Eastern Sierra Audubon Society Eastern Sierra Audubon Society

Sierra Wave

Volume 35, Number 2
November-December, 2016

Sierra Wave Newsletter

Volume 31, Number 4
March-April, 2013



ESAS Programs for November and December

Holiday Potluck Candlelight Dinner and Program, December 14th, 6pm


The December 14th meeting is also our annual Holiday potluck candlelight dinner, held at 6pm in the dining room of the White Mountain Research Center.

Do plan to attend as it is a fun event, and bring a friend or neighbor! Every participant should bring a dish (entrée, 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. Also, we encourage you to bring more main dishes and salads this year than desserts, as last year we ran out of main dishes, but had leftover desserts. Everyone was still happy and well-fed, though! Arrive by 6pm for our potluck dinner. 

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

Water and the California Dream - book cover

Eastern Sierra Water: Historic Choices that Shaped California

Join us at White Mountain Research Center, Owens Valley Station, on Wednesday December 14th, 2016, for our annual holiday candle-light potluck dinner (6pm), followed by a special presentation by David Carle at 7pm, Eastern Sierra Water: Historic Choices that Shaped California

Eastern Sierra Water: Historic Choices that Shaped California

In 2003, David Carle published Water and the California Dream: Choices for the New Millennium. In this book, he described how, in the last one hundred years, imported water transformed the environment of the Golden State and its quality of life, with landownership patterns and real estate boosterism dramatically altering both urban and rural communities. The key to this transformation was expanded access to water from the Eastern Sierra, the Colorado River, and Northern California rivers. In 2016, Carle published a revised edition in which he brings that history up to date, as water choices remain the primary tool for shaping California’s future. In his presentation, Carle will focus on the Eastern Sierra and issues discussed in the revised edition, Water and the California Dream: Historic Choices for Shaping the Future.

David Carle

Dave Carle is the author or co-author of 13 non-fiction books and 2 novels, including Water and the California Dream: Historic Choices for Shaping California (Counterpoint, 2016), Introduction to Water in California (UC Press, 2015), and the historical novel Mono (Phalarope Press, 2010).

David Carle grew up in Orange County, California, received his bachelor's degree at UC Davis in Wildlife and Fisheries Biology and a master's degree from CSU Sacramento in Recreation and Parks Administration. He was a ranger in California State Parks for 27 years; including the Mendocino Coast, Hearst Castle, the Auburn State Recreation Area, and the State Indian Museum in Sacramento. Then, from 1982 through 2000 at the Mono Lake Tufa State Reserve, he shared the unit ranger position with his wife, Janet, participating in the long effort to protect that Eastern Sierra inland sea from the effects of stream diversions to Los Angeles. He taught biology and natural history courses at Cerro Coso Community College in Mammoth Lakes. Dave is currently the President of the Mono Basin Historical Society.

For more information contact Erin Nordin (email erin@esaudubon.org). Also, check back to the programs page for updates to the list of future speakers. Everyone is welcome to attend all programs!

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Evening Program, November 9th (Wednesday):
Colombia - Changing Landscapes with Santiago Escruceria

Buffy Helmetcrest - photo by Santiago Escruceria

Buffy Helmetcrest (Oxypogon stuebelii)
Photo by Santiago Escruceria

Join us at 7pm on Wednesday, November 9th at the at the BLM/Forest Service Office in Bishop (by the DMV) for this program. Doors open at 6:30pm.

Colombia: Changing Landscapes

Guest speaker, Santiago Escruceria, will be giving a presentation on Colombia and changing politics and attitudes toward tourism, specifically birding tourism, at the Eastern Sierra Audubon’s November program.

Santiago Escruceria is a Colombian-born American citizen residing in California for the past 37 years. He has taught environmental education, in Spanish and English, for the past 22 years, 17 of which he has spent with the Mono Lake Committee. At Mono Lake he manages the Committee’s Outdoor Education Center program for Los Angeles inner-city youth. Santiago is an avid birder, leading bird walks in Colombia during the winter and walks for school groups and the public in the Mono Basin during the summer. He has been birding the Americas since 1986.

See you there!

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ESAS Field Events for November and December

Eastern Sierra Audubon Event Saturday, December 17: 35th Annual Bishop Christmas Bird Count

Eastern Sierra Audubon sponsors the Bishop Christmas Bird Count. The 35th annual Bishop Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is Saturday, December 17th, 2016.  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!

Please RSVP as soon as possible to Chris Howard at chris93514@gmail.com, (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. 

For more information on this and other Christmas Bird Counts in our area, as well as reports on past CBCs, see our CBC page

Eastern Sierra Audubon Event Antelope Valley/Topaz Lake Birding, First Friday of each month at 8am - Beginners Welcome! (Binoculars and bird books provided)

Join us as we look for resident and migrant species of birds throughout the beautiful Antelope Valley, including along the shores of Topaz Lake (in the northern part of Mono County).

