Thankfully, Vashon Audubon is a flexible, volunteer-driven group. We flew into Covid times with recognition that we all need birds—and the joy they bring—more than ever.
In 2020-2021, Vashon Audubon expanded our offerings with an array of creative and meaningful activities, and touched more islanders in new ways. Kudos to our loyal members, nearly 150 volunteers, and strong community partners.
As we all learn about Vashon’s birds and what they need to thrive, our community continues to step up. We embrace the value of enhancing native habitat, keeping feeders clean, participating in bird counts, supporting carbon reduction endeavors, and sharing what we know.
Islander’s passion to explore, protect and restore Vashon’s natural wonders is awe-inspiring.
(Bold type below denotes Vashon Audubon leadership group.)
Jen Steele and seven other volunteers completed Vashon’s Climate Watch counts in May. For our 12 sites, 208 individual birds and 44 different species were counted! Only one Red-breasted Nuthatch was seen, but also 16 Spotted Towhees—both species of concern under the program run by local chapters for National Audubon.
Early January brought challenging weather for Christmas Bird Count field teams plus feeder and yard watchers. The annual count took place during the Pine Sisken irruption. Ezra Parker organizes the annual CBC, a program of National Audubon, for the Vashon count circle.
With leadership from Vashon Nature Center, volunteers keep an eye out during summer for Pigeon Guillemots, Vashon’s only nesting seabird. It’s the fourth year of cliff bird nest surveys on Vashon, adding valuable breeding data to a project conducted throughout the Salish Sea.
Education for all
Sylvia Soholt oversaw an array of classes and activities for birders of all levels: “The Advancing Birder” (Ed Swan), “Healthy Streams = Happy Birds” (Jim Evans), “Birding by Ear” (Sue Trevathan and Steve Caldwell) and “Fourth Grade Birding” (Harsi Parker and Chautauqua teachers).
Paulina Barry led birding field trips in the Judd Creek watershed in Paradise Valley and the Heron Meadow.
Once again, our chapter awarded two high school scholarships to environmentally focused students. Each received $750 toward their academic pursuits. Lindsay Hofman led the review team.
Jim Evans also introduced Land Trust interns to Vashon birds and the habitat they need. The Senior Center’s members also appreciated a short class by Jim about Vashon birds, organized by Cheryl Richmond.
A collaborative venture with Highway Haiku poets, island photographers, and a creative team lead by Sylvia resulted in a small, colorful brochure. This popular bird haiku piece celebrates the birds around us—with a reminder of the perils they face and how we can help. Contact us for a free copy.
Heron Meadow and Vashon Audubon Mural
The Heron Meadow lies just east of Center, is part of the headwaters to Judd Creek, and serves as Vashon Center for the Art’s big backyard. Vashon Nature Center is working to restore the meadow’s natural ecosystem and create a field office and open space for science, art, and nature. Vashon Audubon supports the meadow restoration and is creating public art in collaboration with VNC, VCA and artist Britt Freda.
We commissioned Britt to paint eight of Vashon’s climate-threatened birds on a long retaining wall. The Vashon Audubon Mural is “dedicated with hope for a healthy, bird-filled future for the children of Vashon and beyond.” The intent is to bring joy, educate, and inspire us to fight the climate crisis. Julie Burman coordinates the project, and nearly 100 donors have contributed funding to make it possible.
The mural caught the attention of Rebecca Albiani, an acclaimed art historian, who included photos of it in her John James Audubon lecture at VCA. National Audubon is featuring the mural in Audubon Magazine as well as online.
Free community programs
All ages were thrilled to get out of COVID lockdown and safely attend the Night Light Drive-In for Four Seasons at Fern Cove video by Jim Diers on the O Space big screen.
Adria Magrath also offered several livestream programs: Heron Meadow: Relationships Between Birds, Plants, and Water, featuring Paulina Barry; Ocean Warming and Seabirds; How to Make Your Yard a Bird Haven, Dr. Kim Adelson; and Watching their World Melt Away, George Divorky.
Native Habitat Garden
Adria and others are putting the finishing touches on the Native Habitat Garden at the Vashon Heritage Museum. It’s designed to show the value of native plants that attract birds.
To prepare for the Natural Wonders exhibit at the Heritage Museum, gravel is being spread on paths and a new sign will soon be installed.
Advocating for birds
Climate change presents the single greatest threat to birds, and we threw our support behind Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon as he successfully pursued a number of bills. The approved legislation will reduce the carbon produced by transportation fuels, set a statewide cap on greenhouse gas emissions from major emitters, advance the use of electric vehicles, direct the state to prepare for a zero-emissions transportation future, and reduce climate impacts on low-income communities. Wow!
Closer to home, Steve Hunter has been working with the Land Trust to ensure that a pond will be free from dog disturbance while ducks are nesting. Activities include education for dog walkers and monitoring the health of the ducklings. Success so far on the Kneeshaw pond!
Stewardship for land and birds
In partnership with the Vashon Land Trust, volunteer work parties are making a difference in the Judd Creek Preserve’s habitat under Jim Evans’ leadership.
In addition to digging blackberries and planting trees we’re managing a nest box program, planning educational events and materials, conducting community outreach, and more.
Danny Boyle’s Eagle Scout project resulted in five different types of bird boxes for use by Black-capped Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and Wrens; American Kestrels, Western Screech-Owls, and Northern Saw-whet Owls; Violet-green Swallows, Tree Swallows, and Western Bluebirds; American Robins and Barn Swallows; and Northern Flickers. They are newly installed in the Judd Creek Preserve.
We greatly appreciate Steve Caldwell and Susan Keats for cleaning the Purple Martin boxes. Their effort requires a boat and sure footing.
Communicating with you
The highly regarded Vashon Audubon 2021 Bird Calendar, was, as always, a popular year-end purchase. It showcases stunning photos of birds in the month we’re most likely to see them along with great information.
It was produced by Sarah Driggs with an expert panel selecting the photos, but it’s the 25 island photographers that really made the calendar something special.
Sarah also publishes Wings, our online newsletter, to get the word out to members about programs, classes, work parties, and ways to advocate for birds.
Volunteer Hunter Davis delights readers of the Vashon Beachcomber with her monthly Bird of the Month feature. It’s a new favorite way to learn about birds on Vashon.
Cheryl Richmond keeps FaceBook flying with everything about birds. Increasingly, social media under Cheryl’s lead is a key way for us to communicate with our community and beyond.
Vashon Audubon by the numbers
Membership (April 2021) under the leadership of Heidi McWatters
Finances (January – December 2020)
Assets $23,141 (includes restricted funds for Vashon Audubon Mural)
Financial management by Katrin Fletter (joined board 11/20)
Thank you to all of our contributors, volunteers, and board members!
Jeri Jo Carstairs
Mary Kay Elfman
Mary Fran Lyons
Faye McAdams Hands
Jody Pritchard, volunteer coordinator
Sarah Ann Thompson
Sara Van Fleet
Joe Van Os
Kajira Wyn Berry