All Skagit Audubon Society events (meetings, field trips, hikes and education events) are cancelled until further notice due to the risks associated with the new coronavirus. We will update this notice and resume activities when the government health authorities say that it is safe to do so.
Conservation Report, April 2020
By Tim Manns
At this writing in the third week of March, the spread of COVID-19 and the world’s struggles to deal with it have crowded out almost all other news. Nonetheless, let’s briefly look at the outcome of the Washington State legislative session that ended March 12th. Audubon’s priorities met both success and disappointment. Successes included:
The Sustainable Farms and Fields measure (Senate Bill 5947) with financial incentives for farmers to reduce use of fossil fuels and enhance soil’s ability to hold carbon.
A Zero Emissions Vehicles mandate (Senate Bill 5811) to make more electric vehicles available in Washington.
Funds to map the best places in the Columbia Basin to site large scale solar energy facilities with least impact to agriculture and the environment.
Restoration of Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife funding for basic operations which it lost in 2008 and has never recovered.
Statewide ban on most single-use, thin plastic bags in retail stores.
Funding to explore how to implement the principle of “net ecological gain” (in place of “no net loss”) in shoreline project development so that salmon habitat is recovered and Southern Resident Orcas aren’t starved into extinction.
Though the Legislature failed to authorize the Department of Ecology to regulate indirect greenhouse gas emissions attributable to oil and gas distributors, it did accelerate the schedule for getting the state as a whole to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions (House Bill 2311). This bill also made it policy to look to forests and farms to sequester carbon. The bill sets ambitious targets to cut emissions but creates no specific path to meet them. Forty-five percent of Washington’s greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation. To reduce emissions it’s essential to face this reality and act. Yet, for the second time in two years, the Clean Fuel Standard (House Bill 1110) passed the House but died in the Senate Transportation Committee. The Chairman would not allow a committee vote, and so the bill never made it to the Senate floor where it might well have passed. As already in California and Oregon, a Clean Fuel Standard would reduce the carbon content of fuels and create incentives to transition away from fossil fuels in the transportation sector. That it should fail because of a possible increase in per gallon fuel costs speaks to the failure of key political figures to take the climate crisis seriously. We will not meet the monumental challenge of climate change without cost, and the longer we wait the higher that cost will be in dollars, in human suffering, and in degradation of the natural world Audubon members value. Lacking the suddenness and immediacy of the COVID-19 pandemic, addressing the climate crisis at an adequate scale is too easily put off to another day.
Due to the rapidly evolving situation with the COVID-19 virus, the hiking section will return when government and public health officials have determined that group activities are safe to resume.
APRIL FIELD TRIPS
By Libby Mills
How to take yourself on a field trip, Part 1.
Seeking resident nesting birds and watching winter birds before they depart for the north
Wash hands thoroughly for 20 seconds. At the same sink, look at your binoculars and note if they are waterproof. If they are, give them a bath too. Twenty seconds sounds about right. Dry the lenses carefully, mindful that if you scratch the coatings that’s it. You can’t re-coat them. If your bins are not waterproof, clean the lenses only, with proper lens fluid. Don’t soak them in running water.
Grab a ball cap for the sun and find a place where you can put the sun at your back so that you get great light on the bushes where you want to see birds.
Be still for five minutes as you look and listen attentively. Bird song is most noticeable before 10 am, but now that spring is coming on strong, the birds are preparing to breed. That means they are singing on territories to tell other birds they have claimed this area. Always look at or listen to the bird as long as you can before turning away to look up either its looks or song. If you look down at a book or an app on your phone that may be the last contact with that bird for a while. If you are using binoculars, try to see the bird singing. Where does it like to sing? From a high perch? Or deep in a hidden place. If you are seeing an old familiar bird, watch its activities and see if you can see it do something new.
If you can’t find the bird with your binoculars, look with the unaided eye to get a broader field of view. Listen carefully. This shouldn’t be too hard if you are on a walk alone. When I lead groups of fifteen learners, I often think how much more they might find, being quiet and alone.
