The Sierra Nevada draws visitors for many reasons its unparalleled scenery, geological features, flora and fauna, wilderness and cultural attributes, and superb recreational opportunities. Birders are drawn for reasons rooted in each of those values.
Among the tools birders use to enjoy and find meaning in the pursuit of their passion are field guides and other publications to help identify and interpret the birds they see. A new book specifically devoted to Sierra Nevada birds, a successor to a now-out-of-print book published by the Yosemite Association (now the Yosemite Conservancy) in 1985, is now available to enhance their birding experiences.
Ed Pandofino, a co-author of the book, "Birds of the Sierra Nevada," will present a slide talk based on the book at the Yosemite Area Audubon Society's monthly program Thursday, March 13, at the Oakhurst Methodist Church on Road 426. The presentation will begin at 7 p.m.
Pandolfino will lead a virtual tour of a Sierra Nevada transect from the oak savanna in the west, through serene conifer forests of the west side, up into the majestic alpine regions, and down the steep eastern escarpment to the pinyon/juniper woodlands and open steppes of the Great Basin.
Along the way the audience will see and hear the stunning diversity of birds that make the Sierra their home, learning which birds are in decline and which are expanding and increasing. He'll address some mysteries surrounding some of those species and discuss how birders can help solve them.
Pandolfino is president of Western Field Ornithologists, a regional editor for Northern California for the North American Birds and has published more than two dozen articles on the status and distribution of western birds. He co-authored, with Ted Beedy, "Birds of the Sierra Nevada: Their Natural History, Status, and Distribution," illustrated by Keith Hansen and published by the University of California Press in May 2013.
Noted bird guide authors David Sibley and Kenn Kaufman have endorsed the book, writing that the "...book invites you to simply sit down and read,..." (Sibley) and "...this is a monumental work that will be consulted and admired for decades to come," (Kaufman).
Pandolfino spent most of his early life on the move, living in many different states and countries and attending 13 different schools between first grade and high school. His first exposure to the Sierra came as a teenager. He hunted, fished and backpacked, but somehow he remained essentially unaware of birds.
After a checkered and inconsistent college experience that included dropping out and touring Europe as a drummer for a rock and roll band, Pandolfino finally settled down and earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry at Washington State University.
He spent more than 20 years working in various management positions in the medical device industry. After an eyeball-to-eyeball encounter with a spotted towhee, Pandolfino's relationship with birds was transformed instantaneously from oblivious to obsessed.
Since retiring in 1999, he has devoted his life to birds, working on habitat conservation and avian research. In the past several years, he has rediscovered his "inner scientist" and has published more than two dozen papers on the status and distribution of western birds.
He lives in Sacramento with his wife and close to both their children. Pandofino will sign copies of the book, which will be available for sale, after the presentation.
Like all YAAS programs, Pandolfino's presentation will be open and free to the public, although donations to defray program costs and to support the chapter's local activities are appreciated.
The YAAS will also offer its monthly birding trip Saturday, March 15, to the Bass Lake area. Mariposa participants will meet at 8:00 a.m. at Highway 49 South and Tiptop Road to carpool. Madera County participants can meet the Mariposa group in the Sears parking lot on Junction Drive in Oakhurst about 8:45. Suitable for beginners, the trip is free and the public welcome. Dress in layers and wear comfortable walking shoes. Bring binoculars, field guides, snacks, lunch, beverages and rain gear.
The mission of the National Audubon Society, the namesake of noted 19th-century naturalist and bird painter John James Audubon; its state affiliate, Audubon California; and local chapters such as the Yosemite Area Audubon Society is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth's biological diversity. The YAAS is dedicated to educating and inspiring others to help protect those resource values.
Details on book: Len McKenzie, (209) 742-5579
Details: (209) 742-5579, (209) 966-2547, or visit www.yosemiteaudubon.org for additional information about either the program or the birding trip.