General Membership Meeting - North Cascades Audubon Society
Volume 44, Issue 1
General Membership Meeting:
The Miracle of Migration
VARC’s bird monitoring and banding program with Derek Matthews
The Vancouver Avian Research Centre (VARC) is a Registered Canadian Charity dedicated to wild bird research, conservation and education. It conducts bird monitoring, banding and research to identify causes of avian
population changes and to help formulate management actions to maintain stable or increasing populations.
VARC’s main field station is in Colony Farm Regional Park, Coquitlam, British Columbia, a 404-hectare park
at the confluence of the Coquitlam and Fraser Rivers. The park protects some of the most ecologically diverse lands
in the Greater Vancouver Regional District. The avifauna within the region is particularly rich with a total of more
than 400 species of birds documented, 250 of which occur annually.
Derek Matthews, Chair of VARC, is a passionate ornithologist, avian researcher and conservationist. He is a
Master Bird Bander (licensed by Environment Canada to capture and band wild birds) who hosts bird monitoring
and banding and bird identification workshops. He also leads field trips and bird tours, and has traveled extensively
birding throughout the world.
Always on the 4th Tuesday of the month:
January 22, 7pm at the B’ham Public Library in the lecture room - free & open to the public!
In this issue...
January field trips
Great Backyard Bird Count
Seeking Writers, Artists, Talkers
On Scudder Pond
Attention Former NCAS Board Members5
NCAS Supports Reconveyance
Reconveyance in Whatcom County
Christmas Bird Count Brief Review
Trumpeter swan, photo by Joe Meche
The purpose of this society is to promote the study and conservation of birds and other wildlife, their habitat, and
the environment; to increase public appreciation of the values of wildlife, plants, and the natural environment; and
to stimulate action to protect and preserve them for the future.
Designer/editor: Kelley Palmer-McCarty
Writer/editor: Lynne Givler
If you are interested in contributing, the
deadline for the February 2013 issue is...
Send materials to Kelley Palmer-McCarty at:
NCAS Board Members
Kelley Palmer-McCarty 466-8601
Scudder Pond Joe Meche
Scholarship Don Burgess
Alan and Susan Rhodes
Join Our Mailing List
and receive email updates from NCAS
To subscribe, visit us at
Many of you have contacted us expressing concern that
you never receive email updates from our chapter after opting for our paperless newsletter. Unfortunately that is because we have never, until now, had the capacity to send
mass emails to our members. So the result has been that
those of you who wanted to save paper have never received
reminders that our newsletters are available online each
Luckily times are changing. Beginning this month we
have compiled a mailing list using our existing membership database. If you have not received an email this month
please go to our website and on the main page click the link
to subscribe. You can always unsubscribe later.
If you have any questions or concerns please email the
newsletter editor, Kelley, at [email protected]
Like Us On Facebook
Our publicity chair, Jessica Shaw, has been hard at work.
She has created a Facebook page with cool bird facts and
updated information on chapter events. Search for “North
Cascades Audubon Society” on Facebook and Like Us to
stay in the loop.
Stay Tuned For Our New Website
In the next few months we will be redoing our website. It
will feature a new layout, a calendar with all chapter events
in an easily accessible form, as well as a rare bird hotline.
We will be updating the rest of the content as well.
Don’t hesitate to shoot us an email if you have suggestions. You can contact Kelley at [email protected] and she
will make sure it reaches the entire website committee.
January Field Trips
Ken Salzman, Field Trip Chair
While winter may not provide the best weather to get out of doors, it does provide some of the best birding to be
had in the Pacific Northwest. Not only do we get to see many avian species that are absent during warmer months,
winter often provides vagrant species that we often don’t get to see in the area. Indeed, “chasing” these treasures can be
quite the sport! The winter of 2012-13 has once again brought snowy owls to the area in numbers and North Cascades
Audubon Society (NCAS) has a trip planned to see them at Boundary Bay.
