MARIPOSA – The Yosemite Area Audubon Society invites foothill residents and visitors to enjoy an evening of fun, adventure and entertainment with Matthew Matthiessen, a captivating storyteller and world-class photographer.
Matthiessen will be hosting a stunning slide presentation on the birds of Peru. This program is a visual treat featuring many rare and colorful species, and will be presented at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 11, at the Mariposa Methodist Church parish hall on 6th Street in downtown Mariposa.
Like other countries in South and Central America, Peru hosts an impressive diversity of fauna, including almost 1,900 species of birds, many of them endemic. Matthiessen, the chief financial officer for the John C. Fremont Healthcare District and an extraordinary birder, visited northern Peru in Oct. 2012 and birded from the Pacific coast to the high Andes, an area rich in endemics and site-specific birds such as the white-winged guan and gray-bellied comet. This region is also home to some of the most spectacular birds in the world such as the Andean cock-of-the-rock and the marvelous spatuletail.
A University of Tennessee graduate, Matthiessen began birding while growing up in Thailand, developing a lifelong love for international birding. He has since pursued his birding passion in many countries throughout the world and captured hundreds of images through his camera lens.
Matthew’s adventures have also produced some memorable, heart-pounding experiences. He has lived through two bloody coups – one, in Thailand, successful and the other, in Zambia, not. He has been charged by an elephant, stalked by a lion and threatened by a crocodile. He has kissed a cobra, push-started a Jeep amidst a lion pride, had the spotlight die while next to a leopard, captured a 14-foot python and almost tripped over a sleeping silverback gorilla. He will likely highlight some of those experiences in his presentation.
Like all YAAS programs, Matthiessen’s presentation is open and free to the public, although donations to defray program costs and to support Audubon’s local activities are welcome.
December will also bring a flurry of birding opportunities. YAAS will offer its monthly field trip on Saturday, Dec. 13, at the Ahwahnee Hills Regional Park.
Participants should meet at the entrance to the park on Highway 49 north of Oakhurst at 7:45 a.m. Suitable for beginners, the trip is free and open to the public. Bring binoculars, field guides, snacks, lunch and beverages.
Yosemite Area Audubon is also encouraging residents to participate in any of several local and nearby Christmas bird counts scheduled between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5 as part of the National Audubon Society’s 115th annual count.
The Yosemite Christmas Bird Count on Sunday, Dec. 14, will kick off the CBC season locally. Participants should email compiler Sarah Stock at Sarah_Stock@nps.gov, before that date to arrange a count assignment.
The Oakhurst CBC is scheduled Friday, Dec. 19, starting at the Oakhurst Burger King at 7 a.m. The Mariposa count will be held on Saturday, Dec. 20, beginning with a pre-count meeting at 7 a.m. at the Happy Burger. Finally, the Merced CBC will occur Friday, Dec. 26, beginning at 7 a.m. at the Mariposa rest area just off Highway 140 for Mariposa participants to carpool.
Participation in all counts is free, and all comers are welcome regardless of birding experience. Bring binoculars, field guides, lunch, snacks and beverages. Dress in layers, bring rain gear and wear comfortable, waterproof walking shoes.
Call (209) 742-5579 or (209) 966-2547 or visit www.yosemiteaudubon.org for more information about the program or the Christmas bird counts.