One man and his map mission
For two years, one man was on a mission to get Blaine and Birch Bay on the map � the first ever Great Washington State Birding Trail map that is.
Joe Meche, of the North Cascades Audubon Society, went to Seattle several times with statistics and piles of papers in hand to push Audubon Washington, the creator of the map, to include Blaine and Birch Bay. The map, called the Cascade Loop, originally excluded Marine Park, Semiahmoo spit and Birch Bay, and mainly highlighted areas on routes 20 and 2 in the state. This is the first of six state birding maps to be produced over the next several years.
Meche told Audubon Washington that the loop would fail if Blaine and Birch Bay, both designated as important birding areas, were not included.
�I had to make noise to be heard. It was frustrating. The birding loop has to be successful. You have to guarantee people they will see birds,� he said. �Other areas are snowed in six months of the year, but here there are birds year-round. I told them the bird loop would fail if they didn�t include Blaine and Birch Bay.�
For a while, those in charge of the map refused to listen to Meche about the local areas. But, an Audubon expert was eventually brought in, and he agreed with everything Meche said. �He absolutely echoed everything I was saying. Common sense ruled. The birds are here,� Meche said.
If the areas had not been included on the map, Meche said, it would be a long time before our communities would have appeared, because the next map will be a loop out of the area. ��Why not do it now?� he said. �When would it have been done? It was quite a process and it was right down to the wire,� he said. With the area now on the state map, he says he has one more mission to go on. �We�re on the map, but not on the website,� he said, with a laugh. �We�re treated like ugly step-children.�
Meche believes that Blaine and Birch Bay are premier birding areas because birds are here year-round. �Visitors can come in and actually see birds,� Meche said. �It�s a huge part of the natural world to see all of these birds out here.�
Both communities are labeled as important birding areas by Audubon. �The IBA program first started gathering steam in Washington state in 1997 when Audubon Washington entered into a partnership with the Washington Department of Fish And Wildlife (WDFW),� Meche said. �Fifty-three were designated as IBAs in Washington state.�
Meche and Audubon Washington vice president Dave Schmalz currently sit on the local bird committee, a mix of Blaine and Birch bay officials, business people and residents working to promote and share the area�s birding. The committee has pulled together a brochure, largely the work of Meche, for next week�s Brant Festival.
Ten of Meche�s photographs will be on display at the Semiahmoo Museum in time for the festival, and he will also be presenting a slide show on April 12 and 13 at Resort Semiahmoo. �I�m on a roll,� he said, about his involvement in all of the local birding activity. �And I love it.�
Birding is a passion for Meche, and he is excited that Blaine and Birch Bay are embracing it. �When I go birding, I always feel a link to every place I�ve ever been to watch birds,� he said. �It�s not an attempt to compare one place to another, but just a feeling of peace that comes from being outdoors and doing something I really enjoy doing.�
Meche is the editor of Avalanche, the newsletter of the North Cascades Audubon Society, and writes for Whatcom Watch, a monthly eco-friendly publication in the county. He has been watching birds for over 50 years.
�Birds have been an endless source of fascination for me for as far back as I can remember,� he said. �The great thing about birding is that you can go in as deeply as you want or just sit back and enjoy. Oronthology (the study of birds) is a fascinating thing.