Yosemite's hawks and owls

By Len McKenzie / Audubon CorrespondentFebruary 7, 2013 

If you've ever heard a raptor's shrill scream, savored the majesty of a soaring hawk or eagle, been awestruck by a peregrine falcon in a 200-mph "stoop" or felt the piercing gaze of an owl, then you can understand why cultures have revered and worshipped birds of prey throughout human history.

Yosemite's wild, rugged landscape offers superb habitat and protection for more than 20 species of birds of prey, or raptors, including the charismatic great gray owl and peregrine falcon. In a world that now poses so many challenges to the survival of these impressive birds -- habitat loss and fragmentation, climate change, illegal shooting, pesticides and other toxins, oil spills, wind turbines, vehicles, airplanes, windows and a host of other perils -- the importance of parks such as Yosemite as wildlife preserves is inestimable.

Sarah Stock has worked as a wildlife biologist in Yosemite National Park since 2006 where she oversees the Terrestrial Biodiversity Program. In this role, she works with great gray owls, peregrine falcons, bats, bighorn sheep and other wildlife species. The Yosemite Area Audubon Society invites the public to join Stock at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 14, for an overview of Yosemite's birds of prey, including some natural history tidbits, awe-inspiring behaviors, vocalizations and current research findings. She will present her slide program at the Mariposa Methodist Church parish hall on 6th Street in downtown Mariposa.

Stock graduated from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., and earned a master of science degree in zoology from the University of Idaho, where she conducted research on the migration ecology of forest owls. For the past 20 years, Stock has coordinated or assisted field projects in Idaho, Washington, Hawaii, the Marianas Islands, Louisiana, Alaska and California. Living in Yosemite Valley, Stock enjoys birding, rock climbing and playing in the river with her eight-year-old daughter and husband.

"Anyone who knows Sarah or has heard her speak knows this will be a delightful evening," said Lowell Young, Yosemite Area Audubon Society president. "She's a personable, engaging speaker, and her talk will be informative and entertaining. She'll no doubt also remind us that several species of birds in our own backyards, not just raptors, are in decline and that we can help protect these populations so they don't disappear from our lives completely."

Stock's presentation is open and free to the public, although donations to defray program costs and to support Audubon's local activities are welcome. Refreshments will be available.

Details: (209) 742-5579 or visit yosemiteaudubon.org.

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