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Articles from The Sierra Wave for March/April, 2003

Volume 21, Number 4


March 12
Refreshments: Phil Kiddoo

Main Program: A Biological Field Trip to the Farallon Islands National Wildlife Refuge will be presented by Kristie Nelson and Joel Ellison of Lee Vining. The Farallons are a group of small and rocky islands 30 miles off the coast of San Francisco. They harbor one of the largest sea bird nesting colonies in the Pacific Ocean and are visited by thousands of songbirds in Autumn. The surrounding waters host the highest densities of Great White Sharks in the world. Kristie and Joel will describe their many trips to these rugged and beautiful islands and discuss the land and ocean wildlife which has been extensively studied since 1970, mainly by scientists from Point Reyes Bird Observatory. Besides seabirds and sharks, many pinnipeds such as California and Stellers sea lions, elephant and harbor seals cruise the local waters. The islands are a magnet for Eastern and Siberian migratory songbirds who took a wrong turn somewhere. Some resident landbirds, such as towhees, alight there as well. A day at the mist nets is full of surprises.

April 9
Refreshments: Kathy Anderson

Main Program: Living Lakes and the Dead Sea. Mono Lake was one of the charter members of a partnership known as Living Lakes, sponsored by major international corporations. There are now 24 major, endangered lakes in the partnership, each represented by a conservation group. The organizations share information, publicity and strategy. Join Geoff McQuilkin, MLC executive director, for a slide show of many of these different lakes around the world, learning about the flora and fauna and the threats to their existence. For example, at Lake St. Lucia in South Africa, is the only estuary in the world where hippos, crocodiles and sharks share the same waterways. You can imagine the bird life. In Russia, Lake Baikal is 30 million years old, contains 20% of the world's freshwater and endemic freshwater seal. The Wilsons Phalaropes leaving Mono Lake in the fall arrive at Laguna Mar Chiquita in Argentina to spend the winter months, along with a few other species like 100,000 breeding pairs of Chilean Flamingoes. Geoff also visited the newest nominated lake: the Dead Sea, where the hope is for dropping political tensions in order to address environmental harm .



A warm Eastern Sierra Audubon welcome to the following new, transfer and returning members (as of December, 2002):

Charles Fitzzaland Bishop
Cheryl Chipman Bishop
The Frickles Lone Pine
Tom Crowe Lee Vining
Christopher Allen Bishop
Taema Weiss Bishop
Ann Wong & Jerry Wise - Bishop

Jim Parker


n these very interesting times it is hard to choose what the presidents message should be about. Since the last newsletter the Wilsons purchased a new Toyota. I could write about the conflict between buying a new comfy SUV with bad mileage, a cool new Miyata with good mileage that will comfortably seat almost two people, and the Corolla we bought. I call the Corolla my "dont drill in ANWR (Alaska National Wildlife Refuge) for me" car. While 40 miles to the gallon is hardly a revolution it is better than the rigs we had before.

Or I could write about my fear for the trees and creatures in the new Giant Sequoia National Monument. President Clinton created this National Monument. It encompasses most of the Giant Sequoia groves not in the national parks, and was supposed to protect the ancient trees. The Forest Service has just released a draft management plan that proposed to log for fire protection at levels as high or higher than before the new monument! The clear language of the proclamation creating the monument states lands are not to be opened for commercial logging. Instead the plan proposes to protect the forest with extensive logging, even in the groves of Sequoias. For more info go, to, and to view the plan, go to Or there is an action alert on the bulletin board of my store. Write a letter if you can.

On a more local level your board of directors has voted in the last two months to make donations to some local projects. We donated to a survey of Sage Grouse in the Crowley Lake area initiated by the BLM. While there have been ongoing surveys of grouse in the Bodie Hills, this is the first of its type in Long Valley. We voted to donate to the Point Reyes Bird Observatorys Eastern Sierra songbird monitoring project. This study has been going on for several years. And we voted to donate funds to the Owens Valley Committee and the Lower Owens River restoration project. All of these and other future worthwhile projects are helped by funds your local chapter raises. And recently funds have become more difficult to find.

