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October 2011 Issue (vol 42, number 7)
      (Previous Issue September 2011) - (Next Issue November/December 2011)

General Membership Meeting

Tuesday, October 25, 7:00 PM
Bellingham Public Library Lecture Room
PROGRAM: Birding Whatcom County

Some of the most spectacular scenery in the lower 48 states can be found right here in Whatcom County. In the spirit of Ski to Sea, you can travel from glacier-clad Mt. Baker to Bellingham Bay in less than two hours. From the rugged North Cascades to the east, rivers and streams flow into saltwater embayments along the county’s western boundary. As rich as the area is for its scenic wonders, the birdlife in the county is as diverse as the scenery. The most current listings have 355 bird species recorded in Whatcom County.

In a program designed to introduce newcomers and enlighten longtime residents, NCAS President Joe Meche will take us on a virtual tour of Whatcom County, focusing not only on the scenic beauty in our backyard but also on birding hotspots that make this part of Washington state one of the best places in the country for winter birding.

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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From the President

It’s official now — fall arrived with a flurry of wind and swirling leaves on September 23. At 4:30 AM it was 71 deg and the entire day was spectacular, albeit a little warm in the late afternoon. But it was late-September warm and that’s entirely different from July or August warm.

And so begins the season that I always refer to as the glorious season. I have never been swayed to change my favorite season to any of the other three. My earliest memories are vivid with the arrival of the first crisp days of fall; of the dry leaves that rustled at my feet on walks in recently-harvested rice fields and woodlots; and of the family dog, King. He was my constant companion when I was growing up, and it had a profound effect on both of us when I had to start school. I can still see him waiting patiently at the foot of our driveway when I turned the last corner on my way home. When he saw me, his tail would start wagging; but, I digress....

We just returned from our annual visit to eastern Washington and it seems that the wild weather that stopped here over the last weekend in September trickled over the mountains and found us. We had rain and wind, along with fog and cold temps at night. So much for the motivation to find warm and dry on the east side!

The last day, however, dawned bright and clear and we were able to experience the first signs of fall at a new lunch stop on the Twisp River. Colors were right on the verge of changing, it seems, and there was a dusting of new snow in the mountains that punctuated the seasonal change. There might be time to squeeze in another trip or two over the spectacular North Cascades Highway before the real snow flies and closes the road for another winter.

Regardless of wild and windy weather, I’m ready for fall, as usual. Fall field trips and short birding adventures will take us right into Thanksgiving, the single best holiday of all.

Here’s an excerpt from a favorite song that paints a nice portrait of the glorious season.

Tomatoes on my windowsill, they go from green to red,

Some are in the garden still but the frost it’s got the bed.

There are apples in the presses now and cider in the pails,

Grey geese fly beside the clouds and the hunters have the trails.

Get out, get out that garden rake, it seems it’s in the cards,

That ev’ry wind blown leafy shake comes down in your back yard.

Put on that old blue wooly coat that keeps you from the chill,

October winds have come to town and summer’s o’er the hill.

October Winds
Bill Staines


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More NCAS Fall Field Trips

Paul Woodcock
Field Trip Chair

There are many excellent, skilled birders in Whatcom County. I am often astounded at the knowledge and expertise that many of our field trip participants possess. And their skills and interests are not limited to birds. People often share their knowledge of plants, native and non-native, geology, butterflies and other insects, bats and other mammals. Others share skills such as tracking or photography. Whether I am a leader or a participant on a trip, I usually learn a lot through their willingness to share. Our members and participants are not limited to birds and there is no reason that NCAS should be. If you have expertise in any area of natural history and would be willing to share your knowledge with others, please contact us. If you are willing to lead or co-lead a trip, you could help our chapter expand our programs and advance our mission to promote understanding and appreciation of our natural environment. Our goal is 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 vp@northcascadesaudubon.org 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 are some more opportunities to get out in the field and observe nature. Please come along with us!

Sunday, October 9. Lower Padden Creek.

Come along on a 3-4 hour Sunday morning walk to explore the lower run of Padden Creek, downstream to Padden Lagoon and the Alaska Ferry Terminal for a view of Bellingham Bay. There could be salmon in the creek as well as a variety of interesting birds along the way. Meet at the parking lot behind the tennis courts at Fairhaven Park at 9 AM. Trip limit: 12. Trip leader: Joe Meche, 739-5383.

Sunday, October 16. Whatcom Creek Walk

Join us on our monthly walk along a unique riparian corridor, right in the heart of downtown. Fall is here and in addition to potential for good birds, we’ll also have fall colors and salmon to enliven the morning. Meet in front of city hall at 10:00 AM. Trip limit: 12. Trip leader: Joe Meche, 739-5383.

Saturday, October 22. Point Whitehorn / Birch Bay State Park.

