Sierra Wave -  Newsletter of the Eastern Sierra Audubon Society

Eastern Sierra Audubon
Sierra Wave Newsletter

Volume 30, Number 2
November-December, 2011



‎"The autumn is a melancholy and graceful andante
which admirably prepares the solemn adagio of winter."

~ George Sand

Holiday Potluck Candlelight Dinner and Program, December 7th


The December 7th meeting is also our annual Holiday potluck candlelight dinner, held at 6 PM in the dining room of the White Mountain Research Station.

Do plan to attend as it is a fun event, and bring a friend or neighbor! Every participant should bring a dish (entre, salad, or dessert to serve at least 6 people, and contribute either juice, soft drinks, wine or beer to the beverage table.) We often run out of food, so we would appreciate contributions of larger portions so there will be sufficient food for everyone. Please bring your own place setting. Audubon will provide coffee, tea, juice and a touch of wine prior to the dinner.  Arrive by 6 PM. for our potluck dinner. 

The dinner will be followed by a program at 7pm:

Alpine Lake Biology (after Christmas Candlelight Dinner)

Roland Knapp of Lee Vining, the preeminent amphibian biologist in the Sierra, will do a program on the biology of Alpine Lakes. While working on Mountain Yellow Legged Frogs he has also learned lots about Gray-crowned Rosy Finches and Water Shrews among other things. He has great footage of the rebound of Finches in Humphrey’s Basin. Should be a great Christmas program.

Mesa Lake in Humphrey's Basin

Mesa Lake, one of our local alpine lakes up in the Humprheys Basin
Photo by Roland Knapp

Impacts of nonnative trout on mountain ecosystems: thinking outside of the lake

Mountain environments historically contained an abundance of naturally fish-free lakes and streams, due to the presence of waterfalls that prevented colonization by fish from lower-elevation areas. During the past 150 years, trout were widely introduced into these fishless habitats to create recreational fisheries, but the impacts of those introductions were not widely appreciated until recently. The introduction of trout has markedly altered lake ecosystems, with trout predation often resulting in the elimination of amphibians and most large bodied invertebrates. These changes in species composition have in some cases caused large changes in ecosystem processes, such as within-lake nutrient cycling. However, very little research has investigated whether these effects cascade beyond the boundaries of lakes into adjacent terrestrial ecosystems. Recent studies are providing some intriguing insights that indicate that trout effects do in fact extend beyond lake edges, in some cases fundamentally restructuring terrestrial food webs. These results have important implications for the management of these montane ecosystems, and indicate that when assessing the effects of trout introductions, we need to think “outside of the lake.”

Mountain Yellow-legged Frog

Mountain Yellow-legged Frog, Photo by Roland Knapp
(click on the photo for a larger version)

Future programs to put on your calendar:

February 1st, 2012: Reptiles and Amphibians of the Great Basin

Laura Cunningham, who did a program last year that was fantastic on her book, A State of Change, will return to do a program on reptiles and amphibians of the Great Basin. Laura lives near Beatty, Nevada, on a property called the Atomic Toad Ranch, and is an expert on the creatures. She is excited to come back, and it should be a great program. More details on our programs page.

April 26th, 2012: Birds of Midway Atoll

Midway Atoll (mid-way between the U.S. mainland and Japan) is important for many historical and biological reasons. Today it is part of three federal designations: Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, and the Battle of Midway National Memorial. Well over a million seabirds use the three tiny islands in the atoll to bread each season, including over half of the world's population of Laysan Albatross. Join professional wildlife photographer Bob Steele as we explore the human and natural history of this unique and fascinating place.

Everyone is welcome to attend all programs!

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Raptor Watch at Sierra Discovery Day - Saturday, November 5th

Ferruginous Hawk

Ferruginous Hawk
Photo by Ron Overholtz

Sierra Discovery Day, put on by the Eastern Sierra Institute for Collaborative Education's (ESICE) with collaboration from Eastern Sierra Audubon, Eastern Sierra Land Trust, and others, promises to be a fantastic event, with several locales and many great programs and activities for all ages. Go to the ESICE webpage on Sierra Discovery Day to learn more, register in advance, and see a schedule of events.

Sierra Discovery Day will showcase the abundance of cultural and natural wonders in the Eastern Sierra. Using the theme of a treasure hunt, a day-long extravaganza of heritage events are planned for various locations in the northern Owens Valley.

