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Articles from The Sierra Wave for March/April, 2000

Volume 18, Number 4

Evening Programs

March 8

Refreshments: Warren Allsup

Main Program: Dr. Patricia Brown-Berry, UCLA research scientist, will present a slide-illustrated talk on Mine Closures and the Effects on Bats and Other Wildlife.

Dr. Brown-Berry has conducted bat research for over 30 years. She has worked on military installations, including China Lake Naval Air Warfare station. She is founder of Brown-Berry Biological Consulting, and works on projects for federal and state agencies in Nevada, Arizona and California and the private sector such as mining companies that require bat surveys. She also teaches classes and workshops on bats and desert animals for different California Universities, Bat Conservation International, the US Forest Service and the US Bureau of Land Management. This is a great program for all of us to learn more about these nighttime acrobats who are busy eating mosquitoes and other insects while we are sound asleep in our beds!

April 12

Refreshments: Ruth Blakely

Main Program: Aaron Feiner, Lancaster bird enthusiast, will present a slide program on Owls and Other Bird Species that are Active in the Night and Twilight Hours.

Mr. Feiner will also share with us the activities of those species that are considered crepuscular, that is, active during the dim hours of dawn, dusk or overcast days. These include Snowy Owls, Short-eared Owls, Burrowing Owls, Great Gray Owls and Great Horned Owls. Besides collecting and reading historical books on ornithology, he has completed the ornithology course offered by Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, located in Ithaca, New York. He has presented his program to many groups and is looking forward to sharing his insights about these birds and their habits with us.


Eastern Sierra Audubon welcomes new member Irene Kritz from Lone Pine. Sandra Whitehouse


April 8 at John and Dee Finkbeiner's

Please set aside those good but no-longer-wanted items for this Chapter fundraiser. Starting April 1, take them to the Finkbeiners' garage, located at

2357 Navajo Circle, Bishop. Phone: 872-3603. Thanks!

Owens Lake Designated Nationally Significant Important Bird Area

January 10, 2000 Owens Lake in Californias Eastern Sierra was officially designated a Nationally Significant Important Bird Area by the American Bird Conservancy and the National Audubon Society. The designation of the the lake resulted from bird surveys of the breeding populations of the snowy plover and significant numbers of migrating shorebirds. Historically, before being dried up due to water gathering by the City of Los Angeles, Owens Lake supported many thousands of waterfowl and shorebirds. Some of the surviving shorebirds visiting the lake migrate from the Arctic Circle to South America and back again each year and rely on the few small remaining wetlands along their routes for feeding stations. The Important Bird Area (IBA) program was begun in Europe and now has spread to North America where inventories of key sites using standardized, scientifically grounded criteria will help educate land managers and the local communities as to the value of their sites. In California , a state that has lost 90% of its wetlands in the last century, this will hopefully lead to greater protection as well as restoration and enhancement where possible. With the California State Lands Commission as the primary land manager of Owens Lake, efforts will soon be under way to seek designation of the lake as a Shorebird Conservation Area where existing uses may continue, but where there will be protection of shorebird populations with restoration and enhancement part of the goals. The IBA designation of Owens Lake comes at a time when there is still opportunity to identify and protect areas for birds in California before it is too late. The Owens Lake IBA will join others in forming the core of Audubon-Californias bird conservation priorities for years to come. California has more of the top 250 national sites than anywhere else in the lower 48 states. The lake that refuses to die will also be an official part of the U.S. Shorebird Conservation Plan. With plans currently underway for suppression of the dust at Owens Lake by the City of Los Angeles, the importance of water spreading over square miles of the lake bed as one of the forms of dust treatment has never been more welcome. All of us hope that the birds as well as the dust will soon settle at Owens Lake.

Mike Prather


Born-Again-Card Recycling Program

Do you hate to take your old, beautiful Christmas (and other) cards to the dump? Here's a worthy alternative.

The abused, abandoned and neglected youngsters at St. Judes Ranch for Children in Nevada recycle greeting cards, earning funds for their support in the process. St. Jude's Ranch does not depend upon funding from government entities. Please send your used card fronts that can be attractively trimmed to fit their 5"x7" card backs, and that do not have writing on the back of the card, to: St. Judes Ranch for Children 100 St. Judes Street Boulder City, NV 89005-1618 Of course, you can also buy cards from the Ranch. You can visit their website at: . Thanks to Debby Parker for this information.

