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January 2010 Issue (vol 41, number 1)
      (Previous Issue November/December 2009) - (Next Issue February 2010)

General Membership Meeting

Tuesday, January 26, 7:00 PM
Bellingham Public Library Lecture Room
PROGRAM: Earthquakes

Living in the Pacific Northwest means living with a variety of geologic hazards. In October, Pete Stelling gave a presentation on volcanic hazards, so this talk will focus on life in earthquake country. What causes earthquakes? Where and how often do they occur, and how big do we expect them to be? This presentation will consider the effects of earthquakes including how our local geology affects ground shaking, what to expect as residents of Whatcom County, and how to live safely in earthquake territory.

This evenings presentation will be by Jackie Caplan-Auerbach, Assistant Professor of geophysics at Western Washington University. A self-described hazards junkie, her research focuses on earthquakes associated with volcanoes and avalanches. She earned her Ph.D from the University of Hawaii where she studied earthquakes and landslides associated with a local submarine volcano. Prior to moving to Bellingham, she spent five years working for the Alaska Volcano Observatory, contributing to volcanic monitoring and studying the sounds generated by erupting volcanoes.

Join us for a fascinating/informative evening and remember that meetings of the North Cascades Audubon Society are FREE and open to the public, so 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


While it might be difficult to believe, it really is 2010, and so begins the second decade of the 21st century. Im over halfway into my seventh decade and staring eagerly at my eighth. How did that happen? Did I have fun getting here and if so, will the fun continue? Something to ponder, for sure!

This first issue of yet another New Year is preceded by the controlled chaos of the big holidays of Thanksgiving (my personal favorite), Christmas, and New Years Day. Intermingled with the Big Three is the questionable and ersatz holiday that is Halloween. Add to this mix any number of Christmas Bird Counts (CBC) in the area between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5.

On Dec. 20, the Bellingham CBC celebrated its 43rd count in remarkable weather, much to the relief of those participants who signed on to count regardless of what the weather gods would send our way. The two weeks prior to the count alternated between very cold and very wet, but count day was almost tropical, with a high temp of 54 and very little wind on most of the territories. Most freshwater ponds and lakes had broken free of their icy coats so more ducks and geese were where they should have been. And thats the way we like it.....

uh huh! See below for the details of the count.

On Dec. 19, Clayton Snider led the CBC on the Washington State Ferry between Anacortes and Sidney B.C. From all accounts, this count was also done in much better weather conditions than last year. See page 7 of this issue for a recap of that count.

As the holiday dust settles and we look forward to the next six months, the NCAS plate is already filled with places to go and things to do. We have programs scheduled through May that include a variety of topics from earthquakes to birds in Israel and more on the ongoing status of our drinking water supply Lake Whatcom.

We will offer field trips for all levels of birders to enlighten and entertain throughout the remainder of winter and well into spring. In the middle of May, our weekend field trip will take us back to the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge for a two-night stay at the group campsite at the Clallam County Park at the base of Dungeness Spit. This wonderful outing is destined to become an annual event for NCAS members, given the positive feedback weve received from those who attended the first two. Consider joining us in May.

Something else to consider with the approach of spring is our nesting box program. We make nesting box kits for cavity nesting birds and sell them for tax-deductible donations to buy more materials for more boxes. We generally sell them at two or three events during the year but they are now available throughout the year. If youre interested in purchasing one or more or would like more info, give me a call or e-mail me. They will be available at chapter meetings and if you dont live in Philadelphia, I can even deliver them to you!


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NCAS Winter Field Trips

Paul Woodcock
NCAS Field Trip Chair
Saturday, January 2. Semiahmoo Spit.

This edition of Birding the Beaches begins a new year on the beaches of Semiahmoo Bay and Drayton Harbor. 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, waterfowl, and other seabirds, as well as raptors and songbirds. Meet the group at 9 AM at Semiahmoo Park. Trip leader: Ray Nelson. No registration required.

Saturday, January 16. Bald Eagles of the Nooksack.

