31 Mar April 2022 Yellowbill
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Greetings, FAS members and friends. I hope this message finds you healthy and safe.
Here we are in April ⏤ the wildflowers are blooming, trees are leafing out, birds are singing, and very soon, a wave of migrating songbirds will be making their way into the San Joaquin Valley and Sierra Nevada. I am very excited to see and hear Bullock’s Orioles, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Western Tanagers, and Lazuli Buntings, among so many others! I hope that you are all able to get out and enjoy some spring birding this month!
We want to thank everyone who attended our March field trips and all who helped run the FAS booth at the Clovis Botanical Garden spring plant sale. Each event was a success, and that would not be possible without your help and participation!
We have four field trips scheduled for the month of April, which are listed below:
- Saturday, April 9 – Fresno/Clovis Wastewater Treatment Plant
- Wednesday, April 13 – Sumner-Peck Ranch
- Saturday, April 23 – Roeding Park
- Wednesday, April 27 – Lost Lake
FAS is also again teaching beginning birding at the River Center. There is a 2-hour instruction class scheduled for Saturday 16 April, followed by a 4-hour beginning bird walk on Saturday 23 April. Anyone interested in these and other upcoming events can check out the FAS event calendar for more information and links to registration: https://fresnoaudubon.org/event-calendar/.
We would like to remind everyone of the current requirements for attending FAS in-person field trips. We are no longer requiring that participants be fully vaccinated. Masks are now optional for all FAS outdoor events. We still require that participants must not be exhibiting any symptoms of Covid-19. Registration is still REQUIRED for all in-person field trips, and participants must register individually. We appreciate your understanding and cooperation.
Thank you again to all of those who attended the March 8 general meeting. Homer Hansen talked to us about early spring sparrows here in the San Joaquin Valley and surrounding areas, which was a very informative presentation. If you missed Homer Hansen’s talk and would like to view the presentation, you can find it and other general meeting presentations on our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/FresnoAudubon.
The next FAS general meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, April 8. Pamela Flick, who is the California Program Director for Defenders of Wildlife, will be talking to us about the return of Gray wolves to California. Here is a link for registration: http://events.constantcontact.com/register/event?llr=k4biphkab&oeidk=a07ej3l1j9i2b8f0969
I’d like to remind all of you that FAS is on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. Please give FAS a follow if you haven’t already! This is a great way to engage with us and stay in the loop!
To end this message, I’d like to share two recent photos that I took along the central coast. Pictured are Western Snowy Plovers. The one in the first photograph is in non-breeding plumage. Note the overall sandy gray plumage on the head and upper side, and the white throat and belly. The one in the second photograph is molting into breeding plumage. Note the dark patch on the crown, cheek, and side of the neck, which stand out in contrast to the sandy gray backside and white underside. Enjoy!
Please take care of yourselves!
Fresno Audubon Society President
Fresno Audubon at the Clovis Botanical Garden ‘Spring Plant Sale” Event
Despite a spring wind that threatened to uproot its booth, a group of volunteers represented Fresno Audubon Society at the Clovis Botanical Garden’s annual plant sale on March 18 and 19. Board members Judy Johnson, Karen Baker and Nancy Greisser led the effort, and came prepared for springtime gusts. They have developed their tools over the years, and key among them are weights to hold the booth down. The botanical garden was not quite as well prepared, and we watched as their tent went sailing across the park.
Having a presence at events like this helps Fresno Audubon educate the public about birds, FAS programs and mission. We hope to reach more people with the message that birds and nature are important for everyone, and that they need some help right now. The booth had displays of local raptors with photos by Gary Woods, as well as a poster featuring the Tri-colored Blackbird story.
This year Fresno Audubon used the plant sale as an opportunity to showcase National Audubon’s Plants for Birds program https://www.audubon.org/native-plants. Native plants provide birds with nectar, seeds and cover. Simply by scattering seeds or planting native plants people can help local and migrating birds.
Every person who visited the FAS booth was offered a packet of seeds specially selected to attract hummingbirds. The Hummingbird Seed Mix was created by The Theodore Payne Foundation, Sunland, California https://store.theodorepayne.org/seeds/seed-mixes/. One of a number of seed mixes it offers, the Hummingbird Seed mix contains beautiful flowers.
The packets proved to be very popular, and there was plenty of foot traffic at the booth. FAS started the event with about 100 packets, and by the end of the first day, all had been given away. An additional 100 packets were hastily assembled for the next day. Although rain threatened the Saturday event, it held off and our associated field trips were successful. Nancy Greisser said the seed packets “allowed us to have meaningful conversations” with a large number of people. Thank you to all the people who participated in this event making it a success.