And remember that NCAS field trips are open to everyone regardless of membership in NCAS. Our goal is to
provide quality field trips that provide enjoyment and education for all. Also, we hope that beginning birders will not
be afraid to join us. Our field trip leaders, and many of the participants, are enthusiastic about answering questions and
providing a worthwhile experience to all participants. So join us for the fun.
For all of these trips, please remember to dress warmly and wear appropriate footwear. There’s nothing like being
cold and uncomfortable to ruin an otherwise great day of birding.
Saturday, January 5, Semiahmoo Spit
Time: 9 AM at Semiahmoo Park; ~3 hours
Saturday, January 19, Tennant Lake
Time: 9 AM at Tennant Lake Center, ~3 hours
This trip is great any time of the year but the birds can
be very special in the winter. Co-sponsored by NCAS and
Whatcom County Parks & Recreation, the trip covers all
of the spit. This is a great trip for novice and beginning
This trip will explore winter time songbirds in the
wooded and grassy areas surrounding Tennant Lake, as
well as the waterfowl that will be on the lake.
Trip Leader: Paul Woodcock
No Registration Required
Sunday, January 13, Boundary Bay, B.C.
Time: full day (half-day option possible)
Trip Leader: Kelley Palmer-McCarty
To register contact Kelley, 360-466-8601 or [email protected]
Saturday, January 26, Fir Island
Time: 8:30 AM, 5-6 hours
Trip Leaders: Dave Schmalz and Diane Birsner
To register and get trip details contact Dave Schmalz:
Trip Leaders: Paul Woodcock and Ken Salzman
Trip Limit: 12
To register contact Paul Woodcock, 360-380-3356 or
A World Biosphere Reserve and site of the largest concentration of wintering birds of prey in Canada, Boundary
Bay is a bird watcher’s paradise. The trip will explore several
habitats in search of seabirds, shorebirds, waterfowl, and
birds of prey. Make sure you have a current passport or enhanced driver’s license.
Fir Island is one of Skagit County’s premier birding
spots with great views of ducks, geese, swans, bald eagles
and many others present during the winter. The State Fish
and Wildlife Reserve at the end of Wylie Road can produce
a lot of excitement. This season it has already produced a
rusty blackbird, northern waterthrush, and palm warbler.
Sunday, January 13, Whatcom Creek Walk
Time: 9 AM in front of City Hall; ~2 hours
Saturday, February 2, Semiahmoo Spit
Time: 9 AM at Semiahmoo Park; ~3 hours
This relaxed monthly bird walk along Whatcom Creek
is a low stress trip that can provide good views of local birds
and the occasional “good find.”
Mid-winter can be very exiting at Semiahmoo Spit as
you never know what might show up. Co-sponsored by
NCAS and Whatcom County Parks & Recreation, this
monthly trip covers all of the spit and is appropriate for all
levels of birders.
Trip Leader: Joe Meche
Trip limit: 12
To register contact Joe Meche, 360-739-5383 or
Trip Leaders: Paul Woodcock and Lynne Givler
No Registration Required
The Great Backyard Bird Count
A New Birding Tradition
Paul Woodcock, President
For four days, February 15 through 18, 2013, the 16th
annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) will involve
thousands of citizen scientists from across North America
counting birds on their favorite “patch”. Dozens of local
birders have participated in the GBBC over the past decade.
I have counted my backyard as part of the effort a number
of times. Through its fifteen-year history, the GBBC has
evolved into a new tradition, akin to the Christmas Bird
Count we have just completed.
