December 2018 Yellowbill

29 Nov December 2018 Yellowbill


President’s Message

This month’s members meeting will feature Gary Woods with his annual presentation of videos and photographs captured with his 600 mm lens. Gary will also discuss eBird and why you should use it whenever you go birding. The meeting will be held at the UC Center (the Woodward Park library is now very difficult to book, even three months in advance). This is a very popular presentation so get there early for the best seating. A lucky attendee will receive a framed print of one of Gary’s photos.

Because of the holidays we have reduced our outings this month to two, including the annual Lost Lake Christmas Bird Count with Kevin Enns-Rempel. Our other outing is an afternoon/evening Wednesday trip to Merced National Wildlife Refuge with Judy Johnson. That outing will feature a viewing of the Sandhill Crane fly-in which is a treat to see.

The Audubon Assembly was a great success with over 100 representatives from many of the 48 California chapters. It was a great opportunity to meet like-minded people who are making a difference for birds and their environments. The field trip to Bolsa Chica was fabulous with 86 species observed. Please read Barbara Bailey’s report below for a summary of the event.

The birdathon was a success with over $1,700 raised. Thank you all who participated. Your board has decided to purchase 10 pair of Nikon 8×42 ProStaff 3S binoculars to use for our expanding birding classes. We have been teaching Introduction to Birding at the San Joaquin River Gorge in collaboration with the Bureau of Land Management and the Sierra Foothill Conservancy as well as introducing the 3rd grade class from Foothill Elementary to the local birds. At the last 3rd grade event I was joined by Heidi Dunbar, George Folsom and Susan Heidebrecht, and we taught every student how to use binoculars. This was the first opportunity for many of the students to use good-quality binoculars and they really benefited from being able to borrow ours. With this purchase we will have good-quality binoculars available for each group of students as well as for people who take our upcoming Introduction to Birding classes at the River Center.

In addition to the binoculars the bird approved the purchase to a new projector since we have been having problems using our old projector interfacing with modern computers. The new projector is brighter and has nearly twice the resolution of our old projector which will really improve the visuals at our meetings.

Thanks to everyone for making 2018 great for Fresno Audubon Society.


December Meeting

Local and Coastal Bird Photographs
by Gary Woods
11 December 2018, 7-8 pm
UC Center

Gary Woods

Gary Woods with his 600 mm “Bazooka”

Please join us at the UC Center on Tuesday, December 11th at 7 pm for our annual program of photos and videos presented by Gary Woods. During the past year many rare and interesting birds have graced our local area and the central coast. Gary has captured many of these with his 600 mm “bazooka”, and he’s going to present about 15 short videos and 3 dozen photos of interesting birds including Louisiana Waterthrush, Glossy Ibis, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Red Phalarope and American Golden-plover. The meeting will start with a quick check of eBird online and end with a door prize of an Audubon field bag and one of Gary’s framed prints.

We hope to see you on December 11 at 7:00 at UC Center, 550 E Shaw Ave, Fresno, CA 93710.


Field Trips

Our website has a calendar that allows you to see all the details of an upcoming trip as they become finalized. Included in the details is a map showing the meeting point for the trip. The calendar is subscribable, which allows you to integrate it into your electronic calendar. Updates to events will appear as they are made. We encourage you to subscribe.

December Field Trips

Wednesday 12 December 2018 – Merced NWR with Judy Johnson. An afternoon/evening field trip

Sandhill Cranes by Judy Johnson

Sandhill Cranes by Judy Johnson

Join trip leader Judy Johnson for a different kind of Wednesday Walk. We will visit Merced National Wildlife Refuge late in the day, touring the refuge when the light is best for photography, and then stay for the sandhill crane fly-in. Expect to see thousands of geese and cranes, several species of ducks, tundra swans, pelicans, and numerous raptors. The sandhill crane fly-in at dusk is a magical experience as you watch flight after flight of cooing cranes come to roost. We will meet in front of the River Park Target at 11:45 am for a 12:00 pm departure. We expect to leave the refuge no later than 7:00 pm.

Bring binoculars, spotting scopes, cameras, jackets, snacks, water, insect repellant, and radios.

