Owens Lake Bird Festival Receives a 2015 Mindful Birding Award

Friends of the Inyo is the recipient of a 2015 Mindful Birding Award for its efforts to promote ethical birding guidelines and bird conservation through its first annual Owens Lake Bird Festival that will be held in Lone Pine, California on April 24th and 25th, 2015.

The Owens Lake Bird Festival has demonstrated a commitment to ethical birdwatching behavior by proactively drafting a code of birding ethics and distributing this code to festival attendees and field trip leaders. The first-time festival is increasing awareness among birdwatchers of their twin responsibilities as birdwatchers and as stewards of the lands and waters upon which birds and humans depend.

The Owens Lake Bird Festival also brings attention to the story of Owens Lake, a mostly dry lake located in Inyo County, California. Owens Lake used to cover an area greater than 100 square miles and had an average depth greater than 20 feet. During a visit to the lake in 1917, the eminent biologist Joseph Grinnell reported seeing “literally thousands of birds” from a single location, including avocets, phalaropes, and ducks. In 1924, much of the Owens River was diverted to the Los Angeles Aqueduct and, not surprisingly, many of the birds disappeared along with the water in the lake.

In recent years, some of the flow to Owens Lake has been restored in an effort to reduce the hazards to human health from alkali dust storms arising on Owens Lake. Owens Lake now covers approximately 27 square miles as a result of shallow flooding. As water has returned to this threatened habitat, the birds have taken note. A 2008 survey of the birds of Owens Lake by Eastern Sierra Audubon Society and others recorded 45,560 individuals of 112 species, including 15 waterfowl and 22 shorebird species—the highest official total number of birds documented at this site.

The Owens Lake Bird Festival offers a variety of birdwatching field trips that will connect participants to nature through the splendor of birds. By strengthening participants’ connections to nature, and by providing guidance on ethical birding and nature conservation, the Owens Lake Bird Festival is helping attendees become even stronger messengers for and supporters of conservation for birds and people.

Friends of the Inyo’s festival partners include Eastern Sierra Audubon, California Audubon, Eastern California Museum, Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association, Interagency Visitor Center, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce.

The Mindful Birding project presents ethical birding guidelines from around the world, and offers awards to birding festivals that demonstrate improved or superior ethics. The project has three goals: (1) increase awareness among birders of ethical birding guidelines, (2) increase the conservation contributions from America's birdwatchers, and (3) encourage a practice of mindfulness among birders.