Status of the Marbled Murrelet conservation strategy

Thanks to everyone who submitted public comments on the draft Environmental Impact Statement (dEIS) for the Marbled Murrelet Long-Term Conservation Strategy. As of the March 9 deadline, an estimated 5,000 comments were received. Over the next several months, staff at the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) will evaluate and summarize all the e-mails, letters, and postcards. If you provided an e-mail address with your comments, you will receive a copy of the summary.

“Protracted” is probably the best way to describe the process of developing this dEIS; the timeline for adopting a new Long-Term Conservation Strategy is likely to follow suit. First, the final EIS will be published. Then the Board of Natural Resources (BNR) will approve a conservation strategy (either one of the existing alternatives or a new alternative based on a combination of elements from the existing ones) or consider a supplemental dEIS, which would include the “conservation alternative” supported by BHAS and other conservation organizations.

The USFWS will then complete its Biological Opinion as to whether or not issuing an “incidental take” permit to the DNR—based on the preferred Long-Term Conservation Strategy alternative—is likely to jeopardize the species. Following this are the Official Findings: a statement that issuing the take permit will “have no effect,” “may affect, but not adversely affect,” or “may affect and is likely to adversely affect” Marbled Murrelets. These findings are stated in a Record of Decision, the public record published by the USFWS, often in the Federal Register. And finally, the DNR adopts a Long-Term Conservation Strategy, which will remain in effect until 2067.

BHAS has been actively engaged in this important murrelet conservation plan for the past five years—from the first scoping meetings hosted by the DNR in April 2012 to the March 2017 deadline for public comment. Our work will continue to help protect the Marbled Murrelet in Washington’s coastal forests and marine waters graced by these marvelous, imperiled seabirds. (by Maria Ruth)

Field Trip Report: Birding Sequim, Port Angeles, and more

Weather predictions promised that rain, cold, and wind would abate for Saturday, March 25, so, hoping for the best, 12 of us caravanned up Route 101 to bird-rich sites on the Olympic Peninsula. Sam Merrill and Bob Wadsworth graciously and efficiently organized and led our trip, while Bob kept records of our sightings.

At Potlatch State Park we noted Western and Red-necked Grebes, Red-Breasted Merganser, Greater Scaup, Surf and White-winged Scoters, Bufflehead, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Common Loon, Steller’s Jay, Northern Flicker, American Robin, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Dark-eyed Junco, and a Bald Eagle far away perched high in a dead snag. At Dosewallips State Park, we added Mallard, Eurasian Collared Dove, Anna’s Hummingbird, Pileated Woodpecker, Common Raven, Black-capped Chickadee, Brown Creeper, Golden-crowned Kinglet, and Spotted Towhee, while many seals with pups pulled out on one part of the shore and at least one sea lion on another.

The wind was fiercely cold at John Wayne Marina, but despite the chill we spotted Glaucous-winged Gull, Pigeon Guillemot, a Great Blue Heron, Double-crested Cormorant, Pied-billed Grebe, Ruddy Duck, Red-breasted Merganser, Belted Kingfisher, and—most exciting of all—five Long-tailed Ducks; frustratingly, they kept diving or were hard to see in the chop, but everyone was finally able to see them. At and near Marlyn Nelson County Park in the Sequim area, we added 200 Brant, about 100 Trumpeter/Tundra Swans, and a Northern Harrier to our list. American Wigeon, Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, and swallows were hanging out in rainwater ponds at Three Crabs, but we didn’t stay there long, in spite of potentially good birding at those little ponds, because the cold wind had increased to gale force, hurling sand in our faces and chilling us to the bone. Our last stops in Sequim, at Dungeness Landing Park and the forest path out to Dungeness Spit, yielded another Bald Eagle, about 300 Dunlin, American Goldfinch, a Pacific Wren, and gulls.

After spending the night in Port Angeles, we welcomed a still, sunny Sunday dawn, a contrast to the day before. At Ediz Hook, as the morning warmed, we saw Harlequin Duck, scoters, Common Loon, Red-necked and Western Grebe, Pelagic and Double-crested Cormorant, Black Oystercatcher, Sanderling, Common Murre, Marbled Murrelet, and Belted Kingfisher. At Salt Creek State Park, there were American Wigeon and Black Oystercatchers, Pigeon Guillemot, scoters, and Common Loon; Common Merganser, Horned Grebe, Song Sparrows, and about 30 Black Turnstone were new to our trip list. Mostly, our group simply enjoyed sitting in the sun with our picnic sandwiches, chatting, watching the deep blue sea, and marveling at the gorgeous colors on the Harlequin Ducks that were feeding off the rocks.


