eEcho 2018 May/June

Integrated Pest Management is Good for Birds

(by Kim Adelson) –

Since many of us are now welcoming the opportunity to work in our gardens, this month I’m focusing on an important strategy to make your outdoor space more of a haven for birds. You can make your yard more wildlife-friendly by providing food, water, and shelter; diminishing the chances of window strikes and the threat of predation; and eliminating toxins.

Toxins in yards come mainly from insecticides and herbicides. Every year North American homeowners spread more than 130 million pounds of pesticides— far more than farmers do; many are harmful to birds. Because many pesticides aren’t specific to one type of organism, they can also injure people and pets, with numerous neurological effects, asthma and allergies, cancer, and birth defects. The World Health Organization estimates that, globally, pesticides poison 3 million people each year, resulting in more than 200,000 deaths annually. Generally, insecticides are more toxic to people and birds than herbicides.

The alternative to pesticides is integrated pest management, a common-sense approach that involves:

  • Preventing infestation problems by maintaining a healthy, unstressed garden
  • Identifying and learning about garden pests
  • (Using that knowledge to) remove the pests’ food and water supplies
  • Trying to physically exclude those pests from the area
  • Learning to embrace or at least tolerate harmless species
  • Allowing a reasonable number of harmful pests
  • Using the most benign pest control methods first, with toxic methods only if absolutely necessary
  • Using targeted pesticides as sparingly as possible

 

Prevention: Happy, healthy plants are harder to infest and infect. Use compost to enrich your soil and mulch to discourage weeds and retain moisture. Leave three inches of lawn when you mow, and water less frequently but more deeply to encourage deep root growth which helps choke out weeds. Get rid of weeds before they go to seed and propagate, and cull sickly, diseased plants before their condition spreads. To avoid fungal infections, water early in the day so plants dry out before nightfall; similarly, water the ground around the plant rather than wetting the leaves. Best of all, go native, since well-placed native plants typically require little pesticide and are disease-resistant.

Physically exclude pests: Consider draping non-ornamental plants in fine netting material, to keep insects from eating them and laying eggs on them. Stymie grubs with collars of rolled plastic placed around your plants’ stems and pushed several inches into the dirt.

Remove food and water sources: This is generally more of a house issue than a yard one. Removing food and water supplies discourages noxious insects, but it also discourages desirable ones as well as birds.

Accept harmless species: Many insects are benign and even desirable, since they prey upon their more troublesome brethren and are important food for birds. Learn to identify wanted species and leave them be. (Better yet, make your yard welcoming to them: they’re not named slug-eating beetles and parasitic wasps for nothing!)

Accept a reasonable number of pests: Since we live in an area with lots of wild, undeveloped land, a stray thrip or two, some whiteflies, etc. are going to land on your property. Of course you don’t want them to unduly multiply, so nip the problem in the bud, so to speak, and remove them as you find them, but there is no need to over-react and start spraying everything in sight.

Instead . . .

Employ benign methods: There are so many! Knock insects off your plants with a hose or vacuum them off. Set out sticky traps. Bury a few coffee cans with their lips flush with the ground, so insects fall in and can’t crawl out; if you want to be fancy, put a piece of ripe fruit on the bottom to entice bugs. (More elaborate homemade traps that don’t harm beneficial insect are available, too.) Plant “trap plants” that destructive insects prefer to lure them away from other plants. (Think marigolds, sunflowers, zinnias, and nasturtiums for flower beds, and dill, mustard, chives, and basil in your gardens.) Numerous homemade solutions—made from boiled garlic, castile soap, Epsom salt, Tabasco, or Neem oil— make benign sprays to deter aphids, spiders, spidermites, and caterpillars. Slugs avoid crushed eggshells. Recipes can easily be found by doing a Web search.

