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September 2003 Issue (vol 34, number 6)
      (Previous Issue May 2003) - (Next Issue October 2003)



SEPTEMBER Meeting

Tuesday, September 23, 7:30 PM
Bellingham Public Library Lecture Room
Program:
  Birds of the Puget Sound Region

Join author Bob Morse as he shares with us his sixth book on birding, Birds of the Puget Sound Region. An opportunity to purchase the book as a donation will be provided and the author will be available to sign copies before and after the presentation.

The Puget Sound region of Washington state has to be one of the most beautiful parts of our country. With the blue waters of Puget Sound, lush evergreen forests, snow-capped mountains, and lots of lakes and rivers, this area is blessed with an abundant variety of bird life.

Now, for the first time, there is a photographic guide to the birds of the entire region — from the sound to the mountains. Illustrated with full-page color photographs of the birds, the book presents information on over 200 species of birds seen in the area. It also provides helpful information for beginning birders on attracting and feeding birds, binocular selection, finding and identifying birds, and local habitats.

Birds of the Puget Sound Region is coauthored by Bob Morse, Tom Aversa, and Hal Opperman and is expected to be quite popular with beginning and intermediate birders.

Bob Morse started watching birds when he was 12 years old and has birded extensively throughout the United States. He has seen 830 different bird species in the US and 414 species in Washington state. Morse has spent over 40 years studying the birds of the Puget Sound region.

According to Morse, “Over 300,000 people in the Puget Sound area watch or feed birds. Here’s a compact guide to the local birds. Bird watching is fun, It is easy to get started, inexpensive, healthy, and is a great way to enjoy nature.”

Join us for this special presentation and learn from one of the top birding experts in Washington state. As always, meetings of the North Cascades Audubon Society are FREE and open to the public.

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From the Editor

We’re back!!

OK, let’s put away those summer toys and get back to work! September is here and it’s time to get into the rhythm of another NCAS fall-into-winter-into-spring schedule. We have a full range of exciting programs beginning with Bob Morse and his new book at the September meeting. See page 1 for details on this first meeting of the faithful since the end of May.

October marks the beginning of another season of NCAS birdwatching field trips. The field trips have become quite popular so make sure to call early to reserve a spot. You’ll find a complete listing of the fall field trips in the October issue of the Avalanche.

NCAS is looking for Swan Survey volunteers to search for Swans in the county. See page 5 for details on the survey. The 14-month Tennant Lake Bird Census still needs a few good volunteers, as well. Call the Birding Programs Coordinator if you’re interested.

In December, the 37th edition of the Bellingham Christmas Bird Count will take place and, as always, we’ll be looking for a few hardy souls to spend the day counting birds - regardless of the weather. Bad weather actually makes for exciting bird counts. Yeah, right.

So much to talk about and do, and yet, so little space..

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NCAS on the Road: Wisconsin Birding

By Paul Woodcock

Editor’s note: Beginnning with this issue of the Avalanche, chapter members will have the opportunity to submit accounts of their birding trips inside or outside Whatcom County. The editor encourages and welcomes submissions from your adventures afield.

Most birders have a well-developed sense of place. With thoughts of a particular location come memories or dreams of what lives there and the habitat it contains. The connection is particularly strong if the place was once considered home. Over the years, as I craned my neck to see a MacGillivray’s or Townsend’s Warbler high in the canopy of a Washington forest, I dreamed of once again experiencing a Wisconsin warbler migration as remembered from my youth. Could I possibly have seen eight or more species of warblers at a time? Could I still do that? I needed to go back to find out.

I set some goals, mostly concerning life birds that had somehow eluded me over the years. I called an old friend who now directs a nature center located between the cities of Manitowoc and Two Rivers, Wisconsin, near my hometown. On May 5, I set out from Whatcom County to spend a month as a volunteer at the Woodland Dunes Nature Center, along the shore of Lake Michigan. A major storm had been centered over the south central US for some days and I wondered if it would affect my trip east across the heartland of America.

Late on my second day, as I approached the Rockies, a sudden blizzard blocked the way. In the dark with near whiteout conditions, I met the snowplows headed south into Yellowstone. Rain fell for most of the remainder of my trip.

Skies began to clear as I entered the hills of eastern Minnesota and I began to see familiar eastern species such as Blue Jay, Eastern Kingbird, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Baltimore Oriole, and Eastern Towhee. Leaves were showing in the forests of central Wisconsin but were shrunken back into their buds as I approached the cooler shores of Lake Michigan. I also began to see large flocks of migrating Canada geese and, nearly as numerous, were flocks of another bird headed north. After some consideration, I realized that they were Double-crested Cormo-rants, a bird that had almost been eliminated from the area by pesticides in the early 50s.