After Salt Creek, some buzzards passed overhead as we made our way to the Elwha River. Milky, full of silt, rushing, it gleamed silver in the sun. Seeing the river and the snowbells and scylla carpeting the open spaces along the road was a lovely way to finish our field trip. (by Bonnie Wood)

Annual Audubon Dinner Gala

The Thirtieth Annual BHAS Dinner gala once again brought together members and friends to celebrate birds and our shared enthusiasm for them. Gathered in the attractive high-ceilinged room at the Community College, we filled the tables, crowded the sale room, and chatted in the wine and beer line. Old friends reconnected and new friends made birding dates. The sale, an innovation this year, offered many intriguing and artful items, and the tasteful—and tasty—raffle items added opportunity and suspense. The accounts of the ongoing work of our award winners—Sam Merrill as the Jack Davis Conservationist and Margaret Tudor as the Dave McNett Environmental Educator of the year—were thoughtful and inspiring. Remarks by Art Wang, our national board representative, connected our work with the wider efforts being carried on across the nation. The highlight of the evening was the invigorating talk by Dr. Julia Parrish, who entertained and informed us about the world of sea and shore birds and the programs that seek to protect them. She offered concrete opportunities for ways to get involved in citizen science projects and do our part to support birds and other wildlife we love. Throughout the evening, our president Deb Nickerson gracefully emceed the event, served up humor, affection and inspiring reflections and kept us on schedule for another very successful celebration of all things Audubon. Thanks to all who made the evening memorable and fun!

If you have an opportunity to patronize any of the following businesses, please thank them for supporting our Annual Dinner with their contributions. Some have supported our work for many years.

  • Craftworks—Mike Stark
  • Eastside Urban Farm and Garden Center
  • Fish Brewing Company
  • Go4 Gourds
  • Gull Harbor Mercantile
  • Hood Canal Marina/Alderbrook Resort & Spa
  • Bill Justis
  • Olympic Mountain Ice Cream
  • South Bay Greenhouses
  • Wild Birds Unlimited
  • The Wine Loft

by Anne Kilgannon

Using Native Plants to Fight Climate Change

Click on pic to link to Audubon site.

As most of you know, the National Audubon Society considers climate change to be the number-one threat to birds; its scientists predict that global warming could result in the extinction or dramatic range-restriction of nearly half of North American birds by 2080. As birds in Western Washington face this danger, we are at risk of losing more than 40 species, such as Gadwalls, Hooded Mergansers, Northern Harriers, Varied Thrushes, and Brown Creepers. Most of the birds will decline due to loss of suitable summer habitat, although Red Crossbills and Black-headed Grosbeaks will primarily lose winter habitat.

For some time now, National Audubon has called upon all of us who cherish birds to do all we can to fight climate change’s progression. This is now more important than ever, as our new president has repeatedly stated his skepticism that climate change is real, and he made support for coal a major campaign theme. On his first day in office, the federal Climate Action Plan was removed from the White House web page; the EPA is under a gag order, and he has ordered that agency to freeze all grants and research funds. In light of these actions, it is exceedingly difficult to imagine that the federal government will maintain any significant efforts to combat global warming. It is imperative, then, that each of us take up the fight by making our views known to our elected officials—federal, state, and local—and doing what we can to reduce our own carbon emissions and to mitigate the effects of global warming on birds and other wildlife. As I have stressed many times, planting native gardens, and hence reducing reliance on lawns or exotic plants, is one productive way to further this goal.

Click on pic to link to Audubon site

A wonderful new resource available on the Web is National Audubon’s “Plants for Birds” Initiative, which will help you rework your yard into a site to help birds weather climate change (pun intended) and habitat loss. National Audubon’s goal is to encourage 1 million new native plantings across the nation, mostly in private yards. Their position is that “each patch of restored native habitat is just that—a patch in the frayed fabric of the ecosystem in which it lies. By landscaping with native plants, we can turn a patchwork of green spaces into a quilt of restored habitat.” The rationale for the “native plant push” will sound familiar to anyone who has been following our own For the Birds! Project. Native plants thrive in their natural locations, and they do not require supplemental watering, mowing, or fertilizing. Birds have co-evolved with these plants and so have become adapted to efficiently make use of them for shelter and food, including the insects they entice. In other words, native plants are ecologically-sound choices.

Click on pic to link to Audubon site.

The Plants for Birds portion of the Audubon website contains many useful pages. You can, for example, find information on planning your garden and preparing it for new plantings. The tips, which will be most useful to novice gardeners, include thinking about the mature sizes of plants, the amount of sun each part of your yard receives each day, and when to plant and water. The most valuable part of the site, in my opinion, is their Native Plant Database. Typing in your zip code directs you to a page that provides both a complete list of native plants suitable for your location and a smaller “best choices” list. The plants on the latter list are the ones most easily found at local nurseries and most readily grown in the local conditions. This part of the site also lists local resources for buying native plants: this is important because few “regular” nurseries stock many natives.

Furthermore, you can filter the lists for certain types of plants (such as trees or vines) or those that have particular features (such as berries or nuts); you can also zero in on the birds you are most interested in attracting (such as orioles or grosbeaks). When I entered my zip code, the site named 192 plants with 38 of best choice, accompanied by brief descriptions. Since I want some new shrubs and am terrifically fond of nuthatches, I ran a second search with these filters. I was rewarded with the names and photos of 55 native shrubs that I could grow, 16 of which were best choices. Easy! Now, of course I’ll want to do a little more research to find out when each type flowers, which like damp soil, and which I think are aesthetic, but I feel like 90% of the selection work has been done for me.

I urge you to check this page out. Information on our BHAS website can also help you make your yard bird-friendly and find other ways to reduce your carbon footprint. (See pages “I’m For the Birds” Challenge Activities Checklist and Climate Change Initiative Resources). Who knows? With all the free time you’ll have when you’re freed from watering and mowing, you might even find a free minute or two to write the President, your senators, and your legislators, asking them to enact policies that will reduce climate change.

(from Mar/April 2017 Echo newsletter, by Kim Dolgin)