April General Meeting
The Return of Gray Wolves to California
Tuesday, 12 April 2022
Once common throughout much of North America, the gray wolf (Canis lupus) was driven to localized extinction in most areas of the contiguous United States by the mid-1930s through bounties and wildly successful predator control efforts. The last wild gray wolf in California was shot in Lassen County in 1924.
Flash forward to late December 2011, when a young male wolf known as OR-7 entered our state from Oregon, making him the first known wild wolf in the Golden State in nearly 90 years. In Summer 2015, news spread that California’s first resident wolf family, dubbed the Shasta Pack for the massive dormant volcano near where they were discovered, had settled into eastern Siskiyou County. The following summer, we learned about the Lassen Pack, which straddles the Lassen/Plumas county line and has produced pups every year since 2017. Yet another pair of wolves, known as the Whaleback Pack in Siskiyou County, produced seven pups in 2021. Wolves are no longer merely passing through; they’re settling in and making themselves at home here in our state.
This presentation will provide an overview of gray wolf natural history, ecological role and current distribution and population in North America and here in California. The historic reintroduction efforts in the northern Rockies to bring wolves back from the brink of extinction will be discussed, as will implications for wolf recovery in the western states with an emphasis on the importance of coexistence and moving beyond myths.
Pamela Flick is the California Program Director for Defenders of Wildlife based in Sacramento, where she engages on a variety of issues statewide including gray wolf recovery, responsible renewable energy planning and development, forest resilience and fire restoration, and advancing conservation of imperiled species and natural communities.
Pam is a founding member of the Pacific Wolf Coalition and has served as an advisor to the Department of Fish and Wildlife in development of the Conservation Plan for Gray Wolves in California and the Department’s wolf conflict compensation pilot program. She currently serves on Sierra Forest Legacy’s advisory board, the Southern Sierra Prescribed Fire Council advisory committee, and the Southern Sierra Nevada Fisher Working Group.
Prior to joining Defenders in 2005, Pam worked to permanently protect public lands and rivers throughout the Golden State in various roles within the California Wild Heritage Campaign, Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign and at Friends of the River.
Pam graduated summa cum laude from California State University, Sacramento with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and a minor in Biological Sciences. She also holds associate degrees in Biology and Liberal Studies from Sierra College and is a Certified California Naturalist through the University of California’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. She is a third-generation Californian and hails from Mariposa.
To receive the Zoom link for the meeting, please register here.
General Meeting Speaker Schedule
Following is the schedule for future speakers. This schedule is subject to change due to cancelations.
Field Trip Schedule
Now that the Omicron surge of COVID-19 is past in our area, Fresno Audubon Field Trip leaders met Sunday 20 March to plan future field trips for more than a moth ahead. Please know that another surge could change these plans. Following is the current schedule for future trips. This schedule is subject to change due to cancelations.
April Field Trips
FIELD TRIP GUIDELINES DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC ⏤ Fresno Audubon Society is again offering field trips during COVID-19 now that vaccinations are available to all. As we move into the endemic phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone must determine their own level of risk aversion. The CDC’s newest recommendations state that masks should be optional when outdoors. It has been shown that a well-fitting N95 mask protects the wearer for several hours from an infectious dose of virus, so anyone concerned about exposure can choose to wear a mask near others if they feel at risk. Following are our current guidelines for our field trips.
- Participants must pre-register individually using the FAS event registration system.
- Participants must self-screen their own temperature before the outing and must not attend if they are feverish.
- Participants must consent to Fresno Audubon Society’s Liability Waiver by pre-registering.
- Social distancing is encouraged.
- Masks are not required, but participants are encouraged to wear a mask whenever they feel the need.
- Some field trips meet up at a central point before traveling to the field trip location. Participants may form their own car pools at these meetup points.
- Participants must contact their trip leader should they test positive for COVID-19 within three days following the outing so that we can notify others who attended the trip.
Saturday 9 April 2022 ⏤ Fresno/Clovis Wastewater Treatment Plant with Robert Snow
The group will meet at the Walmart parking lot at the corner of Ashlan and Blackstone at 7:45 am for an 8:00 am departure to the WTP. Secondary meeting point is at the facility, 5607 W Jensen Ave, Fresno, CA 93706 at 8:15 am. With migration beginning we expect to see plenty of shorebirds and other migrants and perhaps Peregrine Falcons. After birding the ponds we will move to Kearney Park for lunch and a chance at Yellowbilled Magpies.
Checklist: ID, binoculars, bird guide, water, sun protection and lunch.
