Edwards AFB's Piute Ponds feature wide variety of birds, wildlife

A Black-crowned Night-Heron flies over Piute Ponds at Edwards Air Force Base. The ponds are located in the extreme southwest of the base and are situated along the Great Basin corridor of the Pacific Flyway. For this reason, the ponds attract several migratory bird species. (Air Force photo by Melissa Buchanan)

A Black-crowned Night-Heron flies over Piute Ponds at Edwards Air Force Base. The ponds are located in the extreme southwest of the base and are situated along the Great Basin corridor of the Pacific Flyway. For this reason, the ponds attract several migratory bird species. (Air Force photo by Melissa Buchanan)

A Barn Owl takes flight from a tree in Piute Ponds at Edwards Air Force Base. The ponds attract numerous bird species and wildlife. The artificially maintained marsh area is located in the extreme southwest corner of the base. (Air Force photo by Melissa Buchanan)

A Barn Owl takes flight from a tree in Piute Ponds at Edwards Air Force Base. The ponds attract numerous bird species and wildlife. The artificially maintained marsh area is located in the extreme southwest corner of the base. (Air Force photo by Melissa Buchanan)

A Little Stint wades through the water at Piute Ponds on Edwards Air Force Base. The bird breeds in arctic Europe and Asia. The marsh area attracts several migratory birds because of its location along the Great Basin corridor of the Pacific Flyway. (Courtesy photo by Larry Sansone)

A Little Stint wades through the water at Piute Ponds on Edwards Air Force Base. The bird breeds in arctic Europe and Asia. The marsh area attracts several migratory birds because of its location along the Great Basin corridor of the Pacific Flyway. (Courtesy photo by Larry Sansone)

A Black-crowned Night-Heron soars through the sky over Edwards’ Piute Ponds. The ponds attract several migratory birds because it is situated along the Great Basin corridor of the Pacific Flyway. (Air Force photo by Melissa Buchanan)

A Black-crowned Night-Heron soars through the sky over Edwards’ Piute Ponds. The ponds attract several migratory birds because it is situated along the Great Basin corridor of the Pacific Flyway. (Air Force photo by Melissa Buchanan)

A Black-crowned Night-Heron sits in a tree at Piute Ponds. The ponds are comprised of a series of channels, dikes and evaporation ponds covering up to 600 acres in the southwest corner of Edwards Air Force base. (Air Force photo by Kenji Thuloweit)

A Black-crowned Night-Heron sits in a tree at Piute Ponds. The ponds are comprised of a series of channels, dikes and evaporation ponds covering up to 600 acres in the southwest corner of Edwards Air Force base. (Air Force photo by Kenji Thuloweit)

A Great Blue Heron stands on a stump in the middle of Piute Ponds at Edwards Air Force Base. The ponds are a functional ecosystem consisting of up to 600 acres of wetlands artificially maintained with effluent from the Los Angeles County Sanitation District 14 water reclamation plant. (Air Force photo by Kenji Thuloweit)

A Great Blue Heron stands on a stump in the middle of Piute Ponds at Edwards Air Force Base. The ponds are a functional ecosystem consisting of up to 600 acres of wetlands artificially maintained with effluent from the Los Angeles County Sanitation District 14 water reclamation plant. (Air Force photo by Kenji Thuloweit)

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Amid the high desert landscape that encompasses Edwards is a green oasis that provides a place for wildlife and exotic birds to flourish in peace.

Covering up to 600 acres on the base's southwest corner is Piute Ponds. The freshwater marsh is comprised of channels, dikes and evaporation ponds with water supplied from a Los Angeles County wastewater treatment plant.

"A lot of people are surprised when they first get here - it kind of comes out of the desert and all of a sudden you have a marsh that sneaks up on you," said Mark Hagan, an Edwards Environmental Management natural resource manager. "It's a really neat place with a lot of different things to see. It's a quiet and tranquil place."

The marsh attracts migratory birds because of its location along the Great Basin corridor of the Pacific Flyway - one of four major bird migration routes across the United States.
When migrating birds see water they tend to stop and take a break, especially in Antelope Valley.

Biologists on base say Piute Ponds is home to more than 200 species of birds, which brings out enthusiasts.

"It's the largest freshwater marsh in Los Angeles County so that draws a lot of birders," said Wanda Deal, a natural resource specialist at EM.

Recently, the ponds have been attracting even more bird watchers after a Little Stint was spotted.

"The Little Stint that's getting everyone's attention this year actually hails from Asia and Africa and breeds up in the Eurasian arctic," said Deal. "We don't normally see a bird like that here, but we get vagrant birds as they are blown in or lose their way somehow."

Jon Feenstra, a biological consultant and Wings Birding Tours Worldwide member, recently came out with a bird watching group. He has been coming out to the ponds for the past 10 years.

"I probably come out here at least once a week during July and August, which is the peak of shore bird migration," said Feenstra. "In winter there are tens of thousands of ducks and during the summer there's all sorts of different shore birds."

"There's been a lot of rare birds over the years that I've seen here. Saw a Stilt Sandpiper just this morning; last year there were Hudsonian Godwits; the list of rarities from this place is unusual and that keeps people coming out here. This is a pretty amazing place."

Coyotes, badgers, kit foxes, muskrats, raccoons, kangaroo rats and bobcats are animals that also inhabit the area.

Piute Ponds is located at the extreme southwest of Edwards off of Shuttle Road just east of the Edwards sign on Rosamond Blvd.

The ponds were created when Los Angeles County Sanitation District 14 placed a dike in the area to keep its effluent from reaching Rosamond dry lakebed. The ponds continue to be sustained with effluent from the District 14 Wastewater treatment plant.

Although the effluent has received some treatment at the plant, it is not recommended that people make physical contact with the water in the ponds.

The pond area has dirt roads for navigation, but a higher clearance vehicle would be best as the roads can get rugged in spots.

On base personnel can visit the unique ecosystem any time by calling Environmental Management at 277-1401.  Off-base residents can call 277-1401 to request a base access form to visit or to hunt on the ponds during the fall hunting season.

To read more about Piute Ponds, go to www.piuteponds.com.
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