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Articles from The Sierra Wave for January/February, 1998

Volume 16, Number 3

Cover Illustration: Thomas Nuttall, Naturalist. See story,
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Evening Programs

Evening programs will be preceded by (1) announcements of interest to the membership, and (2) recent bird sightings and other news on the local natural history scene. Come prepared to participate!

January 14

Refreshments: Warren Allsup

Main Program: "Bringing back the Pronghorn Antelope", will be the January presentation by Joy Fatooh. The pronghorn antelope were part of the Eastern Sierra sage grouse landscape of meadows and rice grass at the turn of the century, but this graceful species totally disappeared from our area by the mid-century. A reintroduction effort was begun in 1982 by transferring antelope to our area and monitoring them. How the antelope are presently faring, how they historically existed, and their unique life history, including their propensity for crawling under fences instead of jumping over them will be the focus of this presentation.

Joy Fatooh is a wildlife biologist with the Bureau of Land Management, Bishop Resource Area, and has lived in the area for many years. Besides working on many wildlife projects for BLM, she has a varied background, as a writer for local publications, a wildlife artist and, in the past, has worked with children in local elementary schools.

February 11

Refreshments: Dorothy Burnstrom

Main Program: "Reintroduction of Peregrine Falcons into the Montana Kendall Mine Site" will be presented by geologist Benjamin J. Licari, of Ridgecrest. Peregrine Falcons, once native to the area, were nearly exterminated by widespread use of DDT prior to l970. None of us like the conditions left behind when mining companies close down and leave, but biologists are recognizing the value of mining reclamation projects with their steep rocky terrain and "pit walls" as ideal habitat for releasing the still rare Peregrine Falcon into the wild. The success of the release at the Kendall mine site is strong evidence that as mines close and begin their reclamation work, something good for the environment can come from it.

Benjamin J. Licari worked as a geologist and falcon enthusiast with Canyon Resource Corporation at the Kendall mine site, during the reclamation work in the 90's. Canyon Resource Corporation was the first mining company to take the voluntary step to enhance the reclamation activity at the mine by releasing Peregrine Falcons at the site. Presently, Mr Licari is the Business Development Manager with C. R. Briggs Corporation in Trona and has promised to update us on their work in the Panamints near Death Valley. He has also authored and overseen closure of the Carson Hill Gold Mine and the Jamestown Mine in California, both in environmentally sensitive locations.

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Chapter Notes


Please give a warm, winter welcome to the following new and returning members:

Margaret Bradburn

Dexter Leland

Geoffery McQuilkin

Sandra Whitehouse, Membership Chair


As I'm sure you all know, Peggy Gray was an active member of our Eastern Sierra Audubon chapter and was very generous in her gifts to us. Her enormous talent was warmly given to support our causes and projects.

Her last gift to us was in the form of a water color of a Magpie. She agreed that a signed and numbered limited edition of 100 prints could be made from this painting and made available to Audubon members, and then the general public. Since all of Peggy's paintings have been understandably withdrawn from sale by her family, this print provides perhaps a final opportunity to purchase her work. We are grateful to her husband Ray for locating this painting and being sure that we received it.

These prints are being sold for $30.00 each and have been generously matted by Steve Thomas of Thomas Photography. They can be seen by telephoning Sandra Whitehouse at 873-6314 after the first of the year. The monies from the sale of these prints will be used to support our Audubon chapter in its efforts to provide public education, to protect and to enhance our valuable ecosystem. This is what Peggy Gray wished to make possible. Once again we thank her.


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Yosemite NP Extends Comment Period

Yosemite National Park announces a thirty day extension of the public comment period for the Draft Yosemite Valley Implementation Plan from January 23,1998 to February 23,1998.

"The draft plan is critical to the future of Yosemite National Park, and we want to make sure everybody has time to review the plan and submit comments", stated Yosemite National Park Superintendent Stan Albright.

For more information regarding the Draft Yosemite Valley Implementation Plan, please call (209)372-0261. The VIP is also available on the Internet at

NAS 1998 Western Regional Conference, Asilomar

Make plans to join hundreds of other bird lovers, nature enthusiasts and environmental activists at the National Audubon Society's 1998 Western Regional Conference, April 4-7 at the Asilomar Conference Grounds on the beautiful Monterey Peninsula in Pacific Grove, California. Interactive workshops, inspiring speakers, exciting field trips and stimulating discussions will focus on this year's theme, "Adventures in Bird Conservation: A Century of Audubon Accomplishments."

