by Jamie Huson
North Cascades Audubon Society is a nonprofit dedicated to the conservation of wildlife in and around Whatcom County with a focus on birds and their habitat. Our organization operates from September through June each year, taking a break to allow folks to enjoy the wild nature of the Pacific Northwest during the precious summer window.
We offer a variety of programming for folks interested in understanding birds in our area. Each month we have a free program open to the public in partnership with the Whatcom Museum. These programs are educational and present avian or avian-adjacent topics ranging from ways to create bird-friendly backyard habitat to scientific studies of bird populations. Since 2020, we’ve offered both virtual and in-person events, and an archive of past programs is available to watch/listen at https://www.northcascadesaudubon.org/virtual-programs/.
We also offer monthly guided field trips. These trips vary each month due to the availability of volunteer leaders, as well as what the birds are up to. September through November trips are focused on fall migration, with our summer visitors leaving for warmer regions while northern birds descend to spend the colder months in our relatively warm climate. November through February are very exciting months to view large numbers of waterfowl as well as raptors. Waterfowl typically congregate in the waters of the Salish Sea and provide a fantastic opportunity to appreciate how our marine and terrestrial ecosystems interface. The farmland and intertidal wetlands of the Skagit and Nooksack deltas are where large flocks of snow geese, swans, and raptors survive, providing ample opportunity to view these birds.
March through June welcomes spring with the arrival of migrants from as far away as South America coming to nest and raise young. Some birds will spend all summer in Whatcom County, while others will stop over for a short time on their way farther north. To minimize impact, provide a great experience, and for logistics, field trips require registration, which opens one week ahead of each trip. For an up-to-date list of field trips, check our website monthly at https://www.northcascadesaudubon.org/events.
Online Forum: Whatcom Birds
North Cascades Audubon Society also hosts Whatcom Birds, an online forum for posting about birds. This is a great way to hear about local bird sightings, get ID on birds, or post your own birding adventures for others. We currently have about 300 folks involved in this group.
Membership is self-service and you can receive email updates for every post, a weekly summary, or a monthly summary. Thank you to all who participate already and especially to those willing to share their incredible photographs of our local birds. You can view or join at https://www.northcascadesaudubon.org/whatcom-birds/.
For over four decades, North Cascades Audubon Society has been involved in local conservation efforts and we invite you to join us. We conduct bird surveys throughout the county to capture baseline data to better understand trends in bird populations at the local level. This data is also input into eBird and used as part of larger studies and research by National Audubon Society, as well as universities and research groups around the world.
In partnership with Whatcom Land Trust, we survey properties in their portfolio multiple times per year. In partnership with RE Sources and the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, we also conduct seasonal surveys of the shorelines of the Cherry Point/Point Whitehorn Aquatic Marine Reserve. Finally, we also participate in the annual Christmas Bird Count, the longest running citizen science program, which collects data during a few weeks in December across the world.
To further our mission for science-based advocacy and conservation of wildlife, North Cascades Audubon Society funds scholarships for university graduate-level research. Each year we fund projects to study and collect data on species vital to our ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest.
Projects vary from terrestrial to marine environments and from directly on birds to their food and habitat as well. For a list of recent research studies funded, see https://www.northcascadesaudubon.org/scholarships/.
One project we are particularly proud of recently is a partnership near Kendall Elementary School. In partnership with the Whatcom Land Trust, North Cascades Audubon, Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association, Whatcom Conservation District, the Mount Baker School District and Kendall Elementary PTA, an area adjacent to the school was restored. The parcel of land was acquired by the Whatcom Land Trust. Since 2019, approximately 5,800 red osier dogwood, Sitka willow and Douglas spirea have been or will be planted with grant money received from National Audubon. The planting was done with guidance by the Whatcom Land Trust, but was primarily accomplished by students from 11 classrooms at Kendall Elementary School. Our members raised over $11,000 towards building a boardwalk and viewing platform/bird blind so kids from the school could have access to an outdoor learning area.
North Cascades Audubon Society is an entirely volunteer-run organization. We’re always looking for volunteers in a variety of capacities, whether it be website editing, counting birds, editing our monthly newsletter, or advocating to our Legislature in Olympia. Contact us with your passion and we can put your skills to use to conserve wildlife in and around Whatcom County (https://www.northcascadesaudubon.org/volunteer/).
Jamie Huson was born, raised, and has lived in Washington for 28 years. He’s a software engineer and his favorite bird is the Townsend’s solitaire. He is the current president of the North Cascades Audubon Society. He resides in Acme with his wife and two small children.