Eastern Sierra Audubon is partnering with ESICE to present a Raptor Watch program at Laws. Hawks are some of the year-round residents of the Owens Valley, and Laws is a great place to see them. We'll learn about these creatures and provide binoculars and/or spotting scopes and field ID tips for hawk watching. We'll also receive a visit from a special raptor guest from Eastern Sierra Wildlife Care, so you WILL see one beautiful raptor up close and personal! The Raptor Watch program will be from 9:30 am through 12:00pm. Meet at Laws Railroad Museum.

We could still use some volunteers out at Laws for our Raptor station - we'd like to have one hour shifts for volunteers. Contact Pete Pumphrey at 760-872-7846 or, if you can volunteer some time for this event.

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Upcoming ESAS Field Trips

McNally Canal Birding, Saturday, November 12th, 8:30am

Will the Prairie Falcon, Merlin, Snipe and Kingfisher show up at McNally Canal this fall as they did in 2010? To find out, we'll take a slow two-mile walk, meeting at 8:30 a.m. near the point where Silver Canyon Road crosses the canal just east of Laws. Bring liquids, snacks, warm clothes, binoculars. Spotting scopes will be helpful.  We'll finish the morning by taking a look at nearby Farmer's Pond. For more information call leader Larry Nahm at 872-4125.

December Field Trips TBA

As of "press time," we don't have any dates set for December field trips, though we hope to offer some. Check back for updates here and on the Field Trips page of the ESAS website.

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The 30th Annual Bishop Christmas Bird Count, Saturday, December 17th

"Open" the gift of birds this season...

The 30th annual Bishop Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is Saturday, December 17th, 2011.  All skill levels are invited to participate.  The CBC is an important citizen-science effort to census all birds in the Bishop area. Results show long term population trends and shifting demographics. Plus, it's a lot of fun! Even last year, when it rained off and on all day, was a blast. We saw a surprising number of species who were out in the rain with us, and enjoyed a great potluck afterwards. Consider joining us for this year's CBC, or helping by pledging in the annual Bird-A-Thon.

Please RSVP as soon as possible to Chris Howard at, (760) 873-7422 (home), or (760) 920-2845 (cell), to join a team and let him know if you prefer a specific area or team-mate. He'd like to assign areas well in advance to give you a chance to scout.  If you'd prefer to be a feeder-watcher, as opposed to covering an area, please let him know. 

Our tally has topped the century mark seven years in a row; will we this year?

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Eastern Sierra Audubon Society
BIRD-A-THON - Saturday, December 17, 2011

Tundra Swan drawn by a 3rd grade 'Birds in the Classroom' student

Eastern Sierra Audubon has shifted the date of its annual Bird-a-Thon fundraising effort to coincide with the Christmas Bird Count. Anyone can participate in the count which is a major effort to monitor the numbers and distribution of bird species throughout the Western Hemisphere. Simply put, the Christmas Bird Count is citizen science in action.

When you participate or sponsor a participant, you play a vital role in keeping the Eastern Sierra Audubon chapter alive and well. The Bird-a-Thon is the chapter's most important fundraiser.

Bird-a-Thon donations fund the "Birds in the Classroom" program which teaches elementary school students to appreciate the importance of the natural environment and our bird resources. We hope to continue to add schools to this program with your help and support. Funds are also needed for ESAS's other educational programs, outreach, field trips and to maintain the website and newsletter.

Even a donation of $10 or $20 would go far to help us in our mission. Please join us in support of Eastern Sierra Audubon by making your Bird-a-Thon pledge:

Download 2011 pledge form and share it!

You can support this great event with a flat donation or choose a sponsorship level. All donors receive a detailed summary of the Bird-a-thon.

To Donate,

  1. Print and mail the pledge form, or,
  2. Send an email* with your pledge by clicking on one of the levels listed below:
Sponsorship Level Pledge or Donation Amount
"Spotted Sandpiper" 10 cents per species
"Western Tanager" 20 cents per species
"Green Heron" 30 cents per species
Flat Donation Pledge your amount

*If clicking the links above doesn't generate an email for you, just send an email with your pledge amount to

You may send an email with your pledge amount to, or mail it in to the address below.

For an idea of how much you will be pledging, in past years on the Christmas Bird Count, we have tallied over 100 species - so 10 cents per species would be a pledge of around $10.

Please make checks payable to Eastern Sierra Audubon Society.
Please mail checks to:

Drawer D
Lone Pine, CA 93545

Contact Mike Prather with questions at

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15th Annual Central Valley Birding Symposium

Quail Watercolor

The Central Valley Bird Club will be hosting the Fifteenth Annual Central Valley Birding Symposium Nov. 17-20, 2011 at the Stockton Hilton Hotel in Stockton, CA. Please come and help us kick off this year’s CVBS! Come meet the CVBS board & staff members! Reconnect with old friends! Meet new ones! Take advantage of the scrumptious Hors D’oeuvres buffet & No Host Bar on Thursday night.

