Sign up for our WAVE Newsletter

Articles from The Sierra Wave for November/December, 1999

Volume 18, Number 2

A Lesser Goldfinch awaits its turn at the thistle feeder in a Wilkerson yard this Fall. (L. Blakely photo)

Also see Meeting Programs and Field Trips for these months.

Back to Main Newsletter Page.

Chapter Notes


Presidents Message - 1986!

I just took part in the Bishop Christmas Bird Count with about nine other birders. For a December it was surprisingly clear, with shirtsleeve weather. Out in weather like this in winter helps us remember how much we all need to be out in the field whenever possible. Sometimes so much effort and thought go into our chapter projects that it is easy to forget or lose sight of what it is we are fighting for.

David Gaines from the Mono Lake committee came with a friend to help us in the Bishop count. David is one of the best birders in the state and was of tremendous help to us. Talking later after the day's light was gone I came to the realization that if you arrange things correctly you can work hard on conservation issues and still have plenty of time to get out in the wild places. Our chapter is sponsoring all five Christmas Bird Counts in the Inyo/Mono area. Costs of the participants will be paid, and American Birds will publish the data.

Perphaps the warmest feeling of the day came when we were thanked by David on behalf of the Mono Lake Committee for our donation of $200 for the defense of Rush Creek. My lesson learned on such a gratifying day of friendship and action was that indeed ours is a labor of love and to keep that flame of love burning we must be active and that includes getting out into the environment whenever possible. See you at our field trips and programs coming up.

Mike Prather


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

Suzanne Amstokes

Maxine Hobby

Patrick Koske

Ms. Megan Shumway

Michael Smiley

Ms. Harriett Steele

Tom and Elaine Strathman

Ruby Tonkin

Lyla Wolden

Yvonna Dick

Sandra Whitehouse, Membership Chair


New Program Chair Needed

Want to hobnob with the creative and famous? Why not take a turn at setting up the Audubon monthly evening programs? It's an opportunity to use one's creativity and bring attention to issues that you deem important. The current chair will willingly help the new person learn the position which won't begin until next September. Phone Debby, 872-4447.

April ESAS Garage Sale

Another fundraiser garage sale is planned for April. Last year's event at the Parkers' was a great success. John and Dee Finkbeiner have volunteered their garage this year. So, please start setting aside those still-useful items you no longer need. Later, a date in April will be announced when items should be taken to the Finkbeiners'.

Third Annual Central Valley Birding Symposium

The Central Valley Bird Club is hosting this symposium November 18-21. There will be speakers (including Paul Lehman, Jon Dunn, Kimball Garrett, and Joe Morlan), field trips, workshops, a Birder's Market, and more. For more info: 209-462-5490 or e-mail

Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival, 2000

Start the new Millenium by attending the Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival, January 14th through the 17th co-sponsored by the Morro Coast Audubon Society. This Globally Important Bird Area is recognized for its thousands of resident and wintering birds. Both local and statewide birding experts will lead over 35 field trips where, among the areas possible 200 bird species, you may see Sandhill Cranes, Golden and Bald Eagles, shearwaters, jaegars, Ferruginous Hawks, owls, Peregrine Falcons, surfbirds, turnstones, Prairie Warbler, Eurasian Widgeon, Nelsons Sharp-tailed Sparrow (California Condor??). Workshops and evening programs will emphasize increasing your birding I.D. skills. The Festivals featured speaker, Kimball Garrett, nationally known birding expert, will discuss California birds and birding in the New Millenium. For more information or a brochure, sign onto our Website at or call the Morro Bay Chamber of Commerce, 1-800-231-0592.


The winter Holidays are coming soon and an Eastern Sierra Audubon 100% cotton T-shirt makes a great holiday gift choice. Some of our new colors are maize, sand, and Zion Cliffs pink. We have extra-extra-large sizes too, in stone-washed green. New this fall are cozy cotton sweatshirts in cream and gray. T-shirts are easy to wrap and mail to loved ones across the country. And your purchase goes to a good cause, since we spend our money on birds. Give Debby a call (872-4447) to purchase, or purchase at our upcoming November and December monthly programs.

