December 2021 Yellowbill

27 Nov December 2021 Yellowbill


President’s Message

Greetings, FAS members and friends. I hope this message finds you healthy and safe.

Winter is definitely on the horizon and the crisp, often foggy mornings have arrived. Along with the colder temperatures, more winter residents have arrived in our area. In open grassy habitats outside of city limits, Savannah Sparrows are now seen perching along fence lines by the dozens, the occasional Ferruginous Hawk can be seen perching on the ground or soaring on their long, tapered wings,  and every so often a Merlin comes dashing through on its narrow, angular wings. In residential areas, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and White-crowned Sparrows abound. I hope that you are able to get out and enjoy some cold weather birding!

Thank you again to all of those who attended the November 9 general meeting. Jeanette Hanneman’s talk about rat poison and its detrimental effects on raptors and other non-target animals was highly informative and eye-opening. Our originally scheduled speaker for the evening, Homer Hansen, had to cancel, but will be giving us his presentation on sparrows found locally in the Fresno area sometime next year. Stay tuned for an update!  If you missed Jeanette’s talk and would like to view the presentation, you can find it and other general meeting presentations on our YouTube channel at

The next FAS general meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, December 14. Rachel Zwilinger of Defenders of Wildlife will be talking to us about drought and migratory birds here in the Central Valley, which promises to be another highly informative presentation. Please check the meeting information later in the newsletter, or the email announcements and FAS social media for links to registration.

The Lost Lake Christmas Bird Count is scheduled for Sunday, December 19, and I am actively seeking volunteers. We will be following social distancing protocols again this year to ensure everyone’s safety. If participants are not able to commit to a full day of birding, that is perfectly acceptable. If you are interested in participating and would like more information, please reach out to me at or 515-357-0122.

FAS restarted in-person field trips in early November and it has been a successful endeavor. Three outings were held in November. Kearney Park, Lost Lake, and Millerton Lake were the destinations, and each trip was a success with great birding and enthusiastic participants. We have two outings scheduled for December: Merced National Wildlife Refuge on Wednesday, December 8, and Roeding Park on Saturday, December 18. Please check below in the newsletter or watch out in your email and on FAS social media for official announcements and links to registration for these events.

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 photos. Both are of a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron, a species which can be found in a variety of wetland habitats here in the Central Valley and surrounding areas. As you can see in these photos, juveniles, unlike their adult counterparts, do not live up to their name. Note the stocky, compact body, the streaky brown and white crown, the large white spots on the wing coverts and on the back, and the broad streaks on the pale breast. Also note the extensive yellow in the lower mandible. Enjoy the pictures!

Please take care of yourselves!

Rachel Clark

Fresno Audubon Society President

Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron by Rachel Clark
Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron by Rachel Clark


Fresno Audubon Society Continues Its Annual Membership Drive!

Fresno Audubon’s (FAS) 2021-2022 membership drive is ongoing .  FAS annual membership runs from September 1st through August 31 each year.

Thank you to all who generously support Fresno Audubon by paying annual membership dues. Your support makes it possible for FAS to host outstanding speakers on our Zoom general meetings, provide instructive “birding by ear” videos, conduct introductory birding classes and guided field trips (as conditions allow), maintain the bird feeding station at the River Center, conduct multiple bird surveys, and advocate for regional and local bird-related issues. To learn more about our work, download our 2020 Annual Report.

In addition, FAS members have exclusive access to the FAS Birding Resource Guide, an online compilation of Central Valley birding resources, and new members receive a FAS sticker that displays the Fresno Audubon logo and website.

Fresno Audubon Society membership levels are:

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

Those with PayPal accounts can join or renew their memberships on the FAS website HERE or download a membership form HERE and mail it and your check to:

Fresno Audubon Society
PO Box 3315
Fresno, CA  93650

Thank you for your continuing support of Fresno Audubon Society.


December General Meeting
Waterbirds Without Water: Drought and Central Valley Wetlands
Rachel Zwillinger
Tuesday, 14 December 2021

In her presentation on drought and migratory birds in California’s Central Valley, Rachel will provide an overview of Central Valley wetlands and their importance for the Pacific Flyway, explain how drought is impacting the Valley’s bird habitats, and discuss actions we can take to ensure a more drought-resilient future.