Leader: Elena Espinosa (30+ years of birding experience)

Cedar Waxwing in Mountain Gate Park, Photo by Dick Padgett

Cedar Waxwing in Mountain Gate Park
Photo by Dick Padgett

Latey (Nov-Dec) we've been seeing an assortment of buteos and accipiters including Ferruginous Hawks, Sharp-shinned Hawks, Nothern Harriers and a Prairie Falcon. We continue to see the occasional American Dipper at Mountain Gate Park. The Loons in winter plumage are back at Topaz Lake. The Northern Flickers are making their way through along with Juncos and White-crowned Sparrows. We're seeing the resident Great-horned Owl almost every time in his group of Cottonwoods that he likes to hang out in on Cunningham Lane.

I hope to see you for breakfast around 7am on the first Friday of the month and then head out for the birding around 8am.

When: 8:00am on the first Friday of each month

Where: Sweetwater Coffee Shoppe at 107537 Hwy 395 in Coleville. The coffee shop makes delicious beverages and serves croissant, burrito and bagel breakfasts. Arrive at 7 to order before we head out at 8.

Contact Elena with questions or for more information: 928-300-8088 or espinosa2015@gmail.com.

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Eastern Sierra Audubon Event Monthly Bishop Paiute Tribe COSA, Bird Walk and Census Dates:

  • Saturday, November 12, 8:30am
  • Saturday, December 17, Time TBA (coordinated with Bishop CBC)

[Ed. Note: COSA walks are held on the second Saturday of every month, unless otherwise indicated]

Conservation Open Space Area in Bishop

Spring has sprung in the COSA!

Unless otherwise indicated, our COSA bird walks will all be the second Saturday of the month, except (sometimes) for December, because we will have it coincide with the Christmas Bird Count. During June, July, August, and September they will start at 7:30 instead of 8:30. Watch the monthly email update, this field trips page, or local media for confirmation, updates on leader(s) and meeting time. Or, contact Hillary (below), or if you just show up at 8 or so, you'll probably find us!

The Conservation Open Space Area is being developed for wildlife and the community by the Bishop Paiute Tribe. We'll be keeping species lists and observing behavior as well as identifying birds, for the purpose of creating bird lists for the site. For more information, read this article on the COSA in the March-April 2013 Sierra Wave newsletter. There have been surprises every month so far - come find out what new birds we'll see next time - maybe you'll add toour bird list on e-Bird!

All are welcome - these walks are for birders of ALL LEVELS, beginners included! We will bring extra binoculars and field guides to share. If you'd like to print out a bird checklist, with blanks for adding your own discoveries, you can download that here: COSA Bird Checklist trifold (pdf)

Please meet at 7:30am in June-September, or 8:30am during October-May at the BLM/Forest Service Building on West Line Street in Bishop. Contact Hillary Behr for more information, or if you are interested in leading a future monthly walk: hillarybehr@yahoo.com.

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Check back for additions and updates here and on the Field Trips page of the ESAS website.

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Becoming a Better Birder

An admirable characteristic in many people is striving to be better…to do a better job every day at one task or project. We often see this in our friends as they have grown in their birding abilities. Although we all have more to learn than we have already learned, we each have come a long way in gaining knowledge about birds. We often think of our many mistakes in our early birding days with feelings of embarrassment as well as amusement. We all continue to make mistakes but each mistake is a lesson waiting to be learned–yet another way to get better–and we all do want to get better.

One area of birding that helps all birders to identify birds more effectively is a comprehensive understanding of status and distribution. So what does that mean? Status is simply, what is the bird doing here? Is it a breeder, just migrating through, visiting in the winter, visiting in the summer, it resides here, or is it a vagrant and isn't "supposed" to be here? Distribution is when it is expected to be here and where geographically. As an example, most flycatchers, vireos, warblers, etc. depart our area in the fall and we don't expect to see them in the winter. BUT, the only Thick-billed Kingbird ever recorded in Inyo County wintered in Lone Pine in freezing temperatures. Credit goes to teenager Mark Stacy when he saw the bird in Lone Pine in December, recognized it as what he saw when he was in Arizona in spring, and got the word out on this amazing vagrant. All because he knew the status and distribution of this species, which is NOT FOUND in Inyo County in any season! He quickly drew a very recognizable image of the bird and wrote up a description because that is what you do when you find a vagrant! So soon, so smart was he!!

