Eastern Sierra Audubon Society Eastern Sierra Audubon Society

Sierra Wave

Volume 35, Number 3
January-February, 2017

Sierra Wave Newsletter

Volume 31, Number 4
March-April, 2013



ESAS Evening Program:

February 1st: The Lower Colorado River Riparian Birds Project with Amy Leist

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Photo by Amy LeistPhoto by Amy Leist

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, photo by Amy Leist

Wednesday, February 1, 2017, U.S. Forest Service/BLM Building in Bishop, 7:00pm

Our February program will be held at the U.S. Forest Service/BLM Building in Bishop on West Line Street, near the DMV. Doors open at 6:30, with the presentation starting at 7:00pm.

The Lower Colorado River Riparian Birds Project

Guest speaker, Amy Leist, will be giving a presentation on the Lower Colorado River Riparian Birds Project. The Lower Colorado River Riparian Birds Project consists of system-wide and conservation area monitoring of riparian breeding birds under the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program (LCR MSCP). The project emphasizes six of the species covered by the LCR MSCP, the Gila Woodpecker (Melanerpes uropygialis), Vermilion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus), Arizona Bell’s Vireo (Vireo bellii arizonae), Sonoran Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia sonorana), Gilded Flicker (Colaptes chrysoides), and Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra). During her talk, Amy will provide an introduction, methods, results, and species-specific information from 9 years of data collection.

American Kestrel, photo by Ron Oriti

Lower Colorado River Riparian Habitat, photo by Amy Leist

Amy Leist has been the Great Basin Bird Observatory’s (GBBO) Lower Colorado River Riparian Birds Project Manager since 2008. After growing up in Louisville, Kentucky, Amy graduated with a BS in Biology from Colorado College in 2000, and a MS in Wildlife Biology from Humboldt State University in 2006. Before joining GBBO in 2008, she worked on avian field jobs in Washington, Hawaii, Alaska, California, South Carolina, and Chile.

Questions/comments: programs@esaudubon.org

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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ESAS Field Events for January and February

Eastern Sierra Audubon Event Antelope Valley/Topaz Lake Birding, First Friday of each month at 9am - Beginners Welcome! (Binoculars and bird books provided)

  • Friday, January 6, leaving at 9am from the Sweetwater Coffee Shop in Coleville
  • Friday, February 3, leaving at 9am from the Sweetwater Coffee Shop in Coleville

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).
Please Note: Starting in January 2017, we will be meeting at 9am instead of 8am.

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

Lately (Nov-Dec) we've been seeing an assortment of buteos and accipiters including Ferruginous Hawks, Sharp-shinned Hawks, Northern 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 8am on the first Friday of the month and then head out for the birding around 9am.

When: 9:00am 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 8 to order before we head out at 9.

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, January 14, 8:30am
  • Saturday, February 11, 8:30am

[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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Eastern Sierra Audubon Event Winter Wildlife Field Trip with Tom & Jo Heindel

Western Screech Owl

Western Screech Owl spotted on a previous Winter Wildlife Tour
Photo by Tom Heindel

February 25, 2017, 8:00 am

On 25 February 2017, Tom & Jo Heindel have planned their annual Winter Wildlife Field Trip from Klondike Lake to Tinemaha Reservoir. The start time is 8:00 am at Glacier View Campground at the intersection of Hwy 395 & 168 in north Big Pine.

The route includes Klondike Lake, Warren Lake, the Big Pine canal road, Fish Springs fish hatchery, and ends at the upper overlook on Tinemaha Reservoir about noon. Bring your own water, snacks, binoculars, and telescope if you have one.

For more information call Tom & Jo Heindel at 760-938-2764.

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SAVE THE DATE: Owens Lake Spring Big Day April 24

Owens Lake Big Day Birders

Owens Lake Big Day Birders

The Owens Lake Spring Big Day will be Monday, April 24th. We will gather at 7AM at the Diaz Lake County Park parking lot 3 miles south of Lone Pine on Highway 395. Volunteer citizen scientists will partner with Los Angeles Department of Water and Power biologists to census all of the birds on Owens Lake Important Bird Area on a single peak spring date. Spring numbers are normally quite high and over 100,000 birds is a real possibility. Intermediate birding skills are helpful, but extremely interested beginners are welcome – we are always recruiting and training. Please RSVP to mprather@lonepinetv.com.

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SAVE THE DATE: 2017 Owens Lake Bird Festival - April 28-30, 2017

Register Early in order to secure the trips you want!

