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Articles from The Sierra Wave for November/December, 1998

Volume 17, Number 2

A Sharp-shinned Hawk just prior to release, after receiving it's leg band at a Deep Springs bird-banding session led by Tom and Jo Heindel, September 26. (Chris Howard photo)

Also see Meeting Programs and Field Trips for these months.

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Chapter Notes


Fundraising continues to be necessary as a means of obtaining funds to support our chapter's programs. A major planned expense for this year is for the purchase of more Binoculars for Kids, to be used during classroom visits and field trips led by ESAS volunteers. See past issues of The Wave (e.g., Sep/Oct, '98, Sep/Oct, '97) for reports on this very successful program of the Education Committee. Other expenses include support of Field Trips (insurance is a major item), printing and mailing The Wave (our biggest expense), miscellaneous items in support of conservation in the Eastern Sierra, and providing a scholarship for a student to attend the Golden Trout Natural History Workshop.

December Raffle

We will try out a new streamlined raffle at the December Potluck dinner. Prizes will be displayed on a table in the dining room. Each prize will have an associated cannister in which you may deposit the tickets you have purchased. Those who would like to participate but can't make it to the dinner should arrange for another member to place their tickets in the cannister(s) of the prize(s) of their choice. The drawing will take place as dinner ends, before going to the classroom for the exciting evening program (see p. 1).

Tickets may be purchased at the dinner, or beforehand by contacting Dorothy Burnstrom (873-3091). The cost is $1 per ticket, or $5 for 6. Contact Dorothy also if you have Prizes to donate. These may be handcrafted or purchased items. Works by local artists are popular. Items of natural history interest are especially desired, but any high quality prize is welcome.

Raffle prizes will be on display at Wilson's Eastside Sports, 224 N. Main St., Bishop, beginning around Thanksgiving.

T-Shirt Sales

The Board decided that this year proceeds from T-Shirt sales would go toward the purchase of binoculars for our Audubon in the Schools Program! Help us buy 12 more pairs of binoculars so each of the kids can have a pair on our field trips. Phone Debby Parker at 872-4447 to purchase a T-Shirt, or see Debby at a meeting. Prices are: short-sleeve: $13, long-sleeve: $16 (XXL, $15 & $18).

Bird-A-Thon Help Needed

Over the last ten plus years our annual chapter Bird-A-Thon has raised close to $10,000 for many of the chapters activities and projects. Every summer we offer a local high school student a David Gaines Scholarship for a week at the Golden Trout Natural History Workshop, we produce the finest newsletter in the state, we sponsor participant fees in three local Christmas bird counts, we conduct bird instruction in local classrooms with real experts and real binoculars. Pledgers to our Bird-A-Thon have seen their donations go to these fine efforts.

This year the chapter board has agreed to put extra energy into the Bird-A-Thon. Board members and other chapter members are ALL going to seek pledges in an expanded effort. We plan on this being a record setting year and we need your help . Please contact Mike Prather and sign up to gather at least five pledges and join us. All pledge seekers will be given a handout that can be given to pledgers explaining the process and promising them a full narrative of the Bird-A-Thon day and a list of all of the birds identified. A form will also be attached for pledge information. Lets all join in on this important work and make this years Bird-A-Thon the finest ever. THANK YOU!

Mike Prather, Drawer D, Lone Pine, CA 93546, 876-5807,


We welcome the following new and transfer members:

Richard Ferber

Joan Gable

George H. Gleming

Jane W. Kenyon

David King

Kathy McGovern

Florence M. Phillips

We're happy to have you with us.

Sandra Whitehouse

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Field Trips


Glass Creek Meadow

Leaders: Ray Gray and James Wilson

On September 5 several ESAS folks and friends enjoyed the late summer flowers and view on a Glass Creek Meadow hike. After walking up the hill beyond Obsidian Dome through the Jeffrey Pine forest we had a leisurely lunch and did a tour around the meadow. The meadow was still very green and the flowers were welcome. Red-tailed Hawks serenaded from on high while frogs hopped through the meadow grass. There was an abundance of large mushrooms in the forest amidst the lodgepoles. And the views out to the upper Owens and up to San Joaquin ridge were sublime. We all agreed this place should remain forever wild.

James Wilson

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Harkless Flat

The California Institute of Technology's Owens Valley Radio Observatory near Big Pine has plans to apply for a permit from the Inyo National Forest Service to establish a new facility. The new site would be the home of 18 radio telescopes, 52 stations (20 by 20 ft pads to move the scopes on for reception purposes), several buildings, a diesel generator and parking. Several sites were considered including Papoose Flat and Badger Flat in the Inyo Mountains and Sage Hen near Crooked Creek in the White Mountains. A location named Upper Harkless Flat has been chosen by Cal. Tech. in the Inyo Mountains as the preferred site. This is intact, pristine wilderness just southeast of Harkless Flat and north of Papoose Flat on the Wacoba Mountain topo map. A 16 ft wide road would need to be graded up a steep watershed to the site. Many people feel it is not the place to put this type of industrialization. Please watch the newspaper for the date and place of the required scoping meetings for public input.

Kathy Duvall


Pacific Development Corporation from Costa Mesa is advancing on plans to build their Pine Creek Communities Development Project. This is a huge housing tract of 362 houses, ranches and commercial development on 260 acres east and northeast of present Rovana north of Bishop. The housing tract would be in the middle of a riparian resource area which is home to a wide variety of wildlife including the Round Valley winter deer herd and threatened bird species.

