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May 2011 Issue (vol 42, number 5)
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(Next issue September 2011)



General Membership Meeting

Tuesday, May 24, 7:00 PM
Fairhaven Library Auditorium
PROGRAM: Peru

Experience the birds and culture of Peru in a slide presentation by Doris Valencia, professional guide for Habitats Peru Travel. Doris, a native of Peru, is touring the U.S. to promote Peruvian culture and birding. Peru is recognized as one of the richest countries in the world for birds, with over 1,800 species, of which 85% are full-time residents. It is second only to Brazil in the number of endemics with 117 species found nowhere else. Coastal Peru and Ecuador share neotropical migrants with the Pacific Northwest.

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

Here we are, at the end of a potential record-setting April, staring into the distance and thinking of summer, while spring has yet to arrive! As I prepare the newsletter for the printer at the end of April, weather forecasters are talking about the snow level getting lower and lower, and closer to sea level. We love it here, don’t we?

No matter the weather, we ‘hamsters are out and about doing what we usually do in spring, albeit a little cooler and wetter spring than most of us can remember. Even more undaunted by the weather, our avian friends are also going about their business choosing nesting sites and feathering their nests for the young of the year.

With gas prices going nuts again, an ideal and easily-accessible place to observe this annual drama is our very own Scudder Pond. At the end of April, the Bald Eagles are active on their nest; a female Canada Goose has been sitting on eggs for more than a week; male and female cavity nesting Wood Ducks, Hooded Mergansers, and Buffleheads are on the pond daily and eying the boxes that were put in place by the Scudder Pond Stewards; and a pair of Virginia Rails is likely nesting in the cover of the reeds just in front of the NCAS reader panels at the pond.

In addition to these larger birds, smaller passerines are singing and nesting on the periphery of the site. More than likely, Bushtits and Bullock’s Orioles will stake out their own territories, soon.

All this seasonal activity reminds me that this is the last newsletter until September, so you’ll need to keep an eye on our web site to stay up to date on anything of note that might happen during the summer. The entire board will be on duty so be sure to call or e-mail if you need us.

Have a great summer and we’ll meet back here again....come September.

Rejoice!

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Officer Nominations 2011-12

The following individuals have been nominated to fill the chapter officer positions for the coming year.

President Joe Meche

Vice President Paul Woodcock

Secretary Judy Krieger

Treasurer Pam Borso

If you would like to run for any of these positions or would like to nominate someone to do so, please let us know.

Elections for these positions will be held at the May General Membership meeting.

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NCAS Spring Field Trips

Paul Woodcock
Field Trip Chair

As spring moves slowly toward summer, the bird watching scene changes accordingly. Our wintering birds have long flown and our resident birds have been joined by colorful neotropical migrants and their wonderful birdsong accompaniment.

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, May 7. Semiahmoo Spit.

"Birding the Beaches" at Semiahmoo County Park, 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, waterfowl, and other seabirds as well as raptors and migrant songbirds such as warblers, thrushes, and hummingbirds. Meet at 9:00 AM at Semiahmoo County Park. Trip Leader: Paul Woodcock. No registration required.

Sunday, May 8. Whatcom Creek Walk.

Join us on our monthly walk along our own unique riparian corridor. With spring/summer on the way, more birds will be moving around, up and down the creek. Meet in front of city hall at 10:00 AM. Trip Limit: 12. Trip Leader: Joe Meche, 739-5383.

Friday, May 13 to Sunday, May 15.

Dungeness Campout. This year marks our 4th Annual trip to this fabulous location for birds and a weekend of camping and relaxing.

See newsletter for details.

Sunday, May 22. Birds on Bikes.

Back by popular demand is this unique two-wheeled field trip that covers a good bit of real estate from south side to north side and back. We’ll meet at the Rotary Trailhead on Old Fairhaven Parkway and pedal down Padden Creek to Marine Park, with a stop to check on the heron colony and birds that might be out on the bay.

The plan then is to take a leisurely pedal up the shoreline on the South Bay Trail into downtown, where we’ll connect with Roeder Avenue to make our way to Little Squalicum Creek. We’ll take our lunch break there before retracing our path back to south side and eventually to the vehicles that brought us there. Make sure your bikes and your bodies are in good working condition and plan to wear a helmet — it’s the smart way to go!

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

Sunday, May 29. Sunday Morning at Scudder Pond.

Join us for a 2-4 hour morning walk to explore Scudder Pond and a small part of Whatcom Falls Park. The pond is NCAS’s own urban preserve and at the end of May, there should be many nesting birds at the site and even a few young of the year. More potential will be found along the trail into the park.

We’ll leave the parking area off Electric Avenue and follow the trail to Scudder Pond and eventually to the main falls to search for dippers.

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

Saturday, June 4. Semiahmoo Spit.

