Sierra Wave -  Newsletter of the Eastern Sierra Audubon Society

Eastern Sierra Audubon
Sierra Wave Newsletter

Volume 29, Number 4
March-April, 2011



April Program: “A State of Change” with Laura Cunningham

Meetings are usually held every other month on the second Wednesday. The public is welcome. This program will be presented at 7pm on Wednesday, April 13th at the White Mountain Research Station (3000 E. Line St, Bishop).

A State of Change: Forgotten Landscapes of California, Text and art by Laura Cunningham (book cover)

On Wednesday, April 13th, our Guest Speaker will be Laura Cunningham, author of the new book about California historical ecology, A State of Change: Forgotten Landscapes of California:

“Through the use of historical ecology, Laura Cunningham walks through … forgotten landscapes to uncover secrets about the past, explore what our future will hold, and experience the ever-changing landscape of California.

Combining the skill of an accomplished artist with passion for landscapes and training as a naturalist, Cunningham has spent more than two decades poring over historical accounts, paleontology findings, and archaeological data. Traveling with paintbox in hand, she tracked the remaining vestiges of semipristine landscape like a detective, seeking clues that revealed the California of past centuries. She traveled to other regions as well, to sketch grizzly bears, wolves, and other magnificent creatures that are gone from California landscapes. In her studio, Cunningham created paintings of vast landscapes and wildlife from the raw data she had collected, her own observations in the wild, and her knowledge of ecological laws and processes.

Through A State of Change, readers are given the pure pleasure of wandering through these wondrous and seemingly exotic scenes of Old California and understanding the possibilities for both change and conservation in our present-day landscape. A State of Change is as vital as it is visionary.”

For her talk here, Laura will be presenting a slide show of her paintings showing before and after scenes of various cities, field sketches and other artwork from the book, as well as several pieces not in the book, about early California ecology and history: grizzlies, elk, antelope, trout, floods, and fire.

Laura Cunningham, an artist and naturalist, studied paleontology and biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and has worked at various field biology jobs for the California Department of Fish and Game, the U.S. Geological Survey, and other organizations, getting to know such species as the Owens Valley pupfish, the southern California steelhead trout, the Yosemite toad, and the Panamint alligator lizard. Simultaneously, she has been studying and painting California’s historic and living wildlife, flora, and unique landscapes. She lives near Death Valley National Park, where she cofounded the group Basin and Range Watch to explore the historical ecology of the desert ecosystems of California and Nevada, and to protect them.

Laura’s book will be available for purchase and autographs courtesy of our own local Spellbinder Books. Spellbinder will be donating a portion of proceeds from sales at the event to Eastern Sierra Audubon!

For more information call Roberta at 760-872-7846. Everyone is welcome to attend!

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Upcoming Field Trips and Events

Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep Viewing, Sunday, March 13

Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn sheep face many difficulties in their struggle to survive a Sierran winter.  California Department of Fish and Game researcher Dave German studies the Wheeler Ridge herd.  He'll tell us about these iconic mammals and, if they haven't dispersed, guide us a short distance to views of them.  

Meet at 9 a.m. just west of the junction of U.S. 395 and the Pine Creek Road about twelve miles north of Bishop. Bring  water, snacks, binoculars, spotting scopes and warm clothing.  The trip will end by mid-afternoon.  For more information please contact the leader at (760) 937-6203.

Big Pine Wildlife Viewing Tour, Saturday, March 19

[Originally scheduled for 2/26/11, date changed due to weather]

Experts Tom and Jo Heindel annually lead a popular auto excursion between Klondike Lake and Tinemaha Reservoir. Mountain Bluebirds, Bald Eagles, bobcat, elk, owls, creepers, mergansers, sparrows and swans – these are examples of species which have turned up on past tours. Severe weather in February postponed this outing. Last chance for winter!

Meet at 8:00 a.m. at Glacier View Campground off U.S. 395 just north of Big Pine. Bring water, snacks, binoculars, scopes. We should conclude by mid-day. For more information please contact the leaders at (760) 938-2764.

