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September 2012 Issue (vol 43, number 6)
      (Previous Issue May 2012) - (Next Issue October 2012)


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General Membership Meeting

Tuesday, September 25, 7:00 PM
Bellingham Public Library Lecture Room - Free and open to the public
Eastern Washington Spring Birding

When it seems that the cool, wet weather of the west side refuses to leave and sunshine will never return, consider a spring trip to the dry side of the Cascades. Not only will you find weather that is more spring-like, but the bird life will leave you wanting to make this an annual event. As soon as the snow has been cleared from Washington Pass, State Highway 20 is your gateway to great spring birding. For over twenty years Joe Meche and his wife Cindy have made it a priority to start their season of camping getaways by heading over the mountains and through the woods to some of the best spring birding the state has to offer. Join Joe on a photographic tour of some of the more accessible and bird-rich sites that are just a few hours away from home.

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The Avalanche Celebrates Its 43rd Year of Publication with a New Look

Lynne Givler

Although a 43rd year anniversary is not typically considered a milestone for celebration, we want to take this op-portunity to toast our new editor/newsletter chair Kelley Palmer-McCarty. You’ll notice a number of changes in The Avalanche beginning with this current newsletter, thanks to her design and artistic skills. Kelley will be coordinating with our website designer Ham Hayes to ensure that readers can easily find the information or inspiration they’re seeking in the newsletter and in the additional more in-depth offerings on the website. I’ll be helping out with some writing and editing. As a chapter member, you will continue to receive your copy of The Avalanche in the mail. If you prefer on-line access only, contact the membership chair (see page 2) and you’ll help save paper and postage. As subsequent news-letters continue to roll off the press, we’ll gauge the membership’s interest in eventually going to an on-line format only. We welcome and encourage your input as The Avalanche’s new look is refined. Many thanks to Joe Meche for all his help orienting Kelley to the in¬ner workings of the publication, and for his 16 years of dedication as editor. To learn more about the new editorial staff see the article on Behind the Scenes below.

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Welcome Back Paul!

Lynne Givler

It’s been over 35 years since Paul Woodcock first joined North Cascades Audubon Society. As we bird our way through the 43rd year of the The Avalanche newsletter, we’d like to welcome him back to his third term as chapter president. The road that led Paul to his current involvement here started in central Wisconsin where in early grade school his older brother John pulled him into the world of birding. With no Audubon chapter in the area, Paul joined a bird club in Manitowoc, south of Green Bay. Someone gave him a set of old Audubon magazines and Paul was hooked. In the late 1960s Paul entered the University of Wisconsin to pursue his interest in conservation. After a cou¬ple years he was ready for a change. He moved to the Port Townsend area where he met and married his wife Nadia. In 1973 Huxley College caught his eye. He and Nadia re¬located to Bellingham so Paul could finish his degree. His advisor at Huxley was John Miles, who also served as presi¬dent of the North Cascades Audubon Society. Paul joined the chapter, and when John stepped down as president in about 1975, Paul took over the reins for three years. He later served as chair of the conservation committee and as treasurer. Raising a family and working at Whatcom Transit Authority pulled Paul away from the chapter for a number of years, but he became re-engaged shortly after his retirement in 2003. He dove straight into his second term as president a year later, and when his three-year term expired he became the field trip chair which he continued until recently. Paul later served two non-consecutive terms as vice-president, and this May he migrated back to the presidency. Welcome back Paul and many thanks for your continuing contributions to our chapter!

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September Field Trips

While it’s not yet officially fall, the days are getting shorter and our feathered friends are on the move. Shorebirds have been sighted along the coast for the past month and songbirds will soon follow suit. If you are also feeling the urge to move you can vicariously experience the thrill of migration by heading out to the fields, forests and waterways to ob¬serve the southward flow of an astonishing variety of remarkable winged creatures. At the same time you can enjoy our remaining days of summer weather and experience the subtle changes that come as one season slips into another. Join us as we experience this seasonal transition in our NCAS field trips. It is our aim to provide a variety of field trip experiences that appeal to birders and naturalists of all interests and abilities. North Cascades Audubon field trips are open to everyone, members and non-members, free of charge. The number of participants is often limited in order to reduce negative impacts on the environment and ensure a quality experience. Here are the field trips scheduled for the month of September. Please check the October newsletter for more fall trips. See you in the field!