As the Water Policy Advisor for Defenders’ California Program, Rachel focuses on protecting the fish and wildlife that depend upon California’s waterways and wetlands. Among other priorities, she works to ensure that wetlands in the Central Valley receive sufficient water to support birds as they migrate along the Pacific Flyway, and strives to protect endangered salmon and other native species that depend upon the San Francisco Bay-Delta and upstream habitats.

Before joining Defenders of Wildlife, Rachel worked for three years as a litigation fellow for Altshuler Berzon LLP and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Prior to her fellowship, Rachel served as a law clerk to Judge John T. Noonan of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and Judge Marilyn Huff of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California. Rachel received a J.D. and M.S. from Stanford University, where she graduated Order of the Coif, and received her undergraduate degree in geosciences from Princeton University.

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.


Lost Lake Christmas Bird Count

The Lost Lake Christmas Bird Count is scheduled for Sunday, December 19, and I am actively seeking volunteers. We will be following social distancing protocols again this year to ensure everyone’s safety. If participants are not able to commit to a full day of birding, that is perfectly acceptable. If you are interested in participating and would like more information, please reach out to me at or 515-357-0122.


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. We have implemented the following guidelines for our field trips during the pandemic.


  1. Participants must be vaccinated.
  2. Participants must pre-register using the FAS event registration system.

  3. Participants must self-screen their own temperature before the outing and must not attend if they are feverish.
  4. Participants must consent to Fresno Audubon Society’s Liability Waiver by signing the Event Sign-Up Sheet provided by the trip leader.

    Day of Outing
  5. Social distancing is encouraged.
  6. Participants are encouraged to wear a mask.
  7. We will not be sponsoring car pools.

    Days Following Outing
  8. Participants should contact their trip leader should they test positive for COVID-19 within three days following the outing.

December Field Trips

Wednesday 8 December 2021 ⏤ Merced NWR with Judy Johnson

With winter migrants filling local refuges and putting on a tremendous show, now is a wonderful time to bird the Central Valley. Join Fresno Audubon on Wednesday, December 8th for a tour of the Merced National Wildlife Refuge. We will meet at the first parking lot of the refuge, near the bathrooms and the first observation deck, at 1:00 pm. After driving the auto tour, we will gather at the second observation deck at sundown for the spectacular crane fly-in, which should end around 5:30 pm. Please register here.

Target birds include lesser Sandhill Cranes, Black and Say’s Phoebes, White-crowned and Gold-crowned Sparrows, American Pipits, Northern Shovelers, Northern Pintails, Gadwalls, Green-winged and Cinnamon Teals, Greater White-fronted Geese, Snow Geese, Ross’s Geese, American White Pelicans, Great and Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons, American Coots, Black-necked Stilts, White-faced Ibis, Long-billed Dowitchers, Dunlin, Wilson’s Snipe, Lesser Sandpipers, Long-billed Curlews, Red-tailed Hawks, and Northern Harriers. Also possible are Cackling Geese, Red-shouldered Hawks, Cooper’s Hawks, Bald Eagles, Kestrels, and Great-horned Owls. Both a Burrowing Owl and female Vermillion Flycatcher have recently been seen at the refuge as well.

Participants should bring day packs, hats, sunscreen, sunglasses, plenty of water, snacks, lunch (if desired), and binoculars, and should dress in layers. We probably will not be doing much hiking, but comfortable walking shoes are recommended. Please bring radios (walky-talkies) if you have them. We ask that participants be vaccinated, wear masks, and adhere to social distancing protocols. Registration is required for this event.

Sandhill Cranes by Cecelia Sheeter

Saturday 18 December 2021 ⏤ Roeding Park with Rachel Clark

Roeding Park (meet at the pond near Storyland)
7:30 am – 12:30 pm
890 W. Belmont Avenue
36.752873, -119.825141
Fresno, CA 93728

Please register here.

Cattle Egret bye Rachel Clark

Places to bird within a half hour drive of Fresno

We would also like to offer the following suggestions for birding on your own.

Fresno County

Jensen River Ranch

Riverbottom Park

River West

Big Dry Creek Reservoir grasslands

Enterprise Canal, Clovis

Cotton Wood Park, Clovis

Madera County

Wildwood Native Park and trail to Sycamore Island

Rd 208

Rd 209

Hildreth (210) Rd loop


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

Madera County’s second Surf Scoter visited Madera WTP November 6 (ph. LP, NP) and November 7 (ph. GW, FO).