Map to meeting place:

Saturday 29 December 2018 – Lost Lake Christmas Bird Count

The Lost Lake CBC will take place this year on Saturday, December 29. It includes areas of Fresno and Madera County including Woodward Park, Lost Lake Park, Millerton Lake, Woodward Lake, Cottonwood Park, McKenzie Table Mountain Preserve, and all areas both urban and rural between those places.

Meet at the nature trail parking lot in Lost Lake Park at 7:00 am, at which time we will make assignments for the day. Please contact Kevin Enns-Rempel at 559-313-4546 or if you’re planning to join us for the count.

Map to meeting place:


Bi-Annual Audubon Assembly
by Barbara Bailey

On November 2-4 Robert Snow and I attended this year’s gathering of California Audubon chapters in Long Beach, California known as the “Audubon Assembly.” More than 120 people signed up for the 3-day event, which was a mix of seminars, networking sessions, bird walks and other activities.

The Assembly kicked off with a peer networking session where attendees talked about the issues that were most pressing for their chapters.  With chapters ranging from Mendocino in the north, to San Diego in the south, and from inland areas to the coast, one might expect little crossover of issues, but the reverse was true. Climate change, including water scarcity and quality, were issues facing every chapter. Every group noted that volunteers were key to their successes.  

We learned about ways that other chapters are having success with urban greening (Los Angeles) and creating neighborhood habitats (Chico). Coastal communities are struggling with the consequences of plastics in the ocean.  The San Diego chapter is evaluating the environmental effect of the proposed border wall. A number of chapters were working locally to discourage further urban sprawl by making infill development easier. The Tulare chapter is having success getting young Latinos involved in trying to save national monuments. Audubon California continues its work at the Salton Sea, which, in addition to protecting a key resource for migrating birds, has an important environmental justice issue as well (restoration of the Salton Sea will reduce dangerous particulates that are affecting the health of nearby residents who are predominantly Native American, Latino and poor). 

The keynote speaker at the evening event was Professor Rachael Bay from the UC Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology. She told us about her work on the Bird Genoscape Project, which uses bird DNA gathered from feathers to map migration patterns of different bird populations. She began her work on the project while working as a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at UCLA. She received her PhD from Stanford.  You can learn more at UCLA’s Bird Genoscape Project website, which contains lovely high-resolution flyway maps.

Saturday was chock-full of concurrent sessions: 

  • Western Water; Emerging Issues for Birds 
  • Conservation For A New Generation
  • Climate, Energy and Birds in California
  • Coalition Building for Chapters
  • Panel Discussion of Tree Risks: Fire and Pests
  • Fundraising Workshop: Planned Giving
  • Communication Strategies
  • Saving Birds Through Policy Action

Because there were two of us, we were able to cover almost all the sessions. Consensus was that the water presentation by Meghan Hertel and Samantha Arthur was outstanding; but as usual, the content and presentation of all subjects was very good. If you would like more detail about any of the topics, you can contact and we will get in touch with you.

The key take-away from this Assembly: Your chapter can make an impact in many ways — it is as strong as you make it. If water or air quality is important to you, get involved and make a difference right here in Fresno and Madera counties. If habitat, plants for birds, or urban greening appeal to you, let’s make it happen here in the region. 

The next Audubon Assembly should happen in 2020; this will be a great way to get fired up to make a difference!


Member Photographs

Featuring photographs submitted by Fresno Audubon Members. To submit a photograph for publication in The Yellowbill, send a photo to with a brief description, when the photo was taken and how you want the photo credit to read.

Northern Saw-whet Owl by Micki Beston

Northern Saw-whet Owl by Micki Beston

This Northern Saw-whet Owl was photographed along the nature trail at Camp Edison in Shaver Lake, 23 October 2018.

Virginia Rail by Clayton Dalton

Virginia Rail by Clayton Dahlen

These Virginia Rail were photographed at Stephens Ranch in Moss Landing, 24 October 2018.

Turkey Vulture by Patti Cline

Turkey Vulture by Patti Cline

This Turkey Vulture was photographed at the Cline home in Madera County 28 September 2018.


