April 2021 Yellowbill

31 Mar April 2021 Yellowbill


President’s Message

Greetings, FAS members and friends. I hope that you are all staying healthy and safe out there.

On Tuesday, April 13, FAS will hold its monthly general meeting over Zoom. Our speaker for the evening will be Dan Airola, president of the Western Section of the Wildlife Society, who will be talking to us about Tricolored Blackbird ecology and conservation in the Sierra foothills.  If you are interested in learning more about California’s near-endemic Tricolored Blackbird, you definitely do not want to miss this presentation! Please join us on Tuesday, April 13 at 7:00 PM. A link to register to get the Zoom information is here.

Thank you again to everyone who attended the March 9 general meeting. Beth Pratt’s presentation on the wildlife of Yosemite was very enthralling! For those of you who missed the meeting, you can view Beth’s presentation, along with other recent presentations, on our YouTube channel. Here is the link to Beth’s presentation.

FAS will be holding a virtual field trip on Saturday, April 10. The location will be Roeding Park and we will be focusing our attention on the heron rookery, which is very active this time of year. Please join us to check out the rookery and to see what else we might find! Here is a link for registration. Our hope is still to resume in-person field trips later in the year when it is safe to do so. Stay tuned for updates in the coming months!

If you are not already, please follow us on Facebook and Instagram, and subscribe to our YouTube channel. This is a great way to engage with us and stay in the loop!

To end this message, I’d like to share two photos. The first is a Western Meadowlark. Check out the pointed beak, the stripes on the crown, the black ‘necklace’ and the yellow on the breast (which aren’t the most visible in this photo since the bird was turned around), and the  streaky brown backside. The second picture is an adult Pelagic Cormorant in breeding plumage. Notice the red in the face, the white whisker-like feathers on the neck, the purple and greenish sheen, and the slightly raised crests.

Please take care of yourselves!

Rachel Clark
President, Fresno Audubon Society

Western Meadowlark by Rachel Clark

Pelagic Cormorant in breeding plumage by Rachel Clark


Membership with Fresno Audubon Society is available for students, for individuals or for families. We also offer a lifetime membership. Your dues will help us pay for our Zoom subscription, insurance for field trips and citizen science, communications and other costs of doing business. Please see our 2020 annual report for more information how we spend dues money.

Fresno Audubon Society membership levels:

$15 Student
$25 Individual
$35 Family
$1000 Golden Eagle (Life)

Our membership year runs from September 1 to August 31 the following year. To join Fresno Audubon Society or to renew your membership, please visit our website here.

April General Meeting
Status and Ecology of the Tricolored Blackbird
in the Sierra Nevada foothills
by Dan Airola

Tuesday, 13 April 2021, 7-8 pm
Via Zoom

Tricolored Blackbird by Gary Woods


The talk will provide background on the unique population ecology of California’s near-endemic Tricolored Blackbird and the causes for its historic decline.  Dan will review the importance of the the breeding population in the foothills based on surveys conducted over 2014-2020.  Study results describing nesting and foraging habitats will be presented.  Dan will also present the results of an analysis of the conservation status of the foothill population, which will describe habitat losses due to grassland conversion to orchards and vineyard and development and the levels of habitat protection currently afforded under existing conservation management, county zoning, and the several Habitat Conservation Plans.

To receive the Zoom link for the meeting, please register here.

Make a Pledge to Save Nesting Tricolored Blackbirds

The Tricolored Blackbird (TRBL) used to occur in the millions in the Central Valley, but the conversion of wetlands to agriculture has led to the rapid decline of the species. The TRBL is a colonial nester that may form large breeding colonies. Although colonies traditionally nested in tules and cattails, today in the Central Valley the colonies often nest in dairy silage. This has caused a problem for dairy farmers who need to harvest the silage when it has maximum nutritional value, a time when a colony may be present on their fields.

For the last five years, Audubon California has partnered with many local chapters, the federal government and the dairy industry to protect more than 680,000 nesting birds on farms, investing more than $2 million in federal funding to help farmers recover a portion of their losses incurred from delaying crop harvest. The silage buyout program was paid for by grants from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), a federal agency.