Your board of directors is working on fund raising for the future. Some of the suggestions are to remind members that we get $$ from the recycling at Manor Market. Just designate your recycling monies to go to ESAS [more below]. We plan to reinstitute the Christmas raffle. There will be an ESAS garage sale on April 12th. Details elsewhere in this issue. Other plans are afoot. Anyone who wishes to work on fundraising, or has an idea, give me a call. Thanks,
James Wilson


In archived bird sightings and newsletters, e.g. - it's easy
Our website has grown with archived copies of the WAVE (isues from the past several years are available, and, eventually, all issues will be, going back to Vol. 1, Number 1) and Bird Sightings (archived bird sightings go back to 2/24/1999). It's easy to search for any information in text format. Bring up
Google (, and follow your search words with "". That will direct all the considerable power of Google to our website alone. Works great!


As we have done in most recent years, we'll have a garage sale fundraiser this year. It will be on 12 April at the Wilsons' house, 2689 Highland Drive. An annual block-long garage sale is held there, which attracts lots of people. Be sure to mark your calendars, and please begin setting items aside, and pricing them. The Wilsons can store items for the last week. Thanks!


Either week end day, every other month. Drive the BLM truck, visit petroglyph sites, springs, and other places of special interest in this area of environmental concern. Allow four hours for the total time involvement for each trip. If you are interested, please call or write Sam Glasser:

(760) 872-1890
399 E. Yaney St.
Bishop, CA 93514

Recycling at Manor Market

You might recycle because you know its the right thing to do for the environment...but did you know that recyclers at Manor Market have earned hundreds of dollars for ESAS over the past few years? Its easy to do: When you recycle at Manor Market tell the staff to donate the proceeds to ESAS. That way you can know youre helping the environment and donating to a good cause.
Chris Howard


Sara Steck, now working full time, and Debby Parker could use some help from another volunteer on the t-shirt scene - someone to visit the shirts once a week to straighten them on shelves and restock, and take a simple basic inventory once in awhile, so we'll know when we need new ones. Call Debby at 872-4447.


Hike-in wilderness camp at 10,000 feet near Mt. Whitney. Naturalist interpreted three 1-week sessions starting June 29, July 6, and July 13. Reserve early - limited space, often full by April. For brochure call 805-688-8344, or e-mail Their website is:


For California Bird Species of Special Concern Book

PRBO Conservation Science needs funding to finish the California Bird Species of Special Concern book that will be published in collaboration with Western Field Ornithologists, California Dept. of Fish and Game, and many of the states leading bird biologists. This book identifies the states at-risk birds most in need of help and makes specific recommendations for research, monitoring, and conservation actions that will keep them off lists of threatened and endangered species. As a regulatory tool, the special concern list will guide state, federal, and local governments in defining sensitive species under the California Environmental Quality Act and hence will help reduce negative impacts on these birds. Contributions of any amount are welcome. A donation of $100 or more will assure the donor of a copy of the book. Please send contributions to: Sarah Huard, Manager of Individual Giving, PRBO, 4990 Shoreline Hwy, Stinson Beach, CA 94970. Indicate on the check that your donation is for Bird Species of Special Concern. Email Dave Shuford for additional information.



Check the Field Trips webpage,, for additions and updates.

Saturday, March 8th Bird Banding Demonstration with Tom and Jo Heindel - Tom and Jo will operate a bird banding station where the public is invited to watch wild birds being taken out of mist nets, measurements made, aluminum bands placed on legs and the birds released back to the wild. Stop by between 8:00AM and 11:00AM. Drop-ins may stay for as long or as short a time as they wish. The station is located at 280 Dewey St., Big Pine. Children are welcome; pets are not for obvious reasons. Wind or weather cancels. For further information call Tom or Jo Heindel at 938-2764.

