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Articles from The Sierra Wave for January/February, 1999

Volume 17, Number 3

BIRD FEVER: ESAS members (John Finkbeiner, Larry Nahm, Tom & Jo Heindel, Chris Howard, and Jim Parker) watching the Tennessee Warbler which Jim found on Dec. 14 on Short St.. (Debby Parker photo)

Also see Meeting Programs and Field Trips for these months.

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Chapter Notes

PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE: A Walk in the Pines, by Jim Parker

On Thanksgiving Day, Debby and I took a trip up into the Inyo Mountains to the area between Harkless Flat and Papoose Flat. We parked in the pinyon pines and hiked up onto bare hill tops with a magnificent view of the Sierra and the Owens Valley down below. Big fat pinyon nuts covered the ground under every other tree, making it hard to walk without stopping every couple hundred feet to sample a few more. Red-breasted nuthatches and golden-crowned kinglets kept us company for hours. Except for the sparse network of dirt roads, there were essentially no traces of our modern world up there. And it reminded us once again of why Inyo and Mono Counties are, by far, the best part of the great state of California.

Now CalTech is thinking about putting an array of radio telescopes up into this very spot to get up above the interference of water vapor in the lower-altitude atmosphere. This new "window on the universe" could unlock many new secrets of the cosmos that would of course be a great benefit to all mankind. I think it is safe to say that the members of the Eastern Sierra Audubon Society would be as eager as any other group to learn what the CalTech radio astronomers can discover.

But, do we need to destroy an old world to explore a new one? As the millennium draws to a close, wild places like the Inyo Mountains are ever more precious to us. What's the problem with a little astronomical facility up there? It would rip a big hole in the wildness of the Inyos. Its access road would cut a wide scar through a beautiful pinyon forest. And if we accept this one development up there, what will be next? How much of the Inyos do we want to have left for our grandchildren? I, for one, would like to suggest that the answer to that last question is: all of them.


A new year's welcome to the following new and returning members:

Ruby Branson

P. Lamos

Mr. and Mrs. Ron Lytle

James Richardson

Bobbie Turner

Sandra Whitehouse


The December Raffle netted the Chapter $281. THANKS! to all members and organizations who donated prizes: June & Gordon Nelson, Robert & Jeanette Paschall, Ruth Blakely, James Wilson (Wilson's Eastside Sports), Debby Parker, John & Dee Finkbeiner, Warren Allsup, Jack & Marilyn Ferrell, Sally Gaines, and Whiskey Creek Restaurant. THANKS! to all who purchased tickets. Additional prizes have been donated, and these will be offerred 1 or 2 at a time at regular meetings.  


The holidays are over, and spring is just around the corner. It's time to make room for new things around the house and do a little spring cleaning. Before you take that still valuable, but unwanted, item and throw it into the landfill, consider contributing it to the first-ever ESAS Yard Sale. Monies raised will go toward the purchase of binoculars to be used by our Education Committee to help teach birding in local schools. If you can't bear to part with any of your cherished possessions, just plan on coming to the Yard Sale and picking up some of the great things that other ESAS members will have donated. The sale will be held on April 10. Debby & Jim Parker will be having this sale in their front yard at 1625 Shoshone Drive in Meadowcreek. Have your goods priced and bring them by the week before. Volunteers are welcome to help with the yard sale, contact Debby Parker (872-4447). Some ideas for items are baked goods, books, potted plants, china, fish tanks, furniture, puzzles, games and works of art.


Thanks to Eagle Optics of Middleton, WI, for offering us a special price of $1000 for 12 Nikon 7x20 Travelite binoculars. These will be added to the collection (bringing the total to 20) maintained by the Education Committee for use by our Audubon in the Schools program. The December Raffle, and some T-shirt sales, have brought our total for this project to about $300.


CNPS January meeting

Our January meeting will be on Wednesday, January 20 at 7 pm, at the White Mountain Research Station in Bishop. The speaker will be Bob Brister, Outreach Coordinator for the Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign. The slide presentation is entitled "Sierra Forest Protection," and was developed by the Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign, a coalition of conservation organizations and individuals who are fighting for protection of ancient forests and wild rivers in the Sierra. Bob's program will address conservation issues in the remaining Sierran forests, riparian and roadless areas.