Leader: Robert Snow, firstname.lastname@example.org, (650) 483-2347.
Wednesday 13 April 2022 ⏤ Sumner-Peck Ranch with Susan Heidebrecht
Join trip leader Susan Heidebrecht for birding along the San Joaquin River on the beautiful Sumner-Peck Ranch property. It is mostly flat terrain with good trails. The walk will be approximately 1 ½ miles each way. Expect to see a variety of waterfowl, warblers, raptors, Belted kingfishers, and woodpeckers. Recently, at least 10 Lewis woodpeckers were spotted in the area.
We will meet at the parking area at the end of the drive (do not turn left into the parking lot near the entrance, but drive straight ahead).
If you wish to bring lunch, there is a small picnic area near the parking lot. Seating, however, is limited, so it is recommended you bring a chair.
Saturday 23 April 2022 ⏤ Roeding Park with Maureen Walsh and Wes Beal
Celebrate Earth Day with trip leaders Maureen Walsh and Wes Beal birding at Roeding Park. We will start at Lake Washington where we will see Wood ducks among other waterfowl in the lake and see the Cattle egret, Black-crowned night herons, and Double-crested cormorants in the rookery on the island. There are hundreds of birds nesting in the rookery. Then we will walk other areas of the park to see a variety of woodpeckers, raptors, warblers, etc.
We will meet at the parking lot in front of the zoo, across from Lake Washington at 7:45 am. There is a $5.00 entry fee to the park, but the gate at the Olive Ave. entrance is usually not staffed before 8:00 am.
If you wish to bring lunch, there are plenty of picnic tables available for eating and calculating our bird count.
Wednesday 27 April 2022 ⏤ Lost Lake Recreation Area with Judy Johnson
Join trip leader Judy Johnson at Lost Lake Park during spring migration. Possible species include Western tanager, phainopepla, Western bluebird, spotted towhee, lark sparrow, spotted sandpiper, kingfisher, red breasted sapsucker, various warblers, and many more. We will meet at the southwest end of the loop, at 8:00am, near the start of the nature trail. Be aware that there is a $5 fee for entering the park. Expect to be finished by 1:00 pm.
The walking will be easy and flat. Bring water, sunscreen, a hat, snacks, lunch (optional), binoculars and bird guides, and dress in layers.
Participants should bring snacks, lunch (if desired), water, hat, sunscreen, and binoculars, and should dress in layers. Registration is required for this event. Register Here. If you have any questions, please reach out to trip leader Judy Johnson (559) 977-2787 (voice or text)
March field trip reports
Kings River Raptor Trail
Wednesday, March 9, 2022
Kings River Conservation District Raptor Trailhead, Fresno, California, US
Mar 9, 2022 9:24 AM – 12:37 PM
Checklist Comments: Clear, sunny 60 deg
Canada Goose 4
Common Merganser 8
Mourning Dove 4
Anna’s Hummingbird 10
American Coot 2
Spotted Sandpiper 3
Great Blue Heron 4
Black-crowned Night-Heron 1
Turkey Vulture 6
Golden Eagle 4
Red-shouldered Hawk 3
Red-tailed Hawk 8
Belted Kingfisher 3
Acorn Woodpecker 15
Nuttall’s Woodpecker 3
Northern Flicker 5
American Kestrel 1
Black Phoebe 4
California Scrub-Jay 4
Common Raven 8
Oak Titmouse 11
Tree Swallow 87
White-breasted Nuthatch 6
European Starling 4
Northern Mockingbird 1
Western Bluebird 2
Hermit Thrush 1
American Goldfinch 2
White-crowned Sparrow 1
Spotted Towhee 2
Yellow-rumped Warbler 15
View this checklist online at https://ebird.org/checklist/S104524320
Clovis Botanical Gardens
19 March 2022
On Saturday March 19th at 9am, 14 birders took part in the Fresno Audubon’s birding outing at Cottonwood Park. We started from the Clovis Botanical Gardens and made our way to the nearby Cottonwood Park/ponding basin/ Dry Creek trail. The weather was cool, breezy and mostly overcast. Despite the cloud cover there was plenty of ambient light filtering through, providing relatively good birding conditions. As a group we tallied 31 species. Highlights of the outing included the frequent calling of the Red-shouldered Hawk, and later along the Dry Creek Trail we saw a Red-shouldered Hawk flying overhead before coming to rest in a nearby tree. In the parks ponding basin we observed Avocets in their breeding plumage, as well as numerous Northern Shovelers, a small flock of Long-billed Dowitchers and a flock of Least Sandpipers. Together we enjoyed the sight of a pair of Bushtits, a Yellow-rumped Warbler and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, all busily gleaning insects in a tree above us, wonderfully oblivious to the group of Bi-peds below.
