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January 2012 Issue (vol 43, number 1)
      (Previous Issue November/December 2011) - (Next Issue February 2012)

General Membership Meeting

Tuesday, January 24, 7:00 PM
Bellingham Public Library Lecture Room
PROGRAM: Lake Padden

Betsy Gross, Mike Sato, and David Roberts will open the New Year for NCAS with a presentation about one of our favorite bodies of water. All are members of People for Lake Padden, a local citizens’ initiative group operating under the auspices of the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association, and partnering with WWU’s Huxley College of Environmental Studies, the City of Bellingham, and Whatcom County. Their main focus is to learn more about the quality of the lake’s waters/watershed.

Many volunteers work with the group collecting water samples and performing other key functions for this project. The group’s mission is to protect and improve the water quality of this beautiful little lake.

Join us for an enlightening and 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

The Three Rs

Once again, it’s the time of year when we take a look inside and contemplate the three Rs – Reflection, Realignment, and Resolutions. We know that the first two are easy enough, but it’s always the third one that’s like the proverbial carrot on a stick. You reflect on your own performance/actions of the past year; you decide if you want or need to make any changes; and if change is in order, you resolve to move forward. When February rolls around, or March if you’ve been really sticking to it….you begin to wonder when the tulips are going to bloom. What was that resolution again?

It’s just part of human nature and a reflection on the desire to improve our lives that lead us down this path to get better. It’s never a bad thing but it does tend to encumber most of us.

So why not consider a joint resolution for 2012? That way you might feel better knowing that you’re not alone.

With this in mind, read Jim Duemmel’s article on page 4 of this issue and then return here. From this point, resolve that you will write a letter or make a few calls to see what can be done to set aside the magnificent piece of property that is the actual point of Sandy Point for the future of wildlife and wildlife viewing.

A joint resolution can foster a joint effort to save one of the few remaining places where we can expect to see Snowy Owls in Whatcom County. Whenever there’s an irruption of these magnificent birds, a few of them always seem to find their way to Sandy Point. It would be a win-win situation for us all. It would be a Snowy Owl feather in our collective hats!

A new year is upon us so let’s see if we can make this one memorable in a good way. We’ll be glad we did.

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NCAS Field Trips

Paul Woodcock
VP/Field Trip Chair

Winter can feel like a long and dreary season here in the Northwest. The long, cold nights and gray days, often filled with endless drizzle, can be less than inspiring and even depressing. We would like you to know that Northwest winters are actually very interesting and exciting if you properly equip yourself by dressing for the weather and go out to experience nature. Winter might well be our best birding season.

The sight of hundreds of Bald Eagles or Trumpeter Swans and even thousands of Snow Geese, pintails, or Dunlin can inspire and uplift. Often encountered wintering species such as Harlequin Ducks, Peregrine Falcons, Varied Thrushes, or Golden-crowned Kinglets possess beauty enough to help you break through the gloom. Come along and have a look. You might find yourself looking forward to next winter.

NCAS wishes 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!

Saturday,January 7. Semiahmoo Spit.

Begin the New Year Birding the Beaches at Semiahmoo County Park and 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. Beginners are encouraged to take part. 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 a few raptors and songbirds. An ideal trip for beginning birders. 9:00 AM. Meeting Place: Semiahmoo County Park. Trip Leader: Paul Woodcock. No Registration Required.

Sunday, January 15. Whatcom Creek Walk.

We’ll continue our monthly walks along B’ham’s unique riparian corridor. The route will be the same and it’s certain to be a little cooler than our last visit, so dress accordingly. This is an easy, meandering walk with a couple of stairways to negotiate, but think easy. Meet in front of city hall at 10 AM. Trip limit: 12. Trip leader: Joe Meche, 739-5383.

Sunday, January 15. Boundary Bay, British Columbia.

This is a full-day trip touring this internationally-recognized Important Bird Area. Salt marshes, lagoons, tidal flats, and open water feature waterfowl, shorebirds, and seabirds. Up-land fields and meadows support Canada’s largest population of wintering birds of prey. Numerous Snowy Owls have been observed there this winter. All levels of birding experience are welcome. 8 AM. Trip limit: 10. Trip leaders: Dave Schmalz and Diane Birsner, 671-1537. Note: Passport or Enhanced Driver’s License is required for each participant on trips to British Columbia.

Sunday, January 22. Blaine Harbor, Marine Park.

Join us for a four-hour walking tour of one of the best places in the county to see a variety of birds. From Marine Park, we will scope the tide flats for shorebirds and waterfowl, keeping our eyes out for Peregrine Falcons that often liven the dance. From the end of the public pier, we will see loons, grebes, scoters, and a mix of other species in the channel between Blaine and Semiahmoo. Scopes are especially beneficial and carpooling is encouraged, and be sure to plan ahead for January weather. We will meet at the first shelter on the right after crossing the RR tracks as you enter the harbor area. 10 AM. Trip limit: 12. Trip leader: Joe Meche, 739-5383.

