eEcho 2019 Mar-April

Birder Chatter

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When you gather a group of birders together for a field trip that consists of both experienced and beginners, you overhear many comments that out of context sound downright absurd, but in the throes of attempting to identify or even spot a bird, make sense. Really. How does one explain a vocalization or the whereabouts of the sought after? Carla Miller has been recording our comments and would like to share the chuckles she’s had while a part of our forays into the natural world. We have a range of field trips and all are welcome on any of them. Join us and listen to our conversations yourself and see if you don’t find some humor too, along with several new species or bird behaviors.

Hover Mouse Over Photo to Reveal Comments

We used to call that the ‘red-headed Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.’ Didn’t it used to be called that?” – at Capitol Lake

“Best bird we saw here last year was a bear.” – At Darlin Creek

“Is that a duck or a mammal to the right of the alligator?” – From the dock at Millersylvania State Park

“The Olive sided flycatcher has a vest on and says “Quick Three Beers.”” – Along the McClane Creek Nature Trail

“Oh, it does have yellow socks!” – From the dock at Millersylvania State Park

“It’s a yellow rump acting like a flycatcher.” – At Darlin Creek

“Remember when we heard a Pygmy Owl at Woodard Bay?”
“You mean the one that sounds like heavy equipment backing up?” – At Darlin Creek

“I’m getting a Ruby-crowned Kinglet vibe.” – Early morning at Woodard Bay

“Did we lose some people or did they go home?”
“I don’t think we lost them. It’s Melanie, Sarah, and Roberta.”
“Oh, they’re doing mushrooms.” – From the dock at Millersylvania State Park

“So it WASN’T the guy that was singing?”
“That WAS the guy that was singing.”
“So it was the guy that was hopping?”
“It WASN’T the guy that was hopping.” – At Darlin Creek

“We are getting the symphonic effect.”
“Or quadrophonic.” – At Darlin Creek






Volunteering for Your Chapter

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Do you have some time and talents to share with us? There are a few things that could use your help.

  • Facebook page monitor – keeping our Facebook page current and interesting.
  • Classroom assistance – field trip help at one of our adopted schools.
  • Hospitality – help at the speaker meetings setting up the welcome table.

Please contact Deb Nickerson at to find out more.

Review of January Board Meeting

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The Board will continue to fund two scholarships of $400 each for the bird banding training offered by Center for Natural Lands Management. This training has taken place every summer since 2013 in Glacial Heritage Preserve.

Kim Adelson reported on her efforts to apply for grants to fund more bird-watching backpacks which will be donated to Timberland Library branches. Library patrons are able to check these out to use on bird watching outings. One grant has been submitted; three more are possibilities.

Kim and Deb Nickerson have met with an elementary school teacher in the Shelton School District to see how BHAS can assist her with curriculum revolving around a native plant garden and avian studies. This teacher would welcome monthly visits from our volunteers to assist with lessons and garden improvements that would attract birds. The Board sees this as the start of a new Adopt-A-School effort for our organization.

A report was made on the Annual Dinner which is March 2nd at the South Puget Sound Community College. Involved with this was a summary of the survey that was included in our end of year fundraising letter. The most responses were in support of local environmental advocacy. Following that was environmental education and efforts to benefit birds in general.

Nominations for the BHAS Board

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The Nominations Committee (Bruce Jacobs, Elizabeth Rodrick, and Bob Wadsworth) is soliciting candidates for the board of directors. We will present a slate of officers and at-large board members in the May Echo for election at the May 9th program meeting. Duties of Board members include: attending board meetings at 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month, September through June; the Annual Dinner on the first Saturday in March; Board Retreat, one day in mid August; BHAS Program meetings on the second Thursday of each month, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. from September through May (optional); and serving on at least one committee (see list in each issue of the Echo). If you would like to serve on the board or wish to nominate someone, please contact Elizabeth Rodrick,, by March 29.

Birding Immersion leads to Conversion

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(by Deb Nickerson) – For someone to self-identify as a “birder”, there is usually a transformative experience involving a particular bird that takes one “over the edge” into the birding world. To witness such a transformation is a beautiful thing. To see it occur in your significant other is even better. For in relationships, it is always beneficial to have a partner who understands our set of quirks, and certain birding behaviors could be regarded as “quirky”, odd, if you will, to many others. But we, in the birding community, do not see ourselves as lying outside any normal ranges of behavioral traits. Indeed, we wish more people would develop our keen observational senses, knowledge of bird vocalizations, and enthusiasm for the avian world.