Saturday, September 1, 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. September should be an outstanding time for shorebirds, waterfowl, and other seabirds as well as raptors and song-birds. Meet at 9 AM at Semiahmoo County Park. Trip leader: Paul Woodcock. No registration required.

Saturday, September 8, Lake Padden

This date marks the 40th anniversary of Lake Padden Park and this field trip is part of the festivities. Lake Padden not only provides recreational opportunities but is also an excellent spot to experience wildlife. This trip will conclude at the beginning of the anniversary activities (11 AM) so no one will miss the party. Meet at 8 AM at the tennis courts on the Northwest end of the lake. Trip leaders: Paul Woodcock and Ken Salzman. No registration required.

Sunday, September 16, Whatcom Creek Walk

As fall approaches, we’ll continue our Sunday morning walks along Bellingham’s unique riparian corridor in the heart of downtown. This is an easy walk downstream to the mouth of the creek and back upstream along established trails. The walk usually lasts about two hours. As the seasons change along the creek, we always expect the un¬expected. Meet in front of city hall at 10 AM. Trip limit: 12. To register contact trip leader Joe Meche, 739-5383 or mechejmch@aol.com.

Saturday, September 22, Lake Terrell,

Whatcom Wildlife Area Please join us to welcome the start of autumn for 4-5 hours at one of the best birding spots in our area. Owned and managed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Lake Terrell has outstanding and varied habitat that supports resident and migratory songbirds, waterfowl and raptors. Warblers and other tropical species will be on the move. Field trip begins at 8 AM. Trip limit: 15. To register and get more details contact trip leader Ken Salz¬man, 756-0347 or kpsalzman@comcast.net.

Saturday, October 6, Semiahmoo Spit

Another month, another edition of “Birding the Beaches. But species and numbers change constantly with the seasons. Join us! Please check the Sept 1 field trip for details.

HELP WANTED

Field trip leaders are needed!! The following prerequisites are desired: 1. A love of and enthusiasm for birding 2. A reasonable knowledge of and skill related to identification of birds in our area 3. A willingness to share your knowledge and skill related to birding If you would like to volunteer to become a trip leader please contact Ken Salzman, (360) 756-0347 or kpsalzman@comcast.net

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Histrionicus histrionicus:

Tying Our County Together fromSea to Mountain Stream
Lynne Givler

In thinking about an iconic bird of Whatcom County, a relatively small and uncommon duck that makes up with looks what it lacks in size and abundance came to mind. Named for Arlecchino, a buffoon in the Italian commedia dell’arte (comedy of art), the harlequin duck’s plumage does indeed call to mind the costume of that 16th century character. And to avoid confusion, even the scientific name, whose binomials are identical, remains true to that theme. Histrionicus histrionicus is derived from the Latin histrio, “a stage player”. And with Whatcom County as its stage the harlequin duck never fails to draw us in. Scan our marine waters from Point Roberts to Chucka¬nut Bay between early October and early May and you’re likely to encounter harlequins diving for mollusks, crustaceans and the occasional fish, or perched on an offshore rock. As spring advances, pairs will leave the coast and head for their nesting sites along turbulent mountain streams. Over 137 Washington streams host these sites, with generations of birds returning to the same spot on the stream. Males return to the coast once females begin incubating eggs. Chicks hatch out about a month later and are soon ready to follow their mothers, bouncing on the surface of their home stream and diving for aquatic invertebrates. Af¬ter about two months the young are ready to take to the air. By early October juvenile harlequin ducks and their mothers have all left Whatcom County’s mountain streams and joined post-breeding males, failed breeding females, and non-breeders at molting sites on salt water. Individual birds return to the same molting sites every year, including nearby Island County’s Smith Island and Penn Cove, and British Columbia’s Mandarte Island. As these birds settle back into their winter life they may be joined by birds who bred in the Rocky Mountains. And as winter transitions back to spring, breeding pairs must time their departure to arrive at their specific stream when it is not covered in ice. If you caught John Bower’s presentation Changes in Marine Bird Abundance in the Salish Sea 1975-2007 at the April general membership meeting, you may recall that the status of the harlequin duck in our area is looking pretty hopeful. His research shows a 19.8% increase in the Salish Sea overwintering population when comparing 1978-1980 with 2003-2005. Even so, Audubon Washington lists the harlequin as an early warning/vulnerable species. The worldwide population is on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list as “least concern”. As these listings shift over time I for one will be care¬fully watching our shores and mountain streams for His¬trionicus histrionicus. Few other ducks inspire the enthusi¬asm expressed by an attendee at April’s Wings Over Water event in Blaine. Peering through a spotting scope focused on a lone male harlequin, his grin widened as he repeated several times, “you made my day”. The Avalanche’s new front page banner features a male and female harlequin duck in flight drawn by our new designer/editor Kelley Palmer-McCarty. The original photograph was taken by Paul Higgins (copyrighted). Thanks to editors Terence R. Wahl, Bill Tweit and Steven G. Mlodinow whose Birds of Washington (2005) provided much of the most recent information contained in this article. All photographs in this article are also from Paul Higgins’s collection, and copyrighted. Thanks to Paul for his permission to use these photos. Help Us With Our Website!