May 10 dawned sunny and cool but we knew that a storm was on the way. I joined my brother and other members of the Aegolius Bird Club on a field trip to Woodland Dunes and on to western Manitowoc County. We logged 85 species, highlighted for me by Wild Turkey (gone from the area in the 50s and 60s), Sandhill Crane (once rare in the area but now common), Solitary Sandpiper, Yellow-throated and Blue-headed Vireos, Scarlet Tanager, and 14 species of warblers, including Northern Parula, Blackburnian and Black-throated Green Warblers, American Redstart, and Northern Waterthrush. Birding was great, even though the numbers were small. The storm hit later that evening.

Strong winds were still blowing the rain early the next morning at my sister’s home in urban Two Rivers. Avian wonders began to appear at the feeder outside her kitchen window — 4 Red-headed Woodpeckers, 8 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, 3 Indigo Buntings, Palm Warblers, an Ovenbird, a Black and White Warbler, and numerous Baltimore Orioles. I had a feeling that this was going to be the day I was hoping for.

As the skies cleared later that afternoon, I headed for a deciduous forest on the Lake Michigan dunes just north of Point Beach State Forest. A cool northeast wind blew off the lake, clearing away the remaining clouds. Large flocks of 50 to 100 migrating warblers were ranging the woods, clearly visible as the leaves were just beginning to unfurl. It felt like birder heaven! From one vantage point, I was able to identify 11 species of warblers and hear 2 more, with a Scarlet Tanager, a Red-headed Woodpecker, and a Great-crested Flycatcher thrown in for good measure.

The following morning was my first day of “work” at Woodland Dunes. I had barely settled in when a call came from a bird club member. Black-throated Blue Warblers, one of my “target birds,” had just been seen along the lake north of Two Rivers. Off I went and in a little over an hour I had added Golden-winged, Nashville, Cape May, Bay-breasted, Canada, and Black-throated Blue Warblers to my trip list. This storm also blew a number of rarities into the area — a Painted Bunting was reported in Sheboygan and a Ruff was located near Green Bay. We searched for the birds with no success.

I spent the next 3 weeks at Woodland Dunes working with third grade students in their naturalist program and assisting with bird banding. The nature center consists of 1,200 acres adjacent to Lake Michigan and offers a wide variety of habitat and birding experiences. In and around the marshes you can see and hear Sedge and Marsh Wrens; Swamp, Lincoln’s, and Chipping Sparrows; and of course, Common Yellowthroats, and Yellow Warblers. Twelve species of warblers, 9 flycatchers, and 7 sparrows are known to breed there along with over 100 other species. In late June, Alder and Willow Flycatchers sing side by side. It’s hard to believe that 30 years ago the two species were considered one.

Before my visit ended the first week of June, I was able to record 29 species of warblers. A second and unexpected life bird for me was the Hooded Warbler, which seems to have expanded its range into the area since my youthful birding days. By contrast, the Cerulean Warbler has become difficult to find. We were able to identify one by ear during my visit but never made visual contact.

Many things have changed in the more than 30 years since I lived and birded in Wisconsin. I have already mentioned the return of the cormorant, the crane, and the turkey. I’m happy to report that the Bald Eagle is back, also. Like the Hooded Warbler, the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher has expanded its range and is now common throughout southern Wisconsin. A number of gull species are expanding their ranges into the Great Lakes. Besides the common Herring, Ring-billed, and Bonaparte’s Gulls, Little Gulls are now breeding in the area; and the Glaucous and Great Black-backed, among others, are regular visitors. I was also lucky enough to see a Laughing Gull in Manitowoc harbor.

Not all the changes have been for the better but the birding in Wisconsin is still inspiring. Truly, the warbler migration this year was even better than I remembered. I recommend it to you all. For more information on the Woodland Dunes Nature Center, go to their website at http://www.woodlanddunes.com.

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NCAS Officers Elected

In May, the following individuals were elected to serve their respective positions as officers of NCAS for the next Audubon year.

Debbie Craig President
Dave Schmalz Vice President
Jodi Broughton Secretary
Michele Bodtke Treasurer

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Conservation News

Lake Whatcom Update

by Tom Pratum
Conservation Committee

Over the summer, we saw no apparent decrease in the number of people who choose to use our drinking water reservoir for motorized recreation. We also saw that Bloedel Donovan Park was plagued again with E. coli bacteria problems to the point that is has been closed to swimming for the latter part of the summer.