Most native plants attract beneficial insects and birds that prey on pests. Put up bat houses: a single bat can eat up to 8,000 insects per night. Do all you can to attract birds: most eat insects, especially during the breeding season; even birds we generally consider seed-eaters offer their hatchlings a primarily insect diet. Prune away disease as soon as it appears, and be sure to wash the tools you used before they touch healthy plants. All my gardener friends in New Zealand—as a group, Kiwi gardens are more “picture perfect” than ours—prune out infestations, hose garden pests off their plants, and kill weeds in yards and sidewalk cracks with boiling water. It is a mark of shame to have to employ artificial chemicals.

Use targeted pesticides only as a last resort, and only products targeted to your pest. In general, non-insects are less likely to eat insecticides in bait traps with small openings than freely spread insecticides; granular formulations are especially attractive to birds. The most important insecticides to avoid, because of their toxicity: organochlorines (e.g., dicofol, methoxychlor), organophosphates (e.g. diazinon, isofenphos, chlorpyrifos), and carbamates (e.g. aldicarb, carbofuran, bendiocarb). [Neonictanoids, such as acetamiprid and chothianidn, are relatively safe for birds and mammals but kill pollinating bees.] Herbicides containing dinitrophenols, such as dinoseb or paraquat, are especially toxic to birds. No matter what product you use, avoid spraying on windy days, and never near a water source.

Healthy gardens attract and support bees, parasitic wasps, ground beetles, lacewings, and butterflies, which help plants by being pollinators or by consuming plant predators. They are high in fat and protein and provide much needed food for birds. The goal is not to have a bug-free garden, but one with a thriving community of beneficial, useful insects. This will in turn attract birds. Please avoid using harmful chemicals: there are alternative strategies, and your yard and the birds we love will thank you. (by Kim Adelson)

Join the Pigeon Guillemot Citizen Science Team this summer

Join the Pigeon Guillemot Citizen Science Team this summer and spend one beautiful hour on the beach each week observing Pigeon Guillemots flying aerial displays, playing in the water, competing for the top spot on a rock, and/or delivering fish to chicks in burrows.

The 2018 season (Year 6!) for the Pigeon Guillemot Breeding Survey is coming up! Volunteer training will be held on Saturday, May 5, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Nisqually Reach Nature Center, 4949D Milluhr Rd. N.E., Olympia, 98516. Pigeon Guillemots are black birds with a white wing patch and red feet, one of the few seabirds breeding in South Sound. They are a Vital Sign Species, an indicator for the health of Puget Sound. Citizen science volunteers sit on the beach one morning hour a week, June to August, to record social and burrow activity, including fish deliveries to chicks. Volunteers are organized in teams to allow for flexible scheduling. Breeding colonies for this survey are located on Salish Sea shorelines between Nisqually Reach and Totten Inlet, including Eld and Budd Inlets, Dana Passage and Anderson, Ketron, and Harstine Islands.

If you are interested in volunteering, please let us know, even if you aren’t available for the training. Contact Anne Mills, millsa804@nullgmail.com or 360-888-9417, or Terence Lee, terencelee@nullnisquallyestuary.org or 360-459-0387 to register for the free training or for more information about volunteering. (Photo by Dick Daniels (http://carolinabirds.org/), Wikimedia)

Armchair Birding: The Wood for the Trees, by Richard Fortey

(by Anne Kilgannon) –

Sometimes things really do come in threes, if you just look for the connections. This winter I gaped in awe as we tramped an emerald green—and every other color of green imaginable—feathery-cushioned landscape of moss covering every surface of tree and rock on the wooded acres we had just purchased. The local conservancy biologist exploring with us hushed and stooped to separate a few tiny leaves from the general “moss” and revealed a wild orchid pushing up through the carpet. I was entranced by the tiny world, the pulse of life seen close up, the stunning richness of dozens of kinds of moss and the treasures hidden within their tangle.