This is a half-day trip to explore winter concentration sites of Bald Eagles along the Nooksack River. The field experience will focus on observation, age discrimination, behavior, and natural history of one of our regions most emblematic species. 8:30 AM. Trip limit: 10. Trip leader: Dave Schmalz, 671-1537.

Sunday, January 17. Whatcom Creek Walk.

Well walk both sides of Whatcom Creek in the heart of downtown. Well amble downstream to its mouth and see what we might in the Whatcom Waterway. Then, well return upstream on the opposite side of the creek to get a better view of what we might have missed. The meeting place will be in front of city hall. There is potential for a variety of winter birds where fresh water meets salt. 10 AM. Trip limit, 12. Trip leader: Joe Meche. If youd like to be part of this urban expedition, call me at 739-5383 or send me an e-mail at mechejmch@aol.com.

Saturday, January 23. Woodstock Farm.

Hike to (a short walk on the Interurban Trail) and explore one of Bellingham and Whatcom Countys premier urban parks. A variety of habitats allows for excellent woodland birding and great views of Chuckanut Bay. Common Loons, Western Grebes, and Pileated Woodpeckers are often seen and species such as Huttons Vireo and Pine Grosbeak are sometimes located. 8:30 AM. Trip limit: 12. Trip leader: John Horner, 676-6029.

Saturday, February 6. Semiahmoo Spit.

This is another edition of Birding the Beaches. See the previous first-Saturday walk for details, but keep in mind that every month is different so please come out and join us! Meet at the county park at 9 AM. Trip leader: Paul Woodcock. No registration required.

Sunday, February 14. Whatcom Creek Walk.

This will be the February edition of the walk thats opening a few eyes to the birds that we can find in the heart of downtown Bellingham. Same details apply.

Saturday, February 20. George Reifel Sanctuary, B.C.

This will be a full-day trip to one of our favorite Northwest birding destinations west of Ladner, B.C. The Reifel Sanctuary is located on Westham Island and is home to wintering shorebirds, raptors, songbirds, and outstanding concentrations of watewfowl. There are often surprises such as owls and nomadic winter species. 8 AM. Trip limit: 12. Trip leader: Paul Woodcock, 380-3356. Please do not call to register until after February 1. Passports are required to cross the border into Canada.

Sunday, March 14. Whatcom Creek Walk.

Details are the same, but we could begin to see the arrival of a few spring birds along the creek.

Sunday, April 11, Whatcom Creek Walk.

As before but more green than gray will be the order of the day.

Sunday, May 16. Whatcom Creek Walk.

This will be the last creek walk until September. Odds are great that well see nesting birds and possibly even some young of the year. Same details as previous walks.

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NCAS Bluebird Trail

Joe Meche
Birding Programs Coordinator

Paul Woodcock and I have been discussing the possibility of creating a trail of nesting boxes in the western part of the county. Following the concept of build it and they will come, were considering a rough draft for a layout of boxes to attract Western Bluebirds, primarily along Lake Terrell Road between Slater and Mountain View Roads.

A couple of the industries in the area have expressed an interest in providing funding for such a project and would allow us the necessary use of their property for installing, monitoring, and maintaining the boxes. And thats where you come in.

At this point, wed like to know how many people might be interested in participating in the project. Help will be needed in the field to make this work. Call or e-mail Paul or me if youd like to join us. Our numbers can be found on page 2 and our e-mail can be accessed through the chapter web site. We know there are bluebirds out there looking for nesting cavities and we can provide them....with a little help from our friends.

*As of this printing, we have a total of four people who have expressed an interest in lending a hand. Another project is afoot to place nesting boxes for Wood Ducks at both Bug Lake and Sunset Pond. From the perspective of thinking like a Wood Duck, the nesting habitat at Bug Lake looks more promising so well start there and eventually cross the freeway to Sunset Pond (known to some as Lago Kmarto). Both of these impoundments are fed by Squalicum Creek and are upstream from Cornwall Park. Stay tuned for more news on that front.

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13th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count

February 12-15

This February, take part in a family-friendly, educational activity that doesnt cost anything, makes a difference, and is lots of fun. Each year, tens of thousands of people throughout the U.S. and Canada take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). You can count the birds you see in your backyard, off your balcony, at your local park, or from your window.