Bird Chautauqua Coming Up: Registration Begins Friday, April 15

This year is the tenth annualMono Basin Bird Chautauqua and it promises to be bigger and better than ever. The event will run for three days, June 17-19. As ever, it will feature great field trips lead by world-class birders and natural scientists, lectures, the Friday night dinner and wonderful Sunday picnic in the park. Just a reminder: registration will begin early in the morning on April 15th. The events schedule and final registration details will appear at Don’t miss out on this great weekend.

Birder at Owens Lake

Birding at Owens Lake, photo by Mike Prather

2011 Owens Lake Spring Big Day, Tuesday, April 19

Come and join us for a fun Big Day at Owens Lake. The lake will be surveyed for all birds of all species during the peak of spring migration. Small groups will census every bird habitat at Owens Lake in order to have a ‘snap shot’ of a single day. We expect to see thousands of shorebirds, so be prepared; past counts have totaled 40,000-60,000 birds!

To sign up, contact survey coordinator, Mike Prather:, 760-876-5807 (home) or 760-715-0692 (mobile).

Wild at Home, a Gardening Workshop: Saturday, April 23, 9am to 12pm

Join Eastern Sierra Audubon Society, Inyo & Mono Master Gardeners, and Eastern Sierra Land Trust to learn how native plants, garden features, and smart planning can make your yard a healthy habitat for birds, butterflies, and beneficial wildlife.

Master Gardeners will present tips that can help your yard and garden come alive with vibrant plants and interesting wildlife. Learn about water-wise watering, safe and sustainable pest control, and specific information on gardening with native Eastern Sierra plants. Now that you know how to create beautiful habitat, find out from the Audubon Society what birds, butterflies, and other wildlife you can expect to attract to your garden.

There is a suggested donation of $10 for ESLT or ESAS members and $15 for non-members. Space is limited! To reserve your spot, please contact Hillary at 760-873-4554 or email

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President’s Message

“In the midst of winter, I discovered there was in me, an invincible summer ”
           — Albert Camus

Owens Lake, photo by Mike Prather

Owens Lake, photo by Mike Prather

Within the Board of Directors, we often refer to Eastern Sierra Audubon as the “little chapter that could.” People from outside the chapter: California Audubon, other Eastern Sierra organizations, members of the public often begin conversations with “I can’t believe you do all these things and do them so well.” ESAS really makes a contribution to Inyo and Mono counties. Among our contributions, we have:

  • Initiated a massive planning effort at Owens Lake;
  • Brought Jack Laws to the Eastern Sierra where he visited eleven schools, made a surprise evening visit to the Inyo schools science camp and distributed nearly 300 copies of his amazing field guide;
  • Brought our acclaimed “Birds in the Classroom” program to elementary students in both Inyo and Mono Counties;
  • Sponsored dozens of field trips at which people have a chance to bird with such luminaries as John Dunn and Tom and Jo Heindel;
  • Presented evening programs which featured arresting images of landscapes and birds from throughout the world;
  • Helped sponsor the Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua;
  • Partnered with community groups and agencies to present events and do cleanups; and
  • Provided comment and consultation on conservation issues while seeking to facilitate and promote problem solving.

ESAS can do these things because our human resources are comparable to the surrounding natural resources. The life blood of the chapter are the people who volunteer on both an on-going and one time basis and both the chapter and the Eastern Sierra are made better because of that.

There are selfish benefits as well, at least for me. It has truly been an honor to serve as President. I have had incredible opportunities to work with passionate, capable and visionary people in a wide variety of settings. Working with the many Owens Lake stakeholders, in a process which is now in its fourth year, has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. It has taught me lessons about the value of contrasting viewpoints, respect for the dignity of others and the power of people working with a shared commitment. I have learned about the history of this region, its landscape and resources and, of course the lives of these wonderful birds. Lastly, I have learned lessons about myself. Some of them were not easy to swallow, it is uncomfortable to discover that one is not quite what one thinks, but in the end, I have benefited greatly by my experience and deeply appreciate this opportunity.