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
If you would like to volunteer to become a trip leader
please contact Ken Salzman, 360-756-0347
or [email protected]
This year the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and
Fresh seed - Healthy birds - Happy people
Bird Studies Canada, the partner organizations who originated the count, are expanding the GBBC to the global
birding community. National Audubon has joined the
partnership, governmental agencies are lending support
and commercial companies have become sponsors. As in
705 Kentucky St.
the past, birders will be able to download their results on
the GBBC website. Beginning this year, the GBBC will
be integrated with eBird, creating a worldwide data collection program. Participants with smart phones will have the
capability to download their sightings from the field and
will be able to access the reports of other counters around
the planet. Materials are available for educators to get their
students involved. The goal is to create an annual citizen
science effort which will provide meaningful information
The Avalanche needs your help to stay fresh and interto scientists on global bird populations.
esting. If you have a newsworthy story, a pertinent topic, or
an intriguing image you’d like to share please don’t hesitate
Participation is easy! All you need to do is pick your to contact us. If you’re uncomfortable seeing your words in
favorite or any easily accessible birding site and count the print, we can work with you on editing your piece or could
birds you observe there for at least 15 minutes on any one interview you and put your words onto the page. For all
of the four count days. You can do multiple counts at vari- the artists, photographers and designers out there, keep in
ous locations each or every day. Then report your findings mind that the printed newsletter will remain in black and
on the GBBC website or eBird. You may access informa- white, so any color images need to translate well into that
tion on how to participate at www.birdsource.org/gbbc .
medium. Readers will be able to fully appreciate all of the
visuals by going to the on-line newsletter which will be in
Local events are being planned in many communi- color.
ties to coincide with the count. Here at home, NCAS is
teaming up with the Whatcom Land Trust (WLT) to do
Contact Kelley to discuss the space available and the
a GBBC at Point Whitehorn Marine Reserve on Febru- publication deadlines so we can make sure your article or
ary 16. We hope to grow the movement to include many image is printed in a timely manner. All contributors to the
citizens counting birds on many other WLT sites and other newsletter will be credited, so don’t miss this chance to get
public lands throughout Whatcom County. Check with your work before the public eye! To start the ball rolling
WLT, 360-650-9470, if you wish to take part. Or just sit at
and help make The Avalanche a success……
home on President’s Day weekend, sipping your coffee and
counting the birds at your feeder in your own backyard.
Contact Kelley at [email protected]
Artists, and Talkers
On Scudder Pond
Joe Meche, Scudder Pond Steward
As I walked the trail through Scudder Pond in midDecember, I couldn’t help but notice the sharp contrast in
the level of activity from a mere six months ago. I realize,
of course, that we’re on the verge of the winter solstice but
it was still interesting enough to take note and remember that I’ll be back in shorts and sneakers in another six
months. Such is life and the space- time continuum on
On one particular morning, the pond was quiet and
almost devoid of any signs of life, but wood ducks were
active with 16 individuals dabbling on the open water and
among the cattails. A lone female bufflehead accompanied
lar but one can only wonder if they are one and the same
bird. Still, it’s one of those surprise sightings that keeps us
on our toes, lest we become totally complacent and assume
that everything is as it should be. It’s always a good practice
to look for something different.
Berry bushes and other plants on both sides of the trail
and into Whatcom Falls Park provide good cover for a variety of passerine species like song and fox sparrows, spotted
towhees, black-capped and chestnut-backed chickadees,
and the small, winter flocks of bushtits. Someone (I have
a short list of suspects) walks the trail on a regular basis
and drops handfuls of cracked corn here and there, and the
birds seem to focus on these handouts. Some of the ducks
will scramble over the slippery banks to join in the feast.
As winter sets in, I’ll begin a rough sketch for the location of the proposed nesting box trail that will run along
the entire three-mile stretch of Whatcom Creek. The initial
plan calls for as many as 50 boxes to be in place when the
project is completed. Most of the boxes should be installed
in habitat-specific locations by early spring, so give me an
e-shout if you’d like to participate in any way.
E-mail me at [email protected] if you have questions or wish to discuss anything about Scudder Pond.
Left: normal; right: gynandromorph; photo by Joe Meche
the other ducks but chose to dive instead of dabble. It was
fun to watch her dive and then pop up right in the middle
of the woodies. They didn’t appear to be bothered by this
interloper and even ignored her for the most part.
