Category Archives: What’s new

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)

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.

You can contribute to this vital seabird science by joining the 13th 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 Fort Ward Park, Bainbridge Island Thursday, September 19, 2019, or at Fort Worden Park, Port Townsend Wednesday, September 25, 2019.

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 locations, at and email Toby Ross, Senior Science Manager if you would like more information or to take part.

Mew Gull photo by Mick Thompson

We’re advocating for birds on many fronts

Vashon Audubon advocates for conservation policies that benefit birds and our environment. It’s been a busy winter/spring on that front.

In January, several Vashon Audubon members went to Olympia to lobby for environmental legislation. We joined Audubon members from around the state, as well as quite a few other folks from Vashon representing other groups. The 100% Clean Electricity bill (SB5116) was one of our priorities, and we are thrilled that the legislature passed this bill—the strongest clean-electricity bill in the nation.

The Vashon Audubon board voted to support the Vashon Parks Levy. The Park District is responsible for critical bird habitat, including Fisher Pond, Point Robinson, and Fern Cove.

The King County Council is considering a countywide parks levy, which would go on ballots in August. This levy would replace an expiring levy that was last approved by voters in 2013. The Vashon Audubon board voted to support this levy. Resources from King County parks support critical bird habitat on Vashon and elsewhere in the county.

Finally, we submitted comments on the SEPA process for the proposed Tramp Harbor Shellfish Project. We are not taking a position on the merits of the project, as there isn’t enough information right now to make that decision. But we are concerned that the environmental scoping documents ignored the presence of many wintering birds in that area. The documents made almost no mention of birds, and we are asking the County to correct that deficiency. We need to understand what impact the shellfish growing operation might have on those bird populations.

For more information, contact Conservation Chair Randy Smith at

2018 Christmas Bird Count results

Last winter’s Christmas Bird Count was held on Sunday, December 30, 2018. This was the 20th year for the Vashon count circle and there was strong turnout once again, with 79 people joining teams to count in the field, as well as 23 feeder watchers. This time around the weather was surprisingly cooperative, with mostly clear skies, warm temperatures and relatively little wind.

While a number of teams reported that it was a slow birding day, the overall total of 21,847 individual birds counted was actually slightly above the historical average. The species count came in higher as well, with a total of 117 species tallied on count day, and an additional three records for count week.

Although there were no new species found this year, we did turn up several birds that are not frequently recorded on the CBC. A Snow Goose was spotted by the Quartermaster Harbor boat team, which is only the second time this species has been detected (with the first falling during count week). A lone Canvasback was seen out at Long Lake, which is the fourth sighting for the count, and the first in over a decade, as the last time one was counted was back in 2007.

The owling team on the Kitsap Peninsula turned up a Northern Pygmy-Owl, which is only the second record for the count circle. An individual of the rare Yellow-shafted race of Northern Flicker was seen at Lisabeula Park, as well as a couple of intergrades (birds exhibiting both Red-shafted and Yellow-shafted characteristics) at a feeder watcher’s yard in Gig Harbor – this is the second occurrence for both forms. Finally, a Townsend’s Solitaire was spotted out toward the eastern end of Maury Island, marking the third time this species has been noted.

There were record high counts for a fair number of species: Northern Pintail (42), Ring-necked Duck (260), Lesser Scaup (64), Common Goldeneye (830), Brandt’s Cormorant (187), Cooper’s Hawk (13), Spotted Sandpiper (9), Wilson’s Snipe (13), Ring-billed Gull (46), Eurasian Collared-Dove (35), Northern Flicker (196), Hutton’s Vireo (19), California Scrub-Jay (4), Red-breasted Nuthatch (170), Brown Creeper (30), Bewick’s Wren (72) and Yellow-rumped Warbler (62). A couple tied the previous high count: Red-tailed Hawk (38) and Virginia Rail (5).

A few notable misses were Ring-necked Pheasant, which has been absent for the last two years after being found in all 18 years prior, Sanderling, which has now been missed for the last three years after being present for all 17 before that, and Brant, which was seen in 13 of 19 past years. There were also a couple of record lows for species seen every year: Rock Pigeon (114) and European Starling (379).

Waterfowl numbers were generally up, particularly those species found primarily on freshwater. A few exceptions were American Wigeon (2,345), which was down about 30 percent from its historical average, and White-winged and Black Scoter, both of which were around 50 percent off their mean. Other seabird numbers are rather mixed – while some were relatively steady or increased, others such as the three loon species and Red-necked and Western Grebe continue to come in significantly lower than in the past.

As is often the case, there were few shorebird species seen, although those found were present in good numbers aside from Killdeer (37), which was around 50 percent below average. Overall, alcids were seen in higher numbers than the last few years, although Marbled Murrelet did not make the list. Gulls were very mixed, with some species seen in high or record numbers, while the combined count of Glaucous-winged and “Olympic” Gull (420) was down by about 30 percent.

This was another good year for diurnal raptors and owls, with numbers above average for all the regularly occurring species, with a couple setting or tying record high counts. Woodpeckers were seen at well above average numbers across all of the five species.
Most of the passerine numbers were higher than average, particularly the species that tend to be found in mixed foraging flocks in winter, such as chickadees, wrens and kinglets. Among the species seen every year, only a handful came in noticeably lower than average, including American Crow (825), European Starling (379), Red-winged Blackbird (166), House Finch (120), Red Crossbill (6) and Pine Siskin (671).

– Ezra Parker, Christmas Bird Count coordinator

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.

Citizen science opportunity

Beginning this spring, Vashon Audubon will be participating in the National Audubon Climate Watch citizen science program.

We will be using a standardized protocol to record sightings and vocalizations of Red-breasted Nuthatches at 12 sites on Vashon Island. The observations will take place twice a year between May 15 and June 15 and again between January 15 and February 15.

Observations will be done on a single day for 5 minutes at each of the 12 sites. The observations will become part of the national data base used to document changes in nuthatch range as it may relate to climate change.

We are soliciting volunteers to take part in the program. Ideally we would like to have three or four teams with two or three members. We will proving training on island and coordinate data collection.

If you are interested in participating or have questions about the program please contact Scott Anderson at or 503-385-6475.

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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »


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