It is important to have our partners, spouses, family and friends understand why it is acceptable to interrupt a deep conversation while on a walk in the forest with, “Listen! It’s a Pacific Wren. Isn’t it beautiful?” Or, at another time point overhead rapidly to show friends the fast-moving flock of Kinglets moving through the trees. I was late meeting a friend for dinner because a Palm Warbler made a rare appearance at Capitol Lake; another BHAS member was there and shared the delight of actually getting to view it for 15 minutes. I mean, really, what dialogue can’t be halted for sightings or sounds of Crossbills or Cacklers? Birders look outward, around and up but it is not because we are not interested in your waxing on about workplace gossip, ailments, politics or the latest Facebook post; we’d rather hear about Cedar Waxwings. It is because we see birds first; our eyes are distracted by shadows and flits and chirps. Excuse us please.

My partner, John, and I have been dating for about a year and a half after a couple years making the transition from acquaintances to friends. I knew I liked him a lot when he was mesmerized by the display of Vaux Swifts entering the chimney at Chapman School two Septembers ago. (He timed it; it took 38 minutes for all to descend for the night). Since then we have incorporated birding into each of our trips. He has wanted to learn more waterfowl because, as a sailor, he is among them frequently. He built his own boat so is observant, precise, meticulous and, well, particular in his own right about how things should be done. Simply because of these exhibited traits, I knew he could fit into our sub-culture. He just didn’t know it.

For two years we have traveled to northern California in December to find warmth and birds. We were both awestruck by the thousands of waterfowl at Sacramento River National Wildlife Refuge. And then it happened – last month while walking in a marshy area on the north side of San Pablo Bay, we came across a Say’s Phoebe and that, my friends, was the bird that brought him to our side, playing for our team, succumbing to the pitfalls of star struck staring at a single bird for an hour or more. The Say’s Phoebe lighted on some tall grass and then took off hovering as they do for a bit before diving to pounce on their insect de jour. “It’s acting like a falcon or a tern!” Back and forth it went from stalk to air, striking again and again naïve prey among the grasses. We watched, fascinated. Yes, fascinated.

Two days later found us dining on New Year’s Eve with close friends of his from college days, decades ago. While dining on scrumptious homemade soup and salad, John carried on (and on and on) about the Say’s Phoebe explaining its hunting behavior, tail twitching, and the coloration of his newly discovered species. His friends looked at him askance. He didn’t notice for he was too enthralled in his retelling of our time at the marsh with said bird. They both looked at me, confused, bemused while I, well, I smiled knowingly. “I know,” I said, “you’ve never heard him talk about a bird for so long. He’s come over to the other side you know and become a “birder”. “I’m sorry; it will alter all future times you spend together on the boat each summer. It’s not my fault.” Or is it? Do we share our affection for the feathered without consciously knowing it? We may, but the natural world pronounces its grandeur, and we are sucked into the vortex, never to be the same. John Sherman has been converted and now bows to the birds like we do. Hallelujah!

The Lake Lawrence Cell Tower Proposal: A Three Year Journey

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(by Sue Danver and Alex Foster) – As you may remember, Black Hills Chapter of the Audubon Society (BHAS) supported an appeal of the proposed Lake Lawrence cell phone tower at a hearing before the Thurston County Hearing Examiner on March 15, 2016. The reason was due to the tower’s location next to waterfowl concentration areas and newly restored wetlands on the Deschutes River floodplain at Smith Ranch resulting in high potential for bird collisions with the tower. County code requires a 1000-foot setback from these features; the proposed tower would be within 430 feet. In May of 2016, the Hearing Examiner agreed and remanded the proposal back to the County planning department for further review. The project applicant Verizon Wireless(VW) hired a contractor to study bird movements near the site. BHAS members assisted a local wildlife researcher and neighborhood volunteers to conduct a similar bird study. Both studies showed birds flying in close proximity to the tower. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife evaluated both studies and agreed with their results. VW then hired another contractor, an avian expert used by the telecom and wind turbine industries, to assess the tower’s risk for bird strikes. The appellant group also hired an avian expert to assess the risk. A second hearing was conducted September 2018, however, this time the Hearing Examiner agreed with the applicant, “While the proposed tower location is within 1,000 feet of two waterfowl concentration areas (163rd wetlands, Smith Ranch Mitigation Area) and this placement does put wildlife at more risk…however, I think the applicant has adequately analyzed that risk and I concur with the conclusion that the risk of bird strikes exists but is low due to the height and design of the tower.” The neighborhood group appealed the Hearing Examiner’s decision in front of the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC). Commissioners Hutchins and Blake decided, but Commissioner Edwards, who lives near Lake Lawrence, initially stated he had no prior communications with case parties but later recused (disqualified) himself from the decision. The remaining board members upheld the Hearing Examiner’s decision.