We may need your help. The federal government has reduced the amount available for silage buyout, and that puts Tricolored Blackbirds at risk. Normally, the government helps farmers recover roughly 75% of their economic losses when they delay harvest to allow Tricolored Blackbirds to finish their nesting cycle. This year, the government will only be able to reimburse farmers for approximately 50% of their losses. Over the past several months, Audubon’s partnership has worked tirelessly to identify additional funding to cover this difference in payment so that we do not see an increase in hazing of nesting birds or harvest of nesting colonies. Just last week we were successful in securing funding from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife that can be used to support most farmers. We hope this will be enough.

We are asking you to join Audubon California and Fresno Audubon Society in pledging funding as a backstop to state funding to protect nesting Tricolored Blackbirds. These funds would only be used if the secured funding does not fully reach the 75% of costs to help farmers recover losses due to nesting TRBL. The funding gap Audubon is looking to cover is approximately $50,000.

There is currently a colony forming at Producer’s Dairy in Fresno County. We want to save that colony. If you make a pledge, Fresno Audubon Society will provide matching funds up to a total of $5,000 for all pledges, thus doubling your impact. This pledge will only be called in if the funding is needed, and the nesting and thus the need for funds will end in August. To make your pledge, click here.

General Meeting Speaker Schedule

Thanks to the efforts of President Rachel Clark and new board member and Program Chair Lowell Young, we now have speakers scheduled for the remainder of the year. Since Lowell took the position of Program Chair he has reached out to many potential speakers, most of whom he met as president of Yosemite Area Audubon. This schedule is subject to change due to cancelations.

Field Trips

All in-person field trips are on hold. The board has decided to not restart gatherings as long as Fresno County continues to be a hotspot of COVID-19 infections, but the declining case numbers and increasing numbers of vaccinated people give us hope that we will be able to restart by September, the typical start of our field trip season. Until then we may offer virtual field trips on Saturdays for those wanting a narrated view of local birds.

Saturday 10 April 2021, 9:00-10:00 am ⏤ Virtual Field Trip to Roeding Park with Rachel Clark

Cattle Egret by Gayle Scott. Roeding Park. 22 March 2021

Our next virtual field trip will be to the Roeding Park. We will start at the heron rookery where Cattle Egrets, Snowy Egrets and other herons annually breed. We may also find other birds to show during the hour. The event will start at 9:00 am. This should be a lively trip with some great birds, and Rachel will give pointers for identifying the birds we see. Register for the Zoom meeting here.


Fresno-Madera Birds
by Jeff Davis
Including reports for the period of
February 16, 2021 to March 15, 2021

An adult male Eurasian Wigeon along Madera Canal March 21 (ph. GW) provided the first record of this species for Madera County since 2013.

Establishing a rare record for the southern San Joaquin Valley floor, an immature male Barrow’s Goldeneye lingered at a pond south of Madera March 15+ (ph. CS).

Madera County’s first Pacific Loon in six years continued at Bass Lake at least through March 3 (NJ).

Pacific Loon by Gary Woods

The juvenile male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at Lost Lake Park continued there at least through March 6 (JM).

A Red-naped Sapsucker at Sierra Cedar Meadows March 2-6 (JT) was the only one reported this fall-spring season.

Red-naped Sapsucker by Gary Woods

Providing our first winter record since 2010, a Cassin’s Vireo was photographed at Kearney Park February 26 (ph. GW).

Cited Observers: Nina Jones, Joey Medina, Cecelia Sheeter, Jim Tietz, Gary Woods. m.ob. = many observers, ph. = photographed by, WTP = wastewater treatment plant.

If you make an interesting observation, we’d love to hear about it. We are especially interested in birds listed as casual or rare on the Fresno Audubon checklist and those found out of season, out of normal habitat, or in unusually large numbers. Please submit reports to Jeff Davis (559-246-3272, jndavis@ucsc.edu), the Fresno County Birders e-mail list, or eBird.


Birds in the News
Links to Recent Articles on Birds

How Do Birds Replace Their Feathers?

Lengthening days promise the return of warmth and with it, the return of migratory songbirds. In Canada, we welcome back our songbirds, relishing the profusion of song and color that once again fill wild (and not so wild) places. We revel in their company until summer ends and once again they leave for warmer lands.