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Seeking Writers, Artists, and Talkers

The Avalanche needs your help to stay fresh and interesting. If you have a newsworthy story, a pertinent topic, or an intriguing image you’d like to share please don’t hesitate to contact us. We welcome suggestions and opinions about the direction of the North Cascades Audubon Society and this newsletter. In the spirit of collaboration, we encourage you to submit information about upcoming events or proj¬ects sponsored by other organizations and agencies that share common goals with our chapter. If you enjoy writing and have a topic in mind, contact Kelley to discuss the space available and the publication deadlines so we can make sure your article is printed in a timely manner. If you’re uncomfortable seeing your words in print, we’re more than willing to work with you on editing your piece. We’d also appreciate receiving stories, letters or articles from the past or from other sources (with the au¬thor’s or publisher’s permission of course) that would bring an interesting perspective to our current time and place. We would love to receive images from all the artists, photographers and designers out there. Keep in mind that the printed newsletter will remain in black and white, so any color images would need to translate well into that me¬dium. Readers will be able to fully appreciate all of the visuals by going to the on-line newsletter which will be in color. All contributors to the newsletter will be credited, so don’t miss this chance to get your work before the public eye! To start the ball rolling and help make The Avalanche a success…… Contact Kelley Palmer-McCarty at: vaktel@gmail.com

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On Scudder Pond

Joe Meche, Scudder Pond Steward

Over the summer, the Scudder Pond Stewardship Program has undergone a little change of pace, or in this case, a change of face. Given the amount of time I spend there and in Whatcom Falls Park, everyone agreed that I would be a logical choice to serve as the new Scudder Pond Stew¬ard. Part of the plan at this point is to enlist volunteers to assist in a number of tasks, primarily entailing general care, maintenance, and monitoring activities at this NCAS owned urban preserve. As September arrives and fall comes into view, it’s time to look back on the dynamic spring and summer that we experienced at the pond this year. As usual, wood ducks seemed to be the first arrivals at the pond, checking out the nesting boxes that were placed on the pond perimeter last year. As spring progressed and the number of ducklings increased, it was obvious that the boxes had been utilized. As the boxes are cleaned and reinstalled for next spring, the evidence should be apparent. Not too far behind the wood ducks were the ever popular red-winged blackbirds. This most numerous of North American species feels right at home at the pond, consider¬ing the amount of bird song they contribute to the neighborhood. The pond hosted several nesting pairs, as usual. Mallard ducklings were typically numerous while other highlights of the breeding season included the extremely vocal black-headed grosbeaks; the distinctive and svelte cedar waxwings; three possible clutches in one nest by the diminutive bushtits; and the occasional sightings of the very secretive Virginia rails. Song sparrows were plentiful well into early summer and should continue to be around through fall and winter, along with other resident species. So, as we march into fall and winter and if you enjoy Scudder Pond, consider becoming a member of the stewardship program. I have a few projects on various burners and I’d like to hear from you if you’re interested. When I have a few names to work with, I’ll try to put together an informal meeting to discuss goals that will make Scudder Pond an even nicer place to visit throughout the year….not only for wildlife but also for wildlife watchers. Joe Meche, reachable at mechejmch@aol.comNote: This column will be a regular feature in The Avalanche and will keep members up to date on all things associated with the Scudder Pond Preserve, NCAS’s urban gem.