Cat Indoors Day 2000 - Poster Competition

Each year, free-roaming domestic cats kill hundreds of millions of birds and small mammals. In addition, millions of cats are killed or injured by cars or in fights with other cats, dogs or wild animals. This childrens poster competition will help draw attention to the problem and help to promote National Keep Your Cat Indoors Day which aims to encourage cat owners to keep their cats safe indoors to benefit both cats and wildlife. American Bird Conservancys Cats Indoors! campaign is supported by thousands of individuals and conservation, animal welfare, wildlife rehabilitation, and veterinary organizations, including The Humane Society of the United States, American Humane Association, and National Audubon Society. Competition entries are due May 1 and prizes will be awarded to winners in the following age categories: Ages 6 - 7; 8 - 9; 10 - 12. Each poster must have the name, age, address and phone number of the entrant on the back, as well as the name, address and phone number of the school. Artwork should show a happy, safe, indoor cat. Winners will be announced by May 12 on American Bird Conservancys Web site ( where the winning poster will also be featured. Various gifts are offered to winners and also their schools. National Keep Your Cat Indoors Day will take place on May 13, 2000. For more details: American Bird Conservancy ; Wild Bird Centers of America ; Linda Winter, Director Cats Indoors!-The Campaign for Safer Birds and Cats, American Bird Conservancy, 1250 24th Street, NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20037, (phone) (202)778-9619, (fax) (202)778-9778,

CNPS Meeting

Irene Yamashita, Inyo County Water Dept., will give a talk entitled "Native Plant Revegetation as Mitigation in the 1991 Los Angeles/Inyo EIR." It will be at the Big Pine Methodist Church on Wednesday, March 29 at 7:00 pm. All are invited to attend. Call Stephen Ingram at 387-2913 with any questions.

Field Trips


March 18, Bird Banding Demonstration, Tom & Jo Heindel (938-2764). Stop by between 8:00 AM and 11:00 AM.

March 26, Round Valley Bird-walk, Lynna Walker. 7:00 AM at old Millcreek Store; four mile walk, half day.

April 29, Highway Cleanup - John & Ros Gorham (938-2023). Meet at Tom's Place restaurant at 8:00 AM for breakfast, or 9:00 AM for clean-up.


On Sunday May 13th , Eastern Sierra Audubon will once again be conducting our annual Bird-A-Thon, the marathon of birding. Last years Bird-A-Thon raised approximately $1,100 and we hope to exceed that this year. Our donations this year will be used to help support the chapters education program in the schools, sponsorship of Christmas bird counts and the chapters work on the Lower Owens River Project, which plans to rewater 60 miles of the river between Aberdeen and Owens Lake. In addition money raised will go toward creation of a Shorebird Conservation Area at Owens Lake which has just been designated a Nationally Significant Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society and the American Bird Conservancy.

As usual, the Bird-A-Thon means our team of birders will go out and attempt to identify as many species of birds as possible in a 24 hour period. Eastern Sierra Audubon is asking you to pledge a small amount per species seen by the counters on May 13th. For example, if a pledge of $.25 per species was made then that amount would be multiplied by the number of species seen on the Bird-A-Thon to arrive at the total. If this year we were able to identify 100 species on the count day a pledge of $.25 would amount to $25.00. All pledgers will receive a list of the birds seen AND narrative of the days birding. Send pledges to Bird-A-Thon, Drawer D, Lone Pine, CA 93545. PLEASE be generous and thank you for your support.

Mike Prather



One of the richest birding sites at Owens Lake is Cottonwood Marsh along the lakes western shore. Fed by an earthquake fault springfield, the area has acres of vegetated marsh with small ponds as well as an outflow that creates an important mudflat feeding area for shorebirds. Many species of waterfowl and shorebirds have been seen here as well as the raptors that prey upon them. Shorebirds include Least and Western Sandpiper, Willet, Long-billed Curlew, Avocet, Black-necked Stilt, Killdeer, Dunlin, Dowitcher, Yellowlegs, White-faced Ibis, Marbled Godwit and others. Birds of prey include Peregrine and Prairie Falcon, Kestrel, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk and Golden Eagle. In addition many species of ducks and even geese join the expected marsh loving species such as Common Yellowthroat, Marsh Wren, Sora, Virginia Rail, Great-blue Heron, and Snowy and Great Egret.

