Echo September 2019

2019 Annual Statewide Meeting of Audubon Chapters

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Each year chapters in our state hold an Annual Statewide Meeting.  BHHS belongs to the southwest region and is co-host of this year’s annual meeting called Audubon Council of Washington or ACOW.

This year’s convention is hosted by Audubon Southwest Chapters: Vancouver, Willapa Bay, Grays Harbor, Tahoma and Black Hills.

All chapter members are invited to attend this weekend of meetings, speakers, workshops and field trips. It is a wonderful way to learn about issues crucial to us in the northwest and connect with other members across our service area.

We’ll meet September 27-29, 2019 at the Vancouver Water Resources Education Center, 4600 SE Columbia Way, Vancouver, WA 98661

Here you can find, REGISTRATION, and access to our ACCOMMODATIONS at a discounted rate. FIELD TRIPS sign-up and AGENDA details are upcoming.  There will be several of us from Black Hills attending so possible car pools can be arranged. More will be shared at our September Speaker series on September 12th. Contact a board member for more information if you are interested in attending.

Birders Say the Darndest Things!

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Notebook in hand, I participate in several field trips with BHAS, and, in addition to noting the birds I see, I jot down the many things I hear from other participants. I chuckle to myself because I know that taken out of context, some comments sound rather absurd, but birders continue the discussion without so much as a wink. Such is life among many of us who are tuned in to bird life around us. Enjoy the snippets of conversation I have recorded this spring and early summer.

At the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge:

“There are SO many rabbits!”

“Nature’s hamburgers…”

 

The group sees a Swainson’s Thrush:

Ben, in a sing-song voice: “If you seize me and you squeeze me I may squirt.”

Blank stares in the group.

Ben: “That’s what it says!”

 

Random conversation in the field:

Paul: “Looks like someone had a case of owlitis…”

Sheila: “Or peregrineitis.”

Paul: “Or coyoteitis.”

 

Another trip to Nisqually:

Birder #1: “The Swainson’s Thrush sounds like a flute underwater.”

Birder #2: “I’ve never heard a flute underwater. . . “

 

Discussing whether we saw a purple finch or house finch:

Cathy: “Well, I should just show Shep the tree it was in, and he’ll probably know.”

Penny: “Yes, and he’ll know its life history, its gestational period, and its political affiliation!”

 

Birders trying to see a Peregrine Falcon in a nest across the freeway on the cell tower, but seeing no sign of life:

Shelly: “I can imagine it moving around in that nest.“

Kevin: “Sometimes you have to imagine it to see it.”

 

On a trip to Glacial Heritage Site:

Ben, on spotting a White-Crowned Sparrow: “Here comes the nasty, naughty kitty…”

 

Norman: “A Western Tanager is like a robin singing through a wine glass….a little reverberee…”

 

John: “Phil, what are you looking at?”

Phil: “Butterbutts” (Audubon Warblers)

 

Springtime at Woodard Bay Natural Preserve:

Birder #1: “A nuthatch sounds like a Russian…Nyet, nyet.”

Birder #2: “A Russian with an attitude…..”

Birder #3: “Or a truck backing up and beeping. “

 

Surf Scoters: “They are so awkward. They even dive badly…And it’s got that beak that looks like it’s from the high society union, but not very graceful.”

 

Springtime observation: “I think we might have some mom and pop stuff going on here.”

 

 

 

To Save Orcas, Save Chinook Salmon

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Sometimes it feels wildly audacious to state something very complex so plainly that thunderclaps boom—or in this case, dams crumble that have held back river water for so long it almost feels inevitable. Steven Hawley and Michael Peterson simply state that to save the Southern Resident Orcas we must save Chinook salmon, and to save Chinook salmon we need to remove four lower Snake River dams that hinder salmon migration to the sea and their way back to spawning beds. They arrived at this stark conclusion after intensive research and work with many different groups of people who live along the path of the river. It was not a snap judgment but a crisp summing up, inescapable.

Questions abound, as they have since the dams were built. How will removing these dams impact power supply and costs to customers? How will wheat farmers in Idaho and eastern Washington move their harvest to ports for sale? What about all the other dams on the Columbia River? Don’t hatcheries and fish ladders and other methods mitigate for whatever salmon are lost because of the dams?