Confirmed speakers include celebrated wildlife artist and conservationist Robert Bateman, renowned birder, and author of The Peterson Guide to Advanced Birding, Kenn Kaufman, distinguished photographer and naturalist, Arnold Small, and biologist and researcher Dee Boersma.

Other scheduled highlights include a special retrospective of Audubon's accomplishments during this century, and a 100th birthday party celebrating a century of the life and work of Hazel Wolf.

The conference also offers field trips to some of the most beautiful landscapes and bird-rich habitats in North America. Highlights this year include a pontoon boat ride through Elkhorn Slough, the ever-popular pelagic trip, and a special field trip featuring Kenn Kaufman.

You will enjoy a wide variety of workshops on topics including Backyard Habitat Enhancement, Birding Trails, Important Bird Areas, Growth Management, Habitat Restoration, and Sparrow Identification. We will also feature workshops which highlight Audubon's conservation efforts on behalf of forests, wetlands, national wildlife refuges, the Endangered Species Act and the Salton Sea.

It is important that you register early to reserve a spot on the more popular field trips. Also, you can save money by registering before January 19, 1998.

For more information, please contact the Audubon-California office at: (916) 481-5332 or by email:


Eleven enthusiastic and loyal highway clean-up volunteers made short work of our two mile stretch of 395 this Fall. Many thanks to Chris Howard, Gordon and June Nelson, Richard Schneider, John and Dorothy Burnstrom, Ruth and Larry Blakely, Sandra Whitehouse, and John and Ros Gorham. The trash of the day award went to John Gorham who found a dog bed that Mattie is now enjoying. See you next year same time same place!

John Gorham


A new batch of T-shirts are in - see Debby Parker.

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A Big Success

The December raffle added to that splendid evening's fun and enlightenment as well as adding around $400 to our chapter's coffers. Dorothy Burnstrom deserves much thanks for not only being the master mind and prime mover behind the raffle, but also for setting up for the potluck. Thanks to Wilson's Eastside Sports for displaying the prizes prior to the raffle, and to the Calico Quilters for providing the ticket shuffler. The raffle was ably and entertainingly conducted by Chris Rumm, Jim Parker, Chris Howard, Dorothy, and Amber Beach. Special thanks to all who contributed prizes:


Many thanks to the following businesses which contributed gift certificates or products: The Alpenrose Restaurant, Vern Clevenger Photographs, Whiskey Creek Restaurant, The Creekside Inn, Manor Market, Wye Road Feed, Wilson's Eastside Sports.


Hearty thanks to these individuals who each contributed one or more valuable prizes: Dick & Jean Cochran, Nick & Helen Keough, Sharon Rose, T. J. Johnston, Cynthia Siegel, Jack & Marylin Ferrell, Chris Rumm, Tom & Jo Heindel, Ruth & Larry Blakely, Robert Paschall, Warren Alsup, John & Dee Finkbeiner, Bonnie Reed, and Dorothy & John Burnstrom.


Three North American birds are named in honor of Thomas Nuttall: Nuttall's Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii, discovered and described by Nuttall's protege William Gambel in 1843; the Yellow-billed Magpie, Pica nuttalli, collected by Nuttall in 1835 and described and named by Audubon in1837; and the Common Poorwill, Phalaenoptilus nuttalii, named by Audubon in1844. All of these birds are found in California, and, in fact, only the Poorwill ranges much outside our state.

Over the course of his life Nuttall devoted most of his efforts to botany, and garnered most of his laurels in that field, but he nevertheless was influential in other areas of natural history, especially in ornithology. The first edition of his Manual of the Ornithology of the United States and of Canada came out in 1831. This charmingly and astutely written work was edited and reprinted throughout the rest of the 19th century and into the early 20th century. It is a delight to read to this day, especially for the species accounts. Following is the first paragraph of the Introduction to this venerable work.

