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Audubon Program Features “Yosemite’s Hawks and Owls”

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.

Yosemite wildlife biologist Sarah Stock, Yosemite Area Audubon’s speaker February 14, is shown here on a raptor survey in the park.

Sarah Stock has worked since 2006 as a wildlife biologist in Yosemite National Park, 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 (YAAS) invites the public to join Sarah 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.

Sarah graduated from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, and earned an MS degree in zoology from the University of Idaho, where she conducted research on the migration ecology of forest owls.

For the past 20 years, Sarah has coordinated or assisted field projects in Idaho, Washington, Hawaii, the Marianas Islands, Louisiana, Alaska and California. Living in Yosemite Valley, Sarah enjoys birding, rock climbing and playing in the river with her eight-year-old daughter and husband.

Sarah’s program will also remind participants of why birds enthrall us, grab our imaginations and lessen our stress.

“Anyone who knows Sarah or has heard her speak knows this will be a delightful evening,” says Yosemite Area Audubon Society president Lowell Young. “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.”

Sarah’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.

The YAAS will also offer its monthly field trip Saturday, Feb. 16, to the Merced National Wildlife Refuge. Participants will meet at 8 a.m. at the Mariposa Rest Area adjacent to the history center just off Highway 140, and carpool to the refuge. Suitable for beginners, the trip is free and open to the public.

Bring binoculars, field guides, snacks, lunch, beverages and wet-weather gear. Wear comfortable shoes and dress warmly in layers.

Call (209) 742-5579 or visit www.yosemiteaudubon.org for additional information about the program or the field trip.

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, a 501(c)(3) California corporation, work 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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