Chirps Article

Field Trip Report – Sauvie and Swifts in September

The day was supposed to be a wet one so we were all delighted when we met at 9am under a blue sky sprinkled with high clouds. We were there to ride most of the perimeter of Sauvie Island, just outside downtown Portland, while birding. The island contains a large refuge so birding any time of year is usually worthwhile. For those birders who also like to bike, the island is flat and pastoral so a lovely ride on a quintessential autumn day.

We rode and birded for 4 hours before ending at Kruger’s Farm for sandwiches and shopping. After a few free hours to spend as we each liked, we met up again at the Chapman School in NW Portland to view the nightly performance of the thousands of Vaux’s Swifts that roost in the tower there during their migration south. It was not disappointing! It took about 40 minutes for all the birds to settle inside after gathering, circling and flying lower and lower until at last they dropped into the tower. They cannot perch due to their body structure so are on the wing all day. Besides the thousands of Vaux Swifts, we saw on the island, a stunning flock of about 150 White Pelicans, in migration, over 100 Sandhill Cranes, and 5 Great Egrets.  There were also two Osprey nests along the road, which the birds were still using as staging areas, and there were lots of more commonly seen birds as well.

We saw amazing birds while experiencing a wondeful island ride with a wonderful group of people. Join us next September, and check out other upcoming birding trips on the BHAS web page.

New BHAS Patches Arrive

These beautiful patches arrived this summer to identify our birding-watching backpacks being donated to libraries in the Timberland Library system. We have extras to offer to our members. They are perfect to sew onto your own backpack, hat or outerwear. You can buy one at our program meetings for $5.00. If you would like one but are unable to attend a program meeting, please contact Kathleen Snyder, It would be easy to mail one to you.

Wanted: Used Birding Books
If you have some birding books that you no longer want, please consider donating them to our used book sale which happens at our monthly program meetings. All the proceeds from the book sale are used to support our chapter and its good works. Either bring your donations to a meeting or contact Kathleen Snyder, to arrange pickup.

Replacing Fossil Fuels with Renewable Energy in Washington State – Black Hills Audubon Supports I-1631

Pervasive wildfires, along with heat and drought, contaminate the air we breathe, and endanger both humans and wildlife.  In a word, global warming is already here in Washington state.  National Audubon scientists have determined that climate change is the greatest threat to birds.  Climate change is rapidly occurring — too rapid for birds and other wildlife to adapt, not to mention, us.

To address climate change, Black Hills Audubon, as well as Audubon Washington representing the 25 chapters across the state, have endorsed Initiative I-1631.  This measure would place an ever-increasing fee on greenhouse gas emissions from the use of fossil fuels by the largest emitters in the state.  These funds would be used to develop renewable energy, like wind and solar; protect forests, clean water, and clean air; while protecting communities at risk.

Our air would become cleaner not only because emissions into the atmosphere would decrease but also as the shift away from carbon addresses the effects of global warming, eventually reversing the trend toward wildfires, droughts, severe storms, and a disruptive climate toward which we are now headed.  Passage of I-1631 would foster development of renewable energy, thus generating many new jobs in Washington state, while offering help for those losing jobs in fossil fuel industries and communities affected by the transition. Passage of this initiative would establish our state as a leader in addressing global warming.

Climate change is with us; we need action now. We have before us an opportunity to do our part in addressing a clear and present danger.  Please help Washington state be a bellwether for the nation by voting for I-1631 in the November election.

Library Backpack Program Success Story

The following letter was sent to BHAS last month:

I recently checked out the Birding backpack from the Olympia Timberland Library.  I have a 7 year old who is interested in birds.  We carefully unpacked the backpack and looked at each item the other night.  We read the binocular directions and practiced using them.  I did not know how to properly use binoculars, so that was so helpful.

Today when I picked my son up from school I brought the pack along and we had a long, leisurely walk home, by way of the Garfield Nature trail.  It was so fun to watch my little guy get so excited about finding bird nests, and identifying the few birds we saw.

Thank you for putting this lovely resource together.

Could you suggest other resources for birding that would be appropriate for children?

Thank you,

Joann T.