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Behind the Scenes at The Avalanche

Introducing the New Editorial Staff
Lynne Givler

Earlier this year, as I entered my second year of retire¬ment from Whatcom County Parks & Recreation, I be¬gan talking with Paul Woodcock about becoming more involved with North Cascades Audubon Society. As a naturalist with Seattle Parks & Recreation and an active member of the Seattle Audubon Society in the 1980s and 1990s I always enjoyed leading field trips, which included quite a few in Whatcom County. So Paul added me to his list of trip leaders and a few months later I was roaming the trails and beaches of Point Whitehorn Marine Reserve and Semiahmoo Park with fellow nature enthusiasts. When I mentioned to Paul that I enjoyed writing and editing, I soon found myself shaking hands with Kelley Palmer-McCarty, the new designer of The Avalanche. So now I’m sitting at my laptop fulfilling my end of the newsroom bargain. Kelley will handle the heavy lifting- the design, layout, artwork and overall coordination of the pub¬lication. But with keypad and red pen in hand, I am very pleased to assist this very talented and enthusiastic member of our chapter. (great blue heron by Peter Cavanagh) Kelley spent her early childhood on Lopez Island, where her interest in the visual arts and nature began when she was young. You would often find Kelley with pens and colored pencils doodling scenes of llamas and hammerhead sharks for hours on end. She became a member of Seattle Audubon Society’s teen group BirdWatch which first fueled her interest in wild birds. Then it was on to Western Wash¬ington University’s Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies where Kelley graduated in December of 2011. Kelley’s self-designed degree, called Ways of Knowing through Art, Ecology, and Ornithology, focused on the vi¬sual arts, Western science and alternatives to Western sci¬ence. She explored a variety of methods of understanding our world, from ecological concepts and systems theory to Buddhist meditation and mindfulness. During the sum¬mers of 2010 and 2011 Kelley worked for Kwiaht, the Cen¬ter for the Historical Ecology of the Salish Sea, conducting basic marine bird surveys on Lopez Island. She trained local volunteers to assist her in identifying and counting species ranging from dabbling ducks in the heavily impacted Fisherman Bay to the elusive marbled murrelet of more open waters. In learning more about Kelley, I was struck by the ways our paths intersected, albeit several decades apart. I gradu¬ated from The Evergreen State College in 1977 with a fo¬cus on marine sciences. After graduation I worked in the Friday Harbor Labs on San Juan Island identifying marine invertebrates as part of the Marine Ecosystems Analysis (MESA) Project. Unlike Kelley, I didn’t come to really ap¬preciate birds until my mid- 20s. I was too busy observing some intriguing snail or obscure marine alga. But today, in reading her musings on birds quoted below, I found a per¬spective that I (and I’m sure many of you) share. “Birds mean a lot to me, but not just as separate or¬ganisms -- they play key roles in essentially all ecosystems around the world, and are iconic, easy to view, and therefore a great tool to learn about our environment. They provide a gateway to all sorts of topics, from climate change to na¬tive flora, and their vast migrations (and lack of migration, in some cases) are impressive and bewildering. Having kept many pet birds, and having worked intimately with wild birds in bird banding camps, I have become familiar with individual bird/species personalities. The more I learn about these amazing creatures, the more I realize how little I know, and the more questions I ask.”

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Help Us With Our Website!

www.northcascadesaudubon.org We are currently looking for volunteers interested in joining a committee dedicated to re-doing the current NCAS website. Please contact Kelley (see below) if this appeals to you. Experience with websites is NOT necessary!! Kelley’s email: vaktel@gmail.com

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