Thursday Night Keynote speakers are: Ed Harper & John Sterling presenting a program on “Appreciating the Birds of the Central Valley.” Come sit back and watch as Ed & John take us on a photographic journey to catch a glimpse of the avian world of the Central Valley.

Friday Night’s keynote program is presented by Ron LeValley on “The Writings of William Leon Dawson—a California Bird Pioneer.” Dawson’s writings are humorous, sad, spiritual, satirical, and inspirational. Ron’s presentation and photography captures much of this feeling.

Saturday Night’s keynote program is by Jeff Gordon on: “10 Birds that Changed Birding.” There is the “spark” bird--the one that turned you from a casual observer into an avowed birdwatcher, willing to endure long miles and early hours in search of new species. There are birds that thrilled you with their rarity, their beauty, and their unexpected behaviors. Come hear what Jeff has to say.

Other events include workshops on Swallow ID Workshop by Joe Morlan & a Warbler ID Workshop by Jon Dunn. There are also programs on topics of Bird Migration & Wetlands Icons.

Our field trips always turn up exciting birds. Add in the always entertaining and educational Bird ID Panel, the wonderful display of art and gifts for yourself or others at the Birder’s Market and the camaraderie of hundreds of like-minded folks, and you know you’ll have a good time! There’s something for everyone interested in birds. Come and join us to bird, learn, and just have fun!

The schedule, brochure, registration form, etc. have just been updated on the website at:

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President’s Message

“I pray to the birds because I believe they
will carry the messages of my heart upward.”

—Terry Tempest Williams


Sierra through the Tules, Lower Owens River
Photo by Maggie Riley

This past Monday, I spent a day helping, in a very minor way, to take stream data on the Lower Owens River as a part of the ESICE work in that area. It was a gorgeous day. Warm, little wind and that amazing quality of light that makes fall such a special season. Every time I looked up I was treated to the Sierra Crest with its early dusting of snow. There was water in the river; enough to threaten to top my waders. We were there to measure and document the changes that have come with that water. The goal was to string a series of transect lines from one side of the river to the other and I was reminded of bad movies in which people hack their way through the jungle.

A series of photographs were taken marking the location of the center of the channel and the surrounding vegetation. As most of you know, there is a profusion of tules that do not appear in the early photos. The size and configuration of the river itself has changed as have the invertebrate populations that call it home. The return of the Lower Owens is one of the institutional miracles of the Eastern Sierra along with Mono Lake and the Mono Basin streams and Owens Lake.

It was not fast paced work, at least for me. I had a lot of time to reflect on things, listen to birds and talk with others in the work group. I thought a lot about the Owens Lake planning effort; how long and a difficult a journey has been involved and how dependent it is on the qualities of those at the table. As the day wore on, I was struck by how special the people were that were participating in our day at the river. Each of them wore a sense of dedication to the health of this river on their sleeves. Along with that, every individual had multiple skills and experiences which were shared as we worked together in the welcome warmth of the sun. I came away with a deep satisfaction of having been in the company of this group.

Happily, this is not a new experience for me. It has been seven years that Roberta and I have been here and I still am impressed again and again by the people with whom we are privileged to share our lives. I have had very few conversations here in which I did not learn something. Everyone seems to have multiple talents and imagination and creativity abounds.

I save up questions in anticipation of events where I know I will find the answers. For example, although we looked forward to the CNPS plant sale for the chance to add to our garden’s variety, I really wanted to ask people about plants we had seen while out walking and why there seemed to be such a variety of species along the Kearsarge Pass Trail. As usual, I came away with the information I was seeking as well as a whole new set of questions and places to explore. It is remarkable that there are not simply so many talented people, but that they are so accessible and part of everyday life.

There is not a day in which the view from my yard does not stop me in my tracks. It is so easy to look in any direction and dream of things to see; places to go. There are so many things about which to wonder and, thankfully, I am surrounded by people whose capabilities and vibrancy matches the landscape. So many of you are Audubon members and you bring our chapter such strength and capacity as we go forward to try to be effective stewards of our many blessings.

