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Articles from The Sierra Wave for May/June, 1998

Volume 16, Number 5

Magpie at Isaac Walton Park - Join it and Fellow Auduboners at the June Picnic! Photo: Larry Blakely

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!

May 13

Refreshments: TBA

Main Program: "Mono Lake on the Rise", a slide show by Bartshe Miller. The presentation will focus on Mono Lake natural history and the water issue, with a look toward the future from the present state of the lake. Included will be some interesting new natural history information on grebes and phalaropes, and the current status of the CA gull rookery. New images of the lake taken since its 8 foot rise in water level will be shown.

Bartshe graduated from Northwestern University in 1988 with a B.A. in United States History. He has worked for two years as Education Director of the Mono Lake Committee. Before MLC, he worked for three years with the Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area. An Arizona native, he was educated in the midwest, and has a professional background in environmental education.

June 10

Potluck Picnic Dinner, Isaac Walton Park (across from Elks/Bulpitt Park out W. Line St., Bishop). MEET AT 6:00 PM. Bring a dish to share, something to drink, and your tableware. Come and enjoy fellowship, good food, and the election of officers for next year.

Chapter Notes


Christopher K. Rumm

By the time one reads this newsletter, the Inyo County Board of Supervisors will have decided the fate of a resolution presented to them by the People for the USA - (formerly People for the West) -PFUSA. The proposed resolution asks the Board to support the release of eighteen Bureau of Land Management Wilderness Study Areas-WSA's - in Inyo and Mono Counties.

The PFUSA cites the loss of accessibility and the suffering of economic and social 'harm' from 'excessive wilderness designation' as its reasoning for the local resolution.

First, let me give some background information. What are WSAs? These are areas greater than 5,000 acres, generally roadless, and they possess wilderness characteristics such as unique natural features, unusual geology, or contain wildlife habitat. Congress authorized the B.L.M. to inventory "all suitable wilderness areas" as part of the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act. In 1991, the B.L.M. submitted its findings to Congress. Out of a total of 274,865 suitable acres in Inyo and Mono Counties the B.L.M. recommended only 28,291 acres (in the southern Inyo's) as potential wilderness. At that time the Bush Administration did not advocate the creation of any new wilderness. It was not until the Clinton Administration and Congress passed the Desert Protection Act in 1994 that 40,000 acres of these WSA's became wilderness. This left 18 WSA's with a total of 234,515 acres remaining.

Currently, these areas encompass a wide variety of landscapes and includes portions of the Tablelands, Bodie Hills, Fish Slough, and Crater Mountain, to name a few. The future classification of these WSAs is at stake. None of these WSA's can be removed from the list without an act of Congress. The PFUSA's ultimate goal is to seek Congressional release of these lands and have them designated for multiple-use after they muster up enough local support to do so.

What is the ESAS's position on this? After having discussed this at length with our Conservation Committee, we've decided on two courses of action: 1.) We will ask the Board of Supervisors to immediately vote 'no', or decide to take a course of 'no action' on this issue. 2.) We are going out 'into the field' with members of other local conservation organizations to conduct inventories of all the local WSA's. We will take photos, conduct walking excursions into each WSA, conduct a survey of the plant and animal species, and the geological and archaeological features present, and prepare a summary report for each individual WSA. (We have already inventoried Symnes Creek WSA, Independence Creek WSA, and Crater Mountain WSA.) Even if the Board of Supervisors votes 'yes' to support the resolution, the real battle to de-list these WSA's will take place at the national level. We urge all members to support the non-release of these WSA's. It is not too late to write, call, or e-mail our local and federal officials and voice your support.

Editor's Note: As reported in the local press, the Supervisors voted on April 21 to endorse the People for the West/USA's position in favor of withdrawing the WSAs. The vote was 4 - 1, with Supervisor Bear casting the lone nay vote. The Board took this action in spite of appeals by many Inyo Co. residents for the Board to not support the PFUSA positon. Speakers against the position included several ESAS members.


Eastern Sierra Audubon welcomes the following new members:

Joanne Carmichael
Lou Clark
Craig Framer
Mr. and Mrs. Jim Langley
Sue Means
Lori George Vest

Sandra Whitehouse

REMEMBER... There are still Peggy Gray prints available. Don't miss this opportunity to have a piece of her work. If you wish to reserve a print call Sandra Whitehouse at 873-6314.


Vacancies exist

Please see President Chris Rumm if you are interested!


