Admiralty Audubon Society working for the wild spaces

Posted 11/29/23


It’s not just birds. Founded 45 years ago, Port Townsend’s Admiralty Audubon Society has been a driving force in area efforts to protect the wild outdoors.

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Admiralty Audubon Society working for the wild spaces



It’s not just birds. Founded 45 years ago, Port Townsend’s Admiralty Audubon Society has been a driving force in area efforts to protect the wild outdoors.

“Certainly we’re focused on birds,” says society president Rick Jahnke, “but we’re (also) focused on the environment that birds are responsive to. So, our chapter focuses on many things related to protecting habitat and educating people about the native plants’ role in supporting birds and wildlife.”

With about 300 members, the society is one of the smaller Audubon chapters in the region —Kitsap and Sequim are significantly larger—but it plays a key role. “We’re smaller,” says Jahnke, “but we’ve done some good things for the community.” In addition to being the prime venue for those interested in spotting and recording birds, it is a force for protecting them as well.

Forty years ago the society teamed with the Nature Conservancy to press local, state and federal governments to form the Protection Island National Wildlife Refuge. Today that refuge is a nesting ground for almost three fourths of Puget Sound’s seabird species.

Currently, the society is heavily focused on two local projects—developing native plants at the Salish Coast Elementary School and continuing its decades-long involvement in the development of the Kah Tai Lagoon. Just last week, society volunteers weeded and cleaned the Salish School plots where the chapter is cultivating nearly 800 native plants. Next week a work party will gather at the lagoon to continue the assault on invasive plants like Scotch Broom, holly and ivy and to pick up trash.

The lagoon is a point of pride for Jahnke and other Admiralty members. In the early 60s it was, literally, a wasteland, the deposit site for the hundreds of thousands of yards of dredged-up waste from the excavation of the Boat Haven. In the ensuing years, the Society formally adopted the lagoon and worked for its rehabilitation, introducing several thousand native trees and plants. In the 60s there wasn’t a blade of grass, says Jahnke, and certainly no wildlife. Today, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology—the world leader in avian research—says 187 species of birds have been reported there in the past 12 months.

The efforts of the society come at a critical time. The National Audubon Society reports that nearly 400 bird species in North America are under threat, among them locals like the Scarlet Tanager, the Rufous Hummingbird and the Piping Plover. It blames the threat, in large part, on climate change.

It’s a threat the society is very aware of. Jahnke says, “We’re very active in trying to keep the habitat that will help the birds adapt to whatever climate change throws their way.”

That effort to maintain the habitat centers on the Society’s work parties—groups of 10 or so volunteers who grab the hoes, buckets and gloves and take the battle to the brush. Their main goal is to re-introduce native plants into the environment, for it’s those plants and their pollen that provide the food that keeps the birds thriving.

Ron Sikes is secretary of the society and leads the work parties. “I think I’m making my community a better place,” he says.

Those interested in joining the society or volunteering for work parties are encouraged to email them at or visit their website