But this image of migratory birds as Canadians just skipping off on holiday for the winter can be misleading. Some of these birds, including the Bullock’s oriole, can trace their rich evolutionary history back to an origin in the tropics — we’re just lucky to enjoy their company for a few short months as they indulge in the bounty provided by our temperate spring. But even that is too simplistic. Read more…

After more than 2 decades of searching, scientists finger cause of mass eagle deaths

Bald Eagle by Marilyn Hall

More than 25 years ago, biologists in Arkansas began to report dozens of bald eagles paralyzed, convulsing, or dead. Their brains were pocked with lesions never seen before in eagles. The disease was soon found in other birds across the southeastern United States. Eventually, researchers linked the deaths to a new species of cyanobacteria growing on an invasive aquatic weed that is spreading across the country. The problem persists, with the disease detected regularly in a few birds, yet the culprit’s chemical weapon has remained unknown. Read more…

US report: Bald eagle populations soar in lower 48 states

Bald Eagle by Sandra MacMillan-Cato

WASHINGTON — (AP) — The number of American bald eagles has quadrupled since 2009, with more than 300,000 birds soaring over the lower 48 states, government scientists said in a report Wednesday. Read more…

Condors to return to Redwood National Park for first time in a century

California Condor by Cecelia Sheeter

California’s scenic north coast near the Oregon border is known for having the tallest trees in the world. But soon, it may be known for another superlative: the return after more than a century of the California condor.

Under a long-awaited plan published Wednesday by the federal government, biologists will start releasing America’s largest birds in Redwood National Park, dramatically expanding the range of a species that in the 1980s was so close to extinction that only 22 birds remained. Read more…

Giant extinct bird brains reveal “extreme evolutionary experiments”

An artist’s impression of Dromornis stirtoni

Australian scientists have studied the biggest bird-brains in history for the first time. Paleontologists examined the brain cases of extinct flightless birds in the dromornithidae family – including some of the largest birds that ever existed – and found that they represented some weird evolutionary experiments. Read more…

Audubon at Sea

This section of the image Long-billed Curlew, one of the 435 life-size paintings made by John James Audubon for his opus Birds of America, shows Charleston, South Carolina, in the background. Image courtesy of the John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove, Montgomery County Audubon Collection, and Zebra Publishing

On the bustling docks of New Orleans, Louisiana, just before he boarded the merchant ship Delos and left to cross the Atlantic, John James Audubon purchased a baby alligator for a dollar. He likely thought the animal would be fun to draw, and the live specimen might impress the naturalists of Britain when he delivered his paper “Observations of the Natural History of the Alligator.” If his baby alligator, long hair, or French accent did not attract curious looks from the crew and fellow passengers, surely did his additional luggage of an enormous wooden portfolio, lined with tin to protect against shipboard rodents, which held over 300 drawings and paintings of birds. No one on deck at the time, including Audubon, could know that as a result of this voyage and that portfolio, he would go on to be a celebrity in his day and not only one of the most famous painters of wildlife in North American history, but the namesake, some two centuries later, of hundreds of birding societies and nature centers and a near synonym across the continent for environmental conservation. Read more…

Competition leaves a permanent genetic imprint on the brains of songbirds

Scientists induced competition among wild swallows by reducing the number of available nesting boxes while the birds were roosting overnight. Photo by Elizabeth George/Indiana University

New research suggests a single competitive interaction can leave a lasting genetic impression on the brains of songbirds. Read more…

From running in D.C.’s streets to soaring over them with his birds of prey

Rodney Stotts is a falconer from Southeast D.C. He works with various birds of prey, including red-tailed hawks. “The Falconer,” a documentary by Annie Kaempfer, tells his story. It is screening as part of the Environmental Film Festival. (Annie Kaempfer)

It seemed fitting that just before I called Rodney Stotts, the most unlikely of falconers, I’d looked out a window of my house and seen a group of crows harrying a bigger bird in the trees across the street.

“It was more than likely a red-tail,” Stotts said. “Crows are notorious for chasing off raptors, period.” Read more…

Science Says Being Surrounded by Birds Can Make You Happier

A new study conducted by German researchers found that hearing and seeing birds can increase overall life satisfaction. Read more…

How do birds breathe better? Researchers’ discovery will throw you for a loop

A “spherical chicken” showing how the back-and-forth air motions during inhalation (blue arrows) and exhalation (red) lead to one-way flow (purple) around the loop. Credit: NYU’s Applied Mathematics Laboratory and New Jersey Institute of Technology

Birds breathe with greater efficiency than humans due to the structure of their lungs—looped airways that facilitate air flows that go in one direction—a team of researchers has found through a series of lab experiments and simulations. Read more…

Scientists unlock secret of why hummingbirds hum

Anna’s Hummingbird by Cecelia Sheeter

Researchers use 3D sound mapping to show aerodynamic forces during flight explain eponymous sound. Read more…