Olympia Youth Audubon Society

The Black Hills Audubon Society of Olympia is now sponsoring the Olympia Youth Audubon Society (OYAS) for students, ages 12 to 18, interested in wildlife (particularly birds), the environment and conservation.  Meetings will normally be held on the third Thursday of the month at 3:00 p.m. in Room 5 at the Nova School (corner of Wilson and 22nd SE, Olympia).  In addition to field trips, participation in citizen science events and tutelage under the guidance of skilled naturalists are possible. Come join fellow students at the first meeting of the 2018-2019 school year on Thursday Sept. 20th.

BHAS is currently working on providing OYAS with their own web page (linked from the BHAS main web page). Plans are to include the OYAS field trip calendar, relevant articles, information about scholarship opportunities, and all things OYAS as this program grows and develops.

For more information contact us at or


Birds and Books

It’s summer; time to get out and travel our state for new birding destinations! The North Central Washington Audubon Society website has lots of advice for where to find birds that thrive in their drier, warmer and more mountainous area.

See: North Central Washington Audubon Birding Routes

The Cascade Loop birding trail, part of the colorful series mapping our state, will also guide you to best spots and helpful information on local birds in this area.

And in the evenings, enjoy the surprisingly gripping story of how the North Cascades were set aside as a National Park in 1968 after decades of sustained effort. Local writer, Lauren Danner builds upon her thorough research and firm grasp of the political struggles both within and between the competing federal agencies of the Forest Service and National Parks, to describe the campaign to save the wild Cascades. The pressures of unprecedented population and economic growth experienced in our post-war state ironically provided both the urgent impetus to save this area and attracted a new generation of backpacking enthusiasts with the resources to achieve their goal. Still, it took enormous effort, skill and some luck to create the park we revere today. After awe-inspiring days exploring the trails, marveling at the sharp-edged peaks and arching blue skies, as well as the abundant bird life, thank the hardy band of conservationists whose vision and tenacity gifted us with this beauty, so well described in Crown Jewel Wilderness. (by Anne Kilgannon)

Black Hills Audubon Surveys Birds on Wildlife-Rich Tract Acquired by Capitol Land Trust with Help from BHAS

Black Hills Audubon is now a partner in the acquisition of Blooms Preserve in the Black River watershed, north of Littlerock.  Formerly part of the Holm ranch, this 60-acre conservation land is now owned by Capitol Land Trust (CLT), with help from the Maytown Conservation Fund, managed by BHAS.  This tract of prairie and woodland includes Blooms Ditch — a salmon-bearing channelized stream — and can be managed for conservation of Oregon spotted frogs, a species of concern of the Maytown Conservation Fund, and will provide opportunities for bird surveys and field trips for BHAS.

In fact seven of us from BHAS met with Thom Woodruff, Interim Executive Director of CLT, on a warm and sunny July 12th for our first avian survey of Blooms Preserve, observing an amazing 57 species of birds, including Green Heron, Hutton’s, Cassin’s, and Warbling Vireos, and Western Tanager.  Thanks to all who participated from BHAS, including Whittier Johnson, Bob Wadsworth, Gary Wiles, Paul Hicks, Joe Zabransky, Anne Van Sweringen, and Sam Merrill.  We look forward to observing and enjoying the diversity of this land at other times of year, including during the Christmas bird count and spring migration.

Puget Sound Seabird Survey

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.

Birding Backpack Program Update – “People really love this program”

In February 2018, the Black Hills Audubon Society began partnering with the Timberland Regional Libraries to provide birding opportunities for individuals and families who otherwise lack the resources to go birding. Donated to TRL were 3 Family Birding Backpacks, each pack containing 2 pair of binoculars, 2 field guides to birds, laminated sheets describing local wildflowers and trees, Great Birding Trail maps for Thurston, Mason, and Lewis counties, instruction on how to bird and how to use binoculars, and lists of less well-known local birding sites.

TRL Collection Manager Andrea Heisel says “People really love this program,” and reports that the backpacks have been checked out 21 times. One borrower wrote this on her feedback form, “Checking this out changed my life and reawakened my eyes to the sublime pleasures of birding!”

Purple Martin Bird Box Project

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.