Join the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team (COASST) and help make a difference for the environment! COASST participants collect data on beach-cast carcasses of marine birds on a monthly basis to establish the baseline pattern of bird mortality on North Pacific beaches. Data collected helps address important marine conservation issues and protect marine resources.

Beach surveys are best conducted in groups of 2 or more—please come with a survey partner in mind or plan to join a team during training.

When: SATURDAY, MARCH 24, 2018, 10:00 am–4:00 pm

Where: The Olympia Center, Meeting Room 101, 222 Columbia St NW, Olympia, WA 98501

RSVP: 206-221-6893, coasst@nulluw.edu

University of Washington School of Aquatic & Fishery Sciences

Get ready for spring birds

According to surveys by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, bird watching is second only to gardening as our favorite outdoor pastime.  It even outranks hunting and fishing. These surveys reveal that 47 million of us over the age of 16 are bird watchers.  We buy a hundred million tons of bird seed every year. And bird watching as a business generates $107 billion in annual revenues for the U.S. In Washington State alone, wildlife viewing and related photography add nearly $7.5 billion to state and local economies.

As one of America’s fastest growing hobbies, bird watching can be enjoyed by all ages and abilities, from shut-ins to families with small children to those who travel the globe to add new birds to their life lists.

March may seem early for migrating birds, but resourceful males know that the early bird gets not only the worm but also the best nest sites. A prime location, plus gorgeous plumage and a seductive song, can make them irresistible to arriving females. But the siren song of spring is also a signal that it’s time to get those bird houses and feeders ready for the coming waves of northbound birds.        With bird houses, it’s important to make sure dimensions such as hole size are suitable for the species you hope to attract.  Chickadees don’t want to trust the safety of their families to nest cavities easily invaded by bigger birds, such as European Starlings. The Internet offers many good web sites with tips and detailed plans for selecting, building and placing bird houses. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology website allaboutbirds.org is an excellent place to start. It also has a wealth of other information about birds, including recordings of their songs.

Of course bird feeders need to be kept clean and safe in every season of the year.  Well maintained bird feeders that are kept stocked with fresh, uncontaminated sunflower seed, niger seed or suet can attract a colorful parade of backyard birds, both year-round residents and those that make seasonal appearances along our Pacific flyway. Spring migration can be a visual feast. You never know what you’re going to see next.

Perches and feeding surfaces should be scrubbed and sanitized regularly. You can use a 10% bleach solution and follow it with a clean-water flush. Feeders should be placed close enough to shrubs, trees or other protective cover that birds can quickly dash to safety when they are targeted by predatory hawks.  But feeders should not be so close that cats can use the cover to ambush unwary birds. Outdoor cats kill billions of birds every year.

As our most visible and accessible wildlife neighbors, birds can be a source of endless fascination and enjoyment as we watch, feed and listen to their delightful spring chorus.

Article courtesy Gene Bullock. Gene has been writing a monthly column for the past five years that appears in six Kitsap weekly newspapers as a promotion for Kitsap Audubon.  He is the Newsletter Editor and Education Chair for the Kitsap Audubon Society. Photos courtesy Carrie Griffis. Chestnut-backed Chickadees and Red-breasted Nuthatches are among the diverse variety of birds attracted to backyard see and suet feeders. Black-headed Grosbeaks are easily attracted with sunflower seeds.


eBird Class with Bill Tweit

More birders are using eBird and seeing its many benefits. Come and learn the latest in the program’s development in this class taught by master birder Bill Tweit. Included will be a walk outside after which we will record on eBird what we saw so participants can immediately apply their newly acquired knowledge.


Armchair Birding: Welcome to Subirdia, by John M. Marzluff, illustrations by Jack DeLap

Ever since the days of John Muir, conservationists’ efforts have focused on saving as much wilderness as possible, cordoning off tracts of land from our traffic-congested cities, stopping clear-cut logging practices and our garbage strewing ways. Grizzlies, Marbled Murrelets, Spotted Owls and the like depend on large, untouched swaths of intact habitat to survive and reproduce. Humans, too, need the backcountry to replenish our spirits—even if we never go there but just know it exists and persists for its own sake. But even as we practice “leaving no trace,” we still come down off the mountain to dwell in houses and apartments crowded together, drive cars on roads to get to work or school, and live immersed in an industrial culture. How can we suburbanites reconcile our ideals with our everyday lives? Is there a middle way?

The scheduled speaker for our annual BHAS dinner in March, John Marzluff of the University of Washington, has good news and plenty of well-informed guidance for us city residents. If you can’t wait or want more in-depth information now, I highly recommend his book Welcome to Subirdia. While grounded in rigorous academic research, documented in copious endnotes, Marzluff truly does welcome everyone to live more closely with nature and blur that line dividing urbanites from the creatures all around us. His language is engaging and accessible, though he writes with an obvious backbone of deep knowledge based on years of work in the field. He speaks from the heart as well as the head; the combination is infectious and inspiring.