Return to top

Field Trips


October Birding

On a quiet overcast morning in the beautiful Mono Basin, an enthusiastic group of birders met leader Chris Howard at the Forest Service Visitor Center. Favorite Mono Lake birding locations were on his agenda. The Old Marina just north of the center gave us looks at hundreds of Eared Grebes mixed with Ruddy Ducks in their winter plumage. There were darting Horned Larks, Red-winged Blackbirds feeding on brine flies, six Killdeer on the new shoreline, a few lingering California Gulls and a Red-tailed Hawk atop a far-off tufa.

Under a blue sky filled with sweeping cirrus clouds and sun dogs, the De Chambeau Ponds on the east side of Black Point were empty except for several dozen Coots, a few Ruddy Ducks and one Greater Yellowlegs wading in the shallow water. Along the northern ponds bank, though, a Spotted Towhee was hopping about the mud, and a Lincolns Sparrow, some White-crowned Sparrows and a Marsh Wren were in the dense vegetation. Audubon Warblers and a Song Sparrow were heard calling. A Flicker, several Ravens and a Sharp-shinned Hawk were also present.

Next stop for the morning was the County Ponds, which unfortunately, were either dry or empty of bird life. The old black pumice spit that grandly overlooks the rising waters of Mono Lake had more to offer. New shoreline habitat in the form of little islands is being created as the waters slowly creep up onto the land. We saw Least Sandpipers, flocks of Horned Larks, four Northern Shovelers, many Starlings eating Brine Flies, a Northern Harrier hunting in the golden grasses and Grebes as far as the eye could see out onto the Lake.

Lunch was at the Mono County Park on the north shore of Mono Lake. A female Downy Woodpecker was eating bugs off an old Cottonwood tree near the tables. Ruby-crowned Kinglets were flitting among the yellow leaves. Along the lakes edge at the end of the now shortened boardwalk, a few Red-necked Phalaropes were still lingering. A group of Redhead Ducks were seen swimming out from shore to feed among the Grebes. It turned out to be a brilliant, warm fall day, alive with many shorebirds and songbirds and glowing vegetation of all varieties. Thanks, Chris, for getting us up there!

Kathy Duvall

Return to top



What's with all the fishing line being left on the shores of lakes and streams by fishermen in the Eastern Sierra ?

This summer an owl was caught in fishing line at a lake in the June Lake Loop, causing quite a stir, especially for the owl. Two summers ago my one-year old granddaughter stepped on a hook left lying on the ground along Rock Creek and had to go to the emergency room, on her birthday!

If fishing line is left on the ground and hanging from trees, birds will and do get caught and tangled in it, and then are usually left for dead. Common yellow-throats, dippers, gulls, rails, song sparrows and spotted sandpipers all use the shores of bodies of water to get their meals. Why should they have to risk getting caught in fishing line when they're simply trying to get dinner?

Hey, all you fishermen out there, please stop leaving your fishing line behind like its litter. Take a minute, untangle it from bushes and rocks, whatever it takes, roll it up and tuck it in your pocket. In some areas, you can even recycle it. With a little consideration, our wild birds can be safe. Thank you for any help you can provide.

Debby Parker


Last year the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power commenced a study of groundwater availability at Owens Lake for the purpose of dust abatement which has been closely watched by Audubon. The DWP committed itself to pumping only if it could be accomplished in an enironmentally safe manner. After completing the 60 day test, drawdowns in nearby wells and under wetlands exceeded what was considered safe, and Los Angeles has now dropped its initial shallow water flooding project using groundwater, a test that would have covered one square mile with water and used approximaely 1600 acre feet of water.The city is required to have 10 square miles of the lake treated for dust using shallow flooding or managed vegetation by the year 2001, an unenviable task.