5 Common Bird Photography MISTAKES & How to Avoid Them (VIDEO)

If you’re new to bird photography or dissatisfied with the images you’ve made in the past, this quick tutorial is for you. In just about nine minutes you’ll learn how to avoid five common mistakes that most beginners make. Read more…

Sick finches – the ravages of a changing climate

Lawrence’s Goldfinch by George Folsom

The salmonella bacteria causes Salmonellosis, a common and often deadly bird disease. Late last year and early this year there have been numerous reports of sick and dying goldfinches and siskins in the coastal regions of Oregon, Washington, and northern California.

Infected birds have since been identified in the Reno and Truckee areas, and it was recommended to take down bird feeders for the entire month of February, as the illness is largely spread through contaminated feeders. And now, Salmonellosis has been identified in birds in Elko and Twin Falls, Idaho. Read more…

A peregrine falcon’s power to migrate may lie in its DNA

Peregrine Falcon by Nelson Ernst

The peregrine falcon is best-known as the fastest animal on earth, but it’s got a second superlative: it’s the most wide-ranging bird of prey. Peregrines live on every continent except Antarctica, and make homes everywhere from Papua New Guinea to the desert Southwest to Chicago skyscrapers.

Some of those populations breed high in the Arctic tundra, and individual peregrines fly for thousands of miles and across multiple continents to nest on cliff banks along Arctic rivers. Read more…


eBird Essentials, a free course from the Bird Academy

Get up to speed on how the largest biological citizen-science program in the world can help you with your birding. The eBird community gathers more than 100 million bird sightings each year from people like you. Providing a powerful tool for motivated bird enthusiasts everywhere, eBird helps you find more birds and keep track of your sightings. Collectively, these sightings are now empowering a global scientific community and helping answer pressing conservation questions. Full of video tutorials, this course will get you ready to confidently store and share your sightings with eBird. Read more…

Places to bird during social distancing within a half hour drive of Fresno

We would also like to offer the following suggestions for birding on your own. Birding alone or with a household member is permitted as a means of exercise as long as a six-foot separation from others is maintained (see for example Fresno City Emergency Order 2020-13). Many public parks and other areas are now closed, but these areas below remain open. Be sure to follow any parking restrictions when birding these areas.

Fresno County

Jensen River Ranch https://goo.gl/maps/qorJF8uGUHrNxgFj8

Riverbottom Park https://goo.gl/maps/sUsBGxJ8v31YFha48

River West https://goo.gl/maps/bNmBDPMiqrtKofJq9

Big Dry Creek Reservoir grasslands https://goo.gl/maps/dYJzn47CPGwaLrt58

Enterprise Canal, Clovis https://goo.gl/maps/5oXTKD6r4eqi27Yv7

Cotton Wood Park, Clovis https://goo.gl/maps/1Sqs4aXkyBbw2sod7

Madera County

Wildwood Native Park and trail to Sycamore Island https:goo.gl/maps/y3VmVhchMA6kH2t18

Rd 208 https://goo.gl/maps/QdYTJvGNLW1pQkKx8

Rd 209 https://goo.gl/maps/ZG5kxTXgNKuUX9Gh6

Hildreth (210) Rd loop https://goo.gl/maps/JJk5jtyV8FNTBKMp8

Member Photographs

Fresno Audubon members have been submitting some really terrific photographs to this column. If you would like to add yours to the mix, please send your photo in jpeg format to rsnow@fresnoaudubon.org with a brief description, where the photo was taken and how you want the photo credit to read. Birds may be from anywhere. Limited space may restrict publication to a later issue. We will also showcase your photos on our social media.