Right in the middle of a small raft of ducks, I located a
gynandromorph version of the wood duck; i.e., an individual that displays some of the characteristics of both sexes.
Whether or not this is the same bird that some of us saw
last spring is a matter of conjecture. It certainly looks simi-
Attention Former NCAS Officers
and Board Members
Chapter Secretary Judy Krieger is searching for any
North Cascades Audubon documents from our chapter’s
42 year history. If you are a past officer or board member
of NCAS please check to see if you have any copies of old
chapter minutes, agendas, letters, publications, et cetera.
We would very much appreciate obtaining any documents
related to our chapter’s past. Judy has been communicating with the archivist at Western Washington University’s
Center for Pacific Northwest Studies and she is interested
in helping us preserve our history. Please check your closets, attic, or garage and email Judy at [email protected] or Paul at [email protected] if you have anything to contribute. We will
come and collect it if you wish.
NCAS Supports Reconveyance
Paul Woodcock, President
Many of you are very familiar with the proposed reconveyance of Washington Department of Natural Resources
managed lands in the Lake Whatcom Watershed to Whatcom County Parks & Recreation. The idea came from citizens of our county concerned about land use within the
watershed and Lake Whatcom water quality. The transfer
of about 8,000 acres, as allowed under State statutes, has
been in process for over six years and has been repeatedly
approved by both local and State governments to the point
of final acceptance by Whatcom County. During the past
two years, opposition has grown among a very vocal group
of citizens in our county.
Reconveyance in Whatcom County
David Wallin, professor at Huxley College of the
Environment, can be contacted at [email protected]
For more than five years, the County Council has been
considering a proposal to transfer ownership of about 8700
acres of land in the Lake Whatcom watershed from the
Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to Whatcom
County. This transfer (also referred to as “reconveyance”)
would enable us to create a County park that would permanently protect 25% of the watershed from logging. Although residential development in the watershed is the
primary cause of water quality declines in the lake, we now
know that logging has also had a significant adverse impact. Although this new park will not solve all of the water
In October it came to the attention of the NCAS Board quality problems, it will be helpful. When dealing with the
of Directors that those opposing reconveyance believed, sole water supply for over 90,000 people, we must do evbased on the four to six-year-old writings of a past board erything that we can to clean up the lake.
member, that the chapter was opposed to reconveyance. The
reality is that, up to this time, the North Cascades Audubon
In addition to the water quality benefits, this new park
Society had never taken an official position on the issue. will create extraordinary and easily accessible recreational
Speaking among ourselves and with other members of the opportunities. This will be a low-impact park that will only
chapter, it became clear that we were being used by an oprequire the development of a few parking lots and a trail
position with which most of us did not agree. After study
network. This will be the crown jewel in the County Parks
and discussion the NCAS Board of Directors decided to
system. With outstanding leadership by the County Countakes steps toward clarifying this situation.
cil, the financial, environmental and recreational impacts
At our November board meeting, the board voted and
passed, by a decisive majority, a motion to support the reconveyance. Most of us feel that management of Lake
Whatcom watershed lands by Whatcom County Parks &
Recreation for low-impact recreational use provides better
protection for the lake and the forest ecosystem surrounding
it, and enhanced recreational opportunities for our community. Additionally, I believe this aligns us with the opinions
of the majority of our members. We urge all community
members to voice their opinions on this issue to our County
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of this plan have been exhaustively evaluated over the past
several years. There have been numerous public meetings
seeking input on the proposal. The proposal has received
broad-based support from the environmental, recreational
and business communities. The business community recognizes that maintaining and enhancing Bellingham’s quality
of life is critical for convincing new businesses to relocate
here and for recruiting and retaining top-quality talent for
existing businesses. This is a key issue and not just for those
businesses that directly support outdoor recreation.
