“To Feed or to Fight? Behavioral Eco physics of Hummingbirds” Presented by: Alejandro Rico-Guevara, PhD. Tuesday, September 14, 7:00 PM
Energetically constrained animals have evolved adaptations to enhance caloric intake. On the other hand, animal competition sometimes turns into physical combat, and particular weaponry evolves. Dr. Rico-Guevara will present findings on each of these fronts, along with a case study of hummingbird bill weapons. These discoveries revive questions about how these birds budget energy gain and expenditure to enable hovering, the most expensive form of locomotion, establishing coevolutionary relationships with the plants they pollinate.
Dr. Alejandro (Alejo) Rico-Guevara is an evolutionary biologist. He attended Universidad Nacional de Columbia as an undergraduate. He received his PhD. from the University of Connecticut as a Fulbright Scholar and carried out postdoctoral research as a Miller Fellow at UC Berkeley. He received the Pitelka Award for excellence in research from the International Society for Behavioral Ecology. His research has been featured by the NY Times, National Geographic Magazine, and in 6 nature documentaries/TV series, in addition to articles in numerous peer-reviewed publications. He is an Assistant Professor at the University of Washington and the Curator of Ornithology at the Burke Museum.
Please register for this Zoom event at: https://bit.ly/septsas Preregistration is required and is limited to 100 attendees. Please only one registrant per household. After you register you will receive an email with the link to sign in at the time of the event. Questions? Please contact email@example.com.
================================================================================== Due to the continuing emergency response to the COVID-19 virus, our in-person member meetings, field trips and hikes, and most other activities have been cancelled until further notice. This includes the offer of personal field trips for future donations to Skagit Audubon Society of $100 or more. Please visit our website for updates.
Conservation Report - September 2021
By Tim Manns
Summer provided a pause in Audubon’s involvement in local environmental issues as the Skagit County Planning Commission mulled over the many public comments on the draft Shoreline Master Program, Planning & Development Services followed up on the docketed Comprehensive Plan changes, and so on. In the last few months, through generous private donations and public grants Skagit Land Trust protected 50 more acres of important bird habitat at the entrance to Samish Island and added 3.5 protected acres at the March Point heronry, largest on the West Coast. And there were positive environmental developments at the state and national level.
With that introduction, I need to shift this report’s tone and focus on a significant threat to both human well-being and wildlife in Skagit County mentioned briefly in the last Skagit Flyer. We look to the state’s Growth Management Act (GMA) to protect the environment, prevent uncoordinated growth, and ensure quality of life. People value the rural character of much of Skagit County with its world-class agricultural soils and extensive forests. Audubon members also recognize the importance these rural areas have for supporting bird populations. Trumpeter and Tundra Swans, Snow Geese, many species of ducks, Dunlin and other shorebirds, raptors: all depend on farmland as an important component of the habitat they require. Many other species need the varied forests and wetlands of Skagit County.
Under the GMA, Skagit County must accept a certain amount of human population growth. By agreement among the county’s incorporated towns and the county, 80% of this growth is to be accommodated within the towns or their adjacent designated “urban growth areas” (UGAs). Since 2015, Bellingham-based developer “Skagit Partners” has repeatedly sought the County Commissioners’ permission to build a so-called “Fully Contained Community” (FCC) in Skagit County. In a concession made to help ensure its passage in 1990, the GMA allows these large housing developments at urban density to be built in rural areas if a county so chooses. FCCs can include thousands of homes, and because they are in unincorporated areas, there are none of the services incorporated municipalities provide. Developers thus leave it to the county to add to its responsibilities the provision of basic services such as fire, police, and public works departments, libraries, schools, etc., all funded by the residents of the whole county.
