Owens Lake Bird Festival
Would you like to be toured through the diverse birding habitats on Owens Lake? Are you interested in the geology and human history of the area? The Owens Lake Bird Festival offers all of this and much more. Every year, since 2015, on the last weekend in April, the Owens Lake Bird festival is held in Lone Pine. The festival is organized by Friends of the Inyo and its partners: the Eastern Sierra Audubon Society, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), the Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association, Inyo County, the California Native Plant Society and the Metabolic Studio. The festival celebrates the thousands of birds migrating between the northern and southern hemispheres, as well as the natural history, geology and human history of the southern Owens Valley. The Owens Lake Bird Festival attracts a little more than one hundred participants from all over the state and even the country. Groups are small and leaders are local experts. A typical tour out onto the lake will search for birds on mudflats, ponds and vegetated areas. These habitats have been created as part of the LADWP Owens Lake Master Plan project that is designed to protect/enhance habitat, control dust and conserve water. Other trips will explore the mining history of the lake, a walking history of Keeler and the nearby salt tram. Still others will go off the lake into neighboring areas and habitats to find wildflowers and geologic highlights There is more to the festival than field trips. Friday evening there is a reception at the Lone Pine Film Museum. A Saturday dinner with keynote speaker is held with a silent auction. Groups of outings are put on Saturday morning and afternoon as well as Sunday morning. Your time for the three days will be busy and by Sunday you will be tired. But you will be an expert on Owens Lake and want to return each year! Early registration opens February 1st for Friends of the Inyo members and those who join Friends of the Inyo. Open registration begins February 15. Visit www.friendsoftheinyo.org shortly before registration opens to find a detailed description of the Owens Lake Bird Festival – the tours, leaders and complete schedule.
Fall 2014 Owens Lake “Big Day”
Bird Count: Birds and Big Trucks
By Debbie House, LADWP Watershed Resources Specialist, Bishop Office
Participants in the Fall 2014 Big Day Owens Lake bird count recorded a total of 12,629 birds and 46 different species (Table 1). Almost 82% of all birds recorded were Owens Lake Guild Species, of which 12% were waterfowl, 0.02% diving waterbirds, and 77% shorebirds. Despite the fact that several ponds were temporarily off-line due to the on-going construction of Phase 7A of the Owens Lake Dust Mitigation Project, including some ponds that typically are quite productive, the results of the 2014 Fall count were fairly comparable to fall counts over the last four years (Table 2).
An overwhelming theme of the day was the reminder that the Dust Control Project is manmade, a work zone, and sometimes a construction zone. Phase 7a construction activities were taking place in several cells, affecting traffic and safety across most of the lake. During the morning pre-survey safety briefing all surveyors were instructed to wear hard hats and safety vests throughout the day, were advised of special “haul routes”, and required safety precautions to follow when encountering trucks and large machinery.
With regard to waterbirds, waterfowl numbers were similar to the lowest previous value in 2011 and diving waterbird numbers were also low as only two Eared Grebes were found. Shorebird species richness was high at 18 species and shorebird numbers were higher than that observed last year. Noteworthy sightings for the day include a total of 29 Short-billed Dowitchers, and the number of Long-billed Dowitchers reported (50) represents a high for a Fall Big Day Count. While a few of the Phase 7A cells under construction typically support waterfowl and diving waterbirds, the status of any cell during the count can only partly explain the results obtained during these counts as migratory populations are affected by a multitude of factors.
Phase 7A is water-neutral expansion of the dust-control project area. Some existing dust control ponds are currently “off-line” and are being reconfigured for water savings and improved wildlife habitat. The Owens Lake Habitat Suitability model was used to guide re-design of the cells, and part of the reconfiguration involves the addition of islands of varying design and re-grading of the cells for improved foraging conditions. Phase 7A is designed to be water-neutral while maintaining or enhancing habitat value for all Owens Lake waterbird guilds.
Eastern Sierra Audubon Society Education Committee Chair Mike Prather and LADWP Watershed Resources Specialist Debbie House organized the Fall 2014 Owens Lake “Big Day”. The 19 participants in the census included eight LADWP staff, eight volunteers, and staff from Great Basin Air Pollution Control Board and Inyo County Water Department. LADWP would like to thank Mike Prather, the Eastern Sierra Audubon Society and all who participated in the census.