Stephen Ingram


Chris Howard's Eastern Calif. Bird Sightings Page: (see p. 5 for more info)

Chuck Williamson's BirdServ ZiNgY Weekly Bird West Reader (Rare birds in the West):

Sierra Nevada Framework for Conservation and Collaboration:

Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign: (see extract below)

Sierra Nevada Alliance:

Debby Parker

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Field Trips


Enclosed with this issue of the Wave!


Owens River Delta Field Trip

More than thirty people joined leader Mike Prather on the chapter field trip to the Owens River delta on Saturday, November 14. Quite a crowd, but we managed to "sneak up" on a few birds. The group drove 5 miles east of Boulder Creek RV park south of Lone Pine along a pole line road. Once we met the river we drove three miles south through loose sand until the road ended. It was a beautiful, still, sunny day as we walked through salt bush and ink weed scrub kicking up loose flocks of white-crowned and sage sparrows. Above us three red-tailed hawks soared and a male kestrel fed on its lunch atop a nearby shrub.

Walking along the cattail and reed choked river, we called up both Virginia and sora rails by clapping our hands. Song sparrows gave off their call note, and marsh wrens scolded us. Driving the three mile southward leg through salt grass meadow and small ponds, seven white-faced ibis sprung up in front of us. They allowed the entire group to walk up and set up spotting scopes. Good looks. After the road ended, and we began walking straight out onto the lake following the water, the birds appeared in amazing numbers. Out on the mud flats were scores of American Pipits and horned larks. In the running water was a greater yellow legs, over 200 dunlins, hundreds of least sandpipers, several western sandpipers, 5 late snowy plovers, many killdeers, but this wasn't all. The birds extended as far out onto the lake as you could see. In the mirage in the distance we identified a peregrine falcon perched on a pole preening and looking for dinner. Beyond the falcon were over 300 snow geese. Ducks were everywhere. Even a coyote joined us in our watching far out on the playa.

Owens Lake is a feeding and resting oasis for many thousands of birds. In addition, many others nest there. A series of wetlands circling around Owens Lake supports a rich variety of wildlife. The lake is very much alive. Join us on our April field trip to the wetlands along the lake's western shore. Hope to see you there. Restore Owens Lake!

Mike Prather

Fish Slough Work Party

Leader: Gordon Nelson

On September 7th a small but dedicated group of Audubon volunteers showed up for our Fish Slough work party. Though few in number, this industious group accomplished a great deal in several hours. Projects included road rehabilitation near Red Rock Canyon, and fence repair at the BLM Spring. Expert guidance was provided by three members of the BLM, namely Jim Jennings, Terry Russi, and Rich Williams. Thanks are due to the seven Audubon members participating: Dorothy and John Burnstrom, Martha Kramer, Charleen Martin, Gordon and June Nelson, and Dick Schneider.

Gordon Nelson

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The Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign has released a "blueprint" for land management on the ten Sierra Nevada national forests. The full blueprint is on their web site, <>. Here is the Table of Contents: Introduction, Late-Successional Forests and Wildlife, Riparian Areas and Aquatic Values, Roads and Roadless Lands, Fire and Fuels, Matrix Lands, Livestock Grazing, Ecosystem Integration, Summary. Following is the section on grazing:

Livestock Grazing

There is widespread consensus within the scientific community that Forest Service management of livestock grazing is resulting in unacceptable environmental impacts to riparian, aquatic, and meadow ecosystems in the Sierra Nevada. Although part of this problem may be attributable to insufficient enforcement of current planning direction, there is clearly a need for change in management direction and policies as well.

The following principles form the basis for environmentally-acceptable livestock grazing management within the Sierra Nevada's national forest lands:

(1) Grazing by domestic livestock will only be allowed where it does not degrade the ecological health of the resources within the allotment area. Where sensitive, threatened, or endangered species of plants or animals are determined to be negatively affected by grazing, grazing shall be suspended or restricted to eliminate such impacts.