More volunteers needed

Gordon Nelson

We could use several more volunteers for our Fish Slough patrol. The time required is only about day every four to six weeks. Please phone me at 873-7489 if you would like to participate.

This patrol is important to our Audubon Chapter, and our current volunteers should be proud of what they have accomplished. National recognition for our efforts has been given to us by the Bureau of Land Management. Also, it would surprise many of our members how much credit and appreciation is given to our volunteers at our regular Fish Slough ACEC meetings by the agencies involved, which are DWP, BLM, Calif. Fish & Game, U. S. Fish & Wildlife and the Univ. of Calif.

Editor's Note: Gordon and the volunteers working with him have received much recognition for the work at Fish Slough. See the Sept/Oct, 1996, issue of the Wave for stories and photos on the presentation to the ESAS of the BLM Director's Health of the Land Award, 8/1/96. This year, on April 28, Gordon will be awarded the BLM's Making A Difference Award for his efforts at Fish Slough. Only eight other Americans will receive the award this year. Hearty congratulations, Gordon!

Field Trips


Chris Howard


2 Baker Creek Birding Earl Gann

9 Intl' Migratory Bird Day Tom and Jo Heindel

16 Spring Migration John Finkbeiner

23 Bishop Birding Jim and Debby Parker

30 Bristlecone Loop Hike Chris Rumm


6 Deep Springs Birding/Toads Susan Szewczak


20 Papoose Flats Kathy Duvall and Clem Nelson

27 Glacier Lodge Birding Eliot Gann



11 Freetail Bat Overnight Joe Szewczak

18 Sierra Hike John and Dorothy Burnstrom

25 Highway Cleanup John and Ros Gorham



8 Telescope Pk. Overnight Chris Rumm

15, 22 OPEN

29 Birding John and Ros Gorham


5 Glass Cr. Meadow Hike Ray Gray and James Wilson

12 Sierra Hike Chris Howard


Bishop Sewage Ponds Birding

March 28, 1998

Leader: Larry Nahm

Among human recreationists, maybe only birders could find sewage ponds attractive, although photographers early this morning would have enjoyed capturing reflections of the snowy mountains in the many calm pools.

45 species were noted by six enthusiasts bundled up against the cold. A large assortment of ducks filled the cleanest ponds. Highlights included a wood duck in a tree, blue-winged teal, an osprey flying overhead, and five black-crowned night herons.

Exploring the habitat east of the fences we observed kestrels hovering or perched upon prey, a sharp-shinned hawk, and several shorebirds.

Larry Nahm

Joint ESA/CNPS Field Trip in the Panamint Mountains

April 4-5, 1998

Leaders: Kathy Duvall and Mark Bagley

What a well-scouted trip amid blooming fields this was! About 17 people, some of whom learned about us via the Internet, convened at Panamint Springs and took the dirt road to Ballarat, where most of us spent a chilly night. The first day we ascended Jackpot Springs Wash and walked to a mining area, then drove to, and strolled among, the lowest Panamint daisies at about the 2800 foot elevation. In the low light the vast panorama was memorable.

The next morn we climbed narrowing, verdant Happy Canyon, being waved at by high-stemmed gravel ghosts. Showy yellow primroses on reddish stalks were adundant. There bloomed chia and various phacelia, cryptantha, gilia. immense garden. (The experts identified more than 70 species during the two days, and CNPS always provides a checklist.) We surmounted several cascades and crossed the surprisingly full stream several times. Barrel cacti had tumbled from the cliffs above and now lay near ferns and mosses. Well after lunch and well-satisfied we turned back where willows choked the way.

Oh, yesthe birds! Migration was not yet prolific, but we did record, among others: Scott's oriole, red-naped sapsucker, phainopeplas, blue-gray gnatcatchers, orange-crowned warblers, black-throated sparrows, and white-throated swifts. On the valley floor Warm Sulphur Springs and Post Office Springs invited long looks.

Larry Nahm

Bird-banding Field Trip

Jo Heindel demonstrates banding to fascinated participants; the event was held at the Heindels' home on Feb. 27. Photo: Larry Blakely



Excerpt from THE AUDUBON ADVISORY, National Audubon's Weekly Policy Report, April 24th, 1998:

The population explosion of Lesser Snow Geese has had an extensive, destructive, and potentially irreversible effect on arctic and sub-arctic staging and breeding habitats, testified Audubon's head scientist, Dr. Frank Gill. The Oversight Hearings on the Impact of Snow Geese on the Arctic Resources were held by the Subcommittee on Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife, and Oceans of the House Resources Committee.