Mark didn't yet own a camera so he did the next best thing, but the best thing is to get images of the bird. Today almost everybody has a cell phone or a pocket-sized camera and a few people even carry around camera cannons. Whatever you have, take a photo! Take a bunch of photos! They need not be magazine cover quality! Blurred and distant may be good enough to eliminate all other possibilities. A picture or two can reduce your description from a thousand words, which we all know is what a picture is worth! If your cell phone battery is dead and you forgot to replace your camera battery, begin writing a description immediately, if not sooner! Time IS of the essence! Details disappear along with the seconds. We would suggest you call all the local birders, but your phone battery is dead so write some more! If you think you have a vagrant, PROVE IT!!

If you aren't sure what you are looking at, or you think it might be "just" a rare species, treat it as though it is a pterodactyl! Besides, we all need practice in writing descriptions! The first rule is to write a description BEFORE you open a book. The human brain is an amazing organ and is designed to gather information and make a decision. If you look at a book before you write, the brain will blend what you saw in the field with what you saw in the book and what you write will not be what you saw…even though you are absolutely and totally positive that it is. This isn't about you…it's about your amazing brain! After you write everything you remember about the bird (size, shape, colors and where, bill size, shape and color, behavior, vocalizations, etc.) then open the book and see what most closely matches your image. Usually other similar species will be on the same page or very nearby and see if any birds fit better. Once you think you might have the bird, look at the map. Is it found here? If the answer is yes, you might be in the ballpark and circling the bases! If the answer is no, turn a few more pages in front of and behind where you were. It might be a close relative that looks similar. If you think you have a rare bird, you must eliminate all other species with which it might be confused. And this is why you wrote the description first. Maybe the wingbars are different…did you describe them in detail? Maybe the legs are a different color…did you describe them in detail? Maybe the wings are longer than the tail…did you describe that detail? Maybe the bill is slightly decurved…did you described that detail? Now you know why they say, "The devil is in the details!" If you took images, you can follow the same procedure to find the answer in your field guide.

If you have been birding for a few years, you are as familiar with many of the species as you are with the un-feathered friends you've known for a few years. Then one day you look at a bird that is somewhat familiar but something isn't right. Take a few images right away then go back to looking at it, preferably with binocs, and look for details. What doesn't seem right? What species does it remind you of? After you finish looking at it, or more likely after it flies away, dive into your field guide and follow the above procedure. As an example, in the Eastern Sierra we commonly have House Finches at our feeders and most birders know them like very old friends. But they can be quite variable. Some are bright red, some paler red, some orange, some yellow, and some just streaky medium brown. Some have molted and show fresh feathers and others haven't started yet and are wearing old, worn-out, shaggy feathers. Some are young of the year and their wingbars don't look anything like the older birds. The more you look, the more differences you'll see. Some will have tumors, others a leucistic feather or two, and others with a missing foot. So although there is a generic image of a House Finch, there are only a few who look exactly like that image. But your bird is similar to but not quite a House Finch. The other look-alike options are Cassin's Finch and Purple Finch. What is the status and distribution for each species? Yup, we're back to that again! One is regularly found in Inyo County and the other is very seldomly seen and usually in fall. One is a fantastic find and the other is just a really, really pretty bird…if it is a male! If the bird is a male, your chances are much better that you can solve the problem. If it is a female or a young bird, your chances are dropping like change out of a torn pocket. Hopefully the description you wrote, or the image you took, includes the differing characteristics of these finches such as, the distribution of red (if it is a male), bill shape, streaking on the undertail coverts (yes or no), streaking on the sides (distinct or blurred), eyebrow color, etc. and maybe you heard vocalizations. Cassin's Finch is regular on the east slope of the Sierra Nevada and breeds in the coniferous forests with a few birds recorded at low elevations in the winter. Purple Finch is extremely rare and should be posted on Eastern Sierra Birds with photos, description, date/time, and directions to where the observation was made. Many friends, old and new and not yet met, will really appreciate your efforts. And you can feel the warm glow that makes you smile when you know that you were a little better today than yesterday.

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See the Index of the Heindels' Articles

Taking Care of Business

Welcome New and Rejoining Members!

Thank you to the members who recently joined or renewed their membership!

We'd like to take a moment to promote Chapter Memberships: You may not be aware of this, but 100% of Chapter Membership dollars stays locally in the Eastern Sierra, supporting local education, youth, conservation, and programs. If you don't need Audubon Magazine, consider joining or renewing as a Chapter-only member, or better yet, as both Chapter and National! We do get support from National Audubon, as well, so any membership helps, and is money well-spent toward bird and wildlife conservation and education, and we thank you!

Your membership 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. Thank you!

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. 100% of your donation stays here in the Eastern Sierra this way. Your chapter membership is a way to give back, and show your appreciation for all that ESAS does, and to help support our mission locally. Your membership helps pay for scholarships, programs, special events, education programs, research, and more. THANK YOU for your support!

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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Message from the Editor


Our next newsletter deadline will be December 15th for the January-February 2017 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 about 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.

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-December 2016

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birders at Owens Lake