Here's a bird who lives with that invincible summer inside, even in the midst of the coldest winters.
American Dipper Serenade, February 2011, Birchim Creek, Video by Jim Parker

ESAS Vacancies: Volunteers Needed

Eastern Sierra Audubon has vacant positions and we need people to jump in and take advantage of the opportunity to help the chapter continue to function.

Member: Board of Directors: Board members meet monthly, except for August, and plan the activities of the chapter, oversee finances, guide the chapter in conservation matters, participate on behalf of the chapter at events and programs and share their ideas and enthusiasm with the other members of the board.

Vice-President: The Vice-President, who is also a member of the Board of Directors, acts in the absence of the President. It is anticipated that the Vice-President will succeed the President. This would take place in June 2011.

Program Chair: The program chair works with the Board of Directors to locate speakers and presenters for the ESAS public meetings. The chair co-ordinates with the speakers, obtains information for use in publicizing the programs, and makes sure there is a schedule of speakers for each yearly set of meetings.

Publicity Chair: This position will be vacant in June of 2011. The publicity person assembles information regarding ESAS and its programs and activities and gets that out to media outlets, chambers of commerce, community calendars and other interested parties.

Please contact any member of the Board if you are interested in filling any of these positions.

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Feature: Hummingbirds

The Hummingbirds of Inyo County

Click on any of the photos for a larger version (may take a little while to show up, depending on your internet connection speed)

Rufous Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird, photo by Kelli Heindel

Perhaps the question we are most often asked about hummingbirds is “When should I put up and take down my hummingbird feeders?” This question reflects the concern that feeders might entice hummers to remain too long in fall, which might cause them irreparable harm. In Inyo County that does not appear to be the case. Hummingbirds are found year-round near Ridgecrest, 100 miles to the south of Bishop. If a hummer decided to leave Bishop it would arrive about three hours later where it would find feeders, shelter, and sparring companions. So our answer is “As soon as you move in and when you move away!”

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird, Photo by Tom Heindel

If you put up one feeder, one male usually usurps it as belonging only to him so you should consider putting up more, widely spaced, and with cover nearby. Some people have 6-10 feeders up and during migration can have 10-20 or more hummers in their yard at one time, all feeding and fighting simultaneously. During winter just a couple of feeders are likely enough and location is crucial to help reduce the chances of freezing. A mixture of 3:1 reduces the temperature to about 27˚F before it will freeze. A couple of suggestions are to place them next to a house, especially where two walls join at a right angle, or under the eaves. Another configuration, if possible, is to place one where a flood lamp can be aimed from a few inches away. This prevents freezing no matter how cold it gets.

Ruby-thraoted Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Photo by Matt Heindel

In northern Owens Valley a few hummingbirds typically overwinter. These are usually Anna’s Hummingbirds, although we occasionally get Costa’s. This past winter in Big Pine, we have had 3 Anna’s and 1 Costa’s(click for photo) with at least two birds seen almost daily. We have reports from other residents that they also have had these two species throughout the winter. We have seen them perched on branches set up right next to the feeder with a floodlight and snow falling all around them. The snow disappeared in a few days but the hummer remained active throughout the rest of the winter.

If you have not had feeders out this winter, this is a good time to clean them with bleach, rinse repeatedly, and fill with fresh syrup since the migrants are already heading our way. We were shocked a few years ago when we were running a banding station in our backyard and found an adult male Rufous Hummingbird in the net on 17 Feb! If we didn’t have feeders out and if we didn’t happen to be banding that day, we never would have guessed that a Rufous would be heading north so early.