Spring and Fall are the best times to visit Cottonwood Marsh; however, winter and summer also have their exciting moments. April-May and late July through October are the peak months for large numbers of migrating shorebirds (April and August are the very best). To reach the marsh, drive approximately 8 miles south of Diaz Lake on Highway 395 south of Lone Pine. Turn LEFT at the Cottonwood Power Plant Road and head north on the highway about 0.25 miles where you will turn RIGHT and cross a cattle guard. Continue toward the lake keeping LEFT and pass under the railroad bed. Continue toward the lake and turn RIGHT and travel about 3 miles south until you reach the marsh. High clearance helps; four wheel drive is not necessary. For last minute details call Mike Prather at 876-5807 or

Mike Prather


Want to help orphaned and injured wild birds? Sign up for a class in wildlife rehabilitation to be held in Crowley Lake on Sunday, April 9, from 9 AM to 5 PM. The class will be taught by Cheryl Millham, Director, Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, and Cindy Kamler of Eastern Sierra Wildlife Care. Well be giving an overview of wildlife rehabilitation, with emphasis on caring for orphaned songbirds, said Kamler. Spring is almost here and, for rehabilitators, baby season is a busy time. A person who takes the class can become an Eastern Sierra Wildlife Care volunteer under Kamlers supervision. Kamler has been rehabbing in the Bishop area for 5 years and holds a special permit from California Fish and Game. There are lots of different volunteer opportunities, Cindy continued. We need care for babies at different growth stages, help with pickup and transfer of animals, feeding and cleaning of adult birds, cage building and maintenance, and more. We hope to form a team to go out and rescue birds that are in trouble. Since September, Eastern Sierra Wildlife Care has taken in several Common Ravens, two Great- blue Herons, 3 Golden Eagles, a White Pelican, three Sharp-shinned Hawks, a Coopers Hawk, 2 Red-tailed Hawks, a Prairie Falcon and a Northern Flicker. The Coopers Hawk, two eagles, and one Great-blue Heron were rescued by Kamler or her volunteers. All of these birds had serious injuries, reported Kamler. Some couldnt be saved, others are still recovering, and a few were released. There is a greater release rate with baby birds because most of them are uninjured. They just need a foster parent to provide the proper food and care, she added. If you would like to help, sign up for the wildlife rehabilitation training class on April 9. For more information, call Cindy at 872-1487.

Birding by Stages

by Tom and Jo Heindel

Those who are long time members of the birding fraternity can look back over the years and recognize the stages through which they have passed. There are plateaus that mark an advancement in knowledge, skills, and techniques from those held previously. Often the passage was facilitated by more experienced birder-friends who in turn got where they were with the help of other friends. None of the best birders got to the top alone...they had plenty of help. The first stage might be noticing the bright colors or interesting behavior of birds that pique your curiosity. Maybe it was a bird coming into your yard or a friend pointing out a special event that you were seeing but not focusing on. Who cannot be fascinated by the sun shining off an adult male hummingbird almost at arms length at a feeder or the barrel rolls and loop-the-loops of a pair of courting Northern Harriers! If this initial exposure occurred at just the right moment in ones life it often may be followed by old binocs being pulled out of storage and cleaned up and the purchase of a bird book. This is the beginning of the second stage that can result in a terminal disease known as birding-mania. The symptoms are a manic-like depression that sets in if one cannot look at birds; the cure is cheap and simple...go birding! Most birders keep a list of the birds they have identified with the name of the bird, the date and location it was first seen. This is called a Life List and denotes a level of seriousness and commitment which identifies the third stage. One might think that they would never forget the first time they saw any bird but after trips all over the state, then the nation, then the continent, and then overseas, human RAM becomes full and data are dumped. Besides, years later the Life List can be a document of great joy, embarrassment, laughter, and sweet memories. An adjunct to a Life List is called a Trip List where every day of a trip a list is compiled for each area visited with the numbers of each species listed. As experience is gained other facets are added such as special highlights and even a drawing or description of a bird you recognized as rare. This insidious stage is a major plateau as it quietly and without fanfare changes a birdwatcher into an amateur ornithologist who is attempting to document the birds so that other observers benefit from the experience. The next stage is keeping a list on an almost daily basis with birds around home, on the way to work, and at lunch noted. Unusual species are entered and the first dates of migrants returning in spring and fall are kept. These ground floor data are the foundation of population dynamics and an invaluable indicator of changes in abundance (numbers), status (when a species occurs) and distribution (where a species occurs). Birding can and should be done both alone and with others. Going on an Audubon field trip is a good way to be exposed to experienced birders from whose knowledge you will profit. Birding alone allows you to concentrate on movement and sounds in a way that a group will not allow. For suggestions and directions to the best birding hot spots in the Owens Valley go to or the Sep/Oct 1995 issue of the WAVE. Other WAVE articles have covered many topics to help one get started including beginning to bird in winter when there are fewer birds and how to document a rare bird (Nov/Dec 1995, Jan/Feb 1997). If you are serious about wanting to learn about the birds of this area join a local group which meets monthly for classroom and field studies. Call us for further information (938-2764). Skills are not required, enthusiasm is!

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