At first glance it was a sigh of relief for defenders of shorebird habitat and wetlands at the lake when the announcement was made, however, Los Angeles immediately stated that they had not given up on pumping from under the lake and stated that there might have to be negative impacts that would need mitigating (I remember Phil Pister saying that mitigation is first place in a losers contest). There are things that cannot be mitigated.

Water for flooding must come from aqueduct water which belongs on the lake bed. The Lower Owens River Project can deliver water, and the proposed pumpback station can deliver it out onto the surface. Owens Lake has tremendous value for shorebirds currently and its potential for even greater importance to migrants through shallow water flooding is mind boggling. Auduboners should push for a maximum of shallow flooding for all time as a good faith effort to put back a small portion of the wildlife public trust values that were destroyeed when Los Angeles dried up most of the lake. Flooding would serve the dual purpose of abating dust and restoring wildlife values. We should be demanding that the State Lands Commission which is charged with the responsibility of protecting those public trust values at Owens Lake require that the Department of Water and Power leave a negotiated number of square miles flooded from March through the end of October every year for all time. Only then will the real clouds of sandpipers wheel and stream across the lake in numbers approaching those witnessed by George Bird Grinnell in 1911 when he saw the air full of shorebirds and wakes of birds as far as you can see across the lake.

Mike Prather


Road building in National Forests to be banned

Several ESAS members will recall a beautiful bright day at Fish Slough a few years ago, when our chapter was awarded the BLM's Director's Health of the Land Award for conservation efforts there, led by Gordon Nelson (WAVE, Sept/Oct, 1996). The award was made by Mike Dombeck, then BLM Director, now Chief of the USFS and the man in charge of implementing a new policy recently enunciated by President Clinton, a policy which holds the promise of preserving a large part of Forest Service lands from unnecessary exploitation. Our country will continue to harvest timber - this new policy will have no discernable effect on our lumber supply - but remaining roadless areas will remain that way for the recreational enjoyment of future generations of Americans, ever in need of escape from large, polluted cities. Protests by pampered exploiters, quick to be heard following the Presidents announcement, show it will be a struggle to implement the new policy. Chief Dombeck, however, appears determined; he said: This is an unprecedented time for our country and the Forest Service. By using the best science available, and giving careful consideration to public review and comment, the conservation legacy initiated by Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot will extend into the 21st century. (from the Forest Service website). The President's announcement was reported in an article (Oct. 13) and an editorial (Oct. 14) in the LA Times. - Ed.

Statement of the National Audubon Society

T H E A U D U B O N A D V I S O R Y October 4-15, 1999

PRESIDENT ANNOUNCES ROADLESS AREA PLAN **Wilderness Approximating the Size of VA,WV to be Protected

From Reddish Knob overlooking the Little River Roadless Area in the George Washington National Forest, President Clinton took steps to establish a conservation legacy that could rival Teddy Roosevelts, who created the National Forest System and protected many other public lands. On Wednesday, Clinton announced a plan to protect tens of millions of acres of wild, roadless areas in Americas national forests from environmentally destructive activities. The Forest Service estimates that this plan would protect approximately 40 million acres of unroaded forests, including most roadless areas of 5,000 or more acres, from the destructive impact of new roads. Significantly, the plan also includes smaller roadless areas, may prohibit activities such as logging or mining, and leaves open the question of whether the plan will include the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, which at 17 million acres is the nations largest national forest.

The Heritage Forests Campaign, of which Audubon is a leading member, is urging the Clinton administration to adopt a forest policy yardstick that would: (1) apply to all national forests; (2) protect national forest roadless areas not just from new roads, but also from other destructive activities that could occur even in the absence of roads, such as helicopter logging; (3) include an Environmental Impact Statement, a process that could effectively withstand efforts to overturn the roadless policy in future administrations; (4) protect all national forest areas larger than 1,000 acres; and (5) rely on the most current and sound sciencenot politicsto underpin the final policy.