OF all the classes of animals by which we are surrounded in the ample field of Nature, there are none more remarkable in their appearance and habits than the feathered inhabitants of the air. They play around us like fairy spirits, elude approach in an element which defies our pursuit, soar out of sight in the yielding sky, journey over our heads in marshalled ranks, dart like meteors in the sunshine of summer, or, seeking the solitary recesses of the forest and the waters, they glide before us like beings of fancy. They diversify the still landscape with the most lively motion and beautiful association; they come and go with the change of the season; and as their actions are directed by an uncontrollable instinct of provident Nature, they may be considered as concomitant with the beauty of the surrounding scene. With what grateful sensations do we involuntarily hail the arrival of these faithful messengers of spring and summer, after the lapse of the dreary winter, which compelled them to forsake us for more favored climes. Their songs, now heard from the leafy groves and shadowy forests, inspire delight, or recollections of the pleasing past, in every breast. How volatile, how playfully capricious, how musical and happy, are these roving sylphs of Nature, to whom the air, the earth, and the waters are alike habitable! Their lives are spent in boundless action; and Nature, with an omniscient benevolence, has assisted and formed them for this wonderful display of perpetual life and vigor, in an element almost their own.
Picture credits: Nuttall's Woodpecker - Farrand, Master Guide to Birding; Yellow-billed Magpie - Madge & Burn, Crows and Jays: Common Poorwill - Peterson, Western Birds. Nuttall engraving from Chronica Botanica 14(1), courtesy of the Bishop (Inyo Co.) Library.

Larry B.

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From National


As the new political year approaches, here is a look back at the first year of the 105th congress, as formulated by staff at National Audubon, and transmitted on the Audubon Advisory internet mail list (anyone can sign on to the list _ see our web site, National/CA section).

A Look at This Year's Successes and Setbacks

Audubon will face significant legislative challenges in the year ahead. Strong anti-environment forces were very active in the first half of the 105th Congress. Indeed, these forces have become more dangerous than they were in the previous 104th Congress. Camouflaging themselves in consensus rhetoric, foes of the environment are striving to appear reasonable to the general public and in the media. Yet careful examination continues to expose a legislative and political agenda that is destructive to birds, forests, wetlands, and the environment generally.

During this difficult time, Audubon has achieved a number of important successes. The National Wildlife Refuge Act, providing the legal foundation for the Refuge System, was signed into law. International family planning assistance was funded at last year's level without restrictions. Other key achievements are outlined below.

Success in Washington is sometimes defined by the bad things that didn't happen. Audubon worked hard to stop changes to weaken the Endangered Species Act, and fast track trade legislation that did not include environmental safeguards. Preventing these legislative proposals from passing Congress this year, makes it harder for the anti-environmental forces to pass bad environmental laws next session.

We did suffer some serious setbacks this first session. By one vote margins in both the House and Senate, substantial forest road subsidies continue. The Quincy Library Group proposal [see sidebar] passed the House and remains very much alive. Funding to build an outlet from Devils Lake, ND was passed into law, albeit with critical restrictions.

There is one vital constant in the legislative battles that have been taking place and will take place in Washington - Audubon Activists! It is your phone calls, letters, and emails that make a difference. There simply is no political substitute for contacting your Member of Congress or Senator. We need your voices to continue to make a difference in our effort to protect birds, habitat and the environment. other news The US Department of Agriculture issued a report condemning the Forest Service's long term plan for managing national forests in the Sierra Nevada range in northern California. In spite of a federal scientific commission's conclusions last year that the Sierra Nevada ecosystems were degraded by too much logging, mining, and other development, the Forest Service's management plan does not adequately incorporate this science. The USDA found that sensitive species are threatened by the plan, and that it allows too much logging in some areas. The Forest Service has agreed to amend the plan based on the USDA's critique.

Details can be found at National Audubon's web site:


Two Perspectives

As Congress finished up it's business [in November], action on the controversial Quincy Library Group bill was hot and heavy with proponents conducting last minute maneuvers and pushing for final passage.

Activity started in the House earlier this week, with Representative Helen Chenoweth (R-ID) introducing the Senate Energy Committee's version in the House, where it passed without any objections late Wednesday night. Although the House had already passed their own separate version of the Quincy bill in mid-July, differences with the Senate bill would need to be reconciled in conference. With the House now approving the Senate bill, these differences vanished, affectively speeding up the process by eliminating the need for a conference.

Thanks to a hold placed on the bill by Senator Leahy (D-VT), the Senate adjourned Thursday without passing the bill.

The Plumas Audubon Society, based in Quincy, CA, participates in the QLG and actively supports their management proposal. They feel the plan adequately protects the most important resources in these forests, that public participation opportunities were and will continue to be sufficient, and that environmental laws will be applied. Further, they feel they have accomplished this while providing fire protection for their community and maintaining good community relations.