Owens Lake Bird Festival

Join Friends of the Inyo and our partners for the 3rd Annual Owens Lake Bird Festival on April 28-30.

Experience the resounding return of thousands of migratory birds to Owens Lake, a designated Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society. The Festival kicks off Friday, April 28 with a reception at the Museum of Western Film History in Lone Pine. Join local experts on birding and natural history tours on and around Owens Lake on Saturday and Sunday April 29 and 30. The keynote speakers at Saturday evening’s reception this year will be iconic Owens Valley birders Tom and Jo Heindel.

Early registration for Friends of the Inyo members starts February 1 and general registration opens February 15.

See the Friends of the Inyo Owens Lake Bird Festival page for more information and registration.

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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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An Exciting 2016 Fall for Inyo County!

Another exciting fall has come and gone and left behind many records of rare and casual species that are always a pleasant surprise. Some birds were early or late fall migrants, some were recorded at higher elevations than expected, and some are just plain rare in Inyo County. The level of evidence for unexpected species is very high and the lengthy bird list attests to the adequacy of written documentation and the volume of photographs submitted to support birders claims.

Several ducks were recorded at new high elevations with two American Wigeon at Lake Sabrina, 2784m/9132ft, 18 Oct (B&SS) and a Surf Scoter at North Lake, 2822m/9255ft, 23 Oct-2 Nov (SLS, et al.) Although the scoter is usually considered rare in the county, six were recorded this fall! Usually missing early in fall migration was a female-plumaged American Wigeon near Bishop 31 July-2 Aug (KLG) and a female Canvasback at Klondike Lake 3 Aug (KLG). A very early basic-plumaged Horned Grebe was at Klondike Lake 12 Sep (T&JH).

Pectoral Sandpiper at Owens Lake, photo by Nancy Overholtz

Pectoral Sandpiper at Owens Lake, photo by Nancy Overholtz

Owens Lake on 4 Sep hosted an exciting Red Knot and Sanderling (R&NO, et al.) plus slightly more expected but easily missed Baird's and Pectoral Sandpipers.

Some special gulls were a Sabine's Gull at Tinemaha Reservoir 16 Sep (R&NO) and 23 Sep (C&RH) as well as a high elevation Herring Gull at Intake #2 on Bishop Creek, 2478m/8127ft, 23 Oct (C&RH, et al.)

Pacific Loons were at Klondike Lake 24 Oct (T&JH) and a high elevation record from Lake Sabrina, 2784m/9132ft, 1 Nov (B&SS) where it continued through 12 Nov (R&NO).

Zone-tailed Hawk

Zone-tailed Hawk, photo in July by Russell Kokx

Most unexpected was the Zone-tailed Hawk found 2 July at Edward's Field, Lone Pine, (RDK) that lingered there through 22 July and then disappeared. It was assumed to have departed. Then one Zone-tailed was seen on Bishop Creek canal 10 August (CCM) and was very well-described. It was last seen circling up in a kettle of Turkey Vultures that were migrating south. The huge question was if this was the Edward's Field bird? Edward's Field is regularly surveyed by Russell Kokx (RDK) but it wasn't until 5 September that he saw and photographed a Zone-tailed Hawk back in Edward's Field! We poured through all the images and finally sent them and the complete story to Peter Pyle, an authority on molt in North American birds. He responded immediately and said that he is absolutely positive that the July and September sightings are of the same bird molting in the expected sequence. He also read Charlie Massieon's description and said that there was nothing that raised a red flag that it was a second bird. Our policy is that there has to be unequivocal evidence to prove they couldn't be the same so we are counting the July, August, and September sightings as one bird. As if that isn't exciting enough…another Zone-tailed Hawk was photographed at Warm Spring, SE end of Death Valley, 31 August (JEP). The images indicate that this wasn't the Owens Valley bird!

Leucistic Common Raven, photo by Len Hunter

Leucistic Common Raven, photo by Len Hunter

Two Short-eared Owls were in the Buttermilk area, 2896m/9500ft, W of Bishop, 2 Nov (B&SS, WHM) establishing a new highest elevation in Inyo.

An almost all white (leucistic) Common Raven was hanging out at the Pearsonville gas station and minimart from 3 Oct (LH, et al.) and is still being seen there.

A Winter Wren was photographed at Crystal Spring 5-7 Nov (TAB, et al) and a Rufous-backed Robin was photographed at Shoshone 8 Nov (SLS, CAM). Both these species are so rare in California, that the state bird records committee will be reviewing the claims to determine if the birds were correctly identified. Spoiler alert!!! Look at the images!!!

