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September 2010 Issue (vol 41, number 6)
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General Membership Meeting

Tuesday, September 28, 7:00 PM
Bellingham Public Library Lecture Room
PROGRAM: Grizzly Bears in the North Cascades

David Knibb, author of Grizzly Wars: The Public Fight Over the Great Bear, will discuss recovery of grizzly bears under the Endangered Species Act. Following an overview of this effort, he will focus on the North Cascades, which are designated as one of six grizzly recovery areas. He will explore such questions as whether grizzlies still live in the Cascades, how many there might be, where they are, their future, and what plans there might be to save them. Because wolves recently returned to the North Cascades, he will also discuss some of the biological and political interplay between grizzlies and wolves.

Knibb says that grizzlies are likely to be in the news more over the next few years because appropriations are being sought in Congress to fund an environmental assessment of what to do to save or restore grizzlies in the North Cascades. Once this is underway, Knibb predicts that public hearings will spark a lot of discussion about bears. It will be good, he says, for Audubon members to have a heads up on this issue.

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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Caspian Summer

Unless you’ve been out of the country, in a coma, or otherwise preoccupied, you probably heard the news about the second-largest nesting colony of Caspian Terns on the Pacific Coast....right here in Bellingham!

From last year’s 250 nesting birds, which produced approximately 50 chicks, this year’s edition reached a high daytime count of 3,020 adults and over 1,000 chicks. The colony was large enough to get the attention of the folks from Oregon State University and Bird Research Northwest, which are two of the entities involved in ongoing Caspian Tern research in the Pacific states.

The colony nesting grounds at the old Georgia-Pacific mill site drew a lot of attention from other folks as well. After I posted the story on three separate list serves in June, at least two dozen people asked for directions to the site. Some people, on the other hand, asked if there might be someplace else where the terns could go with all their racket.

Well, the racket was music to these ears as I had the good fortune to gain access to the site to monitor the colony from early June through mid-September. I was joined on site by a field tech from Oregon State who surmised, through her observations and consulting with her boss that a chick banding was in order.

Long story short, on July 30, we rounded up, captured, banded, and released 252 chicks. The birds that were banded were 4-5 weeks old and every chick was released unharmed, back into the colony. It was a marvelous operation, headed by a team from Oregon State University and a few locals. The entire operation was carried out as smoothly as anything I’ve seen.

On the other side of the coin is the question about the future of this site for the next generation of this largest member of the worldwide tern family. We all know that the Port of Bellingham and the city want to redevelop the site. The eventual expansion would very likely destroy the ideal nesting habitat which was created inadvertently with the razing of some of the old buildings. The consensus is that the nesting area would be the last part to be developed, so the terns might have a year or two, or more to return for another round.

Terns are opportunistic nesters and they would find another place, as they have been forced to do in the past. But consider the economic benefit and wonderful addition to the waterfront plan that a small sanctuary space would be.

I plan to do a presentation at one of our monthly meetings later in the year and I’ll plan to provide any updates along the way. Feel free to call or e-mail me if you have any questions.

It’s been a wonderful Caspian summer, but now it’s back to work!


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NCAS Field Trips

Paul Woodcock
NCAS Field Trip Chair

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the founding of the North Cascades Audubon Society (NCAS). Throughout its history, NCAS has offered field trips free of charge to the community and we continue to do so today. Education is part of the NCAS mission, as well as that of National Audubon, and field trips are an important part of our educational efforts. It is part of the work you support through you memberships and donations. We are at a time in our history when the importance of connecting people with the natural environment cannot be overstated.

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 paulwoodcock@comcast.net or by phone at 380-3356, 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 nonmembers — 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 fall program. Check the October newsletter as there are more and better things ahead. See you in the field!

Saturday, September4. 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 and are meant for birders of all skill levels. Semiahmoo is one of our area’s most scenic, biologically rich, and environmentally challenged places. We will see shorebirds (September should be outstanding for shorebirds), waterfowl, and other seabirds as well as raptors and songbirds. 9 AM. Meeting place: Semiahmoo County Park. Trip leader: Paul Woodcock. No registration required.

Saturday, September 11. Bluebird Box Installation Project.

