Islanders speak up for birds

Members of Vashon Audubon and other Audubon chapters across the state advocated for birds during Environmental Lobby Day in Olympia on Thursday, Jan. 30.

In the photo above, Vashon Islanders Sarah Driggs, Margie Morgan, Virginia Lohr, and Steve Hunter (first row, 5th-2nd from the right) join other Audubon chapter members on the Capitol steps. The number of environmental advocates swelled to around 400 as other participants in the Environmental Priorities Coalition arrived later.

Together, they called for action in four areas:

  • Establish a Clean Fuels Standard, HB 1110 | SB 5412. This standard would require fuel producers and importers to reduce pollution from the fuels that power our transportation sector, which is responsible for nearly half of our state’s climate and air pollution.
  • Reduce Plastic Pollution, SB 5323. The Reusable Bag Act would eliminate thin, carry-home plastic bags at all retail establishments, reducing plastic in our waterways, ocean, and recycling equipment (which gets clogged up with plastic).
  • Establish Limits on Climate Pollution, HB 2311 | SB 6272. This legislation would set credible and ambitious climate pollution limits, provide clear direction to meet these limits, and invest in nature-based solutions like trees and soils to capture excess carbon.
  • Protect and Restore Habitats for Healthy Orcas, HB 2550.  This bill would respond to decades of development-related habitat loss by setting a new standard—net ecological gain—to leave our environment better for future generations.

Audubon Washington is also advocating for bills concerning Sustainable Farm and Fields, SB 5947, and Zero Emission Vehicles, SB 5811.

In meetings with 34th district legislators or their aides, Vashon Audubon members stressed that more than 140 bird species in Washington are at high or moderate risk of devastating population declines because of climate change, adding to the urgent need to take climate action now.

The Vashon group also thanked our delegationSen. Joe Nguyen, Rep. Eileen Cody, and in particular Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon—for continuing to be outstanding leaders in crafting climate solutions.

If you would like to stay abreast of developments in the legislature, sign up for Audubon Washington’s weekly legislative tracker.

Clean-fuel standard could help birds at risk from climate change

To avoid the worst impacts of climate change on people and birds, we must drastically reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. In the Puget Sound region, that means focusing on the transportation sector, which produces more than 43 percent of the climate pollution in our area. The biggest contributors are gasoline and diesel.

Two efforts are in the works to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency has proposed a clean fuel standard that would reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels by 25 percent by 2030. The standard would apply to King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish counties.

The proposed clean fuel standard would set a limit on greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fuels. This would give an advantage to cleaner fuels like electricity and biofuels, leading to more infrastructure and better access to these fuels for everyone. Low-carbon biofuels could come from locally sourced materials, including food, agricultural and forest waste.

On the state level, Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, who represents Vashon Island, sponsored a low-carbon fuel standard in the last legislative session. Gov. Jay Inslee has asked the Legislature to pass this standard in the 2020 session. Passage of the PSCAA’s proposed standard could push the legislature to pass a similar standard that would apply statewide.

Washington Audubon has expressed support for the PSCAA’s proposed rule and has made a low-carbon fuel standard one of its priority issues in the state’s 2020 legislative session.

You can advocate for a clean-fuel standard by joining Vashon Audubon’s contingent to Audubon Washington’s lobby day in Olympia, to be held January 30. Send a message to if you want to participate. In addition to a clean-fuel standard, Audubon will be supporting a 100 percent clean-electricity standard that would phase out coal-generated electricity and phase in electricity from clean resources, and a clean-building package designed to reduce new buildings’ energy use.

Ring in the New Year with the Christmas Bird Count

“Barrow’s Goldeneye” by Fyn Kynd is licensed under CC BY 2.0

As a grand finale to your holiday season, consider celebrating the New Year by participating in the Vashon-Maury Island Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count (CBC). This year’s Vashon CBC will take place on Sunday, January 5, 2020, 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 on your property. Birdwatchers of any skill level can contribute by spending just a few minutes counting their feeder or 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
Owls can be tricky to locate, so 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.

Please contact Vashon CBC Coordinator Ezra Parker at 206-463-0383 or if you are interested in taking part in the count.

2018-2019 Annual Report

Thanks to member support and participation, Vashon Audubon had notable accomplishments in 2018-2019:


100% clean electricity by 2045! Audubon members and others, seen above with Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, successfully advocated for legislation to reduce carbon emissions.

PGVolunteers surveyed Pigeon Guillemots at Point Robinson in collaboration with Vashon Nature Center, contributing to our region’s understanding of these birds.

We also conducted the annual Christmas Bird Count and our popular monthly birding field trips.

Paul Bannick wowed a standing-room-only crowd as he shared his amazing photos of owls at the Vashon Theatre. Three other programs this year focused on climate change and native plants for birds.

Our updated website,, enabled users to join or renew membership online, submit comments and questions, and find an array of birding resources.

PurpleFinch-StephenDaly-ann-mtg-2Talented young photographers—along with seasoned shutterbugs—contributed to our 2019 Birds of Vashon calendar. Stephen Daly’s Purple Finch was our April bird.


4th-grade-drawings-breeze-way-croppedAudubon participated in Chautauqua Elementary School’s 4th grade birding program, as we have for nearly 25 years. We presented educational programs and led a field trip. Artist Bruce Morser led the students in creating bird paintings that livened up the VCA breezeway.


Financial and membership reporting for the year ending April 2, 2019

Income $10,684
Expenses $7,593
Savings $6,073

Households 179
Individuals 283

2018 Board members

Julie Burman, President
Scott Anderson, Vice President
Fran O’Reilly, Secretary
Lindsay Hofman, Treasurer
Sarah Driggs, Communications Chair
Randy Smith, Conservation Chair
Steve Macdonald, Membership Chair
Dana Hofman, At-Large
Carol Eggen, At-Large

Key volunteers

Michael Tracy and Michael Sperazza, Programs; Ezra Parker, Field Trips, CBC, and more; Harsi Parker, Education; Richard Rogers, Facebook

Vote for our 2019-2020 board of directors (only Vashon Audubon members may vote)

Help prevent House Finch disease

House Finches may become infected with a bacterial eye disease, avian conjunctivitis, that causes red, swollen, runny, or crusty eyes. Purple Finches, Goldfinches, and other birds may become infected as well.

Photo by Stanton Hunter

In extreme cases the eyes become swollen shut and the bird becomes blind. You might observe an infected bird sitting quietly in your yard, clumsily scratching an eye against its foot or a perch. Birds will often sit fluffed up as their energy reserves diminish. While some infected birds recover, most die from starvation, exposure, or predation.

Avian conjunctivitis easily spreads at bird feeders. When a sick bird finds a feeder, it may be reluctant to leave that food source because it cannot see. Healthy birds pick up the infection and spread it to other feeders.

You can help reduce the spread of the disease by following this routine to disinfect your bird feeders:

  • Twice each week allow the seed to empty in the feeder.
  • Clean any debris and bird droppings from the feeder.
  • Clear the feeder and soak it in a solution of one part bleach to 30 parts water solution for 15 minutes.
  • Rinse the feeder and allow it to completely dry before refilling it with fresh seed.

Also consider removing your bird feeders this time of year, when the food birds need is naturally abundant.