Saturday, March 22nd Highway Cleanup with John and Ros Gorham - Meet at Toms Place Resort for breakfast at 8:00AM or 9:00AM for the cleanup. Wear warm clothes and bring gloves. Should only last a couple of hours. Call John and Ros at 938-2023 for more information.

Saturday, April 12th ESAS Garage Sale. See p. 2.

Saturday, April 19th Walker Lake Loon Festival - 9:00AM to 3:00PM - Free lake tours, a raffle, Native American speakers and singers, food vendors. Enjoy a fun family day and support water rights for Walker Lake. Call 775-945-2507 for more info.

Saturday, May 3rd Baker Meadow Birding with Earl Gann This is spring migration at its finest in a beautiful meadow above Big Pine. Expect warblers, vireos, flycatchers, tanagers, and orioles in breeding plumage. A great trip for beginners and children. Meet at Glacier View Campground at 7:00AM. Call 873-7422 for more information.

Saturday, May 10th International Migratory Bird Day

Furnace Creek Trip Report

This report by Chris first appeared on the bird sightings webpage,, Feb. 17.

Last week Furnace Creek received 1 inch of rain in 24 hours...half the annual the timing of our field trip to coincide with a 75F sunny day was perfect. Highlights of the 15 Feb ES Audubon Field Trip at Furnace Creek Ranch and Inn were a "SOOTY" FOX SPARROW, a SORA, around 7 LEWIS'S WOODPECKERS in the date grove, three SLATE-COLORED JUNCOS with OREGON JUNCOS, one RED-BREASTED SAPSUCKER, a RED-SHOULDERED HAWK, six INCA DOVES at the horse corrals, seven CINNAMON TEAL at the sewer ponds, two ROSS'S GEESE at 'long' pond.

At other times during the weekend we saw a CLIFF SWALLOW (first of spring) with two TREE SWALLOWS, and the rarest bird of the weekend: a female RUDDY GROUND-DOVE in the residential area with a flock of 15 INCA DOVES.
Chris Howard



By River Gates
Eastern Sierra Education and Outreach Coordinator, PRBO Conservation Science

PRBO Conservation Science (formerly known as the Point Reyes Bird Observatory, PRBO) monitors riparian songbird populations in the Eastern Sierra, collecting one of the most comprehensive and extensive data sets for riparian songbirds populations in California. The Eastern Sierra Riparian Songbird Conservation Project has created innovative partnerships with outstanding success in furthering collaboration among its 13 federal, state and private partners, including land management and regulatory agencies, educational and research institutions, private corporations and conservation groups. With this information, PRBO has provided science based management recommendations that seek to protect riparian songbirds and the vital habitat they need for breeding and migration. Since the projects inception in 1998, we have established study sites on over 40 creeks in the Eastern Sierra encompassing 5 major watersheds. The project includes a strong community outreach and education component, working with schools and conservation organizations to increase awareness of songbirds and their habitat needs.

We are actively seeking volunteers that would be interested in offering their skills to supplement our monitoring activities. We are in need of skilled birders that are willing to be trained to conduct point counts during the breeding season (May July). We are also seeking people that are interested in learning how to mist net and band birds, an exciting and intimate method that captures wild birds and releases them with a permanent uniquely numbered lightweight band on the birds leg. Banders quickly become proficient at aging and sexing birds in the hand. Both banding and point counting are excellent ways to focus and enhance your bird observational skills. Also, for all you plant enthusiasts out there, we do habitat assessment at the end of the season, too! If you are interested in volunteering your time and developing your skills or have questions regarding our project, please contact River Gates, Eastern Sierra Education and Outreach Coordinator, at 760 647 6109 or


By Cindy Kamler
Director, Eastern Sierra Wildlife Care

Foster-Care Parents Urgently Needed

Take a walk in the desert or look out the window and youll see signs of spring. Green is creeping over the valley floor, trees budding out. Bird song and mating displays can be seen and heard. Red-tailed Hawks, Great Horned Owls, and ravens are already on their nests, or soon will be. Eastern Sierra Wildlife Care received two three-week old cottontails on February 10.