These five key yardstick components would prevent the destruction of 60 million acres of public lands in some 38 states. A 60-day public comment period on the plan will begin next week.

If this is done right, it will be the boldest conservation move of the century, sheerly because of the magnitude, said Ken Rait, Heritage Forests Campaign Director. These areas are not only the last best place for wildlife, but also they are a source of clean drinking water for millions of Americans in more than 3,400 communities. Since the national forest system was created, more than half of the national forests have been lost to these activities. And, less than 20 percent of national forests is permanently protected under federal wilderness law.

**For a copy of Clintons announcement, go to For more information on the Heritage Forests Campaign, go to

Save our Sierra statement

President Clintons promise to preserve untouched swaths of national groves could halt logging on nearly 4 million acres in 22 forests in California . . . The act wouldnt take congressional action. . . .Were just hoping that the Forest Service moves ahead and protects these areas from all development, said Scott Black, director of the Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign in Sacramento, a coalition of 69 groups. If the government truly preserves these areas, it would be one of the highlights of protection of American wild lands in this century. It is truly that big, Black said. [John Buckley, founder of the Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center, said] Were not against logging. Were trying to find a middle ground . . . but the simple thing weve found is that roadless areas are not only important for wildlife, but timber sales always lose money for the taxpayer when you consider expense of road building and cost of restoring the land. (


Audubon National and Atlanta Audubon Society are trying to educate us about why Shade Coffee is so important. Here are the facts they have put together and sent to us.

Shade-Grown, Organic Coffee

Migratory birds and many resident birds find sanctuary in the forest-like traditional coffee plantations.

Shade trees protect the plants from rain and sun, help maintain soil quality, and aid in natural pest control, thanks to the birds.

Traditional coffee plantations help to conserve watersheds, leading to higher water quality and quantity for local populations.

Shade coffee describes a traditional method of growing coffee plants. It is the preferred method as they are grown under a natural canopy of large trees in a forest-like setting. Many large scale coffee plantations are cutting their trees in order to speed up the process, but by changing from the traditional method they are putting into jeopardy all of the native species, including birds, that use the canopy of trees.

Sun-Grown Coffee

90% fewer bird species are found in sun-grown coffee areas than in shade-grown coffee areas.

Requires chemical input and year-round labor, placing financial demands on the growers.

Leads to greater soil erosion and higher amounts of toxic runoff.

What can conservation-minded coffee consumers do?

Buy locally. If you can get Caf Altura brand marked Mexican Organic and Peruvian Organic; these are probably grown under bird friendly conditions. Debby has purchased Caf Altura locally in Bishop.

Order by Mail. One of the places the Parkers order from is Batdorf and Bronson, in Olympia, Washington. They are currently advertising El Salvador Organic, which they say, is grown by a group of 40 small farmers who have pooled their efforts to bring this organically grown coffee from the highlands of El Salvador. Careful cultivation, traditional growing methods-including the use of shade trees, and meticulous milling and sorting, all contribute to making this an especially tasty coffee. They continue, Since the end of the civil war in 1992, coffee has played a vital role in El Salvador's economic and environmental recovery. In recent years, farmer cooperatives, like the one that produced this coffee, have invested proceeds from coffee sales in rural electrification, health clinics, schools and housing for co-op members and their families. Additionally, in a country that is 98 percent deforested, coffee farms provide critical natural habitat for plants, birds and other animals. El Salvador's coffee farms are so lush and verdant, that they are officially classified as forests. This coffee and other shade coffees can be ordered at $9.60/lb from Batdorf and Bronson by phoning 1-800-955-Java or

Another top choice is Thanksgiving Coffee, which has developed a buying criteria for Green Coffee Beyond Organic to meet environmental and social values to include conservation of migratory songbirds. This is the Song Bird brand and in partnership with the American Birding Association. Phone 1-800-648-6491 or

Montana Coffee Traders markets Caf Monteverde from Costa Rica. They use a truly sustainable process for producing coffee which helps to establish a secure economic/environmental base around the fragile Monteverde Cloud Forest. 1-800-345-5282 or email at .