And soon after that experience, E. O. Wilson published a searing essay in the New York Times, “The 8 Million Species We Don’t Know.” He was not writing about the charismatic tigers, bears and wolves, whales and redwood trees, vital as all these beings are, but about the small uncounted, unstudied life forms that nonetheless are the warp and woof of life on earth. He noted, “The most striking fact about the living environment may be how little we know about it. Even the number of living species can be only roughly calculated.” If we are going to save them, first we have to know them. Wilson admonished, “Do not call these organisms “bugs” or “critters.” They, too, are wildlife. Let us learn their correct names and care about their safety. Their existence makes possible our own. We are wholly dependent on them.”

I found an excellent book on moss, Gathering Moss, by Robin Wall Kimmerer, and began to study. Those acres are a responsibility and an opportunity, a classroom and laboratory. But I was soon at sea. I needed more grounding for my new project, more guidance on how to go about learning this piece of the world and how to think about and care for it.

As luck would have it, the third thing came to hand, the right book whose title engaged my curiosity: The Wood for the Trees, One Man’s Long View of Nature, by Richard Fortey. Fortey, like us, had just purchased a few acres of woodland, in his case in the Chiltern Hills near Oxford, and had conceived the notion to document his land from the ground up, and through time, as only a paleontologist can contemplate it. Admittedly he had some excellent help not available to us, as he could call up colleagues from the Natural History Museum of London, but he is generous with their advice and insights. We are introduced to charming and dedicated specialists of crane fly study, fungi, myriad beetles, and shy woodland mammals, to name a few.

To give you an idea of his approach and ambition, here is a sample: “Charles finds one example of his own favourite (British spelling!) group of miniature organisms: a rotifer. We are now at the edge of visibility, which I set as the boundary for the Grim’s Dyke Wood project. And there are many smaller creatures in this living soup.” He goes on to describe a one-celled creature, while “other protists whizz by under the microscope like tiny self-propelled machines, too fast to identify. All these organisms feed on others still smaller, and far too minute to be readily observed beneath Charles’s binocular microscope.” Which means that Charles takes the specimens back to his lab for further study. E. O. Wilson would be beaming!

At the other end of the scale, Fortey concentrates on the predominant life form in his woods: beech trees. Not only does this book look backward to the formation of the rocks under the skin of life, it proceeds seasonally over a year, so we begin our study of the woods when the bluebells are spreading lakes of blue under the trees, fueled by sunshine not yet blocked by unfurled leaves. We then follow the trees as they stretch and flourish through spring and summer, only to slow and drop their leaves and hunker down through fall and winter. Just as the trees do not exist alone but harbor whole worlds of birds, mice, beetles, moss and everything imaginable, the beeches live embedded in human history.

Fortey includes humans, their economy and ecology, as not separate but joined and vital in his natural history of this place. Humans have used, shaped and been shaped by the beeches since the beginning of their shared existence. He finds traces of ancient practices and follows woodcraft through the ages as people coppiced, harvested, saved and lived with these trees from Anglo- Saxon, Norman, Tudor and more recent eras. The woods have survived because people lived so closely and with great dependence on them, as fuel, as wood for buildings and furniture, as bungs for barrels and uses so various as to “always” have a use. I am encouraged to include in my study the shell middens hidden by the moss and the old stumps, relics of pioneer logging efforts on our own land. We too will leave our trace.

I am barely giving you a hint of the richness of this work. The trees are the foundation of the woods, obvious to say, but the tiny creatures munching the leaves and helping create the soil, the moss snugging the surfaces and holding water, the red kites flying over the canopy are integral to the health of the place. Fortey brings them all into the picture, a living, breathing whole world, intricate, interdependent, delightful and though seemingly timeless, existing in season and century. We are a part of it all. And it all matters.