Consensus emerged from the hearing about the seriousness of the snow goose problem and that immediate action should be undertaken.

"We are here today to publicly state the unanimous resolution of National Audubon Society's Board of Directors to protect wildlife habitat and ecosystems in the Arctic and Subarctic currently under threat from damage by burgeoning populations of Lesser Snow Geese," testified Gill. "Audubon's concern in this situation is in line with the Society's mission to protect birds, wildlife, and their habitat, using the best tools available."


Debby Parker

"Leave it To the Navy!". One of the best recycling centers around is located on the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station, in Ridgecrest, two hours drive south of Bishop. I asked the personnel in charge at the base if I could pass along the information to our Audubon recyclers, and they said "yes!". Here is a list of what you can drop off there: all household glass, Plastics (#1PET, #2 natural & color), magazines, sorted junk mail meaning NO ENVELOPES (because of the glue), catalogs, bound books, all grades of office paper (color & white), computer paper, NO ENVELOPES, all types of aluminum, tin cans, paint cans if empty, textiles (old clothes, all fabrics except carpet and carpet pads), polystyrene packing material including peanuts. Call Debby Parker for a flier and a map or just follow the signs to Building 01032. There is a 24-hour drop-off area and a business-hours-only drop-off area. The base is easily reached at Ridgecrest. Remember the Sunland Landfill has special recycling areas for cardboard, motor oil, newspapers, yard trimmings and scrap metal. Check out Manor Market for more recycling pleasures. And thank you for recycling.


Kathy Duvall

This huge project by Pacifica Development replaces and greatly expands the small community of Rovana. It calls for 362 houses, ranches and commercial development on 260 rural acres. Your letters to the Inyo County Planning Department are urgently needed by May 11, 1998. Call 872-2607 to receive the project plan. Suggest alternatives such as lowering the housing density and limiting the area to be used. Comment on the impact on local schools, roads, deer winter range, police and fire protection and other infrastructure issues. Send comments to: Chuck Thistlethwaite, Senior Planner, Inyo County Planning Department, P.O. Box L, Independence CA 93526. Call Kathy Duvall for more info: 387-2626.


Cowbirds - Want more info?

Larry B.

In the March/April, 1994 issue of the WAVE, Tom and Jo Heindel gave us an excellent summary of the history and current state (sad) of the Brown-headed Cowbird story. (NOTE: ALL of the Heindels' articles are archived on the ESAS web site.) I recently read a story on the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center web site which is a nice follow-up to Tom and Jo's article. You'll find it here.


Editor's Note: Debby Parker suggested we run this fascinating story from the newsletter of the Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care bird rehabilitation center. It was printed in their Christmas, 1997, issue.

It started with a phone call (the way most of them start). July 26, 1997! The call was from a resort at a lake in Sierra City, Calif.

There was an Osprey standing on a rock out in the middle of the lake. He had been there for over two weeks. Some of the fisherman have been going by and throwing him fish every few days.

The caller wanted to know if Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care had ever cared for an Osprey before? And did this sound normal, for the Osprey to act this way?

Yes! LTWC has rehabbed Osprey for several years and it depends on the age of the Osprey as to whether or not this type of behavior was normal. A fledgling could be sitting on a rock and the parents could still be feeding and caring for it. In that particular case, the correct thing would be to leave it to the care of its mom & dad. However, if it was hurt, it needed to be picked up and taken in to a licensed rehabilitation center for proper care. In this instance, the only way to find out was to get a boat and go out to the rock and get a closer look at the bird.

Two days (and many phone calls later) the questions were worded something like; "What should I look for?", "How do you pick up an Osprey sitting on a rock?", "Do you think we will be able to tell if it needs help?", and so on, and so on!

The decision was made. A boat was procured. I waited by the phone, anticipating what the people would find!

The call finally came in. The bird was not a juvenile after all. It was an adult! It was tied up like a mummy in fishing line, unable to move its wings. Now it was over three weeks. . . . Not only was the Osprey very thin (emaciated) from shear lack of food, but the fishing line had cut into the body and the skin had already started growing over the wound. . . .

Because Osprey catch and eat fish as their ONLY food source, the rehabber has to be very inventive to get this species to eat on its own. Thanks to the help of one of our volunteers in South Lake Tahoe, Wayne Hyllegard - who happens to be an avid fisherman, and also helps out when we get in an Osprey, plus may other people - we were able to provide whole fish, similar to the fish the bird would eat in the wild!