Equal Exchange handles a fair traded coffee produced without pesticides, using sustainable farming methods. Mail order 250 Revere St., Canton, MA 02021 or phone 781-830-0303 or visit website at

Atlanta Audubon Society can be reached for more information at Box 29189, Atlanta, GA 30359. Debby Parker

Return to top



A network of wildlife rehabilitators is being formed in the Eastern Sierra, according to Bishop rehabber Cindy Kamler. Kamler, who has been in the area for 4-1/2 years, is a licensed rehabilitator with 13 years of experience caring for orphaned, injured and sick wildlife. Kamler explained that she will be using the name, Eastern Sierra Wildlife Care, and that she can bring trained volunteers into the organization under her permit from California Fish and Game.

I am now networking with 6-8 people who are interested in caring for wildlife, and returning them to the wild, said Kamler. Some have more experience than others, but all have received training from me, Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, or other rehab facilities. The group will meet in the fall to exchange information and baby season experiences. Further meetings and trainings are in the planning stages.

There are now people in Bishop, Crowley Lake, Mammoth and Walker who will help in various ways, continued Kamler. We may need someone to pick up and stabilize an injured animal, transport them to a veterinarian or to Tahoe, or raise babies. By networking, we can bring like species together when preferable, share information, and relieve one another when necessary.

And now, thanks to Eastern Sierra Audubon, Jane Kenyon, Mary Tannheimer, and others who contributed money or time, I have a flight cage available for use by all the rehabbers, she added.

Cindy Kamler

+ Directions for Emergencv Care +

(until animal can be placed with trained wildlife rehabilitator)

1.	Place in box (or paper bag for small birds) with paper towels, kleenex or cloth for padding. KEEP THE ANIMAL WARM, DARK, AND QUIET.

2.	Do not give food or water until you have talked with expert.

3.	Call for help (see below).

4. Report all hawks, owls, eagles, and endangered species to Department of Fish and Game.

~ Call Experts for Help ~

Contact one of the agencies, trained rehabilitators, or veterinarians listed below for help, advice and/or pickup of animal.


California Department of Fish and Game: 872-1171 

Mono County Animal Control (Barbara): 935-4734

Wildlife Reliabilitators:

Cindy Kamler (licensed): 872-1487

Janet Titus: 935-4712

Carmen, Trina: 934-2511

Kathi Richards: 937-3156

Mono Lake Committee: 647-6595

Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care: 530-577-CARE


Peggy Chew (medical emergency only) 934-3775 

Bishop Veterinary Hospital (emergency; transfer) 873-5801


One of the best places to see migrating waterfowl in the Bishop area is at the sewer ponds. Because of the actions of some careless hunters, the City has begun to implement certain restrictions on access. Chris Howard, the Parkers, and the Heindels met recently with City officials to discuss access by birders. The City is happy for birders to visit the sewer ponds, but would like them to call the City of Bishop Public Works Department at 873-5863 in advance of their visit. All folks have to do is leave a message on the answering machine that they are going to the ponds. You can phone after hours, and you don't need to talk with a live person Chris Howard provides this additional information and a list of suggestions:

"The Bishop Sewer Ponds are generally accessible 8AM - 5PM Monday-Friday and mid-day Saturday. The gates are locked and the ponds are inaccessible when treatment plant staff are not there. Caution: You will get locked in the ponds if you stay in the pond area after staff has left. The staff do allow birdwatchers inside the fence surrounding the ponds, however; please follow these guidelines:

Please respect these rules to ensure birding access to the ponds. Thank you."


