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April Audubon Events Feature Noted Bird Expert Jon Dunn

Contributed by Len McKenzie –

MARIPOSA – Internationally renowned bird expert Jon Dunn, a prolific author or co-author of numerous publications about birds, will be the featured speaker at the April program of the Yosemite Area Audubon Society in Mariposa.

An acclaimed authority on bird identification and distribution, Jon will present a slide program, “In Praise of Difficult Ducks,” at the Mariposa United Methodist Church parish hall on 6th Street in downtown Mariposa on Thursday, Apr. 12, at 7 p.m.

Jon’s presentation will focus on the beauty of waterfowl, highlighting their distinguishing field marks, adaptations and behaviors that can help observers identify them accurately.

Even accomplished birders are sometimes challenged to make a positive identification of a bird in the field, particularly if viewing conditions are less than ideal or the observed bird is similar in appearance or behavior to other species.

The relative ease or difficulty of waterfowl identification is, for most birders, seasonally influenced. By late winter the males of many species are in high breeding plumage and easy to identify, but the females and late-summer and fall birds in eclipse plumage are much more difficult to identify and are often ignored.

Jon will spend some time in his talk exploring the more challenging identification issues pertinent to waterfowl and discuss taxonomic issues that may well influence future changes in classification at the species level.

Jon has lived much of his life in California, growing up mostly in the Los Angeles area, where he began birding at the age of eight, and now living in Bishop. His extensive expertise is concentrated in the identification and distribution of North American birds, and he has long been interested in Asian avifauna as well.

Jon Dunn is perhaps most associated with the National Geographic Society’s “Field Guide to the Birds of North America,” having been involved with every edition of this classic guide—now in its 7th edition—first as chief consultant and, for the last two editions, as co-author with Jonathan Alderfer.

Jon also co-authored, with Ornithology Collections Manager Kimball Garrett of the Mu-seum of Natural History of Los Angeles, “Birds of Southern California, Status and Distribution” (1981) and the “Peterson Field Guide to Warblers of North America” (1997), as well as “Birding Essentials” with Jonathan Alderfer (2007).

Jon has been a member of the California Bird Records Committee for 28 years and has served on the American Ornithological Society’s Committee on Classification and Nomenclature since 2000. He was formerly on the ABA Checklist Committee, including as Chair. Jon sits as a board member of the Western Field Ornithologists (WFO).

Among the many honors bestowed on Jon was the American Birding Association’s 2012 Roger Tory Peterson Award, presented for lifetime achievement in promoting birding and bird conservation.

Like all YAAS programs, Jon’s presentation is open and free to the public, although do-nations to defray program costs and to support the chapter’s local activities are welcome.

Two March Field Trips with Jon Dunn

Jon Dunn will also lead two field trips for YAAS during his visit to Mariposa. On Friday, Apr. 13, he will lead a small group, strictly limited to 16 participants, to selected sites in the Mariposa area as a fundraiser for YAAS. Individual cost for the trip is $20.

People interested in joining the group should contact Lowell Young by phone at (209) 966-2547 or email yosemite.birder@gmail.com in advance to sign up and pay the fee. Lowell will provide additional details about the trip at that time.

On the following day, Saturday, Apr. 14, Jon will lead a free birding trip (no participant limit) to the UC Merced Vernal Pools and Grassland Reserve adjacent to the campus in Merced. Participants should meet at the Mariposa Rest Area adjacent to the history center on Highway 140 at 8 a.m. to carpool to the reserve. Those who opt to drive themselves to the campus should contact Lowell (see above) for parking instructions and directions.

Call (209) 966-2547, email yosemite.birder@gmail.com or visit www.yosemiteaudubon.org for more information about the program and field trips.

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.

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