Well, things seemed to be coming together. The wounds were healing (from the fishing line), the fish were being eaten, ONE WHOLE FISH PER DAY! The bird was getting stronger. BUT, another problem was becoming evident!

Apparently the Osprey tried to free himself and fly during his time on 'the rock'. Of course, the more he struggled, the more the fishing line cut into his body. This, in turn, reinforced in the bird's mind that he was not able to fly!

So, here we had a bird getting stronger, but was not even trying to fly. Now we had to try to convince a very stubborn Osprey that he could fly.

Plan A: First, he went into a larger cage, and we put the food up high, so he would have to do more moving. Sounds good, but it didn't work. The bird just stopped eating. So the food was put back down on the stump and the Osprey again went back to eating.

Plan B: Then the bird was put up about 2 ft. so he would have to put out his wings to balance when he jumped down. At least now he was learning his wings could work. The Osprey would go down, with his wings out, but would not even try to fly back up.

Plan C: The next thing I tried was to put the Osprey into one side of the mew, which had higher perches, hoping the bird would fly up to the high perch - like all the raptors do (eagles, hawks & owls). All raptors want to get as high as they can. They feel safer. The Osprey stayed on the ground and would jump up on his feeding stump, and that was it.

Plan D: (I was running out of ideas!) I asked Tom to help me fly the bird (like we do the eagles). We got the bird all jessed up, took it out and Tom gave it a gentle toss. The Osprey went straight down. Didn't even try to fly. After another try with the same results, Tom took the bird by the feet and ran with it. Lo and behold - for the first time - the Osprey started to vigorously flap its wings. We were finally on to something! So for the next week we took the Osprey out and ran with it, holding it over our head. . . . He got stronger and more confident.

The Osprey was released on Nov. 11th. To see him take flight, after all the time and effort put into his rehabilitation, made it all well worth while.

Reprinted with permission of Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, Inc. They may be contacted at P.O. Box 10557, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96158-3357; (916) 577-CARE. Members (memberships start at $20) receive their interesting and informative newsletter.



Tom and Jo Heindel

Judging by the questions we receive from people interested in birds, possibly no greater confusion exists between other similar appearing species in Inyo County than between the American Crow and the Common Raven. While the experienced birder has few problems distinguishing a crow from a raven, the less experienced find this a difficult identification problem. They are both large, all black birds. There is a difference in size as crows are 17 inches and ravens are 24 inches, but this is difficult to discern, especially when they are at a distance. The raven is obviously larger but not just in length. It has a proportionately larger bill and the tail is larger because of the wedge shape of the tip. A crow is smaller, its bill is smaller not as massive as the raven's, and the tail is slightly rounded at the tip. The best mark for separating these two birds in flight it the shape of the tail. Once you focus on this mark you will seriously reduce your confusion over the separation. Vocalizations are a big help as well, and these two species are often heard calling, so listen for the higher pitched CAW-CAW of the crow versus the deeper croak of the raven. Ravens also give gurgling notes and clucks which crows do not. Their distribution over the U.S. is different. The Common Raven is found over most of Canada, western U.S. and the Appalachians while the American Crow is found throughout the U.S. (excluding Alaska and Hawaii) and summers throughout most of Canada. In Inyo County the raven occupies virtually every habitat and is found from below sea level in Death Valley to above tree line, while the crow is restricted to towns and agricultural areas. Both species are considered resident, that is, found in the county all year. However, the American Crow is also a migrant as populations to the north move south through Inyo in fall and back north again in spring. This undoubtedly explains records of American Crows at isolated areas such as Stovepipe Wells and Furnace Creek Ranch in Death Valley National Park, and also at Deep Springs - well away from their stronghold in the Owens Valley, where each town supports a resident population. The 1891 Death Valley Expedition (a misnomer because it covered the entire county) found no American Crows, but did find the raven over the entire county with the first being recorded at Furnace Creek Ranch, DVNP, during the first week of January 1891. The first crow was found by UC Berkeley's Joseph Grinnell at Furnace Creek Ranch, DVNP, 6 Apr 1920. The museum at the visitor center contains an albino Common Raven which was first sighted 21 June 1960 and died following an apparent hawk attack on 14 Sep 1961. Our advice is to look and listen to these large, black birds and see if their differences don't become more apparent with effort and time. Crows and ravens belong to the family Corvidae considered by many to be the smartest family of birds. Maybe their similarities are designed to test just how smart Homo sapiens is!