Many people feel the project is too big and that this type of housing needs to be located near present urban areas and not in rural open space. Now, the Department of Fish and Game can purchase the property or create a Conservation Easement. But before Fish and Game can approach Pacific Development with the purchase ideas, the majority of the Inyo County Supervisors need to have no opposition to the plan. It is in the Board of Supervisors hands.

Please contact our Inyo County Supervisors and ask them to support (or at least not oppose) the Department of Fish and Game's purchase or Conservation Easement plan for the Rovana property. Please call or write:

Linda Arcularius, Rt. 2 Box 24A, Bishop 93514, (760) 387-2692

Julie Bear, 336 1st Street, Bishop 93514, (760) 873-6852

Robert Michener, 3117 S. Tumbleweed, Bishop (760) 872-0917

Carroll Hambleton, P.O. Box 189, Big Pine, 93513 (760) 938-3021

Michael Dorame, Rt. 2 Box 159, Lone Pine, 93545, (760) 876-5900

For more information call Kathy Duvall at 387-2626 before 8:30 p.m.

Kathy Duvall

A Helping Hand for the Birds

Every once in a while, someone comes along who is a true fighter for the natural world. New to our community but already working hard is Jane Kenyon of Mammoth Lakes. Who among us gives up summer backpacking trips to take care of birds? Jane did. She stayed home taking care of a juvenile Bullocks Oriole that fell out of its nest and broke a wing. Two families of Dark-eyed Junco juveniles, out of the nest also, too young to make it on their own and needing constant feeding throughout the day and night were cared for by Jane. They even went to work with her, fellow workers learning about the constant chirp of baby birds. Who else among us picks up every piece of forgotten and left behind fishing line hanging from trees and wrapped around rocks along stream and lakeshore? By picking up this fishermans litter she is saving some poor bird the treacherous experience of getting tangled up and possibly left hanging by the neck or a wing until escape or death. But Jane doesnt stop there, she proceeds to package up this plastic filament and mails it to the California Department of Fish & Game with a note saying, We have a problem here, any ideas on how to solve it?.

She also seems to be one of few voices in the Mammoth Lakes area for protection of nesting birds during development projects. Unleashing bulldozers in the spring during nesting season to clear land for golf courses, new condominiums and ski facilities, where parent birds (Brewers Sparrows for example) have built their nests and are in the throes of egg laying or even feeding young, is a miserable end to a beautiful story. The environmental documents seem to remember to address the use by Mule deer, but no one thinks of the resident birds and their use. Even the neo-tropical migrants that journey from as far away as Central America are forgotten even though the International Migratory Bird Treaty Act clearly states that it is illegal to harm these long distance travelers. Jane does the hard work of writing short but clear letters asking the big developers, like Dempsey and Intrawest, to please wait until after nesting season to do their land clearing. Is it really too much to ask?

In the past, it might have been possible to say that there were so many birds that what did it matter if we lost a few to get land development projects done, but thats no longer true. So I say, Thank you Jane, for setting a good example for all of us to follow.

Debby Parker

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by Tom and Jo Heindel

There are four species of longspurs in the world and all four have been reliably documented by specimens or photographs as having occurred in Inyo County. What is a longspur? It is a sparrow in the genus Calcarius that has a long hind claw, hence the name longspur. Two of the four species breed in the northern Great Plains and the other two in the arctic. Most of Inyo Countys records are in fall when birds are dispersing from their northern breeding areas to their winter range which for the most part is to the southeast of us.

East of the Sierra the occurrence of longspurs is somewhat unpredictable, and one is always pleased to encounter them. Two of the four species are very rare both in Inyo County and in the entire state.

There is a single record of Smiths Longspur for Inyo and just five records for the state. Our visitor was at Furnace Creek Ranch golf course in Death Valley National Park from 4 - 11 October 1997. This bird was very tame and allowed viewers to within ten feet as it foraged on the short grass by the motel.

McCowns Longspur is also rare with just five records for the county. Other than Smiths Longspur, which is not recorded annually in California, this species is the next rarest in the state. Two of Inyo Countys records are from Deep Springs Valley, two are from Furnace Creek Ranch and the last one is from near Panamint Springs. All five records are between 16 October and 11 November.

Lapland Longspur occurs annually in the state although it is not recorded annually in Inyo County. It may be here but the large size of the county and the limited number of birders mitigates against encounters. The situation is further complicated by difficulty in identifying birds in fall plumage. Although most often found singly, on 13 October 1949 Don McLean collected a female from a group of forty at Deep Springs (Condor 71:434). There are two spring records both from Furnace Creek Ranch and many fall records between 13 October and 30 November. There is one winter record 17 January 1976 from Furnace Creek Ranch (Larry Mangan, pers. comm.).

The Chestnut-collared Longspur is our most abundant longspur. It occurs annually with most records in fall between late September and late November. There are several very early records starting 5 August 1989 at Furnace Creek Ranch by Michael Patten (American Birds 44:165). Records extend into winter with the latest on 6 February. There are two spring records from Saline Valley and Furnace Creek Ranch. Again they are usually encountered singly, but on 20 November 1993 Andrew & Leah Kirk and Bob Hudson had about seventy in an alfalfa field near Independence.

To find longspurs one should be armed with information from a good field guide (we recommend National Geographic Societys Birds of North America) and search grasslands in fall. Listen for their distinctive calls and watch for their different tail patterns as they bound away. Good luck!

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