Wednesday, 19 June 2024

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Blaine Baker was honored at the year in review event. Photo courtesy of Linda Juntunen.



LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – The annual year in review for the local watershed groups is always a fun, informative evening, and this year’s look back at 2006 was no exception.


A crowd of 50 enjoyed a potluck dinner and presentations by Greg Dills, watershed coordinator for the East Lake and West Lake Resource Conservation Districts (RCD); Dwight Holford, watershed coordinator for Upper Putah Creek Stewardship; and Linda Juntunen, project coordinator for West Lake RCD.

 

The crowd was welcomed by Kevin Ingram, the new chairman for the Big Valley Coordinated Resource Management and Planning (CRMP) group. This was the first time for the group to host this event, and they did a tremendous job.

 

The evening was one of celebration and congratulations for all the work that the watershed groups do throughout the year. Each year the public is invited to attend the event to learn more about the contributions these ambitious volunteers make to their communities. Along with the impressive presentations, the crowd enjoyed an excellent potluck that seems to get better and better each year.

 

Dills started the evening by highlighting the activities of the watershed groups, the resource conservation districts and their numerous partners in the Upper Cache Creek Watershed.

 

The presentation reflected a remarkable list of accomplishments during 2006, and also reminded all in attendance of the enormous storm and subsequent flooding that started that year. It was a haunting backdrop for the work that’s been accomplished in an effort to heal the flood damage.

 

Presenting an equally inspiring list of accomplishments for the Upper Putah Creek Stewardship, Holford offered some stunning photographs of the watershed, and touched on the many valuable activities the group has accomplished.

 

Upper Putah Creek Stewardship provides outstanding guidance and care for the watershed in the southern area of Lake County, and does admirable work for the good of their community.

 

Juntunen joined the list of presenters this year, showing the activities and monitoring outings of the Upper Cache Creek Watershed Stream Team. These volunteers are trained members of a citizens’ water quality monitoring team that visited numerous creeks throughout the watershed.

 

Later in the evening a portion of a letter was read from the Central Valley Region of the State Water Quality Control Board, commending the group for their “care for the watershed and water quality.” The Upper Cache Creek Watershed Alliance awarded these outstanding volunteers with personalized binders, complete with the Stream Team logo; each binder contained a copy of the letter of commendation from the state.

 

The West Lake Resource Conservation District also joined in the evening’s presentations by bestowing their annual “Partner of the Year” award. This year’s well-deserved award was presented to recently retired Upper Lake and Covelo District Ranger, Blaine Baker, along with the U.S. Forest Service, Mendocino National Forest.

 

Recognized for their continuous support of the RCD’s popular ”Kids in the Creek” program, this branch of the Forest Service has been an outstanding partner to the RCD and local watershed groups.

 

Baker, a longtime partner, has given mainstay support for the “Kids in the Creek” program since its inception. West Lake Director Chuck Morse made it clear, as he presented Baker with a beautiful plaque, that the program would not have become what it is today without Baker’s support.

 

Jeff Tunnell, fire prevention technician for the Upper Lake District, received a second plaque on behalf of the Mendocino National Forest personnel who also are actively involved with the program.

 

This year’s event ended with a real surprise for the attendees, with gifts purchased by the Upper Cache Creek Watershed Alliance from local Kelseyville merchants. To give recognition to those in attendance for caring about Lake County and its watersheds, the gifts were distributed by random-number selection.

 

Another highlight of the evening was the drawing of the winning number for the raffle of an incredible gift basket, donated by the Lake County Winegrape Commission.

 

Good food, great volunteers, caring members of the community … the perfect combination for another successful annual meeting. Keep an opening on next year’s calendar for the 2007 Year in Review.

 

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LUCERNE – California Department of Fish & Game officials working to collect thousands of dead ducks and waterfowl along the Northshore believe that the animals have perished due to avian cholera. 

DFG veterinarian Pam Swift said a number of dead ducks collected for testing arrived at the DFG's lab in Rancho Cordova Tuesday morning.

Andy Atkinson, a senior wildlife biologist supervisor in Lake County this week to lead DFG efforts in addressing the die-off, said additional samples were sent to the California Animal Health & Food Safety Lab at UC Davis.

Final test results are expected Wednesday afternoon, Swift said, but officials are already venturing an educated guess based on initial tests on the animals.

“We've already made a presumptive diagnosis of avian cholera,” said Swift.

That diagnosis, she said, is based on the discovery during necropsies of white spots or lesions, caused by bacteria that causes avian cholera, on the birds' livers.

Swift said the DFG lab coordinates disease testing for animals, and also has been conducting tests for an avian cholera outbreak that occurred at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge's Butte Sink section earlier this month.

DFG set up its staging center for dead bird collection this week at Lucerne's Harbor Park.

On Tuesday afternoon, Atkinson worked with other staff to collect the dead animals and take samples from some of them.

Atkinson said a total of 11 DFG staffers from different agency divisions were on scene to collect the birds

For this die-off event, Atkinson said, they had already picked up more than 1,500 dead birds, with an estimated 700 picked up on Tuesday alone.

“We covered the entire lake today,” said Atkinson.

He added that they know where the concentrations of dead birds are and they're working to clean them up.

