Go birding and make a difference!

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.

This season PSSS will be expanding the project, yet again, this time north to the Canadian border and the San Juan Islands. They 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 12th season of this exciting project. PSSS is now recruiting enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers to help 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, you’ll be teamed up with more knowledgeable surveyors. To help PSSS determine each volunteer’s seabird identification skills, visit www.seabirdsurvey.org to take a quick, fun Seabird ID quiz.

Learn more, including training dates, at www.seabirdsurvey.org and email Toby Ross, Senior Science Manager, at tobyr@seattleaudubon.org if you would like more information or to take part.

Birds and Climate Change

Please join us for this program on Thursday, March 14, 7 PM at the Vashon Land Trust building. The program is free and open to all.

Audubon Washington’s Director of Bird Conservation,  Dr. Trina Bayard, and Chapter Network Manager, Teri Anderson, will talk about climate change projections for birds in our region, how we can protect bird habitat, and ways to reduce the severity of global warming.

We’ll also briefly discuss:

  • the potential of expanding our climate-related citizen-science focus
  • a birds and climate change public art project on Vashon as part of Wild Wonders 2020
  • a sign for Christensen Pond Preserve that’s partly to honor Emma Amiad’s contribution to our Island. We’ll be soliciting donations to help cover costs.

The program is a co-sponsored by the Vashon Nature Center and the Vashon Land Trust.

Audubon members raise their voices for birds

A number of Vashon Audubon members participated in Environmental Lobby Day on January 29. We joined more than 500 members of the Environmental Priorities Coalition to urge state legislators to enact 100% clean electricity legislation and other policies. Members Rob Briggs, Sarah Driggs, Rayna and Jay Holtz, Virginia Lohr, Sharon Metcalf, Margie Morgan, and Randy Smith were among those who made the trip to Olympia.

Many of the issues we advocated for have been moving through the legislative process since then. As of Feb. 22, the clean electricity legislation had passed out of the final House and Senate committees.

To see where things stand, read Washington Audubon’s weekly update.

Top priorities for Audubon Washington are a transition to 100% clean electricity, cleaner fuels for transportation, enhanced building efficiency standards, full funding of the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s budget request, and protection of sagebrush habitat.

Other issues on the Coalition agenda are oil spill prevention, emergency actions to save the southern resident orcas, and reduction of plastic pollution

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Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (near the door) with 34th District constituents.

On the lobby day, 28 constituents of the 34th District—comprising Vashon, West Seattle, and Burien—packed the offices of Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, Rep. Eileen Cody, and Sen. Joe Nguyen to urge their support these issues.

Nguyen

Sen. Joe Nguyen (kneeling) posed with his constituents after their meeting

It wasn’t a hard sell; each of them strongly backs the policies we advocated for. Rep. Fitzgibbon, in particular, chairs the House Environment & Energy Committee and has been a stalwart leader on climate legislation.

We also heard from Gov. Jay Inslee, who offered stirring words to the Coalition crowd on the Capitol steps. “It is our duty to defeat climate change,” he said, “and we are going to defeat climate change.”

We’re seeking new board members!

Vashon Audubon is now recruiting board members for 2019-2020. We seek islanders who are bird enthusiasts and have time and energy for our all-volunteer chapter. Vashon Audubon’s focus is birds and climate change, with four areas of emphasis: citizen science, education, conservation/advocacy, and public art.

We’re seeking a treasurer as well as board members to coordinate volunteers, do social media, help with education programs, assist with Wild Wonders 2020/Audubon bird murals, arrange off-island field trips, lead a new citizen science field survey project to help verify climate models, engage the next generation of birders, build chapter membership, archive files, and strengthen community partnerships.

Expertise and interest in native plants, ornithology, and climate science is welcome but not required. The treasurer will use Quick Books, develop annual budget, and create management reports.

Our chapter is fiscally sound and well managed. We have fun and a sense of humor.

The board positions are for one year except for the treasurer, who would serve a two-year term. The board meets every other month. We take most of the summer off to go birding and conduct Pigeon Guillemot field surveys, then reconvene for a salmon BBQ and planning session in August.

Vashon Audubon members will vote for a slate of board candidates at our annual meeting, June 13.

Interested? Want more information? Contact Julie Burman, board president, julieruthburman@gmail.com, 206 463-4127.