The Friends of LBA Woods is offering opportunities for a holistic study of a “place” through a series of guided nature walks and a citizen-science project to catalogue the biodiversity of life forms in the upland forest of the LBA Woods. Watch their website www.lbawoodspark.org for details. (by Anne Kilgannon, Beech Trees photo by Callum Black, Wikimedia)

BHAS Board of Directors and Officers Election, May 10, 2018

The BHAS Nominating Committee (Bruce Jacobs, Elizabeth Rodrick, and Bob Wadsworth) announces the following nominees for the Board of Directors who will serve June 1, 2018 through May 31, 2019: President: Open; Vice-President: Elizabeth Rodrick; Treasurer: Bruce Jacobs; Secretary: Kathleen Snyder. Kim Adelson is the current nominee for Treasurer, and if re-elected, will continue to serve until September, when she will step down and become a board member at-large.
Bruce Jacobs, if re-elected, will continue to serve as Secretary until September, and then be appointed Treasurer.
Kathleen Snyder, if elected, will serve as a board member at-large and then be appointed Secretary in September.

Other nominees for Board Members At-Large are: Ken Brown, Steve Curry, Hank Henry, Craig Merkel, Sam Merrill, Paul Moody, Sharon Moore, Deb Nickerson, Bob Wadsworth, and Joe Zabransky. Our bylaws allow up to 16 board members, and the current slate is 13. Any further nominations should be submitted by April 27 to Elizabeth Rodrick, vice-pres@nullblackhills-audubon.org. Please include a short paragraph on why you are interested in serving on the board.

BHAS has a “working” board, which means that we are all active on committees and usually have at least one special project. For those who engage and contribute their skills and experience, the rewards are meaningful and appreciated.

Chapter members will elect officers and at-large board members at the May 10, 2018 program meeting at 7:00 p.m. at the Temple Beth Hatfiloh, 201 8th Avenue SE, Olympia. Members must be present to vote.

Thurston County in Early Stages of Revising Comprehensive Plan, Mineral Lands Policy

(by Sue Danver) –

The State of Washington Growth Management Act (GMA) of 1990 requires all counties to revise their Comprehensive Plans every 7 or 8 years. Thurston County is in the early-to-mid phase of this update. The process is long and complicated, with many opportunities to comment. In late March, the County held two open houses at which the public could learn about the Comprehensive Plan Update and provide their visions for transportation, housing, natural resource protection, agriculture, and other planning considerations.

In early March, the Thurston County Planning Commission (PC), an eight-member panel of volunteers, had its first vote after a nearly year-long study of mineral land policy. As required by state law, Thurston County mapped its geologic resources: aggregate (sand and gravel) and quarry rock. The PC was charged to determine which of these identified resource lands should be officially designated Mineral Lands, potentially open to future mining. After a citizen survey of potential lands, the county planning staff developed three maps, each with a different filter of what type of lands should be excluded from designation. Map 1, the least restrictive map, designated a total of 141,331 acres. Map 2 had 107.447 acres. Map 3 had 135,765 acres with a caveat that many of these acres were sensitive lands and probably would not meet permit requirements. The preference of BHAS was Map 2, with Map 3 acceptable.

Nevertheless, on March 21 the PC chose Map 1. It also co-designated Long-Term Agriculture Lands with Mineral Lands, against the South Sound Farmland Trust recommendation and most citizen testimony. The chosen option also fails to automatically prevent mining in already identified FEMA flood plains, Marine Shoreline Landslide Hazard Areas, critical habitat, high quality wetlands and more. If this option prevails, county citizens will have to be more vigilant and most likely spend much time and money to ensure that mining permit proposals are correct and thoroughly reviewed.

We are disappointed that the majority of the PC did not heed citizens’ testimony. Next, the staff will be working on the comprehensive plan’s mineral lands vision statement and mineral code; there will continue to be much pressure on the PC to weaken existing environmental code. BHAS will keep you abreast of this next stage and may ask for your involvement. Eventually, the County Commissioners will be voting on the entire Comprehensive Plan as the modified chapters come together. More detail of the process for Thurston County may be found at their website: Comprehensive Plan (by Sue Danver)

BHAS Volunteer Staff – Elizabeth Rodrick, Vice President

My interest in birds developed at an early age when our family was stationed on Midway Island (now a National Wildlife Refuge). Later, I was one of the lucky people who turned my passion for nature into a career: as a wildlife biologist, recently retired from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. I continue to volunteer as a citizen scientist monitoring habitat conditions on wildlife refuges. I worked on Bald Eagle nest protection, snag retention regulations, identifying and acquiring critical habitat lands, and wildlife movement corridors. I have been an intermittent Audubon member since attending my first national convention in Milwaukie in 1971 where Roger Tory Peterson spoke. Currently, I work with the BHAS Conservation Committee focusing on state and local habitat protection issues. Also, I have assumed some of the duties of the BHAS President while this position is unfilled.