Broad-billed Hummingbird

Broad-billed Hummingbird, Photo by Tom Heindel

Inyo County has eight species of hummingbirds all documented with photographs. Two species are casual, the eastern Ruby-throated and the Mexican Broad-billed. A Ruby-throated was photographed at Furnace Creek Ranch (J.L. Dunn) and recently accepted by the California Bird Records Committee. The Broad-billed normally reaches southeastern Arizona but twice has made it to Inyo County where the immature males were well photographed in Lone Pine and Big Pine.

Of the remaining six species, all occur annually in the Eastern Sierra with Anna’s, Rufous, and Costa’s regular and widespread by mid to late March. Black-chinned, Calliope(click for photo) and Broad-tailed arrive in April. All of these are breeders except the Rufous, which is a pure migrant here and breeds no closer than the extreme northwest corner of California.

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Photo by Tom Heindel

The Broad-tailed Hummingbird reaches the western extreme of its breeding range in the mountains of eastern California. While it has been known to breed in the Sierra Nevada, it is far more often reported in the mountains to the east, particularly the White, Inyo, and Panamint Ranges.

Anna’s and Black-chinned Hummingbirds are the species most often found in towns and riparian areas of the Owens Valley. Costa’s may also be found in these areas although they are usually associated with more xeric habitats.

Our smallest hummingbird, the Calliope, favors the mountains and has been found nesting as high as 10,000ft near the Baker Creek headwaters.

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Black-chinned Hummingbird, Photo by Tom Heindel

The family of hummingbirds is found throughout the Western Hemisphere and regardless of culture, country, or language, people everywhere are fascinated by these amazing birds. Their ability to hover and fly backwards, without being windblown, captures everybody’s attention. Their array of neon colors dazzles one’s senses and when the sun’s angle turns a black gorget into a resplendent rainbow of color, the response of human viewers is usually explosive expletives and adjectives. Hummingbirds can even become quite tame if they feed in the same area for a while and will buzz about your head as you try to take down and put up feeders. Often we have just held the feeder in our outstretched hand and the hummers swarm in to land and feed, all the while cocking their head to watch us watching them.

There are many good books on hummingbirds. Our favorite two are Hummingbirds of North America: The Photographic Guide, by S.N.G. Howell (2002 Academic Press) and Hummingbirds of North America, the Peterson Field Guide Series, by S.L. Williamson (2001 Houghton Mifflin, Co.).

By the time you read this, the hummingbirds could be searching your yard. Don’t make them wonder where you hung the feeders!

Rufous Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird, Photo by Kelli Heindel

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Bird Identification Challenge

Mystery Bird

Challenge.... First find the bird! (click the photo for a zoomed in view)

This bird was photographed in mid-February in Mono County.

Test Your Bird ID Skills:
(spelling and capitalization count)


Do you need a hint? Here are three:

Hint 1 (click here to show hint)

By now I hope you've found the bird! It appears to be an owl, as you might have suspected, but what kind? If you look carefully, you can see that this owl has ear tufts, which narrows it down a bit.

Can you tell which owl it is?

Hint 2 (click here to show hint)

Your next hint is the size of this owl: definitely smaller and less "hefty" than a Great-horned Owl, plus, the ear tufts are set closer together on the head and this species straightens their body up to look rigid like a tree limb.

Do you have a guess?

Hint 3 (click here to show hint)

The yellow eyes should rule out Flammulated Owl for you, and the dark, vertical stripes through the eyes (barely visible behind the branches) should help clinch the ID, along with the length of the ear tufts.

Ready to ID the bird now?

[Answer on last page]

Some Thoughts on Owls

Good reading on owls is entitled: How to Spot an Owl by Patricia & Clay Sutton, 1994. Great owl photos, large-size and in color too. I read about the two authors in a fun read entitled, A Season at the Point by Jack Conners, 1991. This book is about Cape May Bird Observatory in New Jersey, known for its geographical location at the tip of a point of land where raptors migrate through, but also for The Platform, where strong-necked raptor counters count hundreds and thousands of raptors as they pass over and move out over Delaware Bay. This is where the Suttons live, work, and search for owls.