But National Audubon Society opposes S. 1028 due to what we view as inadequate public participation opportunities, bad precedent for managing public lands and creating national forest plans, limited application of environmental laws, and a large-scale, unproved, and costly logging mandate that will degrade resources but probably not accomplish its goal of a healthy, fire-resistant forest.

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by Tom and Jo Heindel

Seasons come and go but from a birding viewpoint some are better than others. Most birders have experienced migrations that are easily forgettable; such was not the case for the fall of 1997. It was arguably the best one ever for Inyo County. Three species were recorded in the county for the first time ever. A Purple Gallinule, found by Jon Dunn, co-author of the National Geographic Society's Field Guide to North American Birds, at Furnace Creek Ranch on 23 September was not only a first for the county but only the third record for the state of California and the only adult as the other two were juveniles. Dozens of birders poured in from all over to view this bird and add it to their state bird list. On 30 September at Keeler a Ruff, a large shorebird with an inordinately small head and bill, was photographed. China Lake, just south of Inyo County, has a handful of records so this was a long overdue addition to the county bird list. On 5 October a Smith's Longspur was found at Furnace Creek Ranch which is only the fifth record for the state. This fall to remember boosted the Inyo County list total to 409 species! Several other species were discovered for which there are only 1 or 2 other records. A Parasitic Jaeger was found at North Haiwee Reservoir on 13 October which was a third county record. A Dusky-capped Flycatcher was found by Debby Parker just north of Bishop on 7 November which was only the third time that bird had been seen in the county. It stayed for three days allowing excellent views to many observers. A Sprague's Pipit was at Furnace Creek Ranch 10-18 October and was either the second or third county record. One was at Furnace Creek Ranch 2 October 1979 and 23 October 1979 and not found between those dates even though great birders searched. We are not convinced that these were two different birds and the fact that this is an especially rare bird in the state and only one other was found in all of CA during that fall makes us feel that it was probably one bird that was hiding where the birders were not birding. No one will ever know the answer to that dilemma. Many other species occurred which are considered rare in the entire state or rare away from the California coast. An Eurasian Wigeon was at North Haiwee Reservoir 8 November. Eight Surf Scoters and a White-winged Scoter (found by visiting birder Steve Glover) were unprecedented. A Red Phalarope was at Keeler 12 September and another one found by Bob Hudson at Independence 27 November was the latest ever seen in the county. An adult Sabine's Gull was at Tinemaha Reservoir 7 September and another at Klondike Lake, 10 miles north, the next day. Did this rare bird reverse its course and fly north the next day? Or were there two rare birds? Both were adults in similar plumage. Another enigma! A Gray Catbird was heard in north Bishop on 17 October and found the next day by Debby Parker. A Brown Thrasher was banded in Big Pine on 22 November. A Red-eyed Vireo was along the Owens River below Tinemaha dam 9 October. A beautiful male Black-throated Blue Warbler was at North Haiwee Reservoir 13 October. A Blackburnian Warbler spent 13-19 October in north Bishop. A Prairie Warbler was found by visiting birder Kathi Ellsworth near Grandview Campground in the White Mountains 2 September. A Prothonotary Warbler , found by visiting birder Michael Patten, was at Furnace Creek Ranch 10-12 October and an immature Painted Bunting, also found by Michael Patten, was there 24 September to 10 October. Other more regularly occurring species but still considered rare to very uncommon included: Pacific Loon, Greater Scaup, Hooded Merganser, White-tailed Kite, Peregrine Falcon, Vermilion Flycatcher, Winter Wren, Varied Thrush, Hermit Warbler, American Redstart, Northern Waterthrush, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Dickcissel, American Tree Sparrow, Clay-colored Sparrow, Lark Bunting, Grasshopper Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Harris's Sparrow, Lapland Longspur, Chestnut-collared Longspur, Bobolink, and Rusty Blackbird. WOW! Did you see all of these? Well, no matter. No one else did either although some tried! Take a deep breath because it is time to get ready for winter. Rough-legged Hawks are back and the first Northern Shrike has been in our backyard for the last few days. May the holidays and New Year bring you all the birds you desire!

Jim Parker and Coyote Girl on vacation in April, 1997, at Wilcox, Arizona Sewer Ponds, where, you can tell, "Birders are Welcome!". The folder Jim is holding has sightings of all sorts of birds found at the sewer ponds that visitors have recorded. How about something like this for the Bishop Sewer Ponds, still one of the best shorebird areas near Bishop?

Debby Parker

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