I also volunteer with the Capitol Land Trust and help build right relations with local Indian tribes. I played several team sports when I was younger and am now a dedicated walker/hiker. I am a native Washingtonian who is fortunate to live on Puget Sound; I like to clam and fish whenever I get the chance. I also love to read, travel, attend concerts, music festivals, lectures, and movies.

2018 Conservation Award Recipient

Dr. Daniel Einstein received the 2018 Jack Davis Conservation Award for his work to protect, acquire, and restore great blue heron habitat in Olympia. He played a primary role in getting the Olympia City Council to pass significant amendments to the Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) that allow nomination of locally important species for protection and adoption of habitat management guidelines.

His interest in conservation is long standing, fostered at an early age. As a child, he was turned on to nature in the woods and at the Audubon Society’s Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Lincoln, MA. As a young adult, he was involved with his neighbors in the preservation of Katahdin Woods in Lexington MA. In 2000, he moved with his wife from Seattle to a farm in Olympia near Woodard Bay, where they enjoyed watching the great blue herons from the Woodard Bay colony. In 2006, they moved to their current residence in West Olympia, where their daughter was born. From their front porch, they have enjoyed watching the West Bay colony during their raucous breeding season, and have followed with increasing concern the progressive destruction of their nesting grounds. That concern grew into a commitment to OlyEcosystems mission to protect, preserve and restore the diverse ecosystems of Olympia that that include the freshwater, shoreline, tidal waters, and upland forests that are home to the Pacific Great Blue Heron, cutthroat trout, salmon and companion species.

Dr. Einstein is an assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering at Saint Martin’s University, with a restless curiosity about all things. He received his Ph.D. in Bioengineering from the University of Washington. Prior to his appointment at Saint Martin’s, he worked in research with 15+ years’ experience participating in multiple interdisciplinary research teams in the national laboratory system, at the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles and at the Cleveland Clinic. His research focuses on theoretical developments in nonlinear continuum mechanics and the development of numerical frameworks applied to computational biomechanics in the heart and lung. He has authored over 50 peer-reviewed papers.

BHAS Concludes Settlement Agreement with Eucon (QRP) Corporation on Gravel Mine Property

(by Sue Danver)

Black Hills Audubon (BHAS) is happy to announce that a Settlement Agreement has been completed with Quality Rock Products (QRP, also known as Eucon)! Under this agreement, QRP has signed a Covenant on their mining property adjacent to the Black River National Wildlife Refuge ensuring that neither a concrete plant nor an asphalt plant can be built on that property. This covenant applies in perpetuity and runs with the land. In return, BHAS withdrew its SEPA appeal of the Special Use Permit and five-year review permit concerning QRP’s gravel mining and our right to object to further reviews of the same project or help others do these things. But this settlement agreement will prevent two major forms of industrial development that would increase noise levels, expand truck traffic, and increase air pollution and toxic chemicals in the Black River watershed and its productive habitats for wildlife.

The Special Use Permit Hearing for the proposed expansion of the QRP’s gravel mine was held at the Thurston County Courthouse. A more detailed article describing BHAS’s participation in improving the mine’s future operations will appear in the next Echo. By then we will have the County Staff report, which reviews the history of the mine and project, and the final Hearing Examiner decision.

We appreciate the emotional and financial support of all BHAS members, who are so dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats. Thank you. (by Sue Danver)