From their owl book, pages 18-19, in talking about their teacher Ed:

"Ed... taught us how difficult it is to see an owl even when it is in plain view. Their preference for perching with a branch partially obscuring them successfully breaks up their overall shape and is an ingenious camouflaging technique."
"Even to a seasoned owler, it may take some time to get into the right frame of mind for a successful day's owling. The mind needs to be emptied out; tasks and distractions must be forgotten. You must be fully focused on the owly woods you're exploring."
"Every sound may be an owl and must be noted – sometimes the only clue to an owl's presence is a wing hitting a branch as the owl drops from its perch and glides away, silent and unseen."
Baby Great-horned Owl, just out of the nest. Photo by Debby Parker

Baby Great-horned Owl, just out of the nest ("branching")
Photo by Debby Parker

When you do think you've found an owl, observe its forward-facing eyes and the circle of feathers around the eyes, making the facial disc. These feathers direct sound toward the owl's ears, which are offset from each other, allowing the owl to "triangulate" the location of a tiny mouse in the field and silently dive for it. How do they manage such silent flight? The first feather of the leading edge of the wing is serrated to cut through the air silently, allowing for greater stealth while hunting. Winter is a good time to search for owls and yes, some are beginning to nest.

Some of our local owls, like the Western Screech Owl, like a good cavity to sit and nest in, and use our native willows and cottonwoods for nesting. Burrowing Owls (see article below) are found low to the ground and use little caves in banks, cliffs or dirt mounds. Although Great Gray owls are not found readily on the east side of the Sierra, my one and only sighting was at Crane Flat Meadow, in Yosemite National Park in 1977. We were driving east on Hwy 120, when my young daughter, Sarah, sang out, "Mom, there's a big owl on a branch by the road." We made a quick U-turn and there it was, a memory for a lifetime just sitting there letting us observe it quietly, huge and dark, from another era. We looked in awe and then left, not wanting to disturb it and always treasuring that discovery.

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December Bird-A-Thon Successful Again

The December 2010 Bird-A-Thon results are in and it was one of the most successful fundraisers for Eastern Sierra Audubon yet. The Bird-a-Thon fundraising effort now coincides with the Christmas Bird Count which gives us a fun day of birdwatching while fundraising goes on at the same time. Anyone can participate in the Christmas Bird Count which is a major effort to monitor the numbers and distribution of bird species throughout the Western Hemisphere. Participants in the Bird-A-Thon play an important role in keeping the chapter strong. 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 and helps fund ESAS's other educational programs, outreach, field trips as well as maintenance of the website and newsletter.

Our special thanks goes to Mike Prather for his continuing work in making the Bird-A-Thon happen, and to all the wonderful people who donated money to make this year's Bird-A-Thon a success!

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Blackrock Waterfowl Management Area Project Update

The Lower Owens River Project (LORP) is a large-scale restoration and land management project being undertaken by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and Inyo County Water Department. One component of the LORP, the Blackrock Waterfowl Management Area (BWMA), is being managed for a group of wetland habitat indicator species, including waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds, and others. BWMA consists of four separate units, and management includes rotational flooding of approximately 500 acres in average or above average runoff years, with reduced acreage in general proportion to the runoff in below average runoff years. The goal is to provide quality habitats for indicator species. Units remain in active status (i.e., flooded) until emergent vegetation (primarily cattails) begins to exceed 50% cover, at which time the unit is taken out of active status. Studies have shown that the greatest density and diversity of waterfowl in managed wetlands occurs when the ratio of open water to emergent vegetation is 50:50, thus management is geared toward maintaining the units close to this ideal ratio.

In 2010, the Drew and Waggoner Units were in their second year of active status. Thirteen bird surveys were conducted at Drew and Waggoner in 2010 by LADWP and ICWD staff. These surveys included two winter, four spring, and five fall surveys. Two additional surveys were conducted in June to determine breeding status. These data were compared to baseline surveys conducted in 2002 and 2004.