(2) The Forest Service will prioritize NEPA review and management changes for allotments based on resource damage, analyzing the most degraded allotments first. Each National Forest will aim to accomplish NEPA review for a minimum of four Allotment Management Plans per year.

(3) Each National Forest will undertake suitability analyses for all areas currently under grazing permit. Each suitability analysis will thoroughly evaluate areas based on watershed, riparian, aquatic, vegetative, recreation, and wildlife values, as well as socio-economic factors. Areas where environmental impacts exceed public benefits will be removed from the suitable grazing landbase.

(4) Where areas are determined, after review, to be suitable for grazing, the agency will develop site-specific standards and guidelines that will provide consistency with planning goals, applicable law, and the best available science.

(5) All allotments identified as having streambank instability, riparian vegetation damage, or aquatic resource conditions inconsistent with new objectives and standards defined in this document will require herding, fencing, limiting or excluding livestock to protect ecological values.


The good news for recyclers in the Bishop area is that besides CA Redemption beer and soda bottles, Manor Market now takes glass containers, like mayonnaise or jam jars, if they're clean and the colors are separated. They also take cardboard which saves one a trip to the Sunland Landfill where cardboard can also be recycled. If you are heading south, don't forget that in China Lake, you can recycle all paper, magazines, books, toner cartridges, steel cans and much more at the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station Recycling Facility, in China Lake next door to Ridgecrest. They have a 24-hour drop-off location (Take Blandy Road to building 01032 on West Side of Cobra St., and look for the small fenced compound).

More good news is thanks to Chuck Hamilton, Inyo County's Waste Management Officer; you can now recycle glass, plastic and aluminum containers while enjoying one of Inyo County's lovely county parks. Chuck applied for and received a $26,000 grant, which paid for the purchase of "Clusters" (see photo) for recycling. These heavy duty and attractive containers have been placed at all of Inyo County's parks and campgrounds with the contents being recycled at local recycling locations. Thanks, Chuck! Inyo National Forest is planning on increasing the number of campgrounds in Bishop Creek Canyon due to greatly increased demand. This would be the perfect opportunity to have recycling facilities alongside campsites and restrooms, including an educational display explaining to visitors why recycling is so important for our rural area. This is because of the sheer volume that thousands of visitors, who come to enjoy the uncluttered beauty of our area, bring with them.

Do you have mail order catalogs coming out of your ears? If you are like me and received zillions of catalogs during this Holiday Season and would no longer like to receive them, you can do one of two things: 1. Tear off your catalog mailing label and write on it, "Please take me off of your mailing list", and mail it back to the company. 2. Phone their 1-800 number and ask to be taken off of their list. But be sure to read your label to them exactly as it is written or it might not work. And finally, don't throw those catalogs in the garbage can, drop them off at the China Lake Recycling Facility next time you're heading south.

Debby Parker



Bishop Bird Count

Thanks to all who braved the wind, dust, and cold. I think we all had a pretty good time despite the elements. Total species seen was 77 (not including count week sightings). Total number of birds seen was 4145.

Highlights included: Ross' Goose (1 adult, 1 sub-adult) found by John Finkbeiner in the City Park; Eurasian Wigeon (1adult male) found at Farmer's Ponds by John Finkbeiner; Wood Duck found by Chris Howard, Rosie Beach, and the Gorhams at the Bishop Sewer Ponds; Hooded Merganser found by J. Finkbeinder at Farmer's Ponds; Common Goldeneye (15) found by Jim and Debby Parker amongst float tubers at Pleasant Valley Reservoir; Goshawk (probable) found by P/D Parker near Dixon Lane. Golden Crowned Kinglet (3) found by Earl Gann and Kathy Duvall at Plant #4, Bishop Creek; Tennessee Warbler (count week) found by Jim Parker on Short St., Bishop; Palm Warbler (count week) found by Tom Heindel and Debby Parker north of Riverside Rd. on the Owens River canal. Harris' Sparrow found by Jim and Debby Parker behind their house in meadow creek subdivision.

