News Items

The Birding Backpack Project

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by Kim Adelson – We are very pleased to announce that we have recently contributed ten more Family Birding Backpacks to the Timberland Regional Libraries. Each backpack contains birding guides, two pairs of binoculars, lists of birding sites with maps, and instructions. Six of them will be funded by a $2,100 grant from the South Puget Sound Community Foundation; four are self-funded. Six backpacks will be placed in the Centralia, Yelm, Lacey (two packs), Salkum, and Hoodsport TRL branches. The remaining four packs will go to TRL branches in Pacific and Grays Harbor counties. Six backpacks have already been available in Olympia, Shelton, Lacey, Centralia, and Yelm. Please help spread the word about these Family Birding Backpacks; they may be checked out at no cost by any library patron and are designed to make birding accessible to those who do not otherwise have the equipment or expertise to go bird watching.

Puget Sound Seabird Survey

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Are seabirds in the southern Salish Sea increasing or decreasing in numbers? Which species are changing their range? Help us find out. The Puget Sound Seabird Survey (PSSS) is a community and citizen science project managed by Seattle Audubon that empowers volunteer birdwatchers to gather valuable data on wintering seabird populations across the southern Salish Sea. There are about 7 survey sites within the BHAS chapter territory and PSSS is always looking for new volunteers to conduct surveys.

This season we will be expanding the project, yet again, this time north to the Canadian border and the San Juan Islands. We received funding from the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Estuary Program through the Washington Dept. of Fish & Wildlife to add 15-30 new survey sites, develop an oil spill plan and train volunteers on how to react to a spill.

You can contribute to this vital seabird science by joining the twelfth season of this exciting project. We are now recruiting enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers to help us monitor the status of our local wintering seabirds. Training on survey methodology will be provided at a location near you in September and early October. Volunteers should ideally be able to identify Puget Sound’s seabird species and be available on the first Saturday of each month, October through April, to conduct a 30-minute survey. But, if determining between Lesser and Greater Scaup is a challenge, we’ll team you up with more knowledgeable surveyors. To help us determine each volunteer’s seabird identification skills, visit to take our quick, fun Seabird ID quiz.

Learn more, including training dates, at and email Toby Ross, Senior Science Manager if you would like more information or to take part.

Purple Martin Bird Box Project

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Pictured are Purple Martins on two of the newest boxes #40 and 41 and on three of the oldest boxes H2-H3. Two years ago BHAS arranged for installation of 34 new boxes in addition to the 12 older white boxes already there and built by Peter Hahn. After two years of monitoring we found that the birds did not use the newer boxes for nesting. We believed that the box design did not meet the birds’ needs.  This spring we removed the 34 boxes and installed six new boxes built by Hank Henry to meet the design from Washington Fish and Wildlife.

This year, as of May 24 there are 23 purple martins at the Boston Harbor colony.  They appear interested in both kinds of boxes though haven’t started nesting.  Last year a similar number of adults produced seven fledglings.


2018 Year of the Bird: Partnership with National Geographic

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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, 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 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.

Off the Beaten Path: Custom-Trip Planning for Birding Costa Rica with Erica Guttman and Mike Melton

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Planning Consultations with Erica Guttman and Mike Melton

With about 900 species and a government that supports the eco-tourism economy and reforestation, Costa Rica is a birder’s/naturalist’s paradise—and it offers a safe and comfortable was for North Americans to explore the tropical delights of Latin America!

Erica and Mike have self-arranged multiple trips to bird this beautiful and welcoming country, and will put their experiences and in-country relationships to work to help you plan your own independent birding trip based on your needs and desires.

The consultation will include:

Itinerary recommendations based on time available, wish-list for target species, group size and participants physical abilities.
Best lodging options for your birding style, comfort needs, and food preferences.
Best transportation options(s) for your needs and comfort level.
Best local bird guides for each area targeted.
Overview of eco-systems, seasons, and altitudinal migrants.
How to stay safe and secure.
Flora and fauna apps and field guides you’ll want to prepare and which ones to take with you.
Tips on culture, language, making friends and more!

To arrange consultation times, contact Erica and Mike at Suggested donation $150.

Bird photo (Collared aracari (Pteroglossus torquatus)), courtesy LG Nyqvist, Wikimedia Commons.

Maria Ruth’s “Cloud Curious” class

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Fascinated by the clouds overhead? Wish you could identify them and remember their Latin names? Ever wonder how they float or how they rain? Want to learn why birdwatchers are naturally good cloudwatchers? Interested in experiencing clouds through new perspectives?

Join Maria Ruth, author of A Sideways Look at Clouds, and two special guest artists at her Olympia home for an afternoon of cloud appreciation.

Sunday April 8 from 3-5:30 p.m.

$30 per person

In this 2½ hour class for the curious naturalist you will:
• Learn how to identify the ten main clouds types (plus a few extras)
• Enjoy artwork and insights from local artist Sherry Buckner
• Experience how music affects your perception of clouds with a live violinist
• Get tips on best local cloud-watching spots
• Try your hand at “lifting” a cumulus cloud in watercolor
• Ask all your cloud-related questions
• Take home a luscious 2’ x 4’ full-color cloud poster
• Enjoy light refreshments (and a cloud stroll, weather permitting)

This class is offered by Maria Ruth, author of more than a dozen natural-history books, including A Sideways Look at Clouds and Rare Bird: Pursuing the Mystery of the Marbled Murrelet. Maria serves on Black Hills Audubon Society’s Conservation Committee.

