Protecting Fauna and Habitat

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)

The Lake Lawrence Cell Tower Proposal: Onward to the Bird Surveys

On March 15, 2016, Black Hills Audubon Society (BHAS) supported an appeal of the proposed Lake Lawrence cell-phone tower at a hearing before the Thurston County Hearings Examiner. Due to the tower’s location next to waterfowl concentration areas and high potential for bird collisions with the tower, the Hearing Examiner remanded the proposal back to the County for further review. Verizon Wireless has now hired a contractor to study bird movements near the site; so instead of abandoning the proposed tower site and moving their tower to a less impactful location, Verizon insists that they can prove their tower will have no effects on local wildlife. Concerned about potential bias by Verizon’s contractor, the neighborhood group who appealed the tower has asked for Audubon’s assistance with bird surveys to have data in hand in the event of another appeal hearing.READ MORE

The Marbled Murrelet needs your help now more than ever!

In December 2016, the Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released the draft of their Environmental Impact Statement (dEIS) for six alternative Long-Term Conservation Strategies for Marbled Murrelet on 1.4 million acres of forested state trust lands that provide nesting habitat for this unique seabird. Because these land are public, the we have a voice in how they are managed.

Unfortunately and ironically, none of the six alternatives does enough to help prevent the extirpation of the Marbled Murrelets in Washington, where its population has declined 44% since 2001. The plight of the murrelet is so dire that in December 2016 the Washington State Fish and Wildlife Commission uplisted this species’ status from “threatened” to the more serious “endangered.”READ MORE

Help Protect the Marbled Murrelet in Washington State

This endangered seabird feeds in the ocean and flies up to 55 miles inland to nest in old growth forest. The Washington state population of this unique bird has shrunk by 44% over the last 15 years, leaving only about 7,500 birds remaining.  Now your input is needed to protect the Marbled Murrelet.

The Department of the Natural Resources (DNR) and the Long-Term Conservation Strategy

Statewide, the DNR manages approximately two million acres of land and  29-47% of DNR’s forests that are within 55 miles of salt water  are critical to Marbled Murrelets. These state-owned forests are either classified as habitat occupied by nesting Marbled, are buffers around that habitat, or are biologically-important potential recovery habitat.READ MORE


20074377463_6ffebe7ddc_kBlack Hills Audubon has received a grant from National Audubon to implement a personal climate-and-sustainability challenge, named “For the Birds.” It’s an opportunity for all of us to participate by making changes in the way we live.

Participants are offered an extensive list of possible personal actions what would help address climate change and/or promote environmental sustainability. Brochures, bumper stickers, and other materials are available. To participate, click here.

About Marbled Murrelets

Marbled Murrelets are shy, robin-sized seabirds that live along the Pacific Coast, from Alaska to California. They are members of the alcid, or auk, family of surface-diving seabirds, which includes Pigeon Guillemots, Tufted Puffins, Common Murres, Rhinoceros Auklets, and several other species.


Life Cycle of Marbled Murrelets

Marbled-Murrelet-single-egg-Nick_Hatch_US_ForestServiceMarbled Murrelets spend the winter off shore and, in Washington, begin moving inland in March to nest. For a month, the parents take turns incubating their egg, changing places every 24 hours at dawn. While one parent sits on the egg (the size of a chicken’s egg), the other forages at sea.


Marbled Murrelet Conservation Issues in Washington

If you are new to conservation advocacy and unfamiliar with the many acronyms, please take a moment to read 11 Acronyms to Save the Murrelet

Marbled Murrelet’s nesting habitat is present on federal lands (national parks, national forests), tribal lands, private land, and state land. In Washington, 11% of the murrelets nesting habitat occurs on forested lands managed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).


Why does BHAS Care About Marbled Murrelets?

The Marbled Murrelet’s sensitivity to changes in both the forest and marine environments make it an “indicator” species for the health of these ecosystems. The dramatic declines in murrelet populations indicate other species of animals and plants are also threatened and in decline.

The Black Hills Audubon Society is also interested in the Marbled Murrelet because this bird nests in our “neighborhood.”