Owens Lake Master Plan Taking Shape

The first full draft of the Owens Lake Master Plan will be previewed to the planning committee stakeholders on November 16th at a meeting in Keeler. The draft will reflect the work of more than fifty people who have met together in stakeholder groups and work groups for more than a year and a half. These folks represent more than forty agencies, tribes, NGOs, businesses and other interests. The plan will contain sections which address the future of the lake in terms of dust control, renewable energy, grazing, mining, public access, recreation and education, water conservation and wildlife habitat.

The goal of this process has been to establish objectives in each of these areas and then integrate them into an overall vision of the lake and the activities which take place there.
Maintenance of wildlife habitat has been a key goal and the habitat section contains an innovative and ambitious plan to assure that this vital resource remains intact for the thousands of birds which depend on it.

The draft plan will be released in December and begin a process of review by the planning committee and the public. You can keep up with his process by going to Owenslakebed on the web, or by contacting Pete Pumphrey for more details. If you are a member of a group which would like to learn more about the plan, contact Pete to arrange a presentation.

Bird-a-thon Supports Eastern Sierra Audubon

It is almost bird-a-thon time again. The bird-a-thon is the Eastern Sierra Audubon Society’s major fundraising activity in which sponsors pledge donations in connection with the Christmas Bird Count. You are encouraged to pledge an amount for each species found as a part of the CBC. This year the CBC will take place on December 17th. Donors will receive a tally of the species seen. Normally, around 100 species are counted. Alternatively, you can pledge a flat sum in support of the chapter.

Donations are used to support ESAS activities which occur throughout the year. These include the “birds in the classroom” program, programs such as last spring’s “wild at home” workshop, chapter field trips and member programs and special projects such as bringing Jack Laws to local schools. They also enable us to support local activities like the Mono Bird Chautauqua, Eastern Sierra Wildlife Care and other special projects in support of the Eastern Sierra landscape and its wildlife.

You can lend your support by filling out the pledge form found at our website. Please consider asking friends or family to join in support of our chapter and its good works.

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We Have Come a Long Way... and Have a Long Way to Go

Audubon with a shotgun

John James Audubon, with shotgun

People have been watching birds as long as there have been people but the goals have changed over the millennia from eating them to admiring their beauty or behavior to the relatively recent phenomenon of birdwatching. The artwork of early man on cave walls and paintings by Catesby, Wilson, and Audubon, and writings from Lewis and Clark, Coues, Chapman, and Teddy Roosevelt attest to the magnetic interest of humans in birds.

Attribution for the rise of birdwatching in America lies with the paint and brushes of Roger Tory Peterson. This self-taught artist, born in New York in 1908, had two paintings hung in the American Ornithologists Union's national exhibition in 1925, when he was seventeen years old! In 1934, his Field Guide to the Birds sold out in five days and this was during the Great Depression! Subsequent editions sold millions followed by bird field guides by multiple authors, all with the goal to represent bird species in a way that allowed the public easy access and guidance in identifying the birds around them. These guides replaced the shotgun for identifying birds.

~~ These guides replaced the shotgun for identifying birds. ~~

Roger Tory Peterson, Painting in the field

Roger Tory Peterson, with sketchpad

Up to this time the distribution of a species was determined largely by where the species was collected. Museums and universities collected inventories of plants and animals, including birds and their eggs, for various scientific studies and a pattern for each collected species slowly emerged. A scientist could not claim that he saw a species outside its known range; he had to produce a specimen as evidence before his sighting would be accepted as a valid scientific record. Science and skepticism go hand-in-hand for good reason. Some bird species look very similar and field identification was sometimes proven incorrect after the sound of the shotgun faded and the bird was in the hand!

Thanks to field guides by Peterson, Pough, Robbins, Sibley, et al. and National Geographic Society, birdwatching has come a long way. An army of "birders" has developed and they spend much time and money chasing birds. This army is made up of informal, amorphorus divisions that are defined by their goals. Most are listers, that is, they keep tallies of the species they have seen in their yard, county, state, region, country, life, special patch, etc. The rules are also informal and while there are general rules "that should be followed", the final decision to list a bird is up to the observer. Much has been learned about bird distribution based on the data collected by a cadre of serious field observers who spent extensive time studying birds, their plumages, vocalizations, molt, behavior, movements, etc. all the while adding to their own personal lists. Listing often leads to in-depth data collecting and advanced avian studies.