Repeated on the first Saturday of each month, this trip will be identical to the May 7 trip but the birds will change with the seasons.

Saturday, July 2, Semiahmoo Spit.

Same details as above.

Saturday, August 6. Semiahmoo Spit.

Same details as above.

Saturday, September 3. Semiahmoo Spit.

Same details as above as summer ends and fall is right around the corner. Southbound migrants, perhaps?

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Backyard Habitat & Native Flora Fair

Saturday May 14

Come to the Fairhaven Village Green and enjoy this day of garden tours, plant sales, and informative exhibits and activities, co-sponsored by Bellingham Parks and Recreation and the local chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society.

Special focus this year is on pollinators — their role and status in working with native plants to maintain healthy habitats and natural systems.

Garden Tours will take place from 11:30-3:30 PM. Visit local homes that have Backyard Wildlife Habitat features. Maps to the homes will be available at the fair or by calling Bellingham Parks and Recreation at 778-7105.

Native Plant Sale will feature common and unusual species native to western Washington, with the proceeds going to support the Washington Native Plant Society.

Activities and Exhibits:

• North Cascades Audubon Society will have a nesting box display with ready-to-hang boxes available for purchase.

• Community Wildlife Habitat will show you ways to enhance your yard to attract wildlife.

• Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association will explain how native flora helps salmon habitat.

• Whatcom Land Trust has displays of native plants in natural communities.

• Wild Whatcom Walks offers family-focused information and activities.

• Washington Native Plant Society will offer advice and plant sales, as well as a kids’ table and ethno botany.

For more information, call Bellingham Parks and Recreation at 778-7105.

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4th Annual NCAS Dungeness Campout

May 13-15

As you read this newsletter, you’ll know that it’s May and time for us to return to the Dungeness Recreation Area for our 4th Annual NCAS Dungeness Campout. Sign up has been extremely slow so there are still plenty of spots available if you’d like to join in the fun, or just get away and sleep in a tent for a couple of nights.

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/or 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.

If you plan to take the Port Townsend ferry to the peninsula, it’s a good idea to make a reservation through the Washington State Ferry’s official web site. You can reserve a spot by following the links at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries. Keep in mind that the ferry formerly known as the Keystone-Port Townsend ferry is now the Coupeville-Port Townsend ferry. Please don’t ask me why.

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The News from Hopewell

Cindy Klein

There was a showing of “Husky” spirit in our backyard yesterday. Purple and Gold — Finches, that is! There has been a couple of male Purple Finches singing daily and visiting our feeders with interested females. The goldfinches have arrived, en masse, just in the last few days. It was a treat to catch their lemony-yellow brightness and hear their sweet songs cascading from the upper branches of our cherry trees.

I was interested to hear of Victor B’s report from Lummi Island of the mix of sparrow species they have encountered at their feeder. We, too, have had White-crowned, Golden-crowned, and a persistent White-throated Sparrow. Last year was the first time we had seen a Sooty Fox Sparrow at our feeder, and then only during the harshest weather. Recently, it has been showing up more frequently. To round out the sparrow family, we also see Song Sparrows, Spotted Towhees, and Oregon Juncos. The White-crowns have been singing for some time now, occasionally even at night.

Speaking of the night shift, our Barn Owl pair has been quite active. I think there are possibly two owlets. I have found eggshells under two of the places they like to hang out the most. I found them about ten to fourteen days apart. We can hear the adults give their raspy call but also an excited, rapidly repeated “klee-klee-klee” call as they fly around the yard.

The Band-tailed Pigeons have returned. If they weren’t such beautiful, shy birds, I would be truly annoyed. So far there has been no more than a dozen. I expect that to change in the next few weeks. The problem is how many 50# bags of sunflower seeds they can go through between now and June when they head up into the hills. Their smaller relations — Mourning and Eurasian Collared Doves — have been present for some time now. The Mourning Doves are still showing courting behavior. There has been only one collared dove showing up at the feeder lately, and judging from their frenetic behavior all around the yard in the past few weeks, I’d say they are nesting.

On a recent walk up the road, during one of the momentary sunny breaks, Bob and I could hear ravens calling. We had to look high to see them spiraling up in a thermal, alternately drifting and then pairing up and rolling and diving.

I have located two ant hills along this walking route which were boiling with ants in the sunshine. They are of interest to me because I have never actually witnessed “anting.” I have seen birds — robins and crows — on branches or power lines near the anthills and noticed feathers around the hills. The Birder’s Handbook has a small piece on anting (pg 487) and the speculation is that the birds stirring up the ants “is a way of acquiring the defensive secretion of ants, primarily for their insecticidal, miticidal, fungicidal, or bactericidal properties and, perhaps secondarily, as a supplement to the bird’s own preen oil.” One day, I hope to witness this.

The frosting on the cake for me yesterday was hearing my first Common Yellowthroat.

That’s the news from Hopewell!

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