For ESWC volunteers, spring means baby season. In 2002, half of the 300 animals brought to the organization for help were birds and mammals ranging in age from one day to weaning age. Most of these animals are raised by foster-care volunteers in their homes; some even take them to work. Foster care provides the best possible option for these animals. The volunteer can closely monitor the development of each bird in his or her care and promptly notice any problems. For example, last year a nestling Steller's Jay bounced out of his nest. Later, the foster mom noticed the bird favoring one leg. A stress fracture was found and splinted. It healed well and the jay was eligible for release.

Caring for these youngsters is a time-consuming labor of love. A hatchling songbirddepending on speciesis fed about every 30 minutes; a baby hummingbird every 15 minutes; a young American Kestrel every 2 hours or so. This routine is followed from about 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM. Newborn baby mammals are often fed every 2-3 hours round-the clock. Fortunately, the smaller the bird, the faster the maturation. A hatchling hummingbird will be self-feeding in 2-3 weeks; a Lesser Goldfinch, in 3-4 weeks.

Most foster-care volunteers keep the birds until they are completely self-feeding. They are then transferred to the Center or to volunteers with flight spaces; there birds can perfect flying skills and acclimate to outside temperatures before release. Birds and mammals that need extra time to perfect hunting skillsraptors, insectivores, some omnivores, carnivoreswill need longer time in the aviaries where live prey is provided.

Western Kingbirds, for example, leave their nests at an early age, and follow their parents through the trees, watching as they catch a variety of insects. While still being fed, the fledglings practice their hunting skills. In rehabilitation, we attract flying insects into the aviaries, provide pans with crawling insects, and throw insects upward so that the young kingbirds can fly out and catch them.

Being a foster-care parent for orphaned birds or mammals is indeed demanding, but the rewards are great. You feel a sense of accomplishment and rich satisfaction upon seeing one of your animals released into the wild. You watch the miraculous details of Nature at work as the young bird or mammal moves through its growth stages, providing you with a deeper understanding and appreciation of that particular species and of all wildlife.

In April (date and place to be determined), Eastern Sierra Wildlife Care will hold its annual Volunteer Training. If you are interested, watch your local media or call Eastern Sierra Wildlife Care (872-1487) for the class date. Volunteers are needed for pickup and transport, administrative help, caring for animals at the Center, and most of all, in-home foster care. Find some time to raise a tiny bird or mammal this spring or summer and youll have the experience of a lifetime!

And when the hypokinetic man stood still for half a day at a time, a butterfly sometimes hovered over him. Every now and then sparrows alighted on his dark, wavy hair, perhaps confusing it for dry foliage. Or did they sense something else in this very different human? On occasion a bird stayed for a whole hour, chirping merrily. This would cause the hypokinetic man to blink with gratitude. Once he even smiled.
Sanjay Nigam, 2002, Transplanted Man


Winners of Birds and People competition receive recognition

By Natasha Twal

Reprinted from The Jordan Times, February 25, 2003 ( Used by permission.

KARAK A combined total of 20 students from various governorates across the country were honoured at a public ceremony here Monday, after wining Birds and People, a competition, organised by the Education Ministry and the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN).

The student drawings selected as winners were chosen from among 15,000 submissions sent by members of the 1,000 Nature Conservation Clubs scattered throughout Kingdom schools. Winners were honoured by Minster of Education Khalid Touqan and presented with drawing kits, educational books about wildlife in Jordan as well as invitations to Al Azraq Reserve along with their families.

This is an good initiative since Jordan has a wide variety of unique birds, said the minister, adding: The ministry is recognising the importance of ecological concepts by integrating them into school curricula and providing constant training to those responsible for the Nature Conservation Clubs.