People of all ages and levels of bird watching experience are welcome. The GBBC is a great way to learn more about the birds in your backyard and neighborhood. Its also a fun and engaging activity that encourages kids to get outside and connect with nature. You can count by yourself, or with your family, community group, school, or friends! Its an ideal way for more experienced birders to introduce children, grandchildren, and others to the wonderful world of birds.

Whether you are new to birding, or an expert birder, your counts count! Your checklist will contribute valuable information for conservation when you enter your tally online at www.birdcount.org. Short or long, your list will help scientists understand more about how the distribution and abundance of birds are changing through time.

Last year, participants identified 619 species and submitted a record-breaking 93,600 checklists. Their reports tracked the locations and numbers of American Robins, Black-capped Chickadees, and other familiar birds as well as a massive surge of Pine Siskins over much of the eastern United States. The siskins moved southward because of seed crop failures in their usual wintering grounds in Canada and the boreal forests.

Anyone can explore which species have been seen in the community, state, or province and see maps showing where specific species have been found on the GBBC website.

To get involved, visit www.birdcount.org for easy-to-follow instructions on how to count the birds you see and how to report your data. You can count birds at the same place on each day of the count, or you can visit other locations.

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Roly-poly Roaches

Cockroaches can get fat, too. Patricia Moore, a University of Exeter biologist, was curious about how what young roaches eat affects their long-term health. So her team fed female juveniles either an unhealthy (for roaches, that is) high-protein fish-food diet or a nutritious mix of fish food and carbohydrate-rich oatmeal. Those that chowed down on the bad victuals were fatter and matured later than their counterparts.

And switching to nourishing nosh in adulthood doesnt help. Its like they turn a switch in juvenile development, and they cant turn back, says Moore. She suggests a connection between the bugs slow growth and their ability to store fat as energy to buffer against future poor conditions. Theyre absorbing every calorie possible, and that causes health problems if theyre suddenly able to eat as much as they want, says Moore. Our cockroaches dont get diabetes, but they dont live as long [as adults] and they dont have as many babies as those that experience good conditions throughout life.

Alisa Opar
Audubon magazine

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Last of the Red-hot Lovers

Siring offspring is probably the last thing on most nonagenarians minds, but 90-year-old Lonesome George may yet be a father. The Galapagos giant tortoise, long thought to be the last of his species, has resided at the Galapagos Charles Darwin Research Station since 1972, and for the past 16 years hes been shacking up with two females from closely related species. Though George is still in his sexual prime, there hadnt been any sign of wooing until last year, when the ladies laid nine eggs. Those proved infertile, but this year there are five more. Scientists hope that a carefully monitored incubation will produce hatchlings in November or December. Gisella Caccone, an evolutionary biologist at Yale University whos part of the effort to bring Georges species back from the brink, says, He is a symbol of all the animals and plants of the Galapagos.

Ted OCallahan
Audubon magazine

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Bellingham Christmas Bird Count

December 20, 2009

Overall results of this year's count: Total species: 122. Total individuals 71,040. Total observers: 72 in 24 parties; 27 at feeders. Total hours: 260. Total miles: 816.

For detailed results, and/or graphical comparisons, please see our Christmas Birdcount page.

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San Juan Islands Ferry CBC

On Dec. 19, the day before the Bellingham Christmas Bird Count (CBC), five intrepid voyagers took part in a unique CBC aboard the Washington State Ferry that traveled from Anacortes to Sidney, B.C. and back. Unlike the more traditional land-based CBCs, this count takes place over water as the ferry travels through a series of transects on the international run to Sidney. Clayton Snider once again led the charge and reported that the weather was partly sunny, mild and calm.

Please see our Christmas Birdcount page for the results of this year's count.

One of the perks on the ferry count is the opportunity to mix in a few fins (marine mammals) with the feathers along the way. Harbor Seal: 5, Northern Sea Lion: 3, Harbor Porpoise: 2, porpoise species: 1.

NCAS would like to extend many thanks to Clayton Snider and his crew, which included his wife, Linda, Ken Lane and his son, Fanter, and John Puschock.

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