|Table 1. Fall 2014 Owens Lake “Big Day” Results
August 21, 2014
|Cinnamon Teal||25||Wilson’s Phalarope||2,047|
|Northern Shoveler||1,490||Red-necked Phalarope||586|
|Northern Pintail||9||Phalarope sp.||418|
|Green-winged Teal||2||Ring-billed Gull||2|
|Unidentified Teal||1||California Gull||593|
|Eared Grebe||2||Caspian Tern||6|
|White-faced Ibis||121||Mourning Dove||1|
|Northern Harrier||2||Peregrine Falcon||3|
|Snowy Plower||19||Western Kingbird||2|
|Semipalmated Plover||10||Common Raven||29|
|Black-necked Stilt||93||Tree Swallow||72|
|American Avocet||2,638||Violet-green Swallow||3|
|Spotted Sandpiper||7||Northern Rough-winged Swallow||32|
|Greater Yellowlegs||25||Bank Swallow||24|
|Lesser Yellowlegs||3||Barn Swallow||77|
|Long-billed Curlew||29||Unidentified Swallow||255|
|Marbled Godwit||9||Marsh Wren||1|
|Western Sandpiper||984||Common Yellowthroat||1|
|Least Sandpiper||1,900||Savannah Sparrow||6|
|Baird’s Sandpiper||7||Red-winged Blackbird||1|
|Calidris sp.||785||Yellow-headed Blackbird||8|
|Short-billed Dowitcher||29||Brown-headed Cowbird||5|
|Long-billed Dowitcher||50||TOTAL BIRDS RECORDED||12,629|
|Table 2. Species Abundance by Guild Recorded During Fall Big Day Surveys in the Dust Control Project Area and at Sulfate Well|
|All Dust Control Cells plus Sulfate Well||Year|
|Owens Lake Guilds||2008||2011||2012||2013||2014|
|Total Owens Lake Guild Species||37,729||17,660||12,459||8,306||11,229|
|Number of Guild Species||32||28||25||28||24|
Spring 2014 Owens Lake “Big Day”
Bird Count Records Second Highest Total Ever
By Debbie House, LADWP Watershed Resources Specialist, Bishop Office
Almost 50,000 shorebirds comprised of 20 different species and an overall total of more than 75,000 birds, the second highest total number of birds ever recorded, were counted during the seventh annual Owens Lake Spring “Big Day” on April 23, 2014. “Big Day” bird counts have been done annually since 2008. The most birds ever recorded in the Dust Control Project area was 114,155 recorded during the Spring “Big Day” count in April 2013.
LADWP staff, Eastern Sierra Audubon volunteers, and other agencies recorded all bird species and individuals spotted in the entire 42-square mile Owens Lake Dust Control Project Area. Shorebirds comprised 66% of the overall total of 75,550 birds counted during the census. Waterfowl and diving waterbirds, which are typically found in lower numbers than shorebirds in spring at Owens Lake, totaled 1,520 and 3,793 respectively.
Eastern Sierra Audubon Society Education Committee Chair Mike Prather and LADWP Watershed Resources Specialist Debbie House organized the Spring 2014 Owens Lake “Big Day”. The 21 participants in the census included eight LADWP staff, nine volunteers, and staff from California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Inyo County Water Department.
LADWP would like to thank Mike Prather, the Eastern Sierra Audubon Society, and all who participated in the census.
The results of the census are provided in the table below.
|Spring 2014 Owens Lake “Big Day” Results
April 23, 2014
|American Wigeon||64||Least Sandpiper||11,121|
|Blue-winged Teal||2||Calidris sp.||16,740|
|Cinnamon Teal||197||Long-billed Dowitcher||105|
|Northern Shoveler||358||Unidentified Dowitcher||3|
|Northern Pintail||26||Wilson’s Snipe||1|
|Green-winged Teal||158||Wilson’s Phalarope||117|
|Ring-necked Duck||4||Phalarope sp.||18|
|Lesser Scaup||2||Bonaparte’s Gull||18|
|Ruddy Duck||1,546||Ring-billed Gull||23|
|Eared Grebe||1,953||California Gull||19,288|
|Western Grebe||4||Caspian Tern||2|
|American White Pelican||1||Mourning Dove||1|
|White-faced Ibis||4||Vaux’s Swift||2|
|Northern Harrier||1||Peregrine Falcon||1|
|American Coot||479||Common Raven||18|
|Black-bellied Plover||6||Horned Lark||15|
|Snowy Plover||82||Tree Swallow||68|
|Semipalmated Plover||184||Violet-green Swallow||6|
|Killdeer||2||Northern Rough-winged Swallow||2|
|Black-necked Stilt||123||Cliff Swallow||235|
|American Avocet||15,261||Barn Swallow||332|
|Spotted Sandpiper||9||Unidentified Swallow||2|
|Greater Yellowlegs||197||Marsh Wren||1|
|Lesser Yellowlegs||1||Savannah Sparrow||42|
|Long-billed Curlew||1||Yellow-headed Blackbird||4|