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November/December 2010 Issue (vol 41, number 8)
      (Previous Issue October 2010) - (Next Issue January 2011)

General Membership Meeting

Tuesday, November 23, 7:00 PM
Fairhaven Public Library Auditorium
PROGRAM: Earth in Music: Conservation of Natural Acoustic Environment

Gordon Hempton, acoustic ecologist, Emmy Award-winning sound recordist, and author of One Square Inch of Silence: One Man’s Search for Silence in a Noisy World, will share with us his beautifully pristine natural soundscapes from around the world. Gordon is the sound tracker who has circled the globe three times searching out and recording sites where nature’s sounds and music still prevail, unadulterated by human noise pollution. His presentation will include dawn chorus around the world, recordings capturing the sounds of birds greeting the day at various locations spanning the planet.

Mr. Hempton, who lives in Joyce, Washington, founded the One Square Inch of Silence Foundation to defend Olympic National Park from the encroaching noise of civilization. He has provided audio services to musicians, galleries, museums, and media producers including Microsoft, Smithsonian, National Geographic, Discovery, and NPR. His sound portraits have been featured in the PBS documentary, Vanishing Dawn Chorus. This is a program you will not want to miss.

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

It’s difficult to believe that the holiday season is upon us, but here it comes! The big shift seems to occur sometime around Halloween, when October winds are turning into November rain and all the Hamsters are noticeably seeking shelter. Added to the weather changes are the conversations we’re having about Christmas Bird Counts and holiday potluck dinners here and there. I guess we just get to a point where we’re not ready to exchange nicer, warmer weather and longer days for six months or more of the darker, moodier days of fallwinterspring, that unpredictable season.

After a 3-week road trip filled with a full range of emotions, I’ve found it more difficult than ever before to get back into the rhythm of things in general and focus on the work at hand. Perhaps the work at hand is what’s required to regain the focus that was there before we left. Hmmm.

My summer days and the first few days of fall were filled with balancing work and the waterfront Caspian Tern colony right up to the day we left. When we finally left and were on the road, it was somewhat intriguing to have nothing to do but go! Tying up loose ends is more challenging than ever, and I’m sure there’s a message in there, somewhere.

We enjoyed spectacular weather for the entire trip, with blue skies and temperatures ranging from 22 to 93 degrees across 15 states. We experienced spectacular sunsets and sunrises, good visits with family and friends along the way, and the stunning sights and sounds of the open road. Back roads, or Blue Highways, are still the best way to see all that this fine country has to offer.

From Yellowstone to the central Texas coast and the Davis Mountains of west Texas, birds and other wildlife proved the benefits of traveling closer to the Earth than at 35,000’ above it! Between remote, beautiful, and wildlife-rich locations, however, we still had to cross more than a few of the eyesores that humans leave as the abuse of the planet continues. We tried to give the larger cities a wide berth but intentionally took a couple of them head-on to expedite our travel. Blinders might have come in handy, but it’s important to accentuate the positive, and know that there is still more of the good than the bad and the ugly.

So we’re back, with a myriad of memories filling our traveling bags as we return to the real world of being busy and getting things done.

On behalf of the Board of Directors of the North Cascades Audubon Society, I wish you the best of health and good times in this coming holiday season. As we begin the broader season of peace on Earth and good will toward men, perhaps we can consider extending that feeling to the other ten months of the year. It’s easy to do.


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NCAS Fall Field Trips

Paul Woodcock
Field Trip Chair

With La Nina conditions prevailing on the Pacific Ocean, predictions are pointing to the possibility of a good, old-fashioned winter of snow and cold in the Pacific Northwest. Wintering species are gathering in our area as we move on through the fall — Snow Geese, Trumpeter Swans and other waterfowl, Rough-legged Hawks, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Golden-crowned, Lincoln’s, and Fox Sparrows are all here for our viewing pleasure.

But the possibility of frozen, snow-covered fields and woodlands brings with it more than just a physical challenge. With those conditions come visions of bird species of the tundra and boreal forests seldom seen in our area during an era of changing climate. What a thrill it would be to locate a Snowy or even a Great Gray Owl, Bohemian Waxwings, a flock of Snow Buntings or Common Redpolls. So, let’s go forth to meet winter with heightened expectations created by the promise of a real winter for a change. Please join us in the field for exciting possibilities of late fall and winter birding adventures.

It is the aim of NCAS to provide a variety of field experiences that will appeal to people 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 (360)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.

North Cascades Audubon field trips are open to all, members and non-members, FREE ;’of charge. We often require advance registration in order to limit the number of participants, reduce negative impacts, and assure a quality experience. Here is our calendar of fall field trips. Please go birding with us!

Saturday, November 6. Semiahmoo Spit.

Bird the beaches at the only designated Important Bird Area in Whatcom County. These monthly, three-hour 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, loons, grebes, sea and dabbling ducks and other seabirds, as well as raptors and songbirds. 9:00 AM. Meeting Place: Semiahmoo County Park. Trip Leader: Paul Woodcock. No Registration Required.

Saturday, November 13. Blaine, Birch Bay State Park, & Lake Terrell.

This half-day trip will begin at Marine Park in Blaine and then go on to Semiahmoo targeting shorebirds and Long-tailed Ducks. The third stop will be Birch Bay State Park and then on to Lake Terrell. Expect to find grebes, scoters, scaups, American Wigeon, Northern Pintail, Ruddy and Harlequin Ducks, and other species. Dress for the weather and take binoculars, spotting scope if you have one, and lunch or snacks as needed. Meet to carpool at the southeast corner of the Sunset Square parking lot. Call Andrea at 734-9881 if you have questions. 8:30 AM. Trip Leaders: Andrea Warner and Joan Bird.