Birding festivals around the Northwest

Many Audubon chapters and other organizations sponsor birding festivals around our region. Typically they offer a number of birding trips led by knowledgeable guides, and are great opportunities to see species you might not find in your own area.

Here’s a listing of festivals in 2019. We’ll add more as we learn about them, so check back from time to time.


Klamath Basin Winter Wings Festival, February 14-17. Enjoy over 50 guided birding and photography field trips, workshops, receptions, keynotes, and more throughout the Klamath Basin in Oregon and California. Featured speakers are Pepper Trail, George Lepp and Julie Zickefoose. Learn more » www.WinterWingsFest.org


Port Susan Snow Goose and Birding Festival, February 24-25, Stanwood. Take part in several different free guided tours and presentations on snow geese and other birds and wildlife in our region. Festival headquarters is the Floyd Norgaard Cultural Center in Stanwood. Learn more »  discoverstanwoodcamano.com/calendar/portsusan-snow-goose-festival


Wings Over Water Northwest Birding Festival, Blaine, March 15-17. In its 17th year, this festival celebrates the migratory birds that flock to the coastal waters of Drayton Harbor, Birch Bay and Semiahmoo Bay. This major stopover on the Pacific Flyway is designated an Important Birding Area. Learn more » www.wingsoverwaterbirdingfestival.com


Othello Sandhill Crane Festival, Othello, March 22-24. For nearly two decades this event has celebrated the annual return of nearly 35,000 Sand Hill Cranes to Othello, Washington as they migrate to their breeding grounds in Alaska. The festival offers opportunities to view the cranes up close, with tours led by local experts, and also boasts tours of the flora, fauna and geology of the area, lectures, and children’s activities. Learn more » www.othellosandhillcranefestival.org/the-festival


Olympic BirdFest, April 12-14. Guided birding trips, boat tours, live auction and raffle, gala banquet, and more. Featured speaker: John Marzluff, wildlife science professor and author. Options: Enjoy a three-day pre-festival birding cruise of the San Juan Islands, April 9-11. Stay on for a Neah Bay post-trip on April 14-16: two days birding coastal Washington. Learn more » www.olympicbirdfest.org.


Leavenworth Spring Bird Fest, May 16-19. Come and celebrate this festival’s 17th anniversary! Witness an array of returning migratory birds in peak wildflower season in North Central Washington’s beautiful Wenatchee Valley. This year’s keynote speaker is Richard Crossley, an internationally acclaimed birder, photographer and award-winning author of The Crossley ID Guide series. Learn more » www.leavenworthspringbirdfest.org


Puget Sound Bird Fest in Edmonds, September 13-15, is an annual fall celebration of birds and nature found on the beautiful shores of Puget Sound. The three-day event includes speakers, guided walks, land- and water-based field trips, exhibits, and educational activities for children and adults. Plan to spend the weekend in Edmonds, birding and meeting other birders, naturalists, photographers, and people engaged in fascinating bird research projects. Learn more » pugetsoundbirdfest.org


 

Quest for climate legislation continues

Following the defeat of Washington’s Initiative 1631, which would have created a carbon emissions fee, you may be wondering what’s being done on the legislative front to act on climate change.

A coalition of 23 environmental groups, including Audubon Washington, is continuing to seek solutions that would reduce carbon pollution fairly and equitably. The Environmental Priorities Coalition has launched a grassroots campaign to pass several climate policies in the 2019 legislative session: a 100 percent clean electricity standard, a clean fuel standard, and enhanced building efficiency standards.

These policies are part of Governor Inslee’s comprehensive proposal to accelerate the transition to a cleaner, carbon-free future. Recent polling reveals strong popular support for climate action, and specific support for these policies.

Here’s some more information about the three policy priorities:

The 100 percent clean electricity standard
This standard would phase out coal-generated electricity by 2025, leading to a carbon neutral electricity sector by 2030. It would phase in electricity generated from solar, wind, hydro, and other clean and renewable resources, reaching 100 percent clean by 2045.

Washington is in a strong position to demonstrate that the transition to a fossil fuel-free electric power system is technically possible, economically viable, and a key driver for new jobs and economic growth. California, Hawaii, numerous cities and municipalities, and a growing list of private sector entities have committed to this clean energy transition.

