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September 2011 Issue (vol 42, number 6)
      (Previous Issue May 2011) - (Next Issue October 2011)

General Membership Meeting

Tuesday, September 27, 7:00 PM
Bellingham Public Library Lecture Room
PROGRAM: Earth is Music: Conservation of the 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 Indianola, 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 a PBS documentary, Vanishing Dawn Chorus. This is a program you will not want to miss!

Join us for an enlightening 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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Welcome Back!

It’s that time of year, again, when we look around and wonder where the summer went. As opposed to the rest of the country, we’re more specifically wondering when summer’s going to arrive. The calendar is telling us that fall is right around the corner but it seems that we experienced fall weather in August. Weather wise, it’s been an interesting few months, but you’ll hear no complaints from me. If hot weather returns, I’ll be seeking shade.

It’s also the time of year when we return to our full slate of activities here at NCAS, including monthly meetings, field trips, etc. As we gather once again for various functions, we’ll probably compare our summer vacations and comment on the weather until the fall colors distract us and we begin to wait for the first reports of the white stuff falling in the mountains.

Speaking of summer vacations, I’ll share an idea that Cindy came up with in May, not long after the wet ending to the NCAS campout at Dungeness and a cooler-than-usual spring trip to eastern Washington — it was an idea that shaped our entire summer. She decided that she didn’t want our grandkids growing up without memories of camping with their grandparents, so she set the wheels in motion to keep us busy until the last week in August....and every trip was memorable!

My assignment was chiefly logistical in that I was in charge of assembling the camping gear, checking out potential sites, and making reservations at campgrounds whenever I could. Cindy arranged the combinations of kids — maximum two for each trip — and it turned out to be a magical summer for everyone. In the process, we introduced all five grandkids to places and things they’ll remember for quite some time, and we had a ball, too! A variety of birds, of course, and other wildlife shared the top spot with great weather and campfires with the ubiquitous Smores!

Our itinerary throughout the summer included three visits to Klipchuck Campground, just east of the Cascade Crest; Alta Lake State Park, near the confluence of the Columbia and Methow Rivers; Douglas Fir Campground on the North Fork of the Nooksack River; and Wenberg County Park in Snohomish County. Every site had something different to offer. I was usually out and about early to do some birding on my own while the rest of the crew slept in. To add a little more to the mix on the last trip, we invited Cindy’s mom to join us.

On the earlier trips, the birding was spectacular for me and well-placed feeders brought many of the birds in for close-up views for everyone to enjoy. The abundant wildlife and spectacular weather provided highlights on every trip.

The original plan was to make memories for the grandkids but, in the process, we made quite a few for ourselves. If you have kids or grandkids, take them camping early and often. To experience the things that you love through their eyes and ears will add new perspective and appreciation for the natural wealth we all share.

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NCAS Fall Field Trips

Paul Woodcock, Field Trip Chair

Summer is still with us, and it should stay for a while because it took so long to get here. But we know better and can sense the shortening of our days in much the same way our feathered friends do. Shorebird flocks have been streaming south for about a month now, and their movement is already at its peak. Songbirds will soon be following suit. If you are feeling the urge to move also, I would like to suggest that you can experience the thrill of migration vicariously by heading out into the fields, forests, and along the waterways and observing the southward flow of an astonishing variety of remarkable winged creatures. They never fail to impress.

At the same time, you can enjoy our remaining summer days and experience the subtle changes as one season slips into another. You can do this alone but you might want to join with a small group of like-minded seekers, friends, or would- be friends who want the same experience. Please consider this an invitation to take part in any or all of our NCAS field trips.

It is our aim to offer a variety of field trips that appeal to birders and naturalists 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 vp@northcascadesaudubon.org 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. Please get in touch.

NCAS field trips are open to all who wish to attend, FREE of charge. We limit the number of participants in order to reduce negative impacts and assure a quality experience by requiring advance registration.

Here are our trips for the coming month. Please check the October newsletter for a more complete fall calendar.

Saturday, September 3. Semiahmoo Spit.

"Birding the Beaches" can be outstanding 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. If you are not a birder and are just curious, come along and share the experience. Semiahmoo is a special place. September should be outstanding for shorebirds, waterfowl, 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.

Sunday, September 11. Whatcom Creek Walk.

We’ll restart our monthly walks along our own unique riparian corridor. With fall on the way, seasonal changes will be noticeable up and down the creek. Meet in front of city hall at 10:00 AM. Trip Limit: 12. Trip Leader: Joe Meche, 739-5383.

Sunday, September 18. Scudder Pond.

Join us for a 3-4 hour morning walk to explore Scudder Pond and a small part of Whatcom Falls Park. The pond and the park were incredibly dynamic in spring and early summer with nesting owls, dippers, flickers, and a variety of songbirds.

It will be interesting to see if we can locate any of the numerous Barred Owls that were in the park earlier in the year.

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, September 24. Lake Terrell, Whatcom Wildlife Area.

Join us to welcome the start of autumn. We will spend some quality birding time, 4-5 hours, at one of our best local sites, owned and managed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Lake Terrell has outstanding and varied habitat for resident and migratory songbirds, waterfowl, and raptors. Warblers and other tropical migrants will be on the move. 8 AM. Trip limit: 15. Trip leader: Paul Woodcock, 380-3356.