The management at the Drew and Waggoner Units has benefited birds both indicator and “non-indicator” species alike. The number of birds using these units is well above that observed under pre-project conditions (see figures). In 2010, wetland species confirmed or suspected of breeding included Gadwall, Mallard, Cinnamon Teal, Ruddy Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, American Bittern, Northern Harrier, Virginia Rail, Sora, American Coot, Killdeer, Black necked Stilt, American Avocet, Wilson’s Snipe, and Marsh Wren. Due to differences in the amount and configuration of wetland vegetation and open water areas (see photo), the units differed in their attractiveness to the different habitat indicator species groups (see table). The Drew Unit attracted larger numbers of waterfowl and rails (primarily American Coots) due to the presence of a large open water area. Shorebirds were also more numerous at Drew, as they considered the flooded desert sink scrub a mudflat equivalent! The Waggoner Unit was notable for the consistent use by, and more numerous, wading birds most often encountered in the expansive flooded saltgrass meadow areas.

The emergent vegetation at the Waggoner Unit has expanded to a point at which its open water to vegetation ratio is less than optimal for most of the indicator species. The Waggoner Unit may be dried this spring, and the Winterton Unit, which has been dried, will receive vegetation treatments. The Drew Unit will remain active in 2011. Flooding of the Winterton Unit will commence in April, and once again, LADWP and ICWD will monitor the wildlife response.

Drew Unit
Waggoner Unit

Figures showing the total number of birds detected in each unit, summed over all surveys for a year.

Blackrock Indicator Birds
Indicator Species / Group Total Individuals in 2010
Drew Waggoner
Waterfowl and Grebes 2343 998
Rails and Bitterns 4677 1191
Wading Birds 407 608
Shorebirds 895 258
Gulls/Cormorants/Terns/Pelicans 117 16
Marsh Wren 324 252
Northern Harrier 24 43
Osprey 2 0
Aerial View of Blackrock

For more information on this or other LORP monitoring efforts, the “Lower Owens River Project 2010 Final Annual Report” can be found at:

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Shoshone Tecopa Report

Len Warren holding a Roadrunner

Len Warren at Shoshone

January 18th: Tecopa Wetlands (Grimshaw Lake) has been great so far all winter. A breeding pair of Northern Harrier has kept things interesting since early December, and were last observed mating on January10! The male has been twice observed leading coyotes away from the mating area by landing near them, allowing them to get pretty close, then rising and landing close enough to keep the coyotes interested. This goes on 4-5 times until the Harrier seems satisfied that they are far enough away. The floods have filled the wetlands and all the dry lake from here to Baker and I can't wait to see what will come to the area during migration.

Crissal Thrashers have begun their beautiful mimicking songs and are forming pairs, Black-tailed Gnatcatchers are now singing and therefore much easier to find. The males often pop out of the deep cover to the top of a shrub to sing. Until a couple of days ago, all the year round songbirds were only using calls, chip notes, etc. Verdins have added all of their vocalizations after using only scolding calls all winter until Friday. Bewicks Wrens have started singing. Phainopeplas have begun their courtship flights and have been fly-catching. Phainopeplas have been holding territories since early November. Western Bluebirds, Cedar Waxwings, and Mockingbirds compete with them for the Desert Mistletoe berries. A Cactus Wren can usually be found around the campground-swimming pool area. Several Long-eared Owls have been roosting just outside of town in Tamarisk patches in the mudhills. Coopers Hawks are usually seen hunting throughout the area.

February 7th: Phainopepla are courting and pairing up, first year males with gray bodies and black silky crests, are holding territory and chasing females along with full black adult males. The courtship flights are lovely, sometimes performed a hundred or more feet in the air. Courtship assemblages are now occurring, with 6-7 individuals chasing each other around honey mesquite-desert mistletoe. Just after sunrise they are extremely active. Crissal Thrasher courtship is intensifying. Singing males are imitating the calls and songs of local species. Their mimicking is quieter than mockingbird.