Through competition, students were introduced to birds and their importance in our ecosystem in a fun way, without the need for lecturing, said RSCN Director General Khaled Irani.

Some students even did research about the birds here by reading books and coming to the RSCN to find some information so they could more accurately render their chosen species in their paintings, he explained.

The competition also tackled ethical problems such as poachers and those attacking wildlife as well as ecological issues, added the RSCN official.

This can be seen in the students paintings. Some have chosen to depict the beauty of birds while others chose to show the damage being done to them, pointed out the ecologist. The Birds and People competition is part of an EU-funded project entitled For Birds and People in the Jordan Valley, which is working to transform the Jordan Valley into an ecologically sustainable region, while recognising the link between sustainability and social, economic, and cultural factors.

Sumayya Mahameed, a 10th grader at Al Husseinieh Secondary Schools for girls was one of the winners.

I drew a collection of birds in one painting, said the budding artist, who explained she had to read a number of books on various bird species in the Kingdom to create her drawing.

It was definitely educational, she said, adding that she now knows more about the dangers facing endangered birds.

In Jordan there are 415 species of birds, most of which are migrating. Lesser Kestrels and Short Toad Eagles are among the endangered species here.

The Short-eared Owl

By Morgan T., 3rd grade, Pine St. School

On December 7, 2002 my teacher Ms. Beach, my mom Jennifer, and a bunch of other people, plus me, went on a field trip. I was the only kid!! Birds are my favorite animal, and the main reason I went on this trip was to see birds! We went to three places in one day! First, we went to Crowley Lake West Arm and saw Bufflehead, Bald Eagle, and a bunch of other birds. Then we went to Layton Springs and we saw 6 Great Blue Herons roosting, I counted myself. Finally, we went to Crowley Lake boat landing and started looking around. I saw a big white bird floating on the water, but it was just a boat. I was guessing I wouldnt be able to see the Short-eared Owl, but my mom said, Morgan! Look! The Short-eared Owl! Where? Here in the scope! WOW!! I finally saw the Short-eared Owl! I was so happy. The owl was flying over yellow grass, and there was a truck and a log in the yellow grass the owl was flying over. I said to my mom, My tongue wants M&Ms, but my heart wants to stay with the owl. I really wanted to see the owl and I finally saw it! The End

SECRET PLACE, by Eve Bunting. Illustrated by Ted Rand. Clarion Books, NY 1996

The narrator, a little boy who lives in the inner city, finds a secret place. Down in between concrete banks runs a river. It is a hidden place that is known only to a few of the people in the neighborhood, as well as to the sparrows, the green-winged teal, the buffleheads, the mallards, and the white egret. The young boy gets an opportunity to use a pair of binoculars and learns that "Wild things need quiet. We do, too." Beautiful watercolor pictures illustrate the story.

Sara Steck



The Say's Phoebe that cohabits our 5 acres, and who, like us, favors the couple hundred square yards occupied by the house, is certainly one of our favorite cohabitants, if not the favorite (well, maybe after the Gray Fox). We have one every month of the year, though it makes itself scarce in December and January. It has fellow-creature company in Spring and Summer, but most of the time there's just one. How many "ones" there have been over the years, we cannot tell. Our current bird might be the one Cindy Kamler released here last Fall. Whatever the case, it is quite active now. In the morning it may be seen scanning for unwary insects from the perch I made for it on a deck corner; when it spies one, it swiftly darts forward with great confidence of success. We love its plaintive minor-keyed song, at once mournful and optimistic. Now is the time when those that migrate to warmer climes in winter (most Say's Phoebes, apparently) are turning up again in Eastern Sierra lowlands. This hardy bird is often found in the dryest and hottest of Eastern Sierra locales. We saw several - of course, only one at a time - a couple of weeks ago in arid Death Valley canyons.

