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March 2011 Issue (vol 42, number 3)
      (Previous Issue February 2011) - (Next Issue April 2011)

General Membership Meeting

Tuesday, March 22, 7:00 PM
Bellingham Public Library Lecture Room
PROGRAM: Caspian Terns

NCAS President, Joe Meche, spent most of four months in 2010 monitoring the large nesting colony of Caspian Terns on the Bellingham waterfront. On 37 site visits, he observed the number of terns increase from approximately 600 individuals to over 3,000 with more than 1,000 chicks on site. The overall numbers increased throughout the summer as word spread via the tern grapevine that an ideal nesting location had been discovered on the Bellingham waterfront.

Terns began to arrive bearing colored leg bands that identified many of their previous locations, ranging from the failed colony on the Dungeness Spit to San Francisco Bay. It was a natural phenomenon and it happened right here, not two blocks from downtown Bellingham! The success of the colony was enough to merit the banding of 252 chicks at the end of July.

Joe will summarize the past two years of nesting success on the waterfront, provide a few thoughts about the banding operation, and give us an update on the not-so-welcome greeting that awaits the birds when they return to the area in April.

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

By the time you read this newsletter, we will be close to a favorite time of year for many folks � the annual spring forward time when we change our clocks to Daylight Saving Time. It might not be apparent immediately, but the days will become noticeably longer with more light to do more things into the evening. The psychological phenomenon of merely changing of our clocks, especially in the spring, escapes me. But, whatever works to make people joyful is fine by me. Once we climb out of this weird winter weather, it should be downhill from here.

As the weather improves and temperatures moderate, we �hamsters tend to get busier than usual, as evidenced by the recent nationwide poll that ranks Bellingham as #9 on the country�s Most Active Cities list. When you think about all there is to do around here, it�s not surprising. When I first arrived here 34 years ago, it was unusually quiet, but as spring became summer, I took note as the population seemingly began to swell. It was as if all of these people had been in hiding all winter, just waiting for spring.

Well, spring is upon us once more and with this time of year comes the excitement of migration. Birds that have wintered here will soon be staging to return to their northern breeding grounds and we will all look southward for our returning neotropical species that bring with them a wonderful variety of songs and colors to brighten the long days to come.

Plan to stay in touch with us here at NCAS to get updates on all the things we have planned to last into the fall. We haven�t stopped working over the winter, but look forward to shorts and t-shirts weather, for at least a week or two.


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2011 Field Tripping into Spring

Another change of season is upon us and a welcome change it is. After the snow and cold rains of winter most of us are looking forward to the warmer rains of spring. With increasing sunlight and warmer temperatures our birds are starting to move. Early migrants are already arriving, heralds of many more to come, winging their way north to breeding habitat. Our many, iconic wintering species will soon be headed north to their breeding grounds also. A changing of the guard is taking place in our local avian populations and we invite you to join us in witnessing this annual spectacle. It is our aim to offer a variety of field trips that appeal to birders of all levels of experience and provide opportunities to share in the wonders of the changing seasons. NCAS field trips are open to all who wish to attend, FREE of charge. We limit the number of participants on many of our trips to assure a quality experience and to minimize environmental disturbance; therefore, advanced registration is often required. Carpooling is expected of our participants and we urge all passengers to share expenses with those who drive. Please call Paul at 380-3356 if you have any questions, suggestions, or would like to volunteer to assist with our field trip program.

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

Saturday, March 5. Semiahmoo Spit.

"Birding the Beaches" at Drayton Harbor/Semiahmmoo, the only designated Important Bird Area in Whatcom County. These trips are co-sponsored by NCAS and Whatcom County Parks on the first Saturday of each month. The Semiahmoo and Drayton Harbor area is one of our most scenic, biologically rich, and environmentally challenged places. We will see loons, concentrations of wintering waterfowl, shorebirds and other seabirds as well as raptors and songbirds. Meet at 9:00 AM at Semiahmoo County Park. Trip Leader: Paul Woodcock. No registration required.

Saturday, March 12. Lily Point, Point Roberts.

Come along on a full-day adventure to visit Whatcom County's newest park. This trip, co-sponsored 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! Meeting time: 8:00 AM. Trip limit: 10. Trip leader: Paul Woodcock, 380-3356.

Sunday, March 13. Whatcom Creek Walk.

Join us on our monthly walk along our own unique riparian corridor. With spring on the way, more birds will be moving around up and down the creek. 10 AM. Trip limit: 12. Trip leader: Joe Meche, 739-5383.

Saturday, March 19. Wings Over Water/Northwest Birding Festival, Blaine.

See this issue for details.

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. Meeting time: 8:30 AM. Trip limit: 12. Trip leader: Jim Edwards, 966-4942.