A new group has since filed an appeal in Superior Court. They cite several procedural errors made by the County including records excluded from the case file that should have been available for consideration in both the Hearing Examiner and the BOCC decisions…the odyssey continues.

Thurston County now revising Mineral Land Policy

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(by Sue Danver) – Thurston County government is planning a major revision of its policy on mineral resource lands that could drastically change local land use and the rural nature of the County. This summer the County Commissioners are expected to finalize a new Comprehensive Plan Policy, with significant changes affecting the mineral-lands portion of the Natural Resources Lands chapter.

In 2016, Thurston County mapped the locations of its aggregate (sand and gravel) and bedrock deposits. In March 2017, the Thurston County Planning Commission (PC) designated as Mineral Lands of Long-term Significance all mapped sand, gravel, and quarry deposits, an area of about 141,000 acres. The County Commissioners will confirm or reject this recommendation this summer. Since 2006, about 2,000 acres have had mineral designation.

How does mineral lands designation affect Thurston County citizens? It means that in a hearing for the approval of a mine application, designation as Mineral Lands gives the extraction of mineral resources preferential use of that land. A proposed mine must still meet county and state environmental standards, such as those dealing with noise, ambient light, decreased air quality, water pollution, lowering of the water table, and reduction of rural wildlife. However, citizens’ concerns may take a back seat to the potential of a county-valued mine. Also, it is unlikely that mineral-land status would be reversed in the future.

It is important to keep strong environmental standards in the Comprehensive Plan and, if not there, then in the County development code. Already, the PC has approved a 1,000-foot separation distance (because of incompatible activities) between lands with mineral designation and parks and preserves. We applaud this decision. In April, the PC will also review and recommend the future development code. Many changes have been made to the current code; BHAS is now reviewing the staff’s draft.


  • We support the staff’s newly added water quality and quantity requirements, which must be met to obtain a mine permit. A hydrogeologist who has worked on gravel issues for BHAS before will review the new water code, and BHAS will submit his code suggestions before the April public comment period.
  • We oppose two code changes: (1) allowing the expansion of an existing mine onto neighboring non-designated parcels, including an additional option to ignore the 1,000’ separation distance between parks and mines. (2) Allowing a new mine to develop on an entire parcel when as little as 5% of that parcel is designated mineral land, with an option to ignore any 1,000’ separation distance if a natural area park/reserve is in that parcel. This could result in thousands of acres added to the overall 141,000 acres of designation outside the standard Comprehensive Plan amendment process.
  • We anticipate recommending additional code to incorporate the Best Available Science to protect wildlife and their habitat from industrial activities such as loud noise, lights, and particulate matter.
  • We will be supporting greater protection of Agricultural Lands of Long-term Commercial Significance and agricultural lands in general. South Sound Farmland Trust is now working on their position and code recommendations.

The expansion of potentially mineable lands in the County raises other concerns. No one involved with this issue can estimate how many mines there could be; the number will depend on how much aggregate will be exported from our County. How will the County and its citizens deal with the cumulative effects of increased mining? The County has marketable gravel of excellent quality (clean and the right size). With multiple mines, we could lose the balance of resource use that is the vision of our citizens.

We would appreciate hundreds of comments to the Planning Commission Public Hearing. Public input and high numbers are very important. We will be recommending comments in the April CHIRPS. Thank you.

Armchair Birding: Listening to Barry Lopez “Children in the Woods,” in Crossing Open Ground

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(by Anne Kilgannon) – I don’t want to tell you how many books I’ve ventured, notated, loved and despaired over in my search for this essay topic. Perhaps it’s the season, the government shutdown impasse or just my state of mind. It is my state of mind: no doubt at all; confronting in each book and grappling with the impossibility of the lovingly crafted description of the end of the natural world and all its complicated and cherished living interconnected beings has left me bereft and empty of response. All I can promise is to try again.