The County has already spent about $300,000 (about
$34/acre) to start the process of transferring this land from
DNR ownership to the County. Completing the transfer
from this point will cost the County absolutely nothing beyond the $300,000 that has already been spent. Thirty-four
dollars per acre seems like a pretty good deal to me. In
contrast, over the past few years the City of Bellingham has
spent about $16,000/acre to acquire and protect 1600 acres
in the watershed (over $25 million). Yes, there are costs
associated with the development of the park and ongoing
management costs but these costs are minimal.
The County Council has already voted twice (5-2 vote
both times) to approve this plan. The DNR has voted unanimously to approve it. Now a small timber industry group is
trying to derail this park plan. They argue that transferring
this land to park use will “devastate” the timber industry
in the county. In fact, most of the 8700 acres is unsuitable
for timber harvesting because of steep and unstable slopes.
Less than 2000 acres could be harvested under current law
and much of this could be harvested at considerable risk
only by building roads across steep and unstable slopes. The
amount of harvestable acreage that is being lost through
the development of this park is minimal when compared
to the total harvestable acreage for the county as a whole
and is far less than the amount of harvestable land that is
being lost to residential development in the county. This
timber industry group also argues that recreational opportunities can be accommodated in working forests managed
by DNR. In fact, DNR has quite recently and emphatically
indicated an unwillingness to accommodate recreation on
their land in Whatcom County by excluding mountain
bikers from their Slide Mountain site.
Although the financial costs and recreational plan for
this park have been exhaustively reviewed over a period of
more than five years, the County Council has given in to
pressure from this small timber industry group. The County Council now plans to hold yet another series of public
meetings beginning in January to once again review these
plans. Following this review, they will once again vote on
whether or not to proceed with this land acquisition. I
would urge everyone to go to the County Parks website to
learn more about this plan:
I would also urge everyone to contact the Whatcom
County Council to express support for this proposed park.
This is a fabulous opportunity.
Western scrub jay, photo by Joe Meche
Christmas Bird Count Summary
The 2012 Christmas Bird Count in Whatcom County took place on Sunday, December 16. Those of us who
spent part or all of that day out in the field were thankful
that, despite the harsh cold, the weather gods spared us
from constant freezing rain/snow and serious winds. Overall our 25 territories yielded around 125 species of birds.
Some highlights included a golden eagle on Lummi Flats,
Bonaparte’s gulls flying over Bellingham Bay,ancient murrelets in Hale Passage, three snowy owls on Sandy Point
rooftops, as well as two western scrub-jays between Humboldt St. and Grant St., north of Alabama St. Thank you to
everyone who made yet another CBC possible and successful, especially Geri Walker, our new CBC coordinator.
North Cascades Audubon Society
PO Box 5805
Bellingham, WA 98227-5805
PERMIT NO. 125
RETURN SERVICE REQUESTED
The Avalanche is the newsletter of the North Cascades Audubon Society, PO Box 5805, Bellingham, WA 98227. It is published 8 times
a year; subscriptions start at $20 per year. The editors welcome articles, artwork, photographs, and letters. Opinions expressed in this
newsletter are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this organization. Original material may be reprinted if
appropriate credit is given. The North Cascades Audubon Society is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
Audubon Society Membership
We hope you will support North Cascades Audubon by
joining the chapter locally. Your commitment to Audubon
is important to us. We will continue to provide you with
information regarding local chapter activities through our
website and all activities will remain FREE and open to
the public. If you are interested in receiving a paper copy
of the newsletter, you can join the local chapter for one
year at any of the levels to your right. The newsletter is
published monthly between September and May, including a double issue for November/December. All issues are
also available online. If you do not wish to receive a paper
copy, email [email protected]
Please check your mailing labels for accuracy,
including the expiration date. To make any necessary
changes, please send an email to
Join or Renew
Please make checks payable to North Cascades Audubon.
Each membership applies to one household.
____ $20 Kestrel
____ $35 Merlin
____ $50 Prairie Falcon
____ $75 Peregrine Falcon
____ $100 Gyrfalcon
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