Chirps 2019

Purple Martin Project

(by Bob Wadsworth) On a densely foggy morning, January 13, Hank Henry and I joined the Olympia Harbor Patrol on a trip from Swantown Marina to Boston Harbor where we met Craig Merkel to do the annual cleaning of the purple martin nest boxes. (Harbor Patrol Captain Darlene flanked by crew members Janet Notarianni and Dave Palazzi)

On the way we soon discovered that our binoculars were useless as the fog was so thick we couldn’t see beyond to bow of the boat.  The Harbor Patrol got a good chance to instrument-navigate with radar and GPS.

Bob and Janet enjoying the view.

We had chosen this particular date because of the high tide (10:15 AM) during daylight hours which meant that we could reach the nest boxes attached to pilings at the marina from the deck of the boat without a ladder.

Working on the boxes.

We found that all six boxes were used by the Martins.  They had a thick mat of twigs and except for one box, all appeared to have birds fledged with no broken eggshells or dead nestlings. 

However, we did find one nest with five unhatched eggs and a dead martin which we could not identify as either juvenile or female adult.

This is the third season of monitoring purple martin nest boxes at Boston Harbor Marina.  Three years ago, we installed 22 boxes to supplement a dozen boxes already there.  As it turned out, those boxes were not used by the birds.  After the second year of not being used, we replaced them with six boxes that were built to meet a design more appropriate for purple martins.  This year’s results indicate these boxes are to the birds’ liking.

Reminder: Join the Great Backyard Bird Count: Presidents’ Day Weekend Feb. 15-18

You are invited to participate in the 22th annual Great Backyard Bird Count during Presidents’ Day weekend, February 15-18, 2019.  Count birds in your backyard or anywhere to help make your love of nature create a real-time snapshot of bird populations. 

Join millions of bird watchers across North America and the world in a free, fun event that involves all ages.  Led by Audubon and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, you can count birds wherever you are and enter your tallies online at  More information is also available at

Count from wherever you are—at home, in schoolyards, at local parks or wildlife refuges.  Keep a count for as little as 15 minutes or as long as you wish.  These reports contribute valuable information for science and conservation.  Bird populations are constantly in flux, as they are affected by short-term weather and long-term climate change.  And while they are gathering data, participants – families, teachers, children — enjoy nature and have fun in the great outdoors! 

Update on Annual Black Hills Dinner

Our speaker, Larry Schwitters, will not be available to give us a presentation on Swifts on the date of our gathering, but he has done the next-best thing by recommending two other speakers active in the Swift community in our area. Diane Yorgason-Quinn works closely with Larry and can incorporate his remarks with her own, drawn from her abundant experiences documenting Swift seasonal migration numbers and coordinating the JBLM program. She represented the United States last year at the international Swift conference held in Tel Aviv. She is an active member of Audubon in Tacoma. Also bringing us Swift news and stories of local activism will be Rachel Hudson who has discovered a new roosting site in Chehalis for Swifts. She spends her time counting and documenting their presence there, sure to be an encouraging development for us all. A big Thank You to Larry and a warm welcome to our new featured speakers, Diane and Rachel! Don’t forget to register for your Dinner tickets; use the form printed in the last Echo or find it online: Annual Dinner Tickets

Moving to Electronic Echo in July

(by Deb Nickerson) Some people have wondered why we have not transitioned to all-electronic communication prior to this year; it is a difficult decision, since so many tell us they like having the paper Echo lying around their house at the ready when they want to reread an article or look up a field trip or event. So it is after much debate that the Board has made this the year to switch from paper to digital news. As a conservation organization, we should reduce our use of paper, and this helps fulfill that responsibility. It is also costly; we will save thousands of dollars, which will be used to further our education and conservation work. And believe me, a few thousand dollars a year means a great deal to us. 

We have an up-to-date website that contains everything in the Echo, so we often find that information printed in the Echo has already been “published” online and is not new to many members.  Because we understand the desire for printed versions, we will be using a format in our electronic newsletter that allows you to print a single article or the entire issue. We appreciate all you do to support our efforts and events, and we look forward to continuing our work. Your belief in the importance of bird conservation, habitat restoration, research-based legislation, and thoughtful community planning encourages us to hold fast to our principles and push forward on the many fronts in which we are engaged.