Point Whitehorn Marine Reserve and Birch Bay State Park both contain a variety of habitats including upland forests, beaches, marine waters, wetlands, and open fields. Woodland trails will provide opportunities to see sparrows, finches, and other passerines. In the beach and marine habitats we will find a variety of waterfowl and seabird species. 8:30 AM. Trip Limit: 12. Trip Leader: Paul Woodcock, 380-3356.

Saturday, November 5. Semiahmoo Spit.

Bird the beaches at the only designated Important Bird Area in Whatcom County. These three-hour trips, which happen on the first Saturday of every month, are co-sponsored by NCAS and Whatcom County Parks and are meant for birders of all skill levels. Beginners are encouraged to take part. Semiahmoo and Drayton Harbor are outstanding wildlife habitats that support large populations of migrating and wintering birds. We will see shorebirds, loons, grebes, sea and dabbling ducks, and other seabirds as well as a few raptors and songbirds. 9:00 AM. Meeting Place: Semiahmoo County Park. Trip Leader: Paul Woodcock. No Registration Required.

Sunday, November 13. Whatcom Creek Walk.

Same details as before, but probably a little cooler.

Saturday, December 3. Semiahmoo Spit.

Come and bird the beaches again. Please check the November 5 trip above for a description.

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Bird Neighbors: The Loon, or Great Northern Diver

The loon is a wonderful, powerful, living mechanism fashioned for riding the stormy seas. See him as he mounts high above the waves, neck and legs fully extended “fore and aft,” and bill a trifle raised which gives to his whole form a slight upward bend, his wings beating powerfully and moving as steadily as the walking-beam of a side-wheel steamship. He is diving straight ahead into the teeth of the gale and making greater headway than the laboring steamer that steers a parallel course. Now he slants downward, and striking just beyond the top of a towering wave shoots down its inclined surface and rises on the coming crest. Here, midway of the wide bay where the seas are running high and wildly tossing their white tops, with a wintry gale whipping the spray from them in smoky gusts, the loon rests at ease, head to the wind and sea like a ship at anchor. The tossing and the tumult disturb him not, as he rides, light as a birch canoe, turning his white breast now and then on one side as he reaches unconcernedly backward to preen his feathers. His neck narrows at the waterline into a beautifully modeled cutwater. His broad paddles push his white breast to the tops of the great waves, where it parts the foam as he surmounts the crests and glides easily down into the gulfs beyond. The freezing spray that loads the fishing fleet with tons of ice seems never to cling to his tough and glossy plumage; or if it does, he washes it off among the fleeing fishes away down in the warmer currents near the bottom of the bay.

Edward Howe Forbush
The Birds of Massachusetts and Other New England States

Editor’s note: This excerpt is one of the finest I’ve read about loons and their innate ability to blend into their natural environment. We should all do so well in our own.

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At this time, we are primarily interested in finding an individual with appropriate computer skills who can maintain the NCAS 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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Bellingham Parks Volunteer Work Parties And Events

Whatcom Creek Trail

October 8, 9AM-noon

Join the Bellingham Kiwanis on the trail behind City Hall.

Park in the City Hall lot between Grand and Commercial.

Old Village Trail

October 15, 10 AM-noon

Help to remove invasive weeds and then mulch the sites. Meet at the Theatre Guild parking lot at 1600 H Street.

Squalicum Creek Park

October 15, 2-5 PM

Park in the Squalicum Creek parking lot off Squalicum Pkwy.

Across from West St. Walk the path between the restrooms and baseball field and continue over the grassy hill until you see the work site.

Happy Valley Park

October 29, 9AM-noon

Join REI, the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association (NSEA), and B’ham Parks in removing invasive plants from the banks of Connelly Creek. Meet at the Happy Valley Park shelter.

Crooked Path

November 5, 10AM-noon

We will be removing invasive plants and planting natives to increase the biodiversity along this trail between High & Garden Streets. Meet on High Street across from Laurel Park.

Padden Creek Trail at 6th Street

November 12, 10AM-noon

Remove invasive plants and plant native trees and shrubs.

Maritime Heritage Park

November 19, 9AM-noon

Join the efforts of the NSEA and B’ham Parks removing invasive plants to improve salmon habitat in the Whatcom Creek estuary. Meet at the end of C Street near the fish hatchery, access from Holly Street.

Whatcom Creek Trail

December 3, 9AM-noon

Lend a hand with NSEA and B’ham Parks to improve habitat for salmon and other wildlife along Whatcom Creek.

For more detailed info on all these volunteer opportunities, as well as the Make a Difference Day work parties on October 22, contact the Bellingham Parks and Recreation’s Parks Volunteer Program at 778-7105, or visit their web site online at http://www.cob.org/government/departments/parks/index.aspx.

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