Fresno-Madera Birds
by Jeff Davis
photos by Gary Woods and Rick Saxton
Including reports for the period of
October 16 to November 15, 2018

A Costa’s Hummingbird,

Costa's Hummingbird
Costa’s Hummingbird

the third this season, visited a northeast Fresno yard November 2 (JD). On the heels of the one at Madera WTP during the last period, an American Golden-Plover,

American Golden-plover

American Golden-plover

Fresno County’s fifth, was at Fresno WTP November 1 through November 8 (ph. GW, DH, m.ob.). Two Pectoral Sandpipers

Pectoral Sandpiper

Pectoral Sandpiper

at Madera WTP October 16 (GW) rounded out the last of the season’s rare shorebirds.  We average only one or two Red-naped Sapsuckers

Red-naped Sapsucker

Red-naped Sapsucker

each “winter”; one in Auberry October 27 (ph. BK et al.) was our first.

A Tropical Kingbird,

Tropical King Bird

Tropical King Bird

Tropical Kingbird

Tropical Kingbird

the first for Fresno County, was at the Chaffee Zoo November 13+ (ph. SS, ph. m.ob.).  Rare in our area at any season, a Cassin’s Kingbird

Cassin's Kingbird
Cassin’s Kingbird

was east of Minkler November 6 (ph. KM); another, Madera County’s fourth, was at Sycamore Island November 7 through November 11 (ph. GF, ph. GW, et al.). The first Lark Bunting

Lark Bunting by Rick Saxton

Lark Bunting by Rick Saxton

in Madera County in more than a decade was along the Madera Canal November 14 (ph. RS).  At least one Grasshopper Sparrow

Grasshopper Sparrow

Grasshopper Sparrow

lingered at Big Dry Creek Reservoir through November 12 (ph. RS), and another was along the Madera Canal October 17 (ph. RS).  A late Western Tanager

Western Tanager

Western Tanager

was northwest of Bass Lake November 8 (NJ).

Cited Observers: Jeff Davis, George Folsom, Diane Highbaugh, Nina Jones, Bill Krick, Karen McClure, Rick Saxton, Steve Summers, and 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,, the Fresno County Birders e-mail list, or eBird.


Birds in the News
Links to Recent Articles on Birds

Why Do Birds Fly in Vs? Endangered Bird Solves the Mystery

The ibis—a large bird with a long, subtly hooked orange beak—became extinct in Central Europe in the 17th century. Now, the species is learning its old migration routes. Read more…

Photographer Sunil Gopalan Captures Striking Photos of Birds on Five Continents

Stunning birds shots by Sunil Gopalan, a professional photographer, adventurer, and birdwatcher currently based in Middleton, Wisconsin, USA. Sunil focuses mainly on bird photography. “I was interested in birds long before I photographed one”, he says. “The challenge of observing a small and wary creature with the capacity for flight is only compounded many times over when one is also attempting to obtain a good photograph of it”, Gopalan adds. Read more…

Dinosaur fossil could be the world’s first-ever bird species

Often referred to as ‘the missing link’ between dinosaurs and birds, the winged and feathered Archaeopteryx now has a newly described relative that’s more bird than dinosaur. Read more…

Research Shows Good-Looking Birds Are Terrible Singers

Humans sometimes fall prey to a stereotype in which the objectively attractive appear to need to do less in order to be successful, while the genetically less fortunate may have to work harder in order to present themselves as viable mates.

It turns out the Brad Pitts of the bird world may demonstrate a similar dynamic. In new research published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, male birds with bright, pleasing feathers tended to be terrible singers, while birds who had comparatively plain features could make it at Carnegie Hall. Put another way: Ugly birds need to have a musical back-up plan. Read more…

Black circles keep birds of prey away from planes

When birds collide with airplanes that are taking off or landing, the results can be catastrophic. And while there are deterrent systems that do work on some birds, they’re not effective with raptors (aka birds of prey). According to new research, however, an optical illusion may do the trick. Read more…

How a Tiny Flightless Bird Ended Up on an Island in the Middle of the Ocean

An island half the size of Manhattan in the south Atlantic Ocean is so isolated, it’s called Inaccessible Island. On that island, and only on that island, live nearly 6,000 puny featherballs called Inaccessible Island rails. But they can’t fly, and the island is only a few million years old. How did the birds get there? Read more…

Mass shooting of geese branded ‘cruel’ and ‘founded on bad science’

The shooting of thousands of geese on the island of Islay leaves many to suffer a slow death, contaminates the environment and is founded on “poor science”, according to a new scientific study. Read more…

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