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March 2010 Issue (vol 41, number 3)
      (Previous Issue February 2010) - (Next Issue April 2010)



General Membership Meeting

Tuesday, March 23, 7:00 PM
Bellingham Public Library Lecture Room
PROGRAM: Grizzly Bears

Sharon Negri, Co-director of the Grizzly Bear Outreach Project (GBOP), will discuss grizzly bear biology, ecology, behavior, safety, conservation, and recovery of this endangered species. Sharon will also talk briefly about GBOP’s plans in 2010 to expand its focus to include wolves and cougars. With over 25 years of working to advance conservation of cougars, Sharon will share a few insights into this remarkable cat, and present a clip from a film that she helped produce — On Nature’s Terms — an inspiring film showing how people and predators are learning to co-exist in harmony.

Join us for an 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. We’ll save a seat for you and treats and hot beverages will be available.

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From the President

March is upon us once more and the countdown has begun to the vernal equinox on March 20. When you read this, the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games will be part of history. The glory of the medal-winning performances might fade, but what will be remembered most is that this Olympics will go on record as being the warmest ever. The world experienced the kind of winter we readily adjust to here in the Pacific Northwest. And who really knows what this winter bodes for the rest of the year?

Weather notwithstanding, we carry on and savor every minute of our moderate winters like no other creatures I know. Cherry blossoms are lining the streets and crocuses are leaping into view in everyone’s yards. Gardeners are out turning the soil and dreaming tomato dreams while some eager beavers are even attempting to get a jump on lawn mowing!

It’s been a strange winter and one to remember as the debate continues to rage over the proper classification of exactly what’s going on — is it global warming or climate change? Whatever you choose to call it, seeing shorts and white legs in February is a slight shock to the system!

As we make our way into spring, the NCAS plate is typically filled with things to do, places to go, and birds to see. We’re pretty excited to continue the weekend campout at Dungeness for the third year in a row. If you’re curious enough to join us or need more information, details are on page 4.

On page 3 is our winter/spring field trip schedule that has a couple of regular trips along with new ones that we’re offering as we wing it through the year. Be sure to join us as we explore our shared backyards in search of birds and other wildlife. If you have ideas for field trips that you’d like to see us look into, let us know.

May is the month that has been set aside as we attempt to revive the NCAS Birdathon. This has the potential to be one of our biggest fundraisers and we’ll need your help to ensure its success and make it an annual event, as well. Details will be in the April and May newsletters and if your curiosity gets the best of you, contact us anytime to shed a little light on the subject.

Nesting box construction is ongoing and if you need one or more for your backyard, please let me know soon, since our local cavity nesters are already feeling the urge to do what they do every year. This year, we’re offering the boxes fully assembled so you can put them up immediately without going through the ordeal of piecing together the kits!

All in all, it’s been an interesting winter, but it’s time to move forward. Let us hear from you about any ideas you might have about any facet of our operation, because this is your very own Audubon chapter!

Get involved....and rejoice!

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NCAS Field Trips To Welcome Spring

Paul Woodcock
NCAS Field Trip Chair

On February 20, fourteen local birders traveled north to the George Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary on an NCAS field trip. The day dawned clear and cold with temperatures in the upper 20s but soon warmed, reaching the mid-50s by early afternoon. Though flocks of Lesser Snow Geese and Trumpeter Swans passed overhead, we did not experience a typical day of winter birding. Red-winged Blackbirds, Marsh Wrens, Song Sparrows, and Bewick’s Wrens were in full song. We identified over 50 species of birds including Reifel specialties such as Sandhill Cranes, Black-crowned Night Herons, and Northern Saw-whet Owls. But the best finds of the day were three Tree Swallows feeding over the marsh. These birds brought with them the promise of an early spring.

Join us in the field and experience the changing seasons as wintering species head north and other migrants return from the south. Every trip is a unique and fulfilling experience. NCAS field trips are intended for birders of all abilities and are offered FREE of charge to all. We often limit the number of participants in order to assure a positive experience and reduce negative impacts. All participants are encouraged to carpool and share expenses with those willing to drive. When registration is required, please contact the trip leader directly. Please check out the offerings below and call early if you are interested.

Saturday, March 6. Semiahmoo Spit.

Join us to Bird the Beaches of Semiahmoo Bay and Drayton Harbor, the only designated Important Bird Area in Whatcom County. These half-day trips, on the first Saturday of each month, are co-sponsored by NCAS and Whatcom County Parks. Semiahmoo is one of our area’s most scenic, biologically-rich and environmentally-challenged places. We will see concentrations of shorebirds, waterfowl, and other seabirds, as well as raptors and songbirds. Meet the group at 9 AM at Semiahmoo Park. Trip leader: Paul Woodcock. No registration required.

Sunday, March 21. Whatcom Creek Walk.

We’ll welcome the Vernal Equinox and walk both sides of Whatcom Creek in the heart of downtown. We’ll amble downstream to its mouth and check for birds in the Whatcom Waterway. Then, we’ll 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 late winter/early spring birds where fresh water meets salt. 10 AM. Trip limit: 12. Trip leader: Joe Meche. If you’d like to be part of this urban expedition, call me at 739-5383 or send me an e-mail at mechejmch@aol.com.

Saturday, March 27. Hovander Park, Tennant Lake, and the Nooksack Dike.

On this full-day trip, we will cover the diverse habitat of Tennant Lake, Hovander Park, and the Nooksack River south toward Marine Drive. We will find early spring migrants such as swallows, hummingbirds, and a few warblers, as well as ducks, blackbirds, wrens, raptors, and maybe a few surprises. 8:30 AM. Trip limit: 12. Trip leader: Paul Woodcock, 380-3356.