Saturday, October 1. Semiahmoo Spit.

Repeated on the first Saturday of each month, this trip will be identical to the September 3 trip but the birds will change with the seasons.

Sunday, October 16. Whatcom Creek Walk.

Same details as before.

Saturday, November 5. Semiahmoo Spit.

Same details as above.

Sunday, November 13. Whatcom Creek Walk.

Same details as before.

Saturday, December 3. Semiahmoo Spit.

Same details as above.

*Sunday, December 18. Christmas Bird Count.

Contact Joe Meche if you’re interested. More details will follow in coming newsletters.

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Special Places for Birds

Joe Meche

Over the course of the spring and summer I had occasion to rediscover and thoroughly enjoy a handful of super birding sites well within reach of all ‘hamsters. As I’ve said many times before, it might be fun, albeit expensive, to travel to exotic places to see outstanding birds but it’s not always necessary to travel far from home to fill your avian plate.

A good place to begin is by reminding everyone of the dynamic spring and early summer activity at Scudder Pond and in Whatcom Falls Park. Early on, the Bald Eagle nest above the lagoon was a central focus for birders and non-birders alike. By all accounts, this year’s pair of eaglets was healthy and stayed around long enough to fledge successfully, after providing quite the show for several months.

Cool and wet weather combined with higher water levels at Scudder Pond to entice good nesting birds to our own urban preserve. Hooded Mergansers and Wood Ducks apparently used the nesting boxes placed at the pond by the Scudder Pond Stewardship Committee, because many of us observed ducklings throughout the spring and into summer. The resident Mallards were, of course, as prodigious as ever.

Cedar Waxwings, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Song Sparrows, chickadees, Spotted Towhees, Red-winged Blackbirds, and Northern Flickers all nested within easy viewing distance from the trail. Along the trail from the pond and into Whatcom Falls Park were nesting Virginia Rails, Ospreys, Cooper’s Hawks, Pileated and Hairy Woodpeckers, Bushtits, and American Dippers.

The big stars of the park this year, however, were the Barred Owls and owlets. The consensus is that three pairs of owls raised families along the creek this year and one pair in particular drew crowds of onlookers for three months. Regular evening feedings of the upstream trio of owlets were observed by numerous folks well into June.

A bit farther from home, as the raven flies, but still worthy of mention are the areas around Klipchuck and Hart’s Pass, and Pearrygin and Alta Lake State Parks in eastern Washington. Klipchuck and Hart’s Pass were fantastic for higher elevation birds while the two state parks provided up-close and personal views of nesting water birds and dry side/sagebrush species like Common Poorwills and Say’s Phoebes.

Stay tuned for slide shows in the future from all these locations and more. It’s been a great year for birds and birders.

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Arbor Day Celebration

Elizabeth Park, September 24, 10 AM-2 PM

Mark your calendars and plan to join Bellingham Parks and Recreation and the Tree Keepers in our own unique celebration of Arbor Day. This event is FREE and open to the public, with a full slate of events and activities, including a tree ID tour of one of Bellingham’s premier neighborhood parks; tree-climbing demos by the city’s arborist; nest box building with NCAS, and more.

For more info, go to the city’s web site at www.cob.org or call the Parks Department at 778-7105.

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NCAS Officer Elections 2011-12

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

President Joe Meche

Vice President Paul Woodcock

Secretary Judy Krieger

Treasurer Pam Borso

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Thanks Tom!

In the May 2001 issue of The Avalanche, we simultaneously announced the debut of the NCAS web site and introduced the newest member of the NCAS Board of Directors (BOD), Tom Pratum. In this September 2011 issue, it is with a tinge of sadness that we say farewell, since Tom and his wife, Peggy, have moved out of state.

For a decade, Tom was a mainstay on the BOD and worked tirelessly creating and maintaining the website, as well as on numerous conservation-related activities ranging from Lake Whatcom water quality to the preservation of Blanchard Mountain. Tom’s deep knowledge of conservation issues played a large part in keeping the BOD and chapter members informed on many things that were ongoing in the county, of which few of us were even aware.

Though he might not like to hear it or certainly see it in print, Tom has been my personal choice for MVP during the time that he was on the BOD. His willingness to be involved and contribute to every facet of chapter operation, whether he was writing letters or filling in to take the minutes at BOD meetings, was admirable. His computer skills made our web site a joy to visit and it has received rave reviews from around the country.

I could go on, but I’m sure that he’d rather I didn’t, so I’ll just say thanks to Tom, from all of us at NCAS. We wish you and Peggy all the best and do hope that you’ll stay in touch.

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After reading our farewell paean to Tom Pratum, you’ve probably surmised that we are eager to find someone to fill his shoes. At this time, we are primarily interested in finding an individual with appropriate computer skills who can maintain the web site. The main task is to get the newsletter online every month so the time involved should be minimal.

If you are interested in lending a hand in our time of need, please contact Joe Meche by e-mail at mechejmch@aol.com or by phone at 739-5383.

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