Sunday, January 29. Scudder Pond/Whatcom Falls Park.

We’ll continue to monitor the goings on at our urban preserve and magnificent city park. In this area, the potential for the unexpected is the motivation for the walk from Scudder Pond to the old stone bridge and if everyone is willing, even farther downstream. We’ll meet again at the Electric Avenue parking area. 9 AM. Trip limit: 12. Trip leader: Joe Meche, 739-5383.

Saturday, Februay 4. Semiahmoo Spit.

Come and bird the beaches again. Please check the January 7 trip above for a full description.

Sunday, February 12. Whatcom Creek Walk.

Same details as before but it could be even cooler/colder than the January walk, so dress accordingly.

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The Future of Sandy Point

Jim Duemmel

The current influx of Snowy Owls calls attention to a critical birding area in Whatcom County. If you have gone to search for the owls at the southwest corner of the point, you likely saw a large sign advertising a proposed development: South Cape Shores. A quick look at the sign shows that if the development goes ahead there will be no place for birders at the end of Sandy Point – and probably no habitat there for owls.

Perhaps the best chance of keeping the area open to the public is through the Whatcom Land Trust. I hope that birders will contact the Land Trust and convince them that there is widespread interest in saving this parcel from development. It would be expensive, but with its views into Georgia Strait to the west and Lummi Bay to the east, the location is ideal for a park – a haven of natural habitat for both birds and people. Perhaps a show of interest from birders, some calls and letters, would arouse the Land Trust’s attention.

There are many shorelines in Whatcom County and the Land Trust has conserved many of them, particularly on the upper reaches of the Nooksack. But there are no Snowy Owls on the shorelines of the upper Nooksack River. There are no Black Turnstones, Sanderlings, Long-tailed Ducks, Brant, Snow Buntings, Lapland Longspurs; no American Dune Grass, Sea Rocket, or Salicornia. Not all shorelines are the same – and there is very, very little of the Sandy Point type available to the public.

Rumors I have heard: the proposed development is currently in receivership. A neighborhood association on Sandy Point tried to keep the area open to the public. There might be some room for partnerships there. Not a rumor: sometimes you will see tribal fishermen very close to the point, even with boats and gear temporarily pulled up on the tidelands. Perhaps the tribe would be interested in some sort of partnership,

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Membership Chair Needed

Our Membership Chair, Sheila Sondik, would like to free up more time for her printmaking and writing; therefore, she is ready to hand over the responsibilities of updating our membership database and preparing mailing labels for the Avalanche. The Membership Chair is a member of the NCAS Board of Directors. This is a wonderful opportunity for someone with some computer skills to become more involved with our chapter. Sheila will train her replacement, so if you’re interested please give her a call at (360) 306-8284.

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Christmas Bird Counts

The 2011 Bellingham and San Juan Ferry CBCs are history. The consensus from both counts indicates that bird numbers were low overall, and the weather was more than cooperative. The Bellingham count, in operation since 1967, had a total of 61 observers in 24 parties and the total number of species recorded was 122.

Full details of both counts will be available in the February issue of the Avalanche. If you would prefer to receive the actual file ahead of time, e-mail me at mechejmch@aol.com.

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15th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count

During February 17-20, 2012, take part in a family-friendly, educational opportunity that is lots of fun, costs nothing, and helps your local birds!

Each year, tens of thousands of people throughout the US and Canada take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). Participants count in their backyards, out their office windows, at local parks and nature centers, and absolutely anywhere else! You can spend as little as 15 minutes counting birds, and even make a whole weekend of it.

People of all ages and all levels of bird watching experience are welcome. The GBBC is a great way to learn more about the birds in your community and connect with nature, and is perfect for fledgling birders.

You can count by yourself, with your family, community groups, schools, or friends! It’s an ideal way for more experienced birders to introduce children, grandchildren, and others to the wonderful world of birds.

If you would like to be involved visit the GBBC web site at www.birdcount.org.

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Snowy Owl

I have thrice been so fortunate as to see a Snowy Owl in the Ipswich dunes. On the first occasion I had nearly walked by the bird, as it sat in its characteristic attitude, bent at an angle of forty-five degrees, when I discovered that the gray stump about seventy yards away was a Snowy Owl. His eyes were narrow slits more than twice as long as broad, but he kept one of them on me, and he occasionally turned his head so that one eye relieved the other. After watching him in return for fifteen minutes I relaxed my frozen posture, and dropping to the ground, endeavored to stalk him. Notwithstanding all my care, he took alarm at once, spreading his great wings and throwing his feet out behind, he flew off with broad wing sweeps.

Charles Wendell Townsend, Sand Dunes and Salt Marshes, 1913

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