Changing tactics following repeated denial of permission for a particular FCC (“Avalon”), Skagit Partners has now requested a change in the county’s planning policies to give general permission for FCC’s. If granted by the County Commissioners, the door will be open for not one, but many, large scale housing developments on rural land over future decades, changing Skagit County forever to an array of sprawling suburban developments with ever less farmland and forest. In May of this year, the Skagit County Commissioners ignored 700 letters in opposition (one Commissioner openly stating he chose not to read them) and docketed the petition to amend the county’s planning policies to allow FCCs. Docketing directs the county’s planning department to further study the proposed policy change and sets up the very real possibility of final approval by the Commissioners. Under Skagit County’s antiquated three-Commissioner system, it takes just two votes to approve even so monumental a change as this.
Counties nearer Seattle which allowed FCC’s now regret these large housing developments which plunk urban density onto rural areas leaving the county responsible for all services. Several have reversed their FCC policies. Skagit County’s UGAs have enough capacity for the projected growth. Developer Skagit Partners argues that FCCs will solve Skagit’s housing shortage and provide much-needed affordable housing. The very real shortage is no reason to ignore the fact that Skagit’s towns and UGAs have sufficient capacity for more development, and there is no guarantee that FCC housing will be “affordable” or will provide housing needed by people here now. The more accurate term for FCCs is sprawl. Opening the door to them would significantly threaten Skagit’s agricultural and forested lands. The lack of sufficient housing and its skyrocketing cost are serious problems, but allowing multi-thousand home developments outside incorporated areas is not the solution and could well mean the end of much that we value, including habitat for swans, snow geese, bald eagles, dunlin, falcons, ...
Welcome back from summer and when we signed off in June, fledglings were starting to pop up all over the place. Young Spotted Towhees learned how to use those large tails and several Song Sparrow youngsters spent several days whizzing in and out of flowerpots on the back patio as they gained independence from their parents. Now fall migration is well underway and some of our local hotspots are hosting American Avocets and Red-necked Phalaropes. Soon we will say goodbye to Wilson’s Warblers, Black-headed Grosbeaks and Western Tanagers as they depart for their wintering grounds hundreds or even thousands of miles to the south of us. During the summer I also experimented with some new plants for birds. For the first time I planted some Crocosmia and within a day the Anna’s Hummingbirds were using it regularly. Another popular hummingbird plant was the Blue-black Salvia and bees spend hours each day feeding on the sunflower blossoms. Their pollination will ensure a bounty of sunflower seeds for the birds in a few weeks. Enjoy this transition from summer to fall and I hope you have made some new discoveries as well!
THE BIG SIT – by Denny Quirk
The Big Sit is a free community birding event open to individuals and teams all over the world. Mark your calendar as this year The Big Sit runs Saturday October 9 and Sunday October 10. Last year Skagit Audubon Society fielded a Big Sit team for the first time at Wiley Slough (Skagit Wildlife Area - Headquarters Unit). Our rotating cadre of thirteen observers identified 60 species from a single location over a ten-hour period! Generous SAS members took the initiative to pledge $1 per species seen by the team in support of the Skagit Audubon Society Environmental Conservation Scholarship. Additionally, nine members conducted their own Big Sit counts and some even received custom built nest boxes in recognition of their species counts or observing the secret species.
We plan to field an observer team at Wiley Slough again this year - most likely on Saturday October 9. Covid expectations for team participants, how to sign up for an observer shift, and how to make a pledge will be outlined in a forthcoming communication to all members. You are also encouraged to conduct your own Big Sit and participate from wherever you want - backyard, park, public wildlife area, etc. Visit www.thebigsit.org to learn more about how you can conduct your own count and log observations.
The Education Committee needs volunteers to help with a number of adult presentations coming up in the next several months. These Power Point presentations are scheduled at libraries and private organizations/clubs in the area. If you can help give part of a presentation (already written), that would be great; or, you can assist with the computer and help answer questions from the audience. If you can lend a hand, please contact Sheila at firstname.lastname@example.org
Skagit Audubon Society holds monthly meetings on the second Tuesday of each month except for the months of July and August. We meet at 7:00 pm at Padilla Bay Interpretive Center(Google map), 10441 Bayview-Edison Rd. Mount Vernon. Meetings are open to all.
The board of directors meets at the same location at 7:00 pm on the first Tuesday of each month, except for the months of July and August.