Roger Tory Peterson's Flicker painting

Flickers, by Roger Tory Peterson
(Image from

One sub-division has carried listing to a different level with the goal of collecting reliable bird data. The observer gathers all the evidence possible for the claim of a rare, casual, or accidental species and submits it to an evaluative group — a county or state committee. An informal protocol is followed which is determined by the county or state committee that will evaluate the claim. As with all committees, protocols lacks unanimity but they all strive to gather enough information from the observer to increase the chances that the final decision to accept or not accept a claim will be valid. Because the committees and observers are Homo sapiens, 100% accuracy is an impossible dream but it is a worthwhile struggle.

A generalized protocol is 1) write or discuss a description of the bird as you observe it and transcribe it promptly; 2) photograph the bird; 3) call others so they may corroborate your identification; and 4) depending on the level of rarity of the species, submit documentation to the county and/or state committees. Do not spend time writing that could be spent observing the details of the bird (plumage, behavior, vocalizations, etc.). Some birds are extremely difficult to photograph but you should be as aggressive as possible, without destroying habitat or significantly disturbing the bird, in trying to get an image. These images are in-lieu-of a specimen and required for some species by some committees in order to gain acceptance of a claim. In the last decade plus, the advent of digital cameras, small and large, has radically improved the quality of evidence being submitted...and they aren't as heavy, cumbersome, or noisy as shotguns!

Great-horned Owl by Roger Tory Peterson

Great-horned Owl, by Roger Tory Peterson
(Image courtesy of ArtUSA)

We are extremely fortunate here in the Eastern Sierra because we have local birders who embrace and practice this protocol. Many observers provide descriptions and images with their posts to the Eastern Sierra Birds Google Group. Birders from outside the area, who regularly access the website, have commented to us that they are impressed with the level of thoroughness and accuracy of these posts.

The "Long Way to Go" is in encouraging birders, everywhere, to more thoroughly document their claims. Data gathering has a different set of rules and providing evidence is a basic requirement. The time is past when an observer can submit a claim of a totally unexpected bird species without at least a written description and hopefully, an image, and expect that their stature is adequate for acceptance.

Many birders have embraced another group of fliers, the lepidops and odonates, where no claim of a rare or out-of-range species is accepted without unequivocal photographic evidence or a specimen. Bird data gatherers might want to consider applying the same self-imposed standard on themselves minus the specimen gathering!

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Bird Identification Challenge
A Mystery Bird Story

Mystery Bird

Our Mystery Bird

Fall is here with brightly lit cottonwoods and willows making corridors along the gurgling creeks, sun shining through and highlighting the orange and yellow leaves enveloping us and sharing their cheeriness. What a perfect time for a ramble, taking our binoculars along to see what we can find. Most of our migrant nesters have moved south to spend the winter in warmer climates and we wait, daydreaming about the vagrants and stragglers that might still wander through our little corner-of-the-world, possibly lost, but wowing us with their different colors, habits and rarity.

Suddenly, a bird is flycatching into our view; its style of hunting is called “aerial hawking” as it grabs bugs mid-air and lands on a horizontal branch, with its tail tucked under its body, holding still like a statue. We see its peaked crown, its “vested” look on its pale yellow front and its white wingbars contrasting with dark wings and a grayish upper-body. It lacks an obvious eyering and its bill is prominent. The tail is not moving except once when it returns to its perch, and raises it in slow-motion up and then down, then holding it still, the movement barely perceptible to the eye. It is slightly smaller than the Black Phoebe that we often see near creeks, easily told by its beautiful black head and breast that contrasts with a pure white belly. They belong to the flycatcher family and, being a phoebe, they dip their tail often in a more obvious way. Chances are our mystery bird is a flycatcher too but not a Phoebe as they move their tail while perched much more. Our flycatcher is fairly plain in color, dark above and paler below has a longish bill for catching insects, wing-tips extend down the tail and it sits on a perch quietly, except for its swiveling head, busy looking for dinner.

But what else makes it a flycatcher? Many flycatchers give a call note, like a “whit” which is a good clue that it belongs to this group. But a few warblers flycatch and give a “whit” also, like the Yellow-rumped Warbler which is smaller than our mystery bird, lacking the peaked crown and habit of sitting upright on a perch or snag top. They have a bright yellow rump and are usually not plain like our bird and they pass the time busily moving around over and under branches, whatever is needed to catch a flying bug. Another group of flycatchers called Empidonax also “whit” and are similar in size to warblers but they usually sit on a perch, flick their tails fairly regularly, are also plain in color like gray, olive or brown above and paler below. But our bird isn’t in this group because it doesn’t flick its tail often.