Clean fuel standard
Transportation fuels are responsible for nearly half of the climate pollution in Washington. The clean fuel standard would require oil refiners and importers to reduce the carbon intensity of fuels over time, supporting expanded transportation electrification, lower carbon fuels, and more jobs in homegrown energy production.

Enhanced building efficiency standards
The residential, commercial and industrial sector accounts for a fifth of our state’s greenhouse gas emissions. Enhanced building efficiency standards would catalyze investments in energy efficiency. With an aggressive new energy efficiency policy, our region could potentially meet 100 percent of its electricity load growth over the next 20 years with energy efficiency.

Vashon Audubon will go to Olympia
Audubon Washington typically hosts an advocacy day in Olympia early in the legislative session. Members from many of the 25 Audubon chapters across the state participate.

This year, Audubon will increase its impact by joining forces with the Environmental Priorities Coalition at a lobby day on Tuesday, Jan. 29.

If you would like to participate and show your support for conservation and climate action, please send an email to info@vashonaudubon.org.

Photo above: Aus Tex Solar.

Don’t miss our January program

Paul Bannick, professional photographer, conservationist, and accomplished public speaker, returns to Vashon on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 6 p.m. at the Vashon Theatre. Paul’s presentations combine breathtaking photos and videos, evocative audio, and first-person stories from the field.

In his program about North American owls, Paul uses intimate and dramatic images to follow owls through the course of one year in their distinct habitats. Audiences see each stage in an owl’s life: courtship, mating, and nesting in spring; fledging and feeding of young in summer; dispersal and gaining independence in fall; and winter’s migrations and competitions for food.

All 19 species found in Canada and the United States are featured in photos, video, and narrative, with a focus on the Northern Pygmy-Owl, Great Gray Owl, Burrowing Owl, and Snowy Owl.

Paul’s presentations are popular, and last year’s program sold out. We encourage Audubon members to come early.

The program is free; however, we appreciate donations at the door to help support this special event.

Close out the year with the Christmas Bird Count

As a grand finale to your holiday season, consider closing out the year by participating in the Vashon-Maury Island Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count (CBC). This year’s Vashon CBC will take place on Sunday, Dec. 30, from dawn to dusk, followed by a gathering at the Land Trust building at 5 p.m.

The annual Christmas Bird Count is the longest-running citizen science project in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the largest in the world. The CBC comprises a census of the individual birds found within more than 2,000 15-mile diameter count circles all across the region, with most located in the United States and Canada, but growing participation in Mexico, Central and South America as well as a few Pacific islands.

The Vashon count regularly records around 115-120 bird species, and recent counts have featured rarities such as Yellow-billed Loon, White-breasted Nuthatch and Red-shouldered Hawk. Our count circle includes all of Vashon and Maury Islands, a section of the Kitsap Peninsula along Colvos Passage and most of Blake Island to the north.

As this is a huge area, we’re looking for as many volunteers as we can find to help cover as much of it as possible. There are several ways to participate for people of all skill levels:

1. Join a team in the field
A number of field teams will venture out to cover particular portions of the count circle, including all of the various birding hot spots. Teams generally spend most or all of the day in the field, and observers with a team can expect to record around 30-50 species with the guidance of experienced team leaders.

2. Count birds at your feeder
If you don’t have the time or inclination to join one of the field teams, you can still help out by counting the birds at your feeder (or anywhere on your property). Birders of any skill level can contribute by spending just a few minutes counting their yard birds.

3. Owling parties
There will also be one or more owling parties heading out from 3 or 4 a.m. until dawn in the hope of hearing some owls calling.

4. Report owls from your neighborhood
As owls can be tricky to locate, another way to assist with the count would be to report any owls you hear calling over the next few weeks, particularly on the day of the count.

5. Allow shoreline access from your property
As there are many portions of the shoreline where there is no public access, if your house is on the waterfront anywhere other than Quartermaster Harbor, you can also help by granting permission to one of the field teams to count seabirds from your property.

At the end of the day we’ll congregate at the Land Trust building for our wrap-up meeting, where the stalwart birders who make this event happen share their triumphs and disappointments over warm drinks and light refreshments.

This year the CBC compiler and organizer will be Ezra Parker. Please contact him at 206-463-0383 or ezra@cfgrok.com if you’re interested in taking part in the count.

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