If you are home from work or school for a long time, this is a perfect time to start recording notes in a field journal. Take out that notebook you’ve been saving. You have been saving it for now. Be thoughtful, be brave, take notes, and make visual notes too. You can trace the path a swallow makes in the air. You can make an alphabet down the side of the page and try to find something that goes with each letter, in your surroundings. You can turn the page and start over in a different habitat. There are a thousand directions for any of us to go on the page.
Make a list of every plant you see hummingbirds visit. Or make a list of every plant that’s in bloom. Or find pussy willows and note which birds and insects are visiting it! Try making a drawing, in ANY style, to remember the moment, the day, the time that you are living in. A journal is filled with your own ideas and reflections as well as your observations. I will try to keep part of my book just about nature. One page at a time. One moment at a time. Take this opportunity to go deep into attentiveness and “enjoy the peace of wild things”.
When I want to know more about a bird and I’m near a computer I look up birdweb.org from Seattle Audubon. I always have bird apps on my phone, or a field guide tucked in a big pocket. Back indoors, look up skagitaudubon.org and touch the pull down tabs for Birding, which will suggest many places to go birding near home, as well as Resources, that will help you find many learning resources on line. Use some of your time at home to look at our conservation notes and be active to protect the birds and wild places we love. Skagit Audubon is here to help you learn about and love birds. Together we will protect what we care about, even if we aren’t closer than six feet, or more apart.
FROM YOUR EDITOR – April 2020, by Mary Sinker
As I write this, America is shutting down amid fear and uncertainty as the new coronavirus sweeps across the country, and most of the globe. Baseball stadiums are dark and many non-essential businesses have shuttered their doors to customers to comply with public health recommendations that people remain at home unless they must go to work or shop for essential services.
Despite the radical changes in our daily routines, one thing is not changing. The birds are coming! Spring migration is underway and even though treasured spring birding festivals and field trips have been cancelled due to concerns surrounding spreading of the virus, the birds are still coming! Soon our marshes, shorelines and fields will be hosting thousands of migratory birds making their way along the Pacific Flyway to nesting areas in Canada, Alaska, the Arctic and beyond. Sandpipers, Yellowlegs, Whimbrel, and many more shorebirds will stop to refuel along our coastlines and in our fields on their long journey north. As they arrive, our beloved Snow Geese will begin to depart for Wrangel Island, Russia. Our iconic Tundra and Trumpeter Swans will leave for nesting grounds in northern Canada, Alaska and the Arctic. Osprey will arrive and set up housekeeping around Puget Sound. Swallows and Warblers will grace our meadows and woodlands.
Scientists still don’t understand all of the moving pieces that make migration possible, and perhaps that adds to our excitement and anticipation as we await the first report of a Willet, Whimbrel or Sandpiper. While it remains critical to follow the recommendations of public health officials, birding is typically an activity that can take place individually or with a very small group of people in a very large area where social distancing is easy to maintain. The birds are coming and with appropriate safeguards, birders can still experience the excitement of spring migration. To get the best “shorebird bang for your tidal buck” see Neil O’Hara’s article below on birding at Hayton Reserve just outside of Conway.
If you are homebound, there are many online resources for birders: American Birding Association at aba.org; National Audubon Society at audubon.org; Cornell Lab of Ornithology at birds.cornell.edu and Audubon Washington at wa.audubon.org offer articles, photo galleries, virtual birding tours, webcams and more.
The Education Committee needs volunteers to help with a number of adult presentations coming up in the next several months. These Power Point presentations are scheduled at libraries and private organizations/clubs in the area. If you can help give part of a presentation (already written), that would be great; or, you can assist with the computer and help answer questions from the audience. If you can lend a hand, please contact Sheila at firstname.lastname@example.org
Skagit Audubon Society holds monthly meetings on the second Tuesday of each month except for the months of July and August. We meet at 7:00 pm at Padilla Bay Interpretive Center(Google map), 10441 Bayview-Edison Rd. Mount Vernon. Meetings are open to all.
The board of directors meets at the same location at 7:00 pm on the first Tuesday of each month, except for the months of July and August.