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February 2012 Issue (vol 43, number 2)
      (Previous Issue January 2012) - (Next Issue March 2012)



General Membership Meeting

Tuesday, February 28, 7:00 PM
Fairhaven Public Library Fireplace Room
PROGRAM: Out of East Africa

Travel to East Africa in March of 2011 to see mountain gorillas in the Virunga Volcanoes in the border area of Rawanda, Uganda, and the Congo also provided opportunities to see many birds in different environments. In the Rawandan National Park Akagera along the eastern border with Tanzania, a parkland of lakes and hills with varied animals and birds, there are many species connected to the lakes. In the Masai Mara of Kenya, the classic African savannah, all the animals one expects to see in Africa were present; in addition, a variety of birdlife was seen.

Alan Fritzberg will take us on a tour of the dark continent and present images of birds that are familiar to local eyes, but highlight the many colorful and sometimes odd looking birds in these two areas of East Africa.

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

It seems that we’ve reached the point on the calendar where we no longer feel compelled to say Happy New Year as a greeting; although, it’s certainly OK if you want to carry those good wishes into June. Personally, I’m ready to move forward and see what 2012 has to offer. It looks like it’s going to be a nasty, mud-slinging run on a certain side of the political aisle, but I won’t even wade into that. We have other things to do.

From all accounts, it appears that we survived the Big Bliz-zard of 2012. It happened right in the middle of January and the funny thing is, everyone seemed surprised at the big snow-fall; which turned into ice, and finally into rain, as the Pacific Northwest weather finally came to its senses. And now we’re back to normal and ready to start thinking about milder condi-tions as we March into April and May.

On the birding front, it has been and continues to be an ex-citing winter for birds and for those who watch them. As many as five Snowy Owls were observed at Sandy Point and Varied Thrushes seem to be everywhere. On my personal backyard beat along lower Whatcom Creek, both kinglet species have entertained me on numerous visits. I enjoy walking the creek to make note of the changes from one season to the next. I encourage everyone, no matter where you live, to stake out a territory to walk on a regular basis. It will provide you with new perspectives every time you do it. The fresh air is good for you, too.

When Cindy and I moved downtown 12 years ago, we knew there would be a period of adjustment. There would be no opportunity for bird feeders, unless we wanted to feed pigeons; however, one small bird opened my eyes to the larger possibilities of urban birds – the Violet-green Swallow. It seems that every spring when I was working on our deck or doing some other chore on the roof, large numbers of violet-greens were on the wing over downtown throughout the day.

The following year I installed one swallow box, and it was occupied almost immediately. Over the next few years we had as many as five boxes and they were all occupied. And this was prior to Occupy Bellingham! One spring in particular, I was a little late getting any boxes mounted, even though they were ready to go. I brewed a cup of coffee to go out on the roof deck and enjoy the Sunday morning quiet but as soon as I opened the door, a pair of swal-lows let me know that they were ready….now! They saw me and immediately became excited to the point of hysteria, so I put down the coffee and grabbed one of the boxes. They swirled around me while I put the box in place and as soon as I walked away, they got busy checking out the place for the next generation.

I’m sharing this to once again encourage everyone to embrace their own surroundings and focus on all the good things we have, even though some of them might be migratory.

Rejoice!

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NCAS Field Trips

Paul Woodcock
VP/Field Trip Chair

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 partici-pants, 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, February 4. Semiahmoo Spit.

Join us and Bird 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, February 5. The Magic Skagit.

Jeanie Johnson is back to lead this full-day trip (half-day option) to the avian wonderland of Fir Island and the lower Skagit Delta. Swans, Snow Geese, and owls highlight this annual spectacle of waterfowl, shorebirds, and raptors. This trip always fills fast so please call early! 8:30 AM. Trip limit: 10. Trip leader: Jeanie Johnson, 671-8886

Saturday, February 11. Point Whitehorn Reserve.

This jewel offers a wide range of birding possibilities. We will scan the surrounding fields for raptors, listen for forest birds along the 3/4-mile wheelchair accessible trail, and finally descend a bluff to a cobbled shoreline where marine birds can be seen in the adjacent Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve. In between bird sightings, we can touch on forest ecology and geology. Check the Whatcom County Parks and Recreation website at www.co.whatcom.wa.us/parks for more information on this unique site. 9:30 AM. Trip limit: 12. Trip leader: Lynne Givler, 966-4909.

Sunday, February 12. Whatcom Creek Walk.

We’ll continue our monthly walks along Bellingham’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 ne-gotiate, but think easy. Meet in front of city hall at 10 AM. Trip limit: 12. Trip leader: Joe Meche, 739-5383.

Sunday, February 19. George Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary, BC.

This is a full-day tour of one of Canada’s top bird watching destinations, located in the heart of the Fraser River estuary. Managed wetlands, natural marshes, and low dikes provide close access to staggering numbers of wintering waterfowl and shorebirds. Snow Geese, Sandhill Cranes, Black-crowned Night Herons, owls, eagles, and woodpeckers are winter residents. All levels of bird watching experience are welcome. 8 AM. Trip leader: Dave Schmalz, 671-1537. Passports or enhanced driver’s license required to cross the border into BC

Saturday, February 25. Samish Flats to Padilla Bay.

This will be a 4-6 hour trip to the Samish Delta and the fields of northern Skagit County. This area is famous for wintering raptors as well as shorebirds, waterfowl, and passerines. After covering the flats, the group will head south to the Brazeale Interpretive Center to check the trails for woodland birds and Padilla Bay for waterfowl. Carpooling will be necessary to limit the number of vehicles. 8:30 AM. Trip limit: 10. Trip leader: John Horner, 676-6029.

Saturday, March 3. Semiahmoo Spit.

Come and bird the beaches again. Please check the February 4 trip for a full description.

Sunday, March 11. Whatcom Creek Walk.

Same details as the February walk. Remember that March weather is unpredictable, so dress accordingly.

Editor’s note: Given the importance of this issue not only to the birding community but also to anyone else who understands and appreciates the significance of this piece of property, I have chosen to run the following article again this month.

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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 current-ly 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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Bellingham Christmas Bird Count

The 2011 Bellingham CBC results are in and, to reiterate, 61 observers in 24 territories recorded 122 species and a total of 63,186 individual birds. A special thanks to all who participated in the count, and the post-count potluck. Since part of the NCAS mission is conservation and in the interest of saving paper this year, we have decided not to commit two pages of the newsletter to print the results. Instead, if you would like to receive a PDF copy of the bird-by-bird results of the count, please send me an personal e-mail 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 experi-enced 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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NCAS Annual Cam-pout. May 18-20

For a change of pace, this year’s weekend campout will shift from the often chilly and wet Clallam County Park at Dungeness to the often warmer and drier Pearrygin Lake State Park. We have reserved the group campsite at the park, which is separate from the main campground area. The site is at the end of a narrow gravel road so tent camping is encouraged. Small RVs are acceptable but the turning radius at the end of the road needs to be considered. Something along the size of a VW camper or a pickup-sized camper should be fine.

For more details or to sign up to join us, please e-mail me at mechejmch@aol.com.

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