Too often when I’m reading books on conservation I can barely get through them. The room seems to darken as the gloom of hopelessness descends; it feels too late, too big, too impossible. Reading Marzluff felt different; he doesn’t fluff over the hard realities of climate change, extinction and suffering, but he carves a path to a better, more informed relationship we might all have with birds and other creatures. He cheerfully declares himself an optimist. And optimism leads to a more hopeful vision and more importantly to action – action grounded in painstaking science. Considering ourselves facilitators of biological diversity, not simply destroyers, shines a new light on our place in the web of life. And just now, especially, we need all the light there is.

Marzluff measures both bird resiliency and fragility as they find a place in our suburban and urban environments. He examines their whole life cycle, reminding us that to persist, animals must be able to live, breed, and move among the habitats we provide. How does our human-centered world stack up? Some birds flourish – juncos! Some are stressed and retreat from the challenges we present. Some live on the edges of both environments and depend on the mix of features offered. If we know what birds need and take some steps to accommodate them, Marzluff assures us that we can co-exist. He lists what he calls Nature’s Ten Commandments, principles and practices we can adopt even in small spaces. As he says, “Actions aligned with these ideals would increase the persistence of biological diversity by increasing the vitality of species that tolerate our presence.” I rearranged them slightly here to emphasis his approach: Begin with #10, which states, “Enjoy and bond with nature where you live, work and play.”

1. Do not covet your neighbor’s lawn.
2. Keep your cat indoors!
3. Make your windows more visible to birds that fly near them.
4. Do not light the night sky.
5. Provide food and nest boxes.
6. Do not kill native predators.
7. Foster a diversity of habitats and natural variability within landscapes.
8. Create safe passages across roads and highways.
9. Ensure that there are functional connections between land and water.
10. Enjoy and bond with nature where you live, work and play.

Inspired by Aldo Leopold’s work, Marzluff encourages his readers: “Embracing these commandments can guide your development of a land ethic that holds at its core an appreciation for the community, not just the commodity, of your property… more relevant than ever in urban settings.” If we all practice these basic precepts, we will be richly rewarded with birds living with us and delighting us with their presence, and knowing that we are part of Nature, not cut off from that which nourishes our lives, too. I look forward to hearing him speak about his work at our Annual Dinner.

Note: The illustrations by Jack DeLap are stunning! They enrich as well as inform the text in a way photographs would not. A handsome book you’ll turn to again and again. (by Anne Kilgannon)

Volunteer to Help Clean the Nisqually River

The Washington Kayak Club, Washington Recreational River Runners, and the Paddle Trails Canoe Club are planning the first organized cleanup of the Nisqually River on April 21, 2018, the day before Earth Day 2018. Members of these organizations are working in collaboration with the Nisqually River Council on this event. They heartily invite BHAS members to help with this effort.

The emerging plan focuses on cleaning up two segments of the Nisqually River: McKenna Park to the City Light Yelm Hydro Plant, and Yelm Hydro Plant to the 6th Avenue SE WDFW Water Access Site. Organizers are considering expanding the cleanup through the Refuge if they can recruit sufficient boaters to assist with this effort. In that case, boaters will launch at the 6th Avenue SE WDFW Water Access Site or at Luhr’s Landing and then haul whatever they collect to Luhr’s Landing.

As there are few actual shoreline areas that are open to public access on the Nisqually River, the work of cleanup will be approached from the water. For safety reasons, the organizers are asking various recreational boating clubs to recruit volunteers sufficiently skilled and equipped to safely navigate the river. But just as crucial will be the need for help with event setup, registration and check-in, staffing first aid stations, assisting boaters haul and sort whatever they collect from their boats to drop boxes, and after-event cleanup. Some volunteers may also collect trash at the water access sites. If volunteers with the right skills and tools can be recruited, the group would also like to approach WDFW about removing the graffiti at their 6th Avenue SE WDFW Water Access Site.

Also in support of this effort, LeMay Pacific Disposal has agreed to provide drop boxes and hauling services without charge. Thurston County Public Works will be providing bags and covering the disposal fees at the Thurston County Waste and Recovery Center through its Litter Control Program.

An online registration system to recruit both boating and nonboating volunteers to help with this event will be posted within a few weeks.  A link to this registration site will be posted on the BHAS website and placed in Chapter Chirps when we get further information regarding this upcoming opportunity to help this important work to clean up the Nisqually River. (Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons)




2018 Year of the Bird: Partnership with National Geographic

January 1, 2018 (from David J. Ringer, National Audubon Society)

Today marks the beginning of an exciting partnership between National Geographic, Audubon, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, BirdLife International, and dozens of other partners to make 2018 the “Year of the Bird.” Let’s use this year to bring tens of thousands of new people to the cause of bird conservation! To honor the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Year of the Bird will be about celebrating the wonder of our feathered friends, examining how our changing environment is driving dramatic losses among bird species, and highlighting what people can do to reverse this trend. National Geographic will be creating new bird content throughout 2018 for their various platforms – magazines, books, maps, TV, digital channels, experience events, lodges, and kids programs. There is a dedicated Year of the Bird website at birdyourworld.org, and during each month of 2018, a themed call-to-action to inspire people to help birds. Audubon is creating specialized Year of the Bird content at audubon.org/yearofthebird to help people learn about the threats birds face today and to inspire them to take action in line with Audubon’s priorities – from creating bird-friendly homes to growing native plants for birds to taking part in community science programs like the GBBC to using their voice to advocate for birds.