Sunday, November 14. Whatcom Creek Walk.

We’ll meet in front of city hall at 10 AM and take a leisurely stroll along trails down Whatcom Creek to the waterfront and return upstream to our starting point. Unexpected birds, like owls and loons are the highlight of this unique inner city walk. Trip limit: 12. Trip leader: Joe Meche, 739-5383.

Wednesday, November 17. George Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary, Ladner B.C.

With apologies to those who cannot take part in a weekday trip, this full-day trip is scheduled to avoid crowds at the sanctuary and long border waits on the way home. One of our favorite destinations, Reifel Sanctuary is located on Westham Island and is home to wintering shorebirds, raptors, songbirds, and large concentrations of waterfowl. Owls and nomadic winter species are often present. 8:00 AM. Trip Limit 12. Trip Leader: Paul Woodcock, 380-3356. Passports are required to cross the border into Canada.

Saturday, December 4. Semiahmoo Spit.

Another edition of Birding the Beaches, like the November 6 trip described above. Every month is different as we move into winter. Join us every month and watch the seasons change!

Wednesday, December 8. George Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary.

We have scheduled a second trip due to demand! Same info as the November 17 trip. Again, PASSPORTS are required to cross the border into Canada!

Saturday, December 11. Skagit Flats to Padilla Bay.

This will be a four- to six-hour trip to the delta fields of northern Skagit County. The area is renowned for wintering raptors, Bald Eagles, Short-eared Owls, and several species of falcons, as well as shorebirds, waterfowl, and passerines. After covering the flats, the group will head south to the Brazeale Interpretive Center to check the trails for woodland birds and Padilla Bay for waterfowl. Carpooling will be necessary to limit the number of vehicles. 8:30 AM. Trip Limit: 10. Trip Leader: John Horner, 676-6029.

Sunday,December 12. Whatcom Creek Walk.

Same details as the November 14 walk.

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Birds and the American Land

In her book, The Land of Little Rain, Mary Austin wrote about a land that most people still think of as inhospitable, arid, and uninviting. We “overcome” the desert, in the same way that we overcame much of the continent. The native people, who had lived with the desert for thousands of years before the white man showed up, knew its secrets: the hidden ways, for example, of the plants that supplied them with food. The birds, as well as all the desert’s original inhabitants, were actors, part of a long enduring story. The birds were winged messengers from a symbolic universe of primal directions, relived every day and night under the great sun and the stars.

The desert, Austin wrote, is a region in which plants and animals are “cheerfully adapted to seasonal limitations.” Later writers like Joseph Wood Krutch have found that to live in the desert leads to enlightenment of a rare kind and offers insights we can never attain without going there.

The land we call America is not entirely understood, even by modern nature writers and natural scientists. Any distinct range encompasses a complex of associated life, all responding to a very ancient past. The New World was not so because we named it so. Nor can we really understand so varied a race as the birds, with all their attributes, outside the context of the land, the sea, and the air above us. We will never know birds well enough without respecting the universal equality they share with us. Nor can we approach them without realizing that we do not know the land either, unless we see it in more than our own manipulative terms. Modern science is not enough. We have to go back to the land we started with.

John Hay
The Great House of Birds

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NCAS Holiday Potluck

December 14

Once again, please join us for our annual holiday celebration, hosted by your Audubon chapter — North Cascades Audubon Society (NCAS). This event will be held from 6-10 PM, at the Lairmont Manor, located at 405 Fieldston Road.

For this year’s potluck, NCAS board member Lila Emmer has offered to share selected images from her 2006 travels to North Vietnam. Although Lila traveled to Vietnam specifically to volunteer with Earthwatch, this trip took on other meanings, which she will share with us.

As with previous potlucks, remember that you are responsible for supplying a potluck dish as well as your own plates, utensils, and most of all....your own beverage of choice.

Looking forward to seeing everyone at the Lairmont, on Tuesday, Dec. 14.

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San Juan Ferry CBC

December 18

In this one-of-a-kind Christmas Bird Count, observers will board the Washington State Ferry at Anacortes for the international run to Sidney, BC, and back — counting birds along the way. Given the nature of the count, it’s helpful to have some knowledge of birds we normally associate with marine habitats, including gulls, loons, cormorants, alcids, and the like.

As with any CBC, weather conditions do not delay the count. This count takes place on the always-unpredictable open waters between Washington state and Vancouver Island, so be sure to take appropriate clothing to spend time on the deck of the ferry for a fun passage.

NCAS sponsors this count and will reimburse participants for their ferry passage. If you’re interested in participating in this unique count, call Joe Meche at 739-5383 or send an e-mail to mechejmch@aol.com.

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Bellingham Christmas Bird Count

December 19

Come one, come all, and join in the fun at the Bellingham Christmas Bird Count (CBC). The National Audubon Society’s annual CBC began in 1900 and is the longest-running citizen science program in history. The local CBC has been in operation since 1967 and continues today.

We count birds in assigned territories from sunrise to sunset and gather afterwards to turn in our results and enjoy the Post Count Potluck, while sharing stories of our day in the field. Weather is not a factor in the CBC; that is, we are in the field counting birds regardless of weather conditions, much like the proverbial postman on his appointed rounds.

If you’ve never participated in a CBC, this is an excellent opportunity to get your binoculars wet, so to speak. There will be enough seasoned hands participating to help you learn the basics. On top of everything else, it’s a fun way to spend time outdoors and a perfect excuse for birding all day.

If you’re interested in joining the cast this year, call Joe Meche at 739-5383 or send an e-mail to mechejmch@aol.com.

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