Atkinson said avian cholera can affect any avian species. A DFG manual he follows for avian influenza and cholera outbreaks explains that avian cholera is caused by the bacteria Pasteurella multocida, which commonly affects waterfowl, coots, gulls and crows.

The vast majority of the die-off victims appear to be ruddy ducks, a migratory bird that winters on Clear Lake, said Atkinson.

However, one of the bags of dead birds collected Tuesday included numerous grebes, thousands of which make the lake their home.

“We're really hoping it doesn't get into the grebe colony in the lower part of the lake,” said DFG Game Warden Lynette Shimek, who was among the first to respond to the die-off which began this past weekend.

Shimek spent Tuesday morning on the lake collecting dead ducks and later hauling them to the landfill. She said DFG has four boats it's using to aid collection.

The birds appear to be dying in the same portion of the lake where the massive 2004 avian cholera die-off occurred, said Shimek, which is in the lake's main arm.

She said the ruddy ducks, which are a smaller species of duck, are apparently dying in the lake center and the wind is blowing them toward shore, where they're being found in areas stretching from Nice to Glenhaven.

The birds are flying in with the disease, Shimek said. Once in the lake, they like to stay out more in the open water, where they congregate in close, tight-knit groups.

Atkinson said avian cholera is transmitted in a number of ways, including through direct contact and bacteria transmitted through the air.

With the ruddy ducks staying so close together, the disease can easily among them, said Shimek. “That's why they're affected so much more than other species.”

Collecting the dead bodies helps stop the spread of the disease, said Atkinson.

Sandie Elliott of SpiritWild, Lake County's wildlife rescue group, said she received her first call from an area resident Friday reporting dead birds.

Shimek, Elliott and some volunteers began collecting the dead animals along a 12-mile stretch of shoreline over the weekend until the other DFG staffers arrived.

Elliott said at that time they spotted nearly 1,000 more sick or dead ducks in a small stretch of water. “It's going to be big,” she said of the die-off.

Avian cholera is commonly seen in winter, said Elliott.

The National Wildlife Health Center's (NWHC) Field Manual of Wildlife Diseases notes that waterfowl in California that often are hit with the disease during the migration period that starts in fall and ends in the spring.

DFG urges people not to touch the animals at all until they have an official diagnosis for the die-off's cause.

Shimek said people can call her home office, 275-8862, to report dead animals for pick up.

She asked for the community's patience while the main collection goes on, and said she will respond to pick up the animals as quickly as she can.

For now, she said, “We have to focus on the hot spot areas.”

Atkinson said he expects to have a better idea by Wednesday of how much more collection will be required and what other resources he'll need to finish the job.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

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This article has been updated.: Please note, the previous version gave handling protocols and local officials are asking the public not to pick the birds up at this time.

 

NORTHSHORE – County officials are reporting a die-off of ruddy ducks in the Nice-Lucerne area.

Officials don't yet know what has caused the birds to die. Last year, avian influenza killed a number of ducks near Lakeport's Library Park; three years ago, avian cholera claimed thousands of ruddy ducks in the lake's main arm.


Pamela Francis, deputy director of the county's Water Resources division, notified Supervisor Denise Rushing of the situation on Monday.

 

Francis reported that 150 animals have been collected, and that the state Department of Fish & Game (DFG) has taken samples in order to find a cause of death for the animals.

 

In January 2004, a massive ruddy duck die-off occurred on Clear Lake which DFG attributed to avian cholera. A DFG report said a total of 7,400 dead ducks were collected and disposed of in that die-off event, which was the first recorded avian cholera outbreak on Clear Lake.

 

Ruddy ducks are a migratory fowl which can be found wintering in Lake County, not just on the main lake but also Borax Lake, according to the county's tourism site.

 

In addition to the ruddy ducks, that avian cholera outbreak also claimed the lives of mallard ducks, grebes and egrets.

 

The 2004 die-off occurred in the main arm of Clear Lake. DFG, California Department of Agriculture, County of Lake staff, U.S. Fish & Wildlife and volunteers from SpiritWild, a local wildlife rescue and rehabilitation organization, collected the dead animals both on the water and on land.

 

Most of the dead ducks were picked up on the lake's eastern shore – from Nice to Glenhaven – with some dead ducks found in the Oaks arm of the lake.

 

This latest die-off appears to be occurring close to the same area as the one in 2004.

 

The National Wildlife Health Center's (NWHC) Field Manual of Wildlife Diseases notes that waterfowl are common avian cholera victims, with wading birds, shorebirds and cranes falling to the disease less frequently. California, the report noted, has outbreaks of the disease almost annually.

 

Avian cholera hits wild waterfowl in a season pattern closely associated with seasonal migrations, the report notes, with outbreaks in California normally starting during fall and continuing into the spring.

 

DFG reports that disposing of the carcasses helps slow the spread of diseases like avian cholera, which is lethal to waterfowl and other birds but does not affect humans. Only one type of avian influenza has been noted to affect humans, but it has not yet been found in the United States.

 

Officials are taking care of collecting the animals and ask area resident not to pick the animals up at this time, until they know the precise cause of the birds' deaths. 

 

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

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