Mystery Bird

Another View of Our Mystery Bird,
showing breast streaks

The flycatcher we’re watching is silent today, plain colored and rarely moving its tail. There is one group in the flycatcher family that has this trait and it is the Contopus group, also known as the Pewees. Out of four Contopus flycatchers, all similar in plumage, that can be found in U.S., we have two species that nest in our local mountains, Western Wood-pewee (WWPE) and Olive-sided Flycatcher (OSFL), a large Pewee. The other two are Eastern Wood-Pewee found in the east and Greater Pewee (8 inches long) which can be found in southern Arizona. We see our two nesters (WWPE & OSFL) each year, spring and fall, in our favorite valley-floor birding spots as they are passing through in migration. The Western Wood-Pewee and the Eastern Wood-Pewee (EWPE) are both so similar in plumage they are not safely told apart except by voice. The Contopus group is known for perching quietly in a mostly upright position and waiting for an opportunity to fly out and catch a bug, returning to its same perch.

Our mystery flycatcher is too small to be a Greater Pewee. Next we should consider the Olive-sided Flycatcher which is a large Contopus, nearly 7.5 inches long and has a large substantial bill, extending out from the head noticeably and wide across the base. It too likes to sit on an exposed perch, being partial to the very highest snag-top it can find, allowing for the best looks at the honey bees flying by. But an even more diagnostic mark is its distinctive plumage with slightly blending vertical-streaks on the front, creating a dark open-vested look. This dark front contrasts with a white chin and white down the vest center and into the belly. Another interesting mark are two snow-white patches on each side of its rump that are often hidden by the wings. But if you watch carefully and sit patiently, the wings may drop and these patches will show. Looking at our photos, while our flycatcher wears a vest, its vest is closed at the top and has blurry streaks not as distinctive as the OSFL. But our bird does have a whitish chin and underside that contrast somewhat with the cheek and darker wings. The wings extend down the tail nearly to the tip of the spotted undertail coverts, and long wings are another mark for all of the Pewees.

Mystery Bird

So what do you think it is?

Mystery Bird

So what do you think it is?

It must be time to end this discussion and make a guess. We were able to study its subtle marks noting some slight differences from Western Wood-Pewee, but most WWPE have moved south by this date and seeing any pewee now could be of note. These photos convince us that we are looking at a Pewee and specifically our local nester, a Western Wood-Pewee, but upon a few days of study, what we really needed to happen, happened and the bird vocalized for us. It struck us clearly that it was nothing like what we've ever heard from a Western Wood-Pewee. We felt it sounded like the mournful and ascending, maybe a short part of their song, and it was somewhat familiar from birding trips back east. Others came to see and they heard it too and a group of hard-working birders decided it could very well be an Eastern Wood-Pewee, and after it is presented to the Committee and it agrees, it will truly be a rare find indeed for our neck-of-the-woods!

For a short video of the mystery bird, see Debby's YouTube video!

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Editor's Note: October is my favorite month, even though my birthday is in November. I love the brilliance of October, but in November, everything seems to turn to shades of brown. I've learned to appreciate November's beauty as I've grown older, however - the monochromatic palette is like a tapestry, with textures taking the lead over colors, and forcing the eye to notice much more subtlety.

My niece, Catherine, is a wonderful poet, and sent me this old poem of hers last year, saying, "November is busy finding its way to ground, before winter pulls it under..."


Fallen Aspen Leaves

Fallen Aspen Leaves, photo by Maggie Riley

This autumn, everything was bright;
crisp clear mornings, pastel light;
scarlet leaves, like dying embers —
blown away by brisk November.

Blue — the dusky, faded sky;
birds take wing in falling cry.
Autumn always laughs at death,
yet dies in winter's icy breath.

Fall is a feather, a fragile dream
of rainbow colors and singing streams.
Retrospects of summers remembered
die melancholy in November.

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Free Nest Boxes Available

Priya Balasubramaniam, a graduate student from the University of California, Riverside, recently worked in the White Mountains for her PhD project looking at breeding biology of Mountain Bluebirds. As part of the research project, she made nest boxes for the birds to use. The project ended last Summer and she still has 80 new, unused nest boxes that were never put out in field that she would be happy to give away to bird enthusiasts! These boxes are made of plywood and were designed for Mountain Bluebirds, but are suitable for a variety of cavity nesters. The nest boxes are stored in the Owens Valley Laboratory in Bishop, and interested people should contact Denise Waterbury at the research station to schedule a time to get the boxes.