by Tom & Jo Heindel

As Inyo County coordinators for the journal NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS we receive reports from locals and visitors of sightings of birds that they believe are very rare in the county. Some of these reports are well documented, the bird was well seen by several knowledgeable and experienced observers, and perhaps the observer got lucky and was able to photograph it. These reports are evaluated by us, by the southern CA editor and sometimes by the CA Bird Records Committee (CBRC) if the species is rare in the state. Recently one county coordinator compiled a list of the most frequently misidentified species from his county and encouraged others to do the same. The result of this exercise is that often the reported rare bird has a common look-alike and the documentation did not eliminate the common bird as a possibility. While the observers should accept responsibility for their errors it must be emphasized that the best bird guides available often do not show the wide range of variation in plumages that all species have or the range maps are incorrect, and, therefore, mistaken identifications are easier to make than some would believe. While the Inyo County list of frequently misidentified species is over twenty we will cover the six most frequently occurring mistakes. First is the PURPLE FINCH which is rare in Inyo. Reports are received annually and almost every one proves to be the close relative and extremely similar Cassins Finch which is fairly common in the county. Most of these misidentifications are by visitors from back east or west of the Sierra where Purple Finch is the expected species. Even the recently released third edition of the National Geographic Societys Field Guide to the Birds of North America contributes to this problem with an incorrect range map. The illustrations, however, are accurate, and the careful observer should have no problem in a correct identification given a good view of the bird. Second is the SANDHILL CRANE, rare in Inyo, often reported feeding in flocks in alfalfa fields. A report of 37 Sandhill Cranes feeding in the fields near Fish Springs morphed into 37 Great Blue Herons by the time we and our cameras arrived. The initial observers response was the widely held misconception, But herons are always found around water and they never gather together in flocks. He is usually right about them near water, but during migration and winter they do gather together and frequently feed in alfalfa fields. When looking at a field guide you will see a distinct difference in shape; the crane has a bustle and the heron does not and the color patterns are also quite different. Third is the GRAY VIREO, a rare species known only as a summer resident in the Grapevine Mountains along the eastern border of the county. Almost all reports of Gray Vireo turn out to be the common breeding Plumbeous Vireo which is all gray and white and looks very much like a Gray. These erroneous sightings are sometimes published exacerbating the problem. A quick look at a field guide will convince many that this is a difficult pair to separate. The lack of spectacles, much fainter wing bars and, especially, a tail that is waved about like a gnatcatcher separates the Gray Vireo from any other dull grayish colored vireo. Fourth is the BLACK-TAILED GNATCATCHER which is restricted to the dense mesquite areas in the southeast portion of the county. This species is very local and not expected away from there. Yet many reports are received from all over the county which usually involve Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Both species have black tails from above, but it is the underside that removes any question of identification. The Blue-gray tail is almost all white from below and the Black-tailed is almost all black! There are other subtle differences, but the underside of the tail is distinctively conclusive. Fifth is the COMMON GRACKLE a species so rare in the state that all records are sent to the CBRC for review. Often the documentation perfectly describes a Brewers Blackbird or a Great-tailed Grackle. On one occasion the CBRC received a frame-filling photograph of a Brewers Blackbird identified as a Common Grackle. The field guides show that all three species have yellow eyes and that the Common Grackle is mid-sized between a Brewers Blackbird and a Great-tailed Grackle. The Brewers does not have a keeled tail while the Great-tailed does. The Common Grackle has a smaller bill and smaller keeled tail than the Great-tailed. Both Brewers Blackbirds and Great-tailed Grackles are common in the Owens Valley. Last is the RUSTY BLACKBIRD which is often reported starting about Aug and often at feeders. These are all newly molted Red-winged Blackbirds that have rusty edges to the new feathers. When Red-wings are perched the bright red wing patches may be covered by relaxed scapular feathers. There are many other look-alike pairs and almost always one is rare and the other common. That is what makes the birding game so challenging. If you are looking at a bird that you think is the rare species it probably is the more common look-alike; but you just might be lucky and really are looking at a rare bird! The important thing is to keep looking!

Return to top