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Articles from The Sierra Wave for May/June, 1999

Volume 17, Number 5

A Western Scrubjay picks out a peanut at a Wilkerson home. (L. Blakely photo)

Also see Meeting Programs and Field Trips for these months.

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Chapter Notes


Eastern Sierra Audubon welcomes the following new, returning and transfer members:

Mac Bartholomew

Pat Bengochia

Ms. Deanna Bone

Michele Demotte

Kenneth Roy Gable

Reymond Kiddoo

Gordon F. Lammiman

John Lewis

Steven C. Parmenter

Alan P. Pickard

Eric & Maure Richman

Dean R. Vander Wall

John & Nancy Walter

Sandra Whitehouse, Membership Chair


The recent garage sale netted the chapter $377.84, and, on top of that, the busy crew also sold $57 worth of ESAS t-shirts. Heartfelt thanks to the many donors: Jim & Kris Langley, Mary Wilson, Martha Kramer, Kathy Duvall, Jeannie Walters, Larry Cameron, Joann Lijek, Helen Dhaliwal, John & Dorothy Burnstrom, Lynna Walker, James Wilson, Larry & Ruth Blakely, John & Dee Finkbeiner, Warren Alsup. Jim & Debby Parker, Dorothy Burnstrom, and Sandra Whitehouse spent the day selling the items and meeting lots of nice folks. The weather was pleasant and folks were generous. Later in the day an Audubon Field Trip from Southern California dropped by to see the Harris Sparrow at the Parkers house and spent $110 purchasing our ESAS t-shirts, bringing the grand total for t-shirt sales for one day to $167.

The recent monthly raffles have raised $200 for binoculars. Thanks to all who donated prizes and purchased tickets.

Debby Parker & Dorothy Burnstrom

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Field Trips


Highway Cleanup

Toms Place, April 3, 1999

Leaders: John & Ros Gorham

The day started tentatively when we couldnt get into Tom Place at 8am for our hot breakfast but were finally admitted by the cook who informed us that the waitress was not here yet but on the way. We had no problem serving ourselves coffee and Ros acted as waitress, writing our orders on a napkin. The day was overcast and cold, with snow in the peaks and lowering. However, after a great meal, we were ready for anything. We started out with 6 but at the last minute, 3 more volunteers showed up, making a perfect setup. We quickly picked up the stretch (it was cold!) and, as we got ready to leave, the storm moved in and snow started to fall. Good timing! Many thanks go to the following persons: Gordon & June Nelson, Pinky Allsup, Martha Kramer, Pete Bakuses, Vireo Gaines and April McCanne from Mammoth.

John Gorham

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Farmers Pond has many faces. In some winters, the pond is full, stretching flat like a mirror across the sagebrush plain. The Sierra Nevada reflects perfectly in the still water. Sitting in lawn chairs, on the sandy beach on the far shore, napping in the warm sun with one ear cocked, one would never imagine it was winter near Bishop. Swans, geese, ibis, ducks, shorebirds and large flocks of American pipits all use the place. During hunting season, fall, the birds are extra flighty, taking to the air in circling mass if one approaches too close. In spring, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) lessens the flow of water to the pond, and it becomes a giant mud puddle. Even as a puddle, the dabbling ducks, pintails, gadwalls, green-winged and cinnamon teal, and American wigeon still try to crowd in to the shrinking waters. The sea ducks, buffleheads, ring-necked ducks, redheads, canvasbacks and even a few goldeneyes busy themselves with bathing, feeding and resting. As the season progresses, the shorebirds arrive, greater yellowlegs, dowitchers, least sandpipers, snipe, killdeer, western sandpipers and black-bellied plovers enjoy the shallows and muddy shores. A golden eagle has been seen regularly hunting at the pond this year. In the past, osprey too, has sat on the tall sturdy branches of the native willow trees. A red phalarope was once found there.

Even though the birds are using Farmers Pond, LADWP still lets it dry up. Last spring, John Finkbeiner saw a mother wood duck and 10 ducklings in the pond. They must have nested there, as ducklings can't fly. Why not keep water in the pond year round, offering water and respite to migrating and nesting birds in our land of little rain? When visiting Audubon groups come to town to see our special birding places, Ive begun to mention to them Farmers Pond. Often it has the highest number of different kinds of birds compared to most other places around and is easy to get to. So if any of you would like to visit Farmers Pond and decide for yourself what its fate should be, take Hwy 6 to Five Bridges Road. From Five Bridges road, immediately make a right, (directly across from Riverside Rd), over a cattle guard, and follow a narrow dirt road, as it winds around left, until you see the pond on your left or north side. Park in the parking area (straight ahead on the right) and walk to the shore of the lake. A scope is very useful for getting close without flushing the birds. Oh, yes, dont forget your lawn chair.