Saturday, April 2. Semiahmoo Spit.

Spring will bring changes to the beaches of Semiahmoo and Drayton Harbor! Please join us for another first-Saturday trip. Sunday, April 17. Whatcom Creek Walk. Same details as previous walk.

Saturday, April 23. Beginning Birding.

If you are new to the world of birding, please join us for a capsule look at America's new national pastime. This five to six hour session will cover the history, basic skills, and tools of bird watching including field guides, optics, methods of identification, and local birding hotspots. After indoor discussion we will spend a few hours in the field practicing our skills. 8:30 AM. Trip limit 10. Trip leader: Paul Woodcock, 380-3356. Saturday, April 30. Point Whitehorn Marine Reserve. On this half-day trip to another of our recently established county parks we can expect to find warblers, vireos, flycatchers and tanagers, as well as the usual residents birds of the wooded uplands. On the beach, look for loons, scoters, other sea ducks and alcids. Also expect to locate eagles and other raptors overhead. 8:00 AM. Trip limit: 12. Trip leader: John Horner, 676-6029.

Sunday, May 1. Mayday Meander

On this 4-6 hour walk, we�ll cover the entire length of Whatcom Creek, from Scudder Pond to Maritime Heritage Park and the downtown waterfront. Dippers should be active in the creek, along with potential for any number of riparian woodland species. We�ll check last year�s Osprey nest for activity along with woodpeckers in the old burn area from the big gas explosion. We�ll plan ahead to set up a carpool situation to have sufficient vehicles at both ends to return to our respective rides at the end of the walk.

9 AM. Trip limit: 12. Trip leader: Joe Meche 739-5383.

Saturday, May 7. Semiahmoo Spit.

This is a repeat of the March and April first-Saturday trips. Migration will be in full swing so emphasis swings to our songbirds.

Sunday, May 8. Whatcom Creek Walk.

Same detail as previous walks with more birds and better weather....maybe.

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NCAS Board of Directors Meeting Feb. 7

Judy Krieger
NCAS Secretary

� The Caspian Tern situation has become a major topic of local and statewide interest. A local group has met to discuss options but the situation remains unresolved.

� The proposed permitting and construction of a loading pier at Cherry Point is in process, leading to numerous meetings with various agencies. A major issue is the preservation of historic herring spawning grounds that are vital to the ecosystem of our area and are part of the aquatic reserve. Steve Irving, our representative at these meetings, is following this topic very closely.

� Beavers in Scudder Pond are undermining the trail by plugging the culverts. A new �beaver deceiver� might be needed. Scudder Pond has a storm water function and it might be possible to get city departments involved. It was agreed that more discussion on the future of the pond will take place.

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4th Annual NCAS Dungeness Campout

May 13-15

It�s never too early to start thinking about spending a couple of nights in a tent at a great place to see lots of birds, even though it seems far away with the late February weather. We can still dream and look forward to our return to the Dungeness Recreation Area for our 4th annual NCAS Campout.

We have reserved the group campsite for the weekend and will have enough room for at least 30 campers. As before, tents are the preferred way to go, though we will have room for a few small camper/RV variations.

The overall size of the recreation area allows for a variety of solo and small group exploration over the weekend. Everyone takes/prepares their own meals and the covered shelter has tables and plenty of room for a good number of camp stoves, etc. Saturday will be the main group event for those who wish to take the big 11-mile hike to the historic Dungeness Lighthouse. On Sunday, after we strike camp, those who wish to continue the fun will convoy to the Dungeness River Center to take a Sunday morning bird walk along part of the Discovery Trail. The contrast between the birds that we�ll see on the two days can be dramatic.

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9th Annual Wings Over Water Northwest Birding Festival

Blaine - March 19

Seems like only yesterday when the Washington Brant Festival came to Blaine for its inaugural three-day celebration of Northwest birds � specifically the Pacific Black Brant. Over nine years, the festival has changed considerably, focusing on one day literally crammed with activities for all ages and interest levels. The festival changed names, as well, after two years when the committee decided that the focus would be on all birds. Nonetheless, the Brant still remains as the iconic bird that started the entire process.

The day of the festival will be filled with a variety of events including kids� activities, geology, and bird watching tours at Blaine and Semiahmoo, wildlife speakers, harbor cruises on the MV Plover, live raptor presentations, and bird viewing stations operated by members of the North Cascades Audubon Society.

For complete information, visit the website of the Blaine Chamber of Commerce at http://www.blainechamber.com.

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Northern Hawk Owl

Generating more excitement, it seems, than most rare birds, this diurnal hunter showed up in early December on Westham Island, in lower BC and, as of this writing, is still on the same corner thrilling bird watchers with its swift, hawk-like hunting technique. It has been a prolific performer!

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