News Items

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 Birding Backpack Project

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by Kim Adelson – We are very pleased to announce that we have recently contributed ten more Family Birding Backpacks to the Timberland Regional Libraries. Each backpack contains birding guides, two pairs of binoculars, lists of birding sites with maps, and instructions. Six of them will be funded by a $2,100 grant from the South Puget Sound Community Foundation; four are self-funded. Six backpacks will be placed in the Centralia, Yelm, Lacey (two packs), Salkum, and Hoodsport TRL branches. The remaining four packs will go to TRL branches in Pacific and Grays Harbor counties. Six backpacks have already been available in Olympia, Shelton, Lacey, Centralia, and Yelm. Please help spread the word about these Family Birding Backpacks; they may be checked out at no cost by any library patron and are designed to make birding accessible to those who do not otherwise have the equipment or expertise to go bird watching.

Puget Sound Seabird Survey

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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.

Purple Martin Bird Box Project

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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.


2018 Year of the Bird: Partnership with National Geographic

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January 1, 2018 (from David J. Ringer, National Audubon Society)

Today marks the beginning of an exciting partnership between National Geographic, Audubon, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, BirdLife International, and dozens of other partners to make 2018 the “Year of the Bird.” Let’s use this year to bring tens of thousands of new people to the cause of bird conservation! To honor the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Year of the Bird will be about celebrating the wonder of our feathered friends, examining how our changing environment is driving dramatic losses among bird species, and highlighting what people can do to reverse this trend. National Geographic will be creating new bird content throughout 2018 for their various platforms – magazines, books, maps, TV, digital channels, experience events, lodges, and kids programs. There is a dedicated Year of the Bird website at, and during each month of 2018, a themed call-to-action to inspire people to help birds. Audubon is creating specialized Year of the Bird content at to help people learn about the threats birds face today and to inspire them to take action in line with Audubon’s priorities – from creating bird-friendly homes to growing native plants for birds to taking part in community science programs like the GBBC to using their voice to advocate for birds.

Off the Beaten Path: Custom-Trip Planning for Birding Costa Rica with Erica Guttman and Mike Melton

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Planning Consultations with Erica Guttman and Mike Melton

With about 900 species and a government that supports the eco-tourism economy and reforestation, Costa Rica is a birder’s/naturalist’s paradise—and it offers a safe and comfortable was for North Americans to explore the tropical delights of Latin America!

Erica and Mike have self-arranged multiple trips to bird this beautiful and welcoming country, and will put their experiences and in-country relationships to work to help you plan your own independent birding trip based on your needs and desires.

The consultation will include:

Itinerary recommendations based on time available, wish-list for target species, group size and participants physical abilities.
Best lodging options for your birding style, comfort needs, and food preferences.
Best transportation options(s) for your needs and comfort level.
Best local bird guides for each area targeted.
Overview of eco-systems, seasons, and altitudinal migrants.
How to stay safe and secure.
Flora and fauna apps and field guides you’ll want to prepare and which ones to take with you.
Tips on culture, language, making friends and more!

To arrange consultation times, contact Erica and Mike at Suggested donation $150.

Bird photo (Collared aracari (Pteroglossus torquatus)), courtesy LG Nyqvist, Wikimedia Commons.

Maria Ruth’s “Cloud Curious” class

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Fascinated by the clouds overhead? Wish you could identify them and remember their Latin names? Ever wonder how they float or how they rain? Want to learn why birdwatchers are naturally good cloudwatchers? Interested in experiencing clouds through new perspectives?

Join Maria Ruth, author of A Sideways Look at Clouds, and two special guest artists at her Olympia home for an afternoon of cloud appreciation.

Sunday April 8 from 3-5:30 p.m.

$30 per person

In this 2½ hour class for the curious naturalist you will:
• Learn how to identify the ten main clouds types (plus a few extras)
• Enjoy artwork and insights from local artist Sherry Buckner
• Experience how music affects your perception of clouds with a live violinist
• Get tips on best local cloud-watching spots
• Try your hand at “lifting” a cumulus cloud in watercolor
• Ask all your cloud-related questions
• Take home a luscious 2’ x 4’ full-color cloud poster
• Enjoy light refreshments (and a cloud stroll, weather permitting)

This class is offered by Maria Ruth, author of more than a dozen natural-history books, including A Sideways Look at Clouds and Rare Bird: Pursuing the Mystery of the Marbled Murrelet. Maria serves on Black Hills Audubon Society’s Conservation Committee.

The Annual Dinner is a Success!

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On Saturday, March 3, members and friends of Black Hills Audubon streamed into the big room in the Student Union building on the SPSCC campus, ready to enjoy the celebrated speaker John Marzluff, applaud our award winners, and gather with birder friends and revel in the camaraderie of our shared passions and concerns. We heard a stirring report from our regions’ national Audubon representative Art Wang and welcomed our local “mother of Audubon” Helen Engle. And not least, the event was an opportunity to give big to support our Chapter and its educational and outreach programs!

The funds raised at the Annual Dinner will boost our ability to reach out to new or want-to-be birders with backpacks imaginatively stocked with everything needed for successful birding expeditions, and to support Chapter work in conservation, education, and environmental advocacy. Members generously bought raffle tickets and sale items, and gave targeted donations: we raised $875 for the backpack project, $1140 to support critical environmental advocacy work, $810 for educational programs, and $2005 for general support of Chapter work. Our wonderful success buoyed spirits and kindled even more dedication to our mission “for the birds.” The final sums raised will be reported at a later date.

The gracious acceptance speeches from our Award winners only made us prouder of their efforts in our community for the work they do. Davy Clark was honored for his work in Environmental Education at the Billy Frank Jr. National Wildlife Refuge and Daniel Einstein was recognized for his conservation efforts through OlyEcosystems to protect shorelands for Great Blue Herons and other threatened species. John Marzluff then heartened us with highlights from his years of research examining how birds respond to increasing human presence and the resulting changing environment as we move deeper into habitat areas. Many birds are able to adapt and coexist if we only give them a little help and understanding. His work reinforced our campaign to create bird-friendly gardens and other spaces with appropriate plantings, sources of water and shelter and well-stocked birdfeeders.

Profound thanks to all those who worked so hard to make our evening’s success possible. Sally Nole organized the affair with dedicated help from her committee: Kim Adelson, Margery Beeler, Rick Yale, Paul Moody, Craig Merkel, Deb Nickerson and Kathleen Snyder. Many more volunteers put it all together providing hours of set up, selling and serving during the dinner and cleaning up after it was over. We could not have carried it through without you all. A huge Thank You also, to all the donors of items for our sale and raffle and bar. A special thanks for the donation of the duck decoys and to all who transformed them into coveted works of art. The generosity members showed in offering Nature-related items for sale, or trips or experiences, is invaluable. Your support allows us to do more for birds in our area.

A few people mentioned to board members they would like to get more involved in our chapter’s work. Deb Nickerson is hosting a meeting of any members who wish to learn all the ways in which one can become more a part of our work. All interested in becoming more active, contact her at and plan to meet at her house on Wednesday, March 28th at 4pm. She will email you the directions.

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