Chris Howard

Lone Pine Count

Eight birders encountered fairly warm weather, though windy. while recording their 76 different species. Highlights included: Great Egret, 2 Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Varied Thrush, 2 Le Conte's Thrashers.

Mike Prather


by Tom and Jo Heindel

Fall begins early in the bird world. While the non-birder may think fall begins in late September, the birder recognizes fall not as a particular month but the period of time when birds start to leave their breeding grounds and move to their winter grounds. These wintering areas may be here in the Owens Valley, nearby in southern CA or Mexico, or further in Central or South America.

Our earliest fall migrants are shorebirds, and they begin passing south in late June. Wilson's Phalaropes, Greater Yellowlegs, Western and Least Sandpipers were headed for their wintering grounds before July. But what about our more exotic, unpredictable visitors? It has been an exciting fall. Space constraints allow only a listing of the most unusual.

A RED-THROATED LOON was at Tinemaha Reservoir 30 Nov. This species has been found in seven of the last nine falls after first being recorded in the county in 1990. Two SURF SCOTERS, a marine duck that is not found in Inyo every year, were found , one at Klondike Lake 11 Oct and one north of Bishop 3-17 Nov by John Finkbeiner. An ARCTIC TERN, only the fifth county record, was at Tinemaha Reservoir 9 Oct. A COMMON GROUND-DOVE was at Cartago 10 Sep and was only the second ever for the Owens Valley. Two RUDDY GROUND-DOVES were found, 1 at Furnace Creek Ranch 7 Oct and one at Independence. Bob Hudson found the Independence bird which was the first ever recorded in Owens Valley! An unprecedented three YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKERS were reported during Oct and Nov. A very rare EASTERN PHOEBE, the 14th county record, was at Scotty's Castle 7-10 Oct. A PURPLE MARTIN, not seen every year, was at Cottonwood Marsh 17 Sep. An excellent photo was received by a visiting Canadian birder, Jerry Pilny, who captured a pure albino COMMON BUSHTIT in flight at Whitney Portal campground in Aug. Most spectacular find all fall was a BLUE-WINGED WARBLER, only the 3rd for Inyo, at Birchim Canyon found by Debby Parker on 6 Sep while looking for the CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER she had found the previous day. A MAGNOLIA WARBLER, found 30 Sep, could not be refound by others searching later that day. A PROTHONOTARY WARBLER, found by Jim Parker, was at North Haiwee Reservoir 19-24 Sep and a different one was there 10 Oct found by Rosie Beach. Furnace Creek Ranch had an OVENBIRD on 17 Oct and two McCOWN'S LONGSPURS were seen at Independence 24-28 Oct. The Longspurs were found by Andrew & Leah Kirk - only the 6th county record, and first for Owens Valley. A CHESTNUT-COLLARED LONGSPUR was at Furnace Creek Ranch 17 Oct and a female PAINTED BUNTING was there 21 Sep. A record tying eight BOBOLINKS were photographed by Andrew Kirk at Independence during their brief stay 16-19 Sep. Two COMMON GRACKLES were found, one at Bishop 13 Sep by the Parkers and one at Panamint Springs 17 Oct by Tom Wurster. A female ORCHARD ORIOLE was at Furnace Creek Ranch 6 Oct.

This is only half of the four dozen excellent finds that the birders of the Owens Valley found this fall. Now we await the winter invasion of species such as Northern Shrike, Rough-legged Hawk, and who knows what else. Your guess is as good as ours. If you find one of the winter's bonus birds, remember the procedure for turning a sighting into a scientific record: take notes immediately, photograph if possible, and call the nearest good birder you know to confirm. May your holiday season and new year be filled with beautiful feathers.

Local Birds on the Web

Birders of the Eastern Sierra now have a new way to find out where birds can be found: The Eastern California bird sightings website at...

The purpose of the site is to provide Eastern Sierra birders the ability to let people know what birds they are seeing, find out what other birders are seeing, and to discuss recent sightings. Anyone with Internet access is encouraged to participate with postings and discussions. If you have any questions about this website, please contact Chris Howard at <> or 873-5623.


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