extent that killing off wildlife seemed irresistible. Passenger pigeons, wild turkeys, prairie chickens, swallows, songbirds, shorebirds of all kinds, terns, egrets, swans, geese, ducks, chicken hawks everything that was edible and much that was not came close to extermination, before conservation laws were finally put into effect.

As Roy Bedichek, the Texas naturalist put in his book, Karankaway County, while describing the courtship of male prairie chickens in the spring, contempt for wildlife on the frontier was almost beyond belief. There used to be killing contests in Texas which lasted for several days, the prize going to those who killed the most birds. Each contestant deposited the prairie chickens he had shot in a pile to be counted by the judges.

Bedichek continues, It proved burdensome to have to bring in the whole bird, so sometimes contestants were permitted under the rules to be credited with heads only. Then the hunter shot his bird down, whacked off the head, stuffed it in a bag, and threw the body away.

Forbush describes a trip to the St. Johns River in Florida, in the late 1790s: Uncounted swarms of waterfowl of many species inhabited the waters in innumerable multitudes. Great flocks of white egrets and ibises, among them the lovely roseate spoonbills, possessed the land. Every turn in the river brought into view a new scene, to be scanned for more forms of life.

To this he adds: Practically all tourists were armed with rifles, shotguns, revolvers, or all three. These armed men lined the rails of the steamboats and shot ad libitum at alligators, waterfowl, anything that made an attractive target. There were practically no restrictions on shooting, although the steamers never stopped to gather in the game, but left it to lie where it fell.

After the great free-for-all of the frontier, we became increasingly disengaged from the land, perhaps as a result of our possession of it. As if we had never seen it in the first place, we left its ancient identity behind us. We have even, it is said, left nature for dead. But birds remain, to teach us what they can of a universe which we have badly neglected.

The last passenger pigeon died in its cage at the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914. The demise of the passenger pigeon symbolizes the loss of wilderness.

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