Debby Parker


Local red-naped sapsucker finds permanent home

On November 23, Bishop wildlife rehabilitator Cindy Kamler spotted a bird on the side of the road in Swall Meadow. She stopped and picked up the bird which had scuttled into the foliage alongside the road. A quick examination revealed severe swelling and bleeding mid-shaft of the right humerus. Being on her way to work, Cindy placed the bird in a carrier she keeps in her car for just such a situation and kept the bird hydrated and warm while she was at work. That evening, a body wrap was placed on the bird, identified as a male yellow-bellied sapsucker, to prevent the wing from dragging and from further injury. Cindy treated the bird for shock and administered medication to reduce the bruising and swelling. The bird was alert and feisty, Cindy said. It began eating mealworms almost immediately and went wild for persimmons. Unfortunately, when the swelling went down, a badly-shattered humerus could be seen. Rarely do such fractures heal well enough for the bird to regain flight, so euthanasia is most often the course recommended, Cindy explained. However, this bird was so alert and spunky, I just had to give it a chance. And after all, it was Thanksgiving. The rehabber set the fracture and wrapped the wing. About 6 days laterbird bones knit rapidlythe wrap was removed but, sadly, the bones did not knit properly. The sapsucker would never fly again. I hated to put this bird to sleep, so I called a rehabber friend in the Bay Area who suggested I look for a permanent home for the bird. Local bird experts Tom and Jo Heindel came by to help Cindy identify the bird as she wasnt sure it was a yellow-bellied sapsucker. Sure enough, it turned out to be a red-naped sapsucker. Cindy made a whirlwind drive to the Bay Area, and on Valentines Day the sapsucker was given to the Coyote Point Museum. It will become part of the natural history museums educational wildlife exhibit of native, unreleasable animals. Cindy said, I am delighted that this beautiful and spunky bird will live out his days with a good quality of life despite his loss of flight.


by Tom & Jo Heindel

Inyo County has 410 bird species reliably documented as having occurred within its borders. Not all of these species are native, that is, some are here because of the activities of man. The most obvious birds, those with which non-birders are well acquainted, are House (English) Sparrows, European Starlings, and Rock Doves (pigeons). These are very common birds around our homes, ranches, and businesses. A second group of introduced birds that inhabit Inyo are game birds such as Chukar, Ring-necked Pheasant, and White-tailed Ptarmigan - all released for hunters with various degrees of success. One species, Gambels Quail, occurs naturally at the extreme southeast corner of the county at Tecopa, Resting Springs, Shoshone, and Death Valley Junction, but some of those birds were taken out prior to 1890 and introduced to Furnace Creek Ranch where they were first recorded 24 Jan 1891 by the Death Valley Expedition. Almost every Death Valley Christmas Bird Count from 1972-1982 reported from one to twenty. Because years went by with no reports, that population was thought to have died out until 2-3 were seen 10 Oct 1998 by Guy McCaskie at the Furnace Creek Ranch airport. These may be remnants from the original introduced flock or colonizers from the east or south. While the origins of some introduced species remain obscure, a few have been well documented. The House Sparrow was well established in the United States at New York City by 1860-1864. By 1872 it had been recorded in San Francisco. None were found in Inyo County when the Death Valley Expedition conducted its thorough survey in 1891. In 1917 Dr. Joseph Grinnell, the ornithological giant from UC Berkeley, began his work in Death Valley and was surprised to find a small population at Furnace Creek Ranch. He said that Mr. Denton, the ranch manager, first found them there in 1914 when the Death Valley spur of the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad was built to the nearby town of Ryan. Grinnell believed the sparrows followed the construction camps and the livestock of these workers. House Sparrows are now found in all the towns and most of the ranches throughout the county and compete with native species for food and nesting material. The European Starling was also introduced into the New York area in the late 19th century. They spread west through towns and agricultural areas and first appeared in California in 1942. The first Inyo County record was 3 Jan 1947 when eleven were found at Furnace Creek Ranch. They are now found countywide and compete with native species for food and nest cavities. A Northern Flicker spent part of a week drilling a new nesting hole in a cottonwood tree only to be removed physically by a starling who pulled the larger flicker out of the just finished nest hole and climbed in to occupy and raise young in its stolen residence. The Rock Dove, commonly called a pigeon, had been domesticated and kept by man for thousands of years. It was introduced into North America in Nova Scotia by the French in 1606 and spread across the United States with the western movement. No mention is made of the species by the Death Valley Expedition, nor is it mentioned by Grinnell in his "Observations on the Birds of Death Valley" (1923) but in 1944 Grinnell, in his classic "Distribution of the Birds of California", noted that the species was widespread. While the species has certainly been in Inyo County for most of this century our first record is from long time Owens Valley resident, Don Nikolaus, who stated that he remembers them as early as 1928 from the Fort Independence area. Most of the towns, parks, and many ranches now support small populations but on 9 May 1998 a couple dozen birders, on International Migratory Bird Day, counted 114 in the Owens Valley. Chukar, originally brought from Calcutta, India, were released in California in 1932. They were introduced into Inyo County in the mid 1930s and appear to be doing very well in rocky, dry, and often steep terrain. They react quickly to drought with quick reductions in numbers and just as quickly recover with a couple of wet years. The best site for viewing this species is Tollhouse Spring from May to Sep when a hen or two can be seen escorting a bushel basket full of fuzzy young across the highway. Ring-necked Pheasant were introduced into California as early as 1855. A.B. Howell noted them quite common and increasing in the Owens Valley in 1917 but said that the habitat was so limited that he doubted the population would last two years if hunting was allowed. In 1925, 3000 more were released in the Owens Valley and other releases were continued by the California Department of Fish and Game until 1977. Small introductions have been made since the late 1980s by local sportsman groups. White-tailed Ptarmigan from Colorado were released near Eagle Peak, Mono County, in 1971-72 when 72 birds were planted. They have since spread both north and south of the release point. They reached Inyo the second week of April 1990 when one was seen at Pine Creek and 24 Mar 1997 when 5 or 6 were seen at Green Lake. These sites are 10,000-11,000 ft and obviously this species occurs above and below that range especially during harsh winters when they may descend to lower elevations according to David Gaines. Most people pay little attention to introduced birds, because, after all, they dont belong here. It is a fact that they are a part of the avifauna and for better or, usually worse, they impact our native species. It is in the best interest of our native species that we know and understand these interlopers.

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