Priya would like to let the agencies who have funded her research and the nest boxes know where the boxes have ended up, so if you pick up any boxes, please let her know the following:

  1. Your name (or the name of the person/organization for which you are picking up the boxes)
  2. Number of boxes taken
  3. A little bit about yourself/your organization and what you plan to use the boxes for

Any questions, feel free to contact Priya via email at

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Field Trip Report:
Birding Near Mono Lake, Saturday, October 1st

Birdwatchers from our chapter joined Yosemite Area Audubon (based in Mariposa) at the county park just northwest of Mono Lake.  Leaders Lowell Young and Larry Nahm wanted to bird Dechambeau Ponds first in order to enjoy the early light before any winds arose.  We found the water serene, hosting the expected Gadwall and Coots.  Lowell scoped an elusive Sora.  We were fortunate in having retired ranger Janet Carle along.  She interpreted the natural and human history of this stop and our next, Dechambeau Ranch.  Perched below the great Sierran wall, spread out above the huge "inland sea," the ranch especially charmed our forest-bound visitors.  After lunch two short walks were made to Mono Lake's shores.  In a nest atop a tufa tower, an Osprey devoured a fish caught elsewhere.  Avocets and Killdeer worked the shoreline.  Thousands of Eared Grebes and California Gulls made a stirring tableau.  During our drive to Lundy Canyon the wind picked up; enthusiasm for walking waned.  The outing afforded the fourteen participants about twenty-five avian species and an abundance of early autumn beauty.

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Shoshone Report:
Birding With Brownies, Red Rock Audubon

Len Warren from Shoshone sent this, saying "it may be outside the Eastern Sierra group, but our Audubon Groups are creeping closer together, we now have a Pahrump NV Chapter, and had 32 attend the first meeting!" I think it is always nice to hear from our neighbors :)

Learning about birds

On Saturday October1st, the Red Rock Audubon Society, presented "Birding with Brownies" at Camp Foxtail. Camp Foxtail is in Lee Canyon on the Eastern side of Mount Charleston. We made our presentation to 14 Brownies and 8 Boy Scouts.The birding was very quiet, but we were able to call a Gray-headed Junco right up to the picnic table with an iPod. All the kids leaned about birds, feathers, nests, and eggs, from a hands on close up perspective. These were  kids from  Las Vegas that came up the mountain to see what it's like at 9000 feet. They also learned that there is a much different set of birds at the top of a mountain than down in the desert. Thank you to Richard Cantino of Red Rock Audubon West Branch for all the great photos, and for driving me all the way up and down the mountain and all the way back to Shoshone Village.What a thrill it was for me  to see the excitement of children and nature. When I look at the pictures of their faces, I think that they will remember this day too.


Come Visit this Eastern Inyo County Important Bird Area!

Len Warren and a Roadrunner

Please allow me to introduce myself, I'm Len Warren from Shoshone , CA. I'm currently the Education chairperson for Red Rock Audubon in Las Vegas. I work in Spring/ Summer for PRBO on the Amargosa Canyon Songbird Project , and Fall/Winter for Shoshone Village as Staff Naturalist to promote birding and eco-tourism in the area. I'm writing to invite Eastern Sierra Audubon to the area for a field trip sometime. I think it would be ideal for many Inyo birders who don't get down this way too often. Birding is excellent here and our Checklist is 318 species at this time. My opinion is that an overnight trip, camping at Shoshone campground, would be comfortable and "birdy" at most times of year. We now have self-guided trails throughout Shoshone Wetlands, and a former commercial catfish pond being renovated to a bird viewing area (nearly complete now). We also have an excellent selection of Lizards, including Desert Iguana and Chuckwalla.

Shoshone-Tecopa is a California IBA, One of 6 IBAs in Inyo County. Here is a quick link to Audubon's description of our area:

Our Audubon groups just grew a bit closer together. Members of Red Rock Audubon have just started a "West Branch" group in Parhump NV, and had 32 attendees of all ages for the first meeting on September 26. We look forward to watching the Audubon Society grow in Pahrump NV, therefore Shoshone, CA, etc.

We will do our first Christmas Count here this year and are currently measuring our ideal circle of 15 miles. This year will  be a trial run to learn how to do it. I hope to meet you sometime in the future and will try to attend some of your meetings.We are far away from EVERYTHING! I attend Tom and Jo Heindel's bird study group whenever I can.

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California Gnatcatcher from Birding the Net

Birding the Net with the Audubon Society

An Example of a Birding the Net birdhouse

Some of you may have noticed the birdhouse and birds fluttering around on our home page in the last couple of weeks. National Audubon launched a social media campaign called Birding the Net, and “released” birds all over the internet for people to find and collect. It was timed to coincide with the opening of the movie, “The Big Year.”