Introduction to Birding Classes and Field Trips at the River Center
Introduction to Birding at the River Center
Saturday 16 April 2022
9:00 – 11:00 am
Introductory Bird Walk at the River Center
Saturday 23 April 2022
8:00 – 12:00 am
by Jeff Davis
Including reports for the period of
February 16, 2022 to March 15, 2022
A Glaucous-winged Gull, our first since 2017, visited the Fresno Wastewater Treatment Plant March 4 (ph. GW, GF).
A Hammond’s Flycatcher at University Park in Fresno February 24 (ph. GW) provided a rare winter record as we average fewer than one every 10 years.
Cited Observers: George Folsom, Josh McLaughlin, Gary Woods. 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 eBird, the Fresno County Birders e-mail list, or Jeff Davis (email@example.com).
Please send your photos in jpeg format with a width of 1024 pixels and a resolution of 72 pixels/inch to firstname.lastname@example.org with 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.
Birds in the News
Links to Recent Articles on Birds
The Inspiring Ascent of Master Falconer Shawn Hayes
Shawn Hayes is one of the most impressive falconers I know. As someone who has dedicated his life to the practice of training and caring for raptors, he’s talented with any bird of prey, but his expertise is flying “long-wings”—the true falcons such as Gyrfalcons, Prairie Falcons, Peregrines, and others, which all have pointed wings and a very aerial style of flight. Their classic hunting technique is to come hurtling down from the sky in a colossal power-dive called a stoop. For falconers, hunting game with a bird in such a dramatic manner is both a challenge and, when done right, immensely rewarding. Read more…
These Revered Cranes Escaped Extinction. Can They Survive Without Humans?
The dance of the red-crowned cranes commenced, an impromptu pas de deux. The pair approached each other with a bow. They crossed back and forth, gliding up into the air and returning to earth with the effortless grace of parachutes. In a dramatic flourish, they spread their pristine white and jet-black wings wide and tilted their beaks to the arc of blue sky above. As this elegant courtship ritual unfolded, Kazuhiko Yamazaki, a vegetable farmer, drove a large red tractor onto a snow-covered field on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. From a green rotating funnel he dispensed about 40 pounds of corn to more than 50 red-crowned cranes, a bird revered in Japan as a symbol of loyalty and longevity. Read more…
DC Council bill would require ‘bird-safe’ materials for new buildings
Every year, up to 1 billion birds are killed when they collide with windows, according to the American Bird Conservancy. Now, a group of D.C. Council members has noted the problem and offers a solution. Council members Mary Cheh, Janeese Lewis George, Brooke Pinto, Charles Allen and Anita Bonds introduced a bill that would require new construction to use “bird-safe” materials, such as the kind of glass that is treated with a coating or pattern to prevent bird strikes. Read more…
New Study Suggests Geese Were the First Domesticated Birds
A new study has found geese in China might have been the first birds domesticated by humans, reports New Scientist’s Michael Marshall. Researchers affiliated with institutions in Japan and China studied 232 goose bones found at the Tianluoshan dig site in east China, an area that had been a settlement of Stone Age hunter-gatherers and rice farmers between 7,000 and 5,500 years ago. After radiocarbon dating the bones to 5000 B.C.E., the team determined the bones came from domesticated fowl. Read more…
Farms With Natural Habitat Gain More Benefits From Birds
Meet the ancient owl that embraced daylight
Not every owl is a night owl. Of the 200-plus owl species that fly the world today, the vast majority are nocturnal or crepuscular and hunt at dusk, night, or dawn. But a select few are diurnal or cathemeral, meaning they’re most active in the daytime, or really, anytime. This can be determined by a species’ habitat, as well as their diet. For example, snowy owls spend their summers in the Arctic, when the sun stays up for 12 to 24 hours a day. They also mainly eat lemmings, chunky rodents that are easier to catch on the tundra while it’s light out. But what would cause these finely tuned hunters to switch their schedules? A study published today in the journal PNAS traces an “evolutionary reversal” in one of the largest living groups of owls and presents “the first fossil evidence for diurnal behavior” among the birds, according to the abstract. Read more…
How to Take a Great Bird Photo From Start to Finish
Bird photography is a challenging genre, requiring top-level technique, specialized equipment, and an excellent understanding of animal behavior to produce compelling images, but when you get it all right, the results can be stunning. If you would like to improve your bird photos, check out this fantastic video tutorial by an experienced bird photographer that will show you everything that goes into making a compelling bird image from start to finish. Read more…