March 1st: Long-eared Owls are calling all over Shoshone every night beginning at about 6PM. They are easily heard and often seen in the large Athel groves around town. There are many of them. Last night we could hear at least six from a single listening point. I think there are several more, and I think they are paired up. No one around here seems to remember them "everywhere" like this in years past. Several vocalizations are being used along with a great deal of wing clapping and courtship flights.

SHOSHONE Birding Trails:
Free Bird Walk Every Saturday 7:30am at the Crowbar Restaurant

If you are coming to the Death Valley area for birding, I would be happy to show you Shoshone-Tecopa area birding spots.

More information about Shoshone-Tecopa Important Bird Area (pdf). Also be sure to check out Len’s Shoshone Village bird blog, Birds of Shoshone Wetlands, for great photos and updates.

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Field Trip Report: Round Valley and Millpond, January 15

Raptors galore awaited twenty-three birders who walked two roads in Round Valley north of Bishop. Four immature bald eagles were scoped. Counting the species we couldn't identify, we saw nearly one raptor per participant. Passerines were few, the "best" being a single western bluebird atop a tree. Owls eluded discovery. The warmish morning outing concluded at Millpond Recreation Area where pied-billed grebes, coots, and plenty of common ducks swam. Attendees arrived from such disparate localities as Mammoth Lakes, Rovana, Deep Springs Valley and Laguna Beach.

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Conservation News

Owens Lake Update

Owens Lake

Owens Lake, Photo by Mike Prather

Owens Lake Planning Update The Owens Lake Master Plan process continues, with more than 35 stakeholders continuing to meet to develop a comprehensive plan for the future of the lake and its birds. Drafting of sections of the plan has begun. In addition, work groups are making their final reports and recommendations on such issues as habitat protection, future dust control measures, protections of cultural resources, renewable energy and public access, recreation, education and economic development. Draft plan materials can be found on the internet at Owens Lakebed.

Eastern Sierra Audubon has been deeply involved in this process, especially in the areas of habitat, future dust controls and public access and education. The process has reached the point where discussions have begun on the final form of a legal agreement which will guarantee implementation of the plan. It is hoped that the first draft of the plan and implementing agreements can be completed this summer. For more information, please contact either Pete Pumphrey or Mike Prather.

Owens Lake

Looking Across Owens Lake towards Keeler - 1500 or so Avocets on the far shore, Photo by Mike Prather

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Conservation Alert: Western Burrowing Owls Need Your Help

From the Burrowing Owl Conservation Network

Burrowing Owl near Bishop, photo by Debby Parker

Burrowing Owl near Bishop
Photo by Debby Parker

The Western Burrowing Owl has been witnessing steep declines in California and the need for a range-wide conservation strategy was officially recognized by the State in 1995.  However, California and the Department of Fish and Game have failed to take any action since the release of that Staff Report on Burrowing Owl Mitigation, which has now surpassed 15 years.

Unfortunately, during the last 15 years the population has continued to plummet while the State has sat idle.  New surveys have shown a 27-percent drop in the number of breeding burrowing owls in California’s Imperial Valley, and a 28-percent drop in the San Francisco Bay Area.  These declines ride on the heels of a more than 50-percent Burrowing Owl population decline in the San Francisco Bay Area and parts of Central California between 1983 and 1993.

In an effort to increase the awareness for California’s burrowing owls and highlight the need for both a statewide conservation strategy and legal protection under the California Endangered Species Act, we have recently begun asking the people of California and North America to voice their concerns and sign our Action Alert.  All signatures will be hand-delivered, along with a detailed letter, to state officials in Sacramento regarding the need for conservation action and legal protections.

Because the National Audubon Society, California Audubon Society and all Chapters have been and continue to be a critical driving force for the protection of the world’s birds, we are asking for your assistance to help spread the word and garner signatures/supporters. The petition can be signed electronically via Facebook or the Burrowing Owl Conservation Networkwebsite.