The cold reality is that Chinook salmon, upon which the orcas are heavily dependent in the spring season, are at near extinction. Their historic abundance has dwindled despite all the ways we have tried to compensate for the obstruction of the dams for their safe passage; they will wink out—that horrible phrase—in our lifetime. And their loss will also take the orcas. That unconscionable realization pushes back on all the other questions that feel like just so much noise. Hawley and Peterson begin with that harsh assessment and work back from there to the solution that promises the most hope: take out the offending dams.

To learn more and connect with others also wrestling with this urgent issue, the Olympia Film Society is sponsoring a showing of Peterson Hawley Production’s film Dammed to Extinction with a post-film Q&A on Thursday September 12, doors open at 6:30, show at 7:00. If you can’t make it downtown that night, you can also view the film at dammedtoextinction.com. Save some of your questions and comments for the Annual Dinner in March when this film and the work behind it will be the topic of our keynote Speaker!  See you there!

Good and Problematic News about the Skookumchuck Wind Energy Project

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by Maria Ruth – For the past two years, the Black Hills (BHAS) and Willapa Hills (WHAS) Audubon Society’s Conservation Committee have been tracking the development of the Skookumchuck Wind Energy Project, a 38-turbine project on Weyerhaeuser Company’s Vail Tree Farm in Lewis and Thurston Counties near the Skookumchuck Reservoir. Because of the potential negative impact to wildlife—especially the protected Golden Eagles, Bald Eagles, and Marbled Murrelets—the project developer, RES-Americas, was required to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement and Habitat Conservation Plan.

Like National Audubon, BHAS strongly supports properly planned, sited, and operated wind power as a renewable energy source that helps reduce fossil-fuel carbon emissions, thus reducing the threats posed to birds and people by climate change.  BHAS and WHAS have worked closely and collaboratively with staff from both RES-Americas and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service during the development of the required documents to help ensure the 38 wind turbines and related infrastructure would be planned, sited, and operated in ways to minimize harm and to mitigate the loss (“take”) of eagles and murrelets.

Our chapters strongly support RES-Americas’ plans, as far as they go, to minimize harm to murrelets through the curtailment of select turbines during periods of peak murrelet activity during the summer breeding season when these seabirds fly inland to nest. And we support their plans to use state-of-the art technology (Identiflight) to temporarily stop turbines when eagles are detected flying near the project area.

We appreciate their proposed solutions to mitigate the take of murrelets and eagles. RES-Americas will acquire 620 acres of forested habitat in Pacific County to be conserved and managed in perpetuity for nesting murrelets and will fund the removal of derelict fishing gear in the Salish Sea to reduce fatal bycatch of murrelets. To mitigate the take of eagles, RES-Americas will fund the retrofitting of between 145 and 332 high-risk power poles in Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming to mitigate the fatality of eagles by electrocution.

However, we believe that more could have been done to protect murrelets, throughout their full breeding season (April-September) without significantly reducing total power generated, as we specifically outlined in our recent statement to RES-Americas and US Fish & Wildlife Service.

It is our hope that additional curtailment of turbines will occur as soon as the need is identified.

RES-Americas has developed an intensive post-construction monitoring program as part of their adaptive management plan. This will allow them to track eagle and murrelet fatalities at the project site and to modify turbine operations if the take level of these birds is higher than projected.  Herein may lie the problem; can such modifications be made quickly and successfully to better protect the birds?

Construction has already begun of the Skookumchuck project and the project will begin operations in 2021. The turbines will generate 137 megawatts of power for distribution through Puget Sound Electric.

Volunteer Opportunities September 2019

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All chapter work is done by volunteers for whom we are very grateful.  There are many opportunities to become involved at a level that is comfortable for you.  Please contact Kathleen Snyder (ksnyder75@nullgmail.com) if you are interested in any of the following:

Tabling opportunity:  The Nisqually Watershed Festival, will be held Saturday, September 28th at the Nisqually Wildlife Festival and BHAS will be manning an informational table through the day.  If you like greeting people, you will enjoy spending two hours answering questions and meeting visitors.  There will be a member of the BHAS Board working with you.

Vaux’s Swift Count:  If counting graceful birds that soar high in the sky each evening as they migrate through historic Downtown Chehalis sounds interesting, this is the project for you!  Counting Vaux’s Swifts at their roost chimneys each night provides invaluable data used in ongoing research, and anyone can do it! You do not have to have any prior experience, as training is provided.  What is needed are eyes on the skies in several key locations during sunset. If you are interested in assisting with the Vaux’s Happening project at the Chehalis roosts, please contact Rachel Hudson at lightningdash09@nullyahoo.com.