Hence, we are updating our email list and want your most current email address. Update your address on our website, using the button at the bottom of our home page or send it to Margery Beeler, Membership Chair .  If you are unable to access the internet and want to receive the paper newsletter, please leave a message on our phone line (360) 352-7299) with your name and request.

Thank you for your continued support,

BHAS Communications Committee

Is E-Shopping Harmful to the Environment?

by Kim Dolgin – Everyone knows how e-commerce has taken off in recent years, not just in the United States, but globally. More than half of U.S. purchases are now made electronically, accounting for 9% of all the dollars that consumers spend. (Big-ticket items remain more likely to be bought at a bricks-and-mortar store.) These amounts are increasing rapidly, and since younger folk are more likely to make purchases on their phones or computers, the upward trend seems likely to continue or accelerate.

The question is: is this good or bad from a carbon-emission perspective? The answer is quite complex and depends upon the assumptions you make in doing your calculations. For example, how far do you assume a buyer travels to get to the retail store? What kind of car are they driving, or are they biking? Have they bundled their trips so as to make several purchases? Researchers from MIT’s Center for Logistics and Transportation have studied this question and have calculated the carbon costs for different types of shoppers. Traditional shoppers – those who do all their examining and purchasing in stores – emit on average of 3.1 kg. of carbon dioxide going to and from stores on each visit, including those made to exchange goods (a surprisingly high percentage of trips). In addition, the store they visit expends carbon by needing to have lights on and from packaging their goods in appealing ways (such as by having plastic windows so the merchandise can be seen). Cybernauts, who account for about 12% of U.S. shoppers, do all their buying online and incur carbon costs because their products must be delivered, because of the IT infrastructure they support, and because of excess packaging when items are mailed. Still, per purchase on average they produce only about half the carbon emissions as Traditional Shoppers. Modern Shoppers are the most common type, a hybrid of the other two: moderns go to stores to examine merchandise and then ultimately buy online. As you can imagine, this is the worst of both worlds, for these shoppers incur all the costs associated with travel, delivery, and excess packaging.

Unfortunately, the environmental cost of e-shopping is getting worse, largely because so many more shoppers opt for guaranteed two-day delivery. Mega-retailers such as Amazon, Walmart, and Costco entice shoppers by letting them choose rapid two-day delivery, often at no cost, and even same-day delivery. Choosing these speedy options negates the carbon advantage of pure e-shopping, because companies must make additional, less optimally-routed trips with partially empty vehicles to ensure speed, so more trucks are driving more miles. These swift-turnaround times also increase the likelihood that products will travel by air as well as by land.

Fortunately, it is becoming more common for e-retailers to let patrons select slower delivery service. Some even offer an incentive for you to do so. For example, the last time I waived the free two-day delivery that I receive for being an Amazon prime member, I was offered free slower delivery, and a discount on a future digital purchase was thrown in. The company is also trying out a new feature, Amazon Day, which will let you select a single day each week when all your week’s purchases are bundled and delivered together. This option also reduces packaging and lowers the risk of theft if you opt for delivery on a day you will be home. (And, of course, the company will save money).

With more and more types of items available online, and more and more companies offering expedited shipping, it becomes ever more important to consider the environmental effects of e-commerce.  Next time you buy with a click, ask yourself if you really need that new lawn ornament by the day after tomorrow. If you can wait a little longer, you will be doing a small bit to help reduce carbon pollution.

Volunteer of the Year Award

BHAS has a new award!

The eligibility guidelines are:

1. The volunteer contributes outstanding long-term service through work that addresses BHAS’s mission and strategic priorities.


2. Performs intensive work on one project/activity and/or extensive involvement on several projects/activities.

3. Work demonstrates special creativity and/or efficiency and has a lasting impact on the functioning of the organization.

4. Work increases volunteer participation that continues beyond involvement of the individual volunteer (even when s/he moves on to other projects).

Please submit your nomination to Elizabeth Rodrick, Submittals should not exceed 500 words; bullet points detailing the nominee’s efforts are appropriate.