Winter Wren, photo by Tom Benson

Winter Wren, photo by Tom Benson

Rufous-backed Robin, photo by Curtis Marantz
Rufous-backed Robin, photo by Curtis Marantz

Two views of a rare Rufous-backed Robin, photo by Curtis Marantz

Unexpected was a Brown Thrasher reported from Furnace Creek Ranch 26 Oct (RS).

Ovenbird, photo by Nancy Overholtz

Ovenbird seen at Deep Springs, photo by Nancy Overholtz

As is typical in fall, many rare eastern warblers were visiting. An Ovenbird was at Deep Springs 3 Sep (R&NO, et al.); two Northern Waterthrushes with one at Lone Pine 10 Sep (RDK) and one at Warm Springs, DVNP, 1 Sep (JEP); one Virginia's Warbler at Warm Springs, DVNP, 7 Sep (JEP); one Magnolia Warbler at Shoshone 1 Oct (C&RH); one Chestnut-sided Warbler in Lone Pine 23 Sep (RDK); and one Palm Warbler in the Bishop City Park 28 Nov (C&RH) that continued through 12 Dec. The two American Redstarts, one at Warm Springs, DVNP, and the other at Shoshone, both 7 Sep (JEP) are an amazing change from the 1970s when up to eight were reported from a single location in Inyo County and this happened multiple times during that decade! Not anymore.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Furnace Creek

Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Furnace Creek
Photo by Jim Pike

White-throated Sparrows were at Furnace Creek Ranch 30 Sep (C&RH) and Lone Pine 19 Nov (RDK). A Summer Tanager was in Birchim Canyon 28 Aug (C&RH) and three Rose-breasted Grosbeaks were reported in Sep, Oct, and Nov (R&NO et al., JEP, SLS). A Painted Bunting was at Shoshone 1 Oct (C&RH) and an Orchard Oriole there 1-2 Oct (C&RH).

All of this bird data was the result of a dedicated group of bird data gatherers. They bird and then they collect evidence of what they find. It is archived forever and we will be grateful for all their energy for at least as long!

B&SS – Bob & Susan (SLS) Steele
CAM – Curtis Marantz
CCM – Charlie Massieon
C&RH – Chris & Rosie Howard
JEP – Jim Pike
KLG – Kimball Garrett
LH – Len Hunter
RDK – Russell Kokx
RS – Roger Sleeper
R&NO – Ron & Nancy Overholtz
TAB – Tom Benson
T&JH – Tom & Jo Heindel
WHM – Bill Mitchel

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See the Index of the Heindels' Articles

Lower Owens River Water Trail

The Lower Owens River Project brought water back into 62 miles of the Lower Owens River in 2006 after being dry since 1913. In those 10 years the recreational goal of boating hasn’t been fully realized. Locals and visitors want to be able to paddle, fish, observe birds or float on this beautiful river. It is a reasonable wish. In an effort to meet the desires of the public, Inyo County recently applied for and received a grant from the California Department of Resources to open 6.3 miles of river just east of Lone Pine. Many thanks must be given to our Inyo County Water Department staff for bringing this idea forward and gaining the support of the Inyo Board of Supervisors.

Owens River Water Trail

Lower Owens River Water Trail

The Water Trail would connect the Narrow Gauge Road to the north of Lone Pine with Highway 136 to the south at the Keeler Bridge. Most of the channel is clear and meanders through meadows and some riparian habitat, however there are a number of "choke points" where a portage is necessary. The $500,000 grant would fund the environmental review and mechanical removal of the blockages in the channel. All-access launching and exiting sites would be built with funding from another source. Imagine silently floating along the river beneath the carved lake beds of glacial Owens Lake and finding Soras walking along the water’s edge while Marsh Wrens and Yellowthroats scold you from the tule tangles.

Presently Inyo County is seeking a 20 year land use agreement from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power which is required for the project and is evaluating its own commitment of 20 years of maintaining the channel and built facilities. Water Trail supporters, and there are many, are hopeful that LADWP and Inyo County will agree to work together on permits and other obligations and make this exciting project actually happen. There is a danger that the State grant could be lost if the parties don’t cooperate with each other for the greater public good. With the recent opening of Owens Lake to wildlife watchers, wouldn’t it be wonderful to now add the Water Trail with over 6 miles of habitat to explore?

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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 February 15th for the March-April 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 January-February, 2017

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birders at Owens Lake