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Taking Care of Business

Reminder: North American Birds Winter Season Reports due by March 10

This is a reminder to all who birded in Inyo County during the Winter Season (December 1, 2010 - February 28, 2011) that reports and photographs are needed by March 10, 2011.

Guidelines for submitting seasonal reports of Inyo County birds to North American Birds can be found at the Inyo Bird Checklist page on this website. This page includes a downloadable list of all Inyo County birds in the new taxonomic order, which species require descriptions, which are reviewed by the California Bird Records Committee and require more extensive documentation, the dates of each season, when the reports are due, and where to send them. We hope this new resource will clarify and make easier the reporting of sightings in Inyo County.

Our thanks in advance for the continuing help in collecting and archiving Inyo County bird records.

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 (such as the Bishop Sewer Ponds)

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 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


Tips for Printing the Newsletter:

We went digital with our newsletters to save resources and money, and I do my best to make it an enjoyable (and even a little interactive) newsletter, but I also recognize that some people simply prefer to read the newsletter in print. For those of you who do print out the newsletter, here are some tips:

  • Always use print preview first! Every browser will print the newsletter slightly differently - some may chop photos in half, others may leave large blank areas - the web newsletter won't print up nice and neat like the PDF versions. I have created a print stylesheet, which hides web-only items you don't need to print, makes other items visible, and should make the newsletter print out much better, but it really depends on how your browser interprets those styles how it turns out.
  • Try different browsers. I test in Firefox, Safari, Chrome, Internet Explorer 6 and 8, and sometimes Opera. When I try print preview in each of these, the number of pages printed varied from 14-17! If you have more than one browser (all available as free downloads) and you want to save paper, you can do print preview and compare the end product before choosing which one prints in the best format.
  • Consider only printing the pages you want to read offline - you may not need to print every page. You can set which pages print in your print dialog box.

I hope most of you are able to save paper and read the newsletter online, and that you enjoy the bits of interaction that allows, such as photo enlargements, slideshows, videos, and the bird ID challenge, none of which are possible in a printed newsletter.

Please Contribute!

Speaking of making the newsletter possible...

All of our great content is supplied by our amazing 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 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. The next official newsletter will be May/June 2011, so send submissions to arrive by the last week in April at the latest. We will try to send out email updates on the first of every month to include any reminders or timely articles for that month.

Thanks for reading, and happy birding!

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Welcome New and Renewing Members!

Eastern Sierra Audubon would like to thank the following new members for their support:

January 2011:

  • Bob and Susan Steele
  • Amity Wilczek
  • Carmen Kappos
Costa's Hummingbird, photo by Kelli Heindel

Costa's Hummingbird
Photo by Kelli Heindel

December 2010

  • Barbara Dunson
  • Kathy Hilimire
  • Debbie Shafer

November 2010

  • Warren Gross
  • Todd & Alisa Lembke
  • Anita Leyen

October 2010

  • Catherine Mahaffey
  • Gretchen Schumacher
  • Jane Tindall

September 2010

  • David Marquart
  • Jennifer Montin
  • Trudy Naylor
  • M.S. Stormo
  • Lois Waller

New and Renewing Chapter-only Members since September 2010:

  • Lily Douglas
  • France & Alice Davis
  • Cedrik and Collette Zemitis
  • S. Bruce Tulloch & Cathy Cannon
  • Heather & Cory Freeman
  • Serena Dennis
  • Larry and Ruth Blakely

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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About Eastern Sierra Audubon

Current Board Members


Main Calendar of Events

ESAS Events in March and April

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Evening Grosbeaks

Evening Grosbeaks warming themselves in the January sun - Photo by Nancy Overholtz

Bird Quiz Answer:

The mystery bird is a Long-eared Owl. The important field marks in the photo are the tall, closely spaced ear tufts, the bird's very erect posture, and the vertical markings through the yellow eyes.