They have some really nice prizes, with the top prize a trip for two to the Galapagos! Being somewhat of a web junkie, I dove in whole-heartedly for the win. They had a few glitches in the first week of the game, but overall it has been a fun (if addicting) experience. And it's not over! The contest continues through November 7th. I'm hoping to win a good prize, and it's not too late for you to get in on the action, too. The winner will be determined by who finds the last bird first - and the top 200 will all get prizes.

The game uses Facebook and Twitter to keep score and share clues - you do need a Facebook account, but you don't need to have a Twitter account to get the clues. To learn more about it, go to If you are interested in playing, I've put up a page here with some hints, and links to the six birdhouses available for us to put on our websites: (no longer active!)

NOTE: I've heard that the flash animated birds on our homepage have caused issues with some Mozilla-based browsers - I noticed it on Camino, for example, but the site should work on other browsers such as Safari, Internet Explorer, and newer versions of Firefox. Apologies for any inconvenience - the birds will be gone after November 7th.

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Taking Care of Business

Welcome New and Renewing Members!

Eastern Sierra Audubon would like to thank the following new and/or renewing members for their support:

Len Warren, giving flying lessons!

Len Warren, Birding with Brownies (see article above)
This photo was too great not to use somewhere! :)

  • Thomas Ross
  • Peggy Lambert
  • Vincent Billeci
  • Martin Hornick
  • Shawn Hayes
  • Jan Bowers and Steve McLaughlin
  • Larry and Ruth Blakley
  • Gayle and Bob Speckels
  • Sharon Roberts

We would also like to especially thank all the renewing members whose donations help keep this chapter alive! We get 8-10 renewing members a month, and from 3-5 new members. Your membership dues make it possible for us to offer and support great educational and recreational events throughout the eastern Sierra.

If you would like to join and help support Eastern Sierra Audubon, there are two ways you can do it:

  1. Join as a National Audubon Society Member, designating ESAS as your chapter affiliation. Includes Audubon Magazine subscription. This is $20 for the first year, and goes up to $35 annually thereafter.
  2. Join as an ESAS Chapter-only member for $20 per year. Now that we do the newsletter online, you no longer need to join to receive it, but your chapter membership is a way to give back, and show your appreciation for all that ESAS does, and to help support our many programs.

Click Here for a membership form to join or renew!

Join National Audubon - your zip code will associate you with the chapter nearest you.

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How You Can Help ESAS: Four R’s (and a V)

Renew your membership (or join): The money from your membership dues is what helps us bring great evening programs, special events, educational programs, trips, this website, and more to the community - we need your support!

Recycle at Manor Market and tell them to donate the money to Eastern Sierra Audubon.

Respect property and get permission to bird on private or restricted access property.

Repeat: Spread the word about programs and events, encourage others to join and participate.

Volunteer: Come to a board meeting and consider volunteering for an open board position! We need a vice president, program coordinator, and we always need volunteers for Birds in the Classroom, participants in bird counts, Bird-A-Thons, etc.

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Message from the Editor


Winter is Coming!

How wonderful the changing of the seasons - the last of autumn before things freeze and snow flies is upon us, and time to start enjoying the winter - time to bird the lower elevations again, to bake and bring something yummy to the December potluck, to participate in the Christmas Bird Count and/or Bird-a-Thon, and get outside whenever we can.

Our next newsletter deadline will be December 26th for the January-February issue, and of course you are always welcome to send submissions for future newsletters and also the monthly email at any time.

We send out no more than one email each month to remind you of upcoming events - if you are not on our email list, please add yourself so you don’t miss anything! If you send items to the newsletter editor by the last week of any month, we’ll make sure they get included in the next issue.

Please Contribute!

Speaking of sending in items for the newsletter...

All of our content is supplied by our awesome members... if you have any ideas about articles you’d like to see, or better yet, if you have anything to share for newsletter publication, whether an article, a news item, update, correction, poem, essay, artwork, photo, field trip report, neat birding experience, letter, etc, please send it, along with any comments or suggestions, to the newsletter editor. We’d love to hear from you!

You may send items for inclusion in the newsletter at any time, but please send any timely items to arrive before the first of the month, so they can be included in the monthly email update.

Thanks for reading, and happy birding!

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About Eastern Sierra Audubon

Current Board Members


Main Calendar of Events

Calendar for November and December

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WCSP with coffee :)

We all need coffee some mornings...
(photo by Christine Kysley)

WCSP with coffee :)

Calendar for November and December