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February 2011 Issue (vol 42, number 2)
      (Previous Issue January 2011) - (Next Issue March 2011)



General Membership Meeting

Tuesday, February 22, 7:00 PM
Bellingham Public Library Lecture Room
PROGRAM: Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: A Glimpse of Wilderness

Alan Fritzberg took a rafting trip in Alaska that Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn could never have imagined. The 2009 trip floated some one hundred miles of the Marsh Fork of the Canning River from the Brooks Range Mountains to the Canning River entry into the coastal plain near the shores of the Beaufort Sea and the Arctic Ocean.

Run by Wilderness Birding of Alaska and the Nature Conservancy, the trip focused on birds in a range of arctic environments as well as the occasional grizzly bear. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — the size of South Carolina — is one of the most pristine wilderness areas of large size left in the world. Visiting and resident wildlife abound in the short summer season of the refuge.

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

Every year, as January comes to an end, most of us are finally writing the correct year on checks and the ubiquitous Happy New Year salutation is slowly fading away. It’s also the time of year when the days are getting noticeably longer and little hints of spring begin to appear. We’re all feeling that we just might have made it to the other side. Without a doubt our local gulls will soon begin to lose their dull winter plumage and a few migrants might begin to show up before the month is over....the times they are a changin’.

Spring fever seems to come earlier in the Northwest every year, possibly due to the depth of the NovemberDecemberJanuary dark season, and there’s still that entire climate change debate to consider. In the span of one year ending and another beginning, the dust and chaos from all the big holidays and extracurricular activities finally begin to settle down so we can better focus our energies on all the promises/resolutions that we made to ourselves and to others — many of which are forgotten by the time warmer weather returns. That’s another part of the tradition and that’s another story altogether.

Some ethnic groups believe that with the beginning of each New Year, we all become one year older. No need to wait for your birthday to say that you’re ___ years old — say it now and get it out of the way. As I edit this newsletter and look at the date on the front page, I’m reminded that NCAS has been around long enough to publish a 42nd volume of the Avalanche! The date also tells me that I’m beginning my 15th year as editor. I’m atypically speechless at that revelation, but at the same time, I look forward to the next 15!

But, we’ll take it one year at a time and focus our energy on the year ahead and all the things we have on all the burners. The Caspian Tern situation, for instance, is beginning to heat up to some extent, and we’re not sure what we can do to encourage the Port to deviate from their plan to “discourage” the terns from returning at the old GP site for another year. It would be a wonderful boost to the local economy to see bird watchers come in from all over the Northwest and beyond to spend time viewing a true phenomenon, just a couple of blocks from downtown Bellingham. I can dream, can’t I?

Stay tuned to these pages and visit our web site to keep up to date on all thing NCAS. Get out as much as you can to stay in touch with the planet and all creatures great and small. If you need to talk to any of us, we’re here for you!

Rejoice!

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NCAS Field Trips

Paul Woodcock
Field Trip Chair

We are indeed lucky to live in Whatcom County! Though our winters do often seem long and dreary, our surroundings provide ample opportunity for outdoor activity and adventure. From the snowy slopes above us to the marine beaches near at hand, a variety of environmental experiences is easily available to us all. Indeed, for us birders, winter in the Northwest is one of the best times of the year. Where else can you see Pine Siskins, Anna’s Hummingbirds, thousands of Snow Geese, hundreds of Trumpeter Swans and dozens of Bald Eagles, all in a few hours and miles?

All of us here at NCAS urge you to get out, get some exercise, and appreciate our splendid Northwest environment. You can do this on your own or join us on one of the NCAS outings listed below.

If you have feedback or questions about our field trip program, feel free to e-mail me at paulwoodcock@comcast.net. We appreciate your input! NCAS field trips are FREE of charge and open to members and non-members alike. We often require advance registration with the trip leader to limit the number of participants, reduce any negative impacts, and to ensure a quality experience for all. If you are going out this season, remember to dress for the weather. Raingear is usually necessary. We expect our participants to carpool to reduce environmental impacts and ask that riders reimburse drivers for transportation costs.

Look for more field trips in every issue of The Avalanche.

Saturday, February 5. 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.

Sunday, February 13. 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.

Saturday, February 19. Scudder Pond.

Join members of the newly-formed Scudder Pond Stewardship Committee for an exploratory field trip at our own urban wildlife preserve. 9 AM. Everyone is welcome.

Sunday, February 27. Padilla Bay, Fidalgo Bay, March Point.

The Padilla Bay National Estuarine Reserve provides wintering habitat for shorebirds, seabirds, numerous waterfowl species, and large numbers of Great Blue Herons. Adjacent uplands are home to eagles, hawks, falcons, woodpeckers, and songbirds. We will explore shoreline, intertidal, and deepwater habitats in a spectacular setting. 8:30 AM. Trip limit: 10. Trip leaders: Dave Schmalz and Diane Birsner, 671-1537.

Saturday, March 5. Semiahmoo Spit.

This trip is another chance to bird Semiahmoo Spit and Drayton Harbor beaches. Come along and enjoy the best of winter birding. Please see the February 5 trip for details.

Saturday, March 12. Lily Point, Point Roberts.