Its scientific name is Sayornis saya, leaving little doubt that it was named for Thomas Say, the great early American entomologist. For a government-sponsored exploring trip to the Rocky Mountains in 1820, Say was pressed into service as zoologist, and he brought back more than one bird new to science. It was first named and described for science by the European ornithologist Charles L. Bonaparte (nephew of Napoleon). He dedicated the bird "to my friend, Thomas Say, a naturalist of whom America may justly be proud, and whose talents and knowledge are only equaled by his modesty."

Audubon painted the plate (for his great work on American Birds) containing Say's Phoebe from specimens collected by Thomas Nuttall and John Kirk Townsend, on their cross-country trek in 1834. Nuttall provided Audubon with one of the first written field accounts:

We first observed this bird in our route westward, about the 14th of June, within the first range of the Rocky Mountains called the Black Hills, and in the vicinity of that northern branch of the Platte known by the name of Laramie's Fork. At the time, we saw a pair perched as usual on masses of rocks, from which, like the Pewee, though occasionally alighted, they flew after passing insects, without uttering any note that we heard; and from their predilection, it is probable they inhabit among broken hills and barren rocks, where we have scarcely a doubt, from their behaviour, they had at this time a brood in a nest among these granite cliffs. They appeared very timorous on our approach, and seemed very limited in their range. Except among the Blue Mountains of the Columbia, we scarcely ever saw them again. Their manners appear to be very much like those of the Common Pewee; but they are much more silent and shy.

When he painted the plate Audubon had yet to see a live one in the field. But, in later years, his journals record his field observation of them on several occasions.

Larry Blakely

By Tom and Jo Heindel

Just after the beginning of the last century, water was taken from the Owens River south of Tinemaha Reservoir and channeled into the aqueduct for transport to Los Angeles. For all practical purposes this destroyed the thriving riparian habitat that had existed for ages from there to the Owens River delta over 60 miles to the south. In todays enlightened consciousness, this magnitude of destruction would be unthinkable. The courts have begun rectification of the damage and have ordered the City of Los Angeles, Department of Water and Power (LADWP) to rewater this section of the dried riverbed to mitigate, in part, for the damage they have caused the Owens Valley over the last few decades. The result is the Lower Owens River Project or LORP.

What this means to the birds that live all or part of their lives here will depend on how successful LADWP is in achieving the goals of the LORP. Over the last century riparian habitat in the western United States has dramatically declined and only 10% of that which existed in California a century ago remains. This is a major reason why many riparian obligate species are endangered, threatened, or species of special concern.

The reintroduction of a healthy, robust riparian corridor of willows and cottonwoods would encourage the repopulation of species such as Southwest Willow Flycatcher, Least Bells Vireo, and Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo. All are State Endangered and the flycatcher and vireo are also Federally Endangered. Among other riparian dependent species that would profit from this enhanced habitat would be Yellow-breasted Chat, Yellow Warbler, Blue Grosbeak as well as others. These three species are found in low numbers and are very sparsely distributed along the Owens River north of the aqueduct intake where water flows.

After a ten-day search along the river by Whitehorse Associates, no new willow growth was found! Two major contributing factors are water levels and cattle grazing. LADWP stated in their Draft EIR that it will control both problems by increasing water releases which will overflow banks when willow seeds are falling to aid in distribution and germination and by fencing cows out to protect tender, new willow growth from being browsed. Other serious questions are the increase in tules and Brown-headed Cowbirds that the LORP must face. Larger tracts of tules will please Marsh Wrens, Red-winged Blackbirds, and Common Yellowthroats but not many other species. Increased populations of breeding species will please the cowbirds that will have more nests to parasitize by laying their eggs for other species to feed and fledge.

Restoring the Owens River to its former splendor will not only be a boon to those species that breed or winter here but to the myriads of migrants who travel up the Owens Valley each spring and reverse their routes in fall. Ensuring a healthy riparian habitat will ensure the continued economic growth of the County. Build it and they (birds and people) will come!

For more information on the LORP visit