Potential solutions to some other Lake Whatcom issues that were unresolved at the start of the summer remain so at this time: • The changes to the Whatcom County Code Title 20 development standards for water resource protection areas (Lake Whatcom, Lake Samish, and Drayton Harbor), which we have been talking about for quite a few months, are still in the County Council Planning and Development Committee — they were moved back to committee after being before the council briefly in June. It is hoped that they will be voted on in final form on October 7. The ordinance, as it currently stands is not perfect in regard to watershed protection, but should be passed without being watered down further. We encourage any interested members to help ensure passage by showing up for the hearing. For more information, please go to our website at the address listed below. • The interim downzone of the Lake Whatcom watershed was extended for another 6 months on May 20. We hope this will be enacted at some point as a final ordinance without being further weakened. Stay tuned for updates. • The Department of Natural Resources should release its Draft EIS for the Lake Whatcom Landscape Plan to guide management of the state land in the watershed sometime this month. Preliminary information indicates that the preferred alternative will be that which barely meets legislative requirements. A public hearing should take place in September or October, and all interested members should plan on attending. There is considerably more information on our website. Again, stay tuned for updates.

Please come to the public hearings and/or contact your council members. For more information, visit our website and click on http://northcascadesaudubon.org/lakewhatcom , or contact Tom Pratum at water@northcascadesaudubon.org.

Our website tracks local Forest Practice Permits

Forest Practice Permits are required for most forestry activities in the state (RCW 76.0950), whether they are conducted by private individuals or by public entities such as the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). These activities might involve the harvest of timber, road maintenance, aerial spraying, or conversion of forest land to non-forest use (conversion). Often, one of the first indications of development activity is the application (Forest Practice Application or FPA) for a conversion Forest Practice Permit.

Forest Practice Permits are issued by the DNR, which puts them out for public review for a very short time - generally less than 4 weeks - prior to issuance. We are tracking FPAs for Lake Whatcom and surrounding watersheds and have placed location and summary information on our website. Go to http://www.northcascadesaudubon.org/conservation and follow the links. For further information, contact Tom Pratum at water@northcascadesaudubon.org.

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Bellingham Traverse

by Debbie Craig

On September 13, my husband (and notorious NCAS field trip leader) and I (your humble president) plan to embark upon the long and tumultuous migration of the local salmon - well, sort of. We will run furiously up hills, scream down mountainsides, brave the roads of Whatcom County, head out to sea, and return for the final leg of our long journey only to find a number of man-made obstacles blocking our eminent return to the Boundary Bay Brewery.

What on Earth am I talking about? We are participating in a local multi-sport race - the Bellingham Traverse - to raise money for NCAS, and we hope that you might consider rewarding our hard work, our sweaty trials, and our quest for the Bay with a sponsored donation. Our goal is to raise $500 for the chapter, and we cannot do it without your help.

The race consists of a 6-mile run (Andrew), a 10-mile mountain bike (Andrew), a 16-mile road bike (me), a 4-mile run (Andrew), a 4-mile kayak (me), and a 2.5-mile trek from Fairhaven to Bellingham (both of us). For more info about the race, go to the website www.bellinghamtraverse.com.

If you can support Team Capsaicin with a donation, please contact us at 671-8427, or you can e-mail us at dnacraig@fidalgo.net. You may also simply send a check made out to The Traverse to the chapter’s PO Box 5805, Bellingham, WA 98227. Take a look at the NCAS website for photos of us in action, training for the big journey.

Thanks for your support! Hope to see you on race day!!!

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Swan Survey 2003

By Tom Pratum
Swan One

Over the past two years, our chapter has been involved in conducting surveys of wintering Trumpeter and Tundra Swans in Whatcom County. The purpose of these surveys is to determine populations and foraging locations for swans wintering in our area. This information has been helpful in a joint effort between WDFW and several other state, federal, and Canadian agencies to determine the source of lead shot that has poisoned a large proportion of our wintering swan population over the past 10 years.

In the past two seasons, lead-poisoned swans have been found starting in late November, shortly after the arrival of swans on the wintering grounds. The number of deaths is observed to peak in early January, and to decline by mid-February when many swans appear to move to other areas, such as Skagit County. Note that a majority of the swans that are found lead-poisoned can have the history of their movements studied in order to locate likely locations of shot ingestion.

Last year, we hoped to have enough data to narrow down the source; however, most will recall that this past year did not have a typical fall or winter. Two factors made last year very atypical: very low precipitation in our area and relatively high temperatures in the Arctic where the swans spend the summer months. This resulted in a delayed arrival of swans to the area, and caused them to use alternate foraging areas as some that would typically be used were “bone dry.”

This year, we hope for a more typical scenario. El Nino, which blessed us last year, is not currently predicted to recur. In fact, La Nina - the inverse of El Nino - was predicted in May, but that prediction has since been rescinded by NOAA.

Surveys will likely take place 2 times each week between the end of October and the end of December. To see results from prior surveys and information about swans, go to the website http://www.northcascadesaudubon.org/swan_survey.

If you are willing to help out this year, even if only for a few days, please contact Tom Pratum at water@northcascadesaudubon.org.

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