Cara Barnhill

Cattle Egret by Cara Barnhill. Roeding Park, Fresno, CA. 23 March 2021

Savannah Sparrows. Avocado Lake, CA. 10 February 2021

Hart Broesel

Ring-necked Ducks by Hart Broesel. Lost Lake Park. 18 March 2021

Les Buhr

Black-headed Grosbeak by Les Buhr. Kerman, CA. 17 April 2020

Dan Cobb

Sage Thrasher by Dan Cobb. Merced NWR. 4 March 2021

Savannah Sparrow by Dan Cobb. Merced NWR. 4 March 2021

Savannah Sparrow by Dan Cobb. Merced NWR. 4 March 2021

White-tailed Kite by Dan Cobb. Merced NWR. 4 March 2021

White-tailed Kite by Dan Cobb. Merced NWR. 4 March 2021

John Craft

Spotted Towhee by John Craft. Edison Point Recreation Area

White-breasted Nuthatch by John Craft. Edison Point Recreation Area

Dark-eyed Junco by John Craft. Edison Point Recreation Area

Black-necked Stilts by John Craft. Pixley NWR

Larry Cusick

Bushtit by Larry Cusick. San Joaquin River

Cattle Egret by Larry Cusick. Roeding Park

Common Gallinule by Larry Cusick. San Joaquin River

Great Egret by Larry Cusick. San Joaquin River

Anna’s Hummingbird by Larry Cusick. San Joaquin River

American Kestrels by Larry Cusick. San Joaquin River

Lesser Goldfinch by Larry Cusick. San Joaquin River

Loggerhead Shrike by Larry Cusick. San Joaquin River

Nuttall’s Woodpecker by Larry Cusick. San Joaquin River

Say’s Phoebe by Larry Cusick. San Joaquin River

Clayton Dahlen

American Wigeon by Clayton Dahlen. Lost Lake Park

Ruddy Duck by Clayton Dahlen. Quail Lake

Northern Shoveler by Clayton Dahlen. Merced NWR

Vermillion Flycatcher by Clayton Dahlen. Yosemite Lake

Hooded Mergansers by Clayton Dahlen. Lost Lake

Lynn Hemink

Rose-breasted Grosbeak by Lynn Hemink. Berkley, CA. 13 June 2017

Leucistic American Robin by Lynn Hemink. Clovis. 21 February 2016

Nina Jones

Fox Sparrow by Nina Jones. Merced NWR

Sandra McMillan-Cato

Osprey by Sandra McMillan-Cato. McSwain Lake, CA. 18 March 2021

Osprey by Sandra McMillan-Cato. McSwain Lake, CA. 18 March 2021

Ospreys by Sandra McMillan-Cato. McSwain Lake, CA. 18 March 2021

Karen McClure

Black-necked Stilts by Karen McClure. Hobblitt Ave, Clovis. 14 March 2020

Gadwall by Karen McClure. Rd. 208, Madera. 31 March 2018

Carolyn Murphy

Cactus Wren by Carolyn Murphy. Anza Barrego Desert State Park

Common Yellowthroat by Carolyn Murphy. Merced NWR

Ross’s Geese, Snow Geese and Greater White-fronted Geese by Carolyn Murphy. Merced NWR

Sage Thrasher by Carolyn Murphy. Merced NWR

Great Egret by Carolyn Murphy. Merced NWR

Vince Murphy

Western Bluebirds by Vince Murphy. Table Mountain

Western Bluebirds by Vince Murphy. Table Mountain

Western Bluebird by Vince Murphy. Table Mountain

Wood Ducks by Vince Murphy. Lost lake Park

Nathan Parmeter

Cinnamon Teal by Nathan Parmeter. Riverstone, Madera County, CA. 31 January 2021

Greater Roadrunner by Nathan Parmeter. Cholame, CA. 27 February 2021

Orange-crowned Warbler by Nathan Parmeter. Fresno, CA. 19 March 2021

Female Vermillion Flycatcher by Nathan Parmeter. Merced NWR, 27 February 2021

Juvenile Male Vermillion Flycatcher by Nathan Parmeter. Merced NWR, 27 February 2021

Cecelia Sheeter

Female Anna’s Hummingbird by Cecelia Sheeter. Madera County

Anna’s Hummingbird by Cecelia Sheeter. threee Sister’s Garden, Madera County

Ferruginous Hawk by Cecelia Sheeter. White Rock Road, Mariposa County

Red-tailed Hawk by Cecelia Sheeter. White Rock Road, Mariposa County

Western Meadowlark by Cecelia Sheeter. Merced NWR

Female Vermillion Flycatcher by Cecelia Sheeter. Merced NWR

White-tailed Kite by Cecelia Sheeter. Merced NWR

Judy Smith

Cedar Waxwings by Judy Smith. Northwest Fresno. 10 March 2021

Pine Siskin by Howard Ham, submitted by Judy Smith. Northwest Fresno

Brandon Smart

Great Horned Owl by Brandon Smart

Great Horned Owl by Brandon Smart

Deborah Weber

Wild Turkeys by Deborah Weber. Miramonte, CA. 23 February 2021

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