Audubon Council of Washington (ACOW):  Vancouver, WA is the site for this year’s ACOW meeting on Saturday, September 28th.  The event brings together Audubon members throughout the state to learn about and discuss issues facing chapters and conservation efforts.  Everyone is welcome, and Sunday, the 29th will feature birding trips around Clark County.  To learn more and register ($40.00), please visit https://wa.audubon.org/chapters-centers/chapter-meetings.

Outreach Coordinator: The purpose of this new position is to increase our visibility to the community and to reach diverse audiences which are not part of our traditional demographic.  If you are familiar with our area’s many festivals, parades, and other environmental events (or are eager to be familiar with them), we would love to talk about how you can help BHAS expand its reach.

Duck Stamp Judging

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(by Chris Maynard) Chris Maynard saw last month’s Echo article on the 2019 duck stamp and wanted to share this article he wrote about the 2019 contest:

I was asked to be one of the five judges for the 2019-2020 federal duck stamp contest. It is the only art contest sponsored by the federal government and the process is written into federal law. The duck stamp contest began in the 1930s. Hunters have to purchase a stamp in order to hunt waterfowl and the funding goes toward conservation of waterfowl habitat which is how mush of the federal wildlife refuges around the nation have been purchased. It has been quite a success so the managers of the US Fish and Wildlife Service who administer the program came out to Las Vegas for the judging event, including the newly appointed director.

The event was held art Desert Springs, the place where the first European settlers first came in the 1800s. Five judges are different every year as are the mix of judges. This year there were two professional artists, an art professor, a waterfowl biologist, and a Washington DC conservation lobbyist. I was told that the year before, two of the judges were stamp collecting experts.

Several hundred entries had to be winnowed down to the winner, plus a second and a third place winner. Since artists pay over $100 to enter the contest, the number of entries was reasonable for the five of us to winnow down in two days using a very specific and directed process. For instance, we were not supposed to consult with each other or have contact with the public during that time. We could not see how each other voted but the public could and it was all televised. After a person showed a painting to each judge, we would hold up our scores from one to five, kind of like at the Olympics. The first round going through this for all the paintings, we took the top 30 to go to the second round. We did it again. Then voted for the third time, picking the winner.

It was a bit stressful because many of the painters put their heart and soul into their paintings, some working on their piece for a year. Plus, the winner stands to make about an average of a million dollars on sales of the original and mostly, of prints and signings. Sometimes there are hard feelings but for the most part, the contestants managed to keep their feeling to themselves.

My favorite part of the show was talking with a US Fish and Wildlife biologist whose summer job is to count waterfowl from a hundred and fifty feet in the air as he flies back and forth over much of northern Canada from Churchill in Manitoba up and beyond the Beaufort Sea. He also as a sideline counts the muskox and polar bears. We poured over maps of this vast wilderness. I said I wanted to go!

Here is the link to the pictures: 2018 Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest

More information about Chris Maynard

 

Board Meeting Review (8/17/2019)

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The BHAS Board held their annual retreat on August 17th.  This full day meeting mainly evaluated how the strategic plan which we approved last year has evolved.  The strategic plan laid out our goals for the coming five years, through 2024.  The full plan can be accessed on our website under About Us.

On the whole, the Board felt our progress so far was in line with our plan.  Highlights include:

  • expanding classes and field trips, especially into Lewis and Mason Counties
  • finding Avian Science and Volunteer Coordinators
  • starting an Adopt-a-School program to reach elementary students with bird curriculum
  • expanding our presence in social media (includes Facebook, Meetup, and website)
  • transitioning to an electronic newsletter
  • sending more birding backpacks into the Timberland Library system
  • working on 100% clean energy initiatives
  • focusing on the Rocky Prairie industrial re-zone in the Maytown area

Still needing to be completed:

  • finding a President and Outreach Coordinator
  • increasing public awareness of local conservation concerns as well as global climate issues
  • increasing outreach to diverse audiences
  • evaluating our fundraising and budget needs

The Board also approved a budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year and will staff a table at the Nisqually Watershed Festival at the end of the month.  Of special note was the announcement that the 2021 National Audubon Convention will be held in Tacoma.