Sunday, March 28. Whatcom Falls Park/Scudder Pond.

Join us on this morning tour of one of the jewels in the crown of Bellingham’s fantastic parks system. A virtual wilderness within the city, this 241-acre park is an oasis for a variety of woodland and riparian species. We’ll meet at the parking lot by the old bridge next to the hatchery, and follow the trail downstream to Woburn Avenue. We’ll stop at a number of places along the creek to search for dippers and look for woodpeckers in the area that’s returning to life after the devastating pipeline disaster of 1999. We’ll return upstream to the parking area for a short break. For those who wish to continue the fun, we’ll check out Scudder Pond to round out the morning. 8 AM. Trip limit: 10. Trip leader: Joe Meche, 739-5383, or mechejmch@aol.com.

Saturday, April 3. Semiahmoo Spit.

Another chance to Bird the Beaches. Check the March 6 trip for details.

Sunday, April 11. Whatcom Creek Walk.

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

Sunday, May 23. Whatcom Creek Walk.

This will be the last creek walk until September. Odds are great that we’ll see nesting birds and possibly even some young of the year. These walks are planned to remain consistent with the details on previous walks.

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3rd Annual NCAS Dungeness Campout

May 14-16

The enthusiasm generated by our first two ventures to the Olympic peninsula indicates that we need to carry on, so we have begun the process to continue what is sure to become an NCAS tradition. We have reserved the group campsite at the Clallam County Park at the Dungeness Recreation Area, just above the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge.

This is a fantastic place for bird watching and beach-combing and we’ll be able to combine the two into one package. The group campsite is roomy enough for as many as 40 campers, so sign up early to reserve a spot. On our two previous trips, we had good weather, although some might disagree as to what exactly constitutes good weather. To that I say that even bad weather is better than no weather at all. Nothing tops off a good day of birding and camaraderie like a good campfire and a bit of live, acoustic music — and we’ll have both!

Once again, Paul Woodcock and I will lead two field trips. We’ll hike down to the Dungeness Spit and to the historic Dungeness Lighthouse on Saturday. The round trip to the lighthouse covers approximately 11 miles and there’s potential for good birds all along the way. The highlight just before we reach our destination is the large nesting colony of Caspian Terns. There might be as many as 750 breeding pairs on the adjacent Graveyard Spit, well within viewing range. Last year, we had an extra bonus when a Peregrine Falcon came by and caused every tern to take flight at once. Tern pandemonium!

On Sunday morning, we’ll have sufficient cups of coffee with breakfast as we strike camp and head for the Dungeness River Audubon Center. The habitat at the center and the birds we’ll see there and along the Railroad Bridge Trail will be in perfect contrast to those we’ll experience on the spit.

We encourage carpooling and tent camping, but there will be space in the parking area for a few small RVs/campers. This is a wonderful place to spend a weekend birding, relaxing, and socializing with your NCAS cohorts. If you’d like to join in the fun, call Joe Meche at 739-5383 or send an e-mail to mechejmch@aol.com.

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Mount Baker Wild!

An Update


Steve Irving
NCAS Conservation Committee

Mount Baker Wild! is a local group started in 1999, working to include land that the forest service identified as having the necessary qualities to become federally-designated wilderness by an act of Congress. The Mount Baker Wilderness Area was created in 1984 by the same process, and many of the new areas would become part of that wilderness.

We all love the Mount Baker Wilderness Area but we are working to make it into a more complete ecosystem. We are looking to select wildlife corridors to connect existing wilderness areas which are now separated from each other by high snow and ice ridges. We are also including low-level, old growth forests that are home to many animals such as pine martens, and birds such as spotted owls and marbled murrelets. The article by Joe Meche in last fall’s Avalanche highlights the rich birding available in the national forest.

We are spending millions of dollars on threatened salmon runs and cleaning up Puget Sound, both of which would be helped by clean water that has been filtered by wilderness.

Two years ago, Mount Baker Wild! joined with other wilderness lovers to start a concerted effort to advocate for additions to national forest wilderness areas on the western slope of the Cascades between I-90 and the Canadian border. Mount Baker Wild’s proposal covers the area between the Skagit River and the Canadian border. The Friends of Seven Rivers is working on the headwaters of rivers such as the Sauk, Suiattle, and White Chuck, south of the Skagit and north of Highway 2. The Alpine Lakes Protection Society is looking for additions to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in the area east of Seattle. The Alpine Lakes group currently has a bill working its way through congress.

We at Mount Baker Wild! would like you to join us on a hike this summer. We are working on our 2010 schedule of hikes into the area we are proposing for wilderness protection. Our hike schedule is posted on our web sire at http://mountbakerwild.org. The main purpose of these hikes is to treat as many people as possible to a close look at what is at stake in wilderness protection, while spending a great day tromping around in one of the most spectacular environments on Earth.

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NCAS Volunteer Opportunities

We are always looking for volunteers to help out with our mission in the community. Currently, we have specific needs in the following areas:

Program Chair. Would you like to help us plan future programs? We are looking for an individual to help us organize our monthly programs. This is a board position, and you will have a lot of help from other board members in carrying out the duties of the position.

Scudder Pond Steward. Do you find yourself in the area of Scudder Pond from time to time — possibly walking your dog, walking with friends, or looking at wildlife? We are looking for one or more individuals to report to us on a more-or-less monthly basis regarding conditions of the pond, such as environmental disturbances, invasive species, litter, etc. This is not necessarily a board position, but could be if desired.

If you are interested in either of these positions or have questions, please contact us at info@northcascadesaudubon.org. We would love to hear from you.

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