The Annual Dinner is a Success!

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On Saturday, March 3, members and friends of Black Hills Audubon streamed into the big room in the Student Union building on the SPSCC campus, ready to enjoy the celebrated speaker John Marzluff, applaud our award winners, and gather with birder friends and revel in the camaraderie of our shared passions and concerns. We heard a stirring report from our regions’ national Audubon representative Art Wang and welcomed our local “mother of Audubon” Helen Engle. And not least, the event was an opportunity to give big to support our Chapter and its educational and outreach programs!

The funds raised at the Annual Dinner will boost our ability to reach out to new or want-to-be birders with backpacks imaginatively stocked with everything needed for successful birding expeditions, and to support Chapter work in conservation, education, and environmental advocacy. Members generously bought raffle tickets and sale items, and gave targeted donations: we raised $875 for the backpack project, $1140 to support critical environmental advocacy work, $810 for educational programs, and $2005 for general support of Chapter work. Our wonderful success buoyed spirits and kindled even more dedication to our mission “for the birds.” The final sums raised will be reported at a later date.

The gracious acceptance speeches from our Award winners only made us prouder of their efforts in our community for the work they do. Davy Clark was honored for his work in Environmental Education at the Billy Frank Jr. National Wildlife Refuge and Daniel Einstein was recognized for his conservation efforts through OlyEcosystems to protect shorelands for Great Blue Herons and other threatened species. John Marzluff then heartened us with highlights from his years of research examining how birds respond to increasing human presence and the resulting changing environment as we move deeper into habitat areas. Many birds are able to adapt and coexist if we only give them a little help and understanding. His work reinforced our campaign to create bird-friendly gardens and other spaces with appropriate plantings, sources of water and shelter and well-stocked birdfeeders.

Profound thanks to all those who worked so hard to make our evening’s success possible. Sally Nole organized the affair with dedicated help from her committee: Kim Adelson, Margery Beeler, Rick Yale, Paul Moody, Craig Merkel, Deb Nickerson and Kathleen Snyder. Many more volunteers put it all together providing hours of set up, selling and serving during the dinner and cleaning up after it was over. We could not have carried it through without you all. A huge Thank You also, to all the donors of items for our sale and raffle and bar. A special thanks for the donation of the duck decoys and to all who transformed them into coveted works of art. The generosity members showed in offering Nature-related items for sale, or trips or experiences, is invaluable. Your support allows us to do more for birds in our area.

A few people mentioned to board members they would like to get more involved in our chapter’s work. Deb Nickerson is hosting a meeting of any members who wish to learn all the ways in which one can become more a part of our work. All interested in becoming more active, contact her at and plan to meet at her house on Wednesday, March 28th at 4pm. She will email you the directions.

Get ready for spring birds

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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 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.


2018: The Year of the Bird

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To celebrate the hundredth birthday of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, a coalition of wildlife organizations has named 2018 the “Year of the Bird.” National Audubon, National Geographic, American Bird Conservancy, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, BirdLife International, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and dozens of other organizations will celebrate the importance of birds in our lives and the role they play in the web of life.

Bird watching is one of America’s fastest growing hobbies; with some 47 million fans. But in the late 1800s it was more fashionable to wear them than to watch them. Wild bird feathers were the fashion rage in women’s hats. In 1886, a New York ornithologist named Frank Chapman went on an unusual “birdwatching” excursion to uptown Manhattan. Instead of live birds, he set out to count the number of women’s hats adorned with wild bird feathers or body parts of wild birds. Chapman counted 542 hats adorned with 174 whole birds or their disembodied parts. Some had not only feathers, but also the eyes, wings, and in some cases, entire bodies of birds. Chapman counted 40 different bird species among them. Boston socialites Harriet Hemmenway and Minna Hall were outraged when they read how commercial hunters were wiping out entire colonies of egrets, terns and herons to supply plumage for the millenary trade. They organized parlor teas to boycott the use of wild bird feathers in women’s hats, and soon had 900 signers. They formed the Massachusetts Audubon Society, one of the first of many Audubon groups to spring up around the country. Their movement led directly to state and federal legislation that ended the commercial trade in wild bird feathers. In 1905, the various Audubon organizations merged to become the National Audubon Society.

On August 16, 1916, the U.S. signed a treaty with Canada, giving sweeping protection to most migratory birds. In 1918, it became federal law as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (MBTA). This effectively outlawed the commercial slaughter of wild birds to provide plumage for women’s hats. The law kept bird species like the Snowy Egret and Trumpeter Swan from going the way of the Passenger Pigeon.

Today, birds face unprecedented threats to their existence that the MBTA could have not anticipated, such as wind turbines, illuminated skyscrapers, beacon lights on towers, reflective glass windows, oil pits, and domestic cats, to name a few. The MBTA is in need of expansion and updating. It also needs to be vigorously defended against repeated attempts to undermine enforcement.

Visit the “Year of the Bird” website, to learn about simple steps you can take to help birds, and how small collective actions, stewardship and citizen science can make a difference for birds and nature. (National Audubon photos: Wild bird feathers were the fashion rage in women’s hats in the late 1890s and early 1900s, prompting the slaughter and near extinction of Trumpeter Swans, Snowy Egrets and other wild birds.)

By Gene Bullock, Kitsap Audubon Kingfisher, Feb. 2018