NCAS has been asked to assist the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), as well as volunteers from the Washington Waterfowl Association, with the installation of Western Bluebird nest boxes on WDFW and British Petroleum property at Cherry Point. This should be a worthwhile cooperative effort to attempt to bring back the Western Bluebird as a breeding bird in Whatcom County. If there is interest, we can bird the Lake Terrell area after the work is done. 9:30 AM. Trip limit: 10. Trip leader: Paul Woodcock, 380-3356.

Sunday, September 12. Whatcom Creek Walk.

Back by popular demand is this unique field trip that takes place in the heart of downtown Bellingham. We meet in front of city hall, regardless of the weather — which ran the full range last season — and walk down Whatcom Creek to its mouth and return upstream and eventually back to our starting point.

The walk usually lasts a couple of hours and you’ll have the option to bail at any time. We’ll start at 10 AM sharp so plan to arrive a little before 10 to say hello and get to know your fellow walkers. Trip limit: 12. Trip leader: Joe Meche, 739-5383.

*As with the Semiahmoo Spit walks, this walk will be a monthly fixture from September through May. It’s always interesting to witness the changes in the creek and in the wildlife we see as the seasons progress. Be sure to check each month’s newsletter for specific Sundays.

Saturday, October 2, Semiahmoo Spit.

Another edition of Birding the Beaches, similar to the September trip but every month is different. Greater numbers of wintering waterfowl will be present. Join us!

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Two Views of the Gray Jay

Whiskey Jack

This inelegant but familiar jay inhabits the woody districts from latitude 65 degrees to Canada, and in winter time makes its appearance in the northern sections of the United States. Scarcely has the winter traveler in the fur-countries chosen a suitable place of repose in the forest, cleared away of snow, lighted his fire, and prepared his bivouac, when the WhiskeyJack pays him a visit, and boldly descends into the circle to pick up any crumbs of frozen fish or morsels of pemmican that have escaped the mouths of the hungry and weary sledge dogs. This confidence compensates for the want of many of those qualities which endear others of the feathered tribes to man. There is nothing pleasing in the voice, plumage, form, or attitudes of the Whiskey Jack; but it is the only inhabitant of those silent and pathless forests which, trusting in the generosity of man, fearlessly approaches him; and visits were, therefore, always hailed by us with satisfaction.

William Swainson,
Fauna Boreali-Americana of the Zoology of the Northern Parts of British America

In these days every bird has an apologist, but I should rather not be the advocate to defend Whiskey John. He is the worst thief, the greatest scoundrel, the most consummate hypocrite abroad in feathers, with his Quaker clothes, his hoary head, and his look of patriarchal saintliness. He is a thief, a thief, a thief!

Fannie Hardy Eckstrom

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Arbor Day at Elizabeth Park

Saturday, September 18

Celebrate Arbor Day, Bellingham style, at Elizabeth Park and enjoy a number of activities.

•Tree care stations with local experts to answer your questions.

•A tree walk spotlighting the trees of Elizabeth Park with Bellingham Parks arborist James Luce at 10:30.

•Mayor Dan Pike will read the Arbor Day Proclamation at noon, followed by a tree climbing demonstration at 12:30.

•Table displays and activities, including knots commonly used in tree work; nest box building with North Cascades Audubon; restoring salmon habitat with the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association.

•Find the best tree for your yard and learn about the tools an arborist uses with Treekeepers.

•There will also be tree-related kids’ activities.

Come to Elizabeth Park and join in the fun!

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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 observing wildlife? We are looking for one or more individuals to report to us on a more-or-less monthly basis regarding conditions at 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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While the inhabitants of this great city are fast asleep, during the dark nights that occur generally about this period of September, many wonderful events are going on high up in the air, far above our heads. Of the nature and cause of these phenomena the general public is little aware. The noises proceeding from the numerous creatures, that are passing over our towns in mid-air, during the darkness of the night, would in former days have probably been put down to the supernatural agency of ghosts and goblins. Observation however, has taught us that the mysterious forms, shadows and cries proceed from flocks of migratory birds, passing from one part of the earth’s surface to another. More especially when the clear and frosty nights come on may be heard in the sky the rush of the wings, and the wild cries of various water-birds, such as wild ducks, wild geese and other waterfowl, as they are passing from the northern to the more southern regions.

Life of Frank Buckland

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