So I started over in a new place, by chance falling upon an essay by Barry Lopez that goes back to the beginning: childhood, his own and then children of his acquaintances, and what he remembers, and then forgot, and now remembers anew with insight for all of us. He writes of an early experience that profoundly shaped him: it came as a confirmation that the world is full of wonder and that he was right to be astounded by that. He speaks of carrying that revelation forward whenever he can with children—and I would say, in all his writing and how he lives his life.

He tells of a time when this truth was masked by “encyclopedic knowledge of the names of plants or the names of birds passing through in a season.” The great lesson was to learn to say less, to allow children to see afresh and without the weight of labels and systems, just for now to let them discover the natural world prompted only by their own curiosity.

“I remember once finding a fragment of a raccoon’s jaw in an alder thicket. I sat down alongside the two children with me and encouraged them to find out who this was—with only the three teeth still intact in a piece of the animal’s maxilla to guide them. The teeth told by their shape and placement what this animal ate. By a kind of visual extrapolation its size became clear. There were other clues, immediately present, which told, with what I could add of climate and terrain, how this animal lived, how its broken jar came to be lying here. Raccoon, they surmised . . . If I had known more about raccoons, finer points of osteology, we might have guessed more: say, whether it was male or female. But what we deduced was all we needed. Hours later, the maxilla, lost behind us in the detritus of the forest floor, continued to effervesce. It was tied faintly to all else we spoke of that afternoon.”

Those children will know raccoons now in a way that will be indelible and transformative. Lopez then acknowledges, “. . . a single fragment of the whole is the most invigorating experience I can share with them. I think most children know that nearly anyone can learn the names of things; the impression made on them at this level is fleeting.” This was food for thought, but Lopez mused further and quietly extended this observation:

“The most moving look I ever saw from a child in the woods was on a mud bar by the footprints of a heron. We were on our knees, making handprints beside the footprints. You could feel the creek vibrating in the silt and sand. The sun beat down heavily on our hair. Our shoes were soaking wet. The look said: I did not know until now that I needed someone much older to confirm this, the feeling I have of life here. I can now grow older, knowing it need never be lost.”

I read that over and over. Yes, children are born open and willing to love the world. It is our job to nurture that flame, confirm and strengthen that inherent tendency—and share our own love and sense of curiosity, to get down in wet mud together in joy and the surprises the world delivers. Let a grin be our language!

I can’t resist giving you Lopez’s exalted final remarks:
“The quickest door to open in the woods for a child is the one that leads to the smallest room, by knowing the name each thing is called. The door that leads to the cathedral is marked by the hesitancy to speak at all, rather to encourage by example a sharpness of the sense. If one speaks it should only be to say, as well as one can, how wonderfully all this fits together, to indicate what a long, fierce peace can derive from this knowledge.”

Reflecting, I feel sure we Black Hill members are on the right track with our program of providing birding backpacks. We are opening doors and windows and removing barriers of accessibility and hesitation to the world of nature. And we are affirming by our attention and encouragement, our own love and willingness to wade into the waters and forests in search of what is hidden there. I am excited to see what fruit will bear from Richard Louv’s community talk on getting children—and everyone else—outside to play. We can’t lose this generation; we have no children to spare.

Bird-banding Training Scholarships

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Bird-banding Training Scholarships

BHAS will again offer two scholarships for bird-banding training this coming spring. The six days of training will be presented at Glacial Heritage Preserve over two long week-ends, scheduled for May 17-20 and May 25-27, by the Center for Natural Lands Management (CNLM). The cost for training each person is $450; BHAS will provide $400 of the fee for each scholarship recipient, so each participant will have to provide the remaining $50. After the training, each recipient will be expected to make a short presentation at a BHAS program meeting and participate in volunteer bird-banding using her/his new skills.

If you are interested in participating in this training and applying for one of the scholarships, please provide a statement that includes (1) information about your college major or concentration, career plans, any professional work related to wildlife biology, and your experience with birds; (2) why you would best be suited to receive the training; and (3) how this training will be applied to your professional work, personal pursuits, and interests. Send your statement, by April 1, to Sam Merrill, Conservation Committee Chair, BHAS, at

Moving to Electronic Echo in July

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(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