Come along on a full-day adventure to visit Whatcom County’s newest park. This trip, cosponsored with the Whatcom Land Trust, will feature Lily Point with its high bluffs, sandy beaches, and kelp beds; but we will also check out Lighthouse Park and other points of interest. The point’s marine habitats are home to wintering seabirds, alcids, shorebirds, and raptors. Please note that this trip entails four border crossings. A passport or enhanced driver’s license is required and we will need able and willing carpool drivers! 8 AM. Trip limit: 10. Trip leader: Paul Woodcock, 380-3356.

Sunday, March 13. Whatcom Creek Walk.

Same details as the February walk, but with different birds, perhaps.

Saturday, March 19. Wings Over Water Festival, Blaine.
Saturday, March 26. Tennant Lake and Environs.

Join naturalist Jim Edwards on a birding tour of an area he knows well. This half-day trip will cover the lake and adjacent parklands, forests, and riverine habitats. You can expect to find waterfowl on the lake, resident and wintering passerines, raptors, and a few early-returning migrants. 8:30 AM. Trip limit: 12. Trip leader: Jim Edwards, 966-4842.

Saturday, April 2. Semiahmoo Spit.

Spring will bring changes to the beaches of Semiahmoo Spit and Drayton Harbor! Please join us for another first-Saturday trip.

Sunday, April 10. Whatcom Creek Walk.

Same details as previous trips but with more birds....we hope!

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Scudder Pond News

We at NCAS are pleased to report that a brand-new Scudder Pond Stewardship Committee has been formed and the four individuals involved have high hopes for developing more interest in the pond and the surrounding area.

Carl and Gloria Blench have teamed with their daughter, Cindy Johnson, and Ham Hayes to bring a bit of life back to our very own urban nature preserve. At least two Wood Duck nesting boxes will be installed and preliminary plans are afoot to look into the possibility of building an observation deck overlooking the pond. The deck will provide a place to get off the trail and set up a scope to observe wildlife, out of the way of foot and bike traffic.

The committee will undoubtedly put together any number of projects at the pond that might require a few extra hands, so keep an eye on this newsletter for updates as they move forward. Scudder Pond has a lot of potential and now is the time for ideas and action.

Thanks to the committee for taking on this task!

Editor’s note: See page 3 of this newsletter to learn about a field trip to Scudder Pond on February 19.

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Northwest Wildlife Rehabilitation Center

Keep in mind that as the weather begins to moderate and more birds and other wildlife start to move about, odds are that you might encounter a critter or two that could use a hand, whether they’ve been injured or suffered some other mishap. If this does happen, give the folks at the NW Wildlife Rehab Center a call.

And remember to lend the center a hand as well, whether you volunteer at the center or make a donation for the great and often thankless work they do.

If you need more info, call 966-8845 or visit their web site at www.northwestwildlife.org.

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Christmas Bird Counts

The 2010 Bellingham and the San Juan Ferry Christmas Bird Counts (CBC) took place without any unexpected delays or changes in form. Weather on count day was not a factor but the very cold days of the second half of November apparently contributed to low overall numbers of birds. The consensus is that many birds moved farther south where there might have been more ice-free water than we had here; and the birds just had not returned by the time Count Day rolled around.

The Bellingham CBC had a species total of 118, with 62 observers in 24 territories. The ferry count had 26 species and five observers. Despite the lower than average numbers, both counts went well and a good time was had by all. And we’ll do it again this year on December 18, so mark your calendars, now!

We normally print the full results on these pages but with space limitations in the newsletter and in the interest of conserving paper, we ask that you read the results online at the NCAS web site. On the home page, click on the Birding menu and then click on Christmas Bird Count. On the CBC page, you will find results from the past ten counts as well as graphs showing seasonal population trends for every species since the first CBC in 1967.

Our webmaster, Tom Pratum, has put together a comprehensive page for CBC aficionados, so have a look.

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International Migration of Snow Geese

Whatcom Museum Rotunda Room
7 PM, February 23

Suggested donation: $3.00

Vasily Baranyuk, a Senior Scientist with the Wrangell Island Nature Reserve in Moscow, Russia, will speak about the Wrangell Island Snow Geese that winter in the Skagit and Fraser River deltas of Washington and British Columbia. Baranyuk has spent 20 years working with snow geese and other wildlife on Wrangell Island. He has used high-quality photographic and video equipment to create professional images of the Wrangell Island ecosystem and the Skagit-Fraser wintering areas. His talk will focus on the Wrangell Island ecosystem and wintering habitat protection.

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The View From Lummi Island

Luther Allen’s The View from Lummi Island is a collection of 365 poems written while the author was living on Lummi Island. The poems are the result of his fascination with the natural fabric of an iconic island, informed by a deep reverence for place. Although written about a specific location, the insights expressed in the poems are applicable to any place, any life.

A year’s worth of poems allows and invites an opportunity for a wide range of expression: from simple description to more challenging conceptual poems; from serious and profound to lighter narrative and humor; from line-to-line free verse to non-traditional interwoven spatial forms.

The poems are accessible to the general (non-poetry) reader, while still providing layers of meaning, subtle perceptions, and avenues for deeper understanding for the most sophisticated reader.

Allen’s intent is to share his exploration and deep connection with place in a way that inspires the reader to delve into his/her own place in a more conscious and perhaps spiritual manner.

Available on the shelf at Village Books. More info and poems from the book at http://othermindpress.wordpress.com.

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