Late southbound transients included a Rufous Hummingbird at Riverbottom Park October 21 (LP), four Wilson’s Phalaropes at Little Panoche Reservoir November 2 (AO, RO), a Red-necked Phalarope at Madera WTP November 7 (ph. FO), and a Hammond’s Flycatcher in a northwest Fresno yard October 28 (BW ).

Rufous Hummingbird by Cecelia Sheeter
Wilson's Phalarope by Gary Woods
Wilson's Phalarope by Gary Woods
Red-necked Phalarope by George Folsom. Fresno/Clovis WTP
Hammond's Flycatcher by Gary Woods

Like yin and yang, a Black-throated Sparrow and a White-throated Sparrow, both rare winter visitors, sought sun and shadow on the Madera side of Millerton Lake November 10 (ph. RS).

Black-throated Sparrow by Gary Woods
White-throated Sparrow by Gary Woods

Note: I was alerted to the sad news that Bruce Williford died during the first week of November, reportedly while in his garden with binoculars around his neck. Bruce will be remembered for a lot, including his upbeat attitude and keen sense of humor. But I wish to recognize him here as the longest regular contributor of observations to The Yellowbill. His first observation—of an American Kestrel carrying a pocket gopher (a large prey item for this species) at Woodward Park March 15, 1975—was published in Volume 11, No. 8 of The Yellowbill in April 1975.

Cited Observers: Anne O’Donnell, Rob O’Donnell, Frances Oliver, Larry Parmeter, Nathan Parmeter, Rick Saxton, Bruce Williford, 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 eBird, the Fresno County Birders e-mail list, or Jeff Davis (


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 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.

Mary Cantrell

Great Blue Heron taking Eared Grebe by Mary Cantrell

Larry Cusick

Ruby-crowned Kinglet by Larry Cusick
Great Egret by Larry Cusick
Red-shouldered Hawk by Larry Cusick
Belted Kingfisher by Larry Cusick
Dark-eyed Junco by Larry Cusick
Juvenile White-crowned Sparrow by Larry Cusick
California Scrub Jay by Larry Cusick
Red-breasted Sap Sucker by Larry Cusick

Bambi Heckmann

Black Phoebe by Bambi Heckmann
Gambel's Quail by Bambi Heckmann

Larry Parmeter

Mountain Bluebird by Larry Parmeter
Surf Scoter by Larry Parmeter

Nathan Parmeter

Black-bellied Plover by Nathan Parmeter
Elegant Terns by Nathan Parmeter
Greater Yellowlegs by Nathan Parmeter
White-tailed Kite by Nathan Parmeter
Sora by Nathan Parmeter

Donna Rogers-Neufeld

Black Oystercatcher by Donna Rogers-Neufeld
Curlew by Donna Rogers-Neufeld
Black-bellied Plover by Donna Rogers-Neufeld
Male Peacock by Donna Rogers-Neufeld

Cecelia Sheeter

Female Anna's Hummingbird by Cecelia Sheeter
Anna's Hummingbirds by Cecelia Sheeter
Male Anna's Hummingbirds by Cecelia Sheeter
Male Anna's Hummingbirds by Cecelia Sheeter
Male Anna's Hummingbirds by Cecelia Sheeter
Anna's Hummingbirds by Cecelia Sheeter

Deborah Weber

House Finch by Deborah Weber
Wild Turkeys by Deborah Weber

Birds in the News
Links to Recent Articles on Birds

Birdwatchers’ 15 favorite birding destinations in the U.S. and Canada

Painted Redstart at Cave Springs Campground, Oak Creek Canyon, Arizona, by Gary Botello.

In 2002, to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Birder’s World magazine (now known as BirdWatching), we asked our readers to share their favorite birding hotspots. We have been describing birding hotspots since our first issue in 1987 (Washington’s Skagit River Flats was our first), and the truth is that we’ll never run out of places to feature. The United States is home to 61 national parks and more than 350 other units in the National Parks Service, as well as 562 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts, and hundreds of state, city, and county parks. Canada boasts 39 national parks and another eight national park reserves. Countless other preserves, observatories, and sanctuaries offer abundant opportunities for birdfinding. The list of birdwatchers’ favorite hotspots is presented in order here. Read more…

Bird population declines and species turnover are changing the acoustic properties of spring soundscapes

Natural sounds, and bird song in particular, play a key role in building and maintaining our connection with nature, but widespread declines in bird populations mean that the acoustic properties of natural soundscapes may be changing. Using data-driven reconstructions of soundscapes in lieu of historical recordings, here we quantify changes in soundscape characteristics at more than 200,000 sites across North America and Europe. We integrate citizen science bird monitoring data with recordings of individual species to reveal a pervasive loss of acoustic diversity and intensity of soundscapes across both continents over the past 25 years, driven by changes in species richness and abundance. These results suggest that one of the fundamental pathways through which humans engage with nature is in chronic decline, with potentially widespread implications for human health and well-being. Read more…

Some songbirds now migrate east to west. Climate change may play a role

A Richard’s pipit (Anthus richardi) stands in grass in Fréjus, France. Larger numbers of the songbirds have been wintering in southern Europe in recent decades, researchers say.

As the chill of autumn encroaches on Siberia’s grasslands, Richard’s pipits usually begin their southward trek to warmer latitudes. But a growing number of the slender, larklike songbirds seem to be heading west instead, possibly establishing a new migratory route for the species.  Read more…

Winged warning: Migrating birds hit hard by California’s drought

As the drought dries up California’s wetlands, traveling birds such as ducks, geese and eagles are struggling to survive and breed. “This drought is bad. The odds are against us,” a state expert said. Read more…

Climate change may be shrinking tropical birds

In a remote corner of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, researchers have spent decades catching and measuring birds in a large swath of forest unmarred by roads or deforestation. An exemplar of the Amazon’s dazzling diversity, the experimental plot was to act as a baseline that would reveal how habitat fragmentation, from logging or roads, can hollow out rainforests’ wild menagerie. But in this pristine pocket of wilderness, a more subtle shift is happening: The birds are shrinking.

Read more…

Gourmet or Bargain Seed: Which Is Best for the Birds?

As we watched the sparrows at her feeder, Nancy boasted, “That seed cost only $3.99 a bag at the grocery store. The birds love it. The hardware store wanted $6.99 a bag!”

Sharon immediately countered, “I pay almost twice that at the wild bird specialty store. Of course, my bag is larger and it’s better quality seed. And I get so many great birds.”

“So do I,” Nancy answered, “but I don’t have to break the bank!”

“You get what you pay for. Why do you think your bag was so cheap? It’s junk food. I think they just sweep up spillage from the mill floor and pour it into a bag. It’s the difference between eating fast food and going out to a fine restaurant. A healthy meal may cost a little more, but it is better for you in the long run.”

“My birds do just fine on my budget food. Nothing goes to waste. They eat everything.”

Read more…

Albatrosses divorce more often when ocean waters warm

When it comes to fidelity, birds fit the bill: Over 90 percent of all bird species are monogamous and — mostly — stay faithful, perhaps none more famously than the majestic albatross. Albatross couples rarely separate, sticking with the same breeding partner year after year. But when ocean waters are warmer than average, more of the birds split up, a new study finds. Read more…

Red-breasted Nuthatches find way to put best foot forward (7 photos)

It was fun to hang out close to a Red-breasted Nuthatch as it wedged a sunflower seed into the bark of a tree, and “hatched” a kernel out of the shell. They aren’t shy around people, much like chickadees. Just the same, I felt privileged by the experience.  Read more…

Meet the Cyberpunk Albatrosses Scanning for Secret Explosions

SOMETIMES, THE MOST important sounds are those that cannot be heard. Take infrasound—acoustic waves below the range of human hearing. Although nuclear weapons blasts, midair meteor explosions, volcanic paroxysms, and angry thunderstorms make plenty of noise people can hear up close, the infrasound these phenomena emanate can also circumnavigate the globe. Even if a scientist is half the world away, their infrasound detector may be able to pick it up. Read more…

We reconstructed birdsong soundscapes from over 200,000 places: and they’re getting quieter

Imagine going to hear your favourite orchestral piece played in a world-class venue – and only the woodwind and brass sections turning up. Whether we’re aware of it or not, this sparse soundscape is similar to what we’re often experiencing when we head out to our favourite parks or nature reserves. The sounds produced by the natural world are changing, which means that the benefits we gain from being in nature are likely to be changing too. Read more…

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